Friday, April 27, 2007

Anxiety, Depression, Technology, and Me

This is a personal story. I have never shared much of this.
I am a regular blogger, but this felt too personal to write as myself. I needed to distance myself personally and professionally from these thoughts, so I am posting this anonymously for now. I feel an intense need to share some very personal thoughts with the world, and my little geeky blogosphere is my best outlet.

I am 32 years old.
I have been addicted to technology for 32 years.
I have suffered from anxiety and depression for 32 years.

Much of my life can be explained by the conflict, overlap, relationship, and symbiosis of these concepts.

On Sickness:

Depression and Anxiety are bewildering sicknesses. They are somewhat related I guess; and I was served a heavy dose of both. I talk about them as one entity because much of my life has been swaying towards one or the other. It provides confusion, fear, uncertainty, doubt, and a general feeling of being lost and disoriented.

Yet... I am positive, open minded, caring, loving, sensitive, empathetic, honest, and come from a good place. I am filled with passion, intensity, and drive. I tend to overcompensate for my weaknesses by excelling at everything else. When I get into something, I go deep.. very deep. Academics.. Career.. Hobbies.. Technology.. whatever.. check.. got em down.. cold.

It is the less concrete parts of life that trouble me. I tried marriage and failed. Essentially every relationship I have ever had has been both wonderful, and absolutely crushing. I am in total need of a connection with someone, but I can't find the way. Some days, I feel like I can barely take care of myself.

I don't live for today.. never have. I live many steps ahead. I don't enjoy anything alone. My thoughts race night and day. I can't slow my head down. Everything is so big-picture that I lose sight of where I am and who I am. I have absolutely no sense of self soothing or self comfort. The majority of my waking hours is a struggle to consume enough information to keep myself too occupied to think about the now.

The ironic thing is how much I have been given in life. Sure, we all struggle; but I was dealt a fabulous hand. I am healthy, educated, sheltered, and live in a country of opportunity with a high standard of living. Life should be a breeze compared to the billions of people in less fortunate situations. Who am I to feel bad? I have no right. That really bothers me. I feel like an ingrate and that makes me angry at myself.

I have followed all the prescribed steps. I had a really tough run as a late teen and ended up hospitalized for over a month. That experience messed with me a bit. That was when I first started medication. I am very glad to hear that some people have had life-changing experiences on medication (anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, mood-stabilizer, etc). It gave me great hope at first. Something to lay my blame on. It's not me.. it's just a medical thing.. I'll pop a few pills and feel great again. The past 14 years of my life have been a mix of changing meds, sickening side effects, and non-existent relief. I've seen many different doctors. I've been in psycho-therapy for years. I feel like I make progress, I really do. But I always seem to regress. The more I learn about life, the more I realize I am so far away from anything and everything. I have no way to judge or quantify success in life. So my only measure is self-happiness.. of which I rate myself a failure.

Hope is wonderful. That is the reason I can't live for today. I live in a world where tomorrow is a good place, and I'm just stuck in a tough moment before I get there... but I never get there. The most difficult part is acceptance. As a kid I wanted to grow up and do things different. I knew once I got somewhere in life, things would change for me. So I walked the walk... milestone after milestone. Once I finish high school and move off to college, everything will change. Once I finish college and start a career, everything will change. Once I get a job I really love and get some status in my life, everything will change. Once I get married and try to settle down, everything will change. Once I earn my Master's degree, everything will change. All of those milestones came and went. and... nothing changed.

So the acceptance stage is tough. It is about coming to terms with yourself and understanding that everything is actually not going to be alright. It never has, so stop lying to yourself that it ever will. Don't live in tomorrow, because tomorrow sucks just like today. Accept excruciating pain as part of reality. It's about accepting defeat, and that is not something I can do. I will get through though.. I always do. I'm a fighter... I have a strong will. But... is that all life is? A series of hurdles to jump until you are too old to jump anymore?

Don't get me wrong. I have had some wonderful experiences in life... Done some amazing things... Met some incredible people. I present a very positive outward appearance to all. Those around me, even close to me, would describe me as happy, smart, funny (I have a knack for humor), and full of life. All of which are true; but in the back of my head, life has always been spoiled by a rotten undertone. I live in a world of a secret darkness.

On Technology:

I am a successful software engineer. I have a passion and thirst for technology and knowledge that I find to be rarely matched. A certain intuition.. something is just right. To get lost writing code for hours.. to live in a pseudo-reality of bits being pushed at light speed.. to surf the vastness of information.. to contribute.. ideas.. code.. programs.. whatever.. it's me. I have been a programmer and hacker for most of life. I am not a typical geek.. I like to roll a little stealth. But lately, it defines me. As our social structure moves online... As our lives get weaved into a continuum of reality and virtual... It is a comfort zone. It is where I can be in control of all I touch. I connect people, I evangelize, I question thoughts, I help others, I teach. I am fast.. very fast. writing code, debugging, testing, writing, blogging, posting to forums and newsgroups, bang bang done. night after night. Replacing all bad thoughts with the real-time rush of the tubes.

I need technology.. It's all I have.. It's all I am good at.. It's where I live.. It's what I am.. It's who I am.

A Plea:

I am feeling a desperate need to make a difference.. to someone.. to something.. somehow. While I may have conceded that my own happiness is not achievable, I still see it in others. Maybe I can do something to help others so much, that a bit of that is reflected back on me. If I can't do it alone, maybe that is a start? I need to help people. I need to help steer the world right. Given my skills, what can I do? I need ideas.

I live a somewhat simple life, void of much except my technical gadgets. I live in a one-room studio in the city. I don't own a car. I just moved into this place earlier this year from a rented room (getting back on your mental feet after a divorce can be rough). When I moved, I realized my entire life fit in 2 duffel bags. Minimalism and detachment from the physical world provided comfort.

I have no idea where, and at what scale I can help anyone or anything. Mostly, what I have to offer is myself and what I can produce. I make good money and have some savings (though I'm not wealthy). Maybe a donation would make me feel something? I am a very skilled software developer and could offer those skills (I already contribute to some open source and free software projects). I have time and perhaps knowledge I could share.. I must have something to offer someone.. I really need this.

If anyone can relate to this in any way, or has any advice, or thoughts, or a sympathetic soul to talk.. leave comments and a way to contact.

Even a short comment to let me know this reached someone would mean a lot.

- Anxious Tec


Anonymous said...

I can really sympathise with what you´re saying. I may not be as old or successful as you, and I´m certainly not living in a land of opportunities, but I know a bit about being lost in a world of seemingly meaningless accomplishments. I too feel this dettachment, this corroding void.

I´ve been living my life worrying about the next steps. Trying to anchor myself in the present is not easy, but I´m trying.

I guess there really is such a thing as the IT Blues. Nevertheless, I´d suggest you to try and do something simple, like teaching children and teens how cool and empowering computers can be, or perhaps start or join a <insert hot new technology> user group in your town. The general idea is not to get caught up in minutiae or trying to change the world. Try to do simple things with people you like(or will come to like) spending time with.

I really do not have the answers, but I sincerely hope I helped, because I see myself quickly ending up in the same situation as you.

best luck,

anxious-thoughts said...

Thanks for your words. I've started to get involved in local technology groups, and that has helped.. but I still find myself lost in all that is life.

It feels good to know that others can relate to this type of IT Blues (or whatever moniker we give it).

Good luck to you also.


Molly E. Holzschlag said...

I sat here reading this thinking except for some minor facts (such as age, heh) I could be reading me.

It feels odd giving advice I ought to take myself and rarely do, but I think some things that have helped me are: regular therapeutic massage and getting away from the computer and into nature / the world at large. Photography has helped me a bit with that.

As for the giving, I agree that's important. But might I suggest maybe it's you you're not giving to? If you are a highly productive person you are putting OUT a lot of energy. This is how I am, and I am learning (slowly, slowly) that I have to allow myself to refresh. To allow people to treat me well, to enjoy time away from the "terminal" (semantics are so interesting) and to find better balance.

At the very least, try a day in the sun somewhere with a child, a dog, a frisbee, a picnic - anything like that. Get off the computer and be with life at least some of the time. It really does help.

anxious-thoughts said...

thanks for your words.

> might I suggest maybe
> it's you you're not giving to

I think that is probably correct.. but I don't know how. "Getting away" sounds wonderful. But I have a hard time with that. I'm always distracted. My mind is never on what I am doing. How can I learn how to give to myself?

Molly E. Holzschlag said...

Heh, Corey, if I had the answers I wouldn't be in similar shoes.

The problem is complex in my opinion. It's not just you. It's a personality issue based on a combination of external ills as much as internal ones. Physical pressures in the form of a fast-moving, polluted, unbalanced world; internal conflicts because no one ever gave us a guide book for all this!

The "geek" myth is dead. Clearly, there are many socially adept people who still feel isolation and darkness so radically that the disconnection becomes disenfranchisement.

There's more to this than meets the clinical eye. That's why medication and therapy can only do so much. I don't know what your home structure / community life is like or was like growing up, but I believe there are people world over who are very smart and very productive who have been growing up alone and disconnected, despite having social abilities and a positive outlook on life.

It's no wonder we turn to the online world for not only information and gaming and learning, but community. The world is going faster than perhaps our sensitivities are capable of.

Or, perhaps more compelling is that we are capable of it, and we have entered a time where the social models of our world and our internal processes as well must shift in order to keep up with the sheer speed at which we can and do communicate.

I really don't know and the more I think about it the more a tangled web it is. I do know this: You are very much not alone in this, and that you are struggling with it sucks but I'm glad you're writing about it.

Maybe there are no answers, but at least if we can communicate about this we can begin revealing where the problems really lie and make little improvements in the world, and ourselves too.


anxious-thoughts said...


I know you don't have the answers, but any shred of input helps.

> Maybe there are no answers, but
> at least if we can communicate
> about this we can begin revealing
> where the problems really lie and
> make little improvements in the
> world, and ourselves too.

Where do I/We find the others? Where do we communicate? I am but one blogger, too scared to even post these thoughts under my regular blog. How can I be a voice? How can others help others?

Robert said...

I've seen others in our industry have to deal with these problems. Often without thinking there's anyone else dealing with them. I remember that when I worked at Microsoft someone committed suicide on campus. There just isn't a good way to talk about some of these issues with others. I'm glad you're discussing them here.

I've been extremely fortunate to have tons of great people in my life (including Molly, who I always enjoyed hanging around).

Roland said...

What you need is a non-directly-tech-related hobby.

I found one in photography - it's technical enough to appeal to that part of my psyche, but it's a creative process which allows me to express myself and create images which are pleasing to others.

Since you have some money, get yourself a decent dSLR like a used Canon 20D or a 30D, get a couple of lenses (24-105L & 10-22EFS, to start), a Slingshot 200 bag, UV filters for both lenses, a cleaning kit, an 8GB flash card, an extra battery, and start shooting and posting to Flickr! Shoot RAW, use Adobe LightRoom to catalogue and edit your photos (you can learn how to use Photoshop later).

I guarantee you that it'll change your life, and get you out of the doldrums.

Roland said...

Oh, and be sure to get the Magic Lantern book which covers your camera, as well as the Blue Crane Digital instructional DVD for your camera, as well.

Seriously, dude - once you start shooting photos, you'll wonder why you didn't start sooner!

anxious-thoughts said...

> What you need is a
> non-directly-tech-related hobby

I have had them in the past. I Was very into playing guitar and DJing for years. Lately my hobbies have been reduced to everything technology related.. aside from reading a few pages in my book on the subway every day.. and listening to music (which i do almost all day/night).. I have nothing.

Anonymous said...

Take a break from work. Travel outside your country. See how the other half lives and what they are worried about. Will give some perspective to your life. Mostly cherish what you have and enjoy the moment, and less worrying about the big picture. I know , I know...easier said than done..but HTH

Anonymous said...

I understand exactly what you're saying, even though my experiences don't exactly align with yours.

I'm younger than you (only a college student) so I don't have quite the life experience to offer any advice, but you shared your thoughts, so here's mine. I don't think you're alone.

