Communication Is Hard

I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize what you heard is not what I mean.”

- Robert McCloskey

Of all the challenges I have faced in my personal and profession life, none have been so great as that of communication.  While in college, intentionally or not, it was assumed that communication wasn’t important for a computer programmer.  We weren’t graded on it.  We were graded on perfectly defined requirements that could be tested against a known set of inputs and outputs (professors had to think less that way).  Why would it be thought that a job would be any different.  After all, for a computer programmer graduation just means that it takes coffee to run the code factory instead of Mountain Dew (or beer).  Well, what a load of bull shit that turned out to be.

It amazes me how communication eludes even the smartest of individuals.  Our company had even gone so far as to hire an organizational pyschologist (yes, this is a real profession) to try and help us with communication during a large project.  Let me say this, the man worked brilliantly….right up until we thought we had it and could continue without him.

When did this get so hard?  In my life, the pain points I have with communication can be summed up into three glaring problems.

Problem 1: Note Taking/Record Keeping

Why anybody sits in a meeting and doesn’t take notes is mind boggling to me.  As far as I’m concerned, if you aren’t taking notes, then your opinion lasts the duration of that meeting.  I’ve recnetly had the displeasure of sitting through a long conversation concering the design of a feature.  How it should work and the like.  We had an example we had whiteboarded and walked through.  We decided to shelf the conversation for the next day so we could comeback with fresh eyes.  The next day, one member of the team begin the conversation by summing up where we had left off.  There was just one problem…the summation he gave was not the view as we had left it, but rather the view as he had desired it.  Which was then promptly shot down by a quick redraw of the white board from the day prior.  Listen people, take notes, record conversations do whatever you have to do to make sure that data isn’t thrown to the abyss.  Nothing can kill momentum quite like having to start over because nobody really knows what was being talked about.

 Problem 2: Information Should be Open Unless There is a Reason to Hide It

Most of us don’t work for the military or for some highly secritive group (apologizes to any Apple employees).  Get the information to the masses.  This is specifically targeting all you suits and managers out there.  The more information I have, the better decisions I can make while doing my job.  I know, emailing is hard.  You have to click a lot of buttons.  But believe me it is worth it in the long run.  Also don’t assume that people don’t benefit from the other information.  If it is not relevant in my world then believe me when I say I will ignore it.  And please please please please….if you get an email asking a question and there are more than just you on the sent to list, HIT REPLY ALL.  Again, I know it is hard.  It’s not where you usually click.

Problem 3: Assumptions

The worst of all of these is assumptions.  Assumptions that an individual understands what another person is saying.  Assumptions that information in an impromptu meeting by the water cooler discussing a new feature isn’t relevent to other team members and so no email is sent.  I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of assumptions.  Is confirming an idea or thought so difficult that the overhead no longer provides an ROI?  Is verification through email that big of deal?  Honey, when we go to bed and you have a Tylonel bottle on the night stand don’t assume I know what that means.

 

The moral of the story is this people.  Just talk to each other, keep track of what you talked about, and don’t make assumptions.  If something isn’t crystal clear then just confirm.

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Week 2 – Panic Attacks

Perhaps “weeks” are the wrong unit of measure for me as it seems like I struggle getting through everything in only a week.

Session 2 was all about panic attacks. 

While I was familiar with panic attacks as a result of anxiety I never thought I had experienced any.  Then when you start to hear the symptoms it became more obvious that I had.  Panic and/or anxiety attacks are really the physical manifestation of the fears and stresses we are experiencing.  The goal of the session was instill 6 steps to ending a panic attack.  It is intended that you practice these 6 steps every time you start to feel the symptoms of a panic attack. 

The Slippery Slope

Panic attacks are often induced by a series of thoughts that evolve from something trivial until you attain a full-fledged panic.  I think for myself it often manifests itself in angry feelings.  If given the time to think (while mowing the lawn or performing some other mundane task) my mind will start to wander and create some fictional scenario where I have a fight with a coworker or something terrible happens to somebody I know and the thoughts start to evolve further and further.  It was mentioned that “any negative feeling can release adrenaline.”  I suppose that is what ends up happening.  My body begins to enact its fight or flight response and release adrenaline into my system.  This adrenaline surge would cause other physical symptoms such as body aches, headaches, dizziness, etc.  It evolves further into no longer thinking about what was bothering me (fictitious or otherwise) and I would focus on the way I felt.  I would start being concerned about why I felt this way, whats wrong with me.  I would have to go sit down because I was afraid I was overdoing it and that I might end up dying because of it.    I think it’s strange that the simple knowledge of what is happening isn’t enough to fix the majority of the problem.  Just by being able to say “I know what I am experiencing.  I’m not dying, I’m not ill. I’m anxious.” seems like it should take you the better part of the way towards recovery. Of course I guess every 12 step program begins with admitting you have a problem and if they were that easy the other 11 steps would be pretty useless.

