Programmers and depression

This is a translation (and rather free) performances 2013 Ruby programmer named Greg Bauges dedicated to depression and mental disorders among programmers. The speech is old, but the problem is eternal. Here is the video from the conference:

So, let's begin, my name is Greg. I work at Table XI in Chicago. We have something like a web Studio of 30 people. I programmed most of his life, starting with a TRS-80 when I was only 6 or 7 years. There were magazines and Basic, I even still remember the monthly magazine 3-2-1 Contact, which are printed on the back of the u-turn program for BASIC. Then I could not copy-paste and I just had to reprint the program to start, forcing you to change the colors on the screen and do other nasty stuff... I spent most of my life trying to sit on two chairs — programming and working with clients. And I have bipolar disorder of the second type(БАР2) and SDV, and today I want to tell you my story, friends. To tell you why we should pay attention to depression and mental illness in such meetings, conferences, and in conversations with colleagues.

You may have heard about bipolar disorder the first type (БАР1), which is characterized by cyclic change of manic and depressive States. This means that you go back and forth between manic stage on the rise and depressive stage on the decline. The manic stage may be accompanied by euphoria, but at the same time it is incredibly destructive because of sheer impulsiveness, and in this period people often make rash decisions. When БАР1 is also constant rushing between these two conditions — the euphoria is replaced by decline very often. My БАР2 is characterized by longer cycles of state transitions.

For me it usually looks like a slow slide down for 4-12 weeks. It feels like trying to enter a steep slope gravel — no matter how hard you pedal, you still roll down. Of course, the best part of this was not enough. I first noticed it in the fifth year of study at the University of the Illinois Constitution, my so to speak last lap. Really finish it for me did not. I just broke up with his girlfriend and finally for the first time began to live alone — no neighbors in the room. I was threatened with expulsion and Affairs took a bad turn. I never was a good student, but was smart enough to resemble such. It backfired on me last year: suddenly it became clear that in order to pass the exam in linear algebra, we need to understand what is meant by the phrase "linear algebra". And despite the fact that I passed this course twice, I still can't explain to you what it is.

It became obvious that I just will not pull that diploma I will receive, and how to tell their parents I don't know. And certainly I had no idea how to accept the fact that everything is released, but I'm not. A friend of mine said about me: "Greg is one of the most sensible guys I've come across, but apparently he is also from the lazy". And I believed in it, the other excuses I had. After all, how does that usually happen? I slept all day, not coming to class, but knew I would be mad enough to attend classes and do homework. But I just didn't do it — for me it looked like laziness. I really sleep a lot when they are in a depressive phase for me is the most obvious symptom. At that time the best part of the day falls on the period when I was unconscious, not having any contact with reality, which he felt the full weight bore down on me. Yes, even physically it was hard to get out of bed — was better to wait out the clock.

And so I ceased to attend classes and go to work. I had a job with a partial employment and a flexible schedule so that there is no immediately realized that I was on the job scored. And I had a wonderful colleague, a wonderful friend, who still really cared about me — he sent me a few emails trying to find out what was happening to me. The letters I did not answer — just didn't know how to tell him about your condition. And then one Tuesday, about two o'clock, he called me several times but I ignored the phone, continuing to lie in bed. And then I heard him knock on the door, saying something like: "Hey Greg, it's bill." It was something like: "Damn. Everything is fine. You just need to be quiet — he didn't know that I'm here. And anyway why would he think that in 2 hours on a weekday I can be here?" But then the doorknob started to turn — not that I really bother with closing doors in that period. However, I did not make a blunder and managed to neatly slide into the gap between the bed and the wall. I threw blankets on top of himself and held his breath, waiting until the bill has not bypassed, living room, study, don looked around the bedroom, and finally went away. I was ashamed of it.

Exams by the way, I failed. I returned to Indianapolis and went to live with their parents, while earning a freelance. In fact, I even enrolled in the local College, but after six months it became apparent to me that I neither morally nor physically overpower him. Parents, I then lied, saying that successfully graduated, and admitted them just a few years ago.

