In the Tall Grass: What Depression Looks Like

Earlier this week, I wrote something on Facebook that was rather candid. The post concerned my struggles with depression, which has been rather difficult to deal with for the last several weeks. There were a lot of supportive things said by a lot of wonderful people I’m fortunate enough to call friends and family. One in particular, my dear friend (and fantastic author) Elisa Lorello, mentioned that the post would be validating for others.

So, I’m writing this because it might be useful to someone else. Not just for those who deal with depression on a daily basis, but for those who struggle to understand what depression is. There’s a common misconception that people who suffer from depression can simply “choose” to be happy, or that they can be cheered up. Those who are fortunate enough not to have bad brain chemistry have a hard time understanding how someone can just be sad or tired all the time.

My hope is that maybe this post will illuminate some things for those folks, while assuring those who are dealing with their demons that you aren’t alone. I’m right here in this trench with you.

This is my back yard. I haven’t mowed this bastard in three weeks. You can’t tell all that much from the photo, but the grass is ridiculously high. I don’t own a riding lawnmower. I only have a push-mower. The deck on the lawnmower only goes so high, and when the grass gets to be this length, I have a difficult time chopping it down. The blade gets gummed up, the chute gets clogged, and the whole thing chokes until the engine dies. The result is an uneven cut, erratic streaks in the grass, and a lot of raking.

I hate mowing my lawn. I’ve always hated mowing, period. Even when I lived with my parents, when I worked for my stepdad’s landscaping company, I hated mowing. And what I hate more than mowing, is mowing grass when it’s tall and thick. In the ironic scheme of things, if I have to mow, I’m going to do it often so that it’s easier.

For the last three weeks, I’ve known that I need to mow the grass. It’s there. I can see it getting longer every day. I know that every day I wait, it’s going to be that much harder to cut. I know these things…and yet I have zero motivation to do anything about it. Wait, even that’s not true. I’m motivated, but I lack the energy. I’m mentally exhausted, which makes me feel physically exhausted as well. It’ll be fine, I think. It’ll keep another day. It won’t be so bad. 

And then the next day comes. The cycle repeats. The grass slowly gets longer, taller.

Let me give you some insight into my daily routine these last few weeks. I get up, I go to work at a job I hate, where the physical act of being there makes my skin crawl and my heart palpitate, and then I go home and sleep for an hour to an hour and a half. Then I wake up, I eat, I write, sometimes I read, and then I go back to sleep for seven, maybe eight hours. And then the cycle repeats itself.

On the weekends, I sleep until about 10 AM. I get up, I feed the cats, I go back to bed until noon or so, I get up, I write for a bit, I have lunch, I go back to bed, I sleep for three or four hours, I wake up, have dinner, maybe I write, maybe I watch a movie, sometimes I play a video game, and then I go back to bed, I sometimes read, sometimes watch a movie, and always sleep. And then the cycle repeats itself.

That’s been my life for the last several weeks. No, even that’s a lie. That’s been my life for pretty much all summer long. I can ramble off a laundry list of things that might have triggered this. The bitch of it is, by the time I started realizing that I’m dealing with a bout of depression, I was already in the thick of it.

Months have passed. My daily and weekly routines have suffered. Writing and my day job have been the two consistent things I’ve been able to keep up with, and I think that’s entirely out of necessity–one to pay the bills, one because I’m genuinely excited about it. Publishing projects with Precipice that I’d hoped to get squared away this summer have collected dust. Events I’d hoped to attend came and went. It’s like I’ve been in a coma all summer that I’m just waking up from.

This is depression, friends. This is what it looks like. This photo here isn’t the face of someone who isn’t sleeping. It’s the face of someone who is sleeping too much. I look at this and see a man who’s let things pass him by or fall to the wayside. I see a man who’s tired of feeling tired.

And the grass…well, the grass is really fucking tall right now. It’s out of control.

Yesterday, I started working on it. I gassed up the mower, raised the deck as high as it would go, cleared the chute, and started on my front yard. It did not go well. Even with the deck as high as possible, the mower still choked and died a few times. A ten-minute patch of grass took me almost an hour to clear. Even now, it looks shitty. The paths are erratic, there are some uneven streaks where the blade failed because it couldn’t cut fast enough, and there was so much cut grass afterward that I had to rake it up.  The mower couldn’t mulch it on its own.

But I kept at it. I took it slow, one pass at a time. It wasn’t perfect, and there’s still a lot left to do, but the important part is that I broke the cycle. That’s the hardest part about depression, I think. It’s rediscovering the motivation to do something about it. It’s finding the will to ignore that voice telling you to let things go for another day. That voice is a liar.

Living with depression is a struggle. Some days ebb and flow. Some days you win, some days you don’t. And it never goes away.

All you can do is take it one pass at a time. Do it enough times and all those choppy places will start to even out. Try to stay on top of it, because the grass will keep growing, and mowing it is a real bitch.


Early #ULT Reviews!

A pair of early ULT reviews hit the internet this week. Check ’em out:

From HorrorAddicts.Net:

“Ugly Little Things is a book about the human spirit, but the human spirit doesn’t always triumph. Even when you get what you want, there is a dark side to it, and that’s what Ugly Little Things is about. This is a book that’s shocking and disturbing, but most of all, it’s a look at what happens to people when they can’t handle the horror of life.”

From Uncaged Book Reviews:

“A collection of various horrors all of them with their own little twists and turns […] You won’t need the lights on but you may need to check under your bed before you go to sleep. I hear those dolls have a great story to tell you. Sweet dreams tonight.”

UGLY LITTLE THINGS: COLLECTED HORRORS is available now for pre-order on Amazon Kindle. Paperback edition pre-orders will be available later this month.




