Dealing With A Hacked Brain; Let’s Talk About Depression

This post is different from normal Hackaday fare. I don’t want to presume anything about you, but I’m pretty sure the story I’m about to share resonates with at least some of you.

I’ve been having a tough time, exacerbated by this age of social distancing. This all crept up on me at first, but as I began to look back on my behavior and moods, I began noticing patterns that I hadn’t noticed before. This is certainly a relevant issue in this community, so let’s talk about mental health, beginning with my own journey.

Discovering the Problem

I am a prolific maker. I always have projects that I’m working on, projects that I’m thinking about working on, and projects that I’m getting paid to work on. I have an idea about how long the projects should take, and I get stressed and frustrated and beat myself up when they take longer than I think they should. I can’t admit defeat, so I continue the project until it is complete, but all of the joy is gone because it was stressful more than fun while I was working on it. Even at completion it’s difficult to enjoy the product because I’m already behind on starting the next thing in my queue (you may remember my earlier article on dealing with time debt). Further, I haven’t documented the project enough for my own satisfaction, so I’m uncomfortable sharing it to the public. It’s a perpetual problem, leading to perpetual grump.

I see other people on Hackaday and YouTube who are also prolific makers, but they have millions of subscribers, do much cooler projects, and put them out at a frequency I could only dream of. Imposter syndrome creeps in. I work harder on my projects, spending more and more time on them; the family makes fun of the fact that I’m the “basement troll” whose primary line is “I have to work on my projects.” Weekends are spent primarily watching YouTube and scrolling Reddit (but not contributing) and beating myself up for not working harder and getting on top of my pile of things to fix or improve around the house.

I have no social life to speak of. I had a plan, but the pandemic trashed that, and I still haven’t discovered a solution. People assume that I’m super busy and don’t have time to socialize, but the reality is that working on projects is a default for me, but not a preference, and it’s a thing I can do alone, so it’s easy to fall into.

The inner voice is loud, constant, and extremely critical. It tells me my work isn’t good enough, I’m not fast enough, I’m not interesting enough to have friends. Just to put something out there is a huge risk, and anyone who reads Hackaday regularly knows that the commenters are really good at identifying the slightest mistakes, meaning I agonize about every sentence far longer than I should.

This has been getting worse for years, though I didn’t notice and it wasn’t until someone pointed it out that I even realized it. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle that’s difficult to discover, and really difficult to get out of, especially with the inner voice. This is more than just being too busy, depression and anxiety have crept into the picture for me and these are not issues that should be ignored. So I got some help and started working through the problem.

Dealing with the problem

The hardest part about depression and anxiety is getting started. The voice is telling you you can’t, and that even if you could, life sucks and there’s nothing to look forward to. Enter one of the most important scenes in movie history.

can you fly a helicopter? not yet...

The movie magic of The Matrix reduces the difficult part for learning incredible skills to an eye flutter, but the point is not to say “I can’t” and give up; it’s to say “not YET”, and then learn the skills you need to do the thing.

One of the most important steps in getting out of the rut for me has been to silence the critic. With the bully crushing me constantly, I didn’t have a chance of getting out. Therapy was helping, but it wasn’t enough. What helped a lot was prescribed antidepressants. Antidepressants are not an easy thing to take. Most people have to try a few different medications before finding one that works, and then adjust the dose to get it right. The side effects are no joke, either, and sometimes make things worse than they were before. And they can take weeks to start to become effective. It’s tempting to give up on them, or endure the side effects of a misfit longer than you should.

In my case I started one at the direction of my doctor, had headaches and migraines and extreme exhaustion for a little more than a week, and stopped, waited two weeks to return to a baseline, then started a new medication. After a couple weeks of that, with few side effects but not much positive benefit, we increased the dose a little. A week later the inner critic was gone, I was no longer irrationally irritable, and while the exhaustion hasn’t gone away, it was eased somewhat by switching to nighttime for taking the med. I still have off days where I feel like I did before the meds, but they are rare and recognizable.

I also reached out on social media to friends and family, and explained what I was going through, and that I needed more social interaction. This was a huge success, and I spent weeks catching up with people I hadn’t talked to in decades. One of the biggest lessons here was that it’s ok to absolve yourself of the guilt of not keeping in constant contact with people, and that it’s ok to say “we haven’t talked in a long time. What’s your life like?”

Solving the Problem

For many, pharmaceuticals are the solution. They are content to silence the inner voice so they can resume their day-to-day. I hope that for me they will just be a crutch on my way to healing; a temporary measure that will allow me to change the underlying cause of the injury to my mental health. Maybe my brain is broken and not capable of producing the right chemicals, and antidepressants will be a permanent solution. I hope not, and here are the more permanent mental fitness goals that research has shown are likely to be successful.

  • Therapy – It’s important to find a good therapist whose methods agree with your goals. My first attempt wanted to meet more frequently than I was comfortable and talk about my broken home as a child, and ignored my pleas to deal with my current problems and find tools to get through until I had resolved my childhood. My current therapist is far better, and listens and suggests tools that make sense. Consider something called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
  • Exercise – The statistics are solid here. Most of us aren’t getting enough exercise now anyway, which just makes the problem worse. One of the reasons I develop hardware and not just software is I like to do things with my hands and see physical progress and point to something I built. That’s hard when working on mental health, but if you also work on your physical health, you’ll have demonstrable results you can point to.
  • Gratitude journaling – This one also has lots of science behind it. The idea is to regularly write down things for which you are grateful. Short lists are fine. The point is to get in the habit of thinking about good things in your life. It’s really difficult to start, and for a while I was criticizing myself because most of my entries were spins on things that I didn’t like “I like that I have the skills to fix the house when it breaks.” Then I realized that was actually exactly the point of the exercise; that instead of focusing on all the terrible things like the house falling apart all the time, I should be appreciating and celebrating the good things more, like the satisfaction of looking around the room at all the things I’ve done to improve it. Eventually this becomes a habit and the gratitude journal becomes ingrained in the brain.
  • Social interaction – This is hard, but extremely important right now. When nobody reached out to me for months I was miserable, but I realized I wasn’t reaching out to anybody, either. After an experiment I discovered that the things I feared about reaching out pretty much never happen. It feels good to interact with people and have friends. You feel more important and seen.
  • Giving – There are a lot of people struggling right now. Not more than you; this isn’t a contest. But struggling in ways that you can offer help. Find causes that you believe in, and offer to help in whatever ways you can contribute. Feeling needed is important, feeling like you are valued and that you’ve made someone’s life better is a good thing.
  • Putting more out there – I recently presented a project at my local makerspace’s monthly meeting (now held over zoom). It wasn’t a finished project, but I did it anyway. There were so many details in the work I had done that deserved attention that it didn’t matter that it wasn’t yet complete. You’re not going to be just like Colin Furze and Mark Rober and Adam Savage and all the others combined; that’s not your day job (unless you are Colin or Mark or Adam, in which case I’m honored that you are reading this, and please don’t have imposter syndrome comparing yourself to yourself). But you can put out something and some people will see it and they will be more supportive than nobody.
  • Fake it until you make it – Your inner critic is a lying jerk, and you know it’s a lying jerk, but you can’t ignore it. Well, you can pretend you are ignoring it. This was the actual advice of my therapist. He’s pretty cool. Objectively, you know the science is behind doing the things you want to do but just can’t. You know the science says you should exercise and eat right and be more social, and yet your inner critic tells you that you can’t. If you can ignore that critic just long enough to get started (and many people require antidepressants to help them get started with this), then you can discover that your inner critic was wrong all along and it becomes easier to ignore it.
  • Listen to your inner critic, then do what they say – I had this revelation on my own, and it was completely counter to the previous point, but it was oddly successful. One day I was beating myself up a lot, and I decided to just give in to my inner critic. I wasn’t giving enough; so I researched a few charities and donated. I wasn’t exercising enough; so I went for a run. I wasn’t doing enough social things; so I reached out to three friends. Every time my voice criticized me I acknowledged it, agreed with it, and did something about it. It worked really well, and felt empowering because I was dealing with everything my critic was throwing at me. Maybe I didn’t give enough or exercise enough, but I did what I could do at the time, and the voice couldn’t make me feel guilty about that more than I felt good about doing something.

