in Administration, FS

Depression and me

For much of the past two weeks, I’ve been wrestling with my mental health. I could sense a crisis coming, so I scheduled some time away. I didn’t want to have to be worrying about blog posts while I was worrying about everything else. Thus, my “summer vacation”.

Long-time readers are aware that I’ve struggled with depression for most of my life.

In sixth grade, I missed five weeks of school with what my father called “parrot fever”. (We had parrots, and he attributed my issues to a parrot allergy.) After our family physician could find nothing wrong with me, Dad took me to his therapist. Hushed conversations followed the appointment. The verdict: I was dealing with depression.

In junior high, I was briefly suicidal but made a deliberate decision to turn things around. In high school and college, the depression was always there, looming in the shadows. As a young adult, it mostly went away…but then it came back as I got older.

In 1999, when I was thirty, I experienced something new: anxiety. At one point, I thought I was having a heart attack. Nope. It was a panic attack. When the second panic attack came a few weeks later, I knew it wasn’t my heart. It was me stressing about life.

Interesting note: It was after the second panic attack that my doctor strongly encouraged me to start drinking red wine. For real. Before that, I was a teetotaler.

During my divorce in 2011-12, Kris asked me a favor. “Please see a counselor,” she said. I did, and it helped. My therapist gave me advice for coping with depression and anxiety, plus she diagnosed me with ADD. For a few years, I was able to manage my symptoms.

Last year, though, things got bad. March and April and May were a struggle. In June, I published an article here about my ongoing battle with depression. During the summer, my mental health improved, however, and I forgot about how hard the spring had been.

Tweet about Anthony Bourdain's suicide

A Sneaky Little, Sticky Bitch

In February of this year, my anxiety returned. The depression followed soon after. When my heart-attack scare in mid-March turned up no physical issues (other than high blood pressure), my doctor suggested that the problem was anxiety. She asked me to start seeing a therapist again. So, I did.

Since early May, I’ve been attending talk therapy once a week. We’re exploring why I feel so anxious, and how using alcohol to cope with anxiety is a “maladaptive behavior”. We’re exploring other ways to make things work.

The trouble? When I don’t drink in the afternoon, I get more anxious.

The frustrating thing is that the depression and anxiety lead me to act like a completely different person.

For instance, I love people. I love spending time with people. Social interaction energizes me. Right now, though? I hate it. I don’t want to deal with anyone in any capacity. I don’t want to spend time with friends. I don’t want to be in crowds. (I make an exception for Portland Timbers games.) I don’t even want to go to the grocery store.

Here are some ways this manifests itself:

  • Today, I had a lunch appointment with a colleague and friend. Karl is a great guy and I enjoy spending time with him. Normally. Today, though, all I could think about were the reasons I might be able to cancel.
  • Yesterday, I taped a TV interview with a local station. I wanted to cancel that too. Afterward, I ought to have driven out to the family box factory. But I didn’t. I didn’t want to spend time with my brother and cousin.
  • This Sunday evening, there’s another Portland Timbers game. Kim can’t go with me, so I need to find somebody else to join me. I have zero desire to do so. I may end up selling the tickets and skipping the game because of my anxiety.

My medical doctor has prescribed propranolol to simultaneously deal with my high blood pressure and my anxiety. While it seems to be helping the former, it’s not helping the latter. (According to wikipedia, it’s really only useful for performance anxiety.)

Meanwhile, the depression is even worse. If you look at the symptoms of depression, I’m exhibiting every single one. Some of my symptoms are severe.

  • Fatigue? Have it.
  • Insomnia? You bet.
  • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness? Oh boy.
  • Irritability? Yes, and it’s so not me. I’m not an irritable guy — but I am lately.
  • Loss of interest in things once pleasurable? Absolutely, and it’s SO FRUSTRATING. Nothing appeals to me. I’m numb.
  • Trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions? You have no idea. Everything is a chore.

The latter is especially difficult to deal with. When Karl asked where to meet for lunch today, I couldn’t decide. Why not? That’s so simple! Last night, Kim wanted me to make dinner. But I didn’t because I couldn’t decide what to fix. That’s ridiculous!

A Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

In fact, yesterday was miserable. It might have been the worst day of my entire life.

My head was a mess of negative thoughts and emotions, all of them swirling and swirling and swirling in a never-ending dark cloud of despair. I couldn’t focus on anything. I did tape the TV interview (the first segment went very well, but the second bordered on incoherent) but that’s the only productive thing I did all day.

On the drive home, I bought — and then consumed — a big bowl of clam chowder, a big bag of potato chips, and an entire package of chocolate chip cookies. Then I sat in the hot tub and played a videogame for five hours. (At least I didn’t drink alcohol!)

When Kim came home, she asked, “What’s for dinner?” I admitted that I hadn’t made dinner — but I didn’t tell her how messed up my head had been all day. (She knows I’m struggling but she doesn’t know how badly.) While she changed out of her scrubs, I fried some frozen potstickers.

Naturally, all of this makes me feel even more guilty and worthless and depressed. It’s a vicious cycle.

I’m sure you can see how this would translate in an inability to get work done, both here at Get Rich Slowly and in my real life.

It’s a problem.

What’s the solution to the problem? I’m not sure. There must be one. But I don’t know what it is. Drink every afternoon? That’s what I’ve been doing, and it works. But, as my therapist says, it’s a maladaptive behavior. I think we all know where that road leads.

My therapist is patient. She keeps giving me homework assignments…and I keep avoiding them. Exercise! Meditate! Set goals! These all sound awesome. They’re all things I know I like to do. But they also sound like tremendous effort, so I don’t do them.

Bringing Gratitude

Instead of canceling my lunch appointment with Karl today, I went. I’m glad I did.

