on a long run, on a long run

I went to my doctor yesterday, and told him how crummy I’ve been feeling. We talked about a lot of different things, and ultimately decided that it was probably a good idea to change up my brain pills. This morning, I started something new, and I really feel a lot better. I honestly don’t care if it’s a placebo effect at this point, but the end result is the same: I don’t feel despondent, depressed, and shitty about myself.

“You are very hard on yourself,” he told me yesterday.

“I know,” I said, “I just have really high expectations that I want to meet, and with all these incredibly successful friends …” I trailed off because I felt like I was starting to feel sorry for myself.

“Being judgmental about what you make or don’t make doesn’t help you at all,” he said, “you have to do your best every day, even if your best isn’t what you want it to be.”

I knew he was right, and I knew that it was my depression getting in between me knowing that was right, and accepting that it was right. That’s one of the incredibly frustrating things about depression: I can know that the way I feel is just my brain chemicals being messed up, but whether I accept it or not, the end result is the same: I feel awful. It’s a little unfair that it doesn’t work in both directions, but after living with it for my whole life, I can tell you that depression doesn’t care about being fair; it’s really a dick that way.

My doctor said that I was very clear-eyed about my mental illness (psychologists call people like me “the identified patient”), and because I could be rational even when I was feeling irrational, he wanted me to try some cognitive therapy. “When you feel bad, when you are thinking and feeling that you’re worthless or anything like that, I want you to recognize it, and then make an effort to replace those bad feelings with good ones.

“When you are feeling bad about a job you didn’t get, think about a job that you did get, that you feel good about. When you feel bad about not finishing a story, recognize that feeling, and remember how you felt when you published something you’re proud of.”

“That sounds like something I can do,” I said, “and it sounds like it may help me break out of the cycle of depression telling me a suck, then making me feel terrible because I believe that I suck, which makes me depressed, which lets depression tell me that I suck.” I imagined a particularly ugly ouroboros wrapping itself around me.

I don’t think this means that I don’t allow myself to feel disappointment, or frustration, or any of the other emotions that I think we all need to feel to be a fully-functional human. I think this means that I don’t let my mental illness take something like feeling unsure about where a story goes next and turning it into the Very Certain And Unshakable Belief That I Am A Worthless And Stupid And Idiotic Loser Who Everyone Knows Really Sucks. Not, um, that I’ve felt like that a whole lot lately, or anything like that. Um. Right.


Let’s get started, shall we? This weekend, Anne and I went to the mall to pick up some fancy pants I had tailored. While we were there, we noticed that the big old men’s clothing sale was happening, yadda yadda yadda I got three awesome suits for less than the cost of one, if they weren’t on sale.

Guys: it turns out that your beautiful wife telling you, “WOW, you look great in that suit,” is a powerful motivator for buying that suit. And two others. Because reasons.

After we were finished getting them tailored, Anne had to get on the phone to handle a bunch of #VandalEyes business, so I went into the bookstore until she was done. On my way to the Science Fiction section, I stopped to take this picture of their Tabletop game section:


While I was taking this picture, a young man cautiously approached me. “Mister … Mister Wheaton?” He said.

“That’s me!” I said.

“I love your show Tabletop! You are the reason my friends and I play games, and I’m actually here today to find something for one of them.”

I put my phone into my pocket. “That is really awesome,” I said. “The main reason I make Tabletop is to inspire other people to play games.”

He swallowed, nodded, and said, “um, would you, uh … would you help me pick out a game for my friend?”

My heart grew three sizes. “I would love to do that!”

I asked him a bunch of questions about the games they like to play together, his friend’s level of experience, and how much he wanted to spend. Ultimately, he settled on Ticket To Ride. He shook my hand, thanked me several times, and walked away, happily.

“I’m so sorry to bother you,” a voice said behind me. I turned and saw a young woman with a nametag that indicated she worked in the store.

“Yes?” I said.

“This is my section,” she said, pointing to the games, “and it’s here because of your show, Tabletop.”

My heart grew another three sizes.

“We order all the games you play on your show, and we usually sell out of whatever you’ve just played right away.”

