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September 07, 2006

Depression in the IT Professions

I wrote this post nearly a year ago, and never quite got round to posting it. Rereading today, having been prompted by the story of a young successful lawyers suicide having suffered from depression, I felt it was time to publish it.

My second ever post on this blog can be found here

http://westciv.typepad.com/dog_or_higher/2003/09/index.html

In it I mention my psychiatrist. This was a quite deliberate choice. This blog is quite personal. I am not ashamed of the fact that I have been having treatment for depression. However, a smart, successful friend, herself having seen a psychiatrist, emailed me almost right away and questioned whether it was wise that I mention that here. She wrote

I feel that you have to be a little careful in sharing this personal info. There exists such a broad spectrum of psych patients and someone who doesn't know you and who might be considering a business relationship may be given unnecessary/unfair cause for concern.

It was very sensible advice. But I left it in there nonetheless.

I am reasonably open about my depression - in the appropriate circumstances I'll bring it up - recently in ante natal classes (hey there is a bit of a give away, huh?), when the issue of PND (post natal depression) came up, I talked openly about the experience of having depression. In a way, I see it as something of a duty - there is so much ignorance about depression (I know, until suffering from it, or at least becoming aware of the fact I suffered from it, I was woefully ignorant about what depression is. Indeed, I see now that I have suffered fitfully from depression a lot of my life. Perhaps if I had been less ignorant, and the whole issue less stigmatized, I would have dealt with it years ago, and my life in many parts would have been a great deal less unpleasant at times, for me and those around me.)

Like many who suffer from depression, I was functioning, more or less. Like many, I didn't think things were great, but I was still running my business, competing in sports, living my life. Just none of it really mattered. I got angry about things that really, in hindsight, weren't all that important. I was sick of pretty much everyone and everything. Above all, there was no joy in my life.
The process of dealing with the depression took some time, I guess 6 months before I really turned things around significantly, but much of that was coming to terms with the reality of what was really wrong in my life. That's the hardest part.

We tend to see depression as a very individual thing, something which happens to people, which isolates people, marginalizes them. This is true, but there is also a bigger picture. Certain kinds of personality are far more prone to depression (not just one type, but different types of personalities). Importantly, depression is something that happens to us as a society, and significantly impacts emotionally and economically our society as a whole.

Being reasonably gregarious, I know quite a few people in the IT, particularly the web related professions. And I know from experience that depression is not at all uncommon in these professions. I'd probably go so far as to say, from a purely anecdotal point of view, and with little exaggeration, that it is an epidemic. I've done some basic research to see whether there have been any studies on the correlation of IT Professionals and Depression, but nothing much has come to light, although its certainly an idea that has occurred to others. When I ran the idea by my shrink, and we talked about it for a while, he certainly concurred that it was a reasonable surmise.

You see, in terms both of the kinds of personality prone to depression, and the kinds of environments which seem to trigger or prolong and deepen depressive episodes, an association between the IT industry and depression would, as a lay person, far from surprise me.
While it is easy, and dangerous, to stereotype IT professionals ("geeks") and the kinds of personality that appear to be predisposed to depression, qualities we tend to associate with many IT professionals like obsessiveness, very high standards, social anxiety, creativity, coupled with stressful life circumstances (extremely long hours, arbitrary deadlines, lack of control over many variables of the work environment, lack of job security) seem to be a recipe for disaster when it comes to depression.

As I mentioned, I have a reasonably wide group of friends and acquaintances in our industries, (and outside them as well) both in Australia, and around the world. Talking with people, getting to know them, has given me some insight to how prevalent this problem could well be. Almost everyone has a story about themselves, or colleagues and depression.
Our industry tends to allow us to hide away, in front of our screens, in our cubicles, "pulling all nighters", connecting via email, chat, all great ways to avoid strong social contact outside the workplace. This is not necessarily seen as unusual, or problematic. So it can be easy to hide away from the world, allowing depression to grow quietly, without it being noticed, with everything seeming "OK" to those we deal with.

So why, when I search the web, do I find little if anything about depression in our industry? Maybe there ain't any there, though I very much doubt that. I expect that many have recognized their condition and undergone treatment, but don't want to shout it to the rooftops - I don't blame people for that - I just got turned down for income protection insurance, a man who has never missed a day of work in his life, who only 18 months ago won a state surf lifesaving silver medal, competing against people half my age, with a one sentence reply "our decision was based on your history of depression". Man are they going to regret that sentence ;-)
Or maybe they haven't sought treatment, afraid of the social stigma, anxious of what they will think of themselves. Or maybe, like I was once, they are unaware of the fact there is actually something wrong.