I’ve known Karl for almost a decade. He’s one of the most uplifting, supportive people I’ve ever met. I love that his work is centered on positivity. He runs a site called Bring Gratitude and he published a book by the same name. (Six months ago, he shared a guest article here at Get Rich Slowly about practicing gratitude with a daily journal.)

As we sat down for lunch, I told Karl point blank about the issues I’m going through.

“I can totally relate,” he said, and he shared some of his own past struggles.

“You know,” I said, “my therapist has been urging me to try meditation. But I don’t know how to start.”

Karl nodded. “I meditate. I meditated just this morning. But it can be tough to get going. You have so many thoughts racing through your head. Here’s one thing that might work, though. Give yourself one minute. Only a minute. For that minute, meditate on all of the things that you’re thankful for.”

“I like that idea,” I said. “I like it a lot. Normally, I’m a grateful guy. I’m a lucky man, and I know it. Usually. Lately, though, I’ve forgotten how awesome life is. Meditating on the things I’m grateful for would be a great way to remind me of what I’ve got.”

Thank You

On my drive home, I put Karl’s idea into practice. I took back roads. As I drove slowly through the countryside, I thought about all of the things that I’m thankful for.

  • I’m thankful for Kim. She’s a not just a wonderful partner in life, but she’s a wonderful person. She’s a good soul.
  • I’m thankful for my dog. Tahlequah is a handful (a pawful?), and I do get frustrated with her. But I’m also grateful to have such an enthusiastic hound dog in my life.
  • I’m thankful for my health. I haven’t taken care of myself much lately, but that’s on me. Generally speaking, my body is in fine shape. And with a little work, it could be in great shape once again.
  • I’m grateful for music. I don’t mention it much, but music brings great joy to my life. I love music of all sorts. Taylor Swift, yes, but also U2 and Mozart and Styx and ABBA and Public Enemy.
  • I’m thankful for Portland. I love the green of it. I love its quirky die-hard (sometimes absurd) liberalism. I love the food scene and the Timbers and the passion for books. Speaking of which…
  • I’m grateful for words. Books bring me joy. So does writing. I’ve managed to make a living from my words, and I hope to continue doing so in the future.
  • I’m grateful for life.

Here at home, I had a call with my business partner, Tom. We spent two hours talking about behind-the-scenes details here at Get Rich Slowly. We made plans for the future. But we also took a lot of time to talk about nothing.

It was awesome. It was just what I needed.

When I got off the call, the dog wanted to play. She looked up with puppy-dog eyes and made her little whine that means, “Dad, throw the ball for me.” We went outside into the sunshine and I threw the ball for her. Then, I got down on my knees and wrestled with her. She loves when I wrestle with her.

“I really do have a good life,” I thought after the dog and I were done chomping on each other. I went into the kitchen to put away the clean dishes. “I’m thankful for all of it.”

You know what? I’m thankful for Get Rich Slowly too. And for you, the readers. This site has been a huge blessing in my life — and I’m not one to talk much about blessings. I’ve put a lot into GRS, it’s true, but I’ve gotten so much more out of it. I’ve gotten so much from you folks.

So, thank you. I mean it. Thank you for reading. Thank you for contributing. Thank you for everything.

Few and Far Between

As Karl and I chatted at lunch today, I caught a Natalie Merchant song playing on the restaurant’s radio. At first I thought it was “Wonder”, but then I recognized it as “Few and Far Between”.

“How fitting,” I thought. Some of the lyrics:

“‘Til you make your peace with yesterday, you’ll never build a future. I swear by what I say: Whatever penance you do, decide what it’s worth to you, and then respect it. However long it will take to weather your mistakes? Why not accept it?”

So, that’s what has been going on in my life lately. It’s been a struggle. But I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. And I can see some money articles at the end of the keyboard. (Thank goodness, right?)

What’s been going on with you?

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87 Comments

  1. There’s no easy fix for depression. It’s something you just have to keep pushing back at, even as depression undercuts your ability to push back. :/

    Thank you for being so candid about what’s going on with you and your headspace right now.

  2. J.D., thank you for sharing this. Get Rich Slowly is the only financial blog I read, mostly because of how you approach things and how honest and humble you are. Your vulnerability is a superpower. Thank you for giving the world that gift. We don’t know each other, but if there’s ever anything you need – write about it. You have so many readers who love you and feel incredibly grateful to have you in their lives. Good luck dealing with this current period of sadness. May it pass quickly.
    -Mario

    • I read the post, came here to comment and thank you for all the sanity, insight and practicality you bring to the personal finance table. Then I read IdeaMensch’s comment. Can’t say it any better.

    • I echo all of these thoughts. Thanks for being so honest and open about mental illness. May this struggle land gently.

  3. I hear you.

    Remember, we are listening.
    I, personally, miss you when you are gone. I appreciate your choosing articles for me to read (terribly self centered, aren’t I?)
    And I would be really pissed if you gave into the rabbit hole without reaching out.
    Keep writing.

    Been there…. My father’s psyche put me on meds. My best friend taught me biofeedback. The first made me sick, the second kept me alive. I am genetically predestined for depression and alcoholism–so I have to be extra careful with myself. Since you shared about your mom- you too need to take special care.
    Keep writing!

  4. Thanks for posting so vulnerably. It’s hard to be open and honest in a public forum.

    A lot of us struggle with this, and it’s really good to hear your perspective. Thanks J.D.

  5. If your therapist is recommending medication, you should try it.

    People with high cholesterol take statins. People with diabetes take insulin.

    The little voice inside you that says antidepressants equal giving up or failing is your depression trying to trick you. It wants to keep its hooks in you and will lie to make that happen.

    My pharmacist recommended Meclizine (otc anti-nausea med) for anxiety. Ymmv

      • I only ever had a couple panic attacks so it’s hard to say. The antidepressants were a godsend, though. Think of it this way: is there another medical specialist whose advice you’d ignore? What’s the (realistic) worst-case scenario?