Conclusions

While an article can have a hasty conclusion, depression and anxiety usually don’t. This is likely something many of us are dealing with, now more than ever, and it’s likely to stick around for a while. It affects a lot of people, and you don’t often know who, so please be gentle to others, including yourself. I’ll end with a video I recently discovered, which illustrates that the problems persist at all levels, and we probably all have some work to do.

99 thoughts on “Dealing With A Hacked Brain; Let’s Talk About Depression

    1. Was prepared to say “not a hack” after reading the title and first few lines but this post was so thoughtful, so well written, and so honest that I can only say well done, +1.

        1. Definitely a mental hack! Especially the ‘be directed by your inner critic’ part – that’s classic Jiu Jitsu and Judo philosophy applied to the mental / emotional realm. As a fellow sufferer I say ‘well done sir’! I’m going to try that one out for myself!

          1. A depressed brain is per definition dysfunctional and can’t be relied upon. Many people get even more depressed listening to their inner critic demanding impossible things.

            This isn’t useful for actual clinical depression especially in combination with other problems and can make things even worse. OK if one is “depressed” as in a little low.

    2. – Seconded. Amazing job on the article. I also came across the linked video in the past week, finding it great support to hear no matter what level you are at or how much respect you may have from others for what you do, this is still an issue for many.

  1. Bravo! Normalizing this is key to making society better, especially in the digital and post covid age. Thank you for sharing your solutions to a problem that many of us suffer silently.

      1. Normalizing mental health care as common, and necessary. Mental health issues have long been stigmatized. A person with an inoperable brain tumor is lauded for their struggle. A person with severe, chronic depression is commonly told to “snap out of it”. Schizophrenia? “Oh, we don’t talk about that.” And on, and on…

      2. Normalizing discussing mental health. It’s a subject that is getting less taboo, but still not where I personally think we should be in talking about it openly in public.

        Society in general is getting more open about talking about this type of thing, but in a lot of areas and cultures it’s still deeply stigmatized and that is harmful to people who need help. Things are improving, and it’s articles like this that contribute to that.

        If that makes sense? I myself am a bit off kilter today, so please pardon the rambling.

        So to the OP: +1. Great work.

  2. “I get stressed and frustrated and beat myself up when they take longer than I think they should”
    I had a manager some years back who’s approach was to double, or triple, my project estimates…

    I completely get your frustration and personal challenges. I spent decades with similar struggles and only recently discovered that I am challenged by A.D.D. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve managed to hold on to relationships and jobs, not all afflicted with this condition do or can. A therapist suggested reading “Driven to Distraction” which I found very useful. As with many of the self-help/diagnosis genre, there’s a questionaire/checklist of common characteristics. I ticked-off 15 of 20. It turned out to be a useful revelation and has helped with both relationships and projects (all are Maker now that I’ve retired from gainful employment), and has helped me avoid taking on projects for others, which often led to self-inflicted stress and pain.

    Thank you for your post. In these Covid-driven times mental health and balance can be a challenge. Throw-in the other, normally exceptional challenges – wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc., it can just be overwhelming.

  3. Many good points, Bob. Thank you for putting yourself out and writing this. It couldn’t have been easy to do so, especially to such a public and critical audience as HackaDay.

    To anyone who is suffering from anxiety and/or depression, or any other psychological dysfunctions: What you are suffering is a real, medical illness. Do not listen to anyone who says otherwise. It is just as much a medical issue as diabetes, heart disease, epilepsy, or even a broken leg. It is real, and you are not less of a person for suffering from it. Please seek out the help you need, and don’t let anyone put you down for needing that help.

  4. Nice article! I was somewhat of disappointed, though, to not see a mention of psychedelics, as they’re relevant and definitely deserving of the title of a (brain) hack. I would describe them as a sort of mental “reset switch”, allowing you to see things (yourself, your environment, your goals, your habits, etc.) from a new perspective and more freely imagine how you could be doing better.

    “The paradoxical psychological effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)” is an interesting paper. Link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26847689/

    1. There’s also electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), both of which I’ve used successfully, and implants like deep brain stimulators and vagus nerve stimulators.

      1. And non medical cannabis has been shown to trigger psychosis, at least in some people.
        Unknown doses of unknown potency with unknown adulterants is not the way to treat mental health.

    2. One or two times LSD per year helped me to have my depressions under control. Not only the things that you realize on a trip that you didn’t seen before. Additional you can learn to life with the fact that there is a time where your brain is not working as expected and to realize that this time will end some hours or days later. To recognize when I have a depressive boost and to know that this will end in some days and all is normal again helps me over this time. It’s very similar to know that you currently on LSD and that what you see is just a malfunction of your brain and in some hours is all normal again.

