“Sick days”

This essay originally appeared as Issue 102 of the UX Writing Events newsletter on September 26, 2022.

I’ve written and deleted at least three drafts of this issue. Draft being a generous way to describe them. Ranty rabbitholes, meandering messes. I started writing about how feedback on your writing from stakeholders shouldn’t be taken as literal instructions, and then I tried to find meaning in what feels like the entire content design community feeling seen by my fake but all too real job description. I don’t even remember what the third thing was. Couldn’t take any of it anywhere.

It’s more effortful to write to you all some weeks than others, sure, but yesterday (Sunday) was spectacularly bad. I just wasn’t feeling well and am not doing well, emotionally. My dysthymia by nature is a constant companion I’ve become accustomed to, and doesn’t usually hold me back. But sometimes it’s the start of a toxic tincture of deeper depression, anxiety, and grief. I’m thinking about the box and the ball now; my button got whammied hard by, of all things, a vintage Hallmark commercial for Rodney Reindeer, buried in the mix of an up-until-then enjoyable mix of 80s commercials I’d put on in the background while I was working. Not really a content warning that can help with that one.

If I didn’t work for myself I’d have taken a sick day today, maybe this whole week. Over my life, be it work or school, I’d wager that >90% of my “sick” days have been for depression or another form of emotional overwhelm. But I’m here, because I feel I need to send this newsletter; because I don’t want to let people down, because it feels good to persevere and be able to say “I did the thing”, and because every one of these I send is a chance someone will see and decide to register for one of my workshops or other undertakings, which helps keep me housed and fed and insured, which are also important ingredients for living through depression.

When you talk to people about this kind of thing they will say things that sound kind and come from a good place, but are not particularly helpful and can even be harmful. “You’re working too much, just take a break!” or “you should get yourself a little treat” or “I like a good long walk when I’m feeling that way”. Friend, I have walked holes through my Darn Toughs trying to wear out the black dog. He is relentless.

I’m inclined to trash this draft as well, but then I wouldn’t have anything to share with you all. I have found over 100+ issues now that sometimes when I am feeling not very good, and I write about that, and send it, other people say “hey, I am also not feeling very good, but it was nice to read that and I feel a little less alone now.” So I send this with that spirit in mind. Hope you’re all well as can be.

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