        • I have several loved ones that deal with depression/anxiety, and there’s a an unhelpful & dangerous prevailing attitude that treating it with medication is somehow a crutch.

          Depression is a disease, and we live in a modern society with modern medical options that should be explored. Attaching moral judgments to routine medical treatments doesn’t make sense and frequently exasperates some of the shame and feelings of inadequacy that already permeate the minds of people dealing with this.

          J.D. – You might be interested in the book “Against Depression” by Peter D. Kramer. It’s not a perfect book, but the thesis might be helpful in re-framing your self-thinking about this (depression is a disease that we should be trying to eradicate).

    • I second the suggestion to try meds. Just remember, it takes weeks for SSRIs to kick in. Give it that time. And thank you JD for a wonderful, heartfelt post about this. You are so much more than a PF guy! That is why I love your blog so much and rejoiced when you returned to it.

      Blessings
      Anne J

  6. Thanks, JD. I appreciate your courage in putting this out there. I crashed into depression earlier this year, and I credit my wife, my therapist, and some new meds for pulling me out of it. Even though I know, intellectually, that I’m not alone, it’s always helpful to hear others talk about their experience with depression & anxiety. I’m rootin’ for ya, buddy.

  7. Brother, you are special. Seems like the really gifted are also cursed with more problems than the unwashed masses like me. My dad and one daughter of mine struggled with depression. Me, not so far. But I’ve seen it close up and personal and I hurt with you. It’s not fair and I know it is sometimes unbearable but we love you and are praying and hoping and pulling for you. You matter, and your message matters to so many. Of all the voices in this community, yours is unique and beautiful.

  8. Thanks for sharing this! Although I do not suffer from depression it is still very relatable to have difficult and negative thoughts and emotions. Good luck as you continue to learn to cope and deal with this.

  9. Your honesty and transparency are refreshing in world increasingly bent toward mask wearing and conforming with someone else’s ideal. Thank you for trusting us, your readers.

  10. Thank you for sharing your struggles. Reading your post I immediately wanted to let you know how grateful I am for your blog which I have been reading for several years.

    Please take car and know that you are in my thoughts.

  11. There’s a video that plays on the TV at my physio. It’s about painkillers but it translates to psych meds as well. To fix physical pain we often need to move but pain can prevent us from doing that. Painkillers remove that barrier. They are not a cure but allow you to start the cure. For me, Valium works in the same way. It allows me to get off the endless anxiety treadmill and implement some healthy habits. Also, consider going to the game by yourself! Once I started going to movies and concerts by myself I realised that people don’t really notice or care that much, which in turn helped with that aspect of my anxiety.

    • I’m not opposed to going to the game myself. I don’t mind doing things alone. But I do mind the “wasted” ticket. I understand that it’s a sunk cost, but it still bugs me to have an unused ticket, you know? What I need to do is get the email addresses for the season ticket holders around us. Then when one (or both) of us is unable to use a ticket, we could contact them.

  12. I am also fighting through depression and anxiety, mostly with a therapist monthly, Celexa, and daily meditation (which is new!). Thank you for openly and honestly sharing your story. It can be so hard to write about even, and even though it can help to write through it, it can be difficult. I’m so proud of you.

    I recommend the Insight Timer app and its guided meditations. I thought they’d be cheesy before I tried them, but if you allow yourself to “give into them” completely, I have had so many breakthroughs from guided meditations that would have felt cheesy just reading through, I think. I’m slowly learning coping methods, I think the opposite of “maladaptive” :), that help me recognize my anxiety and work through it in a healthy way. It’s a process, but I feel hopeful now, and that’s a change.

    Chin up. we’re cheering for you, always and jo matter what.

    • JD. Love the blog and enjoy your perspective. Thanks for owning your feelings and sharing so openly. You are a real man, full of courage and heart.

      Have you tried prayer? The notion of me suggesting faith-based feedback is me acting in vulnerability as well. I believe there is a God. Someone once told me, if the message of Christ is not true then His life and message are useless(he was basically a madman). However, if it is true then His life and message are more important than anything else. Would encourage you to pray to Jesus. He will respond.

  13. I enjoy your reading your blog and sorry to hear of your struggles.

    I do find walking in nature helps my moods and presents me with time to think.

    Wishing you well.

  14. It’s also important to count your victories and perhaps break down your goals to smaller chunks, just like a debt snowball.

    For the first part, I noticed and appreciated the links you kept updated. You might not have been writing new content but you were doing something that kept me coming back even when I wasnt expecting new articles.

    For the second I’m thinking specifically about exercise. Think of being depressed like getting over being sick: After the flu I congratulate myself for getting dressed, or for walking around the block. And while a downward spiral feeds on itself, so does getting out of it. Today it’s just getting dressed. Tomorrow it’s walking the dog, then maybe you sleep better because you engaged the day more fully, etc. And if today doesnt work you get to try again tomorrow.

  15. Hang in there JD! This too shall pass. It’s great you went through the lists you are grateful for. Read the list over and over again. Print it out and stick it on your fridge. It’s great!

    Glad you’re enjoying the hot tub too. 🙂

    You can’t be worthless because you’ve given people so much for so many years!

    Sam

  16. Hi, I read your posts on Feedly but thought to reply to this. I wish you well. I’ve had ups and downs, but probably not as extreme as you. I suggest ‘little things’ to get out of the rut .. a walk, nature, travel. To get the inspiration back. It sounds like you’ve got great friends and family which are the absolute main thing to inspire you out. My Dad’s words he found himself in dark times – “be a friend to yourself”.

  17. I can relate. I have anxiety (GAD) and panic disorder for 6 years ish now and it feels like sh*t.

    I’ve been practicing gratitude and breathing and it helps me a lot. I know it sounds woo-woo but it has helped me manage my life better. Thanks for sharing so openly and let’s we shall go through it together. Remember that you’re not alone! 🙂

  18. When I was depressed, the medication meant that my head became a little calmer, and that I got a little bit of energy. Those two positive effects helped me to work on my issues, where I had been paralyzed before by my thoughts and by my fatigue.

