WARNING: awfully long and personal blogpost, read at your own risk

TRIGGER WARNING: addiction and suicidal thoughts

With yesterday == last year, more or less.

I am the lucky winner of a SSRI discontinuation syndrome, which is, basically, a form of withdrawal syndrome from antidepressants - particularly common with paroxetine.

I was on antidepressants for the last fifteen years and a year ago I decided that it was time to end this situation. So I followed a careful plan of decrease that went well for some months. Then, unexpectedly, backfired.

It started with vertigo and dizzy head, and as the spring was fading into a very hot summer, we first thought it was just the heat. But it continued, and soon I was feeling weary and tired since the morning. After a week of this, I decided to visit my parents, to be closer to my doctor, and do a bit of check-up, from blood analysis to X-rays of the neck.

In the meanwhile, the symptoms were worsening. After a couple of weeks I had lost interest in everything, I felt incredibly dizzy and confused and weak, I lost appetite (and weight) and couldn't sleep. I hit the rock bottom when I almost fainted in the middle of the street. Fortunately I was with my sister, who took me home.

It was at this point that my doctor thought about the SSRI discontinuation syndrome.

I remember crying in my doctor's study speaking about how frail I felt, how I was tired of it, how I couldn't even get up from the bed. I remember the awful sensation of my body rebelling to my will.

And it wasn't just my body.

I started thinking about suicide. Weird thing is that I didn't consciously want to kill myself, my rational mind was telling me that my life was good, I had a fantastic companion, a bunch of dear friends, a loving family and lots of possibilities in front of me. An entire world to explore. No ties and no boundaries. I could do whatever I wanted.

But I couldn't stop thinking about suicide. And it was really really scary as I recognized it as a thought not of my own, but a chemically induced one. And I was paralyzed by the fear of doing something drastic not because I wanted it, but just beacause of some chemical unbalance in my head.

Long story short: the doctor decided, first of all, to increase again the dosage of paroxetine, and to keep it that way for at least a couple of weeks. And then to switch to another SSRI, fluoxetine, which is known to have a longer half-life and thus to give less side effects when discontinuing it.

I started all again: 20mg/day for twenty days, then 15mg/day for another twenty days, and so on.

Fluoxetine was a charm, from someone who came from the hell of paroxetine: no withdrawal symptoms at all, no side effects. Just a bit of sonnolence during the first times I had the full dose (and for a bit, at home and on IRC, people joked about a Madame Zou Time Zone, as I couldn't get up before 4pm and couldn't go sleep before 5am).

But then, just when I was ready to cry victory, after a week without taking fluoxetine, I faced again withdrawal.

This time I recognized the symptoms immediately, so I could do a bit of damage control. But for the last two months I fought with the side effects (mostly lethargy) of the full dosage of fluoxetine and the really scary thought that there's no way out.

Now, more or less, I have carefully rebuilt my hope in the future, my motivations and plans. I'll start the process again, and will go more slowly. I'm a stubborn person, after all.

So, why this post about a really private matter?

First of all, because it just feel good to rise again after you fell, even if things haven't gone as you hoped. And there's little point in this kind of resilience if you cannot brag a bit about it.

Then, because when I was right in the middle of my own little inferno, thinking there was no way out, looking at my life literally crumbling right before my eyes, I stumbled upon this blogpost and these comments and they helped me greatly. As the author says:

It's like...the feeling you get when you have a sugar crash, when you haven't eaten for too long and you feel dizzy, the pavement is like rubber, your eyes throb and it's impossible to concentrate. And then imagine this feeling made worse by a sense of hopelessness and powerlessness, because it's chemically induced and there's nothing you can do about it. All you can do, is endure.

You just have to brace yourself and endure it. And then try to remember that it will get better, that it will not last as this forever. Because it's true: nothing is forever. Just stay strong and it will end.

And if you can: do not go off paroxetine cold turkey. Switch to fluoxetine, it makes things way better.

This is my tiny bit of advice for all the people out there that are coming off antidepressants. Hoping it will help you as reading other people's experiences helped me.