The Six Steps

1) Accept – float don’t fight

A comment was made that the response your body has during a panic or anxiety attack is the same physiological response it would make if you were having a time of your life on a rollercoaster.  The difference being that we perceive the two events in entirely different ways.  On the rollercoaster, we anticipate that we should feel that time as part of the high and rush we desire.  During a panic attack it is unwelcome and the reasons can be unknown.  Being able to acknowledge what your specific panic conditions are and acknowledging what you are feeling is the first step to controlling the feelings.

2) Permission – I know what this is

Giving yourself permission to feel that way is a big challenge.  It goes against most of our natures.  After we accept that what we are feeling is anxiety, we still have to make a choice as to how we handle it.  For myself the choice had often been to fight it.  I would struggle through, I would try to push it out of mind .  You come to realize that these feelings are lot like quicksand, the more you struggle the more stuck you are going to get.  This is often the point I get the most depressed.  I start to think “Why am I feeling this way? What about me is different?  What’s wrong with me?”  Just saying out loud I am anxious because … and that is ok for me to feel this way know.  It’s not ignoring the  problem it’s addressing it.  It’s the mental equivalent of “work smarter not harder”.

3) Breathe – inhale 2, exhale 4

Being a logic minded person, changing your breathing rarely strikes a chord with solving any problems.  Fortunately science is there to back it up.  By altering your breathing you actually slow your heartrate.  While I can’t attest to the success or failure of this program for me yet.  I can certainly say that this is a technique I have had success with and will continue to use in the future.

4) Inner Dialog – positive, comforting

This is on part with breathing.  I never really gave a lot of credence to the “love yourself and all is good” method to solving anxiety and depression.  That’s quite possibly why I haven’t experienced a positive reaction to treatment before.  It is probably high time I change my thoughts about it.  Inner dialog is really you talking yourself off of the ledge.  It’s a way to tell yourself what is really going on and to remind you of why you’re experiencing it.  This is the time to have a conversation with yourself about why you are really anxious and what’s really bugging you.

5) Distract – action, mental, and physical for at least fifteen minutes

I have admittedly not had a lot of success with this one.  I think the nature of it is stubbornness.  Since I sit in a desk and stare at a computer screen for the better part of the day I struggle with the physical.  It’s not that I don’t have the permission of my employer to take a fiver when I need to and maybe got for a walk around the block or do something else to focus on but I just don’t.  Probably because I’m anxious about doing it.

6) Let Time Pass – discomfort always passes

I don’t know if I agree with this one.  I believe the quote “time cures all ails” is not applicable here.  I like so many suffer from a more constant generalized anxiety.  It’s not around specific situations it is just a constant feeling of tension and stress.  Time doesn’t always fix that.

Facing the Fears

At some point you have to expose yourself to the things that scare you.  The comment was made  that how this program differs (and I can vouch for this) form other forms of therapy is that it doesn’t tell you to just go face your fears and you’ll get over it.  It lays the ground work first and passes on some coping skills.  You then have the ability to face some of your fears in a more controlled environment.  I, for example, don’t travel so well.  I can take the coping skills I learned and go on a few hour drive by myself.  I know I will feel uncomfortable along the way.  The fears don’t seem quite so scary when thought of as practice.  Since a large portion of the problem is confidence issues, the more successes you have the more confidence that can be built up and the less likely you will be to experience the feelings.  I think a common thought amongst anxiety suffers is this idea that you are going to get better first and then do the things that scared you before.  It is a rational thought to assume that you fix the problem first.  However, since the act of facing your fears really is so important to overcoming them, the problem cannot be separated from the solution and they must always be addressed together.