    You’re a pretty awesome person, JD. Your words (about money but also about life) inspire me, and I am sure they inspire many others. And you created those articles, nobody else.

    I hope you find your ways to deal with this. I really do. Internet hugs.

  19. Keep fighting it brother, and I think the gratitude game is something that can really help, I should try that more often. For a while I tried the practice of writing down five things I was grateful for every morning, I need to get back into that.

  20. Long time reader of your blog (even during the strange post-sale period): first-time commentor. First, your readers value you and your input. You’re adding value to the world and many of us are counting on you to do so in the future. Not everyone going through a depression cycle receives that type of direct feedback.
    Next, keep your family and your friends close. They’re there for you whether you realize it or not. Share with them what is happening and I’m sure you’ll be surprised with the concern and feedback that they can give you.
    Also, ignore the negative comments above. Some people seem to have a sick sense of beating a person when they’re down – what does that say about them?
    Finally, I would recommend picking up the book “The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom”, by Jonathan Haidt. In it, he lists 3 things that have been proven to deal with depression. None will be a surprise to you but make sure that you’re at least trying or well on the way to using at least one if not all 3 approaches now and in the future. I’ve found one path to work moderately well for myself. There is also a lot of other interesting data that he shows on the science of achieving ‘happiness’, a lot of which intersect with a lot of the themes you discuss on this site. Good luck.

  21. One day at a time.. I love not knowing what is going to happen until it does.
    Try new things… I left a tv job to teach second grade. Being around kids keeps you happy.
    Realize all the great things you are doing to help other people! I’m never depressed when helping others!
    Be Thankful!.. you all ready know this!.. We lived in the greatest time on earth!

  22. Depression sucks. People who never experienced it don’t really get it. And talking to them doesn’t help and sometimes makes it worse. They mean well, but they really don’t get how depression warps everything and can say the wrong thing. So I only talk to my therapist about it now.

    My depression was triggered by trauma. I was actually diagnosed with PTSD and major depressive disorder. In a way, knowing what triggered it makes it a smidgen easier to handle. I don’t know how to help you but I can tell you how I get through each day:

    I do yoga every morning to wake up and clear my head.

    I make a to-do list to keep myself busy. I refuse to do meaningless and non-value added tasks at work. I need bigger projects and goals at work to keep me engaged.

    I force myself to engage with friends and family socially.

    When things get bad, I call my therapist.

    When things get really bad, I take my pills.

    • Yeah, depression does warp things. It’s crazy. It warps the simplest interactions and thoughts.

      My therapist really really wants me to try yoga. I’ve found a local studio I’d like to try (first step) but I haven’t gone in yet because I managed to throw my back out while doing yard work last weekend. As soon as that pain is gone, I’ll check it out.

      • Long long time reader, first time commenter. You really have given me so much as a teacher and guide. Thank you for being so open – it is a key reason why I can actually absorb your lessons. Can’t say anything more than Depression sucks and i hope this bout subsides soon.

        I have been to yoga classes before and found them to be anxiety inducing and too long. These days I am much happier with YouTube ‘Yoga with Adriene’. Her videos are 10-15 mins and have themes like ‘Yoga for Anxiety’ or ‘Yoga to Slow your roll’. Much more simple and effective and no performance anxiety since I’m by myself.

          • Yep. Benji!

            Adriene’s thing is to find what feels good… a much looser approach which I like. Also she’s a bit funny.

          • I love Yoga with Adriene when I get myself to do yoga. She’s the right mix of zen and nerdy – I think you’d like her.

            I really appreciate your vulnerability as well. It’s also a good reminder to me that having your shit together when it comes to financials will not automatically make you happy. I’ve struggled with anxiety of different levels for decades and I’m about to embark on a trial with CBD oil to see if it helps. We’ll see how it goes. I know yoga and meditation would help too, but I definitely get paralyzed. It’s hard enough to do the dishes and make dinner.

            Lighting a candle for you today (something that is quick and helps me breathe and center without much effort). I hope you can figure out what will work for you. And that you keep sharing. Making this an okay thing to speak about in public is so important. Thank you.

  23. Depression stinks.
    Trying to find something that works stinks.
    Being around people you love and who love you stinks when you feel. Everything. Nothing. Grateful. Lost.
    Isolation stinks too.
    Thank you for you, this blog, your honesty.
    Thank you for reaching all of us.
    Together.
    We hurt, we laugh, we are family
    Maybe we heal together too
    Baby steps sometimes minute by hour by day.
    1 minute of gratitude. That helps!

  24. I’m a long time reader and love your blog. I too suffer from depression. For me, I’ve found that, along with exercise, supporting methylation with diet and supplementation is key. Basically methylation is the process our bodies use to process toxins. A lot of us have gene mutations that make that process more difficult. B vitamins are one of the keys, including folate – not folic acid (the synthetic that those of us with those mutations can’t convert). Processed food is full of folic acid. I recommend doing some research on methylation and depression. Dr. Ben Lynch is a leading doctor in the field. His book Dirty Genes is a pretty good introduction. A lot of people find relief by supplementing with folate. I was not one of those people. I don’t tolerate folate supplements either. I just eat lots of leafy greens. Good luck finding what works for you.

  25. Thanks for the post. Your story sounds a lot like my brother’s and it was helpful to gain more understanding into what he is going through.

    On the music front-somehow I had no idea that Natalie Merchant was part of the original 10,000 Maniacs! Thanks for that. I am a fan or hers, and I am approaching 60, so 10,000 Maniacs is part of the background music of my life!

    • Yeah, Natalie Merchant was the front woman for 10,000 Maniacs, and they’ve got some great music. I love “Verdi Cries”, for instance. One of my favorite songs ever.

