Hi everyone - I came across this forum when I saw one of Ed Finkler’s presentations. I work in tech (though not software development) and I have GAD (diagnosed decades ago), I have had periods of major depression as well. Some of the things he said were very well known to me:
- Having extreme emotions (anxiety) that does not match the severity of a situation.
- Constructing bad outcomes and hyper focusing on them.
- Feeling like people around you were getting through life with less “effort.”
I’ve worked a tech job for all of my formal career - it’s going on 17 years or something close. Work in particular has always been an anxiety catalyst though I have anxiety in general outside of work too (including social anxiety). I came up with the brilliant idea of pushing myself for growth and took a job that (after training/grace period) will have me in front of customers doing technical advisories, demos, and presentations (I work in post-sales engineering) much more so than ever before in my career, where before I would have meetings/presentations much less frequently.
Trying to focus and keep up with information overwhelm is made difficult by anxiety that derives threats from everywhere. I know I can be slower than my peer group to really come anywhere close to mastery over something (however I also sweat details and have empathy for others that is less common in peers… maybe some of those “super powers” Ed talks about).
I have a reasonable boss and I’ve made it into a good company and so in a perverse way I feel even more pressure because of this. I’ve moved on from other companies/jobs that sucked and now that I’m in a good place it’s a really heavy dose of “survival” anxiety - as in, if I don’t make it here, what the heck am I going to do for work? Because hey, why not, my work anxiety also tends to weave into existential anxiety. Even though my job pays me well enough to live and have benefits, I feel that being stuck at a desk with high anxiety is killing me slowly, so it’s a perverse feedback loop that I’m sure many of you will understand. I definitely feel better on weekends when I can get away from a keyboard and engage in manual tasks, projects, using tools and gross motor skills. I can see and feel things being “accomplished” this way, unlike any of the often intangible digital world of knowledge work.
I was glad to get off of meds last year and take a break (meds have typically not done anything notable for me), but now I’m back on it since the ramp-up anxiety is so bad… working toward my first customer interactions.
I’m forcing myself to move forward and figure either I’m going to “survive” this or just fall on my face, but I have to continually ignore the impulse to quit and run away from it. I have never liked working, really. I don’t even know if my tech career is well suited to me. But I had tremendous anxiety in other settings as well, including retail jobs when I was still school aged. Having to face customers and not know what they’re going to ask, and having to “be the expert” has rarely felt comfortable. In the meantime maybe my lottery numbers will hit. I honestly cannot get a sense of whether I’m going to make it in this job or not, it doesn’t feel good - I can only try and see.
I empathize with all of you going through mental health challenges. I hope in my journey I can find the right combination of meds, therapy, techniques that will take more of the edges off of this ridiculous anxiety. Mindfulness meditation helps somewhat.
It’s nice this forum is here, too bad there isn’t more activity. The niche of mental health & tech is a good one, I am sure there are a lot of us with shared experiences.