A Few More Words About Depression

I may have lent the wrong impression with my earlier posts about depression. Let me clarify a few things.

Depression has always been a problem for me, but some times have been better and others worse. It’s mostly been varying degrees of worse since the late 1980s.

Sometimes my creative focus has been more clouded, sometimes less. Sometimes inspired work has battled its way out of the fog; sometimes work that’s been mediocre, or just flat; sometimes work with intermittent flashes of inspiration; sometimes no work at all.

The last two years or so have been especially difficult. Just about the time I was beginning work on *Hard Time*, I fell — or was pushed, depending on how you look at it and whose story you believe — into a very deep emotional pit. I’ve spent the time since then climbing out. Recently, I’ve seen indications that I’m nearing the top. It’s been a slow, arduous climb, but I think I’ve learned something about the *character* of depression as an illness at various stages of the ascent.

I don’t consider myself expert enough or articulate enough to write about it in real depth yet, but this much I can tell you from long and sufficiently bitter experience:

If you suffer from depression — get help. Find a good therapist, even if you have to go to a city- or state-funded facility. Find an antidepressant that works for you. (And no excuses about not wanting to put chemicals in your body; St. Johns Wort and SAM-e can be very effective if you don’t want to go the prescription route.)

Don’t indulge depression. Don’t romanticize it. Don’t glamorize it. Don’t believe it makes you more creative. Don’t believe it makes you more attractive. Don’t believe you can’t keep your cynical edge without it. (Trust me. You can.) Don’t make it your hobby. Don’t make it your buddy. Don’t let it define your life.

Depression just isn’t worth the time and energy it takes to maintain it. There are better things y0u can do with your existence. And there’s more than enough *real* sorrow to experience in the world without sitting around and manufacturing more of it neurochemically.

That’s what I’ve been trying to share with you.

14 Responses to “A Few More Words About Depression”

  1. Travis Johnson Says:

    I don’t consider myself articulate enough either to describe depression, but I think it is important to share these things. I’ve been down to the bottom and I remember finding inspiration from those who learned to manage the beast. And because it always feels like a lonely disease, it helps to know you’re not alone. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Lea Says:

    Well said.
    And I’ll second that you don’t need depression to keep the edge. If anything, depression dulls it.

  3. Forrest Says:

    I’ve got the oddest feeling I was just bodily put back on the sidewalk when I didn’t even know I was in the street.

    Steve…you really ARE a good guy. You know?

  4. gordon kent Says:

    A problem of depression that I see is that it can just be so damn comfortable. At least that’s how it’s been for me…

  5. Scott Rowland Says:

    Steve, good for you for getting help and spreading the word. Here’s hoping you continue to get better, from someone who ahs been there.

  6. Cory!!Strode Says:

    I’m thankful that you posted this. I have suffered from depression of various types and was on meds for it in the mid 80’s and just hated it. Hated hated hated and felt like the meds were putting me in a deep haze. My schoolwork suffered and I lost a couple of writing contracts because I just felt like I was in a complete haze all the time.

    Now…I’m going to see about the new meds. I KNOW my depression is stress related, but this is the push over the cliff to realizing that The Stress Never Ends and I need to do something about it.

    Thank you.

  7. Brian Christgau Says:

    Beautifully spoken, Steve. I’d say you pretty much nailed it.

    I’ve been struggling with The Demon (as I call it) off and on since the sixth grade, but it was only until I was well into my late twenties that I finally “came out” with my problems. Before you can get help you’ve got to admit that you have a problem, not only to the world but to yourself.

    Many people are (understandably) reluctant to get help. They think it will mean admitting they’re “weak” or “crazy”; despite recent progress, depression still has a strong social stigma to it. Still others are afraid that taking medication will rob them not only of their illness but of their “self” – as if pulling it out by the root will take a big chunk of their soul with it. Still others are afraid that it will rob them of their creativity. These are potentially lethal misconceptions.

    There certainly are people who have had negative reactions to anti-depressant medications, but in my case they’ve been a true lifesaver, not only keeping the spirit-crushing heavy depression at bay but alleviating the ever present low-wattage variety that it’s easy to not even know you have. It’s like having a veil lifted from your eyes that you never even knew was there because you’d been walking around with it on all your life. As for the creative side, well, it’s kind of hard to do *anything* when you feel like the sky is falling and the earth is dropping out from beneath your feet every minute of every day.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Steve. And just so you know – your work let at least one sad little boy feel like he wasn’t so alone after all. As Bradbury put it: doctors heal the body, artists heal the soul.