Coffee and the Art of Panic

While I was aware of the negative traits of caffeine having gone through some wicked withdrawals during the “I’m not drinking another Mountain Dew debacle of 2006, I had never realized how much of a role my coffee addiction was having on afternoon panic sessions.  I, like most of my peers, consume copious amounts of coffee on a daily basis at work.  It is not uncommon for me to consume 4 cups within the first hour of my arriving.  This isn’t some wuss coffee purchased at some gas stations or the lattes that some somebody in designer cloths purchases before starting a stressful day of poodle walking and lying around.  This is the stuff that makes the world turn.  I noticed trends in the afternoon where I would feel uncomfortable shaky which naturally lead to more fearful thoughts.  I tried to kick the habit (aided by hanging a no coffee sign in my cube to remind me) the first few days I noticed severe headaches to the point of nausea.  I started drinking a single cup a day and the headaches went away.  It could have just been placebo.  But I do recall when trying to quite the evil dark temptress that is caffeine before that I have had similar affects.  The shaky afternoon feelings I have had have pretty much gone away, but it hasn’t done much to resolve other issues.  I had not known this, but apparently caffeine can actually create a panic attack.

Toll on the Body

There are a couple of other tidbits I picked up about the affect of panic attacks on the body.  They lower the immune system.  The Dr. made the comment that nobody has ever died from a panic attack.  While this statement may seem self evident to most people, to others like me it is a phrase that can be used to remind ourselves to calm down.  Just saying “this isn’t going to kill me” can be enough to help you relax.

The People Around Us

The people around us can have profound affects on the ability to overcome and fight the anxious feelings.  This was the first place that enablers were mentioned.  It talks about making sure your spouse doesn’t give you permission to back away or step down but instead pushes you (still with a gentle loving hand of course).  There was also some talk about the way our condition negatively affects those around us.  I think the quote that really struck home with me was “It’s hard to give yourself to anyone else in anyway when you can’t even get ahold of your own feelings and thoughts and you sort of feel really worthless to other people because you are so self consumed and most people recognize that and feel terrible about it but they don’t know what to do.”  I can certainly relate to this.  Am I good enough husband? Father? Coworker?   Then the depression hits and the cycle continues. 

Safe Places

Well I’ve never called them that, the concept of a safe place was certainly something I dealt with.  I would come home from college every weekend and on sunday afternoon when I was about to head back I would start to get anxious again.  Home was where I wanted to be.  More specifically my room.  I was in school for computer science and my computer was a constant crutch (hmm, maybe a laptop earlier in life would have fixed all my problems).  It was items too.  Even know there are items that always come along with me.  It feels crazy when I think about it.  I have bottled water, chewing gum (always sugar free and in 2 flavors one peppermint and another bubble gum or fruity), hard candy (two flavers one peppermint lifesavers and the other a sugar free fruit, I always carry pens (twirling them helps be relax.  Video games were another one for me.  I could stare at the screen for hours and stress wouldn’t cross my mind.  It’s important to remind myself that these were not fixing anything and that they were just ways to relax myself without actually addressing any problems.  Also need to remember, that I am the one causing the problems and that I can’t run from myself.

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Book Review: Head First Design Patterns

I recently finished reading Head First Design Patterns (http://www.amazon.com/First-Design-Patterns-Elisabeth-Freeman/dp/0596007124/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1296790944&sr=8-1).

While design patterns were certainly not a new concept to me, I admitedly did not think about them as often as I wanted to or was as familiar with them as I wanted to.  I had the old Gang Of Four book (http://www.amazon.com/Design-Patterns-Elements-Reusable-Object-Oriented/dp/0201633612/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1296791074&sr=1-1) on my book list for a while and had every intention of picking it up.  So I did an Amazon search for design patterns and was ready to add it to the shopping cart when I noticed an attractive young lady on the cover of the book right below it.  Yes I know, I’m not supposed to judge a book by its cover so I proceded to read reviews and they were all very positive.  The book looked kind of juvenile and not the usual kind of book I would like to add to the bookshelf.  I was aware of the Head First line of books and had heard some good things about them so I decided to give it a shot.