      Also, last night I checked out one of Merchant’s recent albums, where she re-recorded songs from Tigerlily. It’s amazing. So good.

  26. Thanks, everyone, for the words of support. I appreciate them.

    The frustrating thing about depression is that you cannot think your way out of it. If anything, thinking just makes it worse.

    All my life, I’ve been able to think my way out of almost every problem. I live in my head. With depression, thinking becomes a tar baby: the more you think, the more mired you get in the problem. But because thinking is all I know how to do, I cannot help but become covered by tar.

    So annoying.

    A few other notes:

    * You know how I’ve been writing about simplicity lately? Well, not just lately, but for a long, long time? That’s because simplifying helps me cope with the depression and anxiety. I didn’t realize that until recently, however. Now, I’m making a conscious effort to simplify most aspects of my life. It’s a coping mechanism. And in the future, I need to take on fewer obligations. (It’s not that I have a lot of them, but apparently any obligation creates stress. So bizarre.)

    * Some of you have stressed the importance of physical activity and getting outdoors. I think you’re spot-on. Both help me, and I know it. Not so coincidentally, they’re both the opposite of thinking haha.

    * I’m also turning my attention to my sleep habits. Insomnia is one of the symptoms of depression. For a long time, I had trouble getting to sleep. Then, when I woke up at night, I couldn’t get back to sleep. At the start of the RV trip, I found a magic way to get to sleep and stay asleep: I listened to audiobooks. Obviously, I wasn’t retaining much from the audiobooks, but that wasn’t the point. Listening to the story (or lecture) put me to sleep and kept me asleep. But now I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve been compromising the quality of my sleep. Maybe I’ve been screwing with my head for several years now. Sleep deprivation is awful, as most of you probably know. So, for the past couple of nights, I’ve slept without earbuds for the first time in 4+ years. So far, so good.

    * Meanwhile, from a blog perspective, I think there are a few things I can do to keep things going while learning how to manage my symptoms. First, I can focus my creative efforts into producing longer, deeper pieces. This means publishing less often, but okay. Second, I can feature writing from other authors. Maybe this means finding staff writers. Maybe this means using guest posts. Maybe it’s some combination. Who knows? Third, I can allow myself to share more small, quick things like I was when I first re-acquired GRS. These aren’t as substantive, but they’re quick and fun for me to produce.

    Again, thanks for your words of encouragement.

    Finally, I want to reassure you that overall, I’m sure I’ll be fine. Kim and I are actively working toward managing my depression and anxiety. It’s just going to take some time.

    • JD, this is the best guide to meditation I’ve ever found. It’s from Barry Long — who was Eckhart Tolle’s teacher. In fact, Eckhart Tolle’s teaching is kind of a watered down, more mainstream (and more “spiritual”) version of this teaching:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYkqiwrtRF0

      This is also from Barry Long, which is the next step after meditation. However, people are so possessed by thought that almost no one will be able to do this or relate to this:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrxRgpsrpGg&t=9s

      • Listened to one of those Barry Long audios yesterday evening, it was great! Thanks (again) for the good links, will check the rest today.

        • Glad you found value! You may like Ramana Maharshi too. When he was asked about how to measure progress on the spiritual path, he replied, “The degree of absence of thoughts is the only measure of progress on the path.”
          And when asked about the best yoga position, he replied something like, “A silent mind is the best position.”

          Of course, the spiritual path itself can become kind of a heavy thought trip if one isn’t careful. There’s a whole book on that subject by Chogyam Trungpa called “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism,” which just happened to be Steve Jobs all-time fave book. In fact, part of the reason I love Barry Long so much is he presents an ancient teaching pretty much devoid of mystical “spirituality” and mumbo jumbo.

        • And as a minimalist, the most important thing I can do is to get rid of thoughts, as everything trickles down from that. In other words, if I’m not thinking about gadgets, clothes, fast-food, booze, fancy furniture and decorations (or anything else), then I won’t be out trying to bring those things into my life. I’ll just be at peace, worry-free and as blank as a fart, sipping tea on my patio. 😉

    • JD — best to you as you navigate this period!

      I don’t suffer from depression, but I did go thru a period in April where I was having….I don’t really know, panic, anxiety, stress? I was frequently trying to take that deep cleansing breath but not able to, then I was yawning a LOT, trying to just feel like I was getting the deep breath I wanted so badly.

      I had to travel out of town (driving) and by the time I left I was really questioning if this was stress or pre-heart attack. But the week away was going to be complete relaxation (no work, no spouse, no kids) so I knew it would be a good test of if this was in my head/circumstances (it was). Anyway, by the time I stopped at a hotel en route, I was so wiped. I’d spent 5 hours driving: breathing and yawning and looking at the clock to see how much time had elapsed since I’d last needed a deep breath.

      I decided to use the Calm app’s “bedtime stories” which are somewhat random, short-ish, “stories” read by people with great voices. It worked. I think my story was about lavender fields in France?

      Anyway — might be a good alternative to your audio books. I’ve also dabbled with meditation with limited success in making it a habit, but I do have some “breathing exercises” that I repeat if I’m feeling off and/or I wake up in the middle of the night. The one I use is breath in thru nose for count of 7, hold breath for count of 4, exhale thru mouth for count of 8. I’m sure there are scads of similar things. I’ve found it nice to have a specific (and easy) thing to do when I feel like stress is getting to me.

  27. After the sudden, unexpected loss of my wife 4 months ago, I’ve also had to deal with panic attacks and depression. My psychiatrist prescribed sertraline and alprazolam (those are the active ingredients, not the commercial names since they probably vary in the US). Both have worked well, so you might want to ask your doctor about them, although the former takes some time (about 4 weeks) to take effect. And working out (cardiopulmonary exercise and yoga in my case). My very best wishes from San Jose, Costa Rica.

