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I'm a developer who hit a brick wall, Ask Me Anything!

Hi there! Thought I'd give you a "short story" about my life as a dev and what made me hit a brick wall...

I'm not really sure that this is a good AMA, but I thought I'd write it, both to give me some type of closure and if possible, being able to answer some questions, maybe even in the long run answer questions that I haven't yet figured out myself!

My story:

I've always (since I was 5 and we got our first computer) been interested in development, my big dream was to work with games, building games, something that I actually achieved!
I started studying programming after highschool, my educational life is quite boring, but I initially studied webdevelopment/webdesign, and moved on to C# programming at a school which gave me nothing more than a further interest in development. When I was ~20 or so, I applied to a school which was specialized in game development and I got in.

After the education I got a job at the place where I had my internship, the company was not a rich company in monetary resources, but it was really fun to work there, I really loved it, even though I didn't make much cash. Around this time, my wife gave birth to our first child.

I have always (since the age of 9 or so) had issues with stress, normal load is not that bad, but crunch and bad structures makes me stressed, so stressed that I have been at the ER multiple times with gastritis and have had cronical headache and migraines since waay back.
Having a small family and a job which gave me just enough cash to keep pay the rent and food was stressful, not so bad that I wanted to quit, but due to unfortunate events, the company
went bankrupt when I had worked there for about two years.

As a dev, it's not very hard to get a new job in Sweden, it took me a few weeks of slow-paced searching till I found a new one. This was not within game development,
something that made me a bit sad, but I figured that due to my current life, I had to make some cash.

During my first months of the new work, my wife gave birth to our second child.

Working with web and application development was something I actually enjoyed quite a lot. But the big issue with this company was that there where
very few, next to no, structures. We (the people working there) didn't really know what we where expected to work with, the boss was away a lot and we could be
alerted that it was deadline the evening before instead of letting us know ahead of time so that we could work in normal pace.
As you probably can guess, this was quite stressful and it took its toll.

After a couple of years, I chose to quit that job, move to another town and take up a new one.
The new one promised a lot of great things, a higher salary, a lot of perks and so on. Well, as it was a startup, it was mostly promises, and due to one of the other people working there - who disliked me for reasons I have no idea of - who had a more senior role than me (being able to punish and behave badly) I became quite depressed. After about a year or so in a culture that was quite bad to me, I started having panic attacks.

I, as most other people in this type of situation, thought I'd be able to cope with it, that I was "strong", but after a while it became too much, I had panic attacks multiple times a day,
something that made it impossible for me to work (could be pretty much a zombie for a couple of hours after), something that happened pretty much as soon as I had any type
of social interaction. The whole thing was bad and during this time, my wife gave birth to our third child.

I decided to contact the health services and they called me in on a emergency meeting.

I was on sick-leave for over a year... During the first few months I couldn't touch a computer, I couldn't have people over (not even my parents or siblings)
and most of my social interaction with my wife and kids was me being irritated and angry. Something that put a strain on my marriage, something that I can still (almost 4 years later) notice.

If I could go back in time today, I would have done a whole lot different, but yeah... that's not possible, so I hope that my experiences could at least give someone a hint of when to stop, when to ponder on life and consider changing it before hitting a wall and being forced into a state that in many ways are irreversible. A state which I still have a lot of both physical and physiological issues from.

Being strong is not to endure it, being strong is being able to say stop and to accept that you cant keep going this way.

It's okay to not being able to do everything and it's okay to ask for help.

Observe: I have only my personal experience from this type of things, any recommendations I give should NOT be seen as professional opinions (when it comes to anything but development that is),
Any advice I give should be treated as a layman advice or just as an advice from a fellow peer, nothing more than that.

Also worth noting: I live in Sweden, and Sweden have free healthcare, which made it possible for me to get help without having it destroy my economy.

Top comments (3)

johannestegner profile image

Yes, I think that is quite a good summary. It's especially hard to do that when you depend a lot on the job too, something that I luckily have not had a huge issue with, but I'm sure a whole lot of people do!
If you have a possible fallback plan, it's easier to make demands! :)

I'm lucky to have a great supportive family, people who have had similar issues and people who I know love me. Without that, I'm not sure what I would have been now.

I think that having people who support you - and a social network outside of work - might be one of the most important things when it comes to mental health issues, something that I dread that there are a lot of people who do not have.

johannestegner profile image

Great questions, thanks!

  • I'm not sure that I have really found the root cause to the issues I have, I think that a lot can be traced to my earlier family situation and a general control need from my side. I need quite obvious structures in my life, I need to know what is expected from me and such. You know, one of those people who actually enjoy having access to a good issue tracker ;) Without that, I become stressed and after a while it makes me depressed.

So tldr; yes and no! hehe

  • I would say yes to the second question, I think I have been able to easier feel when something is not worth sticking to. When to say no or stop and when to take a break. Good stuff to know even though not the most fun way to learn!

  • I'm not really sure, I think that I noticed it escalating and I think that I had people warning me, and in some way even myself knowing that it was not a good thing to keep on going, but I think that I - like I think that most of us do when dealing with mental issues - thought that I could handle it and that I was "strong" enough. Something that I have learnt the hard way that I'm not, and especially that it have nothing to do with strength, rather the other way around!

wheelstep profile image
Stefano Pernat

Thanks for sharing. I'm also dealing with panic attacks