The last - but not least - reason to write this blogpost is to thank people who helped me through this: not only my family, or Enrico - who was my companion at the time and he's now one of my dearest friend -, but also all the Debian people who sent me messages, best wishes and lolcats. Some knew what was happening, some not. But they all showed me a great deal of love. Thanks.

A final thought.

Many people, when I tell this story, ask me if I regret taking antidepressants, if I would have taking them if I knew how difficult it is to stop.

My answer is no. I have no regrets. Without them, I won't probably be here now. They worked, they did their job. At the time, they were the lesser evil. I'm grateful to whom prescribed them to me, and I'm even more grateful to whom is helping me to get rid of them.

ps: the title of this blogpost refers to the debut album by experimental Icelandic musical group Múm.

Posted Mon 04 Feb 2013 05:40:56 PM CET Tags:

please, do try this at home

finished swirl

The first time I met my Debian team mates (from the Publicity and WWW teams) was during DebConf11 in Banja Luka, in 2011.

I was very excited, and being the craft geek I am, I decided to bring them little handmade gifts. After some thought, I opted for a Debian swirl plush charm/keychain. And here is how I made it, in six easy steps.

It's a really simple project, you just need a bit of patience for the sewing part: the swirl is sewn by hand and it's very important to make regular stitches.

The finished swirl measures approximately 7.5x12 cm.

What you'll need

tools for the project

  • red felt: a square of at least 15x24 cm
  • poly-fil stuffing (or other filling)
  • ~ 4 cm of ribbon
  • a keychain ring
  • red thread
  • pins and needle
  • fabric shears
  • pen (or chalk pencil) o Step 1

first step: trace the swirl on felt

Make a sketch of your swirl on paper or, if you don't feel too confident about your drawing skills, print this pattern I made. Trace it on the felt and cut it on felt twice (you'll need two swirl-shaped pieces for the plushie).

You can also fold the felt double and cut just one time (as I did).

Step 2

second step: where to start sewing

Pin the two swirl-shaped pieces together, with the wrong sides inside. With the red thread, using back stitch, sew them together, starting from the lower end as indicated in the image above.

Step 3

third step: stuffing

When you reach the point marked in the image above, start stuffing the filling into the curved part of the swirl (use a pen to stuff it more easily in the narrow part of the curve).

Step 4

fourth step: more stuffing

Continue stuffing the swirl and sewing it until you reach the point marked in the picture above.

Step 5

fifth step: how to place the ring

Now it's time to add the ribbon and the ring: cut 4 cm of ribbon and fold it lenghtwise. Slide on it the ring and fold it again, then put the two ends between the folds of the swirl, as shown in the picture above.

Step 6

sixth step: sewing til the end

Continue sewing til the end.

Congratulations, you now have a Debian plushie.

I really loved creating these, and I'm really happy to know that the swirls I made are now scattered around the world: one in Austria, one in Australia, one in Denmark, four in Germany, three in Italy and one in Martinique.

And the one I made for this tutorial will end in Italy as well (Mark, it's yours).

If you have any doubts about the pattern, you can contact me. And if you make one, please send me a pic.

This pattern is released under CC-BY-SA 3.0 license: this means that you can share, distribute, modify and even use it commercially but you'll need to mention the original author (OH HAI! it's me!) and maintain the same license.

Posted Mon 11 Feb 2013 06:01:37 PM CET Tags:

In his latest bits from the DPL, Stefano wrote:

I'd like to respond (also) here to inquiries I'm receiving these days: I will not run again as DPL. So you have about 20 days to mob^Wconvince other DDs to run, or decide to run yourself. Do not to wait for the vary last minute, as that makes for lousy campaigns.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to present you...


The goal of the game is to let people know you think they'd be nice DPLs.
The point is not to pressure them, but to let them know they're awesome and make them at least consider the idea to run for DPL. The winners are those who have at least one of their Fantastic Four running for DPL. Bonus points if one of them ends being the next DPL.

