the depression thing


Okay we're going to get nice and cozy and you're going to read some internet rando's experience with depression and mental health.


Wait don't enjoy it too much, because like, it's my life and shit, and a lot of it sucked. But as much as you can enjoy it... enjoy!

Are you getting enough physical activity? Are you going on any runs, playing any sports, or lifting any weights? I feel just great after a workout! You'll be happy in no time!

What is with it with people expecting that a quick run will sort out your life?

Like cool, activity releases endorphins and shit, but are endorphins going to pay this credit card bill? They going to patch things over with my friend? They going to find me a job? They going to fix my life?

The fuck is an endorphin anyway? Sounds like something invented by dolphins. Those creepy-ass mammalian fishes in disguise, I always knew those sneaky fucks were up to no good.

The answer, oh perpetually cheery friend of mine who probably couldn’t be able to pick out the definition of depression out of the dictionary if I pointed to it, is that goddamn, depression is hard. How the hell am I supposed to get out of the house to go running a few miles when I practically can’t get out off my couch? I mean, my couch is pretty comfy and shit on a normal day, but it really does sometimes feel like there’s a tremendous weight squishing you down, preventing any air, restricting any movement.

After all, whatever they are telling you today isn’t going to work this time, any more than it did the last time, and the time before that, and the time before that, and the time before that, and the time before that…

If I sit here, everyone will ignore me, everyone will forget me, and I’ll just get to drift away into lovely nothingness. Nothing is better than something. I can do nothing. In fact… I’d prefer nothing forever. Doing nothing, accomplishing nothing. It’s not that I don’t want to accomplish anything; it’s just that every fiber of my being is telling me that nothing matters anymore. It all turns shitty anyway. Nothing matters.

Nothing left for living.


So I guess I’m suicidal.


brains kill

You don’t really want to kill yourself; I mean, the whole premise seemed pretty off-putting in my mind. So many logistics and decisions. Ironically enough, a lot of what pushed suicide further away from me was that I was too depressed to think about it.

But that’s me. Part of what I found interesting, at least now that I’m on the other side of things, is that brains are completely fucking bonkers. We know a few things, but basically everything is still hella confusing and depends a lot on your particular brain chemistry. For me, I was on the far end of melancholic depression, which means a lack of movement in mood: I was always feeling pretty down, always feeling like my feet were cement. I’d go days without really realizing what I had done the previous few days. Even great days, which should have made me feel lovely, would be curtailed to just a dim spot in a dark room. And even then, that dim lightbulb would fade back to darkness quick. This led to the whole, “well, I never feel better afterwards, so everything’s useless anyway”. This dims the bulb further, so when you do light it up again, it isn’t as bright, and it fades even quicker.

All of this was (and continues to be) new to me; I just figured depression just sorta happened to everyone similarly. It was interesting to learn about and to see my own signs in all of this as I grew and learned more. Did you know that 90% of the serotonin, one of the Important Brain Things that we need to Feel Not Shitty, is manufactured in your gut? That also impacts what you eat, how your digestive tract is faring, whether you’re at an increased chance for different bowel and digestive syndromes and diseases….

Damn I knew depression was shitty but didn’t know it was shitty.

Sorry, bad joke. Joking about depression makes me laugh though, from time to time. Haha. Poop.

One of the more shocking things I’ve realized was that, even though I’ve been dealing with a lot of different things in my life the last few years, none of this was really new. I can backtrace the entire route of my depression directly back to high school, if not middle school. It’s been something like 10-15 years… pretty much my entire adult life.

It was a humbling realization. It also explained a lot. It made me realize that I caused a lot of undue stress on my relationships with basically everyone human I had associated with in the past. Which, you know, adds up, when you start thinking about all these old interactions that went sour and realizing that it didn’t have to be that way.

So I threw a wine glass and shattered my bathroom mirror.

breaking points

Same night, but separate incidents, mind you; I was not drinking wine in my bathroom. Just threw a glass down at the floor outside of a bar, and then slammed my mirror closed too hard at home.

Now, I hardly ever get that viscerally enraged when I drink, and that particular night I was drinking with a good friend — nothing that should have been wine-glass-and-broken-mirror levels of ragedom. But I did that night, over some stupid discussions that I don’t even care about now.

