out of service

I suffer from depression, and some related issues like anxiety. I was first treated for it in high school, though my condition predates that treatment by some unknown amount. Since that time, I’ve had varying success managing that aspect of myself, but most of the time I can keep it from interfering much with my personal and professional life.

The severity of my condition varies, and lately it has varied…against me. I’m not really functional, due to a combination of random-onset crying, incredible fatigue, (even for me) very high distractability, and virtually no motivation or enjoyment of my usual pleasures and rewards. Because of this, I’m taking some time off work to recover, and during that period Damon Sicore will be assuming my duties. I have complete confidence in Damon, and knowing that he’ll be ably running things is a source of no small comfort.

I am 100% certain that I’m going to be OK. I’ve been through episodes like this before — though it’s been perhaps a decade since the last one of this severity — and I have always come out the other side with a better understanding of myself and improvements to my life. I am intellectually optimistic, even if my emotional state doesn’t often match these days. I could not wish for a more supportive family, circle of friends, and set of co-workers. I’m truly touched by the kind notes and words from so many people already, even though I know that my absence will make their lives harder for a while.

I’m writing about this in some detail because my absence will affect a fair number of people in the project and community; because I want to encourage everyone to help Damon sort out the things I’ve dumped on him; and especially because I think that people don’t talk about mental illness enough. If we could discuss mental illness with the same candor as we do our diets, food allergies, back pain, or diabetes, I think that it would be much easier for people to get the help they need. It is very hard to make good decisions about treatment (like to get some!) when your very mind is working against you; doing it alone is terrifying and for many people virtually impossible. I am incredibly fortunate to have the support, experience, and resources that I do, and it is still a very difficult thing for me to work through. Even as I write this, part of me worries how it will reflect on Mozilla. I just wouldn’t worry about that at all if I had a “physical” ailment.

I’ll likely post more on my blog about this, but not likely syndicate to planet; it’s not really Mozilla-related, other than the fact that Mozilla, like most communities, is probably more affected by mental illness than we realize.

35 comments to “out of service”

  1. entered 16 December 2010 @ 5:07 pm

    I wasn’t at Mozilla very long, but it was still great to work with you, and I hope you are feeling better soon.

  2. entered 16 December 2010 @ 5:25 pm

    Thanks for your courage in posting this. Sending you my prayers on your journey navigating this time. I’ve always appreciated everything you’ve done for the web and Mozilla.

    Best, Brad

  3. entered 16 December 2010 @ 5:27 pm

    I just want to say that I go through the same thing and I wish you the best on your journey to the other side of it.

  4. entered 16 December 2010 @ 5:39 pm

    Good luck, and come back soon.

  5. entered 16 December 2010 @ 6:01 pm

    I agree, you don’t hear enough about the truth of what people go through. And as you said, it makes other people feel like they’re alone in their suffering.

    Your brain is a physical part of your body, therefore this is a physical ailment, it’s just not something we see (like low potassium potentially causing cramps or twitches).

    Hope you feel better soon.

  6. entered 16 December 2010 @ 6:12 pm

    Wish you best Mike. Your story is a great example of courage (in these times at least) and I´ll make sure to keep it and share it as well. Thanks for that.

    My deepest best wishes for you to feel good in no time.

  7. RyanVM
    entered 16 December 2010 @ 6:30 pm

    Best wishes to you.

  8. entered 16 December 2010 @ 6:43 pm

    Get well soon! =)

  9. Tiffney
    entered 16 December 2010 @ 6:58 pm

    Take care and we’ll see you when you feel better!

  10. entered 16 December 2010 @ 7:23 pm

    “especially because I think that people don’t talk about mental illness enough”

    Certainly true, so I think it’s good that you made this post. I think if it reflects on Mozilla at all, it reflects positively, as it appears that Mozilla as an employer and a community is supportive and open about this, and those are good qualities to have. Anyway, I hope you get through this episode as easily and quickly as possible.

