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Ask HN: How do you deal with mental illness?
52 points by time_management on Dec 23, 2008 | hide | past | web | favorite | 87 comments
I used to have panic disorder, which I've essentially squashed through meditation practice. Panic cost me a job and a relationship, but I seem to have trained my mind well-enough of late to have PD in permanent remission.

I also tend to be mildly bipolar. I'm not diagnosed, but I've known myself to be cyclothymic since 13. I treat this as a spiritual and personal challenge. It only affects me 10-15 days out of the average year, and it allows me to have experiences that most people never will, so I regard it as a blessing, though a mixed one.

I'm extremely sensitive to light, sound, and drugs. I don't use recreational drugs, and "social drinking" is out of the question because a 5-year-old could drink me under the table. (I love beer, but I probably drink 1-2 per month.) The high school cafeteria was torture, because lunch was the main social context of that era, and I wanted to be a "normal kid" but the intensely loud noise rendered me a social cripple.

My most beautiful but also damaging mental quirk, however, is probably hypergraphia. I don't think I have OCD, but I have an intense compulsion to write. I'm good at it. I can pound out 2000 words of coherent English prose in half an hour. Unfortunately, it can be a bit dicey. When I had a blog, I'd inevitably find myself posting inappropriate personal confessions on it... hence the reason I do not have a blog. I've ruined relationships with brutally honest emails. I also used to have a "flame habit"; I was addicted to the flow state I could attain by launching offensive/provocative discussions on Internet message boards (that was before I came here) and watching hundreds of people react. Some of these online misbehaviors have been tied to my real name but, worse yet, the "troll" era has cost me an immense amount of time that could have been better employed.

If I could divert the hypergraphic tendency into a more precise (and, frankly, often more useful) form of writing-- code-- I would be able to go from a 5-6 hacker to a 8-9 in a matter of weeks. Unfortunately, I haven't refined this mental quirk to such a degree yet. Does anyone have any suggestions?

What mental challenges have you faced, and how have you dealt with them?

I have had a pretty serious depression that lasted for around two years, and am still trying to get out of it. I've noticed that depression, and probably other mental states, is something you don't see in other people unless you have had similar experiences yourself. Now I can see that friends of mine have gone through a depression by the cues they have left, but I would never have noticed this before - if you haven't been there yourself you won't see it.

I'm pretty sure that mental problems of one sort or another are much more common than you would expect, but it's one of those things that it is still a taboo, so you never know how widespread it is. So you should know that you aren't alone at all. Almost everyone has to go through one or more major crises in their life.

As to how to move on I think you're on the right track - accept your mental state and whatever baggage you have and start working with it. Once you accept that you are what you are and that this is OK you are halfway there. Next make sure you have friends or family you can talk to. They'll tell you that they love you no matter what, and that if you were different you wouldn't be you.

Accepting who you are is much harder for you than it is for the people around you. Judging by your post it looks like you're well on the way to acceptance of yourself. I'm sure you'll be OK.

I'm posting this under a single serving account made for this purpose because I'm a regular cotributor here and don't need to have my personal life and problems all out in the open, but if you want to contact me let me know in the comments and I'll reply by mail.

This is a topic worth discussion -- I bet a lot of people here have some of these issues.

For your writing, I'd suggest continuing it, but putting it into some kind of "buffer" so that it doesn't get immediately posted to your blog. Then trim it down to the best, most polished entries, and pass it through some friends to review before being published. I think PG does something like this for his more significant/weighty essays.

I too have panic disorder, OCD, PTSD and mild depression. I also used to be hypervigilant and a hypochondriac. Being hypervigilant means that you are constantly monitoring your body for signs that something massive is wrong. I used to get a mild chest pain and would turn that into angina. Or I'd get a headache and convince myself it was a tumor. Fucking miserable.

I've been battling the panic disorder for the last 7 years or so. PTSD for the last 15 and everything else since day 1.

I have one recommendation for you and it's cognitive behavioral therapy, aka CBT. It's less talking about all the stupid shit your parents did, and more about changing how you think about these particular issues.

