Just don't feel like I have a future

I posted something over on Reddit about my current weird situation. What I left out was how close I’ve come to suicide again and again over the past 7 years because of this crap. On top of having no education and feeling like a fraud, I have extremely bad social anxiety, depression and PTSD because I came from an extremely bad abusive family (which is one reason I only have a GED). My parents were animal hoarders who pulled me out of school in 6th grade because people were getting suspicious about me being abused/neglected, and no one ever followed up because it’s the rural south and no one cares. The fact I was able to get any job was a miracle.

I have this enormous block about learning programming at this point because I feel so bad about not being a real developer, not being any good, etc that it just puts me in an eternal cycle of procrastination. Probably lots of internalized misogynist crap too since I’ve always been bad at math as well. I can somehow always manage to hold onto my jobs by the seat of my pants winging and BSing stuff, but it+my cavalcade of mental health issues always leaves me completely burnt out with no energy to devote to teaching myself stuff in my spare time. Then when I am unemployed I feel like I’ll never be able to get a job again because all my other jobs were flukes and I’m not really qualified to do jack shit. I beat myself up a lot for not learning stuff when I have so many ample free resources but most of the time I already feel like I’m just barely keeping my head above water.

I’ve seen a lot of therapists and psychiatrists over the years and tried a lot of different prescription drugs but nothing really seems to stick because none of the drugs make me stop being a broken fucked up person, and I feel so guilty going to therapy. It feels so utterly pathetic that the only way I can get someone to talk to me is to pay them $100 an hour. (I don’t have any friends or even relatives I can trust - only people I have any contact with irl are my abusive parents. I know a few people online but I’m not really close to anyone except my ex, who lives in freaking Sweden.)

I’ve just really been at the end of my rope lately. Sometimes I can put some hope into the notion of going to a bootcamp or college and finally learning shit+being steadily employed, but even that feels like a pipe dream sometimes. At the moment I’d sell my soul for a minimum wage job stocking shelves somewhere because it feels like all I’m mentally capable of processing and handling, but with my resume I can’t even get low end temporary jobs because fast food or retail place looks at my last job at Lenovo and they wonder what the hell’s wrong with me.

Sorry for venting, I just needed to spill my guts somewhere and I sure as hell don’t want to do it on reddit, lol.

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I’ll try to address this in the same order that you mentioned things, since I’m just starting on my first cup of coffee and otherwise I’ll just ramble. :smile:

First off, you have my sympathies. One of the hardest things to do is get over abusive parents. They lay the foundation for the rest of your life, and it’s a hugely challenging thing to undo all of that when they do a terrible job.

What is it that makes someone a “real” developer that you don’t think you have currently?

If you have any ability to write code at all, you’re probably not actually bad at math. The problem is mostly how badly math is taught in this country. Since I rarely ever use anything more than even the most basic algebra, I’ve started reading Introduction to Mathematical Thinking by Kieth Devlin in preparation to going back to school (yet again, still not even an AA degree since I’ve never needed one). The first thing I noticed after being away from a traditional math class for so long is that math formulas and proofs are so very similar to code that it’s essentially just a limited programming language. Look at it as though you’re learning JavaScript or C# or something instead of “Math”, and it’s amazing how much easier it suddenly becomes.

The only problem that medications can solve for you is to separate the chemical chaos in your head enough to allow you to address the other issues in your life. Unfortunately, the rest of it you have to fix yourself. You’re the only one with full access to you, so you have to do the real work. However, that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. That’s where the therapists and psychiatrists come in. A portion of what they provide is a receptive and non-judgemental ear for you to vent to, but their biggest contribution is in giving you an outside perspective that is not colored by the emotions and conditioning that influence how you see the situation. Their training lets them suggest things that you haven’t tried yet, and help assess your progress without the hyper-critical judgement you may be using on yourself. I, too, remarked on how absurd it is to have to pay someone just to listen me instead of having a friend to talk to, but it’s a lot more than just that. Unless you’re friends with a bunch of therapists, the sympathy and advice of friends isn’t the same. It’s important in a different way.

You mentioned still being in contact with your parents. Nothing will prevent you from healing and moving on more than remaining in an abusive relationship of any kind (family, friends, employers, or lovers), no matter how tenuous. If they really abused you as badly as you indicated, you need to cut these people out of your life entirely. They will continue to poison your life so long as they are in it.

If your family is not a healthy or supportive group to be around, you need to build a new one. Keep looking for friends and trying to get into social situations. Yes, I realize that this is absurdly easier to say than to actually do, but it is still annoyingly true.

Clawing your way out of this pit and building a better life is possible. It’s not easy, but it can be done. Reaching out for support, understanding, and encouragement is an excellent start. Keep doing that.