  11. neil
    entered 16 December 2010 @ 8:06 pm

    As someone who has suffered from depression and who has loved ones that deal with it every day, I appreciate very much the openness here. From what I know of you, though, this is no surprise. Feel well soon.

  12. Huns Warst
    entered 16 December 2010 @ 8:07 pm

    Wow, I find it quite amazing how you can be be so open about this. I guess some people can feel with you to some extend at these cold and dark times of the year.

  13. cuz84d
    entered 16 December 2010 @ 8:11 pm

    I totally know what your going through, its not easy for anyone, as I have found out myself, and know that the Good Lord Jesus is there for you, even if your not feeling very social.

    -Dennis

  14. Kyle Huey
    entered 16 December 2010 @ 8:12 pm

    Hope you take the time you need to get better and that we see you around these parts again once you’re ready.

  15. Peter Kasting
    entered 16 December 2010 @ 8:45 pm

    Hey Mike, best wishes. I suffer from depression as well and know some of what you speak. In my case I’m on a good medication regimen and have some helpful therapists. I’m glad you have a strong support system. Hope you pull through soon.

    PK

  16. Wan Li
    entered 16 December 2010 @ 9:35 pm

    Good Luck.

  17. Matthias Versen
    entered 16 December 2010 @ 10:03 pm

    Get well soon and I hope you will return to us (the Mozilla community) someday.

  18. JT
    entered 16 December 2010 @ 11:33 pm

    Thank you for your leadership within Mozilla and, frankly more importantly, your leadership around mental illness.

  19. entered 17 December 2010 @ 2:54 am

    Shaver,

    I’m very impressed that you took the time to write this; it takes a lot of courage to talk about a subject such as mental health, and as someone who can totally identify with the problems you describe, I not only thank you for being so candid, but sincerely hope you find a speedy, yet proper–whatever that means for you–recovery.

    Having experienced Mozilla in all its… Mozillaness, I can’t help but notice that this is a consistent theme, over… well, more a decade now, among many individuals involved with Mozilla.

    I can’t help but wonder if some of this is inflicted by the Mozilla community itself: workaholics are welcome, alcohol as self-medication is ignored (encouraged?), and any discussion of the impacts of Mozilla’s work is considered a weakness (with, depending on who you are and who has your back, some very serious consequences).

    I very much hope that you take the time you need now, but I also hope that these (admittedly difficult) questions will be considered upon your return on a more basic, organizational level.

    I do wonder how many fundamentally good people would still be involved with the project if someone with your courage had spoken out about this issue earlier.

    Get well soon, sir.

    Sincerely, Preed

  20. entered 17 December 2010 @ 3:28 am

    Hey Mike -

    You are a model for us all. Courage such as yours should not be necessary…. but it is! You are right: acknowledging your illness and seeking help (from friends and medical people) is the best way to handle it. I hope they get you through to the other side quickly and thoroughly.

    Esther

  21. jan
    entered 17 December 2010 @ 3:29 am

    Mike, I’ve been in similar situation and still am a bit. My problems was mostly work related and consequence of one of the five poisons … greed in my case. It got me very absent which caused: incredible fatigue, no motivation at all, sometimes depression, bad digestion, candida, etc, etc, etc. A year ago I started to change my way of life and now I’m slowly starting to enjoy my life as I can’t remember the last time I was.

    I think that you made right decision!

  22. entered 17 December 2010 @ 3:40 am

    “…people don’t talk about mental illness enough…” I agree with you 100%. The less we know about the disorder or illness and its causes and consequences, the more we will fear and overreact. Just imagine we did not know how AIDS is transmitted.

    I also “suffer from depression, and some related issues…”, was diagnosed in 1992 and follow a continuous drug treatment since then. But this has not kept me from getting a University degree, working, marrying, and even engaging in some political activities. Sometimes I need a break as well. Thank you for speaking out. God bless you!

  23. skierpage
    entered 17 December 2010 @ 4:10 am

    I’m sorry to hear about your Black Dog. As you say, knowing one will get through it and feeling that things will get better are two very different things, may you get both soon!