Most of the interests in my life have occupied me only because they distract me. I've always been pretty smart, but more recently I've become convinced that this is because my brain is always on, and always running at a million miles an hour. If I don't feed it with something, it inevitably starts making observations about things, and those observations seem to be ones that other people do not make. The sheer amount of perspective seems to alienate me from normal interaction. Well, I can interact just fine, but it's very difficult for me to find people I can connect with.

I love sites like reddit that are proverbial firehoses of information. The sheer volume of reading seems to keep my mind at bay. I read thousands and thousands of words a day, and although most would think that this arose from a desire to be informed, in me it arose from a desire to not have to think about things. There have been unexpected side effects though. The more I read and learn, the more I find the state of existence to be profoundly disconcerting when I do think about things. I then have to work harder to suppress it, only by reading more...

Programming is another deep passion of mine. There's nothing better then a hard problem that you just know has an elegant and beautiful solution to occupy your brain. When I first entered college, I had hoped that this was the place to meet real programmers. Ones who knew about SICP and Haskell, at the very least, or even those with a deep practical knowledge (K & R types). I don't expect everyone to appreciate sigfpe's posts, but there are precious few who see how gorgeous some of the stuff he posts is. Every time I hear someone in the computer labs raving about how much better C# is than Java, I just want to cry. People seem to gobble up whatever shit language is shoveled out as the next big thing. Whatever happened to awesome DSLs in Forth and Smalltalk? Why does nobody have any perspective? The MS folks in charge of C# have done a nice job of adding features from functional languages, but I wish that every discussion of the new features came with the disclaimer, "This is a hack. Look at language X to see how it should really be done."

I've picked up a drug habit. Not like opiates or benzos, but psychedelics and dissociatives. Thinking drugs. LSD, psilocybin, 2C-E, ketamine (yes, animal tranqilizer). They don't prevent me from thinking about life and the nature of things, but rather they remove the mental blocks that make me dislike thinking. It's ok to be somewhere else when you're on drugs. At the same time, I think they may destroy my facade. They enhance perspective even beyond my normal experience of the world, in ways that I think could be disasterous to my mental health if I'm not careful. When I stumble upon somebody who shows only banal thought, I always want to ask them, "do you truly believe in this simplistic conception of reality that you seem to espouse?"

Car racing and rollercoasters have always done it for me as well. Those are just fun.

My brain chemistry is such that I don't really feel depressed about the way I see things, just a bit more alone than I'd like to be. Molly's suggestions are good, but I've always found it really, really difficult to "get away" from my thoughts. Things need to some "umph" to get my brain to shift into neutral.

Hobbies are good, but I think one that forces human interaction would be more helpful. Although I haven't internally acknowledged it yet, I'm pretty sure most folks have some depth once you get to know them. My psycologist and I are currently trying to hunt down a good local club just so that I can interface with others a little more, meet people, and not get so caught up in my own thoughts.


Anonymous said...

Hello Corey,

We have a bunch in common. More than I care to type.

I am 40 and have been depressed for almost as many decades as I have worked in IT. No correlation. I think :-)

One of your self descriptions struck me, since I rarely hear others mention it the way you did and in the way I've lived it.

I know what you mean about your mind racing or always being turned ON to 'doing.' So even though I was/am gifted and spent much time around both peers and those that dwarfed me, rarely do I recall any of those I know who can/did put it all together describe themselves as having a racing mind. For me personally, I know I'm not manic, but I think the disconnect between brain RPM and activity/output RPM is sign of the mis-wired/chemical imbalance that is my depressed brain.

So I'll comment here to try to give you a sliver of advice since I see you are asking a good a valid question, but others may not know how to reach you if they only give you the proverbs and platitudes.

In my eyes the core question you are asking is 'How can I connect and get positive feelings from doing so - especially outside of 'work'?'

I too have lived with frustration that your primary action question tries to address. I would say that you are closer to 1/2 way there in incorporating answers to it as a solution. This is important as many don't seem to be prepared to connect since they don't quite know their motives. You at least know yours and they don't seem to be the base or vapid motives like 'lots of sex' or 'make lots of money.'

In my opinion, what's been said so far is typically nearly-abstract advice. For people that aren't mis-firing on certain neurons, they don't know what it's like to have to try to connect, so such simple statements make sense to them as actionable with no further specificity. Unfortunately, I needed to be shown more concretely what I did/don't get, and I think that's where you are coming from.

So: 'It's about doing things with people' is meant to tell you it's about connecting emotionally and feeling the reward that brings physically and mentally.

But it's a particular type of connection, as you likely know about from therapy.

You need to seek to have interaction that is rewarding because it allows you to remain in a comfort zone of feeling that you are getting as good as you are giving. Now it may start out being more work than that, like any learning curve, but your discomfort should near zero with experience and the right people and event.

If you are truly living in the moment of the experience, you won't much stop to judge it, no matter how good you are at thinking about 20 things at once. In a word, you seek to be in a zone where you get to experience the 'flow' and neither need nor seek to analyze it much.

I've read some excellent articles by an MD that shares one of my hobbies (motorcycling) regularily wrote in a magazine about the psychology and physiology of 'Flow.' It's fascinating to see deeply technical and medical information also merge into something that we as humans can also measure as intuitively as a gut check. (Motorcycle Consumer News is the mag, it's a high-IQ MC nut mag and the info used not to be online.)

Yes, you may experience this satisfaction and reward in the work of problem solving, but the balance you seem to be seeking is to experience this on an emotional plane where the focus is not usually work, but rather an experience or a time of sharing.

Examples can range from experiencing and interacting in a cultural event (seeing a live band in an intimate setting, attending a play that draws you in...), or performing something that takes a largely pre-emptive mind-body focus such as rock climbing.

The best of these things will then have the next level where you not just attend, but then interact with others to truly share the experience. This could lead to all sorts of levels whether it be activism or showing others how-to (like teaching kids stuff you know).

I don't want to rule out teaching, but the you need to experience things that are both different enough from work (problem solving) and where at least some of the co-participants are at least your peers. Obviously this can be tough for smart people, but it's not an IQ thing, it's a focus thing. I can learn a lot from a skilled craftsman that has the experience, and when their skills interest, then your mind will be busy trying to soak up all that's new to you instead of wandering onto 2 other problems elsewhere.

Thus, in an environment where you are both participating and learning from peers (or experts), you are less likely to find yourself in conflict.

If you are still following along, here's a refinement of my suggestions.
1st off - do you have a family or friends offline that know that you like any non-computing hobby? If so, you have a place to start.
If not, you just need to tell them. Hopefully they are more clued in and unlike my family would react in a positive way and see it as the opening it is.
2nd - Approach that someone and start a conversation (verbal, not email) and say I enjoy doing X, and I want to do more of it or a different part of it as a way to have fun.
3rd - Make plans with them.
4th - While participating (remember, doing is important here, not just watching) see if you feel comfortable to talk to new people doing the same hobby. Sometimes you might lead by asking a question for them to show you how, other times you might say I liked how you did that and did you know there's more like it over there or at this other event/time/place.

I think your comments about not living for 'today' are equally significant, but also suffer the parallel universe divide of the depressed mind versus the 'normal' mind. My abbreviated comment is that you should be able to leverage your awareness of your role in this to a solution through one part better planning (do at least one connected thing a day) and one part learning to open up and trust someone to help you make that happen.

I don't know if I've been very clear here, so I'm going to go for now.

Good Luck
- BluezNut

Anonymous said...

Like a number of others that have already posted comments, this could have been written by me. I have a few more years on you (approaching 40), and have suffered for many years.

You are NOT alone and I think people would be surprised to know how common this is, especially in the technology space. Personally I believe this is bacause there is an abundance of over-achievers in our industry and I think that it is that over-achieving nature in all that we do that leads us down this sad path. We are always thinking about how things could be improved and taken to the next level. We compare ourselves constantly to those around us and at least in my case, always feel a sense on inadequacy which only spurs me on further. It's a vicious cycle.

Ironically if I was to look at the script of my life thorugh objective eyes, it has been amazing. I have worked all over the world in the nearly 20 years I have been working, including a decade at a big software development company based out in Redmond, WA ;-). I now am President & CEO of my own tech company.

Instead of fighting the anxiety and depression when it comes (as at least for me it tends to be cyclical), I have learnt to accept it. It doesn't mean I like it, but when I do start going down that "dark" path, instead of resisting I just give myself permission to feel this way. But I do so with a time limit. I tend to withdraw an prefer to be alone when I am feeling blue. I will stay in bed and just withdraw for a day, or two at the most, and then I make myself get up and get moving. Moving in the physical sense - exercising or just going for a long walk.

The other thing that I have found helps me out is to lay on my back and just stare into the nights sky, focusing on the vastness of space. I don't know why, but after about 20 minutes of just letting your eyes and mind wonder about how big the universe is, it seems to put whatever blues i was feeling into perspective and gives me a nice sense of calm.

I have never blogged or even responded to a blog post, but yours touched me and so I decided to let you know a little about me and how I deal with things.


Anonymous said...

Read the book 'Ecclesiastes'.

...kind of wonky navigation there, but imho they have the best translation of this book.

You can turn to the next chapter by using the orange arrows in the upper right.

mdy said...

Hi Corey:

I'm no expert, but I have the impression that you've already achieved the more basic human needs in Maslow's Pyramid, and that you're now unable to find happiness because you haven't yet found something to add meaning or purpose to life.

A philosophy professor once told me that the best life advice he can give people is this: "Go where you are most needed, because that's where you'll be most happy."

I didn't really pay much attention to what he said, when I first graduated. In my first job, there was just so much satisfaction in producing "good, quality work" and that was enough of a high on its own.

As the years passed, however, I found less enjoyment in producing my own "deliverables," and far greater satisfaction when I'm interacting with other people and helping them achieve their goals.

Unexpectedly, I've found that I derive a great deal of enjoyment and happiness in mentoring people who are just starting out in their careers, whether or not they are in the same field as me.

Considering your achievements and your expertise, perhaps becoming a coach, mentor, or a 'big brother' to others who are just starting out will be a good fit for you, because:

1. You'll have a chance to connect to people in a deeper way (since you have to understand their circumstances well enough to offer guidance).

2. You'll get to draw on skills, expertise, insights, and (dare I say) wisdom from your experiences to help others.

3. You'll be genuinely appreciated, which is always a big emotional charge for me.

4. Helping someone who can really use your help will nourish your soul.

If you don't feel ready just yet to get into a mentoring relationship with other people (since it does entail a long term commitment of time and effort), then taking time off to join a few humanitarian projects might help.

You'd be involved only for the duration of the project, and since there's always a shortage of volunteers, your help will definitely be appreciated. For example: Habitat for Humanity or the Hands On Network

I also agree that taking some time off to visit another country and seeing how the rest of the world lives will be a good experience.

A trip like that will take you out your familiar surroundings and give you a chance to reflect and evaluate yourself outside your box.

When you're in another country surrounded by people you don't know, there's none of the emotional baggage, i.e., no societal expectations from friends, acquaintances, and relatives to constantly remind you of your "place" in their world. You're free to explore who you are, who you want to be, and simply soak in new life experiences that can change your perspective.

Given what little info you've revealed of yourself, I do believe there's much you can share with other people. Perhaps in the process of helping others, you will also be helping yourself.

mcarlin said...

I was there. I was a very unhappy math prodigy, and I quit shortly after getting my Master's. Three years later, I've only just recovered to what I would call a successful level, career wise. In the meantime, I think I personally solved a lot of the problems you seem to be suffering from. I'm not nearly done, and I doubt my methods will work for you, but it can be done. You need to know that it can be done.

Hopefully some of this helps:

Do a little less coding and a little more volunteering. I'm a programmer now, but it took awhile before I felt good about that. I kept trying to find a way to justify it as helping people, but for the most part it's not. I just do it because I like it. I had to learn to satisfy the altruistic need in other ways.

If you're a musical person, keep good music around to improve your mood. My mom taught me to fight depression with music. I like to start with something fast to perk me up physically, and then slowly build towards exhilerating I-love-the-world music.

