One thing I realise, is I’m always trying to do too much. The theme for next years Mardi Gras is what matters. So, what matters to me? In terms of my personal well being I tend to view it accross 5 elements:
Being healthy is the foundation to all elements of my well being. If I’m not looking after myself here, how can I grow in any other part of my well being? For me, this is physical health, mental health and sexual health.
The biggest thing I need to focus on for next year is beating the overweight category. I’ve beaten the obesity label once before but I’ve slipped back a little and I need to get on top of this. For my height, I need to be less than 65kg to beat the over weight label.
Next year will see me go through Schema Therapy. Here’s hoping it helps me correct an unhealthy mindset I have about myself.
I’ve always been reluctant to put sexual content on my blog, hoping to keep it professional. However I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t acknowledge it wasn’t an important part of my well being. I’m getting back into the kink scene by attending a few munches. This also helps build up a sense of community. The kink community was the first community I turned to when I first moved to Sydney 6 years ago.
This is one of my personal values too. This also covers family. Nearly everything I do is driven by some sense of community. Next year I’ll be focusing on more board games, the kink community and professional networking. My biggest goal here will be focusing on building and engaging an online community through twitch and podcasting.
I still want to release that app and write a book, however these goals are a bit further down the priority list and I don’t mind if I don’t achieve the book next year. The app is going to help me grow as a software engineer and is more important for growing my side business.
I’m making progress here. I aim to pay off half my credit card debt by the end of the year. I’ll continue to chip away at it at least.
I’ve tried giving myself spirtual goals before (say establish a daily meditation habit), but that’s always felt more of a mental health thing. I think next year I’m going to explore pagan/magic/druidary by practicing atleast 4 ceremonies that align with each 3 month interval of the year. I read a book yesterday on Australian Druidary and it’s inspired me to try it next year.
So in summary; I have 5 goals that touch all 5 elements of my well being:
Beat the overweight label
Release a mobile app
Start a podcast
Pay off half of my credit card debt
Practice 4 magic ceremonies
2020 should be a year of focus and vision (haha, get it?). What matters to you for the next year?
I had a chat to a psychologist yesterday and they recommend I try schema therapy. Schema therapy can be useful for people with split personalities or who have gone through cognitive behavioral therapy before but still find they get “stuck” in unhealthy mindsets.
The premise behind the schema is that you have a belief or a mindset, normally developed as a kid that’s actually really harmful and destructive as an adult. E.G. someone who always finds themselves in abusive relationships or self medicates through a drug addiction might have an unhealthy schema.
My schema is worthlessness
I have a fundamental belief that I’m a completely worthless heap of shit who doesn’t deserve to be here and can’t do anything right. Now that’s hard to write down and I’d never say that to anyone else but this is a constant thought in my head. When I started failing uni this thought was the only thing in my mind and I couldn’t function. I fell into a bout of chronic depression and had no energy to do anything. I escaped this thought by eating, watching tv and playing video games. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) helped me to quiet this voice but it’s still there.
Triggers for my schema
I think everyone has these unhelpful thoughts going through their mind. When I’m healthy and looking after myself this voice is just background noise, just like in everyone else’s head. However if I’m tired, stressed, unwell or otherwise just a bit meh, this voice gets louder. I find during a particular time of month, I don’t sleep so well thanks to those pesky hormones. I find this voice gets a little harder to ignore around then. My dad is also a big trigger for me, I think that internal voice resonates with his voice a bit too well.
This might take 2 years
I might be doing this type of therapy for up to 2 years. This won’t be an easy exercise. I have to unlearn a fundamental belief I’ve had with me since I can remember. I can’t change this mindset overnight. Believe me, if I could change it I would have already done so.
It’ll get worse before it gets better
This morning I had a teary because the side walk was blocked, I walked pass the barrier and a worker told me to turn around. I had to back track a distance to cross the road safely and I missed the bus I needed to be on. I got upset with myself for a good half an hour and felt like a complete failure. When I was chronically depressed, that upset mood would stick around all day. I’m glad it now only lasts for half an hour but it’s still an unhealthy response to that situation. By bringing this mindset to the surface it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Just like how physio can be uncomfortable but is meant to make you stronger.
