Mary Russell

As I've said many times before, I have the best job in the world. I get up in the morning, and I get to play board games. On top of that, I get to spend pretty much every minute of every day hanging out with my best friend. There might not be enough hours in the day, but those hours are mine; I'm not spending eight to twelve hours of my day doing what someone else is paying me to do. 

So, I am living a very charmed life indeed, and I count my blessings on a regular basis. I know how lucky I am. I know there're guys and gals who'd give their left arm to have what I have (which, please keep your arm, I presently have a sufficient number of arms thank you). I am deeply grateful to everyone who made this happen - to our customers, to our collaborators, to my Mary, and to almighty providence. In the grand scheme of things, I know that I have very little to be unhappy about. 

Because of that, when I am unhappy, I feel deeply uncomfortable about it. Like I'm somehow squandering my good fortune. Like I'm being ungrateful. Like I shouldn't be allowed to be unhappy. There are other people who are far worse off, who have legitimate reasons to be unhappy, who have earned it. 

Now, I don't want to be unhappy, of course, and being an optimistic sort, I generally trend toward happiness. In fact I would say that I have a talent for finding happiness. It helps that I can throw myself into my work, which I find very fulfilling, and I'm generally able to do so without much outside prompting (I'm a "self-starter", to borrow a cliché from a resume). 

The problem is that I have, for most of my life, struggled with depression. On a chemical level, something clicks and suddenly all my energy is gone. Not only do I not really want to do anything, but I find that even if I force myself, I can't do anything - my brain becomes clumsy and numb. It's such a different experience than the way I am "normally", to the point where it doesn't feel like me

The thing that always strikes me about depression is how very sneaky it is; it has a way of convincing you that this feeling that you're feeling right this minute is the only way you've ever felt, and the only way you'll ever feel. Any evidence you have to the contrary feels far away and distant, and maybe feels like it doesn't matter anymore. When you're making your living as a creative person, it also capitalizes on those little self-doubts and anxieties that are always buzzing quietly about: sure, maybe that game was great, but you'll never do one that great again, and also it actually isn't as great as you'd like to think it is. 

Now, putting aside the chemical component, there's also the environmental side of things. When I was working at my last day job, my depression and anxiety were working overtime, especially in the last stretch. Before I found that job, when we were always this close to losing everything, that depression had twisted me into a very angry and unpleasant person. Now? Now most of that stress is gone. There are things that concern us, sure, and some months are better for us financially than others, but on the whole, with less things to worry about, I spend a lot less time being worried. 

But the depression remains. Some days it's hardly there at all, and I can go about my business, and some days it's very much in full force, and everything grinds to a halt. And, like I said, because of the newer and more agreeable circumstances in which we find ourselves, there's this new twist where I feel churlish and ashamed of the very fact that I'm depressed. If I am the happiest I've ever been - and I am - what business do I have getting down in the dumps? Don't I know there are people with real problems? Maybe I'm not really that happy; maybe I can't ever be happy; maybe the thing I'm feeling right now is all I'll ever be able to feel. 

I know this isn't true, because there are days where I feel like myself. But there is a discomforting permanence to the thing. For most of the last thirty years, it's been there off-and-on, and I'm pretty sure for the next thirty years, it's going to be there off-and-on. There will be days where it's going to crush me, distorting me into something that doesn't much resemble how I like to think of myself, and there will be days when it leaves me alone. Some days are better than others.


  • Thank you for feeling comfortable enough in your skin to share with your friends.

    We’re all very thankful that you can work-through this affliction to bring us all these great games.

    Norm Stewart

  • Coenzyme Q10 deficiency can cause treatment-resistant depression. Supplements are cheap so it’s worth an experiment. If you have money to burn you could look into neurofeedback for a few months. It completely eradicated a bad anxiety problem I had and the effect has persisted for years without having to go back.


  • I suffer with depression every day it seems like and have for most of my life. Your tone and words that you used to convey your feelings and especially the way you write about how bad you feel, feeling depressed, is something we all share and I just wanted to tell you how much courage and strength it takes to write about these things and to let people know how you feel. It is part of living with this disease and it is our way of tackling it head on instead of letting it beat us. True, there are many days when it seems that we are indeed losing the fight, but NEVER give up. Fight the bastard and don’t let him win!

    I and many of us like you stand shoulder to shoulder with you and will fight that good fight together! Never underestimate how strong you really are and take it one day at a time.

    Be well, my friend!


    John David

  • Tom,

    Thank you for this powerful, and obviously very personal, post. While I myself do not suffer from depression, some of my loved ones do. It is very difficult to understand, sometimes, when I am standing on the outside, looking in, watching them struggle. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on your own depression – they have helped me gain a better appreciation for what it must be like to suffer from this terrible disease.

    I recognize that the issue is primarily biological, and, as such, there is very little anyone can say that will help you “feel better”. But I will say that, from what I have seen, you are a very talented designer, and you have every right to be proud of your accomplishments. (Also, you have every right to feel how you feel, happy or unhappy, regardless of your self-perceived level of “success”. Anyone who is happy ALL the time is either mentally ill or just not paying attention. :) )

    I hope this cloud passes from you soon.


    David Chancellor

  • You should keep a journal of everything you eat, and then how you feel an hour after eating it. Or try to see if there is a correlation btw repetitively eating one kind of food(exemple: lots of pasta many days in a row) and how your mood goes. For me, that’s how we finally found that the complete lack of energy and foggy brain was all related to gluten in my case. (I’m not celiac, but gluten still affect me) Gluten isn’T the only one, for other people it might be other stuff, hence the trick of logging everything(food + mood) religiously for at least a month to see if there might be a pattern. HTH


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