Hey hugeguts,

I know what you’re going through. I’m going through very similar feelings myself. I went through a bootcamp program and I love programming, but I feel paralyzed lately. I can force myself to do pretty much the bare minimum in acting like a normal human being every day, but beyond that, I just fall apart. I try so hard to contribute at work, in my marriage, in my friendships, but I feel like it’s not enough. I just switched meds, which worked for a while, but then just failed in a spectacular way. I feel like everything is spinning out of control, and I want to give everyone a way out of having to deal with me. My depression makes me unable to be a good wife, and my husband deserves so much better. I have taken so many sick days from work when I just feel overwhelmed, and they deserve better. My friends… I can barely pull myself together to interact with them, even though I know I love them.

I’ve been depressed my entire life, but it feels like it’s getting worse the past two, three years at an exponential rate. There are a few months here or there where the sun comes out, but every time it gets dark again, it’s twice as dark as before. No one should have to deal with me - it’s not fair to them.

I don’t know how to make it any better and I wish there was something I could say to cheer you up, but I really just want to give you a hug. You’re not alone. We’re in this together.

Hi, I read your post and your reddit post. All I can say is that if you managed your way through Lenovo like that there is more than enough geniality in your head to go forward with whichever you want to do. However I assume that statement is of no use, because you want to know what to do, not just that you can. (I have been there, is like going for a swim but needing someone to actually toss you in the pool)

My take on the CS market in 2013 is the following:

  • Degrees are entry points for researchers. These researchers might be headhunted by a think tank based on how valuable what they research is worth.
  • Companies don’t always need researchers, they just need can-doers. They have realized there is people that with the right combination of pizza and energy drinks they can make money.

That pretty much explains why there are graduates with no jobs, enterprises built by dropouts and kiddos coding like pros.

I say all this because the reality nowdays is that pursuing a degree will not get you closer to your stable job goal at all. Perhaps after your lenovo stunt you might already have all that you need to succeed in that same area. May I ask what is exactly what you would call a success to your job situation? become a developer, be a manager or just be rich doing anything?

I quit the university system after several years of trying and “trying” without a degree. (no tuition country) I regret nothing! No one cares, yes - I get asked why, but I still get an offer. In my opinion degrees are overrated. Although that was a gamble on my side for a few years. But as soon as there is some job experience and you are specialized in something, you will have a career.

There are still some larger companies and out of touch executives that are stuck in an old-school mindset that believes that a college degree has value for IT. Most of their bureaucracy and business models are just as out of touch as well. Aside from them, a degree is mostly irrelevant. It’s all about experience and specific certifications that are relevant to the job opening. I got into IT primarily because if that. They’re more concerned about you knowing how to do your job than how many bits of overpriced paper you have hanging on your wall.

I highly recommend some kind of mentoring or training program for the foundational stuff, though. One of my biggest difficulties in being self-taught is that it’s difficult to know if you have missed learning about something important until you get blindsided by it in an interview or run into it in the middle of a project. Once you have a good foundation set, you can more easily strike out on your own to focus on specific new technology or technique that appeals to you.

The hardest part is just getting the first few years of experience on your resume. It took years to finally break into the development realm. Everyone wants “senior” everything, and very few want to deal with the effort to train up junior developers.

Hey guys, thanks for all the replies. I felt kind of embarrassed by the initial post so I avoided coming back for days, haha.

I guess part of me holds onto the idea of a degree as a way to get ‘out’ of my situation. Like I mentioned on reddit, I am still living with my parents, but being unemployed with no savings or assets I don’t really feel like I have a choice at the moment, until I can get another job somewhere. I also don’t really feel safe trying to pursue therapy without an income and while I’m living with them since I’m afraid they’ll find out (and it feels so ludicrous that I’m 27 and still afraid of my parents, but.) They’re letting me live here rent free and they’re literally the only relatives or people I know anymore. I don’t even really have friendships online anymore and I’m depressed to the point where I don’t really have interests anymore, so I don’t know how to meet new people.

I hate myself for not being driven or motivated or whatever enough to use all my copious free time to teach myself programming. I don’t think I’m a real developer because as soon as I have to do anything remotely programatic I kind of freeze up and hesitate. I’m actually pretty confident in HTML and CSS and modding existing Wordpress things but somehow as soon as I try to do anything beyond that I just have this enormous block. I’m slightly better with IT issues, I’m a lot more patient sitting and fixing windows machines, troubleshooting network issues or figuring out weird software crap and right now I feel like all i would be able to handle right now, mentally, would be some really basic helpdesk 1 job somewhere, but I can’t find any jobs or even internships like that.

If I could at least get to a point where I could move out, go someplace else, have enough income to live on and a job that was at least tolerable and lived someplace I had access to therapy and support groups I’d be a lot better off… it’s just that right now I don’t really feel like I can even get to that point, so everything feels hopeless.

Nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s what we’re here for.

