Depression and Asking for Help

Why is it so hard to ask for help when we’re depressed?

Robin Williams was found dead yesterday from an apparent suicide. Asphyxiation.

About 24 hours before he was found, I had thoughts running through my head of how I could choke off my own air supply — could I just tighten a belt around my neck? Would that work?

Dunno, don’t care. I stopped that line of thinking, emailed my brothers and my sister, and asked for their prayers. It was about all I could do. Told them I was safe, but really down. I think that was true – I couldn’t really kill myself. But I didn’t want to sit there thinking about it, either. I broke off a piece of an Ambien and went to sleep midday Sunday, hoping I’d wake up in better spirits.

It helped pass the time, but didn’t fix my depression. In the evening my little brother texted me, asking if he could do anything. Did I want to come over? No, I couldn’t fathom leaving the house.

Then, with all the strength I’ve mustered in any action of the last few years, I texted him to ask for a priesthood blessing. I dropped the phone and started bawling – it had been so hard to ask for that help.

He was at my door within ten minutes. We visited for an hour, during which I bawled and told him the things that had triggered this latest depression, and then he gave me a blessing of comfort. (If you’re not LDS, I’ll let you google.)

It’s been 36 hours or so now, and mostly I’m doing better, but Robin Williams! Dammit. Here’s this hilarious guy that people love, in so much pain that he takes his own life. Had he been asking for help, at least? Or had he been suffering through it with no support? I hope it’s the former, but the thought of the latter breaks my heart.

Man, what if my spiral had continued Sunday? What if I hadn’t emailed my siblings? Thankfully I don’t own any guns – no rash decisions here – and thankfully my pain hasn’t ever gotten so bad that I could conceive of leaving my kids fatherless.

Thankfully I believe in God, and another life after this one – one where my existence will continue, no matter how much I try to destroy it. Knowing that I can’t stop existing, only living, is a crucial thing for me.

I don’t know why asking for help is so hard. But if you’re depressed, maybe it’d help to talk to somebody who understands the pain? Or to a stranger? Either way, if you’re depressed, and especially if you’re suicidal, talk to somebody. You can email me at this address if you like – – and I’ll try to get back to you soon.

An App Idea for Recovering Addicts

One of the big helps in 12-step programs is the existence of sponsors: people who are willing to take your call anytime, so if you find yourself at the brink you can get a boost of willpower from a friend.

(Say you’re super-depressed after losing a love one, or having a relationship break up, or getting fired. You desperately want to ease the pain with your drug or alcoholic drink of choice. Your willpower is spent, and you find yourself at the convenience store, a six-pack of beer in your hand, approaching the register.

You remember where this leads for you. So you call your sponsor – a friend you made at Alcoholics Anonymous – to ask for strength to not buy your fix.

They answer, though they’ve been asleep now for an hour. They talk you down. Remind you of how much better sobriety is. You find the modicum of strength to return the beer to the fridge, and leave the store.)

Now, if you’ve never been to a recovery meeting, or gotten a sponsor, maybe you could call a friend – but maybe they don’t understand why you’re calling so late, and figure they can call you back in the morning. Or, maybe, you don’t have a friend you think you could call. Now what? You’re alone, on top of everything else, and you just know the beer will fix everything.

So, how about this for an app idea? A button that’s labeled “HELP” – you push it, and it connects you to somebody else with the app, opening a chat session, with the alternative to place a call.

Yeah, it’s a stranger, but it’s a stranger who understands your battle. They’re battling the same forces themselves. They generously take the time to talk you down.

You like this stranger, so you click “SAVE CONTACT,” and now you have an anonymous (unless they gave you their name) friend you can contact directly next time, building up an address book of potential sponsors.

If you’re on the receiving end of a request for help, you won’t always be able to help. So, you can click “PASS” or “CANCEL,” and the app looks for another person who could help. The original asker doesn’t see this process, necessarily – they might just notice it takes a minute or two longer to get a response.

When setting up the app, you can put in your zip code, and choose to find sponsors near or far, depending on how frightened you might be of losing your anonymity.

You can both click “CALL” if the chat isn’t working well for this emergency, and the app’s home server makes a call to both phones and connects them. Or if that’s too technologically expensive, users just opt to give out their number to the sponsor they’re chatting with, and the sponsor clicks it and calls the person directly.

