Depression and programming

As the title would suggest, my life hasn't been the sunniest. There are MANY, MANY REASONS for this, but again, I'm not going to deep dive. Let's just say that between an awkward childhood, bad relationships, bad jobs, and an inability to see my own self worth, that by my early twenties - things were pretty messed up. The worst part? I acted like they weren't. Depression does weird things to you. Weird, unexpected, bizarre and horrible things. For me, I'll sleep a lot, I'll retreat from the world. I'll put on a happy face, while inside, I'm screaming. I'll try and make people happy at any cost - because that's the only way I can feel something. That 's the only way I can measure if I have value. All this to say, by the time I was 34 years old, I was in a living nightmare, I dreaded being awake and having to walk through it.

I can honestly say now, that I was living a lie.

Out of high school I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I didn't go to a great school and between my parents not being involved in the college process and my school councillors mailing it in, I was wholly unprepared. As such, I just sort of floundered. To be honest, I'd been depressed for years at this point, and this was just another defeat that I didn't feel I had the tools to repair or rectify. Over the next ten years, I'd get pushed into a marriage I didn't want, and retail jobs that further zapped my already fragile mental reserves. If you work in retail - I commend you. It's grueling, the hours are atrocious, and dealing with people is just about the worst fate I'd wish on another person. I hated it. I'd sleep through shifts or just do the no call, no show thing. Outwardly people see this as irresponsibility, but truthfully, it wasn't that I was irresponsible. It was that depression just made me so damn tired all time. It's like you go to sleep and you kind of hope that you won't wake up - or that when you do, you'll be a different person. But, you never are. You're just you.

I always loved computers, and video games, and just technology in general. I wish I would've nurtured this love rather than constantly questioning it and believing I'd never be able to pursue it.

As you might expect, a life like I've described is not a happy one. You aren't good to yourself. You aren't good to other people. And as such, things tend to unravel. Sadly, and perhaps strangely, things didn't unravel for me soon enough. It took years and years of strife, conflict, depression and awkward existence before things finally came to a head. By the time the chaos started, I felt like it was long overdue. I was just hitting my 30's and finally, I felt like I was learning and becoming all the things most people learn and become in their early to late teens. I switched jobs and left retail for a low level data analyst position that I felt would be a better fit for my skill sets and proclivities. I was finally able to put one of the central toxic figures of my life in my rearview. And I was finally able to get back to something I'd started and stopped so many times. I was able to really and truly begin my coding journey. In addition to that, I met the love of my life. My gorgeous and ever supportive wife Lou Lou. A woman, that with 6 words, changed my life forever. And so, as corny as it sounds, out of the depths of darkness, my wife, and programming, showed me a light.

Believing in yourself is important. Having a partner that believes in you is life changing.

A new hope 🚀

I remember asking my brother where I should start. What language should I look at? He advised me to learn PHP. He recommended a course and I promptly purchased it, and then I promptly stopped working on it. Why? I still can't really answer that. For whatever reason, I just couldn't see the dots connecting - I couldn't beautiful mind it. So then my brother suggested a HTML and CSS based course. Maybe you need start with something you can build and see and rationalize. Nope. I hated that course too. It was copying a website and again, IT JUST DID NOT GRAB ME. Despite having cleaned up so many other facets of my life, I was worried that maybe despite my love of the "concept" of programming and everything tech, that I just wasn't built for it. The old me would've quit, would've just shut down and retreated from the world. The old me would've spiraled into a sleep riddled depression. The new me found a course on JavaScript. The new me finally connected those, hitherto confounding dots. The new me, was freaking smitten.

Writing that sweet, sweet code

The course focused on two applications. A note taking application and a task/todo application. This magical mixture of HTML, CSS and vanilla Javascript was finally the recipe that would prove to be the secret sauce of my development. Finally everything started clicking for me - concepts that had seemed so discouraging and prohibitive before, were now finally making sense. And more than that, they were inspiring me. One of the greatest things about a true dyed in the wool programmer finally finding the joy of coding - is when things start to click, all they want to do is build things. It's like giving a carpenter a hammer and a bunch of salvaged wood. - they can't help it - they just build you something cool. I was inspired to build things. Fun things, stupid things, useless things. I wanted to build all the things! It started with a Bad Business Idea Generator that was inspired by some friends of mine at my new job. One of the funny things we'd muse about on a daily basis were really bad ideas for start ups. Like the worst possible Shark Tank pitches. So I built it. Then we'd joke about how Human Resources was always pushing corporate culture and value statements on us. So I built a ridiculous Human Resources Resource Generator. The point was, I was coding. Coding during the day, coding at night, coding during lunch, and coding instead of sleeping. And during all that coding, I discovered something. I discovered myself.

I discovered I was going to be OK...

So there it is. Programming. I found it late. It found me late. I dunno. I just know that programming and coding isn't something that all people discover out of middle school or high school or college. Sometimes you find it later, sometimes you find it after life has chewed you up and spit you back out. Maybe it didn't make sense for a long time. Maybe you avoided it because you never thought you were good enough. Sometimes it's hard to find the thing you want most. Sometimes you find it just when you need it.

If it makes you happy 💫

Age biases are real. Becoming a programmer in your 30's, 40's or even beyond might not be the easiest road. But if it makes you happy. Then, do it. Do it and don't stop just because someone tells you that you don't belong. Don't stop just because a little voice in your head tells you that you don't belong. Build all the things. And in the course of building all those terrific, and terrible, and wonderful projects and applications. You may just find that you've built something far more valuable. You've built yourself and your life into something that doesn't make you want to sleep all the time. You've built yourself into someone who doesn't retreat from the world quite so often. You'll have bad days, don't get me wrong. You'll be frustrated and tired and generally miserable when things don't go well. When your app fails or your build won't build. But there's nothing like creating something from the void. Where once a thing didn't exist - and then you build it - and now it does exist. And even if you only do it once, you still FREAKING DID IT.

Life is scary. Life is even scarier when you don't pursue the things you love. Stop gauging the distance of the chasm - just jump. You might miss. But what if you don't.

Start whatever way you can, with whatever language intrigues you the most. Build something. Think of something you'd use, a workout application, a text editor, a grocery list app, and just build it. Start today, because tomorrow is not guaranteed. And if your life is a mess, well that's even better. It took my life falling down around my ears to push me back to programming. To push me back to who I really am. So just start. Do it for me. Do it for you. Do it for everyone that ever told you not to.