Pictures of depression

A warning light is pulsing on the control panel in front of you, but it can wait. You’ll get to it in a moment. So many things to do.

A polite, persistent bleeping began at some point. You weren’t paying enough attention to recall when. It’s ever so slightly out of phase with the warning light.

You feel a dull rumbling through the seat, the floor, between your joints. The room shifts on its axis, as if it’s falling away from under you.

Darkness. A klaxon splutters and honks. Rotating beacons cut the room into contorted still images. Orange, blue, orange, blue.

You watch a wall puncture, crack, and tear. The air around you whistles out into silence.

Metal grinds through metal. It would sound like two trains carving through each other, but for the vacuum.

Then the walls peel away.

Floating. Alone. Adrift. Bewildered.

In depression, no one can hear you scream.


Late last year, I had another crash. (Episode is a silly word.) I should’ve seen it coming. Or, I did see it coming, but pretty much anything else short of anchovies is more pleasant than actually dealing with it.

I have no right or reason to be depressed. There are contributing factors, for sure, but no root cause. In every other respect, life is grand. But that’s not how depression works. It’s a parasite, sucking out every feeling until you’re a dead-eyed husk… except guilt. That one it nurtures.

What’s weird is having a graphical representation of the fall. Check it out: Metadata! The quantified self!

Physical memory utilisation on SLIVER

This is a collectd chart of the RAM utilisation in my desktop computer. SLIVER has two big monitors, a nice video card, proper headphones, and so on. It’s where the work gets done, and it’s a dead zone from late November to mid February. My GitHub activity chart looks much the same.

Things improved in February, but I’m still taking a break from work. I need to get my shit together, and don’t want to disappoint anyone if I hit another wall. See that gap in March? Another wall!

But I’m out of the dead zone.

On good days, I’ve been seeing friends, doing personal projects, science experiments, and learning new things. On bad days, sleeping, watching television, reloading web pages. I’m still trading the occasional people-heavy event for a couple of bad days to “recover”. Pfft. That’ll get better.

It sucks being away from work. Lots of big changes and exciting things going on. But I’m grateful for the support, understanding, and time away. Back soon.

– — –

The big difference this time around is hope. Psychologically, I know I can beat depression a hundred times worse, because I did. Financially, I can survive a siege of non-functional depression because I’ve had three years to build a war chest to outlast it. Personally and professionally, I’m more confident because I know where I fit, and what I need to learn.

So, it’s been a shitty few months. But it’s going to be okay.

2001: A Space Baby

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5 Responses to Pictures of depression

  1. Sophie says:

    I’m sitting here at work… when I should be working but I also have this awful disease.

    I’ve had anxiety since I was 11 but for the last 13 months, I have become increasingly apathetic due to this depression that has come out of its dormancy and eaten away at me. Slowly but surely.

    It has reached the point that I feel guilty for being alive, I feel like my existence is a burden – I feel like I am a burden to every single person I ever come across. I hate myself and I often wish that I had a terminal disease, then of course, I feel guilty and irrational for even having these thoughts.

    The only thing stopping me from going and allowing a moving train to end my life right now is knowing how this would negatively effect the people at work, the people I know. The fact that I feel like I can’t end my life for this reason also makes me feel trapped – ridiculous, right?

    And I KNOW, these thoughts are ridiculous. I am more aware than anyone else but I can not stop the darkness. I’ve tried thinking more positively, being ‘nicer’ to myself. Nothing works, I think I need medication. I have always thought that taking meds would mean giving up, that I am weak, a failure. But I think it’s time, I mean, I would rather be dead at this point, what do I have to lose?

    Sorry for the ramble, I’m such a drainer.

    Good luck to us both and thanks for sharing, it somehow makes me feel slightly less like a complete freak, knowing I’m not the only one who truly suffers.

    • Jeff Waugh says:

      Seeking help and taking action — including medication if that’s appropriate — is an act of strength, not weakness. Go for it!

      One thing that helped me last time was cognitive behaviour therapy, and telling myself, “Yes I can”. I had a very helpful psychologist who dragged me to that point. 🙂

  2. Doug kelly says:

    Jeff! We miss you and hope you’re going well. I’ve had my own run at anxiety and depression these past months as I’ve separated from my wife. Ive got a new found admiration and empathy for those grappling with these woes. I Would love to catch up some time if the chance presented itself. Love and hugs from me in the meantime!

  3. Jason Lewis says:

    Thanks for sharing this very personal journey Jeff. Glad to hear things are improving for you. I’m sure your story will be inspirational for many people

  4. Stu says:

    Thank you for sharing. Reading this I looked at my github contributions in a different light – I can see the time that I finally had the courage to see someone, then a blip, then an increase when I changed medication.

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