“That’s really cool!” I said.

We talked about the games that she had in the section, and I recommended a few new ones for her, including Hive, Love Letter, and Coup.

“I’ll see if I can convince my manager to let me order those,” she said. “Anyway, I don’t want to take up any more of your time. I just wanted to thank you for your show, and for everything you do.”

“It’s my pleasure,” I said, “and it really means a lot to me that you took the time to tell me that.” I started to walk back to the Sci-Fi Books, and stopped. I turned back. “If your distributor doesn’t know what’s coming up on Tabletop — and they should, but if they don’t — please e-mail me and I’ll give you the release schedule, so you can know what to order.”

“That would be great,” she said.

“Awesome.” We shook hands, and I walked back to the Sci-Fi books. Before I could really figure out if I was going to get anything, my phone chirped in my pocket. It was Anne. She was off the phone, and didn’t want to go on a quest to find me in the store. “I’ll be right out,” I replied.

I walked past that Tabletop game section, which was absolutely huge — even bigger than the entire Sci-Fi and Fantasy book section, combined, and a little voice in my head said, “it’s okay to feel a little proud about this.” I listened to it.

I’m still frustrated and disappointed when I see a character on a TV show or in a film that I clearly could have played, but didn’t even get to audition for (a casting director recently told my agent that they would not even see me for a role, because “Wil Wheaton can’t play someone in his late 30s,” even though I’m 41, with two children in their 20s, and just letting me spend thirty fucking seconds in their goddamn office to see how I look now and how I interpret the role may change their mind). I’m still frustrated and disappointed that I haven’t produced any original work of fiction of any consequence in a year, and that I haven’t finished Memories of the Future Volume 2.

BUT — and it’s a big but* — instead of focusing on those things, and feeling like I’m being crushed into a singularity by a black hole of depression, I can look at the show I created and brought to life with some very talented people, that is having a very real and lasting impact on a lot of people, in a very positive way.

When I look at the writing I haven’t finished, I can look at the calendar and see all the times I was working on a video game or an audiobook or an animated show, and was on the road to promote Tabletop, and honestly accept that there just wasn’t that much time to write the things I wanted to write, because I was busy working on other things.

I can stop being so hard on myself, and I can stop judging myself, and I can stop holding myself up to standards that are so high, even the people I’m comparing myself to every day would have a hard time reaching them.

Or, at least, I can try, and I can do my best, because that’s all I can do.

*hurr hurr hurr

500 thoughts on “on a long run, on a long run”

  1. Thank you – I read this as I was attempting to crawl out from a 2 day deep depression. THANK YOU, Wil.

    – Australia

  2. As a multi-talented renaissance man, you also have the courage to share your humanity with us, and some hard-earned wisdom for spice. Thank-you for sharing your journey with us.

  3. Wil, I would never admit this to my wife because I’m too proud a man, but I deal with depression every day. It’s the same shit. I’m very hard on myself. Every time I cook a great meal for someone I get this rush, but it doesn’t matter how many people love my food, it only takes one mistake to tear it all down. My wife tells me the same thing, ” Celebrate the successes and remember them when you start to feel bad. Make a list of the good things and compare them to the bad things that have happened during the day.” Thank you for sharing your story. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone.

  4. Sometimes I don’t think you realize just how much of a difference the little things you do matter. I remember when I reached out to you on Twitter about a beer question, when I got a response, and then another “real time” response when I replied I almost fell off my chair, I was having a “real life conversation” with Wil Flipping Wheaton!! As a SW/ST nerd when I told my wife I felt like I was being a total nerd about it! I admire the work you and your wife do with your humane society and it inspires me to do more with ours! Just the fact that you open your life to people is amazing. Keep on doing the things you do!!

  5. Awesome, sir. I too suffer from Clinical Depression and OCD (my whole life) and you have put it succinctly. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Thanks. I’ve been on an anti-depressant since May and am struggling every day. Hearing people such as yourself be honest about your depression helps me to be honest with myself and with those around me. And being honest helps a lot. I never realized how much faking happiness made things worse until I had the courage to start being honest. Now those around me help me find things to really be happy about, rather than being fake.

