Mental Illness, News

Mass Killings, Our Simple Media, and Mental Illness

OK, America. Breathe a sigh of relief. I am not a gun owner.

The reason why I don’t keep a gun probably has more to do with the fact I wasn’t raised around them than the miserable statistics of death and despair.

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Depression, Mental Illness, News

Robin Williams’ Suicide: Blaming the Victim, Shaming the Ill

I know next to nothing of Mr. Williams’ health history and have followed news of his death only in passing. It’s not that I don’t care. It’s just, like the Williams we’re all suddenly becoming better acquainted with, I have my own struggles demanding my attention.

Truly, I’ve always felt the allure of Williams as a performer and human being. As a young comedian crashing into¬†the nation’s psyche via the Mork and Mindy show, his high-energy antics communicated¬†to my young mind¬†the stimulating possibilities of life itself. In later performances, he exuded an almost¬†palpable sense of compassion and tenderness betraying the perfect frailty of human existence.

While bad acting can so often feel like the clumsy fabrication of a life from dead matter (thinking Nick Cage here in his more Frankenstein monster moments), the good stuff springs from the deepest parts of a person and seems to tap into a shared emotive energy that binds all people. We recognize ourselves when gifted with such performances.

What came from Williams, I choose to believe, came from inside of him. It was earned (it would seem) in the forge of his own suffering, a suffering that concluded this week with his final decision: the decision to silence the pain by extinguishing his own life.

That decision has been kicked around in public for days now by a good number of commentators and supposed friends. And, in almost every case, these people just need to shut the fuck up.

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Culture, Depression, News

‘Today Show’ Takes On sTMS

today showThis project was supposed to be done by now. Depression Time was intended to chronicle my final assault on my illness, either built up into book form or abandoned completely after a successful recovery. A last dance. A final goddamned go-round.

This was definitely not supposed to be just another mile marker on my (seemingly now¬†interminable) journey into obsolescence. And yet here I am: still sick, still struggling to get good health care, and thrashing about desperately for a job and career, for this thing called “wellness.”

In fact, I’ve been so sucked into my admittedly¬†marginalized social corner that I had forgotten all about the DT blog. Then¬†Wordpress rang, alerting me to a surge in traffic on the site. Obviously some news outlet somewhere was writing about synchronized transcranial magnetic stimulation (sTMS), I thought, as the treatment I received in a double-blind clinical¬†trial more than a year ago is known. Continue reading

Depression, News

The Egg & I: My Austin Chronicle Feature Story

egg & i

I’m on my back in a dimly lit room on the seventh floor of a Dallas research hospital. A device roughly two feet tall resembling an oversized egg is wheeled up behind me, its single blue clawlike appendage nestled possessively over the top of my head. “How’s that?” the doctor asks.

A thumb drive containing my information is inserted, and a man’s tinny voice buzzes from within the plastic shell announcing that a session is available. “Lie still with your eyes closed. Treatment begins in five, four, three, two, one. Treatment begins now.”

Rattalattarattalattasqueeeeak! Rattalattarattalattasqueeeeak!Rattalattarattalattasqueeeeak!

Welcome to the future of psychiatric care: low lights, an old massage table, and three spinning magnets. Continue reading


Stigma Letters: Mental Health and the Permanent Record



I read your column “Come stand with me.” It really hit home for me. I was diagnosed with depression in 1998 and have definitely been on a roller coaster ride since then. I am a nurse employed at a large hospital.

In an attempt to end my life earlier this year, I overdosed on pain medication I had from a surgery last year (never used any of it). I went to the ER the next day — I needed help! I called my manager to tell him I would not be coming to work the following day. He asked why and unfortunately, I was honest.

He promptly reported me to the Board of Nursing despite the fact that I didn’t do anything illegal and never put a patient in harm’s way (as a friend has said, “apparently nurses can’t have the same illnesses as the rest of the human race”).

I am still suffering because of his unnecessary report. I have hired a lawyer, was forced out of my job and into another one that I despise, and would walk out the door if I knew I could get another job easily (but the Board of Nursing report will remain on my record forever).

They have treated me like a criminal, and this is the HEALTH CARE INDUSTRY — people who should know and understand. Continue reading

Culture, Mental Illness

Depression Time Gets Real: On Abandoning Anonymity To Fight The Stigma

greg harmanThe editor called me on the phone. Didn’t want to just write me, he said. He wanted to hear from me personally that I was good with this.

“You’re really putting yourself out there,” he said. And he’s right.

This week for the first time my name will appear in several Texas newspapers not as an alt-weekly editor or environmental journalist but as a decades-long depression sufferer — one who who went to the ER and a mental-health treatment center last year desperate for help. One who participated in an experimental clinical trial earlier in this one in the search for wellness.

Of course, readers here have known all these things about me for months, but now what had previously been very distinct identities are merging: my carefully closeted illness, what has become a defining characteristic of my very being, finally assumes a proper place alongside that of the public professional.

It’s about damn time. Continue reading