The black pit of despair

The year’s been hell, I think most everyone agrees. For me, in addition to all the external problems, I’ve been fighting with depression ranging from bothersome to near-crippling.

This is not advice, this is not a magic solution. This is a unordered collection of thoughts and observations with no real purpose other than writing them down.

This is not new, I’ve struggled with this for 8 or so years, probably longer. The events of this year have made it way worse however, partially by adding a massive external stress and uncertainty and partially by removing several of my escapes. No weekend gaming sessions, no afternoons at a coffee shop, no browsing a book shop for a couple hours, no trips to the coast. And even though I’m usually fine alone, the weeks of solitude sometimes broken by only a couple of meetings has been hard. The cats are good company but not great conversationalists.

Easy things are hard, hard things are near-impossible. On the worst days, something as trivial as making lunch is a challenge, not because it’s inherently difficult, but because of all the sub-steps. Deciding what to have, cooking whatever it is (or thawing out frozen stuff), remembering that something’s in the oven before it evolves into carbon, etc. There’s been many days when it was easier to just get another cup of coffee and a handful of nuts, or just a cup of coffee.

Focusing on something for any significant amount of time is hard. I’ve resorted to pommodoro timers, adjusted to 5 minutes/1 minute and it kinda works. Most of the time.

I’ve found that a good measure of how well I’m doing is the size of the laundry pile. Currently it’s about three machine-loads in size.

I have just about no interest in new tech. This is, obviously, not a good thing.

I think I’ve read maybe 15 books this year. Compared to my usual of around 70, that’s not great.

What I’m going to try and do from next year (4 hours time at this writing) is:

  • Spend at least half an hour outside every day, with a book. I spent a lot of time and money on the balcony, and it’s now at the point where it’s nice to sit out on it. I wish I had a real garden, but, block of flats, so no.
  • Not go to bed at 2AM. Bad habit here, needs to stop
  • Write more. Here and on my personal blog. This is going to be…. difficult.
  • Try and focus on an online course and spend some time each week on it. This is also going to be difficult.


  1. Jen McCown

    Well done finding the motivation to write this. Much of this sounds familiar, for myself, family members, and/or other friends. (The note about the bookstore in particular is…relevant.)

    I hope, like me, you have folks you keep in touch with regularly to vent, to get feedback, to get motivation. If not, always feel free to DM me.

  2. Tim Ford

    Gail, you’re not alone in going through this, you’re separated from so many also going through this. I am one of those people. While not identical in symptoms, these are similar enough. I hope you find improvement through your planned changes. If not, please keep trying. I look forward to seeing you again as this settles out.

  3. Garland MacNeill

    2020 has truly been a dumpster fire of a year. Here’s to hoping 2021 is a better year…for everyone.

  4. Kimberly L. Tripp

    Gail – 2020 has been a terribly difficult year. I’d seriously consider even some light meds. I started having hot flashes and my doctor gave me a drug that is meant for that but also has “happy” side effects and it’s really helped me through a lot of stuff (even though that wasn’t the main reason). There are even better ones too… But, I like your plans too. And, know that you have a lot of folks out here to chat with! Twitter / email. We’re around! Hugs and happiness to a wonderful New Year!

    1. Gail (Post author)

      On the subject of meds, my doctor is not recommending or suggesting any, and I intend to follow his advice.

      p.s. need more pictures of your cats. Didn’t realise you had 7 until Paul’s blog post.

  5. Richard

    Hi Gail,

    Very sorry to hear of you situation.

    Please do seek medical advice, and, if you have already, seek more. This could be a minor chemical imbalance and easily fixed.

    Protect yourself. You give back so much to the community; now’s the time to give back to yourself.

    Be strong and stay great.

  6. Jesse R.

    Hi Gail,

    I’m so sorry to hear how you’re feeling. For what it’s worth, I’ve been a fan of your blog posts, articles, SQL Server Central advice, essays, and books for probably fifteen years now. As far as I’m concerned, you’re an absolute legend.

    From my perspective things look bad right now, and might get worse, BUT…the vaccines are coming. There is an end in sight to the pandemic. And eventually things will go back to normal of some semblance of it. Maybe even a better version of normal.

    So please hang in there. We, your SQL Server admirers, are rooting for you, your success, and your insane genius ability.

    And since I never said it before, thanks for everything you’ve given to me and the community. I personally have learned so much from you since I started in this business.


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