A significant problem for those suffering from depression, is that due to the stigma often associated with the condition, and general societal ignorance, people don't necessarily associate how they are feeling with being depressed, or if they do, are concerned about their own self worth, or the opinions of others, should they seek treatment. This is certainly something I can relate to from personal experience. Ironically, being depressed seems to reduce the chance of us seeking help for the condition. A sense of hopelessness often pervades everything you do - "what's the point of going to my doctor and talking about it? Nothing will change anyway". This too I can recount from personal experience.

So why am I writing this? A couple of things have prompted this post, and for me to take some small steps in trying to put this issue on the agenda for our profession.
Recently, someone I know from our profession took their own life. I know that they had experienced depression in the past, and I guess (that's the best I can do in the circumstances) there was a connection between these two events. Some studies suggest that as many as 10%-15% of people who suffer from depression will commit suicide. That's a rather high mortality rate for any illness. And I didn't want that to happen again, at least without doing what I could to try and stop it happening.

After WE05, and speaking about this with a number of people at the conference, I had more or less decided it was time to do something, when (on a selfish note) the issue with insurance I mentioned above occurred. On a personal level, a man with a young family, looking to provide for them regardless what might happen to me, this is distressing, and something I will fight to rectify. But from a societal point of view this is a disaster - a deliberate, discriminatory decision (based on essentially no real knowledge of my particular circumstances) which means people may well avoid treatment in order to secure insurance, or be punished for taking responsibility for their mental health. A little digging around since this happened to me leads me to suspect that certainly in Australia, "Insurance" companies (shudder quotes used advisedly) simply deny any income protection to anyone who applies, should they "admit" to a history of depression. I'd be surprised if that wasn't the case elsewhere too.
This further stigmatizes and excludes people with depression, particularly those who have the courage to address their condition.

This nasty little episode reinforced just how marginalized the issue of depression really is, and was the final straw. Enough I said to myself.

But what to do?

First, it is ignorance that does the damage. Ignorance of what depression is, how it effects people, how the person next to you, or you yourself might suffer from it, and never know. Ignorance that blames people with an illness for being weak, or lazy, or in some way responsible for their condition.

This ignorance needs to be dispelled.

And with better understanding, hopefully the marginalizing, discriminatory attitudes and practices, as much ours as individuals, as those of institutions like insurance companies, will simply no longer make any sense, in the same way other discriminatory practices, against people on the base of their gender, sexuality, ethnicity, are, to some extent, on the wane.

When you suffer from depression, you'll most likely be told by at least some people to "pick yourself up" or "get over it". But that makes as much sense as telling someone with a broken leg to just get over it, once you understand that depression is an illness, a condition of the body, just like any other illness.
There are those who deny even the existence of depression. Claim it is some epidemic of self indulgence by the affluent western middle classes. Again, something founded in ignorance.

What do you really know about depression?
I can almost guarantee that unless you have suffered from it, or known someone very close to you who has, or studied depression professionally, your knowledge will be almost completely wrong. It is something so riddled with misapprehensions, clouded by judgmental thinking, that unless you are forced to rethink years of accumulated assumptions, you simply can't have a clear understanding of it.

Who do you know who has or has suffered from depression? Even if you think "no one", you are almost certainly wrong.

It's also important for people to understand that depression can be treated, and that if you suffer from it, you will feel profoundly better because of that treatment. Not necessarily in a day or week, but in a reasonable time frame. There are many different treatments, depending on the kind of depression, its duration and depth, and which treatment is best for you will very much depend on you and your circumstances. This may involve a drug, something which is greatly stigmatized in our society, partly because of the side effects often associated with first generation "tri-cyclic" anti-depressants. But drugs are not necessarily the treatment you'll receive.

If you are suffering from depression, or feel you might be, and have a good general practitioner (GP), someone you put your faith in, then simply go and speak with them. They won't judge you. You will look back one day on it as one of the best things you ever did. If you don't have that kind of GP, seek one out. Perhaps a friend might recommend a doctor they trust. Perhaps at one of the forums where people discuss depression you might find a recommendation for someone local to you.
But put aside any preconceptions you have, about the nature of the treatment, and its outcomes, they are very likely to mislead you.