      Wonder why we don’t have many articles about growboxes for shrooms xD

      1. there’s a good youtube channel here about the subject, probably be deleted soon. I have yet to check it out.
        https://www.youtube.com/c/HomeMycology/videos
        I also struggle with mental health, the only point i made progress was when i saw a quote saying to pick a goal and work towards it. I took it to heart because before i did society kept moving the goalposts and i was running myself tired just to stay in the same place.

        1. i hadn’t realized his channel had become so popular.

          When i started watching, he had like 4k, now he’s up to 32k.

          We should get in touch with him and talk about alternate platforms other than you-turd, just in case he does get deleted.

          There are a ton of books and advice out there on how to grow many types of mushrooms. I DO really like the idea of being able to grow your own highly effective medication for free/cheap. It’s good to be healthy and not have to pay someone all of your wages and go into debt just to avoid illness.

          ps: God I hate youtube for some of it’s crap policies and adoption of cancel culture.

  5. Well said Bob! I’m sure it was a difficult decision to share your story like this, but I’m glad you did. I can relate on many of the points, especially in feeling guilt at being less productive with side projects (or not productive at all at times) during the pandemic.

  6. Here’s some things to try to help depression.

    Firstly: there’s a direct correlation between poor sleep and depression, but no one knows whether depression causes sleep disturbance or vice-versa. Listen to Joe Rogan’s interview with Matthew Whittaker (link below), then adjust your sleep so that you are getting 7 to 9 hours – with no compromise – and that you stop looking at monitors and displays – including phone and TV – at least 2 hours before bedtime.

    Try this for 1 week and see if it helps. If it doesn’t, discard it.

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

    Secondly: Some depression is caused by lack of vitamin D. For a quick test, go to a tanning salon and get a single session: take the attendant’s advice on which booth and how long to go to not get sunburned. If there’s an effect you’ll know it about 30 minutes after the session and it will indicate you’re low on vitamin D.

    Alternate secondly: Massive amounts of vitamin D are not toxic, you can get D3-50 online (google that), it’s not expensive, try taking one a day for a week. If this doesn’t help, discard it. Anything less than 10,000 IU per day will probably not have much of an effect if you are deficient.

    Thirdly: Go to SelfAuthoring.com, purchase the suite, and do it. It’s one of the few psychological help system backed by solid theory with repeatable results. It works, it’s known to work, and has solid evidence of working. It’s not that expensive – about $40 for the full suite.

    Fourthly: Depression has different forms depending on which neurotransmitter in the brain is affected. The “low energy” depression (dopamine) is different from the “dark thoughts” depression (serotonin), which is different from the “in pain” depression (endorphins), which is different from the “nervous/stress” depression (catecholamines). Grab a copy of “The Mood Cure” by Julia Ross and take the self-test in that book to discover which type of depression you have.

    If your dopamine is low the supplement SAM-E will elevate it. If your serotonin is low, 5-HTP will elevate it. Grab a copy of “the supplement handbook” by Mark Moyad and look up the medical facts backed by studies surrounding all the various supplements on the market and see what works.

    Again, try something for a week and if it doesn’t work then stop. It’s performing a $30 experiment: if it works, great! If it doesn’t work, you’re only out $30.

    Fifthly: Interior critical narrative is a big problem that keeps many people feeling guilty and depressed. There’s ways to get over this using some of the professional self-help systems, but I don’t remember enough specifics to make a recommendation. Basically there’s two approaches used by Brian Tracy for logical thinkers, and Tony Robbins for emotional thinkers. You can find these online and if one seems natural to you then go with it, otherwise try the other style. Then find their individual program on interior narritive and try listening to it to see if it helps.

    You can find some of the older versions of these systems (Brian Tracy/Tony Robbins) online for free.

    Finally: We’re men of science here on this board (women, too). If something is a problem do some research, try some experiments, and see what works.

    1. +1 for all of this, just do some research on the vitamin D. There’s some potential for hypercalcemia with prolonged high doses & it isn’t clear where this starts for everyone.

    2. One other deficiency that has been linked to depression: folic acid.
      Some people lack the ability to metabolize it properly, and can benefit from taking L-Methylfolate, which is a metabolite of folic acid. This is a relatively inexpensive dietary supplement that is readily available online.

    3. Vitamin D was a major factor for me as discovered in a blood test– I find 2000IU a day very normalizing and more or less cause me issues. Sleep yes. I have had time to think and conclude that we do not see we create our own cages and therefore can think outside of the cage if we knew and really wanted to. The people we are uncomfortable with have a 600 Lb emotional weight on their big toe which makes them difficult to understand and to be with as they express themselves through their pain. And finally when visualizing workloads do not give up the superman persona as I am sure much of our societal progress is based on incredible feats of the so-called impossible but please also consider when trapped by crazy expectations based on passed performance theat if you could lift 2000 Lbs that you would need ‘crazy synergy’ to lift a trillion.

    4. As somebody who was knocked on my ass for MONTHS by vitamin D deficiency, I strongly recommend taking it seriously! It is the easiest thing to treat, and can make a huge difference!
      Get some sun.
      Drink some milk.
      Take a vitamin.
      Energy comes back. Strength comes back. Brain comes back online. It is night and day!

      Secondly, exercize will also make a huge difference. I’m far, far from anybody’s definition of a “gym bro”, but building strength and stamina makes everything else work better.
      I stuck a little stairstepper treadmill in front of the coffee maker (which I use for TEA) and every time I make a pot or cook in the microwave I run on the treadmill and do language lessons on a strategicaly placed Chromebook.
      I track progress with Wii Fit U and the Wii Fit meter.
      Making it a habit that didn’t require extra effort made sure that I actually did it. I lost a lot of weight, and gained a lot of energy. It turns out that your heart and diaphram muscles need to be exercised so that you can get enough air before anything else can be effective.
      A good thing about exercise is that it doesn’t judge you; you don’t have to do it *right*, you just have to do it. It gives you a little point of success that you can achieve every day, without anybody else’s validation. And that little success helps a lot with depression.
      Exercising also helps you to sleep a LOT better, and good sleep also helps with depression.

      Finally, getting more veggies in your diet helps your vitamins and your digestion. It is easy to eat a salad; don’t think of it as lettuce, but rather fill a bowl with uncooked vegetables. I have a little lettuce, but also brocolli, sugar snap peas or green beans, an entire carrot, and garbonzo beans (chickpeas). I also add bacon, parmesan cheeze, croutons, and ceasar dressing to make it taste good. Some may say that adding those things make it unhealthy, but those are the things that make it good to eat; without them, I wouldn’t get the healthy stuff.

