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The Weight (theplayerstribune.com)
145 points by pmcpinto 872 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 16 comments

Anxiety and depression very nearly derailed my career (and my life itself) right at the end of college. I was working 35 hours a week at a startup and studying two difficult subjects at my university (computer science and Latin) while maintaining an active social life.

I kept pushing myself harder and harder, and essentially collapsed. Somehow I managed to stay at my job while I entered the mental health system and started taking care of my mind.

I had an extremely bad reaction to Prozac and then tried to manage my issues with diet, exercise, and meditation. For 2 years I was surviving but I certainly wasn't better.

Then I decided to try medication again, and started lexapro. Within 2 weeks my mental state had drastically improved, and I was actually feeling joy and excitement again. The panic attacks disappeared, while the general anxiety is much reduced.

It's been several years since then, and I'm still on a low dose of lexapro while eating healthy, exercising, and meditating. I'm much more aware of my mental health and don't push myself past the breaking point.

Yet my output, productivity, and drive is higher than ever, much better than it was before entering treatment.

If you are suffering from similar issues, I highly suggest entering the mental health system and doing everything in your power to try and get better. Stay positive and don't give up.

> essentially collapsed

What were the symptoms when this happened?

Multiple panic attacks a day, irrational and excessive worrying, insomnia, depression, feelings of impending doom, loneliness, lack of interest in subjects and activities previously enjoyed, lack of confidence and self worth. The usual stuff I suppose.

After dealing with these on a daily basis for a year, I added suicidal ideation to the list. Death no longer seemed scary, but a way to escape the nonstop overwhelming pain of continued existence.

On the plus side, after entering treatment, and then understanding and overcoming my mental illness, I am without question far, far stronger than I was before. I live every day to the fullest and have no regrets. My life is full of what's important to me- satisfying work, nonstop learning, appreciating art in various forms, and socializing with friends and family. This is what gives me pleasure and defines my life. I also have enormous appreciation for being healthy in a way that my peers seem to lack. Every day is a gift and it shouldn't be squandered.

People on HN always focus on "changing the world" as something that means building a billion dollar company. But this can't be further from the truth.

Storytelling, like what Fish has done here, is certainly changing the world and it is this incremental progress which we should all celebrate. His beautiful story, among others like his, will inspire people to be more open about their mental health and hopefully in the process inspire a better future.

Entrepreneurship is not the only way to make the world a better place, and neither is an incredibly high level of success (as Fish has had). But what resulted from his high level of success is a story that many can and will relate to. That's something to celebrate.

> People on HN (...)

People talking on HN...

There's an immense majority of silent people on HN who just learn. I've learnt my startup skills by reading HN for two years, and I'm very happy that I've learnt the difference between bootstrapping and VCing. I'm the pleased owner of an LLC now.

There is a place on HN for lifestyle businesses and bootstrapped companies, the latter being much less generator of stress. There is patio11 who is really renowed, and although he's a hard worker, I don't believe he ever put "Advancing Humanity" in any of his pretentions. Lastly: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10169782

I often point out that happiness is what actually advances the world. Unbeloved people who surround us, or unbeloved busy people who spend their time at work, accumulate frustration, unmet expectations, and sometimes accumulate hate. Unhappy and excluded people are the most extremist in politics, and they're often the most part of the warmongers.

Maybe spending time to love the people around us will make 1, or 2 people happy. It's not an app, it's non-scalable. But if that prevents extremist votes and wars, aren't we the ones advancing humanity?

> bootstrapped companies, the latter being much less generator of stress Maybe it's because I've never been at a funded startup, but I can't imagine "this needs to bring in money from day one or my house goes away" being less stressful than "oh gee, our $4 million could run out soon."

It's rather "We've signed off this term sheet, so either each of the managers earns $1m at the end of the two years, either we earn nothing and we're in personal bankrupt".

This was a good article to read.

Less seriously, back in hn, re: "we're going to change the world!"


An amazing story. Debilitating anxiety at the highest levels of his profession, anxiety so severe it threatened his physical health. His purpose in writing? To help others, to make it acceptable for others to admit they need help.

It truly is. What amazes me is what this anxiety is all about? Tennis is not life and death, his mind makes it so. Why, what chemical bounds makes human mind to attach co tightly and cruelly to really unimportant things?