I did my fair share of medications (nothing too major, ad's like effexor and zoloft and benzo's like ativan, klonopin and xanax) but I don't do any of them anymore thanks to CBT therapy and the growing understanding that everything is temporary. When you're facing down a vicious panic attack, considering a call to 911, I've found I can stop the entire process in it's tracks by simply acknowledging that this is all temporary and transient. Sounds so simple, but it's so very hard to do. Takes a lot of practice.

I've beaten the mild depression by forcing myself out amongst humans and participating with people socially. Really, anything that puts you out of your head.

My two secret weapons, beyond CBT therapy, have been marijuana and poker. Poker has definitely hardened me quite a bit, but more importantly it's helped me grow my own power base. Any activity that satiates ego is good for people like us.

Marijuana, counter intuitive since it typically promotes anxiety in people, has really kept me out of my head for the most part and definitely greases the wheels in terms of accepting my lot in life and the issues that I deal with day in and day out. It really is my Adderall. I can't wait for it to be decriminalized.

Finally, the biggest thing I did to change it all around was quitting smoking tobacco. That one single thing probably caused the biggest change out of all the things I've tried.

Anyways, hope that helps.

I know nothing about hypergraphia, but I question the assumption that your desire to write could be "channeled" into coding. I don't think it's necessarily true that two superficially similar activities are really scratching the same psychological itch.

When I had a blog, I'd inevitably find myself posting inappropriate personal confessions on it... hence the reason I do not have a blog. I've ruined relationships with brutally honest emails.

This makes me suspect that your itch is not writing per se but self-revelation. Have you tried taking up painting or sculpture or some other art form as a hobby, so that you can express your feelings in a way that gives you more plausible deniability, so to speak?

Or learn a conlang and make your inappropriate personal confessions in a language that only ten or twenty other people in the world can read fluently. :-/

I find it really odd and a little embarassing that part of my fascination with languages (including conlangs) comes from the ability to say things that the people around me will not understand. It's sort of a combination of intentionally alienating myself from others and being able to say what I feel like saying and knowing others will be too ignorant to understand.

I used to make up "alphabets" as a kid. As I learned more about linguistics and writing systems, I even got as far as making something vaugely like Korean script, where several sub-characters form one larger block character which all add up to one syllable. I wrote things in these alphabets, but never disclosed the meaning to anyone else. I never really got obsessive about it, though, but if I had a harsher childhood I have a feeling I would have written entire journals in it.

"The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success."

Eliot Carver of the newspaper 'Tomorrow' said that as I recall. I heartily concur!

Is your mental illness diagnosed (other than a self-diagnosis). I am not implying at all that you are, but am merely posting this for the community's sake: mental illness is serious (much like any other illness) so if you do seriously suspect mental (or other) illness seek professional diagnosis.

(It could also reveal that the symptoms are that of a physical illness, at times with an easy cure: I've a friend who experienced anxiety/OCD issues but the doctor recommended that he instead take up exercise and get fresh air which essentially wiped these issues away).

It makes some sense that serious trolls are mentally ill.

I was part of a somewhat well-known troll group for 2+ years, and trolled independently for 7. Your observation is correct, but for most of us, trolling was by far the most insane thing about us. Some serious time goes into the sport, and people've lost relationships and jobs over the time put into the game, and there are often reputation consequences for those who are caught. It's like World of Warcraft. Most of these people are fine "sane" people, capable of functioning at high levels and having normal relationships, except for the fact of being addicted to a compelling alternate reality. The difference is that WoW is a Skinner Box designed to be addictive whereas hypergraphic trolling is entirely emergent from transgressive behavior, but just as engrossing.

The other surprising thing about trolls is that they tend to come from very high-achieving and wealthy families. My father's an a high-ranking civil servant, my parents make $150k/year, and I was the "poor" in my troll group.

I always trolled ethically, though. No racism, no attacks on real-life non-participants except public figures who really deserved it, and no more misogyny than would be appropriate to the 18-year-old self that was the basis for one of my favorite troll personalities (ironically, named after a synonym for "thoughtful"; ok, I'm outed).

"The other surprising thing about trolls is that they tend to come from very high-achieving and wealthy families."

Is it really that much surprising? Trolling would fit well with the stereotype of "spoiled rich kids". No offense meant.

No offense meant.