When I started reading the books for the first few chapters I had a tough time putting it down.  I very much enjoyed the topics and learning about the design patterns.  As I continued to read I realized my desire to continue was soley based on my enjoyment of the topic and the book was an impedance.  The book takes what I am sure is a very scientifically proven methodology (that is explained in the intro) to teaching these ideas.  The use of imagery and of restating the same points in different ways is intended as a way to engrain the knowledge into your mind.  I am sure that if you have a topic that needs to be engrained in your mind this is probably a very successful way to do so.  I don’t need to memorize everything about each pattern.  What I want is 1) know what the pattern is for 2) know when the pattern should be used and 3) a good enough understanding of ideas to open a reference book and understand the structure of a pattern without investing a lot of time.  This book helped me achieve all three of these tasks…but in about 150 more pages than necessary.

The Good

  • Simple easy to understand examples
  • Covers some good fundamental patterns
  • A good introduction  to OO design in general

The Bad

  • Examples are very contrived
  • Much more verbose than needed to be
  • Not a good reference book

Recommendation

If design patterns are a completely new concept to you this might be a pretty good book for you.  If you have knowledge about some of the fundamental principles and OO design I would recommend not going through this book.  I’ll probably be a bit more hesitant of the Head First line of books in general now.  As I mentioned above, I’m sure their approach is well founded and works well, but for the most part with programming books I’m not looking for memorization but a general overview to get me going, detail when I need/want it and then I need the book to function as a good reference after the fact so that I can look it up when I need it.  If I can get all of that in 200 pages instead of 500 I will.

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Week 1 – Anxiety and Depression

The first session was entitled “Anxiety and Depression.”  It was very aptly named as they both seem to feed each other.

 

Physical Symptoms

There were a number of points I could really relate to that came out of session 1 of the tapes.  I think the biggest one is the physical symptoms.  Most people equate anxiety and stress to butterflies in the stomach and maybe some sweaty palms, but they really go much further than that.  A couple of the notable symptoms I feel on a daily basis are extreme fatigue, nausea, a lot of trouble focusing (almost a dizzy feeling), chest pains (sometimes very severe), and a general feeling of saddness.  They seem to come and go and sometims the nausea will be very severe but I won’t feel other symptoms other times it is the chest pains.  A really great quote that was “I became concerned with the way I felt, all the time.”  The physical symptoms really feed into the rest of it.  I had been to the ER twice for chest pains.  I thought I was having a heart attack or some severe heart issue (at the ripe old age of 27).  Numerous tests were performed on me with no notable results except for high blood pressure (cheese curds and fried fish will do that to a guy).  I had saw a GI expert(gastroenterologist) when I first started the feeling the naseua in college.  He told me that I had some minor issues but nothing that should be causing the symptoms I was describing.  Another great quote from the session was one about “…not functioning at the level you should.”  I know this has been true in my life.  I feel like I have so much potential to accomplish great things.  I want to be the best parent and the best husband and the best software developer.  I want to own multiple companies, go back to school and get several more degrees, and be on jeopardy.  Probably part of the problem is putting a burden on yourself to achieve more than somebody is capable of doing.  Maybe I should cut down a bit…I’ll skip Jeopardy.

Genetics

Anxiety and depression are both deeply rooted in genetics.  Well…they kind of are in 2 ways.  The first is actual genetics.  The second is through learned behaviors of your parents (yes I know scientifically speaking, learned behaviors are not genetic).  When I first discovered the genetics part a lot of what I felt started to make sense.  My name is Justin…and my parents are hypocondriacs.  Phew…I feel so much better.  While they will never admit to it, my parents overreact about medical things.  It doesn’t bother me so much as they get older because as you get older you have to worry more about medical things.  I remember my mom nagging me ad naseum to look up some virus she though my brother had (his eye had been red and she had heard about it on Oprah or something).  When I finally looked up the virus it was some obscure affects .0001% of the population of some random country on the other side of the globe.  Just yesterday my mother was complaining about muscle tension and thought it was a virus contract from my dad who apparently would have caught it from a guy he had lunch with a week ago at work who apparently had it.  This may be a good time to note that my mother runs a daycare…and the head aches and muscle pains magically disappeared shortly after the children left…shocking.  Despite the fact that I release the hypocondria, I release that this is behavior I have already learned.  I can rationalize it in my head, but I still can’t convince myself not to worry about things.  I held a lot of hatred (some of which still shows through at times) towards my parents because of this.  I wanted to blame them for the way I felt.  I must have thought that internally that would make me feel better.  Of course, holding on to anger like that is only going to make things worse.  I notice a lot of the same faults that my parents have in myself and one of the things that can bring me down from any high I have is the thought of passing those traits on to my children.    The session made reference to children of anxious people are 7 times more likely to be anxious themselves.  Anytime I go some place or do something or feel that anxiety creeping up and I think of my kids suffering and feeling the way  I do it tears me apart and sometimes makes me feel like they would be better without me.  They are the biggest reason for me doing this program.  Is to prevent as much damage as I can.