You're a coder, and you have a Master's, so I will assume you are inclined toward theoretical and abstract topics. You probably understand the power of intuition; a certain type of problem probably goes on your mental backburner, where you mull it over for a long time, and one day you have an "aha" moment and the problem is solved. I certainly work this way. One day I decided to try putting emotional and life problems in this category. Instead of obsessing about them consciously, I put them in the back of my mind and trusted myself to solve them at some point. I'm not sure, but I think this helped me figure a lot of things out.

On a related note, at some point I realized that my inner monologue wasn't really solving problems at all. The real thinking, in my case, seems to happen under the surface, with the monologue just serving as a reporting system, task manager, and self-judge. Almost as soon as I realized this, I stopped paying so much attention to the inner monologue. I think this allows me to sift self-judgements and worries, and mostly just pay attention to the good ones.

Relationships crush me too. I don't have that worked out yet. Maybe it's just because I'm young and inexperienced, but I still have hope (more like complete faith, actually) that this will work out for me at some point. You have a lot of hope in other areas but it seems to me like you've lost it here. You should work to change this, I think.

As for volunteering, or helping people, I've only done a little bit, but here's what I've learned. There were two things I had to overcome: apathy and fear of reaching out. Apathy is obvious and I don't need to treat it. Fear of reaching out was more strange, and took me a while. I grew up in a very caring but physically distant home. I didn't get hugged a lot and I liked it that way. Furthermore, I was homeschooled for one troublesome year in middle school, and then sent to college very early, so I missed out on some social development. For a while I also liked that too.

I think the result of these things was a wall of hesitancy that I've only just begun to break through. I want to help people but I do NOT want to connect. I had to have a close personal friend bring me into volunteering; I would never have tried it alone. Also, I had to help the group who most hurt my heart (the homeless). I don't think I could have started with children or the elderly, not that I don't care about them as well. It's just that they don't make me cry as much when I think about what's affecting them. I certainly couldn't have started by helping the real suffering people in other lands, even though they need it most, because try as I might, I couldn't make them anything but an abstraction, and that wasn't enough to beat apathy. Finally, I chose to help in the most brute force manual labor way I could, because it was relaxing work, something I wasn't used to - a nice mental break.

Of course I'm not saying you should specifically go into volunteer or helping work the way I did. You need to identify what factors keep you from doing it, and either overcome them or choose something that fits them well.

One more thing I can think of off the top of my head... indulge your eccentricities. Heavily. Like, as you would when you were five years old. If you feel like climbing down into a gulley and playing in the mud, do it. If you feel like wearing two hats at once, do it. Like me, you're anxious, and so this is actually hard to do in public. It makes you twice as aware of other people, and that ruins the whole thing. So, to start with, do it in private. Make private jokes for yourself, things you will never tell another soul. This has more positive effects than I can even list. First, it relaxes your mental anxiety filters. It's like unclenching your brain. You get to do things free of the constant fear that you will have to explain yourself to someone in the future. Second, it lends some simple artistic and creative meaning to your life; you feel unique and worthwhile for having come up with someone nobody else ever did, even if it's totally pointless and you're the only audience that will ever appreciate it. Third, it acts as a strong counterbalance to secret depression, which you seem to suffer from acutely. Yes, you are still secretly sad. But you are also secretly happy. It's a good balance.

I hope some of that helps. I feel better just for having got it off my chest.

Anonymous said...

I am a 25 year old college student studying computer science. I will graduate one year from now. Most of my friends / associates have already graduated and moved on. I feel like I'm constantly looking for tomorrow, but when it gets here it is no different than yesterday. I am worried that being an older graduate might hurt my employment opportunities.

I've also struggled with depression for about five to six years now. I have been on medication for the past three years.

I am looking for some guidance, and your story seems to be a more experienced version of mine. I can only hope to become a successful software developer, as I too love to code. There is truly nothing like it.

Maybe you could offer some of your experience to me, some guidance. I will check back here to see if you might be interested in such a thing. Either way, good luck. I wish you the best.

Anonymous said...

I have suffered depression, anxiety and such, on-and-off for the last 20 years or so (I am 29 years old).

However, at my new job I became good friends with one of my colleagues who was diagnosed with Attention Defecit Disorder. It has since come to my attention that many of my personality traits are suggestive of ADD, and even though I seem to be able to live with it (there is much variety of types and severity of characteristics) I am planning on getting a professional diagnoses.

I won't list all traits here, but common traits are an inability to focus, a hyper-ability to focus, depression, mood swings etc (among a load of others).

Back when you and I were in our teens, ADD was still something that most doctors /psychiatrists did not know how to diagnose and it just therefore might be worth considering having yourself examined under that pretext if you haven't already. I am not a doctor, but some of your traits just seemed to ring true with me.

Anonymous said...

32 years old and suffering. Just wait... I am 51 years old, have travelled the world, run business and projects in the 10's of millions of dollars...

I am now on the scrap heap. Half a dozen times in the last year, I have been told that I am "overqualified" - in some cases for senior IT management positions. (How can you be 'OVERQUALIFIED' to run a 200 location, $500M business IT infrastructure.

Of course, by the time you get to the same state that I am, you will probably only be 45 or less.

Hey, one of my mentors, who hold some of the most significant patents in the industry in the last 20 years, is living in a trailer park, now...


Patrick said...

Want and good inexpensive solution that will clear your mind, help you stay focused in the now and make you a happier person? Get regular excercise and I mean at least 30 mins of brisk walking a day but work your muscles and heart. You will be amazed the the part of the body you are helping out the most is your brain. I was in a very similar situation. Podcasting has actually help me exercise more as I can't concentrate fully on what people are saying if I am reading web sites, coding, etc. at the same time. Also someone mentioned Photography and talking long photo walks not only lets your exercise more but in opens up your brain to new perspectives as well. Medicine does have it's place but it's critical to make exercise a part of your life, trust me. I've been there

G said...

Warning, this comment may contain objectionable material. For this I do not apologize.


Listen to the "old folks." They have been there and tried that and it doesn't work. It isn't going to change by trying harder.

Because of the very nature of what I have to say, I expect to be discounted. But please bear with me, as I know with absolute certainty, what all of you need.

I too can sympathize with what you wrote. I have found an emptiness at the end of every road, except for one. There is one activity to which I devote a lot of my time because there is something there that actually gives life back to me in very real ways.

That activity is this. Striving to know God. Now skip to the next comment since all of the Christians you know are idiots.

The world has said that God is dead, or is a figment of your imagination, or never existed, or is irrelevant, etc. That is why you are finding no answers in academia, technology, philosophy, etc. You were created to have a relationship with Him, and lacking that, you are going crazy because there is no other place where you will find what you are looking for. Trust me.

What you are looking for is not found in any of the major religions of today. Including mainstream Christianity. They are all dead. What you are looking for is in the Bible. Read it, ask God to open it for you. With honesty and openness to repentance, you will find what you are looking for.

Anonymous said...

Mirror mirror on the wall... crap your story sounds very familiar... maybe substitute software engineer for web developer and age 32 for 34. Frightening.

Anonymous said...

I wrote a comment on this site, but lost it. You can read my comments to your post on my website:

SilverStag said...

I can't say i relate to you because i haven't been in a situation like yours..not yet at least. I'm still young and haven't seen much of life. But, i can tell you that, Time can heal the deepest wounds. And whenever i am in a rut i recall this thing someone said "This too shall pass away".

May be you could participate in the CSR initiatives taken up by the company you work for. Interaction with different people through these initiatives might help you.

Meditation could help too. I used to do it when i was in college and it did really help me focus my thoughts and energy.

May be you could take some time off from work(a vacation or something) and visit some place nice and far from your home. I would personally do that.

You could spend some time at an orphanage or something. If you like kids, it will be fun watching them play around.

I dunno if this will help you but, i sincerely wish you find some peace and solace. Pray, if you believe in God.

Good Luck,

Anonymous said...

I find that I seem to be less anxious when I manage to analyze things less.


anxious-tec said...

Thank you to all that have commented. I have been reading them all morning and it has helped me tremendously. Please keep commenting and I will post more thoughts later today.

- anxious_tec

anxious-tec said...

I added an email address: anxioustec _at_ gmail _dot_ com

if anyone wants to contact me directly.


Josh said...

Dearest anxious and depressed,

In response to your post, I'm glad to read many an awesome posting directed to you. Molly's thoughts are spot on to me. I suffer from depression and anxiety (avoided and denied it until I crashed: ye old nervous breakdown). Fortunately, meds and falling back on the things of the world that made me smile as a youngin' have worked for me.
And I think falling back is the right term. Going to college, using logic and brain 'power', trying to succeed in the world by bringing the forces of your mental acuity to bear and being rewarded for it, brings for me success (mostly!), but not happiness. The white-collar career world rewards us for this, but away from work at home, I advise, it's a false path to happiness, the worldly pursuits. It's a strange construct humanity has created. The better construct is to recall those things that you did as a child or young adult that you did for enjoyment and pursue them.

I got so caught up in trying to succeed in a career and life that I forgot about feeding the soul and staying true to myself. As natural and regular as the sun rising I fed my soul as a young person by simply doing the things I liked to do. As mentioned by others (Roland!) on this thread: hobbies. You've clearly taken one of these hobbies (computers and technology) and gone with it for a successful career which is great, but cut it outside of the job until you feel like you can restore balance. Find that non-tech hobby or activity you did as a child as an activity intrinsic to who you are (whether it be photography, motorcycling, pinochle, running, backpacking, reading, writing, fishing, boxing, break dancing, whatever) that you may have neglected or forgotten about in the pursuit of technology. (Or a hobby you've always thought of trying and never have).

Get back to nature. That dirt, that tree, that water, we are forever bound to it as the human animal. Connect to it. We've been part of it since Earth came to existence and we came from it. It's as base a connection as a child to a mother. Undeniable.

Spend some time with family, friends, those folks you spent your formative years with, those you respect or at the least care for a great deal. Let a chosen few know things aren't good for you right now, even worse than usual. I'm always amazed at the nuggets of wisdom that come from them (along with the crap). Some of the people you may think don't have an ounce of wisdom to offer are the ones who've already figured out some of life's problems and with a simple quip say something you know is right.

I’d also recommend delving into spirituality of some sort. My parents were very religious (Roman Catholic) but very tolerant. I read Richard Bach, Gibran, some Bible, recently a Paulo Coelho book. I don't attend church, but it works for some. Life's a mystery and spirituality is our attempt to solve it. It does give hope and balance. Spirituality sort of ties in to the hobby, nature, family thing: feed your soul. All the same thing really.

You're awfully hard on yourself. No one is perfect friend. We all blow it, we all F up now and then, in small ways, big ways, we have weaknesses. We’re imperfect creatures. It's all right, that's life. You've been dealt a perfect hand yet you're not happy. Just because everything has been great (loving parents, happy childhood, perfect schooling, career success, etc.) does not mean you should be angry with yourself for not being happy. You blame yourself for your unhappiness. Life is a lot of chance. We control a lot, but we don't control everything, roll with the punches, as they say. Don't hide your unhappiness from everyone. Find a good friend, not a therapist, let 'em know. A good open talk with a friend is some of the finest therapy and soul-nourishing.

You want to make a difference. I think you may need to make the difference to yourself. Know thyself. Truly find what makes you happy, content, satisfied, *not* what the world and others have told you will make you happy. aka "Indulge your eccentricities." It's the journey of life.

Of course all I wrote basically has worked for me. I can only tell you my story, relate what's worked for me. Good luck and know there are a lot of people like you hiding right out in the open. :-)


Anonymous said...

@?_|\| |=/-\|_@_|! said...
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Anonymous said...

No matter what anyone else posts, reads, acts , doesnt act.

Please Keep Posting.

I'm in the same boat. You are not alone. AND NOW I KNOW NEITHER AM I.

Thank you.

Andris said...

I have found the answer in God twelve years ago, especially after conversion to Roman Catholic church. I firmly believe it's definitely the way to go. But it is difficult to stay on it, learn in practice how God works and how to let Him to be in control.