  24. entered 17 December 2010 @ 4:48 am

    Agree entirely. I’m not supposed to be functional either, but somehow I can battle on regardless. Hope things get better soon!

  25. entered 17 December 2010 @ 5:06 am

    Remember to take all of the time you need to come through this. In the really big picture the Mozilla project is not really important. Even though we something think it’s the most important thing in life. But it’s not.

  26. entered 17 December 2010 @ 3:00 pm

    Thanks for the courageous post; my family struggles as well. Hope you feel better soon.

  27. entered 17 December 2010 @ 7:20 pm

    Well said Mike. I went through a serious episode about 15 years ago and only came out the other side by talking about it. Be well.

  28. entered 18 December 2010 @ 7:37 pm

    Mike, I admire you: up till now I didn’t have the courage myself to say to the public “I suffer from depression”. You are right: it would be much better if we could talk about it like about any other “usual” illness. That’s probably one of the reasons, why it took me two years to just admit to myself, that’s something is not right with me and I can’t fight it myself. That’s also why up till now I didn’t talk about it with anyone beside my family and closest friends… So: thank you. Thank you for your courage – it really helped me to find the courage, to do the same. Just by writing this down, I feel relieved. Relieved of hiding this “secret” from everyone.

    (and BTW: It was thanks to an other mozillian’s blog post, that I discovered that I’m an aspie. Unfortunately, Asperger, computer science and depression go somehow too often hand in hand…)

    Since 2009 I’m on medical treatment – and I think the worst is behind me by now. I hope you’ll feel better soon too. Try to do what you ever wanted to do and always felt, like you didn’t have the time to do it – that’s probably what helped me the most.

  29. entered 21 December 2010 @ 2:23 am

    Thanks Mike. This helped me.

  30. entered 21 December 2010 @ 7:57 am

    Mike,

    You don’t know me, and I don’t know you, but after reading your blog post, I felt the need to comment. As a sufferer of depression and axiety disorders myself, I understand in a very personal way what you are experiencing. What touches me most is your honesty – and the courage that such honesty requires – and I wanted to thank you for that. I too look forward to a day when mental illness is regarded as no diffrent than diabetes, hypertension and other physical disorders. Stay strong; the clouds will part. Know that I am with you in spirit.

    John McConnell

  31. entered 21 December 2010 @ 9:24 am

    I can relate to certain parts of your situation. I understand how hard it can be to deal with those circumstances. I hope you come around quickly. God bless.

  32. Ryan Doherty
    entered 8 January 2011 @ 7:49 pm

    Hey Mike, just wanted to say I know how you feel and hope you start feeling better soon. I’ve battled depression and anxiety since high school and know it’s not easy. The hardest step is making the decision to get help and I’m glad you did it.

    -Ryan

  33. entered 11 January 2011 @ 4:16 pm

    Hey, Mike, I just wanted to offer my support and commiserations. I suffered debilitating depression through my teens and twenties, though somehow I seemed to escape the Black Dog a decade or so ago (good riddance and knock on wood). I know how difficult it is to convey to people (or even sometimes to understand yourself) how different chronic depression is from mere sadness or ennui, and how divorced from the context of real events around you, and what a struggle it is to fight against it.

    I’m glad to hear you have such an excellent support network, and I hope to see you back soon, kicking ass for the Web.

    -Doug

  34. entered 14 January 2011 @ 10:00 am

    [...] Several weeks ago, I stopped working because, put simply, I was not able to work. My depression had gone right through its usual winter intensification, and all the way to basically rendering me non-functional. I was unable to muster the energy, or usually even the motivation, to start to get better, and even once I was no longer able to work it took me several days to go through the process of finding a doctor to work with. Merely digging up my phone and telling people that I wasn’t going to work was such effort that I would literally collapse crying after. [...]

  35. entered 14 January 2011 @ 4:30 pm

    Thank you for this brave post and keeping the conversation around depression open. This post gives me hope. Take care of yourself.