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Burnout and Despair

Burnout and Despair

Content warning for strong language, discussion of suicide, eating disorders, and just nasty mental health crap.

Let me start by pulling up a quote from the Hackers News comments on my ADHD article.

Since I wrote this article, I got professionally diagnosed and treated. Turns out, yeah, I'm doing a lot better now. On most days I don't have these symptoms, I can in fact study for classes and work, while also doing the things I love. I'm getting back into doodling, I've schedules all the appointments I need to, I have a great friend group, etc. etc. It's not perfect, I relapse sometimes, but I'm doing a lot better.

Hah hah you wish. You absolute fool.

Part 1: oh no i'm absolutely melting

How am I doing right now? How the fuck am I doing right now? That's right, I threw an F-bomb. I try very hard on this site to not swear ever, but nope. I'm absolutely done. I'm pouring my heart and soul out into this damn article because I'm out of hope, out of energy. Let's be perfectly clear: my college career is fucked. So, so fucked.

For teh lulz, let's graph my grade point average (4 being best, anything below 2 being failure) over every semester of college I've had so far. Digging up the transcripts for this one...

A line that's pretty flat around 3.5 for a bit and then nosedives at the end

Clearly, just looking at this alone, something has gone horribly, horribly wrong. You might raise some eyebrows at Fall 2018 in particular. That's when I transferred from a community college to a big university, started working during school, and generally put a lot, lot more stress on myself. But I'll get to the details of that later.

Let's just go over my typical day. I dunno, October 6, 2020 (which was "yesterday" when I wrote parts of this article; i'm doing a bit better now):

  1. Wake up around, oh, I dunno, noon, 1 PM, somewhere around there
  2. Check the news, Discord, Twitter, etc. For an hour or two, meh.
  3. Get up, eventually.
  4. Skip dresser, skip shower, take meds maybe, go to bathroom.
  5. Go back to room, collapse for another hour.
  6. Get up, it's like 2 PM now, a good time to make breakfast I guess.
  7. Put the eggs in the bowl and mix it with the milk and pour it in the pan with the butter and make the toast and eat it and go back to bed.
  8. Cycle between checking the internet and napping until about 6 PM.
  9. Turn on the computer. Maybe do something different. Probably don't. If feeling really good, play a video game. If feeling really really good, draw something.
  10. Realize it's like 11 PM now somehow. Take more meds, if not completely exhausted. Maybe attempt to make dinner. Probably not.
  11. Attempt to brush teeth. Mustering up the willpower may take an hour or two.
  12. Go to bed. Surf internet until you get tired. I dunno, how's 4 AM sound?

So, uh, yeah. Obviously, yes, just about everything I'm doing there is incredibly wrong. I'm sleeping at the wrong times, I'm using the phone too much, I'm never going outside, I'm not even doing any work? But that's genuinely the level of functioning I'm at right now. As I'm typing this it's 10 PM the evening before an exam that I absolutely have not studied for in a class I almost certainly am failing. It's about electromagnetics, I think. Something about impedence matching and Smith Charts and phasors and crap.

(I've since taken that exam. Or at least attempted to. I started the test online and predictably didn't understand a single question on it. After staring at it with a mild headache for 30 minutes, I tabbed over, dropped the class, and then went back to bed.)

I'm currently (as of publication, sorry, this is confusing, I know) about 6 or 7 weeks behind on coursework, and at this point it's essentially impossible for me to catch up. And on top of that, I had to take about a month off my part time research job, after completely breaking down crying in front of my boss and being completely unable to fill out my timesheets, and barely being able to do my job at all. I can barely feed myself and take my medications on a consistent schedule. I'm doing bad. So, so bad.

So, question: how in the everloving fuck did I get here?

Part 2: 2017 Viz

2017 would be my freshman/sophomore year of college. At this point, I had recently starting seeing a therapist to sort out my gigantic string of mental health problems, crippling social anxiety, crap like that. How bad was I? Here's a representative, cut-and-scrubbed excerpt from my very-detailed diary for you. Feel honored, this is quite a bit of vulnerability from me.

2017-07-28 0:50

Well. I just got unexpectedly sobered the fuck out.

There's this one girl on YouTube. JaidenAnimations. I watched some of her videos, thought "hah. I like her." and then realized she had 2 million subscribers and went "Oh. I did not expect that." Hard to see big YouTubers as... human, you know?

But that's not the point I'm making. She made this video called "Why I'm not doing a face reveal." I thought it would just be a MonotoneTim-esque answer like "I don't want people to judge my content by what I look like" combined with a slapdash of self-deprecating humor, as she normally does I think. It started out as that. And then it very very suddenly became not that.

