When Darkness Spreads

Ted: When the words stop


Ted was a technical writer for a software company. He oversaw the editing of their product manuals and was a core person for designing their on-line help desk. At 39, he regularly worked 60 or more hours each week. Ted used to like the fast pace of his work, especially since he set his own hours and could tele-commute one day a week. He described himself as someone who thrived on excitement, and for a long period he had found the creative aspect of his job rewarding.

During a rainy winter month, Ted caught a cold that he couldn't shake. He'd start to feel better, and then, bam, it was back. The cold eventually went away, but Ted felt tired, a kind of tired he'd never felt before. Getting out of bed was a problem. He was tired all day and craved sleep. He also started to get a reputation as a grouch, losing his cool quickly, and snapping at his co-workers. Months went by this way, until one day Ted was staring at his computer screen and he couldn't think of a single word to write. Sure, he has an assignment, a deadline, an outline —but to no avail. He just couldn't write.

After several days like this, Ted began to worry. His doctor referred him for therapy. Ted was showing many signs of burnout and depression. Most alarming to him was his loss of words, the dread he felt when he tried to write. Ted started to meditate, cut back on the over-time he spent at the office, and took up biking. He realized that writing had turned into a chore, and he had to find a way to give it new meaning and life. He discovered how to do this by experimenting with his own fiction, and the good news was that the words came back, and the tired feeling went away.


For further reading, you might take a look at The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon, or Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart by Mark Epstein.

Also, you may want to check out an online depression screening tool.


• These accounts are composites as well as fictionalized and disguised to protect everyone's identity.

• They are based on real life incidents.