Personality Traits

I think the personality traits section of the session made me feel better.  It talked about the common traits that people have who share this condition.  Here are some of the ones that are most notable in my life.

Mood Swings/Anger

I often find myself going from highs to lows and vice versa very quickly (naturally that generates a fear of being bipolar).  Anger is somethign that has plagued me for a long time.  I often find myself having conversations with people in my head that never happened, fights that only exist in my mind.  I know they are only in my mind.  There are no feelings of truth behind the illusions, but they still affect the way I feel.  The antagonist is the usual suspects, boss, father-in-law, spouse, friends.  All people that you could foresee having a fight with.  The topics of the fight are imaginary as well caught my wife cheating on me, boss acted with hypocrisy, or (most recently) father-in-law broke the new dishwasher he was trying to help install.  Most of these aren’t even based on any sort of real situation.  Again, important to note, I don’t believe any of these truths to be reality but a result of the mind being bored…which I guess would be a nice segue.

Filling Mental Voids with “Scary Thoughts”

Is if real life wasn’t enough to cause fear and worry.  It seems we generate it on our own.  This is public enemy number one for me.  If we are not using our brain for every processing at a given time it will find away to occupy itself and it is rarely pleasant thoughts.  Lucinda Bassett refers to these as “scary thoughts” and “what-if thinking.”  These involve things form the silly to the flat out scary.  Suicide is a common one.  I’ve had it, I would imagine most people suffering from A&D have had it.  It’s not always a feeling of thinking suicide is a release or contemplating committing suicide.  Sometimes it is just a what-if, strictly a hypothetical, pondering what the world might look like without you.  But regardless of the context in which you are thinking it, the mere thought of it is enough to sending you spinning into an extremely depressed state.  Another example a woman gave during the session was that she was afraid to give her child a bath until her husband got home because she was afraid that she would harm her child.  This wasn’t harm in an intentional or malicious sense, but she was afraid of neglect or not doing something right.  This particular example struck home with me because it is a fear I shared. 

Constant Worry

Perhaps this one goes without saying.  But it was a bit refreshing to hear people share this.  A worry about everything, whats tomorrow going to bring, am I going to get fired, how are we financially, do I have to fix the roof. 

Being In Control

I’ve been at my current company for 2 years.  There are a number of times I feel very uncomfortable with people taking over or having some controlling stake over something I’m working on.  I’ve acknowledged this as a fault a long time ago and have found ways of coping with it.  I still feel it at home and in other aspects of life as well.  As difficult a thing as it is to relinquish control, it is far more difficult to accept that you never had it in the first place which for better or worse is a large part of our life.

Need for External Validation/Low Self-Esteem

I don’t think it is a shocker that low self-esteem is a cause of A&D and hand-in-hand with that is the constant need for somebody other than ourselves to indicate how good of a job we are doing or how fun we are or some other meaningless metric.  It’s kind of funny actually, one day I’ll be stressed out because of a feeling of lack of confidences in somebody’s judgement and the very next day I’ll be looking for this person to affirm something positive about myself.  This factor is definately a snowball affect.  Low self-esteem can cause some of the initial issues which then cause use to feel like we are weak for feeling that way which only makes us feel more symptoms and a cycle begins (infinite loop for those comp sci types).