It was unbearable — even when I wanted to, not even when I managed to get myself into pairs, I still couldn't concentrate. Even when I wanted to perform some task for a client, I could not. Unless of course the time was 2 a.m. the day before the delivery of the project. But when I could focus, I worked quite well. But I just could not control myself. In the Bible was this verse: "For I do not understand what to do, because it does not do what I want, but what I hate I do." And my feelings explained in this verse could not be more accurate. Whatever I do, no matter how simple the task was, it was like walking under water, I just couldn't force myself. I wondered: "Why is this happening? Why can't I control myself?" And as every decent person who has a question and wish to get an answer, I resorted to Google. Once at 2 a.m. I started from despair to Google for the query "chronic procrastination". And now I'm studying information on Attention Deficit disorder(add).

I always joked that I have add, but seriously didn't think so, because that SDV is an excuse used by lazy, when you do not want to work normally. And I'm not. But then I came across the book "the Edison Gene" authored by Thom Hartmann, the message of which was that SDV is determined genetically. And inventors and creative people in it. Quite a common thing. According to the book, tens of thousands of years ago, we were farmers and hunters(or gatherers). And to be a good hunter, you had to explore new territory and have the ability to continuously switch attention from one object to another, suddenly appeared in the field of view. But to be a good farmer you need to become skilled in doing routine things day after day. There is an important methodology. None of the skills are not better than the other, it just happened that over time the civilization grew, and farmers began to be more useful because of the ability to provide food for a large population. And at the same time, the hunters thoroughly decimated each other during the wars, so that they share their genes in the genetic pool was falling faster. Gradually, their share in the population fell, and now only have about 10-20% of people may be diagnosed with add. The book says that people with add possess non-linear thinking, and without it — linear.

And what I find most encouraging is the fact that those symptoms which we attributed to add, like inability to focus, procrastination, indecision, all these symptoms disappear under high tension. About 2 hours the night before the delivery of the project. At the same time, the symptoms of stress appear in people with linear thinking. And this was very reassuring — it meant that I have not problems with the head, and that we built a society where a dangerous situation is rare. To be a decent member of this society, we need the willingness to work every day at a set time, you need the ability to pay the bills and monitor the status of your checkbook.

I more or less made my peace with it. About a year later after reading this and other books, before I finally went to someone for help. Just because I was trying to solve their problems on their own by simply putting more of these forces.

But still I decided. I went to a psychologist and passed the test. She checked and said, "Yes, you definitely have add, you have won." And I mentally exclaimed, "Yeah!" But she immediately added: "But it seems you have also bipolar disorder of the second type." And I thought, "Neeeeeet... no. Look, I'll take add, and bipolar disorder you have, because it's for sick minds, and I'm not." And then I continued 2 more years to live as before.

I finally went to a psychiatrist and told him about my add. He explained to me that there are 2 types of medication that can help me. One of them need to be taken systematically and in 2 weeks will have a tangible result. The second was a stimulant, the effect of which should be in 15 minutes. Of course I chose the second option. And the doctor was right. After 15 minutes, my world narrowed down only to what was in front of me. The first time I was able to compile a list of the items A, B, C, focus on it and execute them in order. It was exciting.

But the depression remained. And it is even worse because the meds helped me focus. And if the main subject of my thinking was how am I bad, the drugs just helped me to concentrate on my depression.

My whole life was subjected to the single template because I refused to believe that unhappy I do not external factors like place of living or working, but something inside of me. When I was in College, I cursed him, saying that it's not for me that without him I would be happy. Then when I went back to Indianapolis, after a year of living there, I thought to hell with him such a life with your parents, I better go to Chicago. And here I am in Chicago. Got a job as a programmer in a startup of five people, the perfect job for me. The first few months when I've been broke. But then after 11-12 months of work, I said to myself that this place sucks. I'm unhappy again, maybe I'm just burned out on one technology. Said — done, I got a job as a realtor. And it was great — I got all the number of deals within a few months. But the situation again began to deteriorate.

Around this time I met a guy named Josh Golden, exactly when I played poker, I spent a lot of time. He was a Director of the company Table XI. And we became pretty good friends throughout the year. He appreciated my combined experience in programming and sales and said, "you Know, when you're ready to engage in the ongoing work, let me know." And then one fine day, I quit my job. I texted him "Hey, if you're still interested, I'm ready." And about 6 weeks later, I started working at Table XI.

