Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Sideways career

Right... Second attempt at this post 😀

This is a bit of a long story, but rather than keep everything cryptic, and saying it at the end I'm going to do it backwards :)

In February this year I made my way to another country, the first time I'd flown by choice since 2004, and gave my first tech talk at a conference.

Considering how much I get terrified if I have to be with a group of people I was shocked, happily shocked, at just how much I enjoyed it, and by the comments I got from people afterwards.

And... Since then I've live coded for the Microsoft Insider Tour - demonstarting what you can do with new technology and given the first talk another 5 or 6 times at conferences and meetups.

And... I rounded the year off by giving a new talk a shakedown at a meetup, ready for a conference next February.

And... I've even been a guest on two tech podcasts! Once of which has already aired, the other will at some point in the future. Though I have no idea when...

I'm still dumbfounded that talking in front of people is something I enjoy, and even more dumbfounded that people actually listen when I do 🤣

(and, because why not another "and"..., actually, if I can get my anxiety in check, I wouldn't mind trying my hand at some ameteur dramatics... But then I would need time for that!)

I was always in awe of people who gave talks at conferences, and now I have a new found respect for them. The effort that goes into preparing a talk is tremendous. I think that both of my talks have taken more than 200 hours to get to the point where I could try them out. And that is outside of work time, so basically just about every spare hour I had to make sure that I was ready in time...

In fact, after I returned from the first talk I was asked by my other half is this meant that I was going to be seen in the house - rather than coming home from work and dissapearing to the attic study to work on the talk.

But I get so much back from it, andf I can't say why. Put me in a room of people and I'll leave in tears, total anxisety attack. Even when I'm with family I need a book or my phone with me so that I have an escape route should I start to panic.

And yet... When I'm standing on a podium in front of a room full of people and whilst it is very, very scary, and the stress and nerves before I start are out of this world, once I start to talk, it's fine.

I also like that afterwards, normally, people come up and talk to me. Because whilst I can't go up to people and start a conversation, it is quite nice to have a conversation when someone comes up to me.

So, that is the highlight that I am taking from 2019. It's the year I got on a plane more than once to go and talk in front of a group of developers.

Not everything that I mentioned in my last post, but one of the most unexpected for myself 😊

And in the next post I'll go into the 'how' I got started - because that is a story that I quite enjoy!

Monday, 16 December 2019

I'm not even counting any more...

Err... Right... You're not supposed to appologise when you have a massive gap between posts are you?

Well, sorry...

The last 2 years have been a roller coaster for me here.

  • We got a new house (awesome!)
  • I got my classic car back on the road (nightmare mixed with emotion, mixed with awesome)
  • A totaly and utter crash on the mental health front (could be better...)
  • A new side career (super awesome, OMG, I love it! There are not enough superlatives)

But... I am still here, and I am on a road to recovery.

In fact, the last year has been more varied than I could have ever imagined.

Right now I am so pushed for time that I am going to have to leave you clinging onto the edge of your seats, but tune in this time next week (month? I hope it's earlier than that), and I'll do my best to break up my last 2 years into bitesize chunks.

(Oh, and thanks to Calie for saying hi on Cass' blog - that gave me the kick to let you all know that I am here, and whilst not 100% OK, certainly not in a bad way...)


Monday, 6 August 2018



Wow, I can't beleive how long it is since I wrote the last post.

Firstly, I am doing well with the not calling myself stupid.

And whilst I am not thinking of myself  as stupid so much, I've not been doing too well recently. Not from the self depreciating side of things, but just the last few weeks have been tough for an unknown, unseen reason. But that is for another day, another post. (Don't worry, I am / will be fine!)

Since 16th June I've been on a different journey. One of recovery and dealing with insurance companies.

Travelling home, in start / stop traffic we were going between 0 and 60 mph. Go, stop, go, stop. At one point it seemed that we were at the end of the jam and going. Back to 60. And then stop. Not slow down, dead stop.

I had seen the car behind and wanted to make sure that I neither hit the car in front, nor was hit by the car behind. So trying to balance the brakes between the two.

