First depressive episode in a while.

For those who don’t know, I am a recovering anorexic with depression and hallucinations when I’m in the middle of an episode.  in 2011 I decided to write openly about my condition and also when I’m in a bad spot to give solidarity to other people in my shoes and to provide some perspective for those who aren’t.

People wrongly assume that depressed people are depressed for a reason. Actually, there’s no more reason for a strike of mental illness than for any other type. Cancer doesn’t show up because your cat died, it just shows up. Today is my first depressed for no reason day in a while (which says loads about how far I’ve come in recovery). Just crying for no reason. This is what separates clinical depression from sadness.

You know how you get that scratch in your throat before you come down with a full cold?  Once you’ve lived with depression long enough, you get the first little tingles and know what’s coming.  Before you get treatment and come to grips with the fact that you’re sick, it’s just terrifying because you know what’s coming and you don’t know what to do.  The fear is as bad as the depression.  Having dealt with this for years, it still sucks to know what’s coming but it gives me time to prepare.  It lets me know I need to tell Michaelyn and to start controlling my environment.

I thought exercising would help, so Michaelyn and I went to the workout room.  But that just reminded me how I’m not in as good of shape as I used to be.  Coming back to shower I made the mistake of looking in the mirror and, sure enough, I’m hallucinating again.  It’s funny how something you know isn’t real can still affect you as though it were.  That was most definitely a mistake on my part.  The trick to getting through a bad episode is controlling your environment and I should’ve known better.

But when you’re in the middle, it’s so tiring.  I think that’s part of why people don’t leave the house when they’re depressed and untreated.  It takes so much out of you.  Even after an episode has subsided I still find myself spacing out for a day afterward.

Everybody always asks what they can do to help when I talk about this.  The answer is, unfortunately, not much.  In my case I just have to wait it out and let people know.  It’s like being led around blindfolded.  When your brain is telling you things that aren’t true, you need to trust others to lead you around.  I’m lucky I have a fiancee who understands this.  Otherwise, I’d be very tempted to try and conceal things from her, which would be very risky.  Sadly, many similarly afflicted people don’t feel they can tell anybody, and are then left at the mercy of a mind that isn’t delivering reality to them.  Even after years of dealing with this and talking about it publicly, knowing full well that when I’m on my way into an episode that I need to tell someone (and that they’d want to be told), it’s still difficult to do.

And then there’s the frantic search for self-worth.  Despite applying the full force of my will to the contrary, when I’m like this it’s difficult not to overvalue physical beauty.  So I race through my cranium trying to identify some facet of myself that would make people want to be around me even though I’m a burden in my depressed state (I know I’m not, but tell my brain that).  The temptation is to think “So you’re fat, but at least…”.  But what is there?  I’m not an idiot, but I’m not as sharp as Matt Dillahunty or as eloquent as Greta Christina.  I’m not particularly lame, but I’m also not particularly special.  I’m actually just…average, and so my life as a public figure often feels like more luck than anything.  Why would a woman like Michaelyn want someone like me when she could have anybody?  Why would people want to spend time with me when there are more interesting people?

When the veil has lifted, these questions will seem as transparently silly as Christianity – just like they were eight hours ago.  Even now, I know they’re the product of a malfunctioning mind.  But when it all seems so real, it’s hard to keep the rush of insecurity at bay.

I know it’s hard for a lot of people to imagine, but I’ve eaten less than a thousand calories today and still can’t even force myself to eat a strawberry.

I love my life.  I’ve become friends with some of my heroes.  I’m engaged to the woman of my dreams, I make a living writing and public speaking, and I have an amazing family life.  I could not ask for more.  But depression doesn’t respect the quality of somebody’s life anymore than the flu.  I’m grateful that I can now have an episode and not feel like I’m being ungrateful for all I have, because who the fuck has time for guilt?  It’s much better on my conscience to lament being sick.  There’s no fault there, no weakness.  Just the will to be better.

And tomorrow I will be.