If you believe someone you know well may be suffering from depression, then it can be very difficult to help them help themselves. If you are very close to them, their wife, husband, partner, parent, sibling, then it might be an idea to see your GP alone and discuss it with them. They may help with strategies for getting your loved one into some form of treatment. Certainly, forcing someone into treatment is often counter productive.
As the partner of someone suffering from depression, there is also some chance that you too will be effected by depression. It is an extremely stressful event in itself, and whatever stresses your partner is going through, you are likely to be feeling to some extent too. Don't ignore your own health. Often the first step in helping someone else is to help ourselves.

This is only the smallest step, and perhaps the only one I am qualified to take, to put this on the agenda as a profoundly important issue for us as a profession.

There are also many online resources to help you understand depression, how it effects people, what triggers it, the different treatments available. There are sites where you can self assess to see whether you might have a propensity toward depression, or whether you have or even perhaps presently are suffering from a depressive episode.
You can also find forums for discussing depression, as a sufferer, or as someone close to someone suffering.

The day I realized that I was not alone, that what I felt many others do too, was a very important day in my life. I had felt so alone before that.

Regardless of how you feel right now, do take a look at some of these sites, do try to learn more about depression. The odds that you, or someone close to you, will suffer from depression are high.
Rather than you or them suffering longer than is necessary from ignorance, be in the position to stop it happening before it starts, or to recognize it early, which will usually reduce the severity and length of an episode.

My best wishes to you in your efforts. Know that you aren't alone, and that there is hope.

John

Resources

General Sites about depression
http://www.beyondblue.org.au/index.aspx?link_id=1.3 (Not for Profit organization in Australia)
http://www.depression.com/ (associated with Pharmaceutical company Glaxo Smith Kline)
http://depression.about.com/ Comprehensive links about depression, diagnosis, treatment and much more
http://depressionet.com.au
http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinical_depression

Symptoms, signs and causes
http://www.patienthealthinternational.com/article/501583.aspx
http://www.thedoctorwillseeyounow.com/articles/behavior/depressn_5/
http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Demystifying_Depression (detailed if somewhat controversial ideas of Depression, worth a read)

Self Testing (better for understanding depression rather than a definitive diagnosis)
http://www.healthyplace.com/site/tests/psychological.asp#depression
http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/surveys/Temperament/index.html

Forums, and places to discuss
http://www.beyondblue.org.au/index.aspx?link_id=61
http://depression.about.com/mpboards.htm

IT and Depression
http://ask.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/05/18/1357256&tid=191&tid=95&tid=4

Some sites about Drugs and Depression
http://www.biopsychiatry.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinical_depression#Medication
http://www.wingofmadness.com/links/medica.htm

Helping someone with depression
http://depressionet.com.au/famfr/wtd.html

Please add any resources you think are valuable as comments

thanks

j

September 7, 2006 | Permalink

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Comments

John, I think you should add this post to your 'need to read' section on the right.

Thankyou for posting this.

Posted by: Pat Allan | Sep 7, 2006 4:52:00 PM

Well, well, well. You say "Who do you know who has or has suffered from depression? Even if you think "no one", you are almost certainly wrong."

The fact that I had you down as such an enthusiastic and buoyant person and would never dream for one moment that you could be depressed just goes to show that you truly cannot tell who is suffering/has suffered from deprression.

Posted by: Ian Lloyd | Sep 7, 2006 6:50:42 PM

Ian,

someone recently said something very similar to me - "if you need to see a shrink, what hope is there for the rest of us?" I guess that's one reason why I am so open about it, because I do think that we have this stereotypical idea of people with depression, whereas many people probably put on a brave face in public, but despair in private.

BTW, I have a fantastic kombi van photo I took just for you. This thing is seriously pimped out. Just need to get round to getting it off my phone. You will love it

j

Posted by: John Allsopp | Sep 7, 2006 7:53:08 PM

@Ian - I think one of the common misconceptions about depression is that depressed people look sad and/or lethargic when in fact depression can manifest itself in many ways including anger, hyperactivity, anxiety..which is why it's great when people like John 'come out' because it helps us realise that sufferers may not display the classic symptoms.

Posted by: Sara Lander | Sep 7, 2006 8:01:05 PM

I had a recent run with what was likely depression, brought on by a divorce. I had to swallow some macho pride and get some counseling. I also found relief in putting down the keyboard and doing non-digital things with my hands. Engine work on a 1968 Chevy truck, building a new social life, and taking up some woodworking. I felt the joy of seeing things take form and shape from my hands. The joy and peace felt great. Now here lately, I think life's starting to pile on and I feel some of the same ugly feelings coming back in.