This isn’t Imposter Syndrome
I don’t generally feel like an imposter, parts of my self confidence are actually pretty healthy. I’m good at what I do and I know my career is going pretty awesomely. I don’t feel like don’t deserve my job, friends or family. Overall my life is pretty awesome, I just have this unhealthy reaction to some situations.
I’ve now been aware of a persistent low mood for around 2 months now. Here is a poem to reflect on the persistent feeling of not wanting to exist. It constantly washes over me during the day. This is not a feeling I want to act on, I know it doesn’t make any sense, overall my life is pretty awesome (except for these thoughts and a few other things) but if you feel like acting on these types of thoughts please reach out to lifeline on 13 11 14 or anyone other related service. The last time I wrote a poem about depression was in 2016.
Can I Just not exist right now, k thx.
This thought sneaks in as I stand in line at the supermarket.
How about if the world just swallowed me up, k thnx.
Then I wouldn’t have to exists with these thoughts.
Why do I not want to exist?
There’s nothing in life that should be causing this.
Can I Just not exist right now, k thnx.
As I wait for the bus I think about disappearing.
How about numbing the pain?
Beer and the internet in my pocket help me forgot myself.
Staring into the void, I still want to exist in the future
Trigger warning: thoughts of suicide are mentioned in this blog post.
I had a depressive episode yesterday. It lasted for about an hour, I was brought to tears and stuck in a, “I’m a failure” mental loop. I couldn’t put away my groceries or do anything else. Now this isn’t the worse episode I’ve had, actually it was pretty mild all things considering. I was left feeling exhausted after the episode but I could function; I cleaned, cooked and settled in for a movie (I watched district 9 last night, I really enjoyed it). My trigger; a text message conversation with my Dad.
Summary of the trigger
It starts with my Dad asking to borrow $3000. I say I only have $1000 in savings (if you’d like to read more about my finances, I have this blog post). Conversation flows from there and I’m left feeling like a failure because I can’t help. The last time I blogged about a trigger, I was terrified of confronting the person who caused the trigger. This time was different. This time I thought, “If I don’t say anything, it’ll never get better”.
Confronting the trigger
I actually told my Dad, “this has made me feel pretty miserable”. I then switched off my phone so I wouldn’t have to deal with his response until the morning when I knew I’d be in a better mental state. Good thing I did because my Dad basically told to grow up and get over it. Here’s a summary of that conversation:
It didn’t work out
So confronting my Dad didn’t change anything, He didn’t apologise. However I feel better for confronting this. The last time I confronted my dad over how his words made me feel miserable, I was 16 and wrote a fake suicide note after some nasty insults were thrown my way. He didn’t apologise then so why would he now? You can see the whole conversation here if you want too:
Please be supportive
If someone reaches out to with their problems, please provide an empathetic ear. This story is a case of what not to say. We don’t necessarily want solutions, sometimes we just want to vent our frustrations.
Have you ever confronted your triggers? Do you have any stories of where it worked out for you?
On a more positive note, I enjoyed watching this ted talk on why some people develop depression or anxiety. And one idea was, “are you living by values which make you feel good or are KFC values?”
So I went to my GP to get a blood test. Turns out I’m vitamin D deficient and borderline low in iron. That would explain some of the low mood.
Some people get SAD
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression linked to seasonal changes. I find I tend to get bluer around Winter/Spring time and I think it’s connected to not enough sun light.
lethargic in the morning
Problems getting to sleep some nights
Struggling to get up and going
Easy to tear up
Sense of worthlessness
Difficulty concentrating on work tasks
Lack of motivation
I become a master procrastinator
Try to be easy on yourself
While I’m recovering from this bout of winter blues, I’ve put most of my extra goals on hold. I’m not bothered with my weight-loss goals, my book writing or app building. I’m giving myself time to recover. I’m trying to meditate in the sun in the mornings but that’s slow going. I’m open with my team at work for taking mental health days when I just don’t have the capacity for work. You can also use spoon theory to talk about your capacity.