That was the beginning of the end, one way or another. Either I probably would have kept making shitty fucking decisions until I killed myself, or I’d start fixing myself.

Here’s a brief aside in this story: this tipping point was really helpful for me, as physically embarrassing it is for me to type about it right now (and believe me, all of this shit is embarrassing to talk about publicly… but here I am. But more on that later.) It was such an uncharacteristic thing for me, and so overtly self-destructive (and mirror-destructive!) that it was a kind of jolt to the system.

Until that point my count was up to three: three times I had actively started seeking out therapy, but didn’t for various reasons (traveling, health insurance problems (yay 🇺🇸, home of the brave, land of the shit health system), and my favorite was when I talked to someone on the phone and he said he doesn’t use the internet, email, or anything technological, and that I’d need to deal with that if he were my doctor. I think the conversation ran another thirty seconds before I hung up, swearing off therapists for what I thought was for good.)

There wouldn’t be a fourth, though; this time I was at the end of my rope, and my email to a somewhat random therapist selection demonstrated it:

I’ve never done therapy before, but I’m more or less at the end of my rope and figured I should give it a shot.

What would the next steps be?


I forgot I actually said “end of my rope” here too. Maybe I found depression coldly humorous at the time too, or maybe I was too depressed to really give a fuck at that point. Probably the latter.

And that was the start.

to therapy

I went to therapy for the first time a few days later, after talking briefly on the phone.

Dude, therapy’s weird af, especially if you fall into the “I ain’t talkin’ to nobody bout my problems, because shit, I don’t have the problems, EVERYBODY ELSE has the fuckin’ problems!” style of childhood.

I don’t remember a whole lot from that first session. I honestly don’t remember a whole lot from 2015-2016, because part of what really hit me hard during depression was my memory. I forgot a lot of things. It’s all kind of a weird blur. A lot of people worry that depression medication can cause you to float in a misty blur and feel out-of-touch from “the real you”, but goddamn, at least my case it was diametrically the opposite. Medication ain’t hold a candle to how far away from your true self you feel during depression.

The one thing I do remember from the first session is exhaustion. In a good way, of course, but it was a double session, covering my whole history, the things I had problems with, and the things I didn’t. I didn’t start to feel better until probably the second or third session, but I did.

That’s really weird to think about, and one of the major revelations I had with all this. It was that therapy can actually work. It sounds stupid to type it aloud right now — that’s kind of the reason I’m writing this whole damn article for you, because I’m absolutely not alone here — but I always thought therapy was for other people. Fuck, I told many, many other friends to go talk to a therapist for years, because I had seen it work for people and I had hoped it would work for them too. But this motherfucker right here, this Carnegie Mellon graduate, this alleged not-a-complete-idiot programmer type, couldn’t see that such an obvious thing could be relevant for themselves, too.

Depression’s funny like that. Not even depression, really; generally, we’re really good at analyzing other people, but can’t hold the mirror up to inspect ourselves quite as easily.

A huge reason behind that is that we probably already broke that mirror in a drunken rage.


Anyway, therapy worked fairly well for me. I’m not going to say it was a panacea, because it wasn’t, but it’s sort of like… well, it’s kinda like what Republicans thought about marijuana way back in 1992 (or 2017, depending on who you’re talking about). It’s a gateway drug. Maybe the therapy itself isn’t the answer, but it’s going to open doors for you to the harder stuff: the self-reflection, harder medication (yeah, this drugs metaphor is getting confusing), and leveling your therapy skills up so that therapy itself becomes more valuable to you. And yes, therapy is a skill. It takes courage to open yourself up to a stranger, but it takes fuckin’ courage to open yourself up to yourself.

I did therapy on Thursdays, but honestly, some of my biggest breakthroughs happened Monday to Wednesday. I had had the weekend to think about my previous week and my upcoming week, and I knew that Thursday was coming up quick and that one way or another, I’d be talking about my week with my therapist. So I found myself talking to myself fairly regularly — in the shower, brushing my teeth, sitting on the bus, walking on the street — and thinking about what was bothering me. Therapy basically got me rubber duck debugging myself. Even when I’m not programming I’m fucking programming, I can’t get away from it, ha. But it’s true: the mere notion that I’d have to discuss my life with someone else later meant that I became far better at self-analysis than I ever had been.