Timely and wonderful post, John. I agree with Ian, I would never have pegged you with this. If you can pass a hug, a beer, and a little orange smiley-face sticker through the web, I would. Cheers!

Posted by: Patrick | Sep 8, 2006 1:25:31 AM

Pat,

thanks for that - we'll have abeer next time I am round Austin way.

I think a really good thing about facing the issue is that when things aren't going great, we know what's going on to an extent. It has a name, and we have ways of addressing it.

Thanks again

j

Posted by: John Allsopp | Sep 8, 2006 6:16:58 AM

John you not one of the people I would pick as suffering from depression, but then again people do not pick me as suffering from depression.

It does stink that the insurance company, refused to give you income protection insurance. I would of expected them just to exclude "prexisiting medical conditions". But I am lucky my life insurance/superannuation all dates from prior to an accident which caused organic brain damage and resulted in me suffering from depression. And then I got into the web industry.

In other words maybe the very nature of the industry attract people who are prediposed toward depression?

Posted by: Nick Cowie | Sep 8, 2006 7:07:30 PM

John, I also (when we first met) would never have picked you as suffering from depression, just as I suspect probably most people would not have picked me as someone who did (including, for a very long time, me). The fact that you had been so open about it helped me enormously when my problem became too big for me to ignore. I had your words ("I had no idea it was possible to feel this good") in my head when I sought help. Having found the right medication the first time - which is lucky, sometimes it takes a lot of tries before finding one that works - I now know exactly what you mean. The day my medication started working was the first day in forty years that I didn't hate myself, something which surprised pretty much everyone that I told. Like you I have been very successful in my career and outgoing (on the surface).

I agree with you that society does not deal with the issue well. No-one would suggest to someone suffering from diabetes that counselling will fix it and that medication is "the easy way out". Yet chronic depression is the same thing in that it is a chemical inbalance in the body. Even now when I feel upset it is better than when I was feeling good previously. And that is another common misconception - that taking antidepressants will "numb" all feeling. It's not true - just that you only get upset about things that really matter, and in a way that is not completely overwhelming or makes you want to kill yourself.

I think that the music profession is probably similar to the IT profession in that it involves a lot of time spent on your own practising (and the self "criticism"/assessment and introspection that requires) and a huge need to achieve and constantly improve. I also think there is a lot of depression in the music business.

Anyway, not that I want to put the responsibility for my life onto anyone else, but I really feel that I might be dead had it not been for you being so open about it. I am now following suit and telling pretty much everyone I know about what I have been through in an effort to de-stigmatise depression. I have many reasons to be grateful for you - for making my sister so happy, giving me a beautiful niece, but also a great deal for helping me to be brave enough to take steps to find the "real" me and therefore being able to make the most of, and truly enjoy my life and talents.

Debxx

Posted by: Deb Lander | Sep 8, 2006 9:57:06 PM

Can I also recommend http://www.sane.org/
The site contains resources about depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, psychosis and schizophrenia among other "hidden" mental illness.

Thanks for being brave enough to post.

Posted by: rosemary | Sep 9, 2006 1:18:04 AM

I have what I take to be depression from time to time.
For me, it seems to be anaemia based - I've (just) gotten out of bed some days and dragged myself through the morning, thought 'this won't do' taken a silly amount of iron and 30 minutes later gone 'oh, thats better!'
Took me several years to figure that out, though :(
Been good recently. I took iron daily for last several years, but the last few months I haven't needed too :) I guess I finally crammed enough into my system to maintain a certain level :)

Posted by: Lea de Groot | Sep 9, 2006 8:34:58 AM

Deb,

that makes all this all the more worth it.

I reckon you are 100% right about music profession, I wonder whether anyone ghas done any research on this?

It's lovely to have the you real hear with us.

love j

Posted by: John Allsopp | Sep 9, 2006 9:56:39 AM

thanks Rosemary for th elink to sane.

Lea, you are right to point out that thhere are often other physical causes of depression like symptoms - thyroid conditions, low iron, lead poisoning (which Beethoven apparently suffered from). A good GP will consider these as part of adressing the whole issue, probably before recommending a psychiatrist. So for at least some people, the fix may well be unrelated to psychiatry, but no less dramatic for that.

j

Posted by: John Allsopp | Sep 9, 2006 10:00:50 AM

Thanks for this, John.