So, I stopped with about 3 foot between me and the car in front. Totally tensed, but stopped. Then there was a big bang, and scrape as the Renault behind me hit the rear quarter of my car and scrapped down the side. It probably took a second or so. It seemed like hours. I thought that I could hear each panel buckling. Each plastic trim panel snapping and popping out.

Then it stopped.

And as I relaxed and started to swear in my head there was a huge bang as a second car used my towing hitch to stop.

The guy in the Renault said he stopped in time, but was pushed into me by the Tesla that hit him. I honestly don't know if that it correct or not. Once I stopped, I stopped looking in the mirror.

So, I used the SOS button in the car for the first time. And am really impressed. After checking there were no serious injuries that we could could see the operator organised the emergency services, and sent them to the location of the car. All without me having to figure out exactly where we were. Sometimes modern technology can be something more than a way to turn yourself into an emoji!

We closed the motorway for somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour (seemed longer)...

The Renault was destroyed. The front and rear just disappeared, and one of the rear wheels was hanging off. The front of the Tesla was also removed. You could see the frame of the chassis that the front end mounts on and the front wheels no longer worked.

Mine? The rear quarter was gone. The side was not looking good. The boot floor was not quite the right shape and one wheel had a red streak where the Renault was pushed along it. But it ran, and moved under it's own power. I was quite impressed to be honest! The battery was missed by inches. Something that probably saved it having to be cut apart! (I've seen accidents where the battery has started to smoke and they have had to cut the rear of the car to isolate it!)

And three people stepped out of the car. That fact still astounds me. And is why I am still not angry that it happened. If it had been a fender bender that caused a little damaged I probably would have been much more annoyed. As it was the fact that no one was seriously injured is the main thing.

I say seriously because whilst I had pain at the time, the paramedic who checked me out (the police and paramedics take it *very* seriously when you start to say that you have back pain after that type of accident) said that it was muscle pain, and that I would feel worse the next day (I did). But that went away and I was fine until two weeks later when I was putting on foundation and *cring* I could barely move my arm for pain in the middle of my back. Yes, I know, doing makeup, very cliche...

After a week I thought that seeing as I had had the accident I would check with the doctor and it turns out that I have a displaced vertebrae. It's been x-ray'd (my manual therapist wanted to make sure nothing was broken before she started to make sure that she didn't make it worse) and there are no breaks, but wow, was it painful.

Over the last week I have started to work out again, something that I had stopped for a few weeks to make sure I didn't cause more problems, and most of the time it has been fine. On Saturday I pushed too much and paid for it with pain that needed paracetamol to stop. So I know not to push that hard again, not yet at least.

The car is now back on the road having had 5 weeks of repairs to the bodywork and chassis (so pleased it could be fixed - I was looking for a replacement in case it was written off and there are no other examples of that car, in that spec in Nederland at the moment!) and we are now just waiting for the insurance companies to stop arguing so that I can get my excess and no claims back (my insurance has paid for the repairs to date). Being stationary I think I can say that it was not my fault, but the other two companies are arguing over who is to blame for causing it and so I am not getting money back yet.

And, still, I can't believe that modern cars are that good that such a serious accident happened, at such high speeds and energies, and three people just stepped out of their cars after it happened...

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Not stupid

OK, not quite weekly posts :)

I'm still missing my mojo, but I've at least got to the point where I am not on pills every day to take the edge off of life. I view that as progress.

There is already somthing that has come out of therapy that has helped though. Something that I have tried to put into action daily, and so far has had a somewhat positive impact. A long, long way to go yet, but any progress is good.

One of the biggest issues that I have is assuming that everyone things I am stupid. Before they speak to me, whilst they are speaking to me, anytime they look at my code and most certainly after our communication has ended.

Having a 5 minute conversation can lead to weeks or months (or years) of stress for me. Or writing a blog post - the amount of posts that I have discarded over the years before saving is not insignificant!

