Tag Archives: depression

Hi there,

I’m hoping to find some scripts/strategies to employ when I run into someone I’m happy to chat with, like a friend or one of the super friendly baristas at a coffee shop I’m always in, and they ask “so what’s new with you?” or “what have you been up to this week?” when the honest answer is often something like “I managed to leave the house every day” or “Well my house is still messy but I did write 70 thousand words of erotic fanfiction in the past few months” or “I’m sorry but my depression seems to be leaning hard on my memory lately and I have no idea what I did yesterday, let alone last week.”

Sometimes I even have done something I could talk about; there might be a knitting or art project I picked up, I try to take small trips to see friends when I can, and of course plenty of my friends would be happy to talk about the weird fanfic I’ve been writing. But in the moment I rarely remember any of this.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been at a bar and forgotten the name of every cocktail you have ever enjoyed or even heard of the moment you get the bartender’s attention, but that’s what this feels like. I’m a deer in the headlights and can’t think of something that’s even vaguely interesting and not some form of “I’m super depressed so I can’t remember, sorry.” That’s fine to say sometimes, I know, but I don’t want that to be my response every time someone talks to me in person.

I am getting as much mental health support as I can; I have a good therapist and meds that seem to work as well as anything else could (I tried some new ones last year and it was a disaster), but I’m still struggling a bit; I don’t mind being honest about that, in many circumstances, but I feel so dull and boring when these questions come up and at times it impacts my confidence around other people. I’m trying hard right now to get out more and connect with people because I know that’s good for me but I keep hitting this awkward roadblock. Any thoughts?

I Promise I’m Not This Boring, For Real (he/him)

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Patrons of the blog have sent in short questions. Surprising nobody, I have written answers between “medium” and “epic.” This is Part 1 of 2, the rest will come later in the week.

In this batch: A friend is ghosting me to my face at work, I want to reconnect with a friend I accidentally ghosted, my downstairs neighbors complained to me about walking too loud, I need my partners to be more/differently supportive about depression and anxiety, and I’m about to burn out at work, will it kill my career if I take time off?

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A Venn Diagram of Depressed, Attractive JerksDear Captain Awkward:

How do I see the whole of a person?

Hello! I was hoping you could help me with something. There is a guy at uni I am friends with, who has depression. Over the past semester at uni, we have grown very close, mostly on the basis of me becoming the person he turns to when he needs someone to confide in about the depression. We have also fairly recently become sexually involved with one another, which started in June for a week and the one time I’ve seen him since based on a couple of months of text/Skype conversations that became more and more explicit over time. I was also recently reminded of his mean streak, in regards to casual mean comments and tendency to strike out hurtfully at others when hurting or in misplaced jest/humour.

The issue is I can’t seem to integrate these three aspects of him in my head. When I think about him I am essentially thinking about one of three different versions of him – the one I listen to and comfort, the one whom I am sexually involved and also turn to for comfort, and the one with harsh comments and the mean humour. How, oh wise one, can I integrate these parts in my head and thus treat him as the whole person he is?

Thank you sincerely,

Dear Confused:

I vote that you believe hard in the Mean Guy and view the rest of his personality through that lens.

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When you’re depressed, stuff piles up. Mail goes unopened. Paperwork goes un-handled. Clean laundry lives in piles. Dirty laundry lives in different piles. The piles begin to….merge. You just don’t have the energy to deal with any of it.

Then the meds start to kick in, or therapy starts to work, or for whatever reason you get a little better, and you get some energy back. Good!

Except between you and being okay is the giant shitpile of things you didn’t do for so long that all need to be done now. So instead of momentum, healthy new habits, great leaps forward….it’s hunting down old paperwork, cleaning science experiments out of the fridge, calling the student loan people, and 6 month’s worth of unpleasant chores and administrative tasks. It’s all way harder and more fucked up and more expensive than it would have been if you’d just done it when you were supposed to, so even though you are theoretically doing better everything sucks proportionally more.