I was provided a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I’m going to be honest: I rarely finish reading anthologies. Sometimes, the work just doesn’t resonate with me; other times, I simply don’t have enough time to read through it before the Next Big Thing on my reading list is released. So, when I accepted an ARC of Behold! Oddities, Curiosities, and Undefinable Wonders, I did so with the explanation that I’d try to have a review ready for launch day, but would make no promises.

But then something happened that almost never happens for me: I read the whole thing, and here I am, writing a review on launch day.

Every story in Behold! is excellent. With a lineup like this, you can’t really go wrong. Check this out: Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Ramsey Campbell, Lisa Morton, Brian Kirk, Hal Bodner, Stephanie M. Wytovich, John Langan, Erinn L. Kemper, John F.D. Taff, Patrick Freivald, Lucy A. Snyder, Brian Hodge, Kristi DeMeester, Christopher Coake, Sarah Read, and Richard Thomas.

I won’t recap all the stories here—I’ll leave those for you to discover—but I do want to give mention to several stand-out favorites in the collection:

  • Brian Kirk’s “Wildflower, Cactus, Rose.”
  • Hal Bodner’s “The Baker of Millepoix.”
  • John Langan’s “Madame Painte: For Sale.”
  • Erinn L. Kemper’s “Amelia’s Wake.”
  • Patrick Freivald’s “Ed Pruitt’s Smoker.”
  • Sarah Read’s “Through Gravel.”
  • Stephanie Wyotivich’s “An Exhibition of Mother and Monsters.”

Each story will take you through a gauntlet of emotions, and I feel like these pieces best exemplify what Doug was going for in this collection: the bizarre, the unsettling, the fantastic, the magical, and the heartbreaking.

Doug Murano has done a wonderful job curating this collection. From the cover art by John Coulthart, to the interior design by Lori Michelle and illustrations by Luke Spooner, to the content itself, this book is a full package of speculative tales that lives up to its promise, a carnival sideshow of prose and poetry that will spark your imagination and break your heart.

Buy it!


NECON: A Hug in Conference Form

Erica and I have returned from NECON 37. We had a wonderful time, met lots of wonderful people, and reconnected with old friends. Like last year, I’ve returned with a renewed sense of purpose and drive. I’m energized, ready to work, ready to produce something that represents the best of my abilities. And I have the folks at NECON to thank for that. During the long drive home yesterday, I had a lot of time to think about why that is. What is it about being around my friends and peers that replenishes the well, so to speak? Is it a collective energy? Is it knowing that I’m not alone on this weird path toward…well, whatever I’m working toward?

Maybe that’s it. I used to believe that writing is a lonely gig, and the act of doing it usually is, but in the greater scheme, writing is communal. There are many of us. We’re all dealing with the same issues, the same ailments, the same struggles. Whether it’s how to progress in your WIP, or which agent to query, or which publisher to work with, we’re all there together in some way. When one of us succeeds, we all cheer; and when one of us falls, we all mourn. Last year, I told my wife I felt like a real author for the first time after attending. I felt accepted.

This year, I still feel that way. Perhaps even more so now, after further experiences at NECON. My only regret is that I didn’t get to meet or make connections with everyone.

NECON is a big hug. It’s a hug from your peers, saying “Hey, you’re normal here.” They’re saying, “You’re part of our family.” And I am. I’m honored to be a part of it.

So, before I wrap this up, and before I get even more emotional about this, allow me to recap some personal highlights:

  • Having a late lunch with Brian Kirk, Jonathan Lees, Martel Sardina, Lynne Hansen, and Jeff Strand at Flo’s Oyster Shack.
  • Embarrassing myself in front of Brian and Jonathan by trying to demonstrate (poorly) how to open a beer bottle on a door jamb (spoiler: I ended up covered in beer).
  • Spending my evenings drinking with Nikki Nelson-Hicks and her husband, Brian, whom I met for the first time this weekend.
  • Discussing WIPs, graphic design, and a mutual love for all things Evil Dead with Catherine Scully.
  • Chatting with Brian Kirk about publishing, his next novel, and his vision for its marketing plan (which will be incredible when executed).
  • My novella, The Final Reconciliation, receiving a mention during Friday’s panel about the best books of the year (thanks, Frank!).
  • Chatting with Barry Lee Desaju about his artwork and photography.
  • Drinking scotch with Catherine Grant.
  • Discussing podcasts and writing multiple projects with Gemma Files.
  • Meeting and having dinner with Laird Barron and John Langan. The conversation here was probably the highlight of the weekend for me, affirming that I was on the right track, and inspiring me to do more with my work. I won’t share details–that’s something I’m going to keep for myself.
  • Meeting and chatting with Tom Deady, who is probably one of the nicest guys in the world.
  • Attending the many panels, which were all insightful and encouraging. Special mention goes to the Weird Fiction panel, the Guests of Honor panel, and the Collections panel which was interrupted by a fire alarm. I wish the latter had concluded, as it was a rather great discussion.
  • Imbibing Nate Kenyon’s bottle of viscous, licorice-flavored poison. The drink worked its magic so well that I questioned if any of it had really happened. True story.
  • Meeting Ed Kurtz. The guy’s voice is pure noir, and he spelled my name with three Fs.
  • Finally meeting Pete Kahle, after somehow missing him at least year’s conference.
  • Hugs from Linda Addison, Bracken MacLeod, and James Moore.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten others (and if so, my dearest apologies), but it’s late and my mind is racing. Thank you, NECON. It’s the warm hug I needed. This time last year, I started working on the story that became The Final Reconciliation. This year, I’m going back to finish a draft of Devil’s Creek. I’ll see you all on the other side.