  7. Thank you for explaining this condition in a way I have never been able to. Sometimes it helps to know others understand. I wish you well.

  8. Thanks. I’m working on pulling myself out of a pit right now…almost there, but making progress…thanks, it helps.

  9. Hey Wil,

    Something else you might think about during one of those times when the Beast has you in its clutches is this. Consider how many of us follow you. We read what you write, and watch what you do. Not just because we like your work but because we like you. Because you have put your self, your real self out there and been a real person with us and we like that person. It’s rare that a person in the public eye is willing and able to do that. Most people (and understandably so) give us a very carefully crafted impersonation of themselves. And that’s fine, hell that’s probably even for the best in most cases. But you’ve had the balls to be a full on human being, weirdness and wonderfulness and all. Or to quote a former starship captain, “Wil Wheaton your my hero.” 😉 And yay on your table top gaming show being such a hit. I don’t really play that stuff (small town, isolation, plus well kinda anti social *L*) but I thing anything that gets people involved in play is awesome.

    Anyway I’m bibbling. Bottom line you are an awesome person and I am glad that you are fighting the Beast. No one deserves to feel like they are worth nothing.

  10. Thanks for sharing this article, D.M. Evans. And thank you for sharing your struggle with Depression, Wil. I feel deeply inspired and hopeful. I think I’ve seen just about everything you’ve done acting-wise and in my humble opinion, you’ve always done your roles justice. I’m an avid gamer but hadn’t heard about Tabletop until now. I’m off to check it out and share it on Facebook and on our gaming community website (www.dragonshadowclan.com). Respect!

  11. Thank you. It helps to have someone remind me that I am not the only one and to remember what I have done.

  12. Will, as a recovering perfectionist who is prone to bouts of depression, I thank you for posting this and letting the rest of us know we are in good company whether we always realize it at the time. Love yourself! Emotionally treat yourself the way you would love to have others treat you in an ideal world. It builds a gratitude within that makes it easy to live in the right now in a happy way, instead of wandering the kingdom of broken dreams and what-ifs and If-onlys. Strength and courage for the journey!

  13. I have bipolar II, which includes *lots* of depression. My doc and I have my brain drugs at a pretty good place, but I still have several rules I try to live by: Celebrate the small victories. Progress means moving on to new and different mistakes. Don’t get bored, for therein lies the road to a miserable depression. Feel your feelings, even the scary ones.

    Thank you Will, for being so open about your situation.

  14. I’ve always been “xtra sensitive”, but after some (more) trauma 12 years ago, I’ve had to come to terms with being “differently abled- mentally”. Thanks for your courage in sharing your struggles. We’re not alone. I recently have had some success switching up my meds & it’s really extraordinary to realize that CHEMICALS affect me SO dramatically. I fantasize about having my brain cut open after my death & the Docs are stunned at my ability to have functioned AT ALL. Have a great week. BTW- your stuff on Big Bang is terrific.

  15. Dude,
    You are not alone.
    I’ve spent most of my life in law enforcement and due to circumstances beyond my control, I can’t do it anymore. It was my life. It was how I defined myself.
    You’re going through a dry spell. It happens to all artists. I know. I run a con for artists, by artists. It happens, but you’re still doing what you need to do even if your audience is smaller.
    Stay strong. It’ll get better.


  16. It seems to me that I see you at least as much as other celebrities on television or what not (though not on tv). Perhaps your carrier is merely different. It might just be my opinion but it seems like you have a much more direct way of entertaining the fans than most. Rather than having to impress executives or fulfill contract specified expectations you seem to have found a way to express yourself more as you please. I have no idea if this translates financially (or if at this point that matters much to you). In the end if getting to present and express yourself as you choose while entertaining lots of people is your plan, then you are winning. I’d say never to measure success by your expectations or assumptions of others. I for one really enjoy watching you play games and cheer for joy when you actually get to win from time to time. :)

  17. Wil, I deal with depression, anxiety, and extreme self-doubt everyday. It is good to see that someone else who has similar issues can push forward and keep going. You are very inspiring.
    It is also very heart-warming to hear that you deal so well with your fans/being recognized, when you are approached in public.