Which cues a giant shame spiral. Because you have no one to blame but yourself, and those blamey voices are well-rehearsed and have been waiting in the wings, ready to go back onstage at any moment.

If this shame spiral is indulged/not checked, it will lead straight back to depressionland and rob you of all momentum. This is my life right now. I’m “halfway out of the dark.” I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel but I believe it’s there and remember what it felt like to feel it on my face. But there’s a lot of tunnel still between me and it.

I shared this with some friends, and one said something that slapped me in the face with its obviousness and perfection:

Over the last couple years I’ve developed a strategy for dealing with exactly that: Make the Job Smaller. Have the energy to do a little bit of something productive, but the tasks facing you are huge? Don’t even try to finish a whole task. Instead, consider that your assignment is simply Making the Job Smaller. Folding one item of clean laundry out of the pile and putting it away = success. Answering one email you’ve been putting off = success. And so forth. If I try to tackle the entire pile of whatever, it’s overwhelming and I feel like a failure. But Making the Job Smaller is not so hard! I can do that! And then I get to feel better about myself for accomplishing something, however tiny, plus now the job facing me is slightly less huge and scary.

This is possibly the most useful method I’ve ever come up with for managing my own crazy.


Make. the. job. smaller.

What is something simple and beautiful and obvious that changed your perspective or made you finally understand something? Links to other blogs/Poems/Stories of great teachers and wise grandmas welcome.

BRB need to put away a single folded piece of laundry and declare victory for the day.


From The Neverending Story, Atreyu tries to pull Artax out of the swamp.

“Artax, how many times do I have to remind you that the TPS reports get put in the BLUE binders? Not the green binders. A little focus next time, please.”

Hey, Captain and Co.

I spent the past two years of my life being really depressed (and, honestly, who knows how long before that — I was only diagnosed last year, but I’ve felt pretty awful for as long as I can remember), and, through some supportive parents and medication and an awesome partner and therapy, I’ve been slowly climbing up out of it.

A year ago I was in university, but I was too depressed and dropped out. Then I spent a few months focusing on getting to a place where I could function again. Last summer, I was part of a program designed to get me back in the working world, but that fell through when I had a really awful panic attack and the program coordinator kicked me out for being too “unstable”.

Then, by some stroke of luck, I managed to get myself a job. I promised myself I would thrive there, because I wanted to live with my partner and be independent. I’d had enough of being treated like a baby who needed constant care. And, for a long while, I actually succeeded! Things went really well — I got a raise, my co-workers and bosses seemed to like me, and I was able to pay for my apartment and develop some new skills and hobbies. 

Recently, I went through another rough patch. My partner and I had some issues that needed working through — there were noises on both sides of potentially breaking up — and it was just a very stressful time. My performance at work suffered because of this (It’s been extra hard, since they recently moved and are only in once a week, so work has been very chaotic and disorganized), and my bosses pulled me in to talk about that. I promised them I’d do better, and since they talked to me, I have been doing a lot better at work! 

Only, because my eternally-absent bosses haven’t seen my improvements (someone is still complaining about me, for reasons???), they’ve taken me off the schedule and I’m 99% sure they’re going to fire me.

I just don’t know what to do any more. I just want to get back to normal, but I can’t. I want to be independent again, but I can’t seem to succeed at that.

I dunno; I guess I respect your opinion and need some advice about what to do next. Y’all are smart and usually know what to say.

I hope you have time for me.


For a short, sweet question this answer got pretty long and rambly.

What I want to help you with is some small tricks that will maybe help you handle depression better plus some small, mostly cosmetic changes you can make so that you appear to be keeping your shit together at work (whether or not you actually feel like you are keeping your shit together).

I don’t know how to tell you how to feel normal again or get back to ‘normal.’ I don’t know what normal is for you. I don’t know what you do next, or what you want to do.

But I do speak “corporate boss” and I can help you (and maybe others who are in your same shoes) keep your job until you decide you don’t want it anymore, and if you can’t keep this one maybe this will help you keep the next one.