If you are feeling something similar, try to set yourself small achievable goals and talk to someone about it. Reach out, you aren’t alone. Have you experienced SAD lately? What is part of your self care therapy?
Let me tell you a story of how I got my role at one of Australia’s big four banks. Back when I was last job hunting, I had a few different leads come about from networking at meetup events and this bank wasn’t my first choice.
I had another Job Offer
My trip up to Newcastle to present at the Newcastle coders group had lead to job offer from a startup. The job offer was a mobile app team lead to a potential head of engineering upgrade career path. It was a super exciting offer and after chatting to my partner about it (they weren’t super happy) I signed the job offer.
Moving to Newcastle
I gave notice to my house mate, my previous contract and my community. I had arranged a few inspections and had put down a rental deposit on a new apartment up that way and had my heart set on living a 20 minute walk from walk, a 15 minute walk from the beach and a 5 minute walk from a brewery. All for less than $350 per week rent for a 2 bedroom apartment right in the centre of Newcastle. I had my priorities straight 😆 .
Then it all fell through
2 weeks before moving, the startup calls me up and cancels my employment contract. The level of transperancy I practice personally was a culture fit concern. Apparently someone on the board spoke to a previous colleague while doing “extra background checks” and my history of depression and performance came up. It’s not like I publicly speak and blog about these struggles. But they didn’t want to hire someone with this history. However the formal reason for cancelling the contract was for “culture fit” reasons.
This was over a phone conversation with one of the founders of the startup so the termination reason was never written down formally. I’m on good terms with the founder, they were annoyed with this decision but there wasn’t anything either of us could really do.
I think someone had spoken to a colleague who didn’t have the full context of why I left a previous role. The role didn’t suit my skills and expertise.
Where as from the outside, it looked like my broken leg blues was impacting my performance. Now it did impact my engagement but it wasn’t the reason for the departure. you can read more about that story here.
Mental Health Discrimination
If you feel like you’ve been unfairly dismissed or discriminated against, you have a few options. I had a chat to a fair work lawyer, they believed I had a valid case but because I hadn’t started employment there wasn’t a lot of financial reimbursement I could claim and their fee was $7000.
Claiming Unfair Dismissal
You can claim on your own with no lawyers fees but it’s harder if you chose to self represent. Also you have to let the fair work ombudsman know within 21 days of being dismissed. I let that time window pass. You can claim a few other ways too, one way has a 6 month time frame and another is within 12 months with the human rights commission. *
*Disclaimer; I might have some of these facts mixed up and this is not legal advice. Please reach out to a lawyer for further clarification
Opting out of unfair dismissal
I opted to not go down the unfair dismissal route. The startup had reimbursed me the direct expenses I had already paid with the move (my rental deposit and inspection fees), so there wasn’t much else I could claim except for the lapse in work/stress from moving because I now had to find a new job and move (my house mate had already found a new room mate and I couldn’t undo that). I didn’t feel all that hard done by and felt like they had already made fair reimbursements.
The only other reason I’d want to pursue the case is because I’d want people to acknowledge that mental health is important and it’s illegal to discriminate on this basis.
Rekindled previous leads
After the Newcastle job fell through, I rekindled all of the previous job leads I had. The original job at this bank I had interviewed with had been filled but there was another mobile QA engineer related role with another team that had just opened up. My details were passed along to someone else on the Talent Acquisition team. I did have to redo the 2 stage interview process again but it was a successful process this time round.
Moving and the new job
In the end, it all worked out for the better. I moved into my own 2 bedroom apartment in Crows Nest which had even cheaper rent than my last place (it wasn’t as cheap as Newcastle) and ended up with a job with this bank with a higher salary package compared to what the start up was offering. I’m still on a mobile team and I’m working on an interesting product. I have a financial update here if you are interested in reading more about my current state of affairs.