I love what I do, but I often wish I could share my professional ups and downs with others in our field. Working for myself, I feel fairly isolated - especially here in Adelaide. It's one of the reasons why I hope to one day be a part of an Adelaide-based web standards group (either that, or move to Melbourne or Sydney). Just being able to meet people who are interested in, understand and want to talk about what I do ... well, that'd go a long way!

However, I can see I also need to take a closer look at myself. By piling on the work I've neglected to address my depression. Thanks for the friendly wake-up call.

Posted by: Adam Schilling | Sep 10, 2006 3:58:03 AM

Adam,

yeah, what we do can definitely be isolating - whether we work freelance, or in an office environment - so making the time and effort to get out, into the fresh air, to the park, to a beach, do a little exercise, meet some people, all can make a really big differennce.

There must be loads of web types in Adelaide - why not just put the word out on the WSG mailing list, and a couple of other places - happy to put a note here too - for people to just meet up at a well known pub. It's how the WSG started, and I've done it a couple of times in different locations round Sydney for people who live or work in those areas, and had a few people turn up. Even 4 or 5 is a great start.

In time if you like you can make it more "official" - as part of the WSG or Poort80, or your own organisation, but just making the start is the main thing.

Thanks for the comments

j

Posted by: john Allsopp | Sep 10, 2006 7:33:57 AM

It's so fascinating to me to read about how one would not see John as a depressive. The same has been said about me until I, too, spoke out on my blog about my own depression and struggles.

It's amazing and a bit frightening, isn't it, to realize that some of the most joyous, loving, optimistic, idealistic energetic and hard-working people in this world have such a shadow.

I wonder if there is a kind of yin/yang relationship in that. Many have spoken of such a shadow, Carl Jung even suggested that it is part of what we have to accept and incorporate into our personalities in order to cope with properly.

John, thank you for posting this. It's a must read for everyone. As someone who has been in treatment for this illness in some fashion for over 20 years, I am in full appreciation of anyone who is willing to be so forward in sharing such a difficult and seemingly personal experience.

Posted by: Molly E. Holzschlag | Sep 10, 2006 8:08:15 AM

Thanks Molly for this, and for your openness over the years about who you are, your ups and downs. I kinda think a lot of this is like our childhood fear of the dark. Shadows is a great way of putting it.

I'm posting something soon, at Sara's suggestion, about how in many ways I feel much stronger and better than when I was writing this article a year or so ago. That too is important. The real depths of my depression, what drove me (well drove Sara to help me) address what is probably a lifelong pattern was 3 or more years ago. The things I've been able to achieve these last couple of years, with the conferences, with my much expanded writing, my presentations in Australia and round the world, are all part of, a symptom and a cause of my recovery. Just as success breeds success, getting better helps you get even better. Just as posts by Pat and others allude to, and as you allude to too here and at http://molly.com, in some ways, we know that we are probably never really "cured", that we will have good days and not so good days, and great times, and difficult times, but we know what they feel like, we have a name for the shadows, a torch to tuen on when it's dark and we are afraid.

j

Posted by: john Allsopp | Sep 10, 2006 12:08:14 PM

Adam - for the social side of thing get in contact with Miles from Port80 miles@port80.asn.au I am sure he said there were some people in Adelaide who want to start a Port80 branch there. Even if you end up organising it, all you need do is find a suitable pub, send out a bulk email once a month and turn up.

John and Molly, I am glad you can talk publicly about depression, I find it tough and I have an excuse to hide behind (head injury) and the knowledge, well background in Psychology (4 year uni degree).

Anybody who thinks they have depression, you need to admit it to yourself (that took me 18 months) and then find a GP you can talk to and tell them (that took me another 3 months and I already had the GP). From there things get easier, modern drugs can do wonders, but not all drugs work on everybody. I have been through seven different types of tablets, some had side effects (really bad nausea, headaches), others just did not work for me and others worked for limited time (12 months or more). But it is all worth it when you go to bed depressed and wake up next morning not

Posted by: Nick Cowie | Sep 10, 2006 7:03:58 PM

John,

I'm so happy to see this post. I haven't met you, but I have seen your presentations at SXSW the past two years.

I absolutely think there is a link between depression and the IT industry, and I hate the pressure put on me to never talk about the disease that has been one of the most important parts of my life for the past 15 years.

