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Well This Sucks (Depression)

A week ago, I went in for a doctor appointment, the end result of which was that I’ve started taking Zoloft for depression.

I feel like there should be a punchline here. “This is what I get for reading about Arizona politics” or “I blame the mess that is my current first draft.”

This hasn’t been a paralyzing, debilitating problem. I’ve been going to work, writing, taking care of the kids, going to karate … everything I’m supposed to do. But I haven’t been enjoying it. I’ve had less patience with my family. It’s gotten steadily harder to find the energy or motivation to do things. I’m spending more and more time feeling annoyed or apathetic.

It should not feel that draining or overwhelming to answer a simple e-mail.

I took any number of those depression self-assessments, most of which told me I was either mildly or moderately depressed. Even so, it took me close to a year to finally call and make an appointment to do something about it. Why did I wait so long? Probably the same reason I hesitated to blog about this.

I have no problem blogging about my diabetes. I’ve never felt ashamed of that disease, and I’ve never hesitated to talk about it, or to do whatever I needed in order to take care of myself.

This felt different. I’m diabetic because my pancreas took early retirement. That’s not my fault. But in my head, I was depressed because I wasn’t strong enough to deal with everything.

I know better. I was a psych major, and I’m married to a licensed counselor. I’ve watched people close to me start antidepressants, and I’ve seen how much of a difference it can make in their lives. I’ve never thought of them as weak, or of antidepressants as a sign that they’ve somehow failed at life.

It feels different when it’s you. There’s a double-standard. I know perfectly well that depression isn’t something you can simply will yourself through. I understand that neurochemical imbalance can be a physiological problem, just like a lazy pancreas. But I told myself it wasn’t really depression. I was just stressed. I needed some down time. I could tough it out. Eventually it would get better.

I can’t remember exactly when I stopped believing it would get better.

These aren’t things I’ve talked about online. There are aspects of my life that don’t make it onto the blog, and this certainly wasn’t what I wanted to project as Jim C. Hines, World Famous Author/Blogger/Cover Model!

We’re starting with a low dosage, and it will probably be a month or more before the medication starts to have an effect. Maybe longer. I was extremely hesitant about this. I don’t like the idea of messing with my brain … except that depression is a sign that my brain has already gotten messed up. I’m a bit worried about side effects too, though I’m told those should be minimal.

I have felt a little better this past week. I’d blame it on the placebo effect, except that I know perfectly well the meds don’t work this fast. Instead, I think it’s because I’m doing something. I don’t feel stuck, and there’s hope that I’ll get back to feeling like me again.

I am not asking for advice. If that changes, I’ll let y’all know.

Anyway, this is why I’ve been a bit slower to respond to e-mail, though I’m trying not to let anything slip through the cracks. This is why the rape fundraiser this year is a little less organized, and I didn’t get it posted right at the start of the month.

I’m not going to turn the blog into all-depression, all-the-time, any more than I blog about diabetes all the time. But given how open I’ve tried to be about the latter, it felt dishonest to not talk about the former, too. It felt dishonest to me. And, after all, the first step in solving a problem is acknowledgment, right?

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.



( 151 comments — Leave a comment )
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(Deleted comment)
Apr. 16th, 2012 06:41 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the reminder that depression has multiple faces ... attached sometimes to multiple heads and necks rather like a hydra's in their ability to regenerate... and multiply.

Something to contemplate, while trying to figure out whether to jump into another term of (part-time) grad school, 'cause I really should have a better grasp on whether it's grad school or brain chemistry that's the issue here. ("All of the above" remains an option. <wan grin>)

Thanks, also, for being a really neat guy, who writes interesting blog posts and pretty darn awesome novels, and who does that while being a regular guy who one might aspire to emulate rather than (pretending at) being a super-hero...
Apr. 16th, 2012 07:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you for blogging about this.

I've struggled with depression in the past, but I've mostly just circled the edge of it and was able to find a way back to normal. It's not easy.

I know it's not easy because I watched my mother struggle with bipolar disorder.

And my husband has OCD, a light case of depression, and ADD. He's had to try several meds (currently, a combination of prozac and ritalin, the old standbys, seem to work the best). Last year, things got the better of him in a pretty extreme way, and I had to hospitalize him. At the time, I finally told everyone in his immediate family about his problems (with his permission). It was time to stop pretending as if he wasn't on any medication and that he didn't have serious difficulties. He does have difficulties, but he's dealing with them through therapy and through medication.

There's no shame in recognizing that our brains can get off track. We don't have to feel like the world is falling down (as my icon here says).