None taken. It's true.

Write less.

How did you get into meditation? What kind of meditation do you practice?

The buddahnet.net looks like it has some pretty good information.

For a different take, check out Anne Wise's "High Performance Mind" http://www.amazon.com/High-Performance-Mind-Anna-Wise/dp/087...

The former focuses on a form of meditation called mindfulness. It lets you be more present without the distractions of the monkey mind. It means that when you start coding, you don't easily follow the distractions that keep you from coding.

The latter focuses on the different states of mind, running the gamut from wakefulness all the way to deep sleep. You learn how to access each of those states at-will. There is a bigger emphasis on guided meditation (as opposed to mindfulness) and includes techniques on dealing with what comes up from the subconscious. The book includes both theory and practices, and is definitely hackable.

Both approaches complement each other, though both will require practice. If one doesn't work initially, I recommend trying the other. The resulting skill is worth the effort.

Whether you are practicing mindfulness or using guided meditation, I recommend timeboxing your meditation, either by getting a kitchen timer or using incense. Without timeboxing, it is unlikely you will be able to relax deeply enough -- some part of you will keep thinking there is something else to do. If you've never done this before, I'd start with 5 mins a day, work your way up to 10, then 30 mins. 5 mins of mindfulness practice is a very long time for someone conditioned to 30 second attention spans. The key is daily practice.


Check out Vipassana meditation: http://www.dhamma.org. They offer 10-day residential courses for no charge at centres worldwide.

You could also have a listen to the stuff at http://www.audiodharma.org/

Definitely interested in hearing the strategies / meditations that you have found successful.

They certainly don't aim to equivocate.

"So what is wrong with you? Are you a freak? No. You are just human. And you suffer from the same malady that infects every human being. It is a monster in side all of us, and it has many arms: Chronic tension, lack of genuine compassion for others, including the people closest to you, feelings being blocked up, and emotional deadness. Many, many arms. None of us is entirely free from it. We may deny it. We try to suppress it. We build a whole culture around hiding from it, pretending it is not there, and distracting ourselves from it with goals and projects and status. But it never goes away. It is a constant undercurrent in every thought and every perception; a little wordless voice at the back of the head saying, "Not good enough yet. Got to have more. Got to make it better. Got to be better." It is a monster, a monster that manifests everywhere in subtle forms.

Go to a party. Listen to the laughter, that brittle-tongued voice that says fun on the surface and fear underneath. Feel the tension, feel the pressure. Nobody really relaxes. They are faking it. Go to a ball game. Watch the fan in the stand. Watch the irrational fit of anger. Watch the uncontrolled frustration bubbling forth from people that masquerades under the guise of enthusiasm, or team spirit. Booing, cat-calls and unbridled egotism in the name of team loyalty. Drunkenness, fights in the stands. These are the people trying desperately to release tension from within. These are not people who are at peace with themselves. Watch the news on TV. Listen to the lyrics in popular songs. You find the same theme repeated over and over in variations. Jealousy, suffering, discontent and stress."

One of my favorite authors, Glenn Morris, wrote, "You have to go through the door that is concealed to learn anything. That which conceals the door is something we don't want to look at."

Any of you remember the series of articles right after collapse back in early autumn of this year? There were numerous articles posted around here about fear -- whether to perservere with startups, or to cut your losses and wait until you're back on the upswing. Those were the times when all of these monsters come out of the woodwork. I had a lot of fun being able to see the manifestations of widespread panic ... even as my stomach was trying to eat its way out of my body.

If you can master this part of yourself, it is trivially easy to see what drives other people. It is more than social engineering. It is a hack relatively few people know about yet can give you great gifts. It is like a secret handshake when you recognize someone who has waded into the depths of his own psyche, and came back out for the better.

If you guys try these practices -- and it isn't limited to Buddhist meditation, either -- and get decent grip on yourself, I highly recommend going back and watching Batman Begins. Certain things takes on a different significance once you stop running away from your own fears.

Thanks. I bought this book a while back after reading a portion of it online. I didn't manage to get through because of what I perceived as flowery, tad-excessively metaphorical description. I guess I should try it again.

I've been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I just wait and persevere.