  28. Love your blog, been reading for years and I share it with young people who could use your insight and advice. Keep up the great work!

  29. Thank you for writing this! It’s so important and you’ve probably helped more people than you’ll ever know by sharing your journey. I’m 47 and have had trichotillomania since I was an 8 year old kid. Depression and anxiety are its BFFs. I can relate! But, I have a great life and all the things you mentioned help me as well, especially gratitude and music – a supportive husband and two beagles fight the good fight with me (I love 10,000 maniacs, btw!). Have you consulted a functional medical practice? I imagine it would be easy to find in Portland. I also take a medication for my trich called naltrexone (it’s helped me so much) but its intended for alcohol (or drug) use. I don’t know if that’s you, but it might help if you want to reduce drinking. Please keep writing and thanks again!

  30. JD – hoping and wishing you feel better soon. I too deal with intermittent depression / anxiety, and your approach is wonderful : acknowledgment of the issue but also a “let’s go forward” attitude. I love your writting, I have for years, and know that “this too shall pass”. Best of everything, from a real fan.

  31. Like you, JD, I have suffered panic attacks and depression. I tried drinking and pot and everything else.

    The only thing that worked — and it has remade my life — was talk therapy with a good therapist. There are many, many therapists who suck. I’d recommend one who takes you on a journey to explore your Wound. It’s in there. It’s deep. Exploring your Wound will heal yourself and grow your self-love. It works better than the best drug out there — if you give it time and go straight to the hurt deep inside you. We all have it — some of us build our live running from it, and some of us explore it and unpack the Wound and heal.

    For a short cut, check out Tara Brach.

    Thank you so much for sharing this — such courage. You made a ton of people feel less alone.

  32. Thank you for sharing such a personal story. I also have depression that is improved with medication. However, I did an exercise challenge a few mos ago. I don’t know why I quit. I was feeling so energetic! Cooking, meal planning, cleaning, even started working more.
    My child has anxiety but I don’t.
    One thought popped in my head when you mentioned ADD. Could it be FASD? My kids have this. It’s often under diagnosed although 5% have it; more than ASD. I’ve heard many adults feel so much better when they receive an accurate diagnosis because it helps them understand -why- they’re the way they are. ADD could still be the accurate diagnosis but it can’t hurt to look at the symptoms of FASD and compare with what you know of your life.

  33. Great article J.D., glad you’re working at dealing with everything. Awesome to hear our random banter helped as well. 😉

    From the blog side, I think your plans to just publish your most inspired work will be great for both you and readers!

  34. Your timeline lines up pretty closely to mine, and I know a lot of my mental health issues are exacerbated by seasonal affect disorder. Vitamin D, a light box, and wellbutrin do wonders for it. Good luck!

  35. I hope you improve soon. It sounds tough. I had depression before, but it wasn’t that bad and it went away after I retired.
    Best wishes.

  36. Here’s a solution I came up with long ago: “The Island”. What if we could take someone with mental health issues and put them on an island. Alone. With no support network. Just a deserted island that had the natural resources to support them like food to harvest, shelter to build, etc. What would happen? Would that person rise up, clear their thoughts, and work had to survive and thrive? Or would the crumple up and perish? I wonder this as I have many people in my life who have either depression, anxiety, or are often manic.

    I also wonder how I personally would response to The Island. I’ve had issues with depression for about 15 years, and had my first panic/anxiety attack when I got my wrist cast wet a couple years ago. I felt like my entire body was trapped in my cast! If I were on The Island…if I had to focus on survival, and possibly not allowing the crap to swirl in my head…would it be different? And if so, why? Why couldn’t we act as if we’re on The Island NOW, and clear our heads? I find this idea interesting, but also frustrating as someone who still occasionally snaps out of bed imagining I’m stuck in my wrist cast from years ago.

    For what it’s worth I’m a big fan of seeing different therapists. I’ve seen four or so, and each one has given me fresh insight on my problems. Not every piece of advice is helpful, but everyone has contributed to my mental health. If my LNP and therapist didn’t both (individually) say “Have you considered changing jobs?” I would have probably crumbled long ago…

  37. This was such a brave post to make. Kudos for your courage, and keep on keeping on.

    Anyway, been mulling over your sleep issues, which could be THE cause of your depression. I mean there can be many causes, but sleep is so essential, why not tackle that either way?

    I’ve learned a bit about sleep problems over the years, so here a few suggestions that have worked for some… and some might work for you.

    1. Exercise early in the day. Preferably outdoors a little bit, to consolidate the circadian rhythm. This will i prove your mood throughout the day and help you sleep at night.

    2. Eat a light dinner? This means eating your biggest meals early in the day (e.g. post-workout), and reduce portions as the day goes by. A big late dinner boosts my metabolism and wakes me up at night. Hot sweaty sleep is no good.

    3. The research is out there, and alcohol is bad for sleep. Yes it might knock you out initially but doesn’t let you get good, deep sleep. This is why I have become a day drinker, ha ha ha ha! Seriously, no nightcaps.

    4. Magnesium deficiency can be a problem for sleep and relaxation and often goes undiagnosed. Checking your nutrition for magnesium is good. But also I find 200mg magnesium citrate in the evening helps me sleep HARD. Citrate assimilates better than oxide and is low cost. You can buy in caps at the supermarket (check the label) or in bulk at a place like Frontier Co-Op.

    5. No bright/blue lights at night, info is all over the web, even phones and tablets have night settings these days. Keep lamps dim. Also a cool room works best.

    6. For anxiety that keeps you awake at night, if exercise and diet and sleep hygiene don’t work, therapy is great and you’re on it already so congrats.

    7. If you need medication, time for a professional who can prescribe. For anxiety, benzos are addictive and many doctors are wary of prescribing them, so make sure to ask questions. Buspirone is not related to benzos and could be an alternative for GAD.