      There are lots of reasons for depression, but starting with the easy things like nutrition and exercise can make a big difference.

    5. Be aware that even after all these, and medical interventions, there are treatment resistant depressions/anxieties.

      Work in this area is slowly coming along, and it typically involves micro-dosing of certain drugs – LSD, Psilocybin, Ketamine (derivatives). This is early research, don’t go replicating it yourself unless you are well into doing research and ‘trying some experiments and see what works’. And it doesn’t work on everyone either. You might find a medical research project.

    6. When it comes to some medications, especially those that inhibit the synaptic re-uptake of gaba, serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, etc. trying merely “for a week” is not wise. They usually take a a full month to evaluate properly, even 6 weeks to be sure the subject has experienced their full effect. Unfortunately, psychiatry’s road for finding medication that helps with profound anxiety or depression may be very bumpy and take six months to two years before you can cay you’ve done the whole circuit. And by then they’ll probably have some new ones to try. But only you can say which side effects are “tolerable”.

  7. Remember that not all depressions are the same. There are endogenous and exogenous depressions. There are temporal and chronic depressions. Depression could also be a symptom of another illness. Every kind of depression needs its own treatment, for example, a depression as a symptom of bipolar disorder could be exacerbated by antidepressants. The right diagnosis is key to a successful treatment. I know it, I’m afflicted by bipolar disorder, and needed to sink to the bottom with wrong diagnostics and treatments before finding I was bipolar.

    1. “The right diagnosis is key to a successful treatment.”

      This * 10^6

      Please keep in mind that neurodiversity is a thing. Someone has already mentioned ADHD, there will be people reading that that tend towards ASD as well. If you are neurodiverse, and you’re getting therapy, keep in mind that a therapist who is not experienced in your neurodiversity can be really useless.

      If you suspect you might be neurodiverse, get a diagnosis, because “The right diagnosis is key to a successful treatment”.

      CBT has also been mentioned, it can be really effective, but it might not be effective for you, especially if you are neurodiverse. There are other options – seek them out if CBT doesn’t work for you.

  8. Nice article Bob, thank you so much for sharing. I also struggled a lot with depression earlier this year and my creativity, productivity and self worth were shot because of it. For me pharmaceuticals – daily escitalopram and the occasional beta blocker – absolutely undeniably saved my life and stabilised me long enough to start taking control of my life again.

    Good luck on your mental health fitness journey!

  9. thank you my sweet and loving god for giving me a life (or rather a mind) in which i’m totally not related to these problems
    as for the article, it was very well written and i was happy to see a solution at the end
    keep up the good fight!

  10. Excellent post, Bob!

    Maybe this will help someone: Tinkering and creating have long been my life. But it also brought stress… I’d have dozens of unfinished projects, and people would always ask for updates on projects that were sidelined…. I got to the point that I never wanted to talk about what I was working on, just to avoid the question “Did you finish it yet?”

    A wise maker pointed out to me that I am not after a finished project… I am actually more fascinated by the learning, the discovery, and the process of figuring out how something will work. Once I figure it out, I have reached my satisfaction, and my sense of completeness, even if everyone else sees an unfinished object.

    1. That applies for me.

      Took a long time to realise it, and I still get down about not finishing things.

      But in a hobby, doing the enjoyable bit is the important thing, and if that is the learning, designing and planning aspects, then so be it.

    2. Well, you know, after all these years that one paragraph has answered a lot of questions about my behavior with projects.

      Now to figure out what to do with the half finished projects I have that I can’t throw away.

  11. Thanks. It is nice to know my frame of mind is similar to others. I have battled depression on and off since I was 7 now 45.
    Antidepressants help me get back to 0 but never got me back into a good frame of mind. What they did do was give me space to think and reflect.
    My inner critic was a real bastard. He would go really meta. Your inner voice is not necessarily you. My wife described him as an evil flatmate. With counselling and a lot of visualisation I was able to evict him. He still knocks from time to time but I send him packing.
    Depression takes a lot of different pathways and looks different for many people.
    My best advice from my experience is forgive yourself and ask for help.

  12. Thanks for this post as I’m having a down day today.
    I suffer from A.D.D, Dyslexia and Depression and can get really low and irritable with people or I just can’t be bothered to do anything.

  13. Thanks for the eyeopening post, Bob.

    I constantly beat myself up over my own projects when I take too long to finish them. I didn’t know about imposter syndrome before and it sounds like something that I deal with.

    I hope you find something that works for you.

  14. Imho apart from making you loose your libido, anorgasmic and gain weight (some antidepressants sideffects) they all make you loose your negative feelings as well as the positive ones. Sucks if you have lots of emotional connections to your friends which suddenly vanish due to the antidepressants. apart from ketamine of course. in that case i would recommend a more open mind through […] rather than depressing the mind with antidepressants approach.
    very good article and spot on for many.

  15. Exercise!? THE CURE IS WORSE THAT THE DISEASE!! Seriously though great post, we’re all pulling for you and you should add humour to the list of mental fitness goals, it really does help, if you don’t laugh you will cry so you might as well laugh. :)

    1. I had to report this comment, it is so stupid. “you should add humour to the list of mental fitness goals” If you don’t know anything about mental illness, don’t comment please.

      1. Dude, I have experience with mental illness (I have worked on a suicide hotline if you’re wondering) and I can tell you from personal experience humour can save lives, I don’t know your struggles with mental illness but I’m sorry humour hasn’t helped them.

  16. I’ve been battling with ‘depression and friends’ since the military days. I’m out of the service now, but it’s still something I deal with. Not using hackaday as my personal soapbox, but just to say that you have to help your self immensely before reaching out to others – Recently, I reached out to the VA for help for the third, fourth time, as I caught myself doing pretty bad. They said that they would call me back to schedule an appointment, ok that’s fine. They called me the following day, stating that they shall be in touch to definitely schedule an appointment, I thought ok, that’s weird, but let’s go with it.

    Well, it’s been almost a week now, with no phone call. The moral of my story – I don’t have one. Mental issues are being thrown under the rug for some people, yet other people are able to get the help they need. It’s a weird world we live in. To anyone with mental issues, PTSD, been drugged and taken advantage of, etc… You can do it. Push through the BS, and try to be happy for who you are. If you have family to support you, ACCEPT WHAT YOU CAN.

    Sorry to put specifics out in the air, but I’m pretty sure once you get past a certain line, whatever you say doesn’t matter anymore.

    Stay strong, and more importantly, take care of each other. Push yourself harder than what you think you can, it will do wonders, and you will get through whatever it is you are dealing with. Regardless what side you are on, in the end we are all people, and we should all get along and take care of each other.