I'm so glad to hear that you're taking steps to turn around. It's good to know that you're feeling better already, but as my husband's experience tells me, they may need to tinker with your meds over time. Finding normal again is a long process, but it's so worth it.
Apr. 16th, 2012 07:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks for having the courage to write this post and share it with us, Jim. It couldn't have been easy.

And know that we are all here, for whatever it is you might need. Thumbs up.

(And Happy Belated Birthday, dear!) :)
Apr. 16th, 2012 07:37 pm (UTC)
Man--this must have touched a chord with people...there are already 102 comments (which I'm not going to try and wade through).

Let me just say this about that: I spent the first 30+ years of my life dealing with serious depression, some of which was brain chemistry related (my life was rough, but not THAT rough). I am one of those people who don't tolerate the meds well, but thankfully, the right counselor really helped to turn me around, and most days I'm even kinda chipper. Well, okay, maybe not chipper. Or perky. But hey, I hardly ever threaten to jump off buildings anymore, so that's good, right?

For me, one of the things that helped the most was learning to change negative thoughts into positive ones. ("Oh man, it's raining again" to "At least the flowers will get watered" Yes, I am now a little bit of a Pollyanna, why do you ask?) This requires paying attention to your thinking, and consciously replacing the negative with the positive. But believe it or not, over time, it becomes habit, and it literally changes the pathways/chemistry in your brain.

In the meanwhile, if the meds don't bother you, and they help, I say, do whatever works!

*big hugs*
Apr. 16th, 2012 07:58 pm (UTC)
It feels different when it’s you.

That's been my experience with it, too. (To the occasional exasperation of the people who love me.)

I'm crossing my fingers for you!
Apr. 17th, 2012 11:58 am (UTC)
"To the occasional exasperation of the people who love me."

Oh, yes :-)
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 16th, 2012 08:15 pm (UTC)
Choosing to fight means you are stronger than you think. I'm glad to hear you've taken those first, positive steps, and I hope the medication helps.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Apr. 16th, 2012 08:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing, Jim. I am on meds for depression and have a family history. Mine has been debilitating at times. I'm glad you got good medical advice and are treating it before that happens. I have often blogged about mine. It's helpful to others to know they're not alone and to know a little about what people go through with this. Thanks for sharing your side of it.
Apr. 16th, 2012 09:01 pm (UTC)
I know this dance. Good on you for getting attention before it got worse than "mild-to-moderate." I waited to get attention for what turned out to be bipolar II until it was... pretty blatant. If you ever want to compare brain candy effects (I was on quite a few before finding the ones that work for me) feel free to ask.
Apr. 16th, 2012 09:27 pm (UTC)
I've been medicated for most of my adult life [now 43] and I've always tried to be open about it. I absolutely refuse to accept any kind of stigma because this is NOT something you can bull your way through without help. Last fall I finally ended up with a psychiatrist because my meds just were not working anymore and I felt that it wasn't something my GP would be comfortable handling [massive loads of stress in home life and work life leave you nowhere to decompress] and so we've added to my meds-mix and so far so good. Side effects... ick. With the SSRIs I've found them to be mostly GI. But taking them on a full stomach prevents that expression. With a low dose, any SE should be minor. Here's hoping the low dose does the trick!
And Good On Ya for taking it public!
Apr. 16th, 2012 09:43 pm (UTC)
Well, I'm proud of you for posting this. I went through a bout, so to speak some years ago, and the medication definitely helped. I'm no longer on it, but I'm no longer in the same place in my life either. However, I do wonder if there's still a trace of lingering anxiety that I deal with, but I hate bringing that up to the doctor because like a lot of people, it's easy to dismiss as nothing.

Anyway, thanks for posting. Good luck!
Apr. 16th, 2012 10:04 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this post.

FWIW, I'm seeing a counselor, and I have a Master's in counseling. Sometimes you just need an objective outsider's perspective, and/or something to break the down cycle.
Apr. 16th, 2012 10:51 pm (UTC)
I can't tell you how much I admire your courage in blogging about this.
Apr. 16th, 2012 11:25 pm (UTC)
*hugs offered*

Diagnosis with any sort of mental illness is difficult. I had a very rough time seeking out help for my anxiety, and then it was even worse later with my bipolar disorder. And I grew up with a freaking psych nurse for a mom! I heard on a regular basis that brain chemical issues aren't a person's fault and treatment should be sought because nobody is in control of their brain chemicals. And I still felt like it was "just me", and if I were a stronger person, I wouldn't have the panic attacks and cyclical depression/mania.