POLITICS: Boehner calls Obama an “anti-war President.”
PERSONAL: The corrupting power of fame and my love for my commenters.
MENTAL ILLNESS: I see affection as a competition.
FAITH: Jesus is not the answer to this question.
About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Godless Teen

    Aw, I’m sorry. :c my own depression has been acting up a lot lately, and even though I’m six months into recovery, I feel like I’ve gotten nowhere. :/ plus, I found out that one of my friends was hospitalized for cutting a few weeks ago (and it makes me so angry that nobody told me until Tuesday), and that another friend of mine is cutting, too. :c luckily, my case isn’t as severe as anorexia, but… It still hurts. A lot.

    So I know that feel, bro. Anyhow, if it helps, *hugs*.

    • Watry

      Hugs for you too, if you want them!

      Try not to be discouraged about the recovery time, though I know that’s a lot easier said than done. I’ve been in recovery for depression and anxiety for a good eight years now, and though I know I’m doing much better, in the midst of a recurrence it’s very easy to feel like I’ve gotten nowhere.

      Best wishes.

  • Susi

    ♥ you! ((hugs)) hang in there, this shall pass.

  • Angie

    Thanks for sharing this today.

  • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    I admire your honesty in this painful matter. Stay strong, even especially when you don’t feel you can.

  • Ashton

    Being able to affect one’s environment is really important. I think this may be why things got so bad for me as a teen – I had virtually no way to do that. I frequently feel that teens would be better off if they would be able to have more say in their lives. I have no idea how society would go about doing this, but I feel like it should be possible somehow.

  • Mandagator

    You’re a wonderful person, JT. Hang in there, and take a few virtual hugs if they help.

  • Bridget Gaudette

    It’s weird for me to read this. I don’t get depressed as much as I get anxious. I’m the least known of the speakers at Reasonfest and I still don’t really get why I was even asked. I’ve gained a ton of weight the last year and I keep thinking that people will meet me and be disappointed. Since you all know each other I’m sure no one will want to talk to me because in person I’m awkward. I feel like the nerd who has been invited to the cool kids’ party so they can prank him/her.

  • Agent M

    This describes so perfectly how I feel – how I know the right answers, but my brain just won’t let me think them when I’m in this state of mind. I’ve been wrestling with this for years, and today I got my first prescription of Xanax for my anxiety. I’ve never tried meds before, I’ve always prided myself on my ability to keep it in check, or kind of just get through it until it passes, but lately it’s just been too much. I can’t help but feel like I’ve failed, even though I know that’s irrational, and I would never pass judgement on anyone else who takes medication. Just on myself. I have a fabulous support system in my husband, without which things would be so much harder. Thank-you so much for writing this, and continuing to write about mental illness.

  • Stephanie Zvan


  • Iron Iconoclast

    That took great strength to put that into written word, JT. Know that you’re not alone. I’ve suffered from a form of depression for 14 years and last year I found out that I’ve suffered from a few anxiety attacks. I do my best to manage all of this. I still slip from time to time. Strong men and women come to terms with it and smart and brave ones seek help.

  • neatospiderplant


    Thanks so much for sharing. I admire your courage.

  • HP

    Have you tried REBT (Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy)? I know that different therapies work differently for different people, but I’ve found REBT really useful in minimizing depressive episodes — more useful in the long run than any medication I’ve taken. If your current therapist doesn’t do REBT, you might look for one who does, perhaps as an adjunct to who you’re seeing now.

  • Olivia

    Hey if you’re going to mention calorie amounts could you put a trigger warning? Thanks :) I’m sorry things are really sucky right now. Remember the people you can trust right now and trust them as best you can.

  • Hypatia’s Daughter

    “I’m not particularly lame, but I’m also not particularly special. I’m actually just…average, and so my life as a public figure often feels like more luck than anything. ”
    Oh, my, No! No! No! JT you write so well. I have seen you sum up thoughts rattling around my head into concise, pithy posts. And you write in a breezy, conversational style that is so refreshing.
    I hope that one day we will realize that having a mental or emotional illness is not any different to having diabetes, heart disease or cystic fibrosis, and the shame and guilt will be gone.