    8. For sleep there are many options, including antihistamines, or some varieties of antidepressants. Stuff like Trazodone can be amazingly good for sleep. But YMMV, so ask, test, observe side effects…

    9. Check if you might have allergy or histamine problems? Some of it can sound like hocus-pocus but there’s a correlation between histamine intolerance and anxiety. This is still on the edges of what we know, and there’s a bunch of contradictory info out there, so take with a grain of salt.

    10. It’s gonna take some trial and error with things, especially the medications if you go that route, so…. have patience, and it will pay off.

    Alright! I hope some of that helps…

  38. Thank you so much for being open with everyone! I really hope your words will help other people who need to hear this. Sending you positive thoughts, my friend!

  39. I have found a big mood improvement and sense of optimism and basic calmness since I went low-carb (for years now). For me, life is so much better with low-carb that it worth doing, along with all the other great suggestions (exercise, nutrition, gratitude, etc.). Life is still full of sucky things that get me down that I cannot stand, but it is just not as devastating as it used to be and they don’t eat away at my core in the same way. Low-carb seems to help my basic brain chemistry, which as a result helps stack the deck in my favor for facing the other external contributions which try to make life hard to enjoy.

    And there are solid scientific reasons why low-carb may help, e.g.
    https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/diagnosis-diet/201706/stabilize-your-mood-food
    https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/mental-health

    An easy way to get started is at https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb (the site is chock-full of free info, which you can see as you scroll through the link above, I’ve never joined). If very low carb seems too radical of a shift in eating, then you can do it gradually till you find what works for you. (They even address budget issues, which makes it on-topic to your own site.)

    I appreciate the suggestions you’ve made here in your posting (as well as in the comments). I have a hard time reconciling gratitude because of the consequences of actions of others on my life, but I keep contemplating it. Thanks for sharing, wishing you success in dealing with this too common of an experience.

  40. Bravo to you sir, for having the courage to put this out there… I’ve had a lifelong struggle with these issues as well. Having hit my FI number four years ago, I can attest that they don’t go away and can even get worse post-FI. I actually went back to work to lower my stress levels, but that’s just me hiding from myself…. I hope you bounce back soon; know that there are a ton of readers out there like myself who are fans of and are inspired by your work!

    • I love this comment, HeadedWest. Especially this bit: “That’s just me hiding from myself.” I feel like I’ve been hiding from myself. But what am I hiding from? I don’t know yet. I don’t know.

  41. Keep your chin up, buddy!

    I look forward to seeing you at FinCon and hopefully having a beer with you. Afternoon or evening — your call.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

  42. Thanks for writing this post. It’s very brave to share this as you are going through it and now wait until you are feeling better. I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety as well. In fact, my anxiety is sometimes so severe that it keeps me from working a full-time job. Luckily, I’m able to work part-time.

    One thing I’ve learned is to recognize your emotions as they are happening. Then, if I’m experiencing a strong emotion (sadness, anger, anxiety, etc.), it’s important for me to press pause. The best advice that I’ve ever gotten is to not try to solve the problem when I am in a crisis. Instead, getting out of my head and doing something else to get my mind off it until I feel better. Then, when my emotions are closer to baseline, I’m much better equipped to deal with the problem.

    You mentioned meditation. I’d definitely recommend it. I read an awesome book last year called “The Mindfulness away Through Depression” that explains the reasons why mindfulness and meditation can help us understand and work through difficult emotions. After I read this book, I started using the Headspace App. Since I downloaded this app a little over a year ago, I’ve meditate for about 3,500 minutes (less than 10 mins/day) and my life has completely changed. It is incredible.

    I wish you all the best.

  43. Long time reader, first time commenter. Like many, this post inspired me to respond to you in a new way!

    I too have depression and anxiety. Besides the other great suggestions here – sleep, exercise, and food all being essential – I didn’t move forward until I started addressing my thoughts. I use a book called Feeling Good, by David D Burns, and it lays out a simple list of cognitive district distortions that we tend to have. I use a simple exercise listed in the book – list my automatic thought, then the distortions, then a rational response – and this exercise frees me from the cloud of panic and pain and dread I’d been under. Hope it helps you, too.

  44. Seems our lives are running in parallel. I first got depression back in high school in the late 1990s, got divorced in 2011 and came down with another bout of depression last year. For me, it come and goes like the flu. I can be great for years and years and then suddenly I come down with a bout. This time I am taking happy pills – its not something I do very often. But sometimes its the only way. Exercise, meditation, gratefulness etc etc are all fantastic, but sometimes it takes more than that.
    Biggest drawback of happy pills is getting off them – my brain can go into meltdown.

    • Everyone is so different, but I second the David Burns’ book recommendation. I had to utilize a therapist for a time when things were really bad. She was working me through versions of the exercise in the book, I just didn’t know the book existed until later and our sessions had ended. For me reading the book was actually more helpful. I prefer to internalize and chew on things so reading seemed more effective (to me) than some of the exercises we did in session.

      Also, Kati Morton on youtube has some great content.

      Best.

  45. I agree with El Nerdo and wanted to add a few other things:

    I’ve been a long time reader but never commented. I felt compelled to comment today as I am a medical professional and there are a few things that I would recommend changing ASAP. Get off of propranolol!! This can drastically worsen depression symptoms. There are much better medications to help with blood pressure and anxiety, you will have to take two pills, but it will be worth it!

    Start on an SSRI like Celexa or Lexapro. For men, in particular, sleep disturbance is one of the first signs of depression/anxiety (low serotonin)

    Eat well! This is crucial! Avoid anything processed and make sure you are getting enough good fat. I recommend doing the Whole30 with my patients. Many people have food intolerances (gluten, dairy, corn, etc) that they irritate the gut lining, causing “leaky gut.” Most of your serotonin is found in the gut and if it is not healthy, you will not get the serotonin to the brain that is necessary to help with the anxiety and depression.