    V/R

    J

    1. I have heard quite a lot about the VA not doing very well at dealing with such issues. I think it might be because they don’t have the proper tools, or the proper funding.

      anyway, I commented to maybe help out you, and anyone else you might know.

      There are programs that deal specifically with military and war related types of psychological stresses. They use psychedelic therapy, and they are wildly successful. If you can get access to a program such as this (because of your service you are more likely to be able to have access) I would highly recommend looking into it.

      i THINK this is one of the ones I had heard about…
      https://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/

      The VA HAS approved the use of such effective drugs like ketamine in some areas as well. I would be more careful about that one than with something like mushrooms for various reasons. But just giving you the heads up that I have heard a ton of vets talking about how much this sort of thing has changed their life. A bunch of em have gone on the Joe Rogan podcast to talk about it. Really powerful stuff.

      From what I know. The availability varies state by state. So if you want access, you may have to travel, and you may likely have to push the right buttons to gain access through the VA. I would try and get in contact with an organization that knows what questions to ask and where to apply for such a thing if you want to go down this road and try it.

      Keep on keepin on.

    2. I disagree with “you have to help your self immensely before reaching out to others”, or at least what I think you meant.
      I have found that finding a way to help others was EXTREMELY potent for me to lift myself up.
      All I did was obsessively help people on a public forum where discussions were on topics of personal angst or interest.

      YMMV

  17. To see this openly addressed is good. It’s a really difficult thing to talk about even with close family.

    So I’ll throw this out there- been someone who had crippling depression, often more severe than I’d like to openly say, most of my life. I was often the guy in the basement, making stuff, little social life. By choice.

    It’s nothing to be ashamed of- I’m betting many creative people have similar lives.

    I had natural hyperfocus, could read and remember hundreds of technical books, mechanisms, etc- then seeking help, medicine permanently removed that. I went off, I never got it back. Medicine made me a zombie, and didn’t help.

    Best things that helped me were getting a an antique motorcycle, joining a good hackerspace and meeting similar awesome eccentric makers. Riding helped me a lot.

    I have plenty of friends, occasional legal medical items help reset things too.

    Never fear seeking help- and forget the impostor syndrome. I still try to catch up to a dead English watchmaker, which will never happen, but I get exactly what author is talking about. The best therapy is making, in a basement, whereever- don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re anything other than awesome for doing what you do, and making what you make, however you do it.

    Be living proof everyday by just being you that others wish they were you- by giving back and teaching in your local makers pace, hackerspace, or whatever you have- and by concentrating on quality in your projects, not speed and quantity for a youtube channel competition. You’ll be thankful if you follow that.

    Keep making man

    1. “I had natural hyperfocus, could read and remember hundreds of technical books, mechanisms, etc- then seeking help, medicine permanently removed that.” – very interesting to hear. This has always been a concerns of mine regarding trying to fix/resolve/minimize issues in the areas of the article, is sometimes it seems you may loose some good with the bad, and sometimes gifts in some areas come with shortcomings in others areas (Ray Charles?).
      – Kind of how anti-depressants (or so I understand) don’t only minimize the lows, but also the highs. If the lows are bad enough, it can be well worth it I’m sure, but loosing the highs along with the lows doesn’t exactly sound ideal, and finding other means to deal with or prevent the lows sounds better, (if even feasible). If having what I’d probably also classify as hyperfocus comes with shortcomings along the lines of the article, I don’t know that I’d want to trade hyperfocus permanently to the other issues – and alternatives to medications that might limit this capacity, especially long-term, would be much more of interest.
      – i’d be curious to hear if anyone else commenting has seen any other long-term mental capacity changes from medications…

      1. Depakote turned me into a sleepy zombie that could barely function, I was a shell of my former self for months before my family actually aligned with my thinking to get off all of it.

        A relationship with someone who went through similar things, even though I’ve lost my job, helps an enormous amount.

        As someone who had and has a loving family fortunately, I can attest having someone besides your family who loves you helps a lot.

        Wish I could elaborate more, but can attest depression helped ruin one of my careers, probably for the rest of my life. I had to start from scratch after the things that precipitated from it.

        Not telling people to not seek help- but be careful of how you find it, and know that you’re not alone- it runs in my family strongly on one side, I probably inherited some of it.

      2. Don’t forget that for many types of mental illness, it’s the highs which are the real danger.
        I support a friend with BiPolar type 2. The highs are when he can really f£;@ things up. We have to do things like block his card, or he’ll blow his life savings on academic papers (they’re NOT cheap!).

    2. I have noticed similar side effects. Though my doctor mentioned that depression does slow down your thinking speed I have noticed some cognitive issues. While I can be prone to depression, I also am high functioning Asperger’s, along with some generalized anxiety disorder and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I used to be able to memorize lots of technical info, like CPU model numbers, clock speeds, multipliers, Front Side Bus frequencies and difference between revisions. Also my reflexes were faster. Just before everything fell apart 14 years ago my best time on the Windows XP version of Solitaire was 34secs. In Freecell I had a 99% success rate in solving the deck and I was seeing over 10 moves ahead of what was actually being moved. I had that great focus and passion that a few others have described. The downside was that I had a lot of trouble trying to relax in getting to sleep as my mind would be racing and jumping from thought to thought.

      Things are a fair bit different now.

      While it’s a lot easier to switch off and get some sleep, waking up is hard. All the positives I listed before have been greatly diminished. The knowledge is still there but it’s hard to dig out as is absorbing new figures. I can still do it but it just takes a lot longer and needs plenty of repetition, like learning the lyrics to a song. Apart from the general effects of CFS, my reflexes and speed have decreased dramatically. there is no way I am as fast as I was back then in gaming, whether it is Solitaire or a FPS, it seems I have hit a physical cap on how fast I can move my fingers. I’ve seen other people who are not pros by any means and I can’t physically move my fingers as fast as they can. A great example was in Tetris Blitz that was on Android and iOS. No matter how fast I tried I couldn’t keep up. Same thing with my mates when playing Fortnite. They have these massive build fights that I can’t compete with. My brain doesn’t keep up with what’s being built. Even playing traditionally it feels like there is lag in my brain and then another lag from my brain to my hand and fingers. Sometimes I wonder if some meds affect muscle response time due to their action on serotonin and dopamine. Still looking for any evidence of that.