Irrational Fears/Phobias/Obversions

This is another one that I think has to be common across all people who suffer from A&D.  I have my own share of them.  One of mine is getting sick to my stomach in public.  I can’t say for certain why I am that way.  I’d guess it’s because those were my initial symptoms.  I recently joined a gym and I’m not a slight man, nor am I in good shape.  Occassionally I over do it a little bit and feel a little sick after working out.  Then the fear kicks in which only makes it worse.  Sometimes the sickness starts as the fear.  I’ll only get a 10 minute work out in before the fear starts to take over and I’m afraid of getting sick and embarassing myself in front of the 20 other people or so that are at the gym when I go in the mornings.  This is a dangerous cycle.  It becomes habit to start feeling a certain way in certain situations.  This then leads to an obversion to something because of the associated feelings with it.  Despite how irrational it is.  Food obversions can be caused in quite the same way.  A single bad experience that is recollected (probably during a “scary thought” moment) repeatedly anytime you are in a similar situation as the first time.  This obversions can be recollected by people, places, activities, situations, smells, just about anything.  Another great example was this past summer.  My wife and I and two other couples had gotten together.  We each had one kid ranging in age I believe from 1-4 years.  It was a fry out at our place, one couple ate before they came and made it a few hours later.  Then nobody really talked or seemed to want to do anything.  I began to get extremely uncomfortable and played with the kids outside for a bit until everybody finally left.  They were all could friends of mine and we haven’t really spend time together since (although we have seen each other).  Another quote from the session fits here, “my world kept getting smaller.”  You start to find that there is less and less you can do, fewer and fewer people to do it with, and fewer and fewer locations where you can do it.

BREAKTHROUGH NOTE:  So this morning I think I had a bit of a breakthrough on the obversion front.  It came at the gym I mentioned above with a member of one of the couples above.  She goes to the gym about the same time I do.  The first time I saw here there I was extremely uncomfortable and ended with about a 7 minute work out where the best exercise I got was hustling to the door with my head down.  Today instead of trying to hide when I saw here I said “hello” and opened a small be significant bit of chit chat.  While to her it may just feel like I was being polite after snubbing them for 6 months but for me it was a bit of a lesson learned.  I then proceeded with my workout and felt pretty good for the remainder of it.

Odds and Ends

A couple of other odds and ends.

I learned exercise is supposed to be a good aid in the fight against anxiety and depression.  It is a place to channel your nervous engergy for the force of good so to speak.  I haven’t really noticed that yet, but I’ve been so negative lately that might be a bigger reason for not feeling positive about exercise.

During the session, a man was asked if he felt differntly about being a man suffering from these symptoms and made the comment that as a man you always feel like you need to be able to take care of your own.  This kind of resonated with me.  I’m a husband and a father of 1 and 1/2 (due in April).  While I’m not the soul care giver (or even the primary bread winner for that matter).  There does seem to be almost something engrained that says “this is your duty.”  It does feel very much like I let the family down whenever I have issues.  Probably part of putting too much responsibility on your self and the illusion of being in control.

There was another quote that really stood out “I’m going to die or I’m going to get better, but either way I’m not going to live like this.”  I know I have felt this way and I’m willing to bet most suffering with A&D have.  While I think the tone of the quote is a bit gloomy, I think there is some good stuff there.  It kind of shows that you’ve had enough.  Your back is against the wall.  Everytime you have been previously faced with a fight or flee response you always choose to flee and this time you said to hell with it, let’s see what you got.

Week 1 Final Impressions

I think it was refreshing to hear the group part of the session and here people echo the same things you have been feeling internally.  I’m optimistic about the program.  I also feel the blog is a good idea.  While I don’t think anybody else will read it, I do think it will keep me honest and on top of listening to sessions on a weekly basis.  My gameplan is to listen to the session once just listening.  Listen to it a second time and then do the homework (as recommended).  Then, listen to a third time and blog about the impressions I got during it. 

Well until next time.

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Anxiety (My Story)

Since anxiety is what prompted me to start (while I hope it is not the primary focus of the blog) I figured I would start with a background of my anxiety.

So as they say, the best place to start is the beginning.

 As a youth, I always felt different.  Like something was wrong with me or out of the ordinary.  I spent most of my time reading and didn’t socialize very well.  Getting punished by being sent to my room was sweet release.  As I moved on to middles school I started to come out of the shell a little bit and my group of friends increased dramatically.  I participated in more social events and other activities that helped raise my confidence.  I was well liked by my peers and teachers, although my grades did suffer as a biproduct of my change in life style.  High school began and the fun continued for the most part.  The exception really being dating.  While I dated all throughout my high school years I found that I became a different person once I started and that feeling of something being different and wrong started to comeback.  You go through the inevitable breakups and move on, all part of the high school experience. 

