Wash Cycle – Moving forward after a bout of depression


I’m not thrilled to be writing right now.

Also, the chair feels harder than it used to.

This is totally the reason my writing is not going well, just like my tennis racquet screwing up my backhand.  Also, I do not like today.

A month has passed since my passionate public declaration of commitment to my artist life,  and sometime last week I started feeling like I have jack shit to show for it. Nothing is moving fast enough, I feel like I am two weeks behind on my algebra homework, but worst of all, I have a pretty good guess as to why I am feeling this way.

I’m in a bout of depression.

It is not a little blip of well-managed depression, where you look pensive, a person of depth and gravity.  It is the kind full-blown low-energy immobilized stupor that comes to say “wake up dude” after I’ve been doing a shitty managing my program.

Okay, can I point something out really quick? See, the first major problem with starting Hello Humans is that because I am now publicly trying to create a space dedicated to vulnerability and celebrating our flaws, neuroses, and real existence as human beings, It now means I, especially, have to actually show up vulnerable, flawed, and neurotic, and share my experience as a human being.  I have to let my messy insides show.

What a great idea, Sam.

But I digress.

Depression has always been a part of my life, to a greater or lesser extent. I’ve learned the hard way what it takes for me to live really well with it. I’ve learned the hard(er) way what it means to live unwell with it.

But you probably already know what I’m going to say works for me— there’s no new magic pill in this story.  It’s the same tired old shit that we hate: Exercise, healthy food, meditation, and taking my medication. Also, in the case of this recovering alcoholic, not drinking myself to death seems to help. So well in fact, I sometimes forget what slipping into unwell looks like.

Which brings me to the catch 22 of depression: I feel so happy, that I no longer feel the need to do what’s making me feel so happy.

It’s maddening behavior like this that makes semi-hysterical depressives like me a particularly easy-to-love lot.

If you’re reading on behalf of a loved one: The bad news is we probably already know what we need to do. When we tell you we are feeling depressed, we are telling you, for you.  So you can brace yourself if you choose to stick around that day, or kindly excuse yourself if you’re going to require anything extra of us, like the ability to snap out of it, or banter, let alone care much about what’s happening in your life that day.

As my mom puts it “Your helpful ideas are probably not actually helpful.” Although, in this case, depression happens to be the only mental illness I can’t actually blame my mom for.

Congratulations Mom. You get a pass on this one.

You can still take us out of the house for a walk, or keep us company while we binge watch terrible shows, or sit patiently with us while we groan and sigh our way through.

I’ve survived some heavy times with quality groans and sighs, and unobtrusive company.

This past week was a wash. There was no big stride or revelation, no big breaking development, nothing really interesting at all to report back on.  There was just plod and lurch, elbow grease, junk food, staying sober, and starting over, again and again. But I’m forgiving myself for it, which is something I get a little better at with each try.

I mostly had to lay low and hide. I snuck away to cry in my truck for a little until my mom found me there, and we just quietly sat next to one another, allowing me to pretend I was just adjusting my mirrors.

I walked down the road a bunch, and sat on a park bench while the dogs ran around.

I watched some weeds blow back and forth in the wind, while taking a personal inventory to try to find what was missing from the equation. Eventually, the dots began connecting, and I slowly became ready—ready to find the energy to start doing the things that give me energy.

I’m on a journey, and it’s going mostly well, most of the time. But it’s a long journey, and If I’m going to have a fighting chance of getting where I’m trying to go, I’m going to have to stay in fighting shape. That’s why we call it a bout of depression. It’s a fight at times, but it’s one of the few fights worth fighting.

I’m going to have to take breaks for my workaholic, busy busy, go go go, there’s always more to do life, and make some time to take care of the only thing that I ever actually own in this lifetime. My body.

Over the years I have abused it, I have shamed it, I have treated it in ways you wouldn’t treat your worst enemies. And still, every morning when I wake up, there it is, reporting for duty, as eagerly as my little dog Gizmo, willing to do its best, and let me lead it for another day, and from time to time blow my mind with its existence.

My body has taken me everywhere I have ever been, and everywhere I will ever be. It is the loyal friend who has never left my side, and if this were a fair and just world, I’d devote my life to treating it as kindly as monks treat temple cats.