I recently set up a project at http://janglyganglia.com as a way to remind myself of the positive things that happen to me, so I can remember them during the really dark times. Kind of a public therapy-- I try to post one positive thing that I experience every day.

The blog has become a small community of IT folks with depression, who want to be open and public about it in a way that is beneficial to our health and that hopefully will do a small part in combatting the stigma of the disease.

Thanks for your post. I believe that whenever someone talks publicly about depression is helps us all move toward the day when it is recognized as the disease it is, rather than as a character flaw.

Posted by: Andrea | Sep 11, 2006 8:10:48 AM

John,

Thanks for posting this article, depression is something that definitely needs to be de-stigmatised. My best friend has been suffering from depression for years and years and it's so hard to watch, especially as most people just tell her to cheer up and get over it.

Great post.

Posted by: Chezza | Sep 11, 2006 9:38:42 AM

Thanks Andrea and Chezza,

its not quite like coming out when you are gay, but it is one of those things that feels better out than in, for sure. Before I did, I had one friend, ignorant of my condition, refer to an ex boyfriend as "mad" because he was on anti depressants. I guess people seeing people they know as having depreression heps overcomes the negtive stereotypes - and the useless exhortations like "get over it".

j

Posted by: john Allsopp | Sep 11, 2006 12:58:44 PM

Thanks for writing so well on this subject. Here is a link that is useful for people who are depressed and for those who care about them.
http://www.wingsofmadness.com

Posted by: Frances Bell | Sep 11, 2006 9:08:37 PM

John, Thank you for posting this. I suffer from depression as well. Unlike you and Molly, lot's of people can figure it out from meeting me. I wear my heart on my sleeve so when I'm down, you can really tell. However, yes, taking that first step to talk to your GP is so important. My GP has been very supportive and impressed with my progress thus far.

One thing I learned during my two years of real treatment is that if I monitor how I'm doing just be aware of what the medication is doing, I have some control. I knew that when I went to a lower dose for a short period of time that it wasn't working. I still need the higher dose. I have come to terms with the fact that I will probably taking medication for the rest of my life. It's okay.

I resisted taking medication because I didn't want to f*ck with my mind. The one thing I that I treasured most. Well, I was wrong. Medication didn't interfere with my mind, thinking, or cognition, it made it better, clearer, and more focused.

I remember so clearly the day when the medication started to kick in. I was in the store in the check-out line. I was lost looking at a local charity calendar. I didn't notice a friend coming up behind me until he placed his hand on my shoulder (and I jumped 6 feet into the air). It was then I realized that the medication was allowing my mind hyper-focus like it used to. That it was freeing my mind from the clutter that got in the way of me doing my job and living my life.

That was a great day.

Posted by: Tris Hussey | Sep 12, 2006 3:39:22 AM

I am an IT professional who has suffered with depression for nearly 10 years. At times it was really debilitating. I'm also a mother of two.

Here is an additional resource that people might want to consider. Supplements designed for central nervous system support. I tried many different anti-depressants and many drug cocktail combinations, and nothing worked very well. Either I had to deal with side effects that were intolerable or the drug(s) just never seemed to be working consistently.

Take a look at http://www.truehope.com. I don't work for these guys, I don't get anything for passing this information on. In fact, I pay out of pocket for the supplements because insurance doesn't generally cover this kind of stuff. So, it's a little more difficult to pay for it, if anything. However, after nearly two years of using the supplements exclusively, I can attest to their effectiveness.

They provide a lot of support information on the site, including info you can share with your doctor.

Posted by: Suzee | Sep 12, 2006 6:18:50 AM

John, I posted earlier that I was surprised to discover about your depression but maybe I shouldn't have been. You see, I suffer from it too - or rather my partner gets depressed and I suffer from it. I hope that doesn't sound selfish but let me explain.

I know that telling her to 'snap out of it' won't help and I try my best to present positive slants on everything that gets her down (it's all work-related) but I know that I keep running out of steam. Every morning she wakes up huffing an puffing and most evenings we're talking about these issues, sometimes rationally, sometimes not. I have tried to advise, but I often find that whatever I do it's wrong.