Name three persons (plus a reserve, just in case) you'd like to see as candidates for DPL. Publicly list them (on your blog or on identi.ca using the hashtag #DPLgame) or at least let them know that you'd like to have them as candidate for DPL (via private mail).
You may want to add a couple of lines explaining the rationale for your choices.


The more the merrier

Some suggestions on how to play:
First think of the qualities a DPL needs to do, in your opinion, a good job. Then look around you: the people you work with, the people you see interact on mailing list, etc. There must be someone with those qualities.

Here are my Fantastic Four (in rigorous alphabetic order):

  • Russ Allbery
  • Gregor Herrmann
  • Christian Perrier
  • Martin Zobel-Helas

In my opinion, they all more or less have: enthusiasm, a general understanding of dynamics inside the project and of various technical sides of the project itself, ability to delegate and coordinate with different people (inside and outside the project), good communication skills and some diplomacy and ability in de-escalating conflicts.

These are people I worked with or I observed working and discussing on mailing lists, and I think they'd do a good job.

But -hey!- we are almost a thousand of developers and you cannot possibly know everyone or observe all the people who work in the various teams.

This is why you should pick your four names!

Posted Fri 15 Feb 2013 01:22:17 PM CET Tags:

...at least, if you are into fan fictions and Harry Potter.

I love fan fictions, and I'll shamelessly admit that I like Harry Potter too, but I usually avoid crossovers. That is because however interesting and exciting is - in theory - to have your favourite characters from different fandoms together, it often ends bad.

So, it's a public duty of every fanfic reader to recommend good crossovers, if they stumble upon them. Here are some I found recently (all the quotes are from the stories' summaries).

  • Not Quite A Maia (Harry Potter x Lord of the Rings)

    "Middle Earth has a problem: Gandalf the Grey is AWOL in Time & Space after destroying the Balrog of Khazad-dûm. But who will take his place in the Quest to defeat the Dark Lord Sauron? Not who you think..."

    This is a very well written fic, and one of the best HP/LOTR crossover I've ever read. Bonus points for not featuring main characters of HP-verse (someone else will have to save the day in Middle Earth, not the usual Golden Trio). And if there are some minor glitches in the plot (especially in the last chapters), the author has undoubtedly a knack for hilarious situations.

    If you can read through Augusta's chapters without laughing out loud you are not human. Really.

  • Evil Be Thou My Good (Harry Potter x Hellraiser)

    "Nine years ago Vernon Dursley brought home a certain puzzle box. His nephew managed to open it, changing his destiny. Now, in the midst of Voldemort's second rise, Harry Potter has decided to recreate the Lament Configuration... and open it... again."

    Even if I am a notorious addicted to horror and b-movies (and more so to horror b-movies) I've never seen Hellraiser.

    But you don't have to, to enjoy this story.

    It's well written, it explains the backstory for the Hellraiser universe (or at least what you need to know about it) and features a refreshing Dark!Harry. The only thing I didn't like is a slightly OOC (Out Of Character) Voldemort, who's described in canon as intelligent and cunning and here seems to me a bit gullible. But apart from that, the story is worth a read.

  • That Which Holds The Image (Harry Potter x Doctor Who).

    "Harry Potter faces a boggart that doesn't turn into a Dementor or even Voldermort, but into a horror from his childhood. Now the boggart isn't even a boggart anymore. There's no imitation. That which holds the image of an Angel, becomes itself an Angel."

    I have a soft spot for the Weeping Angels. They are pure evil genius.

    If you don't know what I'm talking about stop reading now and go watch Doctor Who episode 3x10 "Blink". It's really a masterpiece.

    So Weeping Angels in Potterverse would be awesome even if the plot of this story weren't as good as actually is. The only thing to make it better would be to have 10th Doctor instead of 11th. But then, you can't have everything, I guess.

If you read any of these and want to talk about it or if you have more crossovers to recommend, drop me a mail.

For more fan fiction recommendations, I suggest you to check this detailed index on tvtropes.org.

Posted Mon 25 Feb 2013 09:21:10 PM CET Tags: