Categories
depression mental health

Schema Therapy

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.

Speaking out and getting support

You can watch my presentation to Sydney Tech leaders on my struggles with depression on Twitch here. I’ve also tried mindfulness eating practices with a psychologist who specialized in eating disorders. I have problems with food, I wouldn’t have gotten to 127kg if I had a healthy relationship with food. If you need help, please reach out to any service. You don’t need to struggle with this alone. I’m still here even though I often feel worthless.

What unhealthy mindsets do you have? Or when was the last time you tried to unlearn something?

Categories
depression mental health

Can I just not exist right now? k thx

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

But can I just not exists right now? k thnx

Categories
depression mental health

Confronting your triggers

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?”

Categories
depression mental health

The winter blues strike again

I’ve been feeling a little low lately, event after a board game cruise holiday to New Caledonia didn’t fix my low energy (by the way the holiday was lots of fun, here are all the boardgames we took):

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.

My Symptoms

  • Low energy
  • 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?

Categories
Job hunting mental health

How I ended up in my current job

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.

Categories
mental health mindfulness

Self Care and Spoon theory

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

spoons

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.

Self Care

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.

What do you do for self care?

Categories
mental health

Awesome stuff you’ve done this year and things you are working towards

Letter to self,

For when you are feeling low, use this list to remind yourself of how much awesome stuff you’ve done. #HumbleBrag

Events I’ve helped organise/presented at

Sydney Testers

Other events

Live Exploratory testing

Started doing live testing on twitch

Blogs I’ve published

Meetups I’ve attended

Books I’ve read

Conferences

Spoken At

Attended

  • YOW! Data
  • YOW! Lambda Jam
  • Agile Australia
  • Serverless Sydney
  • DDD Sydney

Other Awesome stuff

Will create courses for

  • Ministry of Testing
  • Mobile testing on Udemy

Completed the following courses

Started the following courses

Written a book

Work in progress

Built an App

Also a work in progress

Categories
Conferences depression Meetup mental health Presenting Technology Travel

2018 – a year in review

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?

India

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.

Other Conferences

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.

Public Transport

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:

Sydney Testers

The community here continues to amaze me in the quality of events we’ve done. We’ve really had a good year considering all of the ups and downs the committee has gone through. Here’s a recap of nearly 40 events done in the last year.

We’ve had international guest speakers; James Bach and Michael Bolton thanks to Catherine Karena’s training efforts. There’s been events from Security at Qantas to Mobile Automation at Woolworths. Thanks to everyone who made this an awesome year for the community.

Thanks

Thank you for being a part of my year. Here’s to making the next one even better. This one I will get to start it on the right foot (*tehehe*, pun intended). Here are some goals I’ve set myself for this year.

Categories
depression Design mental health Sustainability

Co-Housing

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);

  • Community
  • Adding value
  • Sustainability
  • 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.

Stereotypical floor plan for a corridor

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:

Google street view of the buildings and gym in the student complex DELPHI
Here’s a satellite view of that complex

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.

Costs

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)

Drawbacks

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

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.

Drawbacks

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.

Drawbacks

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.

Tiny Housing

Tiny house that comes with a green house 

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.

What would be your ideal living arrangements?

Categories
depression mental health mindfulness Weight Loss

How an offhand comment can trigger a depressive episode

I had a low day on Friday. I’ve had a persistent headache and fatigue for a few months now and a head cold on Friday brought out the worse of it. I’ve lived with depression for eight years now so I know when to have a day off to take it easy. Friday started with a 2 hour struggle to get out of bed. It was one of those days.

When I’m in these low moods my obsessive nature and harsh internal self critic can get completely hooked on little comments that people make. This blog is a reflection on this internal thought process to help you understand what might be going through a depressed person’s head.

The comment

In conversation someone mentioned something about, “… being a big girl”, it was related to me being able to look after myself. I responded with “I use to be a lot bigger” and someone else in the conversation added, “keep away from the pork and you’ll stay that way”. In the moment I didn’t think anything of it. But my obsessive nature got hooked and over the afternoon I couldn’t let it go.

The obsession

I became completely obsessed over everything I had eaten recently infront of said company. I replayed the dinner we had recently over and over and over in my head. I counted every calorie, it came out to about 2000KJ and 10gm of protein. Then my internal harsh critic got on board. It starting saying to me, “you are fat, lazy good for nothing, completely worthless, you should just curl up and die”. So now there was a battle going on in my head, the obsessor just going over and over and the critic telling me I’m worthless. Normally these thoughts aren’t that loud but they get overwhelming on low days.

My obsessor wanted to figure out how to write a response to those comments. This blog post is an attempt at pleasing the obsessor because I am still thinking about it after 4 days.

Good intentions

I know those comments come from good intentions, people say these things because they care. The only nutritional goals I stick too (under the advice of my weight loss clinics nutritionist) is to get 60gm of protein a day and to take my daily multivitamin. I’ve had a lifetime of people commenting on my weight. I thought I had developed a thick skin for it, obviously I hadn’t. Or maybe it just hurts more the closer to home it is?

Self Compassion

I’m at a stage now where I can try to practice self compassion (I try but it’s hard). I would catch these thoughts and tell myself, “that’s not a very nice thing to say Sam, you are one of most proactive people I know. You are so far from lazy and worthless it isn’t funny. Look, you even had lunch with someone who thanked you for your help with their CV recently and they are starting a new job soon because of you. Remember that Buddhist monk on youtube? Try and practice letting go.” Here is the youtube video I was thinking of:

How to be supportive

If someone has opened up about their mental health and they raise something like this with you, please don’t feel like you need to censor yourself. That is stressful and not healthy. Often when these things come up for me, I never raise them with the person who caused the trigger because I know deep down it’s just my mind overreacting. So being open and empathetic if someone does raise this is all I ask for.

Please be mindful of how your words can hurt. It reminds me of the common rhyme about sticks and stones I was told about as a kid. Here’s my new version:

Sticks and stones may break my bones 

But harsh words from a loved one

Can make me wish I was dead

I’m grateful I’ve never been suicidal but I still live with this kind of depression on a fairly regular basis. My partner has probably seen me go through about 4 or 5 episodes now over a 2 year period.

I’m grateful I can be this open about this huge cause of internal stress. A lot of people who struggle with similar things aren’t as blunt as I am and keep the struggle to themselves.