That day in my pocket was exactly one dollar and 70 cents in the Bank, because the work of a realtor is not given to me so well, I was almost not functional. Me and my roommate had a month hot water was turned off for nonpayment, so every day I wash under cold water. I somehow made it to work, and not really was able to afford lunch, but that day I found out that Table XI feed employees at their own expense. We have a cook, and then Josh just sent me a message asking what kind of sandwich I ordered. Beginning in Table XI was great. I mean perfect. It was just the kind of company I always dreamed of, even when just moved to Chicago. We were only six in the office. There were many days when I felt the stupidest employee among all, and it was great. We worked on interesting projects and we had a cool office in the attic, everything was cool and worked for me just fine.

And here six, seven, eight months, a year later, it repeated. Again began the game with only one gate — my gate. I went a series of weeks when I didn't show up for work before lunch, I slept through my alarm every day. It all came to a natural end one Friday. We just had a big project that was entirely tied to me. I sat in the office all night trying to work on it. It was a complete failure — I couldn't concentrate at work. And went home, promising myself to get up early. Alarm clock I overslept. Josh that morning just flew to Italy to propose to his future wife, he lived a block below me. And here again I Wake up to the fact that someone enters my room, asking: "Hey Greg, you here?" Only this time I didn't have the saving of the opening between the bed and the wall.

The same day I scheduled a visit to a psychiatrist. It became clear to me that what kept me from a visit to the specialist, it was my pride. I could not allow, that with me something not so. And then I said to myself: "I might not be able to control it, but at least I'm going to cause problems just yourself, and everything will be fine." I knew that was failed all around due to the fact that shunned outside help. By the way after 4 hours after visiting the psychiatrist I met my future wife Rachel.

The psychiatrist said, "Yes, we have a treatment for this. The symptoms you have exactly БАР2. A drug that we have, lamotrigine, helps almost always. Sometimes though occasionally there are side effects, such as anal rash." What I reasonably noticed that the acne on the ass is not going to make me more countless than now. But luckily everything worked out, at least for now. But in my condition since then has been remarkably stable.

Vylezanija this gap took some time. And not that everything was rosy after I started taking medication, it's not that I didn't have days when the depression was on top of me. They were, but now it was days, not weeks and months, during which I was actually disabled.

I'm incredibly lucky — my meds worked the first time, I had health insurance, I had to turn to for help. Table XI didn't fire me, although it would not hurt to do it more than once. So I'm still working there 6 years later. I met my wife, who helped me to get out.

But a lot of other people with the same diagnosis are not so lucky. It is estimated that about 5% of people suffer from bipolar disorder. 10-25% die because of him, and one-third of its owner attempts suicide at least once in your life.

And then you? If bipolarity is only 5% of people, it seems to me that among programmers such 75%. Here are some symptoms indicating bipolar disorder:

  • hyperconcentrated. Of course, sometimes it's hard to concentrate, but if it will work, then the whole world around disappears. You can sit for 12 hours and hitting the keys.
  • Chaotic thinking — a lot of thoughts race worn.
  • Muffled speech — when a lot of thoughts from the previous paragraph tries to find a way through a narrow mouth opening.
  • Social isolation.
  • Irregular sleep, especially bouts of insomnia, which lead to the fact that it's hard to sleep at night and almost impossible to Wake up in the morning.
  • Pretentiousness to think that rules don't apply to you, you're better than others, that you can solve problems that others can not handle.
And if you are young and struggling with these symptoms, a parish in the industry — it was like coming home. We are socially isolated. We work with the downed mode of the day. We are looking for people who have the audacity to believe that they can solve problems inaccessible to others. We have occasional bursts of productivity. And our idols — people are eccentric enough to think that they can change the world.

Last fall we interview for a job got a programmer, Caleb Corman. His resume was impressive, he worked for the three best companies, specializing in Rails, one of those was in Chicago. However in each of them, he worked no more than a year, which caused some issues. But we still hired him, and he was good. I was paired with him, actually it was one of the first with whom I had to work closely. From him I learned a lot — he was that rare type of people who are talented enough that, so also a good teacher.

