Thoughts on Mental Health, or, Can’t You Just Make Yourself Do It?

You may be wondering what this post could possibly have to do with technology. Everything, and nothing. Nothing to do with any technology we work with, but everything to do with the people who make it. When asked in a 2018 survey on mental health in technology by Open Sourcing Mental Illness (OSMI), 99% of…

You may be wondering what this post could possibly have to do with technology. Everything, and nothing. Nothing to do with any technology we work with, but everything to do with the people who make it. When asked in a 2018 survey on mental health in technology by Open Sourcing Mental Illness (OSMI), 99% of the 191 respondents (out of 417) who answered the question, ‘Have you ever been diagnosed with a mental health disorder?’ said yes. In the 2017 survey, 324 of 756 respondents who answered the same question, 97% said yes. In the 2016 survey, all 1570 respondents answered the question, ‘Do you currently have a mental health disorder?’ 42% said yes, 36% said no, 22% said maybe. On the same 2016 survey with all respondents answering, ‘Have you been diagnosed with a mental health condition by a medical professional?’, 51% said yes, 49% said no.

So, it has everything to do with Technology. If you’re interested in more data, please visit

On a recent Saturday morning, after two weeks of troubleshooting after LeaseWeb took a crap for 24 hours, and the subsequent move to another provider (LiquidWeb), I finally, FINALLY had my portfolio website up and running again. I still don’t know what went wrong in the move to LiquidWeb, but deleting the entire Laravel app off the server and re-publishing fixed the hanging server issue. I also (after much confusion) remembered to switch a debugging change on a route back to a “get” from a “view” so that the now error-loading website, would continue on its merry way.

I’m back to zero now, and can get back to work on Patternography again, which I’ve been slowly chipping away at when I have the time and energy. Great! Except, even with my laptop open, the code right in front of me, I can’t make myself work on it. Why?

I wish I had an answer to that question, but I don’t. I have been diagnosed with a condition called Cyclothymia, which, before I was diagnosed, I jokingly would say I feel like I have bipolar light, which, it turns out was closer to the truth than I expected to be. I also have been feeling pretty burned out at my job, but I don’t have enough vacation time to really get away and deal with the fallout. This, I think is part of the answer as to why I just can’t. make. myself. do. it.

There are many things that have been suggested to help make it bearable, or even better, but unless I can really unplug from my job for a month (spoiler alert, I can’t, I can’t afford that), I won’t really be able to fix the root issue. However, I have a few tips that have worked for me to help keep my Cyclothymia under control, even if the burn out is a continual problem.

Finding something that seems manageable.

I couldn’t make myself write code, so I started doing other, smaller, more manageable tasks. Namely, writing blog posts on things I’ve done that I probably should have written months ago (this is the third post I’ve written today). Writing felt like a doable task. It doesn’t always have to be something on the laptop, but a change of gears of some kind helps. Today it was writing, sometimes it’s sewing, sometimes it’s just letting it happen. When I let it happen, I usually end up napping for several hours (which I really wanted to do also on this particular day) or veg out and binge watch something.

Baby steps, but only tell yourself you’re going to do one.

Something my therapist taught me to do has been very helpful. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by something, a sewing project for example, I tell myself, I’m just going to print the pattern, I’m not going to put it together, I’m just going to print it. Then, I’m going to put it together, but I’m not going to cut it out, and so on and so forth. If I already have the pattern ready to go, the baby step to start might be, I’m not going to cut the fabric, but I’ll get it out and look at it. Then I’ll cut it out, but not sew anything. Through out this process, I also give myself permission to walk away at any time, which takes the pressure off, because I’m a completionist to the nth degree. Once I start it, I frequently feel a drive to complete it, no matter how late at night it is.

Anything worth doing is worth half-assing it

Now, this is a little strange, but I promise once you get it, it will change your life. There are things worth half-assing in your life. As a former G&T kid, I have a perfectionist streak that makes me not want to do something if I’m not going to amazing at it with relatively little work. This theory, however, points out that a little of something important is better than none of it. Don’t feel like slamming in a whole workout? Do 5 minutes, or 5 pushups. Dry shampoo is a miracle like no other when you’re not feeling like taking a shower, as are the cloth wipes to wash your face and hit the highlights with.

For crying out loud, GO TO SLEEP, get some exercise, and get some SUN!

You need that vitamin D. It’s winter in the northern hemisphere at the moment, so you may need to get a sun lamp to get that precious vitamin that helps you out on these cold, grey days. And, even just a few endorphins help from that 5 minutes of exercise you talked yourself into doing because you know 5 minutes is better than none.

I also can’t stress enough how much better I manage the swings that come with Cyclothymia than I do with a solid 8 hours of sleep, on a relatively consistent schedule. I try not to stay up extremely late (though these midnight deployments at work make that a lot more difficult), and I get up roughly the same time every morning, no matter what the snooze button on my alarm says.

Even though these have helped me, they may not all work for you, so my last piece of advice, is see a therapist and talk to your doctor. Therapy has absolutely done wonders for me, more than the consistent sleep schedule to be honest. As much as I wish I could just make myself do X, Y, or Z, it’s just not possible. We’re all trying to figure out this balancing act, and I hope I’ve helped, even a small amount with yours.

I’m off to get 5 minutes of cardio in before I hit the sack for 8 hours (which will sound super weird, because I scheduled this to publish in the middle of a Wednesday) and hope that tomorrow, my code will get written.

dog snuggling up to its human for a nap

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