Fortunately, there are outstanding spiritual books written by saints (for example, The Collected Works of Saint John of the Cross) and good spiritual directors (may I recommend Thomas H. Green's books?). You can discover a whole new world in these books. They are amazingly deep and serious, leading you to the personal friendship with your Creator as a person, not as a dogma. God loves us unconditionally and always seeks us, He cares about us more than we do.

datamuse said...

What I'm seeing in your post is, despite your deep connections in the online world, a lack of connection to real people. Not that you lack the capacity, but I don't see where in your post you have contact with and interaction with real people who are physically present in real time.

I moved out of the high-tech world and into academia--I'm an academic librarian. I teach and work with students every day. I don't think that teaching is my calling, necessarily, but it does mean that I spend time around young people who are enthusiastic and hopeful, but who need some guidance. I have to tell you that I have a lot more hope for the future of humanity since I started working with these kids, even if they drive me crazy sometimes.

I hesitate to agree wholeheartedly with those who claim that spirituality is the answer. I will say that my (non-Christian, by the way) religious practice does play a large role in my life, and I have made many dear friends because of it. BUT I also believe that it's something you must be called to. If you're not, then I hesitate to recommend it. (On the other hand, if you are, go to it.)

I also volunteer regularly. I make charitable donations, too, but there are still some causes and needs out there where manpower is needed more than money. (The rebuilding of New Orleans, for example.) I love nature and getting out in the woods, and I'm interested in urban ecology, so I started volunteering with a local grassroots organization dedicated to remediating and maintaining an urban forest. Strangely, I find that several hours of fairly mindless work (last weekend I spent four hours hauling gravel in buckets) quiets the mental noise. It's like my brain has a chance to relax and consider the flood of thoughts and ideas at its leisure.

I'm describing these things not because I think you should do exactly what I did, but because if I have any suggestion for you, it's to get out from behind the screen. One way to do that is to find a way to help other people. In a way, small achievements can be even more glorious than big ones.

Mike said...

Molly's photography suggestion sounds like a wonderful antidote to chronic future-tense thinking. I'm going to try it myself.

anxious-tec said...

Scoble linked to this post and there is also some commentary related to this from his readers:

Anonymous said...

I've been there - I love the code, but yeah, it can leave you empty.

For me, my faith (I'm Christian) is what completes me. I think that makes me an oddball in technology, as it seems so many in technology must be able to reason and can't accept the unexplainable. But I can't deny that part of me that yearns to know where I came from and why I'm here. I'm not saying God will make everything perfect, but just reflect on could there be a God, and if so, how would He reveal himself to you?

All that said, I've come to realize that my code may make a business money, but at the end of the day, it's when I give of myself to others, to help them on their path through life, even if I *never* see the results, that I know I've done something worthwhile. I've worked with teens, never hidden my faith, and some believe and some don't. Even if they never do believe what I do, I'd like to think that I've done something to let them vent about their parents, or the pressure of school, or just let them know that someone cares about them, for no other reason than they are human and have something to offer. Just as you do.

It's selfless giving where I begin to feel I've done something truly worthwhile.

I'll pray for you, whether you believe they'll help or not. And keep fighting!

Anonymous said...

Have you tried Zen meditation or something like that?

Anonymous said...

Martial arts might make a good hobby. There's a wide variety, and I believe most of them have a tendency to quiet down mental noise.

During sparring you do have to concentrate completely, or you will get punched into your nose. There's no way to think more than a couple of seconds ahead.

I found it to be safe and effective.

Rob said...

I completely understand how you're feeling. I too write software for a living and have had great circumstances in life. But it left me feeling empty and wondering if this is all there is.

I picked up the Bible and have found meaning. It isn't a "magic pill" by any stretch, but I have found real moments of happiness. I'd start with the book of John.

Adrian said...

Here's something I haven't seen anyone else mention--do you play a musical instrument, or have you thought about taking one up? I'm a coder by day and an opera singer by night (and I used to play piano), and while I do enjoy software development under the best of circumstances I'm pretty sure I absolutely could not live without making music. (I haven't been diagnosed with depression per se, but I definitely have bouts of inexplicable sadness and generally a lot of difficulty connecting with people.)

Music is helpful for me in part because it forces me to use a different part of my brain (you have to relax and avoid overthinking things) and gives my mind something to turn over that's decidedly different from the technological drudgery/emptiness/Weltschmerz that I, and so many others here, are prone to; also it's exciting because it's a craft that you can keep working at, for years and years, and never fully master, despite constant improvement. (And opera gives me an excuse to study human languages, which are always fun.)

Of course, YMMV, but it could be a really good change of pace. And if classical isn't your thing, you could always take guitar or drum lessons or something!

Anonymous said...

> I'm not saying God will make everything perfect,
> but just reflect on could there be a God, and if so,
> how would He reveal himself to you?

He'd come up to me and introduce himself.

Anonymous said...

Happiness isn't a right. And you can't get it by just hacking your life. And real life isn't like code. There are not always solutions to problems. One day you may have to accept that we all spend big parts of our life in sadness and depression. And in a very real way that sadness is justified. What you have to decide is what you want to do with your life. Are you really content solving abstract problems? Have you ever tried solving real world problems. You might find that what you have learnt as a programmer will let you look at the world in a unique light.

Anonymous said...

(1) As a software engineer, what you do does indeed make a difference -- particularly when you share your expertise with others (something you should be contratulated for).

(2) There will always be people more and less fortunate than you (and geography is not the best predictor of who is fortunate). I believe it is a mistake to believe that you are ungrateful or that your problems and concerns are somehow unworthy. In fact, you seem to be a person of great conscience that appreciates more than most the advantages you have.

(3) The person that suggested martial arts made an interesting suggestion. You haven't mentioned exercise (doesn't have to be Martial arts, although that is a good one), but as an immediate, practical step I do think an exercise program will help you channel your physical energies away from anxiety and get you out of your IT world for a while. In fact, you may find it a haven.

I won't pretend that I can fully understand you based on a single blog entry, but I do think, based on the little that I know, that you do indeed make a substantial contribution to the world around you and that what you need is to balance the IT aspects of your life with other activities that satisfy your other legitimate needs.

Good luck to you.


Ms Foonicate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ms Foonicate said...

I didn't read all of the comments made, so I may be repeating someone else.

You say you want to give back, or help someone else. Try the local charitable organizations like the Boys and Girls club, Habitat for Humanity, or even thing sponsored by the YMCA.

Even go as extreme as I intend to, and give yourself to the Peace Corps for 2 years. There is nothing more amazing than watching someone much less fortunate than you learn how to use a computer for the first time. The smile on their face is worth a thousand words.

I hope things get better for you.

Anonymous said...

I came across your blog and felt almost compelled to write a comment.

I have been a professional programmer for 15+ years, and I think I know where you are coming from.

Please give meditation a serious shot. It's an awesomely deep art, the practice of which promises to wake up the centers of joy and peace within one's central nervous system.

If you want to start on this path, the best thing to do is to join a local meditation group. (Check out for one such group).

Best of luck...

Anonymous said...

Hey, thanks for your thoughts. I know it can be difficult to talk about this stuff. My below thoughts are probably going to be longer than I want but read what you want.

Let me preface by saying that I
don't have all the answers...I'm not sure I even have any answers. I'm just going to use this as an opportunity to explain what I did to help my "depression".

I tried to end my life once. I've been hospitalized three times. I've lived in a half way house. And finally I've been in psychotherapy for about as long as all this. This all happened quite suddenly and lasted a few years.

Now, I'm pretty sure it was a certain medication that finally helped. I spent two years trying all different medications. One of them had me gain 75 lbs! :) Sweet. Some of them I had horrible withdrawl syptoms like you mentioned. I think I'm one of the lucky few who felt relief and help from medication (once I found the right one/combination).

But I know I'll have to stop taking them at some point because I don't want to be on meds forever. I don't think it's natural I guess. I need to fix the problem and not just band aid it. One day I'll take that leap of faith so to speak (gradually of course).

So what are my thoughts? I found one reply that mentioned exercise and agree completely with that. I know how difficult it can be to maintain a workout schedule. When you're depressed you don't want to do anything. I know it's been difficult for me and this is coming from a guy who exercised his whole life pretty much.

I know someone else mentioned God. I'm not particularly a fan of religion but I do think about why I'm here a lot. I personally don't think that science and religion are mutually exclusive but even if you aren't religious, which I am not, doesn't mean that you might wonder about our existence. In my book that's called spirituality. I think on a certain level after thinking about why we're here, what the point is, etc, I've come to the conclusion that, hey, we'll never know, so why don't we try our best to treat each other with respect - even those we don't agree with you.

But this of course doesn't that you should be walked over or thoughts disrespected. Stand up for what you think is right because there are plenty of people who use or take advantage of others. It doesn't sound like you're one of those people.

This is getting a little long so I'll just end with the following: there is no one magic bullet. If you do find relief I think you'll look back in hindsight and realize that it was probably a combination of things that changed that allowed you to feel better. For me it was meds, therapy, finding work again, eating healthy, etc.

Good luch, dude. I wish the best for you.


anxious-tec said...

to all who have commented..

thank you. thank you.
i will respond to many individually.

- anxious-tec

anxious-tec said...

i wrote some thoughts on exercise for relief from anxiety/depression:

- anxious-tec

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty much the same.

I'd recommend you read the book Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill.

It won't solve your problems, but it's not hokum (plus, it's cheap and short, at least compared to many crazy tech books). It taught me a lot and at least allowed me to better structure my thoughts.

For instance, one key point is that we frequently delude ourselves in our thinking about what will make us happy and spend a lot of time working towards that goal (e.g. your schooling, marriage, etc path). Another is that happiness is significantly different from pleasure.

anxious-tec said...

some just mentioned:

"happiness is significantly different from pleasure."

wow.. i have never thought about the differences in those concepts and guess I associated them as the same thing.

I seek pleasure and lack happiness. I have vices for short-term pleasure, yet I seem to lack otherwise.

perhaps the conversion of pleasure to happiness is not something to chase.

thanks for the thoughts.

- anxious-tec

Anonymous said...

There is nothing wrong with you.

This is important so I'll say it again: There is nothing wrong with you! You are the way you are -- obsessive, distracted, confused, anxious, all of it. But here's the important thing, none of that is wrong, none of it is bad, it's just who you are. Stop fighting, stop trying to be something different.

So much of the anxiety comes from trying to get to that next thing because it'll make everything ok. But it won't. You can get a degree, a new job, a new lover, move across the world but none of these will allow you to escape yourself. You take yourself along where ever you go. You need to learn to live with yourself, to stop running.

How do you do this? For me it took a little medication, a gifted cognitive behavioral therapist, and some meditation. Good friends helped too. For you, I'm not sure, but the things I've mentioned help.

Maybe you're not as important as you think you are. Would that be such a bad thing? Maybe realizing that, can help you relax a little. Maybe it can give you the freedom to be who you want to be. Try pretending you're ok for a while. The funny thing is that if you do it long enough, it'll be true.

Don't forget to breathe, you'd be surprised how often you do. Let go a little, nothing bad will happen. Then again it might, but it won't be as bad as you'd imagine. Here's another truth: Nothing that happens to you will ever be as bad as all the things you've imagined happening.

Your imagination is your worst enemy. When you anticipate the bad things that might be, would it occasionally be possible to think of the good things too? This helps. Really.

There is nothing wrong with you.

Try to believe it for a while.

It helps.


Anonymous said...

i know how you feel. i've been there myself.let me ask you this? do you have a girlfriend or are you remarried? having someone in your life to support you is sometimes the best medicine.Thats what helped me.knowing that someone out there loves me and wants the best for me is rewarding. Having no one can seem crushing at times.
without the love and support of my wife, i dont know how well i would of turned out.
i really hope the best for you

anxious-tec said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

i have lived with it since i was 15 and i am 27 now ....i cant say"snap out of it,there are millions more miserable than u " to u....because i know its real and u fear its gonna get worse as i do ......i live beacuse i have a loving family and i know if anything happens to me ,it will completely destroy them...........i cant really think of anything to say to u ..
except i pray for you .....
( to a abstract entity like god/jesus/buddha...but hoping like when i was a kid that nothing bad happens to u ).....please take care of urself ...nimy

Anonymous said...