I've had to wait through dark times: hoping the suicidal thoughts will go; hoping the crying will stop; hoping I won't take the final step.

And, then, hoping the good will never leave; hoping my thoughts will continue to accelerate; hoping the pen won't stop; hoping the music in my head won't slow; hoping to dance, and wanting to run forever.

I don't deal with it, I just live with it.

I have an intense compulsion to write. I'm good at it. I can pound out 2000 words of coherent English prose in half an hour.

I wish I could do that. I always found writing for my English classes was incredibly difficult, especially as the length requirements grew.

Kylec, as a programmer you should be already really awesome with logic, organising information into structured flowcharts and be able to abstract information into skeletal frame. You know how PG's essays are pretty long but they go from start to finish with clarity of direction and logic? I'm pretty sure you can write well too, because you can code, and because you mentioned "length" as the difficulty, not grammar or spelling or your stuff not making any sense. Maybe you just haven't had a really good english teacher back in HS, don't let that limit you. Take a writer's workshop or join a toastmasters. Hmmm is it possible to start a HN writing group?

Writing was my best talent (coughwascough) before i found programming. I believe there's some inherit link between the two.

My main problem has been that after I say everything that I want to say I still have several pages to fill. I imagine this would be like asking a programmer to deliver a 2000 line program that the programmer can write in 200. It could be a psychological revulsion to waste (using more words/lines than are needed) or it could be that I don't have sufficient depth in my thinking to produce the volume of content needed to explore the topic. Either way, I think that I've probably seen the last of my mandatory minimum page lengths, so I'm not particularly worried about it. Still, it would have been a nice skill to have back in high school.

I used to run into that roadblock before. I find that what you can do is look at the ideas you started with and what you have written and then make sure that all your points are sufficiently proven. There is almost always some finer detail you can elaborate on (for instance by adding an example or two) and if it doesn't quite fit, you can delegate it to end notes or foot notes.

Sometimes, it really is waste and you have to hit the deadline, but other times it can make your piece a lot more interesting.

Not sure a HN writing group will take off, but I'd be all over it. A place to work on my own skills and a chance to help people who need... help would be great.

Don't suppress your intense compulsion to write just because it got you into trouble a few times... It is a gift. Manage it.

1. Always send your stuff to a few friends before you hit the publish button.

2. Don't write inappropriate personal confessions. Invent a character, have them live the inappropriateness and call it fiction.

Edit: 3. Revise the shiz out of your work until it is good enough that others can enjoy reading it.

Currently facing a massive challenge, and I have no idea of how to deal with it; to put it simply (but still very accurately), if you put me in jail for a few years with a computer and full internet access, it'd be pretty much the same as it is for me now.

The only reason I'm still sane is the internet, but that can't help xmas being very, very lonely. I dream of the day I get my life back. :)

My girlfriend is bipolar. I met her when she was going through a medication change, which was not fun, and she recently had to take a year off from school to deal with her condition, which was hard. She seems to be doing much better and things have calmed down with her.

I've heard some people say that it's not worth it, since those kinds of things "never go away", but she means a lot to me. I feel that mental illness is only one aspect of such a person, with pluses and minuses (one such plus being that it makes her a stronger person).

A huge number of people at my school have Asburger's, and many are on meds for it. I've seen a lot of them become much more stable and balanced people, mostly because of increased exposure to people like them as well as normal people.

Personally, I've found I've developed a very high tolerance to people with personality quirks.

Have you been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome (AS)? Many of these problems sound like symptoms of AS. Many, many programmers have AS (it seems computers were made by and for people with AS (see the book below)). I've worked with several whom I suspected but weren't formally diagnosed. They were miserable because the couldn't understand how to deal with people on a functional level.

The key is to understand the root of the problem. Some of the coworkers would be diagnosed with general anxiety disorder and the like while AS was the painfully obvious condition (though anxiety, etc are very common in those with AS).

Read this book ASAP: The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome by Tony Attwood http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/book.php/isbn/9781843104957

Quite possibly a mild case of AS. I was socially awkward as a kid, most of my friends in high school were IM/online friends, and I didn't have a serious girlfriend until after college. I'm "class of 23" although that could have been earlier if I were an unscrupulous person.