The thing that always amazes me as I read about professional sports is how much mental strength and discipline is required by athletes. This story shows how much that mental strength is on the edge and susceptible to "injury", just like the physical skills.

Wow, what a powerful piece, and sharing it might just impact the world for the better so much more so than being the world #1 in tennis. It reminds me a lot of another piece from a year ago: https://stories.expost-news.com/screw-stigma-im-coming-out-6....

I've learned it can be really dangerous to tie so much of your identity up into something that's external and not fully under your control. But maybe that's something that's particularly true for people predisposed to anxiety? It would be interesting to know if, for example, Fish's contemporaries identify at all with what he's going through. Maybe it's a matter of degree.

I've had anxiety issues for most of my life. I'm 31 now, and until I was about 22, I think my anxiety and related issues were one of the defining features of my life experience. I've never really gotten professional help with them because I only realized what was going on with me in retrospect, after managing to wrestle my anxiety under control, with a lot of support from people close to me. It's almost like anxiety cloaks itself so that the sufferer feels like their experience is truly unique and untreatable. I look back and feel silly for having felt that way. But I hope I know enough now to identify anxiety and call for help if it ever rears up again.

What has helped for me is a great deal of meditation to reframe what's important in my life, taking on of tasks that challenge my fears, seeking balance and diversity in my activity and thought patterns, development of self-awareness of my thought patterns and deeply held assumptions, a very intentional focus decoupling of my self-worth with success in tasks I take on, and being lucky enough to friends patient enough to really shepherd me through some difficult times.

What hasn't helped are self-medication, over-reliance on any single source of comfort, value and/or security, and adherence to belief systems that emphasize extremes.

Wow. After only reading the first few paragraphs of the article, my mind was already racing back to my youth experience as a competitive chess player. It really struck a chord with me. Obviously my accomplishments were not even close to the magnitude of Fish, but I can relate intensely to the performance anxiety and urge to quit rather than compete. Wanting to choose flight over fight, so badly.

When I was a teenager, I became quite a good chess player for my age, culminating in me winning the U20 championship for my province (pop. ~13 million). I was at a level where I could compete well in adult tournaments, but I dreaded the youth tournaments simply because the expectation was generally that I would finish 1st and not lose (or even draw) a game. Anything less was a disappointment. This pressure did not come from my parents, they were very relaxed and did not push me at all. The expectation just built up over time, each 1st place finish built up more expectations for the next time. I remember getting very close to physically ill before many matches. Not wanting to eat anything. The overwhelming feeling of relief when it was all over.

The tournament where I won the provincial championship is one I will never forgot. It was a round-robin between 6 of the top players in the province. I was so nervous. Even though I was one of the lowest-ranked players in the group (I was tops in my region, but not the province), I couldn't shake the expectations and nervousness. I lost my first two matches and felt devastated. I didn't belong there. I had been a complete imposter up to that point. I had just been lucky. Those were my (ridiculous) thoughts. I had dinner with my dad and cried and cried and told him I wanted to make the 3 hour drive home and just forfeit my remaining matches. My parents never pushed me, but my dad would not let me quit. He talked me off the ledge. Through something that has always felt a bit like fate or divine, I won my remaining through matches and somehow the rest of the competitors managed to the perfect storm of results such that I finished tied for first. Miraculously I won the playoff for the championships.

I ended up leaving competitive chess when I was 18 to focus on my engineering studies. That's the reason I tell myself and most people, anyway, but to be honest, part of it was being able to quit and leave that competitive world behind. I love competing and playing sports where I know expectations of me are reasonable or none at all, but in a competitive setting where the stakes are high, my body chooses flight over fight every time.

I'm also extremely grateful that this has not extended into my professional life. My mind does not view work, or competing professionally for business, the same as it does competing for trophies.

Thanks for posting this.

I have a sibling that's dealt with anxiety attacks like this for 10 years now, and always had a difficult time understanding what the experience was like until recently he told me "it feels like I'm physically going to die." If nothing else this seems like it will help me sympathize what he's going through.

"I lost the final in Cincinnati to Federer 6-4 in the third, a match I easily could have won."

Probably something thought by the countless people who have lost to Federer time and time again.

That I do not understand. Why he could not just calm down and carry on? Like normal Londoners did under Nazi bombs, which was not exactly tennis.

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