Feeling helpless and run-down


This is my first ever post. I found out about this site back when it was still named “devpressed” and had it bookmarked. I never thought I’d go so low as to try to find help on this site, but today I have, almost a year after first bookmarking this site. I’m an anxious guy and am horrible at requesting help, but I’ll try my best. This is my story…

I have been battling anxiety since childhood, but I didn’t know that when I was young, nor did my parents recognize it for what it is. As a child, I used to have severe chronic asthma which prevented me from playing with my friends at school and going on school trips. I guess this has made me a loner today, but I did have a lot of friends back at school. I used to fall sick at least once a month and would have to miss school for a week. I was always extremely good at studies (“the” top performer actually) and was a perfectionist. So, when it was time to go back to school after recovering from my ill health, I would cry all night long worrying about how to catch up with school work and all the teachers notes, etc. I recognize this now as symptoms of anxiety (how I wish my parents recognized this back then). Even with all this, I was still the best all through school.

My exceptional academics continued and I got a top-50 ranking in an entrance test for graduate studies. People with such ranking usually get into the best universities. Best universities usually translate to better employment opportunities and better salaries after graduation. For me, this was a problem… the biggest problem of my life so far. Joining the best university meant that I would have to leave home for the first time. I never could do it (due to anxiety) and ended up joining a university in my home town, but this feeling of losing a golden opportunity for a better life later on took a tremendous toll on my health. I suffered from thyroid problems which took the better part of 3 years to recover from (almost the length of my graduation). My doctor said it was because of extreme stress.

I thought my tribulations were over. But they weren’t. After graduation, many of my peers decided to move to the united states to pursue they post graduation studies. Once again, my anxiety did not allow me do join them. I ended up staying back and continuing my full time software engineering job and in general lagging behind my peers. Even though I was good at academics, my anxiety just wouldn’t allow me to pursue my post-graduation. I know this sounds crazy, but it is hard to explain.

So, I decided to become very good at the job I was in and I did. My manager at my first job thought and still thinks to this day that I was one of the best new hires he had seen. The team later got dissolved and I moved into my second software engineering job which I’m current in for the past 4.5 years. I’m a C and Linux programmer. I am still considered a valuable asset in the team I’m in, but, I am beginning to dislike my job. Part of the reason is that it is becoming harder for me to improve on my performance. I work on a huge codebase that has been continually expanding over many years and a lot of code has gotten very complex over time and I’m beginning to lose my grasp on understanding these complex pieces.

I realized it was time to move on. I had also developed an interest in Python programming and was starting to use it more and more on my hobby projects (nothing significant). So, I decided I was going to get a job which involved working in Python. I also decided to learn machine learning and deep learning in Python online (MOOCs) and successfully completed the specializations. I try to practice the concepts by participating in kaggle competitions (just started working on my second competition), but it takes several weeks to complete a single competition in between managing my day job. So, even after several months, I do not have the practical experience to start applying for machine learning / data science jobs, more so since I’m trying to switch domains (from C and Linux programming to machine learning in Python). I have other Python projects on my github page, but none related to machine learning.

This has got me very depressed and feeling stuck and hopeless. I’m unable to make progress in my current job and I’m unable to find a new job. I’m not sure whether anybody would want to hire me given I have little to no practical experience in the area I am interested in working on. I fear that it will take me several more months to build a portfolio of practical projects which can be demonstrated to employers. I am feeling depressed that I will remain stuck forever at a job I don’t like. Most importantly, I feel like a failure in life. Most of my peers have gone on to work for great companies abroad, while I’m languishing behind. What hurts the most is that I wasn’t always so bad and helpless when I was younger and I don’t know what changed.

Sorry for the long post. Like I said, I’m really bad at asking for help. I just wanted to put it out there in the hope that somebody who has gone through just such a phase in life will be able to give me some advice on how to proceed.

Hello, glad that you overcame the hurdle to ask for help. I didn’t like that either (and still have a hard time formulating myself often).

I can relate to some things in your post. I did extremely well in school and at my first job, but then there has been a gradual decline. I wish there was a way to make money just by taking courses - I was at my happiest back then I think.