Long story short, she had hideously low self esteem. This got worse. So much worse, in fact, she took anorexia as the only way out. She didn't deserve to eat, or so she thought. Every single compliment or positive word went in one ear and out the other. She could not look at herself in a positive light. She dug herself deeper and deeper into her flawed coping mechanisms. It was the only way for her to have control over her life. The only way for her to feel just a little bit proud of something. Eventually, she realized that this was hideously wrong, during some YouTuber convention. Here she was, at her absolute lowest, meeting thousands of people for the first time ever. That's a terrible way to make a first impression. Introducing someone to yourself when really, you feel like you don't even deserve to be alive. Oh, yeah, and she was too ashamed of her condition to get help from anyone. Not to play down her experiences (because my god that sounds like hell), but pop quiz time: does that remind you of anybody? Anybody at all? That's right. Me! I'm in a horrific place in my life right now! I'll let me do the talking for me.

[2017-03-05] I AM DONE. SO FUCKING DONE. I JUST WANT TO I DON'T EVEN FUCKING KNOW. [...] Yeah, I effectively just want to die right now. I can't think of a single reason not to do so besides some misguided sense of hope. I did absolutely nothing that entire spring break besides wallow in misery. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. I didn't even finish that super-easy Viz article. I barely touched the Mod Loader. Didn't apply for any internships, and they're probably all taken knowing my luck. All I wanted to do was either surf the net or sleep. That's effectively all I did, except for Saturday when I went to the thrift store just to do something different. And, of course, it's a self-fufilling prophecy. I'm depressed because I didn't do anything, and I didn't do anything because I'm depressed. I am emotionally dead. Even when I rage quit Tetris Attack (fucking Level 8, come on Raphael Raven...) I just threw everything on the ground, walked over to the wall, and stared at it. I didn't even feel particularly angry. Just... empty. Look at me. I broke my fucking headphones over a god damn video game. What a loser. I can't get a job. I have no applicable skills. I doubt I'd even survive a McDonalds. I am an emotional trainwreck with no work ethic. I have absolutely no redeeming qualities in a workplace. There is no reason for my existence. I do not make anyone happy by being me, besides my parents. Not a single soul on this planet gives a damn about me. None. Zero. I have no way of making them care. Not without fucking failing university because my stupid peanut brain can't wrap its head around fucking integrations. I JUST WANT TO DIE. THERE. I SAID IT.

[other omitted entries that were entirely too personal and depressing to put publicly on the internet]

Objectively speaking, I am a god damn train wreck. Like Jaiden. This is my low point.

Like, holy fuck is my life a complex series of coping mechanisms. Take the entirety of today. Roll out of bed, check Reddit, some dude PM'd me asking about Sonic R stuff. That never happens. So then I spent the entire day researching fucking balloons. ...which, alright, that's admittedly kind of cool and I really shouldn't be beating myself up over that. But still. This is damn near the only way I'm able to be happy: when I'm buried in something interesting. Like, say, my old high school robotics club. I was arguably happy there, because I got to spend the whole day just reading manuals and thinking over solutions to real-world problems. That's what I live, breathe, and eat. And when I'm not doing that, I'm trying to chase that high by learning pointless shit / shittily attempting to relate to people on Reddit. HEHEHEY GUYZ DIDYA KNOW THERE'S BEEN 50 COVERS OF ELENOR RIGBY AIN'T THAT JUST COOOOOOO-blegh.

Point I'm trying to make here is that I am going through some shit. This is the culmulation of everything that has built up over my life. And yeah, as much as I'd like to say "Oh, I'm normal, I can't possibly be this fucked up"... I am. I need help.

I need help.

It's the only way for me to live. It's been years since I've really lived.

So. Um. By that standard, I'm actually doing incredibly well. I got help, I actually have a decent self esteem now, and a support network of friends, and I did in fact survive a summer at a fast food joint that summer. Also, by some miracle, I did amazingly at school during that time despite, um, that.

A big difference between me then and me now is that I'm significantly more forgiving of myself now. I'm not trying to hold myself to an impossible standard anymore. If I need a break, I'll take a break. If I don't want to do anything, I'll not do anything. I've learned that there's no real reason to focus on what I could be doing if I simply too exhausted or stressed to worry about that. If I don't get an article out or I lose interest in a project or whatever, sure, it's disappointing, but it's fine. I discussed this previously but I used to be super bad about tying my self worth to the things I make. Nah. I'm cool just by being me.

But there's another difference. I wasn't anywhere near as burnt out by then. ...okay that specific except is probably a bad example, I was dealing with a lot of crap. Let's fast forward a bit.

Part 3: 2018 Viz

2018-05-20 05:38

My sleep schedule this week broke, I still haven't heard anything back about [medical stuff], and I'm feeling depressed again.