That was one of the many neat realizations I had during this whole experience. Therapy tricks you into becoming better at therapy.

✨ drugs ✨


I’m burying the lede here a bit, but ledes are for real journalists, pffft. The reason why I’m writing about all of this is the same reason I write about anything: this is a very important aspect of my life, and I think it can help others. So I talk about it.

Not depressed? Cool, I’m happy for you; I truly am. But you know someone who is. In fact, you know a lot of people who are. And once you include people coping with mental disorders, you realize that goddamn, there are a lot of people who could be better off if they could get help. Pretty much everyone would see some benefit from seeing a therapist at some point in their lives.

The stigma is real, of course. I’m still a little nervous about hitting the publish button on this one, even though I’ve never shied away from controversial posts in the past. (A post about enjoying JavaScript is probably about the most controversial you can get, after all. I still get hate mail from that one.)

I started a startup this year and, though it’s been going slower than I’d like since it’s a solo venture so far and I’ve been primarily focused on fixing me first, I realize that posting this might make some investors balk at giving me money, if I do ever decide to seek funding. This isn’t necessarily surprising, since the venture capital industry doesn’t have exactly have a sterling track record when it comes to being empathetic. Or even like, acting like a human being. But it’s not just them, of course; people I hire down the line, people I work with, business partners, hell, even some friends might even kind of subconsciously feel funny reading about this stuff and think about me different.

But still, I obviously think it’s worth talking about. People act so weirdly when it comes to this stuff, precisely because we don’t talk about it, even today, in 2017. Fuck flying cars and laser guns, I want transparent discussion of mental problems in society.

One of the weird things I realized throughout this whole process is how different people react with this. Some friends truly get it, and are fantastic resources for you to talk to. Some just don’t. I reached out to some of my closest friends and struck out (“get out of here with this shit, Holman, you’re fine”). I’ve alluded about it to other distant friends (some of which I didn’t previously even think of as a “friend”) and found myself in an immediate boat load of compassionate support. I’ve seen everything in between. Some people get it, some people don’t. (And it turns out that very happy people might really never really understand.) I think a huge part of it is whether they’ve experienced it themselves, or, barring that, if they’ve ever had a close friend or partner go through this. It’s truly night and day between the two extremes, and you don’t always have to seek your best friends out and lean on them for support. Support comes from a lot of people; if you drop the ball, you might be surprised at who helps you pick it back up.

Seek help.

You actually need to do something to get out of the hole that you’re in. Don’t worry; I’m not giving you the “run a mile, you’ll feel great!” advice. If you do something proactive, like seeing a therapist, or trying medication, or making major life changes that avoid things that make you feel shitty, great. If it’s something less proactive, like opening yourself up to a friend who’s interested in helping you make those first steps, then do that too. You can do some of these yourself, and some things you can allow yourself to be selfish and let someone help you. They’re out there. They want to help.

Seek help.

Notice and write down the achievements you actually do achieve. Keep a journal, or at the very least, keep a running todo list where you can check off even the basic things, like “clean my desk”. At the end of the day, you help yourself by seeing what you actually did. Sometimes doing the small things helps you start on doing the big things. My depression always prevented me from starting things, and from seeing what I did. That sucked, and was a self-defeating cycle.

Help others seek help.

I’m writing this primarily for people who are dealing with depression, but secondarily I’m writing it for you, the person who doesn’t have to cope with these feelings on a day-to-day basis, but who doesn’t really know how to help someone. A little bit of context goes a long way. You might feel unprepared to fix a friend’s problems, but you can do the leg work for them. Find a local therapist in their neighborhood that works with their insurance (if they’re an American like me, that is, otherwise just go have a health insurance party if you’re in other countries, you lucky bastards). Or just listen. Listening helps a lot, even if they don’t actually listen to you. Years ago, when I was at one of my worsts, two friends went way out of their way and came to my house to check on me. I didn’t really show them much gratefulness back then, but goddamn, that’s a debt that I still won’t ever be able to repay. The little things count. If not today, then they’ll count tomorrow, I promise you that.