Alienation/The Alienated man. It is quite typical state of mind for Western society humans. Erich Fromm wrote about it a lot 40-50 years ago. Read books like "Escape from Freedom" or "To have or to be".
You are not alone, in fact most people in North America are like you !
Coming from outside, I see and horrified how people live here ....

Anonymous said...

I suspect many of you will know who I am from reading this - if so, you are welcome to contact me, but like the poster (whom I consider a personal friend) this isn't what I want popping up next to my name in search engines.

I'm 35. I'm top dog in my little software niche (international keynote speaker, write, consult, innovate, advise, blah, blah, blah). I have a house, run my own business, do volunteer work for non-profits, have a couple of kids, and am friends with wonderful, caring people. I do make a difference to at least some people, people that matter to me.

But there is another side to my story as well. I have 2 ex-wives. I struggle with ADD, a short fuse and an overall feeling of being lost.

I too, can focus on "the fire that is closest to me" and long term plans, but "today" and "tomorrow" are bizarre and un-graspable concepts to me.

I understand anger, contentment, sadness, accomplishment and frustration, but I'm not convinced that I know what joy feels like.

I'm on meds for ADD, and it helps with some things, but the meds that helped me be a better father (more patient, understanding, etc) toned down the anger and drive that had ruled my life for 30 years and opened the door to sadness and emptiness. The meds to combat the sadness and emptiness bring their own side effects and trying new meds is like playing Russian Roulette. (Last time I tried new meds I ended up with holes in the wall, nearly getting fired and telling off my sweetheart of a mother.)

The only place I find happiness - or at least solace, which by comparison seems pretty happy - is when I play with my children. They are my anchor. Without them I don't know where I'd be.

Logically, I know that I can survive whatever the world throws at me, and I'm too stubborn to stop surviving and succeeding, but I often wonder "what's the point". I wonder what my answer would be if it weren't for my kids.

It's an ugly place. Knowing you're not alone is a comfort, but doesn't solve anything. Talking to people doesn't seem to help (me anyway). It's almost better to just hide behind the mask of happy and convince yourself that you're just tired when you stop acting, but it's no solution.

I feel your pain. I wish I had good advice. I have always appreciated the work you do and I appreciate it even more for having read this.

Hang in there. I don't know what the answer is, but I know that there are people who care and that knowing that matters.

One of these days, we'll get this thing figured out, but until then at least we don't have to feel alone.

Ed said...

You are courageous for putting this out there, even though you're writing anonymously, because YOU have to face up to your own reality to write it down. I too have struggled with depression for much of my life. It's cleared up slowly, over some years, through a combination of medication, meditation, and lots and lots of talk therapy.

I hesitate to recommend a book, and yet I will: "The Happiness Hypothesis," by Jonathan Haidt. I should say that I detest self-help books, and this isn't one. Rather, Haidt is a social psychologist who is part of a movement in psychology called positive psychology, the study of mental health, not pathology. The book is an easy read and he bases his assertions on reason and research, not jingos. It may not be instant help, but for me, it raised the possibility that a person like me who is by nature somewhat pessimistic can find happiness.

Whatever steps you decide to take, I wish you all the best. You deserve it.

Anonymous said...

...turn off the computer and read a real / paper-based / long / thoughtful book.

Kathy C. said...

So many posts contained helpful comments and supportive messages, and that's a good thing for you and for all the people, like me, who can relate on different levels, to what you're writing about. I agree with Molly, not for the first time, and with many others who have said that getting out, getting contact in whatever way with nature, other people, other activites would be a great start. Volunteer work, locally or radically abroad somewhere, would get your mind working about other things, and would help you meet and discover other people. I find that spending time away, with a loved one or alone, discovering new things or doing something even as mindless as cutting a hedge, will take my mind far away from my IT concerns... Photography is another good one, especially if you endeavour to "hunt" photos, go looking for them, fix yourself a goal, a theme... But hey, whatever you do, keep us posted, we're reading you and thinking of you and all the others who are suffering right now. That many minds turned to one thing can't be bad...

anxious-tec said...

thanks again for all the kind words and suggestions.. i continue to read them and every bit helps.

- anxious-tec

Eric Wheelman said...

Hi. If I wouldn't have the sort of illnesses and neurological deficits I have, it's quite possible I would be in the same space as you.

Good advice from people, I'd like to share one thing that is categorically different than most:

The project is opening in a few months.

IMO, it would be useful for people who are not depressed, too. Not just for cognitive enhancement, but emotional enhancement and imagination enhancement (I'm not talking about creativity - that's common - think of child's imagination with the rational faculties of an adult).

Because it's a MIT project, it's going to be safe too. But to make it very good, it needs all the work force. That's why I'm here, although at this time software engineers are not needed as much.

Eric Wheelman said...

Hi. If I wouldn't have the sort of illnesses and neurological deficits I have, it's quite possible I would be in the same space as you.

Good advice from people, I'd like to share one thing that is categorically different than most:

The project is opening in a few months.

IMO, it would be useful for people who are not depressed, too. Not just for cognitive enhancement, but emotional enhancement and imagination enhancement (I'm not talking about creativity - that's common - think of child's imagination with the rational faculties of an adult).

Because it's a MIT project, it's going to be safe too. But to make it very good, it needs all the work force. That's why I'm here, although at this time software engineers are not needed as much.

Anonymous said...


Hang in. Easier said than done, I know.

Meantime, saw this, thought of you.

20 Happiness Hacks

Things brighten up right quick once you get out of your own head.

Now, to find my out of mine ;)

Seeking optimism said...

A book of note:

Learned Optimism
How to change your mind and your life
by Martin Seligman
also authored: Authentic Happiness

"Vaulted me out of my, fellow moderate pesimists, go buy this book.: - The New York Times Book Review

The Learned Optimism book is the story of his career-long research into how thinking patterns manifest themselves and how to use the fruits of his research.

If you want to get to the bottom line quickly, skim the first 11 chapters to get to the last part: Changing From Pesimism to Optimism

THe first 11 chapters are interesting and necessary background, but a little tedious for an ADHD mind.

Anonymous said...

Get a good N.D. Take blood, urine and saliva samples and have them tested. It turned out that I was sub-optimal for many neuro-transmitters and way below normal for testosterone. The way we feel/think is related to our bio-chemistry. Sometimes you just cant use positive thinking, meditation, or spiritual reflection to get yourself out of it (although it does help some). Many of the comments have good suggestions... I just did not see many address the chemical side of the picture. Good Luck to us all.

Anonymous said...

hi.. sometimes it can be so hard to free your mind from the rut that it is in, especially as you get older. One thing that worked for me was travel.. in particular walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. It was an unexpected experience of pure happiness, despite the blisters etc. I had to stop my obsesive planning and let life unfold. On the road, normal status no longer counted.. people met each other with no other object than simple friendship. The daily walking through beautiful country, the very simple lifestyle (walk eat sleep talk) was soothing and calming.

KIm said...

Thank you for bringing such nice posts. Your blog is always fascinating to read.

Anonymous said...

DO things on purpose.Service is our validation on Earth.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your feelings and thoughts. I really apreciate it. I feel very much the same a lot of times so I know where you're coming from. Might I just add another suggestion to the ones already listed above; Holotropic breathwork. It's a part of transpersonal psychotherapy, amazingly deep and profound in effects. I've be dealing with my depression and anxiety using tools like meditation, exercise, diet, CBT, etc., but breathwork is like THE tool among them. If you're interested you can find a local therapist probably by Googling it. Good luck! You're not alone. It's hard but there's many of us here. Love, Mark.

Anonymous said...

I suffer with anxiety disorder and have done for as long as I can remember. My experiences have worsened over time and with extra responsibility in my life. Most of the time I can deal with the way that I feel, but every so often have periods of numbness and disconnection. These have become more frequent and harder to shake off as I have got older. I am undergoing CBT at the moment to see if this can help, and hope to be able to change my thoughts, as I know it's my own mind that is doing this to me and nothing else. Something I will never truly understand!

Anonymous said...

The world likes to diagnose everything that could be a problem friend. When addressing yourself, do not address yourself as troubled, but address yourself as you. Depression and anxiety are simply diagnosis. They are you. You're not any worse or any better because of them, you're just who you are. The first step to conquering these problems is learning to accept them as part of you. Did you know, everybody poops? Did you know, everyone gets sad? You know how many depressed people there are? I'm sure you're very aware.

I'm a 18 year old high school student from Canada seeking a business degree from a local University, and I've faced similar issues.

When seeking your own happiness you're not to search for external influences, because everything external is temporary. As much as you would wish you could find a partner to fulfill you it won't happen, the only thing that can help make you happy is you.

Corey, I'm not aware of your religious base, though you never mentioned it in your post so I'll assume you're not very religious. I'm atheist myself. How strong of a connection do you have with yourself? When you have issues, have you ever tried to talk with yourself about them? You know, the best person of all to help you would be yourself, or God, if you're religious.

You were right about one thing. Hope is wonderful. Lately I've been lacking of it because of some anxiety issues I'm having but it really is wonderful. Life is wonderful too though. Without life, hope is useless, so what's the use of hope? Ask yourself Corey, what do you really hope for?

When accepting who you are it's best to start with understanding why you're sad first.

What are you trying to accomplish in life Corey? Are you trying to find happiness? Do you know the meaning of life yet? In case you don't..The meaning of life is only what you let it be. You have to decide, not others.

Anxiety isn't as easy as depression to get over, because it's harder to accept as something that is holding you back. I'm still struggling with it though I'm no longer depressed. I'm not an expert on it so I wouldn't understand all the causes of it, though I do know why I have it.

I developed anxiety from an over protective mother. I have a fear of practically everything now and when I am enabled to feel a fear, I can't stop but be anxious about it. My fears can be resolved when I talk to other about them, but that's still no final solution.

As I've just concluded now, depression is the inability to interact with yourself properly, and anxiety is the inability to interact with the rest of society properly.

Corey, before tackling your depression, get to know yourself better and learn to trust your subconscious. Trust is an important part to living happy.

As for anxiety, I'll get back to you when I solve it. I've bookmarked this page and I'll continue to look back on it if you have any comments on what I've said here. I hope what I've said can come to a help to you, and take care.


anxious-tec said...


thanks for your words. you said some inspirational things.. things I will think about.


Anonymous said...

I could have written this entry. I'm 25, I'm a software developer too and I always been very good in everything I have done. I mean it's not always natural but whenever I start something, I literally put myself into it. It ok when you enjoy it but it's not ok when it's start to become an obsession.

I'm the type of person who wants to understand everything, to try everything, to succeed in everything, to be the best in everything. I used to be not able to let go something until it was solved. I became obsessed to live a perfect life. For instance, I wanted to try every good restaurants in town and instead of being happy when finding new ones, I was stressing out. Most of my sentences were beginning by the words "I have to ....". What even worse is that our society really encourages this kind of thinking so you never requestion it.

But lately I've gone through some CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and I realised my problem was very simple : I don't accept any failure!

But you know what :

- It's ok to not be the best in everything, to make mistakes. The world won't stop.
- It's ok to not solve a problem in one day or one night and to let things go sometimes.
- It's ok to not have a plan! It's better to try, fail and learn from there.
- It's ok to not understand everything at once.
- It's ok to not compare yourself to other people. Just try to improve yourself not beat other people.
- It's ok to feel bad sometimes, as long as you are more often happy than not.

When you'll realize this, you'll just stop CALCULATING everything and stop thinking ahead all the time because you won't see every hard time, every mistakes, every difficulty as a problem you must SOLVE. You'll just accept some of them as you have accepted yourself for what you are. Remember, your life is GREAT NOW not in the future! LET IT GO, stop trying to avoid any mistakes, stop telling you your life sucks and you should fix it. YOUR LIFE DOESN'T NEED ANY FIX, it just needs to be lived.