  18. Not to be melodramatic, but this is the best post and replies, anywhere, ever! Mental health issues are real and for many people, hard to talk about. (long ass story with details deleted).
    But the struggle is real. Still. And I feel like it’s ok to struggle, that’s life. Just try find the good, it helps. Hardest part for me was making that first phone call to get a therapist and to get to Dr’s. If you’re struggling, reach out to someone. It may be the hardest thing you ever do, admitting there “might” be something wrong, and that you “might” need help. The reality is, maybe nothing is wrong, but find out one way or the other. It may save your life and relationships. (I’m not intending to preach, just sharing my story. You don’t have to agree). Readying the replies above, I hear myself described. Start something, and the inner voice says not good enough, etc, etc, etc , so on, and so forth. (just today in fact, but I recognised it and let it go for today.) Also, ADD/ADHD for 20 years. It’s just how and who i am. It doesn’t help, but does have its “benefits” of concentration when I’m really interested in something. (last few days, Pi-hole, 5.0, cause 5.x.x has a few issues. ) I love making things work with what’s available, and making things work gives me the “thrill of victory!” (reference Wide World of Sports opening intro sequence, early 1960’s. the first part of the intro, not the second part. :)
    Apologies if this is long, or disjointed. I agree with everything said above in previous replies, and thank all y’all you for having the courage to reply and share. Excellent observations and ideas, some known and confirmed, some new for me to pursue. THANK YOU! And a HUGE thank you to Bob Baddeley for having the courage and strength to write his story.
    Also, a massive help for me was/is to severely limit time spent on twitter and fb. For me, it was not helping, and counter productive. If I wrote up my Pi-hole 5.0 adventure and dropped it here, it would have more positive effect than all the things I ever posted on twitter of fb.
    In closing, one more PSA… No matter your political leaning, please remember to vote for the candidate of choice this coming November.
    Again, Thank you Bob Baddeley!

  19. I was put on Effexor XR for about two years, took myself off of that, then eventually was put on other meds – Paxil and Seroquel. As of now, I can confirm that the medications changed me. Sometimes it takes a bit longer to focus on things in general.

    The last two meds made me snap really bad. I don’t have any criminal history/record, but… after doing a week in jail and being in a mandatory psych hold, I have a gut feeling that my life is ruined permanently.

    The highs and lows are a true issue. Would like to say I’m un-diagnosed bipolar, as I was constantly told “You’re only depressed.” The medications ruined my emotions, can’t sleep worth a crap half the time, and racing thoughts are an understatement.

    For the “hyperfocus” – this could be mania, I experience it a lot.

    1. Change doctors!

      Bipolar disease is very difficult to diagnose, and depression meds are contraindicated for this illness. The problem with the diagnosis is that episodes of mania are difficult to identify, specially in people like us that seems to be always maniac about our hobbies. Try to identify this episodes yourself. You know your baseline activity. Try to identify episodes of overexpending, radical changes in life plans, etc…. Mania could present itself in many different forms.

      My life changed radically for the better when I moved, changed doctors, and was finally correctly diagnosed with type one bipolar disorder.

      1. Originally my comment was supposed to be in reply to another comment, not sure what happened, there.

        Scroll up the page a bit, to see what I said about my current dilemma with doctors, etc. I *have* given up, sadly, welcome to america. Seen at least five or six doctors in total, now. Yay.

        1. As all treatments have failed, and seems to exacerbate the symptoms, (This is typical in bipolar disorder, antidepressants make the depression and mania episodes worse and more frequent), try to convince a doctor to treat you for bipolar disorder for a few months. Sometimes is the only way to diagnose it correctly, try the specific treatment, and if it works, you are bipolar. Basically, Lithium carbonate to mitigate the ups and downs, accompanied by some antidepressants. If you already have been treated with Lithium Carbonate without effect, you probably are not bipolar.

    2. Similar things….

      If I could find a way to get my natural hyperfocus back, I’d take it. I feel like I’ve lost 10 years of my life’s projects without it.

      Nootropics, a legal class of compounds that modify neurotransmission, have been reccomended to me by some, including a high functioning family member. They are highly individualistic in effects though, so a specific 2 items were recommended for me to try, as it helps a sibling who works in high finance focus incredibly without adverse affects. They spent several years though finding what combination worked for them.

      I am not here to suggest taking any compounds legal or illegal are a solution to a problem- but for some, they do help. Just be sure what you are doing is safe, and if possible, ok’ed with your doctor.

      There have been numerous studies however showing long term positive effects of a single “trip” of LSD or psilocybin on ptsd afflicted veterans though.

  20. No question this is one of the best articles I have seen in the MANY years of reading HAD. I would also say that just the article alone is about a “hack” as much as any other articlein HAD and definitely appropriate for the pages of HAD.

    The courage it took for the author to write this is amazing and admirable. The article was well written with a good description of the problem, discussion of possible solutions and documentation of the results of testing some of the potential solutions. If it looks like a hack, sounds like a hack then it must be……. well you know the rest….quack…lol

    The more I re-read the article and look at the comments there is a lot of meat here, in addition to the much deserved accolades for the author. Depression and most mental health issues in general can manifest in different ways in different people, much like the treatments, what works for one person, may not for another. A number of people have brought up different treatments, some medicinal, some dietary and some behavioral. Some of these treatments, while possibly very effective, could also have some detrimental, or even deadly side effects; however many have little or no risks or side effects, They may not work, but they will not do any harm.

    Since we all know “Bio Hacking” is a thing, even written about here on HAD, maybe we should not let the opportunity pass to put on our “Hacker hats” and approach this problem the same way we would in making that Arduino or Raspberry Pi bend to our will and do our bidding.

    Use our collective knowledge and good scientific methodology to really examine beyond the single example or anecdotal reference to the effects of things such as Vitamin D or a journal of gratitude. Testing the effects/benefits of psychedelics, while it would be interesting and fun……tripindicular man…. might be beyond the scope of what is practical for many reasons, not the least of which includes legal and ethical issues, there is still a whole host of things that could be tried.

    Maybe a project on Hackaday.io to set some testing procedures and standards as well as to collect results?

    Has it been done before? Probably. Could it contribute something to the overall body of knowledge about mental health issues and some of the treatments? Maybe. Would someone who is suffering from a mental health issue benefit by A- knowing there are others that they can relate to (fellow hackers) battling the same issues and B- having the chance to turn the tables and instead of just being controlled by mental health issues, take at least some control back by actively exploring what might at least lessen the impact the a mental health issue is having on their life? Without a doubt, YES.

    Just my two cents worth…….

  21. I can’t believe how much I needed to hear this. I have struggled with depression, anxiety, and ADD for years and had never realized how prevalent they were in my community. Thank you.