  18. Dear Mr. Wheaton,

    You, sir, are a scholar and a gentleman. I’d love to see/hear yourself and Stephen Fry sit down and have a good old chat about this very subject.

    Thank you for sharing and big up from the UK!

    Kind Regards,
    Just some old British person on the internet

  19. Great post! I do that dance myself. I live in the cold, dark, wintery Midwest so my doctor pointed out that fair skinned. light eyed people tend to get that SAD thing and had me try a lightbox. That seems to help. I had noticed that years I spent a lot of time outside in the summer, the winters went better. Then the rhuematalogist I see for my arthritis and fibromyalgia checked my Vitamin D levels and they were at the scurvy level. Not much outside time last summer. So now I take lots of Vitamin D and the depression has eased up.as well as the pain. Funny how it all goes around in circles.
    Glad to hear your doctor is coming up with things that help you. Keep plugging away. I love the way your write.

  20. Will, I think depression really effects anyone with a modicum of creativity. Its hard to live in a humdrum world when in your brain its colours and dragons and adventure. You are not alone in how you feel and how hard on yourself you are. You should feel damn proud of the lives you touch and the light you shine into them. Some of these people may be going through the same thing you are and you have, even in ‘small’ or ‘odd’ ways brightened their day or week and that is something huge!

    Stay your awesome self. You don’t need to be anyone else!

  21. Hi Wil,

    I just wanted to write to say thank you for this post. I had no idea you suffered from depression as your public appearance is always so bubbly and full of life. I’m actually writing this after getting home from seeing my doctor to top up my own brain pills. I’ve been battling with severe depression for the last 2-3 years and as crummy as it is to know other people are also suffering, it’s also some kind of comfort to know I’m not alone.

    Anyway, I wanted to tell you how you’ve helped me personally. I love your show tabletop and it’s actually inspired me to make a big change in my own life. About two weeks ago I decided that I would start up a board game website to sell games to others in the UK. This has given me a focus and a feeling that I have a purpose in life again – it’s actually really refreshing. I’m finally doing something that really interests me and that fact has given my depression a huge wallop over the head. Yes I still get those niggling “what if no one buys anything?”, “why would anyone buy from your site, it’s rubbish?” types of thoughts but I’m pushing them aside for now and dipping my toes in the water to see how it goes.

    My first stock is due to arrive today and I’m totally excited. I’ll probably get no sales for a while, but hey, it’s keeping me going.

    Anyway, if you, or any of your followers want to have a look, the company name is Board Game Badger and the web address is http://www.boardgamebadger.com. I’d love to hear comments about what people think.

    Stay awesome,

  22. Thank you for your description of depression. I’ve been there many times, and I always appreciate it when I see expressions of how knowing it is illogical thinking still doesn’t fix the feelings because that’s something the people around me who haven’t experienced depression have a hard time understanding.

    I also think that in a way, the Tabletop series might have more impact on people’s lives than a book. I mean, the ideas from books can stay with people for a long time, but when it comes down to it a book provides entertainment for several hours where someone can escape their own life and stresses and such, but teaching someone to game can bring entertainment for a lifetime. It seems like a “teach a man to fish” thing.

  23. Well Wil – you might think that with all the gaming fans you have, (because I know you have a lot of them), – we, (the royal “we”), could come up with some semblance of writing good enough for a fiction character that fits you well and pitch it as a community of fans to some studio somewhere that would inevitably take it on. What kind of fictional character role are you looking to play? Drama-serious, comedy, edgy, et al? When I’m bored, I write. Make RPGs. Teach.

  24. Will, let that heart of yours grow many, many times larger! I find your words here quite inspirational and I thank you so much for sharing them. You are touching people you do not know – will never know – in more wonderful ways than can be imagined. It’s rippling out like waves from the pebble YOU have dropped. The next time you feel down, think about how many ripples you have sent out into the universe and just trust that your presence, wisdom and courage have helped and enriched us. We thank you!