Yes it's wrong to think that way, yes it is irrational. No, knowing those things doesn't help.

So... For the last few weeks what I have tried to stop is calling myself stupid. I used to do it probably 10 times a day or more.

Make a mistake: 'Sorry guys, I've been stupid'
Knocked something over: 'Yeah, that was stupid of me'
Forgotten something: 'Yeah, I was stupid and it slipped my mind.'

No more.

'Sorry guys, I pushed the branch without the last change as I forgot I was using code and that doesn't save on committing changes like Visual Studio does. Give me a minute and I'll push the last change as well.'

This was such a simple change, not easy, but simple, and yet the impact has been huge already. Because I am not stupid. And I need to stop telling others that I am. And I need to stop telling myself that I am. I make mistakes, sometimes too often, sometimes caused by stress, sometimes caused by haste. Sometimes caused by severe tiredness :) But, that is all that they are. Mistakes. Which can be made by everyone.

I can learn from them.

I can analyse the ones that you don't want to repeat.

I can't stop worrying that everyone else in the world thinks I'm stupid overnight. That is what the therapy is supposed to help.

I can stop calling myself stupid and making it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Getting by

Life immediately after my last post was not fun. For several days I was totally down, always on the verge of tears and constantly cimbing the walls. Knowing that it was needed did not make life any easier.

Oodly enough, for most of the people I spoke to about it, letting people know how I was feeling didn't help.

Having a group of people around you who want to help is great. Getting them to understand that I not just need to get over myself on the otherhand seems to be impossible. 

You just need to learn to relax
You just need to push yourself
You just need to be happy with what you have
Oh, I know, I hate being in the middle of a crowd as well

That last one proceeds them running into the middle of a crowd and engaging everyone in it with a beaming smile on their face

I've learnt that there are a couple of people who I can talk to, and how listen in return. The rest will likely get the "I'm fine" reaction from now. I know that they want to help, but the problem is that they are not...

But, I'm on the way up. The last few days have been much better.

Now I'm trying to get back to some projects that I have wanted to do for a while. And I'm trying a new toy to kick start me. Last year I treated myself to a Samgsung tablet. Today I got a keyboard to go with it. Now I can grab a computer out of my bag and type. Whether that is editing code, something that I am still trying to get working, or whether it is writing.

The first public thing is this very post.

Once I have had the keyboard for a few days I'll try to write a review for it.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

But will it help?

Warning: Outpouring ahead...

Yesterday I had my first therapy intake session.

An hour of going over the worst experiences of growing up. Of the humiliations of childhood and teenage years. Which came at me from all sides, home, school, and extended family. That have all tuck to this day - to the point where some of them still make me recoil when I think of them.

Being told from the age of 7 or 8 that I had to bury and fight my emotions. That showing them was a bad thing. That I was too emotional, a baby, and more than that: a cry baby.

Recounting how it feels when something happens now.

Learning that the feelings I have 90% of the day are panic attacks. For some strange reason knowing what they are actually makes it more scary.

Talking about being paralyzed with fear when a great opportunity turns up. Or any opportunity.

Currently I'm sitting having another attack. It's been ongoing since about 7:30 this morning - I'm typing this at 8:25.

I'm exhausted from yesterday, numb, wanting to curl up and cry my heart out, but being unable to have that release.

I'm exhausted because since I came out of the session I've been spending the time assuming that the therapist thinks I am faking it all. Along with the rest of the world.

I'll be fine. I'm sure that the numbness will drop away over time. And I am positive that I can't possibly have therapy without going through this. Not that that helps right now.

All of the above has nothing to do with the title of today's post.

Well, almost. I have two opportunities to get involved in things that I care about. Both of which will involve me doing something that will trigger my anxiety to their maximum levels.

And here the title is twofold.

Will pushing myself help my situation? Or will it simply reinforce the negative emotions that I have. Or will it do neither and leave my at my current position whilst still taking all of my energy just to stand still.