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Oh Captain, my Captain!

I need some help. Last year, I was in an abusive relationship. My ex raped me repeatedly and often manipulated me. When we were together, I became close friends with another guy. Guy #2 eventually owned up to having feelings for me, and I found myself in a very awkward position. Wherein I was dating a terrifying man – who I later learned was a sociopath – seven years older than me, but was attracted to my close friend.

Fast-forward to February of 2012. I broke up with The Ex, who then proceeded to harass me, guilt-trip me, threaten suicide, and spread rumors about me amongst mutual friends. Unfortunately, being in a very not-good place mentally, I blamed myself and spent a lot of time trying to make him feel better, which he took advantage of.

A few months later, I started dating Guy #2. The ex began harassing both of us brutally, but #2 and I made it through.

But he’s having a really hard time handling my past. He blames himself for my abuse, because he thinks he should have talked to me and asked me to break up with The Ex sooner. But I think he also blames me a little bit, even though he won’t say so. Once he said “it’s a hard story to believe” and another time, we had a big argument – we almost broke up – because he was “disgusted by” it and sometimes couldn’t look at or touch me.

I just feel like he’s not trying. I really want this to work out, because I trust & love him. But things are getting worse, to where almost every time we’re alone, we start fighting about it. He’s depressed, but won’t talk to anyone. I’ve started seeing a counselor to work through my issues, but I feel like our relationship would improve if he did, too. He says him talking about it would be a waste of time, no one can help him, I don’t understand because I’m not in his situation… etc. But every time I ask him to explain, he just says he doesn’t want to talk about it.

Sorry for rambling; I’m just worried. Maybe we should break up, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I just don’t know if our relationship is as important to him as it is to me.

I guess what I’m asking is, how can I talk to him about how much he’s hurting me? How can I convince him that talking to someone, even if it ends up not being helpful, is at least worth a try?

Frustrated and Confused

Dear Frustrated and Confused:

I think your current guy was probably a helpful force in getting you out of your old relationship, but you do not owe him the rest of your life in return for whatever he endured at your ex’s hands or the assistance & comfort he provided.

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Dear Captain Awkward:

I need some advice on being a decent human being.

My wife and I have been together for 8 years, married for 5. She has severe depression and anxiety. She’s been in therapy since before I met her, but her illnesses still hit her pretty hard. I do as much as I can for her — earning an income, taking care of the chores and cooking, always giving upbeat feedback.

She hasn’t had a full time job in a few years, but she takes on a smattering of freelance projects because she says her career is the only thing that makes her life meaningful. Unfortunately, it’s a huge struggle for her to complete these projects — generally she’ll start them the day they’re due, and I’ll have to sit with her for moral support and try to take care of as many aspects of it (printing, mailing, etc) as I can without any professional training.

Most days she sleeps in late, spends the day messing around on the internet, and then tells me about how stupid and worthless she thinks she is. I can usually get her to a point of resolving that tomorrow she’ll wake up on time and I’ll help her make a plan to get some work done, but that generally doesn’t happen. Getting out of the house helps, but the process of getting her to get up the nerve to go can be exhausting.

She is also convinced that none of her friends care about her — though she has more and better friends than I do. She’s very intelligent, so she has an exceptional ability to rationalize and explain away any evidence I present to counter her thesis that “I am a horrible stupid person who nobody likes and who is probably just faking my problems because I’m stupid.”

The reason I’m writing is that this should not be a big deal for me — she’s not hurting me, I’m not the one who’s depressed, I do get out of the house for work and to see friends. But I find that as much as I love her, and as much as I love spending time with her, there are times I start to feel frustrated, start to wish her depression wasn’t a shadow hanging over everything I do. I know that’s not OK, and most of the time I can keep my focus on her rather than on me. But it seeps through sometimes, and I worry that it will affect her or that I’ll slip and say something like “let’s not make plans — tomorrow you’ll probably just sleep all day anyway.” 

Do I just need a kick in the pants?

Overwhelmed Husband (#429)

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