But since this is terrible, unkind, unjust, babies-being-born-with-cancer Earth, I’ll settle with just doing slightly better, and getting some run-of-the-mill exercise, No matter how busy or inconvenienced I feel.

Because when I feel my chest beating through my shirt, I am reminded how much heart I really have. And when my muscles quiver and feel weak under the weights, I’m reminded how strong I really am. And when my lungs struggle to get enough oxygen, I am reminded how lucky each breath of life really is.

So you know what? Last week was a wash, but the wash cycle is over. Onward.


  1. This was an especially good read for me. I was not expecting it. I was sitting having my morning almond milk latte and watching the Today show, always wanting to stay abreast of Trump’s latest ridiculosity, when it hit me- "you are watching the Today show for about 6 hours a day, you are eating frozen yogurt for breakfast and you have gained 20 pounds in 4 months. You sit. You feel tired. You say bad things to yourself. You may be depressed".

    I am glad I read this. For better, worse, or in between, I am going for a walk.

  2. Beautifully written post. I’m right behind you, Sam. We all are, quietly and wholeheartedly supporting you because the struggles you share are universally felt, but rarely articulated. The world needs more of this.

  3. Your writing today has reminded me to be gentle with myself today as well as with two close-to-my-soul humans. Thank you.

  4. Dear Sam,
    Your description of a wash cycle is right in point.
    People who don’t know the depth of depression don’t understand how one could sit and stare at the weeds etc.
    Thank you for helping us all who suffer and reminding us that there are ways to fight back.

  5. I started crying when I read this because I’m dealing with my own repercussions of not doing adequate self care. It’s a cycle but I also believe that everytime I come through it a little bit stronger and a little bit wiser. Learning not to self medicate with my multitude of bad coping habits is daunting but the relief is worth it. On that note, I’m gonna go call in my refill for my antidepressant. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I was compelled to re-read this. I especially loved your musings about letting the people in your life know that you are in a bout of depression for their information, and not a way to solicit "helpful" feedback. Thank you for sharing, even though the chair you’re sitting on today feels particularly hard.

  7. Thank you so much for the reminder you don’t have to do recovery perfectly and that our body is our dearest and best friend❤

  8. Take pleasure in the ability to state feelings so clearly….mine are backed up somewhere. Putting words to it seems cathartic.

  9. I don’t know why I feel so compelled to respond to your post with this, and I feel a bit weird taking this liberty(?) as we don’t know each other.
    But. I’m going to go with my gut.
    And. It’s okay if that’s weird.

    I’m giving you permission to have a "lost week". You even have permission to have a "lost month" …or five. There’s always growth going on in the background of our frantic minds, even when it feels like complete stasis, and even when it’s utter downward spiraling. Exercise helps, and if that’s too big some days–remember that walking–even around the yard–can be the difference between faith and despair.

    To paraphrase your mom (and when you’re feeling it) go somewhere safe, somewhere quiet, somewhere beautiful and boring, and make some really shitty art. Writing isn’t the only craft that gets the "shitty first draft" pass. We get them for anything we want to create, and especially when we can’t muster the energy or confidence that is so annoyingly helpful to making this process easier. Don’t try to chase the dragon. Maybe just go observe a lizard. And then maybe sketch it, or write about it. Much love.

  10. Sam, you are to be commended for your brutal honesty. I have a son like you only younger, 20 years old. i have sat alone with him quietly, at other times not so quietly. I gave him the depressive, potentially alcoholic genes (he tested the waters early on, after a lifetime of my educating him about the family gene pool soaked in depression and alcoholism, and found that he was an alcoholic who should not ever start the addiction), so it’s the least I could do. He, too, is a writer. That is the one great thing he inherited from me, along with his black humor and attraction to needy suicidal women, which lead to his first and deep love commiting suicide by hanging when he was 17, his friend 16. 🙁

  11. Thank you for your honesty. It’s refreshing. Today is a wash for me. I think I will extend grace to myself, indulge in much chocolate and start over tomorrow. Blessings.

  12. 41 year old self proclaimed trophy wife and mom. I say Trophy because I am that confident…not because of how I look but for the battle I fight everyday. That’s how the outside views me from the cul-de-sac. Sam. Your stories fill a dark space deep in my soul. I am 12 yrs medication free and work my ass off with self care. Lately I was feeling sorry for my family. Looking at them like I conned them too. Feeling sorry they have a wife and mom that is so ugly on the inside. Believing if I would of just kept living my life as a reckless "gypsy’ I would of been better off floating through life alone being my "authentic’ self than portraying myself as the perfect soccer mom.
    Thank you Sam for sharing your truth. It allows me to realize these thoughts of regret I have for a life I don’t live are a lie. I am living my messy life just as I should….I too ‘came out of the closet ‘ with this disease. I find freedom in no longer hiding….now to just adjust to the onlookers that may think I am bat shit crazy. Judge away. I have my own battles to fight and people are no longer one of them.
    Keep onward. …you are keeping alot of us up and moving too!
    Sincerely, Laurie (housewife that has it all together on the outside:)…don’t ask to come in unless you can handle the truth

  13. Even Jesus wandered in the desert for 40 days, trying to find himself. Buddha left for years and years and years until he was able to understand suffering.

  14. Thanks for sharing. I know that I’m not the only guy who has tearful bursts when I’m alone, but it’s so reaffirming to read that others cry too. After all, God gave us ALL tear ducts for a reason. And some times that good cry fixes the day for me and gives me a new way to look at things.

  15. As a fellow recovering alcoholic and depressed person in temporary remission, I thank you. I am grateful that I have suffered and survived depression so long, I recognize the signs of sinking into an episode. I tell the people closest to me, and they are supportive. I know, too, that alcohol is not an option. It will kill me. I wish my Mom was alive. I think she would just be with me, as your Mom is with you.
    Anyway, thanks for reminding me about self care. I am really bad at that!
    I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with us.

  16. Thank you for your honest words and wisdom. After 5 days of laying in bed feeling sorry for myself, I read your words, "…there’s no new magic pill in this story. It’s the same tired old shit that we hate: Exercise, healthy food, meditation, and taking my medication." You are so on the money with that statement. I know this intellectually but mentally and physically I am so broken. Nonetheless, I sighed and made myself a healthy breakfast and took a walk outside. I’m glad to know I am not alone, I am human too.

  17. Thanks for the reminder about this ole body of mine. I’ve been grateful lately that it still works, and can still walk, and eat, and sleep, and be of service to others.

  18. Sam, YOU are such a gift, and such a talented writer, too! It can’t be easy making the decision to share your crazy, messy confused life with the world. (FYI: We’re all pretty much in the same boat. Some of us just are more adept at dealing with it or hiding it.) I hope writing helps bring you purpose and peace. At any rate, keep writing and just keep showing up. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Put that mess through the spin cycle and start fresh, Sam. New week, new load. Hope this one’s lighter.
    I, too, got sober in my 20s. The recovery life has some glorious events up its sleeve for you. You are a miracle.

  20. Heartfelt and beautiful. Thank you for splitting open your chest and giving us a look-see. Such vulnerability is incredibly difficult but it’s just what we need to be while. Blessings on your living and your writing!

  21. Sam,
    Such bravery to lay your heart and mind all out naked for us to see . . . you’ve got thoughts and words and they’re quite strong – you’re painting, describing what it feels like to wrestle and get up again and again. Such resilience.

  22. Happiness is Love flowing OUT, Sam. People and the world will only disappoint or fade. You glow when you devote yourself to service, not fulfillment.

  23. I’m loving what youre writing ,Sam .
    I think this is a brilliant undertaking / adventure.
    You tell it like it is , and thats powerful. And you tell it skillfully .
    I’ll support this & share it.

    After reading what you wrote, I remembered a quote: " the only way out is Through…" Robert Frost apparently said this; but I have been attributing it to Helen Keller (?!?!) for years, when I’d share it…. which just goes to show that youre never too old to Unlearn something you’ve learned and were so darn sure about and actually quite wrong !
    So this goves me hope. For you, for me, for all of us making our way as best we can and trying to encourage each other along the way.
    Even if we are misquoting or not editing our blogs thoroughly ( see paragraph 6 )

    Thank you for being Human.

    Xo Chloe

  24. Beautiful, thoughtful, and comforting! Sam, you nailed it for me, and thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming forward. You have helped me with you sharing. Many thanks!

  25. Your vulnerability and self-awareness make you a powerful writer whose message will inspire many. I know it has motivated me to realize the wash cycle is over! Time for some self-compassion and self-care. Thanks for reminding me how to recognize and battle my own bouts of depression.

  26. I’ve read about you in your mother’s books and cherised how she wrote about you, the way I cherish my two sons. This is the first time I’ve read your writing and you are refreshing and intelligent and honest and you have really good writing genes! Thank you. And you are hopeful, in spite of our shared afflictions, as I also try to be, even in the midst of some deep darknesses. It’s difficult to acknowledge, in the dark, that what I’m going through is a result of brain chemicals and not being a hopelessly flawed human being. Thank God I know that, and you do too, and so does your mom. Please keep writing!

  27. I wish every depressed person in the world could listen to the podcast "The Hilarious World of Depression." It is life-changing and life-saving. Also, my goal/mantra for each day is "Move, Create, Meditate." If I am feeling lost, I can check in with that mantra to see what is missing in my day. Keeps it simple yet oh so important.

  28. "but i’m forgiving myself for it" – excellent!!!! so important and necessary. loved the post. love your heart. i’m more an "anxiety" person 😉 but i really relate and benefit from your writing. thank you so much sam!

  29. I love this…it has already made a difference in my day. A counselor some years ago suggested I would enjoy your mom’s writing; I did! Now I can be blessed by yours. Thank you, Sam. So many of your readers identify with you in so many ways!

  30. Sam! Thank you! I am a 40 yr old mum of 5 beautiful and intense kids originally from the USA, but left that land for NZ when my heart got stolen by a kiwi boy!I have no idea why that previous info would even matter to you, but I think I feel better thinking you know something about me and could imagine some of my story! So here’s the real guts of why I love your writing cause more than anything I long DAILY to connect with people who can just stop the bullcrap and let their real hearts be seen. I apparently according to most of my friends who have managed to survive me, wear my heart on my sleeve, there is never any hiding for me. I love and hate this about myself. But it feels lonely, like most people really do prefer to say, "Im fine thanks," even when all hell is breaking loose in their lives. Anyway as per usual I have said so much when what I am really wanting to say is, Keep going! Your voice is relevant! OH and I LOVE your mum’s writing as well! Go well and blessings to you!

  31. Thank you Sam! Your honesty brought
    out the same in many of us.
    I look forward to joining you on
    this journey. I have walked alone
    but on medications for a very long
    Please reach out to us when that
    washing machine is kicking you
    We have been there. It is part of
    how we live. You are not alone.

  32. brilliant! I think you speak for multitudes. I’m one of the many, and I totally relate to what you say. When it’s good it’s easy and when it’s bad it can be easy to forget how get back to good, or even that good is there… so reminders are very necessary.

  33. I am so grateful my 12 step sponsor forwarded this to me …I want to be
    Part of this. I will say you told my story.
    Now I need to figure out what I do next ?
    I’ve never done this type of forum and not sure so I’ll look on the site and know I’ll be shown the way
    There is a group my daughter loves called
    " All Time Low"
    Hmmm that’s me right now and I imagine she identifies as she has this depression too
    More to come as I’m off for my med check of all things .. yup yoga swim meditate meetings church service sponsor 2
    My husband left me for another woman ;
    Who happened to be living inside Him so John is now Jackie( female trans)
    Full blown Rock my world .. loved the handsome husband I shared sobriety / recovery with I’m in OA alanon ,it’s a loaded heavy story …
    more will be revealed to you and hopefully me. Today has been my purgatory / hell whichever .. an all time low ,
    And now I begin .. ttyl
    Thank you
    I will send support