Your living situation is one of those natural traps that is so hard to get out of. You get into it because it makes perfect sense at the time, and often seems the only realistic option after a personal disaster. Problem is that you fell into a pit, not a pit-stop. It’s a lot more work to get out of than into, and the longer you’re there, the more you stagnate, and the harder it is to get back out. The longer you’re removed from other outside resources, the harder it is to find them again. Worse still, you feel bad about yourself for getting in it, then feel even worse for not being able to get out, and that just continues to fester, removing the self-confidence you need to believe you are capable of getting back out. It’s a self-reinforcing situation.

I’d suggest trying to find some kind of local users group for the type of technology you are focused on (linux, Java, .net, etc). Look for small classes or events, that way you have the chance to get to know people without the pressure of it being specifically a social event. Not only does this give you an avenue to find mentors to help you learn, but fellow geeks tend to be the most accommodating of personal quirks and awkwardness. I’ve also found that the most useful employment resource you can ever have is friendly acquaintances. All of the best jobs I’ve ever had were found through people I knew personally. Of course, location can make a huge difference. Some areas have a much larger tech community than others. If you live in a small town, you’re more likely to have to resort to exclusively online resources.

That sounds more like an avoidance reaction or anxiety attack than lack of ability. You’ve built up an overload of self-doubt and negative association with the act of programing, so your mind runs away from it whenever you try to confront it. This is the kind of thing where therapy would be really helpful. There are so many different methods of addressing this depending on personal factors that I can’t really suggest anything specific with certainty, but I’d highly encourage you to look into it. If you can grasp those other things, you have the capacity to program. You just need to convince the rest of your mind to let you. All you’re doing is telling a pedantic smart-ass how to do something. Just the language you tell them in varies.


I just joined the site because of your post, just to reply. I share so much in common with your experience it’s scary. My parents were abusive, and though they didn’t hoard animals, their impact on me caused me to drop out of high school and get my GED. I’ve struggled for years feeling completely inadequate at my jobs, even though I’m usually a top performer when I look objectively. The facts don’t change the feelings, I’m sure that’s something you can relate to.

I share the same feelings of inadequacy to the point that it blocks my productivity completely, then I sit at my computer yelling at myself inside for being so stupid, which makes me feel worse. There are days where I come to work for 8 hours and do nearly nothing but have an internal dialogue with myself. Then there are other days where I work 12 hours in the blink of an eye and write amazing code that I look back on with pride (at least for a while…).

I know you said you don’t have any friends you can trust, and while I have a group of friends I also feel that I can’t trust anyone. My girlfriend doesn’t “get it”, so it leaves me feeling alone most of the time. I guess what I’m saying is if you want to chat, shoot me a PM.

– philj


Hey man, sorry it took me so long to reply. I really appreciate it.

Yeah, knowing the facts, knowing exactly what you have to do and then being unable to do it is the most helpless feeling in the world. I have so many books and resources to learn all these different technologies with, and I have all the time in the world since I’m out of work, but I just. Don’t. I don’t know if it’s lack of interest or lack of belief in any ability of my own or what.

I was like that when I did have a job too. Besides the normal stress of a job there was just so much additional stress from the constant self doubt, fear I’d be fired, fear I’d be found out to be as incompetent as I knew I was, whatever. I’d have to constantly hide in the bathroom for a while just to talk myself down from an anxiety attack. And even if you know other people deal with stuff, it’s so hard not to feel like the only crazy one around. I know I didn’t interact with people the way they maybe wanted or expected me too because most of the time I just didn’t know what to say. I didn’t have anything in common with them (no friends, no family, didn’t go to college, came from out of state - and despite working in tech somehow I always ended up being the only nerd with nerd interests in everything after my first job).

There were a few times I had ‘wins’. Whenever I ended up doing customer support work at my agency job I’d always get lots of praise from clients for fixing their problems and going above and beyond. When i was in dev ops (well, it’s hard to get anyone to like you when you work in dev ops and I was the least experienced person on the team) but I felt great the times I was genuinely able to help people or solve a problem. Sometimes I try to look at the stuff I managed to do objectively and be proud, but it’s so damn hard when all you can remember are the times you felt overwhelmed and incompetent. My paralysis and fear of just feeling that way forever has made me honestly afraid of even looking for another tech job.

Tech culture, especially dev culture with its hero worship of super productivity is just a nightmare when you feel like you’re barely qualified for the job you have. When just getting out of bed, dressed and getting to work feels like it might be beyond your abilities, how the hell are you supposed to be a rock star?

Though reading some other stuff on the board makes me wonder if I was in an especially bad field regarding the rock star stuff (oss web development) and maybe I’d be happier moving into something more mundane like Microsoft stuff. Reading things like Confessions of an Unlikely Developer (http://joshuakemp.blogspot.com/) should make me feel better but, and I know it’s petty, I just end up feeling stupider. I’ve been messing around with web stuff since I was 11, I should have more to show for it. I should be some kind of expert consultant, giving talks and making six figures instead of an unemployed schlub. This guy, just by virtue of being motivated and dedicated is better than me.

Ugh that was a long rant, sorry. I’ll see if I can work up the nerve to send you a PM, haha.