What it feels like to be Bipolar

Imagine a world where you get regularly swept up in waves of euphoria that can last from days to months. You feel, with all that you are, that you can do anything. Often in these times, you will start a project and hyper-focus on it. Learning or working an incredible amount in a short period of time. You know, what you are doing will change the world and it becomes all you can talk about it. You are obsessed. If you happen to be lucky enough to finish the project while in this state. Everything is amazing! You learned or did something new and it’s good, no great, AMAZING!

Eventually the feeling fades. It becomes harder to concentrate. You can’t concentrate. A weight settles in on your chest, your thoughts are like pea soup, nothing gets through. If you hadn’t finished the project yet, you can forget it now. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway; it was a useless idea from a useless human being. You don’t know why you even try; you always just end up back here. You’ll never make a difference.

That’s been my life since I was a child. I’m finally on medication that is working and I’m more stable than I ever have been. The ups and downs aren’t gone, but they are manageable. I can make it through a depression without giving up on whatever I’m working on. It may require a pivot or a break, but I can come back to it and keep going.

Why am I doing this?

This blog and the Rollercoaster Dev Twitter account are a pivot. I’m currently in a light depression. It’s really annoying because I’m actually really happy to be where I am and doing what I’m doing. But the chemicals in my brain make me feel otherwise. If you’ve ever done any “recreational drugs” (I am in no way condoning the use of recreational drugs, as a recovering addict I strongly advise against them) especially MDMA or Ecstasy, it’s a lot like a comedown that lasts days, weeks or months. This means that I lack the concentration now for learning and coding. After building a full stack website last month in two weeks during manic phase, the depression came as I finished it up and I quickly noticed how hard everything suddenly was. I needed a way to keep me working towards my goal and writing still works.

When I made the decision to go into Web Development, I knew I was going to have to get my shit together. I had to get clean from drugs and alcohol (my self-medicating and recreational use had turned into a serious addiction) so I could get on mood stabilizing medication to treat the Bipolar, so I could get on medication to treat the concentration problems caused by my ADHD. And that’s what I’ve been doing the last year. The medications are helping and I’m finally stable enough to get a prescription for my ADHD. Just in time for the bootcamp.

Through all these ups and downs I’ve managed to keep consistently learning. I wanted to learn everything they would teach in a bootcamp before I went to the bootcamp because any kind of school scares the shit out of me. Imagine going through mood swings like I described above and puberty and the social mess of High School at the same time. I got my GED and got out of there as fast as I could. But I’m still worried that I might not make it through the bootcamp. So, I prepared.

I now feel certain that they aren’t going to throw much my way I haven’t already done or at least read about. I did it this way to make it as easy on myself as possible. Now I can concentrate on documenting my learning and making all my projects for the course as awesome as possible. And that will happen here.

Why share on Twitter?

I’d been told that twitter was great for the maker scene and I should get on. I’ve had an account since 2009 but never really used it. Once the Corona lockdowns hit, I decided to get back on Twitter and see what was going on. I’ve been totally blown away by the incredibly supportive community Tech Twitter is! People help each other out, give support, are incredibly honest and even show vulnerabilities! This is not the social media I’ve known on Facebook (deleted my account) and Instagram doesn’t come close to the community feeling.

While I’d tried being open about my mental health struggles, I was constantly worried about how it might affect my future job opportunities and I kept holding back, deleting tweets, not commenting things I really wanted to say.

I was setting up this blog and the title Rollercoaster Dev popped in my head and I knew, that was it. New Twitter, new blog. Keep it anonymous but give it everything, be totally honest and focused on learning and my struggles. And I figured, I’m going to try and use this platform to get a job. If that works, I can put my name on it.

Why is it so Important to be open about Mental Health Issues?

I loved my last job. I was doing something that had a measurable positive impact. But me being me, I always felt like I wasn’t enough. Some people might call this imposter syndrome, for me it was real, no syndrome. I had a GED, nothing else, I used to be a musician and a Bartender, suddenly I’m developing digital education projects for a huge NGO? I felt so very lucky to have landed there but it created a lot of anxiety. I was constantly worried about my Depression showing, my mania being to much, not having a degree and not knowing all the jargon. I kept all my anxieties hidden and bundled up. I was reading everything I could find on the subject, staying up late nights learning and researching. That’s a lot of work, and after work I’d be so exhausted from it all and needed to unwind without unbundling the feelings of incompetency and anxiety. Alcohol and drugswere an easy way to do this.

I never want to have to do that again. I want to be open about my struggles so that when I do have a problem, I can own it, address it and move forward. I think this is the only way I will be able to make it in this industry. I see the complexities, the non-stop learning, if I don’t own my problems, they will own me again.

Accountability

Learning in public is the ultimate accountability tool. If I don’t do what I posted I would, anyone can see it. If I did, everyone could see it! Also, I need more cheerleaders. Nobody understands this journey better than other Devs! So, this is me asking for your support, cheer me on, hold me accountable and help me out. I promise to do the same for you. No one gets where they are alone, so let’s get better together.

That got a bit cheesy there, but I really mean it. Come ride the Rollercoaster!