  25. Hey, great post, I think we all have been there at one point or another. I know I have had similar feelings. Having just finished up a MFA in Illustration and graphic design 2 years ago, I have been more depressed over the lack of work than being grateful and proud of myself for finishing the degree program. I still brood over not getting any work in the sci-fi fantasy art or comic-book fields that I so love, yet as soon as I finish typing this and checking my e-mails I have to finalize art I have done for a children’s book, so it can go out to the publisher and printer. Everyone has depression at times about goals not achieved, but I think you hit it right on the head, we should be happy about what we can do, and dwell on how good it feels to help out others (whether it’s via a show about tabletop games, or helping a kid pick out the perfect game, we have the chance to impact those around us everyday). Thanks again for the post, and even if you are getting calls from Stallone for Expendables 4 :), your still popular among a lot of folk and we love ya for it. Peace out.

  26. Dear Mr. Wheaton, You are an inspiration. Truly. I was more excited about YOU being at New Orleans Comic Con in February than I was about Matt Smith, or even Alan Tudyk. (it is a shame I won’t be able to be there to tell you that in person). You are admired.

  27. It’s easy to fall into the trap of allowing our professional accomplishments and the opinions of others to define our perception of self.

    Which is ludicrous. People have innate value, because they’re PEOPLE. This is a concept people have a lot of difficulty wrapping their heads around.

  28. good man…when the dark cloud is above, you are embracing it as shelter instead of shadow..very positive article, thanks for sharing.

  29. Thanks you for sharing this with the rest. I battle depression as well, and also fall into the trap of judging myself to hard and only focusing on the negatives. This is what I needed to read as I took the week off to focus on me and my hobbies, and I have been avoiding them a bit, due to feeling like I am not very good at them, but this pushes me to get back at it. Thanks for sharing these personal thoughts.

  30. Thank you SO MUCH for opening up about your experiences with depression. I often need to be reminded that I’m not all alone when I feel encumbered by despair. You rock and I think you’re a great role model. Cheers!

  31. Well said, very well said. As a struggling author and creator who also has Multiple Sclerosis, I can really connect to what you are saying. Depression is an evil demon that likes to whisper untruths about you in your ear. Learning how to tell it to shut up requires vigilance. I make heroes and use them to show my son (who has Aspergers) how important it is to never give up. So even if I never get 100,000 likes on my facebook page, I know the important thing is to never give up. I’ll keep writing, keep drawing (as long as my hands will allow), and keep creating books, games, and stories so long as I possibly can. It is firstly more important that I have achieved publishing two books than becoming a New York Times best seller. And I’m not a New York Times best seller, but I have published those two books. I have put over 200 illustrations on my page. I do have people who love my work, even if only a few. Thanks for your words and thoughts, Wil. Thanks for the time you put into writing this. My wife shared it to my page and I’m glad I got to see it. Oh, and Tabletop is awesome! -DJ Wilde

  32. Hi Wil,
    I totally get where you’re coming from… I have recently been working on myself using cognitive behaviour therapy after having a mental breakdown last September. I had always struggled with depression and suddenly, anxiety had jumped in the mix. Anyway, I am on decent meds, but more importantly, I have been (and still am) working on rewiring my brain and I just want you to know that it really does work and your mind really will get better.
    I also wanted to mention that I am a huge fan of Tabletop. I love boardgames and card games and D&D (I’m sure you see the pattern here) and I am currently working toward publishing my own board game. Sometimes I get a bit discouraged because of setbacks or people being dicks, but then I watch your show and I snap out of my funk. I can tell myself that boardgames ARE still relevant and that people enjoy gaming in the company of friends. I just wanted to let you know that what you do matters to others and I hope you feel better soon.
    Thanks and have a great day.

  33. Wil, not sure you will get this after the post being from several days ago but….when you say you went to a doctor for your ‘brain pills’ is that a psychologist or a regular MD?

    I think my wife has anxiety and depression issues. I’m still working up the guts to talk to her about it because I know she will go off the deep end (a result of the very thing I’d be talking with her about). She has always been called ‘sensitive’ growing up and she has mega-low self confidence and self-esteem. I think all of this is rooted in undiagnosed anxiety and depression.