I had a social growth spurt recently (girlfriend dumped me, health problems went away, much better job, developed the will to learn social skills previously neglected) which has been wonderful, but also a huge spiritual challenge for reasons that are too personal to get into.

try writing a novel. i know people working on books that push very hard to get 2000 words a day.

I know coders who push very hard to turn 2000 words into 200.

yes, well, coding and novel writing have opposite goals.

i'll show you. i optimized a classic for you.

lord of the rings: evil guy makes magic ring, loses it, good guys get it and he dies when they eventually destroy it.

"Omit needless words!" -- Strunk

Read The Elements of Style to find out how novel writing works. Using fewer words is just as much a part of writing as using less code is part of programming.

Elements of Style teaches you how to write clearly and concisely. It doesn't teach you how to write a novel.

Your statement is narrowly true, but if you mean to imply that would-be novel writers wouldn’t benefit from internalizing Strunk & White, or that they need not worry about clarity or economy, then I disagree.

Eliezer’s point that careful word choice is essential to good writing applies just as much to novels as any other format.

I think authors would benefit from Elements, though like all strategies, should not be taken as ideology. Apply where necessary. Even Hemmingway did not stick to strictly minimalism.

We can also go off on a tangent, and talk about how Strunk & White was published right at the end of the Victorian era, when WWI essentially wiped out the Romanticism ideals of that era. Something similar happened in America after the American Civial War. Mark Twain's writing became darker, gritter -- clearer -- when compared to his earlier works. Post-Civil War, no one wanted to trumpet the glories of war. It took the Europeans another seventy years to catch up. (My little excursion falls apart because both Strunk and White were Americans).

I could compare this to martial arts training. Newbies are aweful to look at. They have so much wasted motion. Economy of movement suggests mastery of the art form. Masters condense sophistication into simple movements, fully aware of their potential. They do not merely have simple movements.

My main point though, is that there are other skills in writing novels not found in Strunk & White. Good expressive technique does not make a good story. I may agree that Elements is worth using. I don't agree it is the only guide you should study.

using fewer words is not the same as optimizing for the fewest words possible.

That's like saying I have built a completely generic website producer, all you have to do is code the rest of it to make it suitable for your needs - ie, there is no useful website yet.

Writing SHOULD be concise and readable. The difference for novel writing is that you should know what parts of the story are important and write just enough to accomplish your purpose. In the case of Tolkien, it was the journey and environment that were important, thus the deluge of words.

The best shortest short story is still by Hemmingway:

"For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn"

Frodo survived.

It was Gollum that died. I'm not sure anyone considers him a "good guy".

the "he" is in reference to the singular evil guy, maker of the ring, who dies. the "they" reference the plural good guys, who do not.

clearly, i forgot to add comments

Well, that's what happens when you oversimplify. Unexpected bugs! :)

I'd agree. Writing has opposite goals of coding, and perhaps trying to write a novel would in the least distract his hypergraphia long enough to stop him doing damage elsewhere with it. I mean Stephen King has hypergraphia, perhaps it's just more suited to prose than code.

For almost a decade 18 to 28ish (early 30s now) I dealt with obsessive thoughts and in turn anxiety that stifled me being myself around others/enjoying myself. 18 to 24 before I went out of state to finish my studies I had a ton of friends. We did stuff day in and day out, but i could never enjoy those times as I was filled with anxiety and could never be myself.

Fortunately I talked about my problems a lot. My mom went thru the same thing and said that I would grow out of it, which I did after many years.

I tried various anti-depressants and stuff, but for me they never helped me ... time did though, as well as talking about it(this made me realize Im not crazy/not the only one)!

Don't just try to turn your hypergraphia into hypercodeia ;-) A lot of people find that by writing about things they learn about them. For example, if you write a tutorial about a certain algorithm, a certain programming language, or whatever, you're forced to learn the topic well.

Perhaps you could write content about things you want to learn with how you went about it, what you did, what you learned, and relay all that to other people.

Get a blog, don't do any personal blogging, but just blog about your programming adventures. I love to read such stuff because I get to enjoy the results of other people's experimentation!

