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How I've defeated my mental illness and become web developer

jcubic profile image Jakub T. Jankiewicz ・7 min read

First episode of schizophrenia

I was very good at Computer Science classes at high school but I wanted to study Computer Graphics, but based on CS and not in art school, there was only one University like that, but I din't get in. I went to post-secondary school for two years and when I graduated, new Computer Science major was available near my home in Kielce University of Technology in Poland. I've started studying there in 2002. When I was writing my final thesis, after passing all exams, I've got my first episode of schizophrenia. It was in 2007. It was not fun experience. I've had mental delusions. I was in different place but because of my logic thinking, that was not right. I still believe that the problem was because overloading my brain, I was taking some legal drugs that made me think better and while I was writing my final thesis I also took teaching course that, besides additional lectures, required to have internship at high school. I still think that it was too much, and that my brain got overloaded.

When I got my first episode I ended up in public hospital, it was not fun place, if you think about Girl Interrupted or a book Veronika Decides to Die, it was not like that, it was more like 12 Monkeys movie (but without stream of cold water). I'm still not 100%, sure but I think that I've had some spiritual experience, few times I've had a voice in my head that told me, that everything will be ok, like helpful angel. I've once came into conclusion that my illness was a Devil work because I was a chosen one. As I've said it was religious experience. Now I don't know what to think about this. I've also had dreams that was similar in nature. I don't think much about this now.

First Year

After I've get out of hospital, I think it was about two months, I've got prescription of very terrible drug (it was Clopixol, they were the cheapest ones, they were free, when you get prescription. Everything was funded by the Health Care. I think it was a year when I didn't get out of bad. I've sleep almost all day, I've get up only to eat something and from time to time get a shower, not that often. It was time when I was not able to read, because of the drugs. My eyes were not synchronized, after few minutes the letter get blurry, I think it's called Accommodative infacility, it started in hospital. I was so tired that I was not even able to watch full length movie.

After a year of this misery, I've switched drugs and was able to function better, but it was still hard. I've get internship at local community centre and a three months I was able to work at local used cloth company, it was like working in a factory. I was forced to work there by my family. I now think it was good, because I've get out of bed. With money from those two jobs, I was able to buy entry level DSLR and a new laptop, because old was not working anymore. I've broken my GNU/Linux system and was not able to install new one, because it was old laptop that didn't had USB boot option and DVD drive was broken.

Recovery

It was in 2010 when my digital life started. Before the first episode I've had email and was using the internet, but it was that year when my profiles on different website like Twitter, DeviantArt and Flickr got created. My first experience with web development after school, was Open Source. I was working on AikiFramework and Openclipart Library with Bassel Khartabil, that got killed by the regime in Syria and with Jon Philips co-founder of Open Clipart. I was also an artist at Open Clipart, even before I get sick. It was 2010 when I've started my first, very own Open Source project, it was jQuery Terminal Emulator. I've created it because I wanted to have access to shell on my shared hosting, that didn't give access to SSH. I've created an app (Leash Shell) that used jQuery Terminal to have CLI application in browser. I was using mostly GNU/Linux system, so not having access to shell on my server was feeling little bit like handicap.

I was working in few places mostly remote. In 2011 I've get back to University and get degree, I was very helpful to my Mom, she was encouraging me to finish it, even when I was thinking that I'll not be able to finish it. The biggest obstacle was, that the program was changed drastically. The first program was not designed very well and didn't match the standards of higher education in Poland. I needed to finish a lot of classes from different years to finish the new program. But I've succeed, part because I was my Mom. As final thesis I was able to write about my Open Source project jQuery Terminal.

Getting back to my mental health. I didn't have fun experience with psychiatrists, when I was visiting free, funded by Health Care doctors. They ware not helpful, and were prescribing terrible medicines. It changed when my main psychiatrists retired and opened private doctor's office. I needed to pay for the visit, but It was much better experience. I did few iterations of different meds and ended up with Rispolept that was not that bad.

Second episode

After first episode I've had another one, similar to the first one. I don't count two other times when I've stopped taking my meds, but continue taking them on time. That episode was almost as hard as the first one. It was in 2014. I've stopped taking my meds, when I was in ethno-project. Its not important what exactly it was, but I was traveling around the country and learning about Polish heritage. It was 10 days of traveling and at the end of the trip, I've stopped taking my medicines. It's not that important why I did it, I'm still not 100% sure why. This time I didn't end up in hospital, my family was very supportive. My mom decided that I will not go again to hospital and was taking care of me. She was also visiting me everyday when I was in hospital.

Delusions

Just to give perspective, what it was like to have schizophrenia in my case. I will give you few delusions I've had. When I got first episode I was thinking that I had brain implant and professors at my University was contacting with me using that device. I need to add that I love Cyber Punk. And that was because I had a headache that was located at back of my head, more like a pressure, and I've had those voices and that was my explanation. My logical thinking was not right, because of the illness. My illusions were changing overtime, next was that my brain implant was connected to the internet and people were using it like a trash. Dumping porn files and other stuff. And I've figure out that I need to use my skills to delete everything using command line with my brain, without seeing the screen. It was hard but I did mange to delete everything. Because of this I've thought that they pick wrong guy to get the implant. It was just before the ambulans take me to the public hospital that looked almost like the one in 12 Monkeys (the hospital not the ambulans).

Just one more example of my delusion. When I've had second episode, I was thinking that my house was spaceship or a plane and I was traveling through time, using xylophone that we had at home. One time I was playing on the xylophone and I though that we were at Battle of Grunwald in middle ages, and I needed to play loud, so all those knights will hear me. I was listen CD of Faun folk band and play with them. I need to add that I don't know how to play any instrument. I was thinking that those a field of Grundwald will thought that it was sound from the god and stop the fight. Now I think that It may be not the best idea, since it could change the future. Changing the timeline is never good idea.

Conclusion

It's been a while since I've got my second episode. I will not stop taking my meds again for sure. Now I'm working as Front-End contractor at international pharmaceutical company (They do lot of research on cancer). My correct medicine is one based on Amisulpride, that allow me to function properly. I'm very grateful that I don't need to pay much for it, since it's refunded by Polish Health Care, one package cost only few bucks.

Since now I've never told almost anyone that I have schizophrenia. I was adviced by my Mom not to do that.

If you going through difficult times because of mental illness, I will give you two advice, don't give up and always take your medicine. Things may change for the better.

You can follow me on Twitter at @jcubic.

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