    Mary Jane ,RI

  34. Sam, you need to cut the apron strings to your mother. Stand on your own. Find your manhood. Read some Robert Bly about Iron John. Find some real men to hang out with. You are too old to continue your Mama’s Boy shtick. Your will never find your true self as long as you coast along as a carbon copy of Anne Lamott, who has been phoning in her books for years. The fact that your writing isn’t good enough for you to get published should tell you that you need to find yourself. Find what you are good at. Get a life that has nothing to do with your mother. Make yourself into a man who is attractive to real women. Stop being obsessed with the fame and recognition you will never achieve. Admit to yourself that you are an ordinary guy. You’re not all that. Notice how almost all the comments are from women? Doesn’t that tell you something about your navel-gazing, whiny, thumb-sucking self pity? The world doesn’t need Ann Lamott Lite platitudes about how you make it through the day. We don’t care. Make something of yourself that speaks only of yourself. Otherwise, you will remain a man-child and never move out of your mother’s orb. Stop trying to look adorable by twirling your mustache. Wake up and think about where you’ll be in 20 years, when people stop gushing about being your mother’s son and your are left alone, because you invested so much energy into riding Mommy’s coattails. Question is, do you have the guts to face yourself? Can you stop being your mother’s surrogate husband? Maybe now that she has a boyfriend, she’ll be willing to let go of her need for you to be joined at her hip. It’s time for you to individuate, because you will never be healthy until you do.

    • Thank you, John.

      As you may know, I am the product of a single mother. I am the product of the thousands of hours she spent raising me, and guiding me, and helping me become the man before you today. You may be right that I sound a lot like my mom, but this is how I sound, this is who I am, this is my life that I am welcoming complete strangers like you into. It’s an unfortunate reality that part opening your life up to the public means you are also opening it up to criticism like this. I have to make peace with that fact.

      There’s a silver lining to growing up with the kind of bad self-esteem you see as weakness that I want you to hear. There is nothing you can say that I haven’t already said to myself over the years. Your words are like aspirin compared to the venom I have subjected myself to over the years. There is only one person today who has the power to cut me down, and that person is me. But you know what? today, I don’t feel like cutting myself down, or shaming myself, or following any of your unsolicited advice. Today I feel like carrying on, and that’s exactly what I plan to do.

      But I’d like to leave you with these words I hope you take to heart: Get out of here you little worm.

      • Hi Sam, I’m a writer too. I just left the security of the workforce behind and, by the way, I’m your mom’s age. I wanted to commend you on your blog and on your reply. I don’t suffer from depression and putting one’s self out there is EXTREMELY hard enough. I wanted to leave you with a piece from Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art (a must have for creatives). He saw this posted on a guy’s car: "The professional keeps his eye on the doughnut and not on the hole. He reminds himself it’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot." This made me smile. I thought it would make you smile, too. Keep on keeping on, Jackie Trottmann

  35. A great reply to John, Sam. We are who we are and we don’t need to apologize for that. We are all shaped by our parents and a part of them and their parents, and their parents…..etc. You and your mother wouldn’t have the following you both do if you didn’t touch on the vulnerability of human kind……Both you and your mom talk about things that are uncomfortable for some and seen as weakness……that’s too bad for them….. truthfulness is so much easier in the long run and to a degree we are all just, FINE,,,,,,fucked up, insecure, neurotic, and egotistical, although I replace that with "emotional." Depression is real and effects or is that affects, so many…. to connect with life rather than disconnect is so much better,,,harder but better…….Thanks Sam…..I hope your journey gets easier.

  36. Inspiring someone to not wallow in self-pity is not an easy task but your gentle expressive pen has given me patience with myself.

  37. Thank god that you & I & everyone we know & love don’t have that little worm as a parent. I’m glad you have the clarity & can see his gaping wounds through his so called "advice".

  38. Good post! I think you do have a gift for writing and connecting with the harder parts of life we wrestle with as part of our existence. Thanks for staying in the "hard chair" and sharing it with us!

  39. Beautifully written. Thank you for the reminder to be gentle with myself. I’d like to say I battle depression, but I give in and give up more than I fight. I’m learning to hold on when all inside screams to let go. Carry on, brother. You are creating community here that lifts and inspires.

  40. Thank you. I have had a very difficult time talking to my husband about my depression without him taking it personally. I read this to him, and he seemed to get it a little bit. I have been trying to hide and deny my depression for a long time, even from myself. This has only made the fight harder. I love that you are putting this out here, the feeling of not-alone-ness it gives me lessens the weight.


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