He taught me to understand code and to determine that which was tainted. Told you the Pry debugger, and even tried to teach me Vim, but that didn't go well. Prior to that, I haven't worked closely, and he finally told me about all these short names for the punctuation characters, like bang instead of "exclamation point" and others.

A couple of weeks after starting work with us, Caleb began to refer to poor health. And he was late to show up to work, and the excuse each time was a little different, and it was suspiciously familiar to me. I told him my story with eye to eye and asked what was going on.

And he said, "Yeah, you know, I sometimes think, and whether I have a similar problem. Just make me what? Not that I wanted to look for psychiatrists in the ads in the newspaper." And I gave him the contacts of a couple of people, he called them, although the visit was somewhat delayed — sometimes they have all the schedule is full. But he has signed up for a visit in a couple weeks. The day before he informed of all that is sick and tomorrow goes to the doctor. It was on Friday.

But only to the doctor he came. Later we learned that he then ran out of money, and the next day he died of a drug overdose. You can tell that this overdoz was not special. He managed to call 911 and died in the hospital, and his roommate said that judging by the uneaten chips lying next to the joystick Caleb has planned to survive Saturday night.

Apparently he some time has struggled with his addiction. Some of his friends knew about it, and we are not. And they said his problem was that he was smart enough to hide it from everyone and pretend that it wasn't all bad. The sad part is that Caleb died from an overdose of amphetamine, a medication prescribed to me from SDV — dextroamphetamine. And I was pretty sure that Caleb died trying to self-medicate to cope with their mental disorder.

The history of Computer Science has a similar sad page. Alan Turing, father of Computer Science, was herself subjected to much persecution from the government. This year we lost Aaron Swartz in similar circumstances. In 2007, he wrote:

I have the disease. I don't talk about it for various reasons. I'm ashamed to be sick. Sounds absurd, but still to plead sick — means to brand yourself. I don't want to use illness as an excuse, although sometimes I wonder how much more productive I was without it.


Of course, each there are times when you're sad. You favorite person is not reciprocated, or all plans went down the drain. You sourpuss, you might even cry. You feel worthless. Do you think whether to continue this. What you do looks sad: your achievements, plans for the future, the people around you. You lie on the bed and want to lay in the dark.

Mood in depression is about the same. it just appears for no reason and no reason will make him leave. You can go to unwind, breathe fresh air, hug a loved one, but it will not get better, only sadder by the inability to feel the joy that is available all around. Everything is painted in a sad tone.

Depression is a cause of disability in about half of the cases, it also affects one in six, and today she causes more misery than poverty. Unfortunately depression, like other mental disorders, especially different kinds of dependencies, don't look real enough to deserve the same investment and prominence in society as a notorious breast cancer, which affects one in eight. Or AIDS, which affects one person out of 150. And of course shame.


Shame is what is killing us. The shame and prejudice associated with mental illness is the cause of the suffering of our colleagues and friends. Now, if I stood up and said that I had cancer, I would not be afraid that someone will think: "Oh, that he clocked." If I said that taking insulin, no one would have said, "aren't You afraid you will make addiction until the end of life?". No one will think that I use it as a crutch. If I broke my leg, nobody'll say, "Just work harder." All will exclaim: "Go to the doctor!"

But we have different rules for the perception of diseases associated with the brain, not the same as for diseases of all other organs. Which is ironic, because the brain is the most complex organ. And still many of us are reluctant to make use of advances in modern medicine in its treatment.

I think that this is especially true for programmers, because most of our lives we spend being valued for how well our brain works. But the idea that he could possibly act up, encroaching on our identity and self-esteem.

If you are faced with the described problems, it certainly does not burn with the desire to go to the doctor or taking pills, and I can understand why. Meanwhile, as I was canadiannational himself SDV and began to look for a doctor a year has passed. It took me 2 years to after the doctor diagnosed me with bipolar disorder, I finally began to heal. I was afraid that it will hurt the part of my brain that makes me successful in its work, afraid of losing their creativity.

And Yes, it's true. Now my brain works differently. And I'm programmed differently. The round dance of thoughts no longer devastates me, I don't have to sit all night and to pull ticks from the head code in pieces. Now I'm more like a turtle. I can be measured, I had an objective view of ideas and the order of their occurrence, and I control them. And most importantly, now I'm responsible and I can rely on. Just like I couldn't describe before.