My partner is happier with this option and I can continue to do all of the awesome event based stuff I’ve been doing for Sydney Testers and YOW! Conference. I really dodged a bullet, I wouldn’t have wanted to work for a company where people didn’t like my transparency.
I’ve also written about fatness and bias before. This doesn’t constitute illegal discrimination under Australian law but it’s another story of how society can feel like it treats us unfairly.
I was having a chat to colleague recently about mental health. I actively blog about my struggles with depression and we got talking about spoon theory and self care. I thought I would share some of my practices that help me keep on top of this part of my health.
Spoon theory is a metaphor for dealing with chronic illness/mental health issues or disability. When we are healthy and functioning we have plenty of spoons to deal with life and we hardly notice when they are used. Sometimes we might be in situations where our spoon supply is diminished and mundane tasks we took for granted now become very hard to do. I find not sleeping well is a quick way to reduce the number of spoons I have to work with the next day. Sometimes starting a new project or being in a new situation can deplete more spoons than expected.
Sometimes you might hear people say, “I’m out of spoons” as a safe way to signal to the people around them that they are overwhelmed and need help getting out of their current situation.
I have a harsh internal self critique that is always trying to get me down. When I’m tired it’s harder to ignore that voice in my head. One way to combat this is to practice gratefulness. Some people like to keep a daily journal and at the end of the day write down 5 things they are grateful for. This why a nightly prayer (if you are Christian) is great practice for improving your mood. You spend some time in your day reflecting on the good things. I keep a blog post that is a, “letter to self, when you are feeling low this is all the awesome stuff you are doing”. Some people practice mindfulness or meditation.
Meditation can help you to recognise your triggers from an internal thought process and can help you to not get emotionally caught up with the thoughts. Your mileage with meditation can vary and I don’t recommend trying to introduce a new habit without some support in place first. I try to meditate for 20 minutes a day but don’t beat myself up if I miss a day.
2018 has come and gone. You know what, overall it’s been a pretty shit year for me but the goal of this blog post is to take a moment to practice gratefulness and to reflect.
The crappy bits
I started 2018 not being able to walk because I broke my ankle in December 2017 and couldn’t walk for 12 weeks. I was also starting a new job. 2018 saw me go through a relapse of depression because of broken leg blues and I went through 2 jobs. The first one wasn’t the right fit and the second one had cash flow problems. But still, these were unplanned events that made me feel like failure.
However that is enough moping about. What else did I achieve in 2018?
I spoke at the Selenium Conf in India in July. This was pretty cool. It doesn’t matter how much people tell you about cultural differences, it’s really worth experiencing some of these things yourself. I had never been to India before so that was exciting.
I spoke at a few more in Aus (Agile Australia, and Australian Testing days), you can see all of my recorded presentations here. I also attended a few offering my sketch noting services. I enjoyed being able to attend these conferences and add some value back.
Getting around on wheels made me appreciate public transport here in Sydney. Sure it’s not 100% perfect, but it’s definitely better than New York. Watch Zach Anner on his quest for the rainbow bagel using the New York public transport:
I’m binge watching youtube video’s, as I do when I’m doing nothing on the weekend and I stumble on this TED talk on co-housing:
This got me thinking of all of the different types of houses I’ve lived in over the years and I’d thought I share my stories and experiences with them.
My personal values are (I can actually use the mnemonic CASE to remember them);
Experiences over things
Living in sharehousing/cohousing actually aligns with my all of my core values in some way.
Student Housing in Sweden
I lived in Sweden as an exchange student for a year between 2009-2010. I lived in a corridor in a student housing complex. Each corridor had 13 separate bedroom & bathroom units and a central kitchen/lounge room that was shared amongst the 13 corridor tenants. Each floor had 2 corridors and most buildings 4 levels.
This student complex had a building for every letter of the alphabet. There was a communial laundry for every few buildings in the basement. The gym was in building A:
I lived in a Swedish corridor that only had 2 international student rooms. I’m really grateful for this mix because another corridor in our building was all international students. In my mind this was close to pretty much ideal living situations for a student. I had never felt this socially connected before. If there wasn’t a party happening somewhere in Delphi there was another student complex up the road that someone else knew where a party was happening.
