I’ve talked before about dealing with depression. Last week’s trip to Buenos Aires, combined with next week’s trip to France, got me paying attention to the ways depression impacts and is impacted by travel, especially bigger trips like these.

It hit me the most on my first day in Buenos Aires, after I’d been dropped off at the hotel. I was exhausted from the flight. I’d missed my pills the night before during all of the travel chaos. I had nothing scheduled that first day, and I was alone in a new city where I didn’t know the language.

This blend of exhaustion and anxiety is just the type of situation my brain-weasels love, and as I settled into my room, I could feel them digging in. I knew intellectually that once I was out interacting with my publisher and doing the press interviews they’d lined up for me, my brain would snap into Performing Writer mode, and I’d be okay. But for now, all I really felt like doing was locking the door, turning out the lights, and waiting for tomorrow to arrive.

Intellectually, I had a pretty good idea what was going on in my brain. I knew I was tired and jet-lagged and overwhelmed, and I’ve gotten better at recognizing when depression is getting the upper hand. Unfortunately, recognizing the problem doesn’t make it go away. In at least one way, it made things worse, because it fed right into the self-recriminations.

  • “Think about all the people who were so envious of you getting to come to Buenos Aires, and now that you’re here, you’re depressed? What’s wrong with you?”
  • “Here you are in a brand new country, and all you want to do is hide in your hotel room? Sad.”
  • “Maybe you should stop accepting these invitations. Let someone who’d appreciate them go instead of wasting these opportunities on you.”
  • “Coward.”

Knowing it’s the depression talking doesn’t make it stop. Knowing the self-recriminations are a trap doesn’t stop them from pulling you down.

Ackbar: It's a trap!

Eventually, I made myself leave the hotel and go for a walk. Just a few blocks to look around and get my bearings. (And yes, to catch a few Magikarp.)

It helped. The brain weasels didn’t vanish, but they quieted down significantly as we wandered and looked around, absorbing the new sights and sounds. I knew I needed food, so I wandered into a McDonald’s.

  • “What kind of loser goes to another continent and eats at McDonald’s?”
  • “Pathetic.”

I needed that dose of familiarity, and after staring at the menu for a few minutes, I went up and asked, “Habla Ingl├ęs?”

She had just enough English to tell me she didn’t speak English. Pretty much the equivalent of my Spanish. But I managed to order anyway. She asked a question. I had no clue. But after a few rounds and some hand gestures, I realized she was asking for a size. I pantomimed small, medium, and large, saying them in English without thinking, then asked for a medium.

She got a big grin on her face and repeated “Medium,” adding, “I spoke English!” She was so excited she forgot to charge me. (Yes, I reminded her.) The whole exchange left me smiling.


This is such an odd post to try to write. I had a wonderful time in Buenos Aires. I’m so happy and honored that I got to go. I was also depressed about the trip, especially that first day or two. Both of these things are true.

I’m going to France next week for Les Imaginales. I’m feeling anxious. I suspect the depression will hit me in much the same way, especially that first day when I’m exhausted and have nothing scheduled. I’m mentally berating myself about feeling stressed instead of excited. I know, intellectually, that this will be another wonderful experience.

But brain weasels don’t give a shit.

  • “Now you’re depressed about going to France? You are such a disappointment.”

It’s just over five years since I got my diagnosis. Since I started taking antidepressants and talking to a therapist. It’s frustrating to be reminded that, like the diabetes, this isn’t something we’ve been able to “cure.” Instead, it’s something I try to manage. Like the diabetes, some days I do better than others, and some situations make it harder to manage.

To everyone I met and talked to in Buenos Aires: It’s not you; it’s me. You were amazing, and I had a genuinely great time, despite this chemical imbalance in my brain.

And to the brain weasels, I’m sure I’ll see you again next week. Hopefully I’ve learned enough to get you back into your cages. But just in case, maybe I should Google the McDonald’s closest to my hotel in Paris…

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

kshandra: jointed teddy bear, standing upright, wearing a faux-leather flying helmet and jacket, goggles, and "silk" scarf (Aviator)

From: [personal profile] kshandra

This is one of the big reasons why, when we went to Istanbul for our anniversary last year, we chose the hotel we did. We could have gotten a much better price in one of the locally-owned boutique places (and if we ever have the chance to go back, that is totally how we're doing it), but the familiarity of staying at a Doubletree when we were halfway around the world (right down to the warm cookies at check-in) was a very helpful touchstone.

There were a couple of McDonald's visits, as well. ;-)
thewayne: (Default)

From: [personal profile] thewayne

I've had borderline depression for some years now, possibly predating my diagnosis of my immune disorder. And it's been manageable without medication or counselling. But having my employer terminate my contract with no notice, no problems, and then lying about my status to my boss is just so underhanded that it's really set me back. Unfortunately the quality of medical care in this area is so wretched that I really don't want to seek out help here. Maybe there's someone in El Paso that can help. The worst thing is the comes and goes aspect of it. I was doing really amazingly well Sunday morning, Sunday evening I just wanted to crawl in to bed early, but I think part of that was post-infusion suck, which is a documented occasional problem.

Best of luck to you, Jim, Paris should be awesome! I envy you and look forward to the pix! I didn't do a McD's when we were in Berlin (I didn't see one in Prague), but we did do Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. The Starbucks was to preserve my wife: they were having a heatwave when we returned in July and it was 100 outside and she was melting (I'm from Phoenix and laugh at 100f, as long as the humidity is below 80%). The DD was out of sheer morbid curiosity: yes, they are largely identical to what they serve over here.
3rdragon: (Default)

From: [personal profile] 3rdragon

As someone who's about to go to Rotterdam for two weeks (work trip, so I won't be alone-alone, but it's not like I'm going *with* anyone, either), I can commiserate on mixed feelings. I am super excited! . . . but I'll be by myself and probably will hardly talk to anyone from home because of the time change, and have some trepidation about isolation + significant jet lag.
brickhousewench: (Not Alone)

From: [personal profile] brickhousewench

Thanks for this. I'm about to take a big business trip next week, and my depression will be traveling with me. It's somewhat comforting to know that other people deal with the same thing. Even though I know that already it's just really timely to have the reminder.
notalwaysweak: Rainbow rose with words 'love as thou wilt' below in white lettering (Default)

From: [personal profile] notalwaysweak

Dear Jim's Brainweasels,

Comfort food is a very valid thing during depression, so hush. Hush.


(I personally am so glad there's a 24-hour McDonald's next to the hotel for Continuum this year; I'm on committee again and if I happen to need a bacon McMuffin with a hash brown stuffed in it at 3AM, then I'm damn well gonna get it.)

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