Right. Thursday night, around 22:00, I randomly decided I wanted to bike. Went out, noticed I ran over a staple earlier and it was leaking air. Pull out staple, leaking becomes worse. I drive to store, buy bike tire patches, go back, attempt to patch the thing up only to realize the bike tire was self-sealing. I just needed to re-inflate it. So I get it up to about 40 PSI and it just explodes. On top of that, because it was like midnight some guy yelled out the window that they were trying to sleep. So not only did I feel like an asshole, I didn't even have a working bike either.

So Friday I had to go take the bus to work, which actaully worked out quite well. It was taking the bus back that sucked, because I got dumped off a little too far from where I wanted to stop and from there ended up walking the wrong way leading to me spending an hour walking aimlessly around town, which just kind of made me miserable by the end. I crashed on the bed and my sleep schedule just sort of broke.

Saturday I wake up, send off a message about [medical stuff] because come the fuck on already, and spend most of the morning reading Questionale Content because, I dunno, it looked interesting. Then I decided to go to Goodwill, but got turned around and went to this cool park. While it was thundering out. Like, I wanted to stay, but I also didn't want to get electrocuted, ya know? So I walked for a little bit then left. Then I got to the thrift store, found nothing, didn't even bother trying to look at fem clothes, and then left. Went to the grocery store, bought soap and meds and stuff, then got lost again trying to get back here.

I really, really hate when people say crap like "going outside is nature's antidepressant". Yesterday, honestly, feels like a hazy dream. I wasn't happy that is was raining, I was just sort of detached from myself, from enjoyment of anything, and I was just stuck there wondering what the hell I was doing. With my future, mostly. Is this the right call? I keep blasting myself in my head over [work/medical anxieties]. What would I do if I screwed up? I don't know. I don't know.

On top of that the internet has gotten real boring lately, so I literally don't even know what to do today. The bed kills my back because the damn sheets love to scrunch up and claw into my skin, so going back to bed is kinda out. I don't know. I don't know. I'm not okay.

2018-05-21 0:11

Strangely I'm okay now despite having spent all day never going outside. Strange, isn't it? I dunno. Venting helps. Venting and spending all day doing fuck-all. But hey. It's Sunday. I'm allowed to browse Twitter all day and then wind down with some MonotoneTim if I want to. It's probably not very healthy, but I'm allowed to do it. I took a shower too, so don't worry.

I should go to bed soon.

So that was an example of a particularly bad day. I was moody because of medical crap I won't specify because it's honestly none of your concern, and the bike tire, and the bus situation, and work/school anxieties. Understandable reasons to be grumpy, really. But also, holy crap, I was out and doing stuff! I was in basically the same living situation I am now, working a 9-5 job, and here I was reading webcomics and going on bike rides and checking out thrift stores and such! That feels so impossible now. So, so impossible.

2018 was honestly, without a doubt, the best year of my life. Here's a small list of things I accomplished that year:

Like. Crap. That, right there, was my A-game. That's who I want to be. Maybe not 100% on all cylinders, but at least able to, I dunno, enjoy my life? I really miss that point in my life.

So. How did I go from there to here? One word. Stress.

That fall I started university again, and continued the job I had over the summer part-time. The specifics of the job aren't important (some programming stuff for some university department), but it's worth noting that it was rather inconvienent for me to get there by bus, and way too far away to walk or bike to. It's also very important to note that 2018 was the year I transferred from a community college to an actual, pretty prestigous university. I'm not naming it due to privacy concerns, but yeah, you've probably heard of it.

More diary excepts! That's the best way to show you really.

2018-11-03 18:37

For being on literally 3 hours of sleep, I'm actually doing pretty well. I've got my schedule for next semester all planner out... yeah, that's about it. [Engineering club] starts in about 20 minutes and I don't want to start something up now. Also, I am tired. Could not freaking sleep last night. I neglected to take my medication for the whole day because I kept cycling in and out of sleep so that I missed both 8:00s. By this morning I was just an anxious mess. I cannot be without that.

On that note, I went to the doctor last Wednesday. It was fun enough, actually got a bit of homework done on the bus. I did it wrong, of course, but I still did it. (And I caught the mistake the next day, too.) The appointment was nothing eventful. Oh, yeah, the bus situation. I took a bus to the [far away big box store] a whole hour early because I was super concerned about time. Because I had a whole hour to kill, I went to the Arby's across the street and ate an "Arbinator". It wasn't great, but that's just because of the sauce I think. I've never really eaten the big roast beef sandwiches at Arby's, so I guess that's what that tastes like. I then took a [different bus], which was this smaller, much more informal bus. The seats were super duper comfy and I want to marry them, the back window existed, the change was collected via a coin pouch, and there was no pullcord, just a driver with a decent memory. Getting back was a bit harder, because there was no bus. I started walking back, half thinking about hitting up [thrift store in the area], when a city bus just happened to be coming up to me as I was passing a stop. So I just hopped on that and went home.