    Spring tends to be the worst time for anxiety and depression, hang in there!

  46. I’m so sorry you are experiencing this. I have not read the comments, but thought I would share that my brother in law, who has struggled with insomnia / depression for decades, has been helped by cold therapy. he has a cheap-o inflatable hot tub that he keeps cold water in out in the back yard, but you can start with cold showers.
    Thanks, as always, for your openness. It makes you real, accessible, and the only blog I regularly follow. Best wishes.

  47. I’m sorry to hear that you’re struggling, but really appreciate the honesty. So many people struggle with these feelings – me included (medication and therapy both really helped me and I was able to taper off the meds eventually). Although I don’t know you except through your writing, you are in my thoughts and I hope you’ve been feeling better the last few days.

  48. Thank you for such an open and honest post. It’s helped me understand what my daughter is facing. I admit I haven’t been that supportive because it always seems like she’s not trying things that may help like exercise, meditation, etc. Your description of how you’re feeling makes me realize she’s probably experiencing those same things that left you unable to do the things your therapist suggested.

    • Yeah, that’s the thing that sucks about depression. Often, you know what you need to do but you can’t make yourself do it. My therapist keeps telling me that the key is to move in the right direction, even if I’m taking small steps.

  49. Your candor is why I have been following your writing for over a decade. Thank you. This year has been a rough one for depression for me as well. The tricky thing is that depression will do everything in its power to keep you from seeking help. I realized that the thoughts that aim towards isolation aren’t real thoughts; they’re depression, and a sign that I need to do something different. Here are the five things I do to manage it: get in nature, read something spiritual (I like Pema Chodron), exercise, call a friend, meditate. I also use cannabis, but it runs into the same issue as your wine: it’s not actually healing anything, just making the present moment less unbearable. Talk therapy did nothing to ease my depression; somatic therapy has been much more effective for me. I wish you peace.

    • I was using THC to sleep, but both my medical doctor and my therapist warned me that this could actually be increasing my anxiety, so I stopped it.

  50. One thing I want to recommend as a psychiatrist is to find more friendship in real life friends.

    I’ve noticed a lot of bloggers, popular or not, are more depressed than average because they rely too much on online validation and social media.

  51. Hi,
    Please get a lot of sunshine and do heavy physical exercise/work.
    Also, please start practising Surya Namaskar daily (sun salutation). This will help definitely.
    Your fan.

  52. Takes a lot of courage to publish something so personal. I have found having gratitude is the magic of turning myself around out of the pit of loneliness, isolation, sadness, etc. Sometimes it is as small as having a wonderful dog and hearing owls hooting.

    The other thing that I have been taught is to get outside of myself. When I am feeling whatever bad feelings I attempt to do something for someone else. It can just be a knock on my older retired neighbor’s door or a phone call to someone to see how they are. My sponsor tells me “You need to get out of yourself and do something for someone else”. Basically, it changes the focus from poor ole me to keep the focus on them. Might just be what they planted in their garden that day but somehow, someway it does make me feel better and it connects me to the World.

    I grew up in an Alcoholic household and continued to pick Alcoholics in my life because they were what I knew. Have gone through tons of self-help books, counseling, and anti-depression meds over many years. Finally going and working a program of Al-Anon has changed how I feel, how I think, how I act, I’ve been off med’s and don’t have the lifelong depression. Working the program has given me that how to do a life manual that everyone else got at birth that I have been searching oh so many years for. Not implying this is the fix for you or anyone else. This is just my sharing my experience on what changed my life and gave me a quality life.

    Best of luck to you moving forward dealing with the depression and anxiety.

  53. Thank you for writing about this. I had a similar experience earlier this year and it’s the first time I ever realized what depression and anxiety were like. I was taking medication where both were side effects and one day it just hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn’t want to do anything, which is so out of character for me. I also got really worried that other people were talking negatively about me, when really it was just me talking negatively about myself. I’m slowly getting back into a healthy routine, but it definitely has derailed my year thus far. I just keep trying to remind myself how grateful I am for the little things, like getting up and exercising or getting a load of laundry done.

    Mental health is so hard to talk about, but it’s an important topic. I think these struggles also make us better people in the end.

  54. JD, thank you for being so open in your posts. Stress, anxiety and depression are something many of us struggle with and the more we talk about it openly as a health issue to improve, the better off we all are.

    This post is an excellent reminder for me to seek support with my issues. We’re close in age, so many of your posts ring true for my personal and financial issues, in fact the timing is super eerie sometimes. 😀 I’ve been dancing around finding a therapist and taking better care of my health all around. I often sidetrack myself with personal finance or house repair tasks because they’re quicker, external changes I can check off whereas eating “better”, working out and finding a therapist is so much more complicated! And, I hear you on the Simplicity track. I’m finding the less stuff I have to take care of, make decisions about, etc. means less stress in my life.

    If you decide you need to take a longer break from GRS, so be it. As it goes, “Put your oxygen mask on first”. We’d all rather you’re sharing information with us for the long-term, so do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself in the here and now! I’m grateful you have a financial life that allows you time to stop and take care of yourself in whatever way you need.

    And remember, as Jenny Lawson The Bloggess says, “Depression lies!”

    Best wishes, JD! Hang in there.

  55. Are you living my life? A divorced, PF blogger, remarried to a nurse, and dealing with lifelong depression? That’s me. And although I don’t live in Oregon, I’m not too far (NorCal). I really did think I was reading about myself throughout most of the article. Had to chuckle about “parrot fever.” My family called it “the ding-a-lings” and said it was a phase we all go through.

    Thank you sincerely for this post. You had the courage to say what I can’t.

  56. Wow! Thank you for opening up like that. Depression is not easy and there is definitely no one-size fits all approach to it. Thank you for being vulnerable with us – I’m sure plenty of us can relate on different levels.