  22. Nice writeup Bob!!
    I have suffered from suicidal depression for many years. Many of the symptoms you describe and a few extras. My outlet was often just being able to distract myself enough and obsess over a project until it was done. Then along came a Dr way in the beginning of my formal diagnosis.
    Out with the perscption book and for the first year I was trialed on whatever the Dr felt would help. Some eased the effects and some cause reactions like sleeping for 2 days straight with not being able to gather the energy to get out of bed lealone think straight to be able to work on little projects.
    Finally they settled on a high dose of somethig that seemed to work although it also put a dent in my normal creativity.

    Some 14 years later and i shudder to think how many of these things I had downed I stumbled across some early research information about a well known recreational drug having been used to treat this form of depression.
    Weeks of researching and looking at the pro’s and conns I decided to take the plunge and experament on myself.

    The first stage was to reduce the medication I was taking to a much lower level (not an easy task as the side effects were some nasty head jolts). Once I was down to a minimum dose and the normal uncontrollable effects had returrned I sourced some of the recreational drug. Not being one to partake in any form of recreational drug this was not an easy task.

    The reseach papers sugested a single microdose of 0.7micrograms. Out to the workshop and a few hacks later I managed to knock up something that would measure this amount with reasonable accuracey.

    Down the hatch one evening and wife standing by just to make sure there were no ill effects and a few numbers on hand just in case tings went south. I would say within about an hour the effects kicked in and mind started to do some deep analisys of the depressive feeling. Thought patterns becane to change and over the next week the (what was normal for me) depressive state started to alter. I cant say it vanished as the thoughts still appeard but instead of the normal impact it had the thoughts would come and go with no emotional impact. Kind of like being hungry then getting distracted and forgetting about feeling hungry.

    I then started to cut out the perscribed medication compleatly. And after about a month took another microdose of the regreational substance to see if that reduced any of the remaining depressive effects even thought compared to what I used to feel they were prety minimal. And sure enough the same process took place deminshing the effects even further.

    In the months following I went back to the DR and discussed what I had done with him, He was horrorfied and expressed great concern that I had totally ceased taking the perscribed medication. I have not touched the recreational substance since and have not had another depressive relaps for the last year.

    Once in a while I do get minor attacks with a few of the symptoms like frustration, anger etc.. but there are really short lived and usually vanish within about half an hour.

    I would not recomend this to others to try as although it worked for me everyone reacts diferently and there is never one solution to fit them all.

  23. Thanks for that Bob, it resonate with my own (and probably a lot of people here) story. On my side, I’ve had the luck to meet a wonderful and determined woman, whith a strong character like me, who helped me a lot to accept who I am. We live together for almost 10 years now, and I know I can count on her to remind me that my inner voice is wrong.

  24. Very good article. Aren’t we all constantly searching for a quick and smart fix for problems from technology? Nice job of pointing out that some things need to be tackled differently – patiently and continuously. Not just with your own brain – but also with your whole body – and with your buddies :)

    Thanks for sharing.

  25. for those of you that got this far….

    … Many people have had great success with microdosing psychedelics. Such as mushrooms or lsd. Low to no side effects, non-addictive, etc. All in all, I can say that it’s one of the best things to happen to treatment resistant depression, ever.

    ayelet is one such person who has had success:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUOX6LD9q0k

    The results are phenomenal. and i think she underplays the life changing effects.

    always do your due diligence and research. Some of you may be in states or countries where you can actually get your doctor to prescribe this kind of thing.

    It’s hard to describe what depression IS, until you get out of it.

    I have also had success with high doses of niacin:
    http://doctoryourself.com/hoffer_niacin.html

    although, that may or may not be such an option depending on your liver health. I got up to 7 grams a day at one point. I felt amazing.

    like i said, there are treatments that aren’t pharma pills. but do your research and always start low and be careful if you start anything.

    Many people have success with rigorous exercise as well.

    Good Luck and keep on taking care of yourself. I know a lot of people hate Jordan Peterson, but it all DOES start with just a little bit of self care. Next thing you know, you’re watching queer eye and crushing it like a pro. :-p

  26. “A week later the inner critic was gone, I was no longer irrationally irritable, and while the exhaustion hasn’t gone away…”

    A good diet and exercise as well. You don’t run a car on bad gas, why try running a body the same way? Exercise, because our bodies were made to move, and often.

  27. Great write-up!

    My now-wife, then-girlfriend got a major depression shortly after we moved together, and now, almost 5 years later, she is almost depression-free, but still have issues like being very self-critic about almost everything where she knows someone personally that can do it better, but that means she compares herself to the combined abilities of the about 50 people she regularly sees at family-gatherings, parties, friends, etc.
    As another commenter also wrote about, her doctor recently asked her if she knew what A.D.D was (Which neither her or myself did), and explained it a bit, and printed a short questionnaire where she and i could say yes to almost every question about her behaviour/thought paterns, and that almost all the points were things she had battled previously or still was. That was a big eye-opener and suddenly the pieces fit together and she is already doing a lot better because she knows what’s wrong, and can find other people on the internet that have written about the same problems she have.
    Seriously, if you, or anyone you know, are frustrated by the same problems as the author here, ask them to fill out that questionaire about A.D.D. There’s a lot of them online, and being aware of the problems is half the solution

  28. Interesting stuff. I have seen other people affected by this ‘head stuff’; I have not been affected and have no mental problems associated with this supposed pandemic. But my wife does believe that I am beyond eccentric, and that I am perhaps ‘crazy’. There is another possibility, as posited by my brilliant nephew – all others are crazed and we two are the only normal people.

    Other side notes. (I am not a physician)
    1. A family member is a registered therapist that claims most clinicians are poor choices – so you have to find one that is right for you, which is apparently difficult because when you need help badly, you may not be apt to make good choices. So be prepared to move on.
    2. If you have never been under life-threatening duress, you probably will not recognize the physiological effects to your body. So if your body is doing something different, and there is no other known health problem, go see someone soon.
    3. There are bazillions of self-help web sites, books, TV commercials. Their efficacy is doubtful. be thoughtful (which is difficult when under stress) about these supposed miracles, and ignore popular acclaim for the latest snake-oil.
    4. In the best of times life sucks, humans are jerks, and societies do not care. Some stuff will not get better,some stuff will improve.
    5. Be circumspect about talking about this stuff outside of your ‘inner circle’.