A case in point: we've had some work done on the house, there are some things half finished. In the past when I've said "Right, I'm going to paint the hallway" I've been told off for not being with her/paying here attention, that I'm trying to go off and do something else. So I stopped doing the painting and pretty much waited for a green light - wait until she says "Maybe we should finish that wall", but that doesn't happen. What happens is that it later becomes an issue: "There's so many things we need to do - why can't you be a starter-finisher?" The answer is because she makes it difficult to. Damned if I do, damned if I don't. If we did these DIY things together, it'd get done in half the time and she would feel involved and I wouldn't feel guilty for leaving her rotting on the sofa while I get a job finished, but that just doesn't ever happen.

I am an upbeat person. Sure, I have worries like the rest of us, but I know that I can be a bit of a cold fish and unemotional at times. But I know that this is affecting me too - and I also know that I'm the sort of person who it won't affect me until something happens, a trigger event, the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back. As you suggested, it's not just her health/state of mind that I need to consider - I also need to ensure that it doesn't slowly nudge me into the same space.

I feel at a loss to know what to suggest to her now. When I floated the idea of going to see the doctor (didn't force the idea, just suggested it might be a good idea) - and coming along with her - I was berated for suggesting that she's mental. Bang went that idea.

I can't change her work situation, and telling her to quit her job does not seem sensible either - it'll just reveal a whole lot of other issues (mainly feelings of self-loathing because of not achieving/failing despite working hard to get somewhere, academic studies etc). Basically, I don't know what to do now.

Can you identify with my position, being as you are on the other side of the fence?

And are you still feeling depressed? My partner asked about "my upbeat friend who was depressed" (I had mentioned your post) and asked how you sorted things out. I had to reply "I'm not sure if he has" but maybe you can provide a glint of light here?

Posted by: Ian Lloyd | Sep 13, 2006 5:47:12 PM

Ian,

Ian:
You see, I suffer from it too - or rather my partner gets depressed and I suffer from it. I hope that doesn't sound selfish but let me explain.

John:
I don't think its at all selfish, and in fact it's something really important for peopel to understand - if someone close to you, particularly a partner, suffers from depression, you definitely suffer from it too, at the very least in the sense you describe, and often too, literally as well. Few things could be more stressful than coping wth someone else's illness, and depression is typically triggered by stressful life circumstances, so if your partner is facing those, so too are you, perhaps directly, perhaps more indirectly.

Ian:
I know that telling her to 'snap out of it' won't help and I try my best to present positive slants on everything that gets her down (it's all work-related) but I know that I keep running out of steam. Every morning she wakes up huffing an puffing and most evenings we're talking about these issues, sometimes rationally, sometimes not. I have tried to advise, but I often find that whatever I do it's wrong.

John:
It's really really hard I think - because we who are suffering often can't see our circumstances as clearly (oyu get used to feeling that bad, it alomost feels "normal", and you know, quite likely, we've felt liek that on an off for a long time.) So we can't help ourselves. It all seems hopeless, pointless. I remeber quite clearly walking to see my shrink thinking literally "this is a waste of time, nothing is going to ever change, what's the point". It really was Sara's gentle but strong support which got me through those particularly difficult times, but I didn't appreciate that so much 'til afterwards.

Ian:
A case in point: we've had some work done on the house, there are some things half finished. In the past when I've said "Right, I'm going to paint the hallway" I've been told off for not being with her/paying here attention, that I'm trying to go off and do something else. So I stopped doing the painting and pretty much waited for a green light - wait until she says "Maybe we should finish that wall", but that doesn't happen. What happens is that it later becomes an issue: "There's so many things we need to do - why can't you be a starter-finisher?" The answer is because she makes it difficult to. Damned if I do, damned if I don't. If we did these DIY things together, it'd get done in half the time and she would feel involved and I wouldn't feel guilty for leaving her rotting on the sofa while I get a job finished, but that just doesn't ever happen.

John:
I'm very far from an expert in any of this, but it seems there's an opportunity in that, but I'm not sure how to help take advantage of it - a psychologist in particular might be good at helping work out a strategy there. A way of involving without setting really high expectations (I think the reason why many of us procrastinate is that we fear, as you point out, "failure". It's the huge mental model we build for ourselves, where things are good/bad, success/failure, right/wrong (there's a technical term for this, I can't recall it.)) so what we need to do is stop seeing the world in this way. But of course we can fail at that too! So, we need to understand our thought patterns, and step by step catch ourselves when we setup these self defeating situations, or when we see situations in this way, and conscciously change our way of thinking. Much easier said than done, but also doable.