  8. sirreal2001 Says:


    I suffer from depression from time to time and also tend to get anxious/worried frequently. Personally, I have tried several medications and they all made me feel very drowsy. So, I’m not any at the moment, but I have been finding that exercise can make a difference. I do half an hour of the elliptical in the morning and another in the evening. I find that I can tell the difference — mentally — if I don’t do it.

    Anyway, I want to thank you for sharing and I also want to thank you for your advice. I used to think there was something romantic about being depressed or tragic. I was concerned that I would lose a part of myself if I started to fight it. I hope that all who read your blog and struggle with this issue attempt to address it head-on. Again, thanks for being so candid. It is helpful to realize that others are dealing with the same issue.

  9. Steve Gerber Says:

    Exercise does help. (Thanks for reminding me. I need to get back to the damn gym.)

    It usually takes some experimentation to find the right antidepressant. No two people have exactly the same physiology, so every drug affects every individual differently — sometimes vastly so.

  10. Judy Ginsberg Says:

    Steve, We have known each other a long time and know that depression is a long time ailment. I have recently started taking “Omega Brite”. It was recommended for bipolar problems. I started with 3 a day and am now taking 6. I do notice I am a bit calmer but not hazy or dizzy. Some of you might want to try this. Continue to heal.

  11. Paul F. P. Pogue Says:

    Right on. I was depressed — for no good reason whatsoever — for more than a decade before my wife finally convinced me that it was a chemical problem and I needed help. A remarkably small amount of paxil got me back on my feet in no time.

    Of course, some time later I had a raft of *real* problems enter my life that sent me into an emotional tailspin for the last two years, and oddly enough it’s been exactly how it was for you. But at least I had a stronger brain-chemistry base from which to work. Had these things — laid-off, friend trouble, that sort of thing — happened pre-medication, there is a very good chance I would have devolved into sheer self-destruction.

    Paul F. P. Pogue

  12. Claudio Piccinini Says:

    I’m not sure I can comment about this. I keep having problems when the issue of “depression” is raised, as I have with any other inner malaise, whatever you encounter in your life which is not mere physical illness.
    Can we *really* consider “depression” a basically organic illness? Was that wise to do so in the first place?

    Steve, can you just tell me when did you started “considering” the problem?
    I mean, I don’t want to discard your advice to people about consulting a psychiatrist or taking medication, but in my personal experience these things worked mostly against the problem.

    I think the most important thing you said is “I fell — or was pushed, depending on how you look at it and whose story you believe — into a very deep emotional pit.”

    This seems unrelated but… may I say that I was really surprised when I read the new “Howard the Duck” (and then “Hard Time”)? In reading “Howard” I felt even offended. I would never have imagined I could have been offended by a Steve Gerber story. I had to go re-read “The Son of Satan”.

  13. Jason Says:

    I just finished reading the new HTD collection last night, and it was absolutely brilliant. The sheer density of ideas was stunning, as if a decade’s worth of satire and criticism had been distilled into six highly potent issues.

    I also have depression and have had it since about 1994 (i.e., my whole adult life). Eschewing pharmaceuticals, recreational or otherwise, I have never sought treatment. These past couple years have been the worst— my articulation is diminishing and I feel halfway in a stupor. My creative pursuits have suffered greatly.

    So, last night after reading HTD’s amazing comeback (with the finale being an informal chat with GOD, for Chrissakes! how perfect is THAT?!), I decided to research Steve’s work on the internet. I ended up here. I read his message about depression.

    Well, hell, even Steve Gerber has to deal with this crap… maybe it’s time I did something about it too. Did some more research, and I think I’m gonna take a trip to the local health food store and pick up some St. John’s Wort. Might do me some good.

    Plus, you know, it’ll get me out of the house.

  14. Forrest Says:

    St John’s Wort, I have read, can actually be counterproductive, so have a care.

    On the other hand, B-1, B-6, B-12, not to forget your vitamin E…

    Aside to C. Piccinini: if upon seeing something shocking or distracting in HTD volume 2 you ask yourself “what am I overlooking?”, and try to find it, you may perceive things in that series you never expected.