College.   College began my primary problems.  For the first time in a long time, all the friendships I had cultivated over the past 4-7  years had just vanished.  Everything I loved about being me was gone.  I had nothing to cling to.  When my friends and I did get together after college began that activities were different the personalities were different it felt like everything had changed.  I started to get sick to my stomach while I was away at school.  I was vomitting virtually every night (and not because of alcohol…usually).  I found myself home sick a lot.  My first roommate didn’t make me feel much better as he was an open drug user and I often found myself coming home around 9 am from a morning class to find a sock on the door.  I tried to respect the privacy…but when  the sock is still there at noon somethings got to give, eh?  I found myself miserable and wanting to be home all the time.  During my second year I got a new roommate, he was great.  Joe Cross…whereever you are…you da man.  But by that time any damage had been done.  I had grown obversions to eating and needed to go home every weekend.  Starting by 3rd year it was an hour and a half commute each way to school.  My grades suffered and my life started a slow downfall.  I couldn’t maintain any relationships and spend all my time just waiting for tomorrow thinking tomorrow things will be better.  The vomitting and nausea still occurred at home and I got treated for some stomach problems but was told that none of the issues I had should have caused by the kind of problems I was having.  I thought it was just a physical problem.

I started to feel more angry all the time and my parents pleaded with me to see somebody about the anger problems.  I went in (at the time more or less to just get them to shut up) and came out with a much clearer (yet more disheartening) prespective on what I was experiencing.  It was having anxiety attacks and sever bouts with depression.  As I started to dig into it, I realilized I had a family history of it and that there were hereditary traits that were outside of my control.  Life had to go on so I continued to drudge through.  I lived with my parents rarely left the house and when I did it was to go to a local board game store where I sat in a dingy basement all evening.

Then my life suddenly took an upwards swing, at a wedding I ran into an old friend from high school.  We hadn’t crossed paths in a few years and she didn’t really want to go to the wedding but her mom convinced her it was a good idea.  Her and I danced to a couple of songs and had a good time.  The next wedding (which was only a month later) we got together again and had a good time and I gave her a ride home and after dropping her off, I looked at a friend and said “that Nicole is quite the girl.”  3 years later we were married, 1 year after that we had a son (Lucas).  We currently have been married for 3 years and have baby number 2 due in early April.  In a single year (2007), I moved out of my parents house into an appartment, got married, and found out I was going to be a father.

Now, while most of this seems like a happy ending.  My anxiety and depression have come on with a vengance of late and is causing me a lot of grief at work and home.  I am miserable.  It’s winter in Wisconsin, which never helps.  But my wife and family deserve better.  Last year as my Christmas present I purchased a stress program (http://www.stresscenter.com/mwc/) online.  I admit, I don’t put a lot of faith in these things but a friend of my fathers swore by it.  I started the program 5 times this past year but never stuck with it enough to get past week 2 (there goes that new years resolution).  Part of the intent of this blog is to force myself to focus on the problem.

My goal for this year, is to give my family the husband and father they deserve.  I want to smile and not just to put on a facade, I want to smile because I mean it.

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My First Post (Get the know the Bruce Banner behind the Codehulk)

Well this is my first post.  Feels like I have so many things to talk about.  If you are reading this, chances are you stumbled upon here by accident…or you know me….or I paid you to read my blog.  Whatever the path that lead you here, I’m glad you made it.

A little background about myself.  I’m a software developer.  I like writing code.  I primarily am a .Net developer but dabble in some other avenues as well.  I’m hoping the majority of this blog is software development related content.  That being said, give a man a cup of coffee and he’ll tell you about his day, give a man a blog and he will skip work to talk about random crap.

Hmmm…some other passions of mine.  I like playing games.  My preference is board/miniature/card over video games, but I’ll take them any way I can get them.

I suffer from anxiety and depression.  If you are reading this and no me personally this may or may not be a surprise to you.  It was actually this same anxiety and depression that forced me to finally start blogging after having wanted to for a long long long time.  Here is your public service message for this post…if you are suffering from anxiety and/or depression, please seek help.  It’s a terrible thing, it ruins lives (more than just your own).  So please, do it for your spouse, do it for your kids, do it for all of your family and friends, and most of all do it for yourself.

I hope you enjoy what I have to say, if you don’t, please comment or tweet your displeasure.  If you do, well please feel free to pass that information on as well.

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