I am speculating; Inevitably posting confessions and trolling seem to involve a need for attention perhaps? This may be a result of your earnest interest in fitting into your peer group at an earlier age?

Sometimes I have a problem with anxiety and OCD. Generally I can control the OCD but sometimes the anxiety is overwhelming when I'm stressed.

When this happens I've found exercise to be a good release. I'm able to clear my head and work out all the nervous energy.

Perhaps you could have a journal instead of a public blog? This way you can still write without the side-effects of telling everyone your secrets.

time_management, I admire your courage and understand your need to post this subject here on HN. Though your motive is to create a real debate around the subject of mental problem, some of us go through every day, I don’t think HN is the right platform to do this; here is why.

Mental illness in general is a very complex topic, unlike headache, flu or any other disease; it is not something the regular person (the healthy person) understands. Those who have never suffer from any form of mental problem tend to think that it is a philosophical problem; they think that by thinking too hard they can somehow come up with an explanation of a solution.

I also have to agree that Hackers community seems to be one with a high ratio of people with some sort of mental disorder. I have suffered from depression myself and all through my career many of people I met had some sort of mental problem.

Mental illness is a "hacker's topic" because it requires mental "hacking" in order to flourish in spite of it, and I'd imagine there's a large number of successful "mind-hackers" on this forum.

I agree with your vision of mental illness as a "hacker's topic" if you think of hackers as a high ratio community. I don’t agree to the fact that it requires "Hacking" to deal with this very serious issue. Hacking is just a way to alleviate effect of it on the daily basis.

Again your calling a debate on a subject most people don’t even understand on a public forum, I don’t think this is productive to people with real issues. I have been there I know what I’ am talking about.

By "hacking", I mean using medication, therapy, cognitive-behavioral approaches, meditation, etc. to deal with the mind's inefficiencies. I don't mean the narrower sense, which is coding.

People post neuro articles to this site all the time. I'm not going to get into the debate over what mind is, but the brain is essentially a computer.

I have to say that Hatha Yoga can be quite helpful. (But be careful because some people tend to see it as a religion). It's more of a physical and mental concentration exercice (Probably like your meditation).

Although It helped me a lot, i don't practice it anymore. But it's worth a try.

Good luck!

I'm good at it. I can pound out 2000 words of coherent English prose in half an hour.

Damn, that's a problem I've always wished I had. I write too, but not much. I find that writing and coding to be very different activities, at least for me, so I'm not sure you could channel that energy into coding. From the sound of it, your writing compulsion sounds like it is more a matter of putting down your thoughts rather than creating something, that is, its not very cerebral. Coding, requires a filter between you and the keyboard, so this sounds like it would be a major stopper.

It does sound like you could make a nice political columnist/author: something like Limbaugh or Franken.

You've already won more than half the battle. You seem to have made a very studied and pragmatic analysis of yourself and you've shared that with your peers. That is a lot more than most people will ever do and it's certainly a big part of learning to control the the personal quirks which bother you. But you seem to have done that already to a large degree and that's commendable. It's almost the new year and I'm starting to think of my own goals for 2009 - your post makes me start to think of some things of my own which I'd like to change. Thank you for writing this post.

SORRY FOR SHOUTING BUT YOU NEED B12 . Sublingal tablets or shots . You can get the Sublingal Tablets at any pharmacy store without prescription . You have to put them under your tongue .. I cured my panic attacks with B12 and I have added B Complex too.. Start with 1000 Mcg of B12

It helps with your energy level and your immune system too . TRY B12 and let us know what you think . It changed my like .I was begining to forget things and now even my memory has improved because of the daily B 12 and B Complex


I used to have panic attacks but they stopped after taking zoloft and eventually I grew out of them. I have cyclothymia and I deal with that pretty easily. When I get manic I obsess over thinking of new ideas and new approaches to problems that I have. I use all of my will to stay logical during this time. When I start getting off of that mania I start actually implementing the solution. Also, I think that taking martial arts and my logic class have helped me weed out the idiotic thoughts to and to get more structured thoughts.