Have you heard of “impostor syndrome”? I think feelings of not being “good enough” to apply for new jobs, even if one knows a lot of stuff that could be useful for it (but not that last bit…) could fall under that. Is it possible for you to move “sideways” first, i.e. apply for a similar job you have now, maybe with some Python, to maybe get energized to spend more time learning about ML?

I think it’s good to switch jobs now and then, if nothing else to free your mind from large codebases. I understand the feeling of comparing yourself to your friends, but maybe they are not as successful as they seem? When I feel depressed I often find myself comparing myself to the surface other people present, which is not good for me.

1 Like

Great first post buddy. Glad to read your story here. I can’t recommend yourself because I also have the same mental depression and looking for the best way to recover it.

1 Like

Thanks for the support @Peter . I feel I’ll have a much harder time preparing if I join a similar job since I will have much less freedom in terms of free time / paid vacation days. I have piled up a few vacation days at my current company, but am afraid to use it liberally in order not to sabotage by current job. The other extreme is just quitting my current job and dive headlong into preparation, but I’m afraid to take that route. I just decided to send out my resume to a few companies to gauge their reaction. Will see how it goes.

You are not a failure.

Anyone who can survive all that anxiety, make great grades, and still become a respected C/Linux coder, should be proud of themselves. You have no reason to apologize to anyone, and you don’t have to apologize to us for asking for help. That’s why we’re here.

First… you need to get some help, if you haven’t already. A psychiatrist can help reduce your anxiety (Paxil worked great for me). A psychologist can help you work through the guilt and the anger.

Second… don’t hate on yourself like that. I think part of the reason you dislike your job is that you dislike yourself. That will ruin the enjoyment of a job wherever you go, as it certainly did for me.

Think of it this way, if your employer was so worried about you taking your PAID time off, which is part of your salary, why would they come to you to help? I wouldn’t trust just anyone with a huge volume of C code like that. Can you imagine giving that to someone who didn’t know what they were doing? Obviously, you have to be good at what you do.

Learning C means you’ve learned enough about just about every other language (including Python) to be useful in it. It may take time, but you’ll be fine wherever you apply yourself. This is nowhere near as hard as having to take weeks off from school and suffer through an undiagnosed anxiety disorder!

Your story echos mine in a lot of ways. I have always been afraid to post my own story, but since you were so brave, maybe I should post mine too (in a separate topic).

But see a therapist and a psychiatrist. You’ve taken the first step - reaching out - now you need to take the second.

1 Like

Thanks for the kind words @wanderer. Glad to know that you can relate to my experience.

hi there. i can’t say that i can fully relate to all of it but on some parts i definitely do. thanks to such community and better said to such people as you i can feel that i can cope with it much better. no doctors or meds (i did tried to get some on https://suppsforlife.to/) seem to be so helpful as people that i keep discussing with. simple people who simply can help and relate.

Just wanted to update how my life has been for the last two months since I first posted. Had lined up a few interviews for a machine learning/data science role but none of them were successful. In two of those, I failed in the initial “Hacker Rank” round. Got one question right and made partial progress on another. Took me a good 10 minutes to read and understand each question and had a total of 1 hour to solve both problems. I’m not sure how somebody is expected to solve two medium/hard programming questions in the span of an hour. Guess I’m just bad at it. Anybody relates ?

In another interview, I was called for a face to face discussion. Even though I was interviewing for a machine learning role, a backend engineer conducted the interview and concluded that I did not have experience in web servers and databases. Not a single word in my resume claimed that I knew any of these to begin with. Result = rejected.

Still don’t like my current job and still feeling the same way as I did two months ago. Added to that a few interview failures and a nagging doubt whether I’ll ever be able to succeed.

Well, Edison found 99 ways not to make a light bulb. In a way, I did too.

When I first got out of college, I took a job at a very large company and hated it. No one would hire me, though, because I only had a couple of years of experience. But every time I failed, I learned the answer to the questions I couldn’t answer, or got wrong. It was like a mystery, and each interview gave me more clues. Eventually, I had enough information to figure out what I should be working on and how I could integrate it into my existing job. Now, the code that I wrote in those days was more than a bit contrived, but now I don’t worry about interviews anymore, either.

Experience is what you gain from this. Bill Gates said it best… success is a lousy teacher.