Rent for this accommodation equated to about $125 AUD a week and included nearly everything. It was very reasonable and within my means being on government payments even though I didn’t receive rent assistance. I was getting around $375 AUD every two weeks from study allowance. My only extra bill was internet which was crazy cheap and fast (roughly $10 AUD per month for a basic 200GB package that had fast fibre speeds)
The only drawback I experienced in this situation was because I was only there for a year, I couldn’t personalise my space as much as my local Swedish neighbours could.
Variety of share houses
I’ve lived in a variety of share houses since then. While finishing uni I lived in around 5 different situations. Rents were between $60 AUD to $130 per week. I lived with a lady from Bangladesh and her two kids in a tiny apartment in Sandy Bay, in a old 3 story brick house in Glebe, an out the back granny flat in Glenorchy and a huge old house in Taroona.
Taroona was my cheapest share house but they came with some big problems. The house it self was huge. It was a two storey 3 bedroom house with a second loungeroom downstairs. We converted the downstairs loungeroom into a 4th bedroom. The total rent for the house was $270 per week. We had split the rent to between $60 to $80 per week per room. Only thing is the house came with a troll.
The troll of Taroona
There was a granny flat underneath half the house and it was occupied by a single guy. He was the troll in our house. He would bang on our floor when when we were being “too loud”, fill our house with the stink of weed, have random burnoffs in the back yard, have loud aggressive arguments with his ex misses about shared custody of their kid. He made living in this house very hard.
Another drawback to this place was one of my house mates was struggling with rent. Another housemate would vouch for him but he kept getting further and further behind. I ended up leaving that house with this person owing me over $1000 in food, rent and shared bills. I’ve never seen any of this money and I have never spoken to this person since then.
Communal Housing in Bland Street, Ashfield
Since moving to Sydney at the start of 2014 I’ve lived in about 9 different places. I haven’t had a lot of stability in my living arrangements. One of the more interesting places has become a old Victorian era town house converted into a communal community house in Ashfield, also known as Bland St. This house had around 11 bedrooms and 20-ish residents.
Sense of Community
I love the sense of community in this situation. I would often cook communal meals and had gardening and home brewing projects with a lot of the residents. I baked so many brownies. The average demographic was between 18-25 so I was a bit on the older side and most people were working holiday visa types. The house is always changing it’s personality.
Share rooms in Sydney
In Bland St most rooms were shared 2 person (usually strangers) per room. Sydney is ripe with this type of arrangement because rent is so dam expensive. I was paying between $150-$225 (ish) per week depending on the room arrangements and location. I’ve lived in this type of situation in Darlinghurst, China Town, Pyrmont and Ashfield.
The main drawback to co-sharing a room is the disrupted sleep. My depression gets when I don’t get enough sleep. The young vibe of Bland Street meant I felt like I drank too much alcohol, I still feel that now but at least I’ve reduced the social drinking urge.
Co Housing in the future?
It seems that co-housing in Sydney is starting to open up. For example apparently we opened our first co-housing in September this year. Only thing is, the rent for this is incredible expensive ($525 per week). I currently pay $300 per week for a my own room in a 2 bedroom apartment in Wollstonecraft. It’s a stone throws away from the train station. $350 is my maximum budget that I’m willing to spend on renting in Sydney.
I have an obsession with tiny houses. I have a loft bed in my bedroom. it’s pretty cool. I love the idea of tiny housing and being efficient with space. Small housing also has less environmental impacts, requires less resources to maintain and all that stuff. It’s been really nice to furnish my own room with second hand furniture and to experiment with space saving ideas.
My ideal living arrangements
Is probably a share house communal living arrangement. I would love to live in something like I did in Sweden where I can furnish my own space but partake in communal cooking. I’d love to live in a place with an easy to access community garden. It’ll probably be apartment based if I was in a city like Sydney or maybe wooden cabins based if I had my own land in Tasmania. I want something that’s nicely designed as opposed the regular cheap as possible option often seen here in Sydney.