I’m a Frayed Knot.

(This has been crossposted to Patreon, quinnnorton.com/said, and Kickstarter)

Over the last several years my mental state has steadily succumbed to despair, disassociation, and fragmentation. Not all the time, not everyday, but enough. My mind has tattered into pieces of attention, drifting off the edges into oblivion. Sometimes my mind is swimming through the past, while my body functions, oblivious of what’s around me. Sometimes I am taken over by a sadness I can’t fit in words. Sometimes everything is blank. Sometimes I wake up, and I can’t remember where I am, or who I am, or who my loved ones are. Sometimes I wake up and stare into the dark around me, not sure where I am, but sure something is trying to kill me. Most days, my mind is scattered. My days are at once full and empty, always behind, never sure what I’m behind on.

There are people who know about this — those around me. They’ve watch me drift away. They know that I don’t sleep much. They have watched me lose my confidence and my connection with the world.

If you want insurance codes to talk about what’s happened to me, it would be: treatment-resistant Major Depression, and Post Traumatic Stress, with intrusive imagery and suicidal ideation. None of these diagnoses are new, and they are interlocked inside me. What is separate clinically, is, for me, a continuum of experiences.

I ignored the symptoms too long, starting in 2011. But I have no insurance, and besides, ignoring the pain is how I got this far at all. When it finally became undeniable, something I couldn’t just white-knuckle my way through anymore, was when I stopped being able to think a piece of writing through to publication. I lost the thread of my ideas too often. The thought of writing in public, after a decade of doing it, became terrifying. I’d withdrawn from the world, without even the courtesy of telling myself.

I’ve tried to re-engage with my career, and my personal commitments, I’ve tried to exercise and look after myself — all with mixed failure. What I have left to give is going to my family, and what I have to go on emotionally is coming from them as well.

I don’t know how this story ends yet. I’ve been seeking therapy, but so far I haven’t had much success. I’ve decided to talk about this, to take you with me in this story, if you want to come. Partly because I feel I owe it to the people who have read and supported my work for so many years, at least to explain what happened to me. But also, it’s because doing this on my own hasn’t been working.

So, here we are.

7 thoughts on “I’m a Frayed Knot.

  1. Jason

    I’m sorry to hear this. I’m interested in helping if I can (although I realise that organising people to help you might be the last thing you need to try to do).

  2. tori

    When I feel like you do now no amount of reassurances that this will pass, or comforting platitudes seems to seep through the hard shell that depression creates. Reading and writing both become heavy chores. So I’m also not sure why I’m here writing to you. Except one thing I wanted to share. A quote by Kierkegaard, “Faith sees best in the dark.” I wrote it on my own mirror after reading http://qz.com/501014/philosophers-explain-the-meaning-of-the-kierkegaard-quote-that-comforts-joe-biden. I knew that if I didn’t try to explore that faith I would never survive. And so here I am. I’m doing it in very small doses but it has had more of an effect on me than 20 years of counseling or prescriptions. If you want to chat more, write me. If not, I understand. I care about you Quinn. I value you just as you are and we’ve never met. If you never wrote another word those feelings wouldn’t change. I know others around you feel the same. Henry Rollins said scar tissue is stronger than regular tissue and that scars are strength. I hope you can feel that strength soon.

  3. Gordon M

    Aw, Quinn. I asked you once on Twitter if you had any tips for managing depressive tendencies in a foreign land, back when I thought I would get out of the USA, and you said “don’t isolate.” I dunno how much you struggle with that. I’m in the worst depression of my life (going on 4 years it’s taken from me, I’m living in my ex’s attic, can’t even take care of my cat, I’m on Medicaid which is terrible for getting treatment) and the urges to isolate are incredibly overpowering. Depression has been eating my life for 25 years. Treatment resistant indeed. So I feel your pain. 😐

    You’re right up there in my top tier of favorite thinkers/writers/humanity-healers, so … you’ve got me out here hoping things will improve, and a bunch of others. That gets to be unbelievably abstract for me when I feel like I’m drifting in space, light-minutes from earth with only the faintest scratchiest radio tether linking me. But it’s always the truth.

  4. Joseph Ratliff


    You don’t know who I am, but I became familiar with your work through an Anonymous documentary and from reading Aaron Swartz’ various stories and writings.

    I wanted you to know that your writing inspired me to look at the world in a different way. I believe the piece “Everything is Broken” stands out as one of the best I’ve read (but I’m writing this comment off the cuff).

    You need to fight Quinn, because the world needs you. You need to reach down deep, because there are very, very few people like you who can see “through the veil.” That probably doesn’t help much, except to point out one minority of our species that you exist in. Plus, I don’t want to sound like I’m discounting what you’re going through, so I’ve stopped short in fear of that.

    I also wanted you to know that you’re not alone in how you feel, I’ve had days like the ones you point to here (although not on the scale you seem to be describing).

    I get through them by reducing immersion (in what I call the “black void” of society), and by realizing that there are things worth living for (like when I receive email from people who have been touched by the things I’ve written).

    You are a unique voice that stands out in the homogenized void of human discourse. Don’t ever forget that.

  5. Steplor

    Hey Quinn,

    Ever since seeing your news on my Patreon page, I’ve been kinda carrying it around, wondering what to say. I cannot come up with anything eloquent or probably very useful. So I’ll just wish you the best, and tell you that you are in my thoughts. I’m glad to learn you have family and friends who can provide support, and I hope that helps in a big way. None of us is indestructible, but despite all you are amazing, as I quickly learned when first reading your accounts of those parts of your life you’ve shared freely.
    Best to you, and as much love as a stranger can offer.

  6. wren

    I too have lived with major depression + dysthymia + cPTSD. It’s rough. For whatever little it’s worth, perhaps it helps to know at least one of your readers knows what you’re going through. I hope things turn better for you. Best wishes

  7. JC


    I’m just another anonymous reader who’s followed your writings since your Maximum PC days (your column and technical insight is sorely missed, BTW). I’ve seen you expand through Internet privacy, governance and ethics into “real world phenomena” like the Occupy movement.

    I’ve always valued your technical acumen and your moral take on any issue you cover. Both your formal writings and your ramblings are missed.

    I truly hope you find peace and return to an arena (and world) which is severely under-represented by writers of your quality.

    Best of luck and happy holidays!


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