I would recommend doing some sport or some sort of activity that allow you to stop thinking

* By the way, I was also suffering from some kind of ADHD so getting help there helped me a lot too.

Searching too said...

I just stumbled onto this site, looking for Emotions Anonymous.

Corey, has this year-long communication with people been helpful, I mean in a lasting way?

Lasting being the key word because I get into terribly black moods - where I think that - while not contemplating suicide in any serious way - death would be not so bad: at least I wouldn't feel anxious any longer and what a relief that would be. This despite the fact that I know that the mood will shift, if I exercise, or have a human interaction, somehow get 'ecstatic' - but at the time it's happening it's excruciating. Drugs have worked, for 6 months, then their effect wears off. Being in a relationship now that's pretty good helps keep the demons at bay, but only just. It's creepy to know they're out there, lurking. I lie awake with him next to me and force myself not to wake him up for comfort (which he would do - but it's such a bore - 'cause the demons are in my head and not real). I contemplate having children but I'm scared I'll be so overwhelmed by my moods I'd be a lousy mom. Meditation is interesting but solitary and therefore far too easy to blow off doing. I'm so tired of spending money on therapists, but does anyone know a good CBT in LA who gets the job done efficiently, or is that concept the wrong way of thinking about this? Any other successful, lasting solutions?

Anyway, Corey, you are certainly not alone. You are also courageous to reach out to the world for help and support.

Allan said...

go to I am making a new website that explains why you are experienceing all of this and how i recoevered from it. Please give me few days to finish it and upload it



Anonymous said...

looking forward to seeing the site.


Anonymous said...

Anxiety and depression are two mental disorders that apart from being confused very often are also two of the commonest mental illnesses. Technically and medically there are a lot of dissimilarities between them though they seem to be similar on the surface. However, the fact that they are often confused to be the same is because they do have certain similarities. As for example the symptoms are very similar. There are certain similarities in the analogy also like both anxiety and depression can be caused by medicines or medications of other diseases or drug interactions. Antidepressants like xanax are prescribed by doctors for both anxiety as well as depression.

Anonymous said...

I am replying to the person who write the original post. I dont have time to read your entire post, as i have to leave, but i am desperate to reply.

i am 25, australian, currently living in the U.K. I found your post cos i was searching google to see if others have a similar problem with wanting to understand everything in life. I have a long story about anxiety and depression, and reading yours is scarily similar to mine. this is why i wanted to reply. my email is would like to speak more. thanks

Anonymous said...

We are an infinite species--not easy to understand by rationality. Yoga is the answer for most thinbgs I read in this blog. There is a direct connections between mind and body through breathing exercises. If you start googling about you get plent of information. Take the best.

xanax said...

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Anonymous said...

I am 16 and feel basically the same in ways I just don't care about today for example i thought i lost my iPod Touch and I was about to go on a rampage at school just because i thought someone stole it...but turns out i left it at home evidently.... I am yet a smart-a** recently that i have noticed....and i like to tell people the truth..seems how many girls i ask out at my school they just turn me down and i get all negative about things ...when i try to stay positive...i am on the desktop or laptop most of the time til late in the night...say 1-6 am in the morning hours...i have set some goals for me in life...they follow as .....
1. get license
2. get vehicle
3. finish high school
4. take a road trip with a group of my homies/friends
5. go to college and move to VA Beach, VA and open a business with a friend down there

now imma try these goals and see where they get i am only in the 10th grade....i take life as i am ready for the lord any time he is ready to come and get me....ive thought about killing myself but talk my self out of it all the hopeing and believing the lord will take me when he is ready and these goals i have set will help me in my case....hopes and prayers to any and all that are having the same effect...

Anonymous said...

People suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) are continuously worried, nervous, anxious and feel uneasy. If this state continues with the person for six or more months, he/she is said to be suffering from GAD. The best way to get diagnosed is to go to a proper medical practitioner.

Anonymous said...

Your problem is that you are absurdly introspective. You need to train yourself to stop thinking about yourself. Think about other things.

Anonymous said...

I don't live for today.. never have. I live many steps ahead. I don't enjoy anything alone. My thoughts race night and day. I can't slow my head down. Everything is so big-picture that I lose sight of where I am and who I am.

You might want to consider reading Philip Zimbardo's book The Time Paradox, which discusses these kinds of issues extensively and breaks people into three fundamental categories regarding how they relate to time: past, present, and future, with some sub-categories beneath. Obviously, we all share at least a few traits in each group, but for those who are particularly stuck in one, he recommends ways of trying to move past them.

It's improbable if not impossible that any single book will help you reorient or rejuvenate your life and outlook. Complex problems tend not to have simple solutions; I think the old phrase goes that every complex problem has a solution that is simple, clear, and wrong. Nonetheless, The Time Paradox might be able to help, and if nothing else, it also dovetails with your need for information. One other book might help: Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. I read it during an unhappy time and it gave me some comfort.

In any event, good luck. If you're curious, I wrote about The Time Paradox here, on my blog. If you'd like to hear more, send an e-mail to the link at my site.

Jawngee said...

Great article.

I suffer from PTSD, GAD and mild depression. Having been involved in a fairly violent street gang in high school, I had seen a lot of violence and just plain f*cked up stuff. People getting shot in front of me, a lot of situations that forced me to confront my own mortality, etc.

It really didn't hit me until about 10 years ago. I was getting off the F train at 23rd street and had an overwhelming feeling I was going to pass out, which I then interpreted as my imminent death. It was frightening because it was so out of the blue and so intense. Who wants to pass out on a subway platform? Or worse, die on a subway platform?

For the next two years I tried to find a medical reason behind that first massive panic attack, but never found one despite spending several tens of thousands of dollars on medical bills. I finally had to accept that I had these certain mental conditions.

I used to reign it in through a variety of meds; anti-depressants, klonopin, ativan, xanax. I went to a cognitive behavioral therapist to figure out how to change my thinking and learn to control it.

These days I don't take any meds and though I still have massive panic attacks now and again, they mostly don't phase me as they're so common place now and you sort of grow to accept that these things aren't going away and it's your lot in life.

The most damning aspects of anxiety disorder aren't the panic attacks, by the way. It's all the passive shit that comes with it. Hyper-vigilance and derealization have to be the worst. Hyper-vigilance means that you are so focused on your physical well being that the slightest pain, discomfort, etc. gets misinterpreted as a major medical calamity. A cough becomes lung cancer, a mild pain in your armpit becomes non-hodgkin's lymphoma, etc. With derealization, you'll have entire spans of time where nothing seems real to you at all, familiar things become unfamiliar, etc. If you've read anything by Camus, you'll have some understanding what derealization is all about. It's pretty scary shit.

But despite all of that, I have what I consider a fairly successful career. I believe that is partially due to the CBT therapy, and part to my stubbornness to not be a victim.

I do think depression and anxiety are endemic to this current generation of technologists (late 20's and up). This new generation, seems more balanced though, so maybe it's a generational thing? Not sure.

One controversial thing that has helped me, as well as hurt me, is marijuana. Most times it helps me to get out of my head, specifically on days when the anxiety is thickest. On the flip side, sometimes imbuing too much brings the anxiety like nothing else. But most times, it's been more helpful than harmful.

Anonymous said...

The humans need a tribe. People need to be with other people. Don't isolate yourself. Find some hacker groups or even just geek friends. Talk to them about your need to help people. Because we feek so great when we feel that we changed something in this world.
Give love.

Anonymous said...

Consider yourself fortunate that you have discovered that life is meaningless without God. The world has pushed God out of everything. God loves you, as shown with how He came to this world and died for us, to give us hope of living with the creator for eternity. Since you're asking for advice, mine is to read the New Testament.

You do help the world in your software engineering. However, God does not require that we help the world to get to heaven. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. You need Christ to rescue you from your sins. Accept the gift that God offers. Believe me it's a whole different life. Although not free from hardship. That's what heaven is for!

If you're interested in more, post a comment on We can connect somehow there.

matthew said...

(I don't have the energy to read all of the previous comments, apologies if I'm repeating someone.)

1) I'd suggest that you read the book "Psycho-Cybernetics" by Maxwell Maltz.

2) If you're in the US and into politics, maybe this is up your alley:

Scott said...

At least that you can see people care. You might not get the best answer in the comments, but you can at least see people care.

As for a project, make a website that keeps the government at bay of its people. That would help many and for a long time into the future that you speak of.

Go visit sunlight labs. They are doing awesome things and even have a contest going on right now to make gov. more transparent.

Joss82 said...

Travel, eat fruits (especially strawberries), meet different people and get some sun.
If possible at the same time.

Anonymous said...

I can relate to where you are at.
I would suggest looking up codependency, it may resonate with you.

Anonymous said...

I have at times felt like this and must add that I am just a couple of years behind you and everything else is exactly the same.

I think the thing that you are missing is family. Humans were not meant to live alone - a family gives meaning, love and caring to you and in certain ways receives some direct benefits of your productive self - which only further gives more meaning to your occupation and through it to your life.

The easiest way to start a family, atleast in the US, is I think to get a pet dog. You can start with a lab. , maybe two - they are almost like kids and will very soon become family. The next thing, which is probably harder in the US is to get married- though commitment is really hard to come by so that might not work as well. If you have parents, brothers etc. then probably you could share a much larger part of your life with them and help them get ahead.

best of luck and keep the faith.

Anonymous said...

Have you tried philosophical Buddhism? It teaches you to enjoy the NOW. It has a system of ethics simple enough to fit on a business card. Its emphasis on meditation is good for learning how to turn off the judge and commentator in our minds. Not trying to convert anyone, but it's helped me.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Existentialism to me. This isn't necessarily pigeonholed to the tech field. Many people feel just as you do. Taking an Existentialism course at the local college helped me. Everyone there is in the same recursive thought pattern. Angst is the central concept.

Anonymous said...

Also I'll add depression and anxiety are not mental illnesses, but instead a part of the human condition. Some of us realize it more than others. I think you'll enjoy reading what others have come up with on the concept of angst. I Heart Huckabees is a winner. :)

Anonymous said...

I'd say exercise was the biggest thing for me. I could never get into a routine, and I tried a number of times. I think something snapped. I also found that getting outside in the middle of the day during work to go for a run was something I started to look forward to everyday. Most days the peak of my day is right when I complete my lunch time run and head back into the office. Both the sunshine and exercise helps your overall demeanor, and the health benefits are a bonus. I started running about a year and a half ago, and have already run a half marathon, and am planning on a marathon later this year. The first few months of an exercise routine are the hardest.

Anonymous said...

Disce Pati.

You have 2 options. Fight through life or give up.

Good luck :/

Anonymous said...

I didnt read the comments so i dont know if this has been said or not - but i imagine people are going to be telling you you need religion or spirituality. That isn't true - what you need is a philosophy. what drives you? why are you here? the discomfort is a lack of understanding your basic purpose here in this life.

for me i find solace in the philosophy that we are here to observe and try to understand. that our personal growth feeds back into the growth of the all.

As a programmer, you might find success thinking of your life as a function. what is it?

Mark Myers said...

After suffering from clinical depression on-and-off for forty-five years, I found that the causes lay outside my thinking and were only weakly connected with the circumstances. What caused my depression, I found, was the way I lived. When I changed my lifestyle, my depression disappeared for good. My guess is that what worked for me would work for you. You can learn all about it in my book, Up without Meds, which you're welcome to read and download free at scribd.

Anonymous said...

I've spent most of my adult life doing exactly what you've described. I felt nothing when I graduated college, I felt nothing as I continually met my goals and kept reaching higher, and my relationships with women also never seemed to work for me either. I reached a point a year and a half ago where life just felt like it was one big struggle, and I was ready to give up in the face of all my hopelessness (read: kill myself).

Part of my story is an unhealthy relationship with alcohol which forced me into recovery at that same point in my life. Through that I discovered a whole new side of life, and a spiritual connection I had never felt before. I feel it necessary to point out that I'm not 'born again' and I haven't converted to some whack-job variant of christianity. I used to be an atheist, and now I'm not, and through that discovery process my extreme depression and the associated hopelessness has vanished.