You also put in your gender, so that it matches you up with people you won’t end up in an affair with. (An important feature for people struggling with sex or porn addiction.)

I don’t know how this app can pay for itself – I wouldn’t trust ads that might be in and of themselves triggers for whatever the addict is fighting. But I don’t want people to have a purchase as a barrier to entry. Maybe rehab clinics pay to be sponsors, and can encourage folks to come in? But that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe we just find some altruistic sponsors for the server load on the back end? Dunno.

Any recovering addicts out there want to chime in on what they think? Would you use it when you’re fighting temptation?

The Billionth Review of Ender’s Game

I win! Review number 1,000,000,000! Really I’m embarrassed that 999 million-plus other people reviewed the movie before I did, but here’s my take. No plot spoilers.

I loved the book, so that’s naturally a problem going into any film that’s an adaptation, but I felt able to separate the two versions without much trouble. One is the book-universe, one is the cinematic-universe. (OH CRAP SPOILER ALERT THERE’S A BOOK!)

The adaptation, then, has its own life, and has to be judged on its own merits, not as a comparison to the book. And I thought it was okayyyy… but it seemed to struggle choosing which theme to focus on. Like it couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a complex morality tale, or a blockbuster sci-fi thriller. In the end it felt like it fell short of both.

It also suffers from what I’ll call montage-fatigue. You know how movie trailers can be fun to watch, because they condense everything and move it all along at a superfast pace? Yeah. We can do that for about two minutes, then we need a break. Both ENDER’S GAME and MAN OF STEEL felt like trailers in the way they skipped along the surface of the story, giving snippets of scenes instead of the whole picture. Like the creators were afraid we’d get bored if they slowed down to let us breathe a little. (MAN OF STEEL was far, far worse in this regard.)

My biggest beef, though, will seem like a peccadillo to most: the music.

The score in ENDER’S GAME never lets up. Every single scene is drowning in musical accompaniment, and I hated it. Music in films should be used as a seasoning, not a core ingredient. As a punctuation mark, not a part of speech.

As for the acting – I don’t know. I’m not a great judge of acting, but I know that Harrison Ford never felt real to me. It always felt like “Harrison Ford plays Colonel Graff in the Cityville Community Theater’s presentation of ENDER’S GAME!!!”

But it could have been the direction, for all I know. I know there are scenes where director Gavin Hood should have let us breathe more, and been less afraid of cramming so much in. Give us a full thirty seconds or even a minute of silent reaction when something traumatic happens, instead of a Polaroid version that tells us “Ender was distraught,” and then moving on.

Before I conclude, I’d like to point out that I used the word “peccadillo” in this review, to help me sound more intelligent. I think I pulled that off.

Overall, I’d give the film a B- or C+. Three out of five stars. A “mediocre” on the scale from “crapfest” to “fantastic.” See it if you must, but you’re not missing anything amazing.

Your time would probably be better spent reading a good book.

That Time I Spoke with an Irishman and I Was the Drunk One

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ve probably seen my laments about the phone interview I did for an Irish radio station called Phantom 105.2. By email we established the time he would call me:

how about we record an interview next Tuesday 8th October at 6.30am Irish time – that’s 11.30pm for you

So I was expecting his call on Tuesday at 11:30 PM.

He meant Tuesday Irish time. Which means Monday our time. Which means I had already gone to bed. I woke and took the call.

When I hung up 10 minutes later, it occurred to me that I’d been on Ambien the whole time.

From: Randy
To: Joe
Joe, just a quick thanks, and a slighter longer apology – somehow I got it in my head it would Tuesday for ME when you called, and wasn’t expecting your call, so I was zonked out. That wouldn’t be so bad, but I had also taken Ambien a few hours before… in short, I have a very foggy memory of our call, and I hope there was something salvageably entertaining from it.

I’m still shaking my head at myself. Anyway, it was a pleasure speaking with you (if I recall correctly), and if you need anything else from me, say the word.

From: Joe
To: Randy
No problem at all Randy, that’s quite a funny story really! I must admit I was a little bit curious about the tone of your voice, but I just assumed it was the time difference! Anyway, the interview was absolutely fine, trust me, and I’ve attached the audio for you.

Thanks again,


Well, there you go.

Oh. You probably want to HEAR it. Fine, here I am, slightly woozy, with the worst parts edited out. I haven’t listened yet. I’m still too scared.