To visit a therapist or psychiatrist means to brand themselves, but I don't understand it. Michael Jordan has a coach, tiger woods too. So why then you should refrain from the assistant whose job is to silently to listen to you and give advice like, "try to do it a little differently"?

To find a therapist is hard, they are much more technically backward than we are. They are more used to communicate by phone, not by email. If you visit my blog, there are links to some resources that are worth a look. Alas, I'm not local so can't give any recommendations for people living here. But in the blog there is some information that will help you to find the right person.

And if that information will do nothing, just you put the word out people. If you can't find anyone, ask me. If you feel that you have faced with the described problems, simply let your friends know about it. If you are faced with this problem, you can subtly hint to people about it. And you'd be surprised how many people will answer: "Yes, I have the same problem."

And if you already now all sad and improvement is not seen, just know that 10 years ago, when I was in College, falling asleep, I prayed to God that morning not to Wake up. 6 years ago I had one dollar in my pocket and there was no hot water in the apartment. And today I'm speaking at the conference "Mountain West Ruby", and my beautiful wife sitting in the front row. Things can get better. We just have to talk about it anymore.

If you are suffering from such disorders

I have written in the profile mailing address, please do not be lazy to make a false mail and describe what you can do in such depressive periods. You disappear, when there is no, the project is worth. Perhaps in these times you can work a few hours a day, sometimes even that is something. Perhaps you will master at least the simple routine work of writing documentation. I can't think of other reasons when one dumps in the middle of the project when the money is not yet received, you put a lot of effort, and there are no prerequisites to the fact that you do not pay or the customer is an idiot, no. At least write as soon as you are usually come back. If you don't mind, I will publish what you have said here, so you have a chance to help others with similar problems and not to spoil your reputation.

Readers ' letters


Never before this article thought it may be a sickness, but very similar to what happened to me happens. Cool to the current project in about 2-3 months, sometimes faster, not sure why is the speed possible with the amount of communication about the project and my success in it: the more discussion, confusion or alterations of the same the faster the unwillingness to work on the project. However, I can do something useful, but not associated with this project. Usually at some point stop working and postpone work for tomorrow, day after day. As usually, some objectives are not met, cease to meet the contacts on the project. There is a feeling of shame and the thought "tomorrow will finish and I will write them, everything will be OK", but that tomorrow never comes. In most cases, this is where it ends, but sometimes meeting the same happens somewhere in the real world, then I am of course very ashamed and guilty. Once or twice after such meetings, promised to continue, but never did. All this however can occur suddenly, even when things are going well, the project is almost complete and I have not even received the money. I'm not sure that there is some way to get me to continue or stop off on contact, a couple of times helped appeal to my friends, because to them it really is not difficult to answer. Although in periods of "block" communications in General might be paranoid on this, any unknown number is terrible, there is a fear to go into email/messenger/SMS, no desire to even read them (although this is because there was no danger, nobody would even know you read them or not). Deliberation now all of this has come to the conclusion that this really is some kind of disease, because any logic (and I'm a programmer! the logic of friends sort of) in such action there is, probably you need to enroll.


I have a similar problem that tormented me my whole life — the periods of great activity, productivity, sociability and joy of life gave way to some sort of self-loathing and avoiding everything in General.Now as the time period when you want nothing and I missed 4 days at work under the pretext of illness. Can sleep 14-18 hours a day and this happened many times. Because of this I have had problems at school (which, even though I was considered the best student in the class had to leave after the 9th grade with some triples), then in College (from which I was expelled after I was in the army, came back and still finished), then the first job — then I just offered a more promising place and I just moved to a new — current.Horror as it brought me problems, but actually "depressed" period I can't call it depressing. I'm trying to break all contact with people — and Yes, do not perform useful activity — Yes, but I don't feel overwhelmed, I don't have thoughts about death/suicide, if in such moments you have with someone to talk to I'm usually pretty cheerful and sociable (of course if this comes).I don't know whether I should do something to do with this disease, it causes intermittent problems, but I don't want to be without hypomanic stage. This is the most promising days of my life, which I accept, at least to some extent impulsive, but loyal in the end solution. published


P. S. And remember, just changing your mind — together we change the world! ©



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