I resisted this change of course, but I have found that the more I let go of my preconceptions towards a spiritual life, the better it seems to get. Just my two cents...

Anonymous said...

I am quite like you. Always lost in the big picture, wanting to do/achieve something bigger than myself, bring about a change. I am unable to live in the present. I keep thinking about the future, and living in the future. It's a curse.

While I didn't suffer from depression or anxiety until recently (breakup), I have always been restless at the back of my mind. Outwardly, I come across as calm and peaceful too but inside my mind is racing, constantly, rarely in the moment. Your words, "I'm always distracted. My mind is never on what I am doing." echo and resonate with me so well.

I won't give you any banal advice such as getting away, or giving to others and such. Much of it has to come from within. Every one of us has a different definition and idea of how life should be lived. But at the end of the day, shouldn't life be about seeing the beauty in it? About not struggling with oneself to an extent where it's less of living and more of being alive.

What helps me quite often is understanding certain truths about life, wisdom that has been around for ages, across different cultures and generations. That and understanding how the mind, the brain functions. Where our anxiety, depression, restlessness comes from, how it works.

Offhand, may I suggest you read 'The Happiness Hypothesis' by Jonathan Haidt. It's an enlightening book.


Anonymous said...

There is something else I'd like to throw light on.

Emotional highs, transient euphoria, or hedonic pleasure does not equate to happiness. They're not sustainable, they're not lasting. Similarly, achieving something, accomplishing a goal merely does not bring lasting happiness. Our mind is extraordinarily good at adapting (Hedonic adaptation) to achievements, to goals accomplished, to the big changes. To the extent that we return to our prior state of mind once we have in our bag what we set out to achieve. That is not to say that you should not have lofty goals, or chase success and accomplishment. Just don't fool yourself into believing that you'll feel much different when you get there :) When you accept this truth, it changes how you perceive your future.

Life's happiness lies in the small things, the small moments really. The things that appeal and pierce straight to your heart, your soul.

Friendships, love, strong bonds with people, helping others, sharing, a good laugh with a close friend, a good story in your journey that is life.

It's always, always about the journey, not the destination.

Technology, geekiness, programming, open-source, photography, vices - these things will all give you good temporary highs but not sustained mental peace and happiness that you seek.


Matt said...

I'm astounded at how many people suffer such a similar problem. Is it something about technology that lures depression? There's something deeply comforting about writing code in a structured and extremely tidy manner for me, and I'm sure everyone feels the same way.

Unlike you I've had a girlfriend for 3 years and we've lived together for 2 of those and though we argue, it seems to work well. She never understands when I try to explain this sort of thing to her, so I still have to deal with it alone, but hey ho.

Suggestions? I don't know. Hobbies, charity, etc. never worked for me. I think it's really mind over matter so you just have to sort of force yourself to start believing you're normal and nothing's wrong; sometimes it seems to work.

The guilt seems to get me a lot for this. As you said, we're the luckiest people on the planet; we do what we love and get a hell of a lot of money for it (in comparison to the 6.5 billion people who aren't from the western world), so why do I go to sleep hoping I don't wake up? I love my job, my girlfriend, the people around me, the city I live in, my hobbies; what could possibly be missing that makes me feel so bad?

I haven't tried meds, other than sleeping pills (used to have insomnia, now-a-days I can't sleep enough, I need 10-12, sometimes 13 hours a night). I'm really too frightened of being laughed out of the GP's offices for complaining when I have one of the greatest lives in the world.

I gave physical exercise a go too. Gym 4 days a week, running 3, swimming 1 (yeah, I'm so badass that I get 8 days in a week); then it was cycling 20 miles a day 5 days a week for 7 months but I ended up with exhaustion (I was probably overcompensating). That didn't work.

I could complain for days about all this, but judging by the other posts it seems that there's a large crowd of people who feel the same, and I have nothing decent to add, just my own sorrows.

I suggest alcohol. Not a lot, just a pint or 2 a day, or a tumbler of whisky. It really seems to take the edge off in the evenings, at least for me; and a pint or 2 a day is linked to good health.

Good luck with finding a solution. It probably involves quitting everything and moving to an island in the pacific. Or becoming a Buddhist Monk.

- Matt

Jason said...

Hi Anxious,

I'm a bit older than you and also a software engineer with my Master's degree. I believe I used to feel the same as you feel. I found change in developing and cultivating a deep appreciation for myself.

After reading your post, which is quite good by the way as this kind of honesty is an impossible step, I don't think you need to help anyone, share anything, or get an new hobby. I think you need to get in better touch with yourself. And by 'yourself' I mean your emotions and how it is that you feel about your internal and external worlds.

This is where advice will fail you however, as you're the only one with any chance of knowing what it is that you feel and therfore what it is that you need. The best thing I've found is someone who'll let you bounce ideas off of them, effectively letting you think out loud. Ideas have an odd and profound way of changing when spoken aloud, something that most technological mediums fail to reveal.

Good luck.

Tim said...

As have so many commenters above, I have great sympathy for your situation, and, having been in a similar situation myself, I admire your bravery in being so frank about this.

I think it's interesting that there's seems to be such a correlation between people with Anxiety / Depression problems and people working in technology - my personal theory is that people with these problems tend to enjoy working with computers, as the whole process involves dealing with certainties, everything is a known quantity that can be understood with enough brain-power, there's none of the ambiguity and uncertainty of everyday life that (in my case at least) was so often a trigger for my illness.

The trouble with this is, of course, that working professionally in technology can be incredibly stressful - long hours are the norm, as is a culture among non-technical people to assume any technical problems they encounter are the fault of the "IT person". Neither of these are good for people with anxiety and depression problems.

After a horrible, horrible episode last year, I've been doing very well, and am feeling better than I ever have done in my adult life. I'm a fair bit younger than you and don't presume to be able to offer you much in the way of knowledge, but here are a few things that helped me, and I hope might help you too.

If you suffer from a mental illess like anxiety or depression, you need to be under a doctors care. period. Whether or not you decide to go for pharmaceutical treatment, CBT or other talking therapies, or none of the above, you should at least talk to your GP (or the equivalent practicioner where you live) about the options, and make sure they are aware of your condition. They are skilled professionals, and while you should definitely have a say in how you are treated, please do take their advice seriously.

2) Exercise. This is the quickest way to release extra seratonin into your body, and therefore is a great cure (in both a tactical short-term sense when you feel unwell, and a strategic, preventative, long term way). This doesn't need to mean hours in the gym - I've bought a bicycle to go to work and back on, and so far, that's worked wonders

3) Eat well. Again, your diet directly influences the level of all the chemicals in the brain that are essential to maintaining a good mood. In addition, cooking is a wonderful, interesting, relaxing activity. Taking an hour out after work to cook a meal will have immediate benefits, as well as making you healthier in the long term.

4) As so many people have said, try and cultivate interests that get you away from your keyboard, and preferably, out of the house, and meeting other people. You mention that you used to play the guitar and DJ - why not think about taking up music again? It'd be very good for you, and I bet you'd enjoy it. Make sure your time to yourself is non-negotiable. any work-related concerns can wait.

5) You mention you're going through a divorce - I have the utmost sympathy for you, as this must be a very troubling time, and I'm not surprised you're finding it difficult. However, I'd recommend taking a good look at your relationships (Meaning specifically romantic ones, but friendships might benefit from the same scrutiny), and take a good look at why you're entering into them, what you got from them, and why they went wrong. In my case, a lot of my problems were excacerbated by having had relationships with unsuitable people for much of my adult life. Since realising this, i've been much happier both romantically and generally.

Finally, a word on medication - I appreciate you've tried this and it didn't work (as it doesn't for so many), but i get the impression that you're expecting it to work as a panacea for all your problems (again, you can't be blamed for this - antidepressant drugs are presented as magic 'happy pills' for the 'weak' throughout popular culture, making this erroneous view unfortunately very prevalent). In my case at least, a course of medication (benzopiazipines initially, followed by a longer course of an SSRI) has been invaluable - but it was a starting point, that allowed me to get well enough to make the lifestyle changes that i describe above, which i am fairly certain are what's contributing to my well-being in the long term. Your Mileage May Vary, of course, but do talk to a physician, and please don't dismiss them out of hand.

Finally, and i don't want to be too prescriptive about this, as we're all entitled to our vices - but be very wary of self-medicating with alcohol, cigarettes or other drugs. I'm not saying you should abstain completely, but if you do indulge, make sure you temper yourself to some extent, and do learn to recognise when you're indulging normally, and when you're self-medicating your illness.

All the best, I really hope my advice has been of some use, and that you get better soon. Do remember that you have a treatable medical problem - it's not your fault, nor is it permanent.


Tim said...

To mitigate my last comment slightly - I'm not suggesting you take up using intoxicants, as they're very harmful, especially for people with Mental Health problems. Definitely avoid, but don't feel too guilty about any vices you already have, is waht i'm trying to say.

Also, I've just noticed the date of this post - I wish i'd found it sooner.

How are you at the moment? Feeling Better? I do hope so.

Toofs said...

"It probably involves quitting everything and moving to an island in the pacific. Or becoming a Buddhist Monk."

This isn't as funny as it sounds. What you describe is sometimes helped by some thoughtful reflection and meditation. I know a lot of older mathmaticians, programmers, and logisticians who meditate on a regular basis, and it helps them quite a bit. I myself have been meditating for only two or three years, and it's been just amazing.

Find a dojo and go talk to some Zen Bhuddists, sit Zazen just once, and maybe talk to some of the monks (Yes, there are great American monks.)

Anonymous said...

Smoke some weed. Problem solved.

Anonymous said...

I was born practically knowing I was different from everyone else. When I was five I asked my mom if I was a robot or a real child. She said she had the pictures to prove that I was a real child. Then I wondered if maybe she was the robot, and I was the only real person alive.
Growing up feeling isolated and alone is something I have a lot of experience with. I have also always been addicted to knowledge, not so much lately. Before I was able to read I was staring at paleontology text books my mom had (she always wanted to be a marine biologist but had a family instead and had really good books to satiate her aspirations) until I could recognize words and ask her what they are.

I never really had any friends but I was always friendly with people. I've only had three best friends my whole life, one at a time. When I was in my early teens, one of them molested me, raped me, and mentally abused me (the rape was new but he had done this all along). For years he would show up uninvited, coerce or rape me and then leave (if I was lucky) or overstay his (un)welcome. I didn't really know what was happening at the time but I tried not to be friends with him, I tried to get him out of my life but nothing I could do or say helped at all. Verbal abuse was the worst. Because of him I am self conscious about the size of my penis, the shape of my body, and my self-worth. When he wasn't abusing me, I had enough of it from other students and teachers to finally make me drop out of high-school. I did some homeschooling which made the isolation and social awkwardness thing even worse. The anxiety in social situations was unbearable at times and then I started drinking and partying and that helped a lot. Eventually it became binge drinking and I knew I had a problem and was able to stop. I am fortunate.

I am 24 now.

I had blacked out the abuse, the trouble in school from not doing my work (despite making perfect grades on tests) or name calling and harassment I got because of my weight. I have never had a girlfriend and I don't know if I ever will. I am pretty convinced no one has ever been attracted to me or ever will be even though I know plenty of women (and men) have been interested in me. I just don't ever see myself being loved.
Since then I have become an activist after losing a really good job because of the housing crisis of 08. I became interested in Anarchism and the idea of a society free of coercion and violence sounded good to someone who had been subjected to plenty of both. The best part was the anarcha-feminist zines dealing with rape. I sometimes thought about my past but always put it out of my head because men aren't supposed to be raped, I thought. The zines changed my mind and gave me untenable comfort and confidence. This was the first step.