I have been dealing with dyslexia all my life. I tend to make a lot of spelling errors and editing my own work is particularity difficult, because I read what I think I see so "My god's namme is Rex" reads "My dog's name is Rex". The best tools at my disposal are: - a text to speech reader - spell check - a thesaurus (The spell check suggestions are hard to tell apart )

Do tech jobs discriminate against mental illness? By saying they couldn't possibly be competent? I think some jobs discriminate by default, by looking at someone's CV, which could be tainted by periods in hospital. Myself, I have a mental illness and haven't been able to find work. It's up to me to sell my own software to make a decent living.

If you live in a state where medical marijuana is legal, you might talk to a doctor about seeing if this can help you.

I've had a friend with a similar problem with anxiety and panic problems, and this really seems to help her. (She tends to do it in the evenings when she can't shake that panicky feeling, but not while working.)

I would imagine the following would be of help:

1) think positively

2) set some goals for yourself

3) direct your energy towards those goals

The first step is the key. Without the right attitude the rest of it would be difficult. If you can bang out 2000 words in 30 minutes, then you have a talent that can be used to help others and yourself.

Thanks for sharing - I wish you the best!

I don't think you view your mental illnesses as something you want to change. i.e. "... so I regard it as a blessing, though a mixed one." "My most beautiful but also damaging..." The post gives the impression you want to be seen as a damaged butterfly. I know someone very like you. He has the same hyper-sensitivities, trolling, avoidance of drugs, obsessive writing and hacking. I class both of you as classic INFPs with a strong need for self-expression.

My friend made a couple breakthroughs with his life a few years back. He got into drama/acting and films. These things made him far happier and he began to express himself in a more positive manner. Maybe you should try out this area. It is a good way to get some decent friends.

Why code as opposed to novels? And what are you looking for? Some suggestions on how to get into coding, or ways to improve your coding?

No, he's looking for a bridge between his ability to write and his ability to code.

Any of the writers in this community have advice to give to this fellow?

I love coding. I just get distracted sometimes. For example, I've had a ridiculously productive morning. It's already 11:15 and I've squashed a killer bug. But, it'd probably have been twice as productive if I weren't reading/writing on the Internets on the side.

Socialise with like-minded people - I play darts a lot with friends, its a mildly obsessive game, but also a social one.

have you tried eating differently, or moving to the country side, does that help at all?

A friend of mine who I won't name here is an accomplished sci-fi writer/critic of no little repute whose "day job" is technical writing/documentation, which is how I know him, since we worked for the same company at one point. I wonder if you have ever considered technical writing? If one is really good at/enjoys writing but also knows how to program, this seems like it would be a good fit. A strong technical knowledge combined with strong writing skills makes for a good technical writer I think. The downside is that during layoffs, the documentation department is the first to go it seems like, but the upside is that advanced writers can really make a lot of money, especially if you develop skills in the tools of that field, such as RoboHelp. Just a thought.

I'm mildly depressive. Mental issues are very common among smarter people. Meaning: you're quite normal. :-)

* see a psychiatrist and possibly get on a drug. Can be very helpful.

* see a therapist

* start a regular exercise program and stick with it. Huge benefit there.

* limit carb intake, especially simple carbs.

I'm curious about the carb limitation - what is wrong with sugars?

From mental point of view, I'd think at least impact on attention and energy levels.

That's aside, of course, from the physical dangers: diabetes (or diabetes like symptoms), very serious weight gain. That also applied to all carbs, not just sugars but some carbs are worse than others (e.g. high fructose corn syrup, white bread) while some are better (brown rice, whole wheat).

Put simply, simple sugars can screw with mood. Better to avoid them in general. This doesn't mean you shouldn't eat that brownie. It means you shouldn't eat them often or eat a lot of them.

the so-called "sugar high"

the rest of us are fine, but thank you very much for asking

I'm not sure that you are...

"Insanity is the only sane reaction to an insane society."

Insanity in the context of this quote is not mental disease.

To me, insanity refers to a judgment of the rationality of an observed behavior.

Who is to say whether an exhibited mode of behavior deemed by the observer to be irrational is the product of a mental disease or the rational course of action given a more complete understanding of the world?

Thanks for this delightful and helpful comment. I'm very glad to hear it.

i am ever so pleased that you enjoyed my mundane utterance.

and check out that downvoting! apparently this place is rife with crazies. butthurt ones...

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