On the flip side, say I decide to take one or both opportunities. Would explaining my current situation help or hinder me? Hey, yes, I'd love to be involved (I really, really would, even though I know it will be hard work and scary - which only increases the stress of making the choice), but be aware this is ultra confrontational for me and there is a good chance that I am going to crack at some point and I will need someone to help pick up my slack at that point.

Saying that I want to help, but have limitations in what I can do.

But I feel that I cannot do that. That it's TMI. That people are going to say: oh, everyone has social anxiety, you'll be fine, just get over it (not that I have ever heard that in the past...)

Why should having a mental disorder be something that you have to keep quiet about. When I had the bone tumors removed from my hand a year ago it was obvious that there were things I could not do. That I would need help in certain tasks and that I had limitations.

You can't see my anxiety. The people who know that I am going to therapy have said that they would never have known how much I was struggling unless I had told them. My therapist said that he could see when I was getting emotional over my past, but when it came to the anxiety part I closed up and hid it - he wouldn't have known if I wasn't verbalizing it. And apparently that is normal - at least for people in my position it becomes normal, otherwise you cannot function in society. But you feel like you are going insane when you are doing it.

The fact that you can't see it means that to let people know you have to tell them.

Which in my head is translated to me yelling to the world how special I am. Even though it shouldn't feel like that, and it's not what I am doing, I hope - jeez, even I even do it to myself. And the circle begins again...

Saturday, 14 April 2018

The dreaded lurgy!

So, I missed last week. (And a few after... This has been a post long in the making!)

You could be forgiven for thinking that I was not doing so well after the appointment with the doctor. Actually it's because for most of last week I was struggling to think straight full stop.

It started on Saturday after I wrote the last post. Half way through breakfast I got a bit of stomach cramp. Nothing too bad, but not something I wanted to go running with. So I figured that if I left it for an hour it would pass. After an hour I was back in bed feeling really not great, and pretty much given up on running...

And there I stayed for most of the day. The problem was that I was supposed to be seeing a colleague perform in the theater that evening. Pfff... And it was a long drive.

By the time I needed to be moving for a shower and getting ready I felt OK. Ish. Got ready, had food and left. The performance was fantastic, but by the time it was over I felt as though I was sitting in a freezer. Rather than waiting for my colleague to emerge from back stage I had to leave whilst I still had some energy.

The drive home was not pleasant. Heated seats on full blast, and the climate control set up to 24 degrees just to keep the chill and shivers at bay.

Got home, shivered my way into bed and stayed there for 48 hours, my temperature stayed at 38.5 for a day longer than that. I'm now nearly at two weeks and still not close to being ready to run (I feel like I have already ran my marathon that I want to do this year!) and my brain is only just really coming back online. Everything has been thinking through syrup for the last week, which when you are code reviewing and not knowing what you are looking at doesn't help your anxiety!.

So, the appointment with the doctor? Actually, doctors. Multiple. Tuesday the hospital was it's normal efficient self. My x-rays were taken with no delay, and inside of 30 minutes I was talking to a doctor about the results. All good I'm pleased to say, I don't need to go back for another year!

My appointment with my GP also went really well. He took me seriously when I said I had issues with anxiety, asked how they felt, and (it felt) like he was trying to see what was going on with me. There was no question about a referral, I was worried about that as, whilst Dutch health care is great, they are trying to save on mental health like most counties. But, thankfully, I got the referral straight away and he then spent some time asking questions about what I wanted from a therapist. I have no idea, except for someone that I have a good click with so that I can be open and comfortable.

He had someone in mind that he thought would be a good fit for me and I was one my way. Afterwards I made the call to the therapist and I have an appointment for in a couple of weeks now (this post has been three weeks in the making).

Which can't come soon enough. Whilst I am stressed about how the appointment is going to go, my anxiety is sky rocketing right now. I don't know why, maybe because I know that I am going to start the process of trying to get better... What I do know is that I'm now on regular doses of valerian, something that my doctor said was a good idea. Not the full dose, but as needed.

But, don't worry about me, I'll get there. I'm struggling, but I am still working through - and hopefully about to get the help I need.