I will actually say that for me I noticed a difference within about a month for the bipolar meds, and I had to be ramped up to a full dosage. I got REALLY lucky and the first med I was put on has been a med with minimal side effects (I have one, that I have only extremely intermittently, and it's mild). That's actually something to keep in mind -- if this particular med doesn't help, there are LOTS and LOTS of others out there. (You probably know this, but I have known so many people that weren't helped by their first med and just gave up...)
Apr. 17th, 2012 12:02 am (UTC)
I know this intimately. It's hard. It sucks.
Apr. 17th, 2012 12:33 am (UTC)
well wishes to you
Jim, I wish you well and hope you find great joy and happiness going forward.
Apr. 17th, 2012 01:29 am (UTC)
Good luck! I hope that the medication helps. Depression is horrible, so I hope that this helps you fight it! And I'm also glad you said something about it; some of the stigma surrounding mental illness is just because so many people don't say anything about their struggles with it. Not that you have to be a mental illness advocacy warrior or anything. And while it sucks to know so many people are dealing with it, it's also sometimes nice to realize you aren't alone.

I understand that double standard thing, too. Oh, do I understand it.
Apr. 17th, 2012 02:23 am (UTC)
Thank you for posting this. You've reminded me that I should not feel shame for having, and using, a white cane. (I grew up severely visually impaired, but it was considered by everyone in my family of origin that if one can get along with glasses that nothing is wrong, so now that I'm somewhere where it's okay to get help, use a white cane, listen to audiobooks, etc., it's quite an adjustment.)

I suppose I shouldn't be ashamed of being on an antidepressant, either, huh.

I do hope things work for you.
Apr. 17th, 2012 02:31 am (UTC)
Hm, diabetes with depression on Zoloft. Are you trying to copy my meds? Zoloft has done me a world of good, so I hope it does the same for you.
Apr. 17th, 2012 11:57 am (UTC)
I am TOTALLY copying your meds! It just seemed easier that way, you know?
Apr. 17th, 2012 02:44 am (UTC)
I was diagnosed in college, but had been suffering at least since my teen years. I stabilized with Effexor and therapy. I knew I'd be okay when I had a stumble-and-fall in full sight of my classmates, and, instead of going back to my dorm to cringe over what an idiot I was, I sat on the ground and laughed.

The thing is, the side effects of most medication is worse than my depression. With Prozac, I sleep 14 hours a day and walk around like a zombie when I'm awake. Effexor gives me emotional extremes, like weeping jags and spurts of rage. Others cause sleeping issues, and I'm already being treated for sleep apnea. Others cause anxiety, which I don't know how to deal with (whereas I have my coping skills for depression).

So for me, it's nice to know I'm not alone and that there are steps I can take to alleviate my symptoms when it gets really bad, but it's mostly a matter of anticipating, being aware, leaning on friends from time to time, and using my coping skills. I went to therapy for a while, but my therapist said she was being paid to chat with me about my week, and she didn't feel like I needed a professional validation.
Apr. 17th, 2012 02:47 am (UTC)
The first step is letting someone else convince you that you have a problem.

In all seriousness, goodonya for taking care of yourself. It is hard. The stigmatization of mental illness is very real, and very easily internalized. Depression is a parasite that wants to stay alive as long as it can, so it does everything possible to steer you away from treatment that will kill it off. Some days just getting out of bed--or waking up at all--is an act of tremendous willpower and strength.

Hang in there.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 17th, 2012 03:35 am (UTC)
You know, every author/writer/creative type I know well enough to have talked about it has dealt or is dealing with depression. For whatever reason, they seem connected.

I've had an off again on again struggle with it my whole life. Living in Colorado helps because I don't get the seasonal depression anymore (lack of sunlight)and changing birth control (not something you have to worry about) has helped, but I still have to struggle against the darkness very often. It hasn't been bad in years but there was a time where the only thing that kept me going was my horse. I never did seek medical care. You, however, did the right thing :) Thanks for sharing! I think it helps the rest of us too.
Apr. 17th, 2012 12:23 pm (UTC)
Courage and Patience
Very courageous post, Jim. For all the reasons you mentioned, this is often a very scary thing for a man to share publicly. Thank you for helping to make it a little easier!

I'd be interested (if you don't mind) to know if you experience any significant change in your dreaming. I've been on venlafaxine for a while now and the increased vividness and quality of my dreams has been a surprisingly positive side-effect.

Best wishes!
Apr. 18th, 2012 02:21 pm (UTC)
Re: Courage and Patience
I haven't noticed any dream-effects yet, but I'm still easing into this with a very low dosage. I'll keep an eye out for that, though.

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