I definitely needed real treatment for pretty acute depression to get to the stage where I could do that. Not everyone does.

Ian:
I am an upbeat person. Sure, I have worries like the rest of us, but I know that I can be a bit of a cold fish and unemotional at times.

John:
You are a man and English ;-) Stiff upper lip and all that.

Ian:
But I know that this is affecting me too - and I also know that I'm the sort of person who it won't affect me until something happens, a trigger event, the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back. As you suggested, it's not just her health/state of mind that I need to consider - I also need to ensure that it doesn't slowly nudge me into the same space.

John:
Very wise Ian, it's definitely what does happen to people. The fact that you are aware of that makes a huge difference.

Ian:
I feel at a loss to know what to suggest to her now. When I floated the idea of going to see the doctor (didn't force the idea, just suggested it might be a good idea) - and coming along with her - I was berated for suggesting that she's mental. Bang went that idea.

John:
Yeah, it is really touchy. I'd probably go by myself, to discuss the issue with a GP who is good, and whom you trust - thhat's a key. Some are definitely bbetter than others. And when you trust them, then you know when your wife goes to see them, they won't %^&* it up (the GP that it) by being insensitive - it does happen, and if you have done alot of work to get her there, and it goes badly, it's not great.

They will definitely be able to help develop a way she can start addressing this in a way that suits her needs, temperament and personality. And she has you on her side, which in the long run is so important. I don't know how Sara managed over those months when it was far from good. I'm so grateful she did. Your wife will be grateful too, and you will be thankful you did what you could.

Ian:
I can't change her work situation, and telling her to quit her job does not seem sensible either - it'll just reveal a whole lot of other issues (mainly feelings of self-loathing because of not achieving/failing despite working hard to get somewhere, academic studies etc). Basically, I don't know what to do now.
Can you identify with my position, being as you are on the other side of the fence

John:
Very much so. I guess to keep in mind that there is no "big bang" that will solve it tomorrow afternoon I'm afraid. But realism will help. Indeed, that's only likely to casue more short term stress, and not address the underlying causes. Like if at work, just by way of example, I know nothing more than what ypu've written about hwo she feels about it, your wife feels that shes not respected, for example, then unless we change some things about ourselves, channging circumstances will most likely not change how we feel. We might need to not look so much for external validation, learn to find that in ourselves. Or we might need to be more assertive - if others take credit for our work, or undermine us, or treat us less well than we deserve, we have to learn to deal with that directly - that's been a big change for me. But we need to be in the right place,and feel ok, to make these kinds of changes, and again, they take place over months and years, not days and hours. But having said that, we can start to feel better quite quickly with treatment - which may or may not involve medication

Ian:
And are you still feeling depressed? My partner asked about "my upbeat friend who was depressed" (I had mentioned your post) and asked how you sorted things out. I had to reply "I'm not sure if he has" but maybe you can provide a glint of light here?

John:
That's a really good question, and in fact one I am meaning to post a bit more on soon, but I'lll say something about it now.

I consider that I suffer from depression. It's a personal understanding, biut I see it as a chronic illness, for me at least, like say diabetes. Now, it's not to say it's in any way like diabetes in terms of its impact on me, just an analogy. I feel I'll always have depression, but I won't always suffer from it. So perhaps diabetes is a poor example. I may need to take medication for a long time, but I may not. I mayy never suffer another acute episode, but I may.

Right now I take a very low dose of a modern SSRI (the prozac family, though prozac is quite old now, there are quite a few drugs in this family - they help affeft serotinin levels, in some ways depression is quite simple - it has a lot to do with the levels of seritonin in our brain, and the way the brain handles these).

Right now, I feel good. We have 10 month old baby, and as I write this I've been up since four with her, then working. I'm two weeks from a the conference we hold here in Sydney, and have some more developments in the pipeline. I'm writing a book on a really exciting new area of web development. So, I've got a fair bit on. Yet, I feel well, happy, and on the whole, pretty unstressed. The medication helps, but I know its not aa crutch (I want to write mmore soon too about medication, as that is a huge issue for alot of people, and the misunderstandings and myths are really damaging).

I've probably never felt so positive about myself, in a sense, I guess, I would say I'm happier than I have ever been.

So, we can and do get better. There is hope.

And I hope this helps a bit. All the best, and I still need to get you that Kombi photo. It was the sexiest auto I have ever seen!

Posted by: john Allsopp | Sep 14, 2006 8:50:01 AM

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