I was doing fine for a while, having blacked out everything, but then I learned someone Im close to (a new best friend) had been raped years ago. No one had ever known I was raped and abused until the night I found myself in the same room with her alone, long enough to muster the courage to tell her about my story. I have only recently begun to deal with this after telling her and since then I have told other wonderful people about it too because my depression and panic attacks prevent me (since admitting to myself I had been raped) from being an effective activist and I felt like I owed my comrades an explanation. So the ones I can trust know I've been raped by a former best friend and the ones I can't know that I'm just depressed and get panic attacks. I have tried to get help but the universities and counseling centers I have contacted haven't been very helpful and the more I talk to women friends of mine who have been victimized, I get really fucked up stories about how they haven't gotten much help either. The only help it seems any of us get are from each other.

I blame Capitalism and growing up in a fundamentalist Christian home for most of the torment in my life. It was hard enough being depressive and anxious as a child but getting raped probably made me suicidal. Thinking I could be gay was torture because I thought I was going to hell - going to hell for something I didnt ask for and didn't choose. I know now that I am straight and much more secure about my sexuality now and revel in breaking gender roles and going to anti-homophobia protests.

I am still jobless, pretty sure I couldn't hold one down as it is, and live with my parents and siblings. I can't tell my family because they know the "friend" and I don't know how they would react. I don't want them to worry about me even more than they do but I also see not telling certain people as reclaiming parts of my life. I have grown very tired of talking about my experience because it doesn't seem to release the tension like it used to and now I just get blindingly enraged. Recently this person has tried to come back into my life, asking to hang out, coming over to my house (which resulted in me temporarily living on a friend's couch, hiding from my attacker, at least I was forwarned and had time to escape), calling me three-six times a day despite my not answering the phone for weeks. If I saw this person IRL, I don't know if I would have a panic attack and pass out or if I would literally try to kill him. I would probably try to kill him but pass out first.

Activism gave me confidence, purpose, showed off my abilities and helped prove to myself I was a capable and worthy human. But I am now so depressed and have panic attacks (which came back when I lost my job last year) that I don't have any interest in the political stuff I was doing. I have books I desperately want to read but can't, lectures and forums I desperately want to attend but can't, protests I want to go to so I can scream at the system responsible for perpetuating the attitudes about sex, sexuality, and consent that led to my rape, and the economic system that indirectly effected my employment.

But I can't.

Sometimes I can't get out of bed. When I get a trigger, the rape is the only thing I can think about and I relive it as a series of flashbacks which can also occur for absolutely no reason. I am a shell of a person who once was. The only thing that allows me to communicate with people, to go out in public and attack my isolation is the copious amount of marijuana I smoke. I smoke a lot of it. Whenever I can. My tax check is coming soon and I intend to buy quite a lot of marijuana with it, maybe saving some to buy a printer so I can print out zines and give them to the public for free.

There are certain strains that are supposed to help with anxiety and depression and my experience has been that the more THC than CBD the more likely you are to be active than sleepy. This generally means that Sativa plants are more likely to relieve my depression and anxiety than Indica plants, which do both but also put me to sleep or melt me into the couch until I find all of the change I've lost plus the TV remote.

I don't know what to tell you except to try marijuana and or activism. The downside is that both are pretty much likely to get you in trouble. But I don't fear death - I conquered that when I became an atheist. Prison would really suck though. I am pretty rapephobic and very sure that that sort of thing happens a lot in prison. I would probably kill myself rather than go to prison.

If you do decide to smoke, try to live in a state where it is legal and get an Rx if you think it helps. Get a vaporizer for about $150usd, because smoking it kind of sucks, a lot. Unless you want to put on extra weight, buy vegan (soy free, soy has probably fucked with my depression) food and stay away from sugar or diet soda, they are the same thing according to your body.

If you decide to become an activist, like getting involved in the gift economy (a very anticapitalist idea) of Open Source software, make sure you have friends to do stuff with. Maybe get a room mate who is a programmer.

I haven't been to a therapist but I have a suspicion most of them are dim and unhelpful. Your review of them is very close to what I thought they would be. I am pretty sure there are reasons we get chronically depressed that aren't addressed by most of the prescriptions out there. And talking to someone who can only sympathize and not empathize, someone who pretends to understand what you are going through but hasn't suffered the same - well, I question how much this can possibly help.

Beyond my simple, myopic advice, I cannot tell you how to fix this. I wish there was a button to fix this, or a script I could write... but no such thing exists. The two of us may very well have to suffer like this the rest of our lives, for a long time. I posted this because I feel like I can relate to you and having someone to relate to is an important part of destroying alienation and isolation. I wonder if you could relate to me. Having radical friends has helped a lot but I am still very isolated from most of them. I am still way too isolated from everyone for comfort. I wonder if this will go away after getting a girlfriend.

Like you, I too have hope anyway. This is a little remarkable to me, and maybe it is a coping mechanism? I just hope the rest of my year is less traumatic and something good happens I can be happy about. I hope I can be the dependable hard-working and well-spoken activist that I came to be just before this set back.

I hope you can find some resolution too.

Anonymous said...

Mon dieu!

My comment will be short, as the comments above are all incredible and I'm not so compelled to restate what's already been restated, but I will say this: reading this post, and these comments has just given me the biggest optimistic uplift I've had in a while.

Reading your post was like looking in the mirror, and I thank you for posting this. It really provoked more thoughts - in a good way, however.

Anonymous said...

Kitesurfing or snowboarding.

You need a physical outlet. Exercise will give you relief.

And you'll be so tired every night that there wont be time for any other thoughts.

Once your happy, you'll be strong enough to help others.

hugin said...

thanks for sharing. we are large, we contain multitudes. we share and are alone.

this is not advice; simply an opportunity: write code for good cause? non-profit, open-source

good luck.

Anonymous said...

That really touched me. Thanks for posting it...i a teenager who feels the same about technology and its use or high it gives someone. I did too suffer from depression and had medicine. I loved your use of words to describe the day to day ideology that we need to get over because tomorrow will still suck in someway or form. But also a tie with religion can help such thing or someone to ultimately becoming alone...but you might be feeling alone even though technology makes you feel connected in some forms.

Take that for whatever it is worth. You really changed my thoughts on life for the better. Thanks.

nil said...

hi corey, this is a comment from Hangzhou, east shore china.

It is kind of weird when i see this article. Happy as finding someone has the same feeling of life/work/love like myself. Sad as questioning why the heck do we have to live this.

It is very good of you on trying to help the rest of the world. But as a quote from someone i know, putting yourself on the center of the stage while thinking the rest of the world will judge is the root of evil which caused anxiety and depression.

That's my little suggestion, and my poor english. wish you happy every day and night.

nil said...

one more suggestion, change your blog's background-color to a brighter one. it will lighten up your mood.

Anonymous said...

i'm a software guy who'd been suicidal on and off for 25 years.

psychotherapy and lexapro worked for a while.

then i got pretty desperate and i tried clinical hypnotherapy almost by accident. one hour a week for 10 weeks. problem solved.

it's *profound*.

i went off lexapro overnight and i have not been back to my psychiatrist since.

that was 5 years ago.

you can't think your way out.

Anonymous said...


Most of the things that u have said..except for the marriage part, is same as my life...I haven't done any medication yet...I am trying to avoid medication and trying to adjust with yoga and relaxation techniques.

Many of the things that u have said - software engg, programmer, funny (people around me say they feel I am full of life) - suit perfect for me too...but, in my back of my head..i am always having tensions...I didnt marry yet..but everything started off with a failed relationship...I know it sounds funny (or maybe childish) to may people around, but I have not been able to recover from the things that have happened to me...I tried committing suicide once, but someone couldn't because I didn't have the courage...(I then knew it was time for me to consult a doc, but still I postponed).

I dont know what else to say....but I am now a wreck..or maybe I can put.."My shit is a mess!"

Take care


vlad said...

I can empathize with you to a certain extent. Have you tried marijuana?

Anonymous said...

Reading that I felt like it could have been wrote by me. I can't believe that there is someone out there that is feeling the same as me. I too work as a Software Engineer and I love computers exactly as you described, but I am also learning post graduate law. It's just another set of steps in the hope that I will get to my imaginable land of tranquility.

I can't remember when I started to feel this way, since I can remember I suppose. I also hide behind a facade of humour and unstoppable drive. I think I am doing all this so I don't have to stop and think for too long. I also can't share anything with my family or people close to me in case of worrying them. I find it also stops me from getting close to anyone in the fear that they will find me out.

My anxiety has started to manifest itself physically now and it has started to slow me down and get me down even further. I have been the the doctors but as I guessed there is no sympathy for my condition and it is brushed aside. I just push myself further.

I also have this great feeling that I am taking one step forward and two steps back all the time. This feeling of a massive weight that is keeping me where I am with no way out. I earn good money and have nice stuff but it does not make any difference to me. I buy things in the hope that somehow they might make me feel better. I now own vast amounts of books that would take me a lifetime to read and they work by keeping my mind on something else.

I too feel kind of ashamed by my condition and I know that it might sound stupid to most people but until you fell like this you just won't understand. I have not really spoken to anyone about it properly. I feel upbeat enough to keep moving forward as usual and from the sound of it so do you.

Good luck my friend and all the best.

Yours Faithfully,
A sympathetic soul.

Arnav Khare said...

Hey dude,

Don't take yourself so seriously. Thoughts come and go like the wind. Don't dwell on them too much... they become stagnant.

Why don't you try going out of your comfort zone? Try sales/marketing for a while... which will make you come in contact with people. Why not go back to your parents house for a while and live with them for a few months (go back to the old days and the old neighborhood) and rediscover yourself...

I know loneliness is hard. But have patience, you will definitely have great people in your life again. :-)

And ps. don't listen to some of these guys who are asking you to try marijuana or this/that anti-depressant. Give yourself some time, slow down and be calm and patient. Smell the fresh air again.


Anonymous said...

There are so many comments I don't have the time to read all yet, so sorry if I repeat stuffs that other have said, but here are a few thoughts:

I tend to overcompensate for my weaknesses by excelling at everything else.
Perhaps you overestimate your weaknesses. You should take some distance with that, and do not put too much pressure on you.

Life should be a breeze compared to the billions of people in less fortunate situations. Who am I to feel bad? I have no right.
You perfectly have the right to feel bad. Even in a fortunate situation. You feel so, that's plainly OKAY. You even try all what you can do to feel better, so you are on the right way. You are doing things right, don't put too much pressure on you.

All of which are true; but in the back of my head, life has always been spoiled by a rotten undertone. I live in a world of a secret darkness.
I think you should both try practical things (sport, meditation, meeting new peoples, experiencing some new stuff, whatever seem to work for you) and also try to see why you see the world as it is and you feel so. But probably you already had with your analysis.

I need technology.. It's all I have.. It's all I am good at..
Once again you put too much pressure on you. You've got much more than technology, even if you don't aknowledge it yet. Perhaps you should diversify your interests and try something else too. Like taking drawing lessons, going into museums or whatever. Just making a lot of experiences to change your point of view.

While I may have conceded that my own happiness is not achievable, I still see it in others.
If you say so I will be so. Self persuasion is dangerous. I think you fight for happiness should not be given up. Don't compare too much with others also, they probably are less happy than you think. Perhaps you can also try to please to other (working for charities, organizing non-profit projects etc) to forget a little bit about yourself and find a place where you find yourself better on this world.

Cenk said...

Please find out what Vipassana is, and apply it to your life. Take a 10 day course first and see it for your self..

Try and see, I won't say anything else my friend.

May we all be happy soon.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
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Amanda said...

Wow, I totally hear ya! May I suggest volunteering to work with kids at a local school... You could teach an after school course on programming... use Alice... its a great way to teach kids about OOP. Especially in poor areas kids have minimal exposure to awesome things like programming, you could totally make a difference there.

seller said...

very good

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I know what you feel like. I have both anxiety and depression and sometimes I feel I really can't go on. It's terrible because I think about things I don't want to think about and it's not always easy to distract myself because I'm not interested in anything that would distract me. I don't know how I'm going to manage, but I'm trying not to think about it. I like being on my own and miss having company at the same time. I don't know if you've heard of EFT, but you should try it. I haven't tried it very much yet, but it seems to work successfully for thousands of people. I wish you all the strength you need.

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