  29. Thanks for this post, it was well timed for me. I am fighting a similar fight in my life. Like many here I have ADD. I was told by a physician that there is a strong link between ADD, depression, anxiety, and insomnia. I struggle with occasional depression, but anxiety and especially insomnia are a nightly battle. Depression for me is mostly a secondary affliction. After I’ve gone 3 or 4 days with only a few hours of sleep, I can start spiraling into depression. I’ve tried several anti-depressants to treat the anxiety that feeds the insomnia, but the side effects were so distressing that I would wean myself off of them after they had kicked in. They tend to make me feel numb. Fortunately in my case, if I can get some damn sleep, the depression isn’t much of a problem.

    I seem to go through cycles of high anxiety. Most of the time I don’t feel the fear part of it, only the physical amped up part. Fast heart rate and so on. Other times I feel difficult to control irrational fear. The anxiety itself is pretty manageable by itself, but how it effects my sleep just sucks. I can’t count the number of hours I’ve lain awake just willing for my heart rate to calm down, trying to think calming thoughts. My wife will ask me what I felt anxious about and most of the time I answer her by saying, “I have no idea.” As quickly as this anxiety wave comes crashing in, it will leave for weeks or months at a time.

    I’m still trying to find a good solution. I’m off of any anti-depressants, but I do have a prescription for Buspirone which helps a little and doesn’t have any noticeable side effects with me. I’m also trying to exercise more. Ambien helps quite a bit for sleep, but that isn’t a viable long term solution and not something that I am allowed to take every night. Some of the other suggestions here sound interesting. I already know I have a vitamin D and B12 deficiency. I’ll have to be better at taking those supplements. I didn’t realize that those deficiencies can contribute to these issues that much.

  30. To “Nobody,” and to others. My G’pa was a US Army Vet Psychiatrist. At 4 he told me, why I sadly cannot recollect… “There are a good many very good, even great doctors, but very few good diagnosticians.” (I understood exactly, heavens knows why or how.)

    Someone once replied to a unanimous vote -1, (Why’d you vote against the bill you sponsored?!?) Well, this is a democracy and nothing should be 100%. Well, 1 post was a tad derogatory, but ignoring that, so MANY GREAT POSTS!!!

    Great vid, “Bad Bob,” (heh heh!)
    But octopuses? Seriously? (LMAO!)

  31. I don’t recall forwarding a post before I was even done reading it, but now I have.
    If posting this was the suggestion of your Inner Critic, please tell him thanks and have him tell you that you did a good thing.

  32. I was in the same boat, however the first med my doctor gave me worked out. Yes I still have bad days but I can still find some good in something bad. When I retired and started go to the VA for my medical they could not get the same meds because of the copyright was still enforced, so I had to take something else that turned me into a zombie. Long story short, I am now back on a generic of the original and doing great. Now here is a warning. I forgot to take my med for a day or three and was feeling fine, so I thought I was cured. But after a couple of not taking it I started not feeling right and wanted to go out for a drink , I am a recovering alcoholic. I realised what was happening and started tacking my med again. So I guess that I am on it for the rest of life. I do lack some chemical in my brain. Life is GOOD!

  33. Since everyone is sharing their choice of mind-altering substances I’ll share mine: modafinil. It’s a wakefulness agent and is sometimes used as nootropic. I took it previously for night-shift sleep issues and it worked well. I was in a good state of mind and didn’t noticed any mood effects then. I only notice the positive mood effects when I’m highly stressed. My issues are with rumination/worry (future focused) and social anxiety. Modafinil improves my mood slightly, makes it easier to focus on work tasks, and reduces anxiety and avoidant behavior. Family history of autism spectrum and anxiety.

    Your mileage may vary. Modafinil can increase anxiety in some people, especially at higher doses. I notice positive effects at low doses (25mg-50mg) and I feel slightly uncomfortable at 200mg. The half life of mod is ~15hr but the positive mood effects usually continue for 2+ days. I attribute that to getting back on my feet rather than any lingering drug effect. Effects are rather immediate. I don’t take it continually – I only take it when I’m feeling highly stressed multiple days in a row, I stop when I’m feeling better, and always skip weekends.

    And of course include all the other remedies mentioned like therapy, socializing, exercise, etc. You’ll want these for lasting self-regulated improvement.

  34. Not what I expected on HackADay, but a really great post. Thanks Bob!

    Several of the commenters had really good advice: Vitamin D (with K!), exercise and socializing. Let me add one more book for you and others. Helplessness by Martin Seligman. Seligman was a past President of the American Psychological Association and one of the founders of Positive Psychology.

    I took a contract programming job many years ago that was supposed to last 3-6 months. Instead I spent 21 months in a small town with no mental health services. We started at 70 hours/week and slowly ramped down to 54 hours/week at the end. I knew something was wrong and figured out I was clinically depressed. On getting back to California I found that book one day and started doing what he said. Set a small goal (one so small you can’t possibly fail). Do that goal until it is part of your life. Then set another goal, slightly harder and so on. After 3-5 goals you should be out of depression. It didn’t feel that different, but I realized I no longer was depressed and life started getting better.

    My first goal was to get up and eat breakfast at 7 AM. I had been sleeping until 10 AM to12 PM every day. My second goal was to go run on the beach after breakfast-goal: 3 miles/day. This goal may have contributed Vitamin D and exercise also! My third goal was to get out and socialize more. By then I considered myself cured although I was never sure for about a year or so. I got a new job and totally new career path. I met a girl who later became my wife and we are still married 40 years later.

    When you listened to your inner critic AND then did what it said to do you were sort of doing Seligman’s small goal steps. But read the book because it will give you the reason it works.

  35. Thank you for this excellent and thought provoking post. I really think there needs to be more of it in STEM generally as far too many of us have these sorts of issues.

    I too have suffered significant mental health issues since I was 14 or so. At 42 I was finally diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder. The depression has been crushing for most of my career and didn’t go away no matter what I achieved. The inner critic is indeed a lying jerk.

    I read this research from Stanford University… and it changed everything for me 2 years ago. I’m no longer on traditional medications. I just take 2000mg of acetyl-L-carnitine morning and night. I have found the quality of these supplements, usually taken by people wanting to cut body fat such as body builders to vary, so have settled on a good quality one that works reliably.

    Your mileage may vary, but everything you’ve suggested I’d also tried myself to varying degrees of success. I only tried ALC whilst already significantly medicated (including lithium) and with my psychiatrist’s support. Sleep hygiene and exercise remain critical to my management of my dopamine levels… but are now much easier with the motivational boost ALC gives me.

    Anyway, read this and see what you think:

    https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2018/07/study-links-depression-to-low-blood-levels-of-acetyl-l-carnitine.html

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