  • Otrame

    So, your brain chemistry is a little out of balance ATM. Sucks large. Been there. Here’s the thing. You KNOW why you feel they way you do. You know it’s all bullshit, that your brain is a little out of kilter and is missinterpreting things. You also know that it is TEMPORARY. You will feel better soon. Talk to Michaela, talk to your folks. You’ll get past it. You’ve done it before.

  • Anne

    I know exactly how it feels to be on the edge of depression and not be able to do anything about it. It’s like being at the top of a roller coaster and seeing the huge drop (minus the adrenaline rush and excitement). You have a great advantage in being able to recognize when you’re going into that descent.

    I have bipolar disorder, so I have to be doubly vigilant and watch for signs of mania. During a manic phase, I get the delusions and hallucinations you describe. It’s no picnic, especially when there’s still a part of your brain telling you you’re not being rational.

    Thank you for speaking openly about your mental illness. You are not alone.

  • AJ

    Hey, I don’t pretend to understand what you’re going through, but I can definitely tell you that music rules all.

    “So I race through my cranium trying to identify some facet of myself that would make people want to be around me even though I’m a burden in my depressed state (I know I’m not, but tell my brain that).”

    You’re a fucking musician, man. I want you to be around to sing. (You still owe me a 76 Trombones.) I’d love to hear your take on Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha. Hell, I had a beautiful time in high school with “Hey You” in Pajama Game. Or even the title track — The Pajama Game is the game I’m in.

    We are skeptics and atheists, but Triumph was correct — there is Magic in Music. (see “Magic Power” by Triumph.)

    When you don’t trust your brain, trust that we all love you.

  • Agnes

    Thanks for sharing this. Sorry you’re having such a rough day. Hope tomorrow is better for you.

    • Glodson

      Take care of yourself, brother. Hugs, and I really do hope you feel better tomorrow. I wish I could offer more than this.

  • M

    I’m not quite sure what to say. Feel better, get well soon, you’re awesome. *Internet hugs*.

  • Improbable Joe


    I’m sorry I was a wise-ass to you on Twitter earlier. I should know better, because I deal with my own pretty serious depression, but I was too wrapped up in my own shit to see what you were going through. There’s lots that I could say that I know wouldn’t work to help me, and only one thing that ever helps: I’m with you. I don’t know your specifics, and I can never experience what you experience, but I’m with you. You’re not alone. You’ve got folks all over the world who have your back on this… not judging, not offering advice or trying to fix it or fix you. Just knowing that you’re hurting and hurting alongside you, and hoping that you’ll feel better soon.

  • BabyRaptor

    *hugs* JT.

    I’m an “in remission” self-injurer, one of the ones that are apparently so bad off that I’ll never be able to fully quit (This is what was told to me when I was forced to see a therapist over it.)

    So I understand how the negative feelings can just come out of nowhere. You have the right mindset. Just hang in there. We’re all here for you.

  • Katybe

    Everyone else has already said everything, so I just want to add to the pile of hugs, and hope tomorrow’s a better day (and damn, I suddenly have Gone With the Wind playing in my head – that wasn’t the plan!).


  • Katherine Lorraine, Tortue du Désert avec un Coupe-Boulon

    I will add to the massive pile of hugs which has already been offered. *hug*

  • bee

    Just know that there are people out there that care for you and appreciate your worth…….

  • Avicenna

    I figure you need more *hugs*. And keep in there mate.

  • John Horstman

    Best wishes for a speedy trip through the episode. And thanks again for you openness in blogging about your mental illness; increasing the understand helps all of us.

  • Judy Williams

    I’ve survived this hell and it is better on the other side. Don’t give up. It will be better soon.

  • Rock Doc

    Hey JT,

    Your work makes my life better. Every day I read something new, I think a bit more, or I find a new blogger, or article. Without your website, insight, and effort my life would be less full.

    You Matter.

    Rock Doc

  • baal

    My wife has depression and your writings help me understand her better. Thanks for that.