My journey through mental health

My journey through mental health

This morning I find myself putting away dishes while the kids were in the backyard playing after breakfast. I started putting the tupperware away in the narrow cabinet next to the sink, as I usually do, getting frustrated that it's a tight fit to get them all in. I constantly have to take out one stack of tupperware to get to the stack of lids; things just don't fit the way I want them to. I start to think about how the kids have gotten older and there's nowhere near as many sippy cups in the cabinet on the other side of the sink, which is much wider. I could start moving everything around to put things in, what I think, would be a better spot. I stop, though, as I rarely used to, and remind myself that I'm hear to get the dishes done. All the effort to move cabinets around can wait.

Over the past year, I have started taking a real strong look at my mental health, and a couple months ago, my psychiatrist diagnosed and began treating me for ADHD and over the last year, my primary care physician diagnosed me with anxiety and depression. These are all thins that weren't much of a surprise to me. I knew there were things that were off about how my brain worked. What surprised me, though, was how effective having a treatment plan was.

The story above about the dishes makes me laugh now and may seem somewhat inconsequential, but when I look back through the years and recognize how much my mental instability held me back, I am awestruck. Before recently, I could never stop myself from moving from project to project without finishing much of anything. I would have really easily started rearranging the tupperware cabinet and then found myself onto some other project, and then another, and before I would know it, I'd have 5 unfinished things going on and the dishes would have never been finished.

Lay that onto my work where one of the core parts of my job is keeping small businesses operational through technology. I'm pretty darn good at it, but often I used to find myself, while working to get a customer back online from an outage or what not and find something along the way that I could improve. Suddenly I'm sidetracked and the customer is down longer than they needed to be, because my brain could not let go of that little thing that could've been improved long enough to get the customer back online.

Towards the end of my tenure in the software development and startup scene, mental health became a huge topic of conversation. Especially in startups, people were starting to realize that the amount of sacrifice that went into getting a new business off the ground: living and breathing source code, sprint timelines, and release engineering; just wasn't healthy. People started talking about it and it became apparent that mental health was given up to be part of the next big thing.

As I've leaned more and more into the MSP industry, one of the conversations I haven't heard is the conversation about mental health. Let's face it, we take calls all day from people who probably don't really want to be talking to us about the issues that they have with their computers. I won't say it's a thankless job, because my personal experience is that the majority of my customers are very thankful for my work, but it is a job that involves a lot of lost sleep to keeping systems online. Browsing through Reddit or IT Facebook groups, I see a lot of very unhappy technicians who are struggling to hold it together dealing with, at times, very difficult users.

So if you've gotten this far in this post, you probably understand and can echo a lot of the same sentiment about the mental and emotional health of the IT industry. We need to start having these conversations, or else we will continue to live in the stereotype of the IT people who can't keep themselves from snapping at users because they don't know how to change their audio output; who're balding early in life from the stress of feeling like Atlas holding the world on our shoulders; or who feel like complete imposters, carrying certifications out the wazoo but feeling like all their good for is changing batteries in keyboards.

I plan to write a lot more about my experience as an IT consultant with ADHD, depression, and anxiety, but I'll leave you with this: you are not alone. If you struggle with focus, stress, or anything else mentally, talk to someone. Hell, send an email and I'll do my best to respond. More importantly though, start the conversation with your primary care physician. They can refer you out to specialists to get you the support you need.