    I’d like to start with her just talking to someone about what is going on with her and go from there.

    I even left a blog post title you had earlier up on my laptop screen in the kitchen the other day hoping she would see it and it might spark a conversation.

    Greatly appreciate any input you might have,

    Scott C.

  34. Interesting read, thank you. Something I had to come to terms with was that the success we achieve is often not the success we envision for ourselves, but that does not diminish the achieved success unless we let it.

  35. I would like you to know that last year at Ottawa Comic-Con, you walked by me, right by me, you were with a lovely young woman and were hurrying through the crowd and I stopped. I was stunned. Wil Wheaton crossed my path! I was flabbergast. I grew up watching Star Trek and both my boyfriend and I loved Wesley and when you began your role on The Big Bang Theory, I loved the dynamics you brought to the show. Seeing you in Ottawa, my home town, brought such a thrill to me.
    I immediately turned to my boyfriend and pointed you out, by then you’d disappeared into the crowd, but he was so happy I had seen you, even in passing, even for that fleeting moment.
    Before the convention, we had had a terrible fight. I almost didn’t go, but he convinced me that I didn’t want to miss out on it, I had several friends there (as convention goers and even a couple vendors) and he convinced me to go to see them and support them.
    I fought my own depression and anxiety all day, working my stress off hauling dirt and plants at work, and I was a little embarrassed that I was there in my dirty jeans, mud under my nails, but that moment that you passed me melted all those horrible feelings away like the spring melts away winter to bring us green growing things.
    I hope this little message helps remind you of the joy you bring to even the randomest of strangers. I know the message in this blog entry certainly has helped me today.
    Thank you for being you.
    Yve, Ottawa Canada

  36. Thanks Wil, as a fellow tabletop/RPG player and a fellow depressee, I would like to thank you for these words, they certainly give strength and a little light at the end of the tunnel for those of us that feel like crap at this very moment.
    Even though we have not met, I’d like to thank you for your show and hope things get better for you, don´t give up on us, chin up, after all you ARE Wil Wheaton!
    Cheers mate!

  37. I hope you read these comments, because I think it’s important to know that you are not the only one going through this. I’m not saying this because I want to cheapen your feelings, but because I feel what you’ve written here is something that most creative people should read.

    Many of us suffer from depression off and on because we put an incredible amount of stress and pressure on ourselves.
    you work on a project and when it seems as though it goes unnoticed there is a “knife in the gut” feeling that spins you into a downward spiral and makes it very difficult to get your head back in a good creative space again.

    What you experienced in that store is a good reminder to us all to reach out to those we admire and tell them how much what they do means to us. Even when your drink from Starbucks is just right, you should thank that barista. You never know the impact that may have on someone’s day.
    For those that we think have it all and never have a down day, we should still reach out and let them know how much they impact our lives. You never know when someone is smiling on the outside and crying on the inside.

    So thank you Wil Wheaton! Thank you for bringing one of my favorite Stephen King characters to life! Thank you for being one of my teenage crushes. Thank you for being my favorite reoccurring celeb on The Big Bang Theory. Thank you for helping other nerdy kids to feel a lot better about being nerdy….and most importantly, thank you for writing this and being open and honest about what you’re going through.
    you’re going to change some lives today 😉

  38. A wonderful and brave insight. Thanks so much for sharing. Next time I see you at a comic shop or out in public I won’t be shy about saying hi and telling you how much I’ve enjoyed your work!

  39. Like so many others, I’ve dealt with depression on and off over the years. In the last few years, it’s been even worse because of unexpected health issues, then losing my job because of those issues.

    I’ve been trying solidly for a year to get back into the work force, and every job I don’t get feels like a personal rejection. “Why am I not good enough?” It’s been a struggle to keep my head up and keep going and keep applying and hoping that there *is* something out there for me.

    Anyway, this blog is just very timely. So thanks.

    And if anyone knows of any administrative assistant jobs in L.A., let me know.

Comments are closed.