I'm running really low on time. Um. On the ADHD thing, I'm just going to ignore it for now. It won't do me much good to worry about it right now, so I'll wait until AFTER finals. Secret Santa gift for the dorms isn't going too hot. My roommate is still amazing. I almost broke down crying today because I've managed to convince myself that the past summer was the closest thing I'd ever gotten to heaven. Um. Yeah. Cool. Maybe I'll write more later.

[Omitted entries, including one really fun Secret Santa event. I had a present, don't worry.]

2018-12-10 15:45

Huh. I'll probably graduate in 2021. What a strange thought...

17:11

Can't focus at all today.

2018-12-11 4:15

Let's see now. I'm feeling super focused today. Like, I've been on the ball so far. But because yesterday it took me several hours to get anywhere with the homework, I only have it half done despite the fact that there was an extension on it. Oh well, I guess. Can't finish it in 45 minutes, so I won't bother. It's not that big of a loss considering the hellhole my grade's in now.

2018-12-12 19:06

I got earmuffs as a gift like not even a week ago and sometime yesterday I lost them while bussing around town and god only knows where they are now I mean fuck I liked those things and they were a gift too and I really fucking hate myself now and low key want to cry again.

20:17

Whatever. Found them on the Internet. Going to buy a different pair, anyways. It's just... That was LITERALLY my Secret Santa present. And I lost it in 4 days! I just... Whatever. Who cares.

23:43

I'm... actually bored? What? (Yeah, I should be studying, but shh...)

2018-12-13 20:40

Losing those earmuffs is just gnawing at the core of my soul. Like, I want to hate myself right now. I know that's bad. But I fucked up. I don't deserve... Eh, you fill in the blank.

I... I think I need to play DDLC or DDRC again. If this persists. Remind myself what negative self talk is again. It appears I've forgotten what made this summer so great.

Like, I am honest to god suffering from depression right now. I'm not having a good time. I find myself thinking, or at least strongly clutching on to the idea, that I'm toxic, that I'm a shitty person nobody wants to be around. Obviously that's false. But. Like. Is it? I don't fucking know anymore. I don't want to do these exams. I want it to be the second week of school again. Fresh new friendly faces, no pressure, no stress, just raw optimism. But now it's all dark and cold and dead out and crap, I've still probably got that ADHD or whatever as much as I try to ignore it, I don't even know who I am anymore, and I'm just sort of done. Only 2 more years! Fucking hell...

...eek. So, yes, a lot of words, but let me summarize.

Yep. Yeeppp. I'm actually just now realizing how many red flags there are.

What's the deal? Stress. Overwork. So, um, here's the thing. I live in America. In America, you need to pay money to go to university. Lots of it. I was fine for the community college because of an incredibly nice scholarship because of my great ACT scores, and just the lower cost of the community college in general. I didn't need a job, besides a summer fast food gig. University? No fantastic scholarship, and twice as expensive on top of that. I absolutely needed to work in order to be able to afford to educate myself! Also healthcare costs on top of that. Someone's gotta pay for that, and my insurance deductible resets every January leaving me with about $200/mo in perscription costs.

I worked 13 hours a week (would have done more if it fit in my schedule), had 15 credit hours of classes randomly splattered between 8 AM and 7 PM, and needed to do homework and study on top of that, and a few clubs I tried (and eventually failed) to keep up on. That engineering club? Totally just ghosted them after a semester, couldn't do it.

But wait, there's more!

Part 4: 2019 Viz

So, the "winter 2019" semester. I had, by complete dumb luck, managed to land a very nice, unpaid research position for some class credits. It was a very good fit for me. Omitting a lot of details, the project everyone was working on was an embedded device that had been in development for a few years. All the science stuff and design had mostly been accomplished; the biggest outstanding task was software. Due to some poorly thought out hardware design choices (for a sampler, the system was comprised of four 16-bit processors, linked together via UART lines, all of which needed to be synchronized to do the most basic tasks) there had been very little software progress done up to that point.

Over that semester and the following year (up until this summer, actually), I had refactored the code, written half a dozen device drivers, created a task scheduling system from scratch, wrote a graphical Windows interface for it, created and documented all the tasks that could be scheduled, etc. etc. etc. It really is no joke to say that I absolutely overdid myself to bring a pile of malformed spaghetti to something that mostly worked to meet an increasingly imminent deadline. And yeah, I am very highly respected by everyone on that team, including the professor and the university research scientists. I even got a very nice paid job for both the summer of 2019 and 2020.

I'm not saying this to toot my own horn or gloat about my achievements. I'm trying to express that I way overdid myself. Hardcore. I was doing the job of a professional embedded developer alongside my existing programming job alongside classwork. Let's see how that affected me.

2019-03-26 18:01

I swear I've never been this bad at focusing on stuff until recently. Or maybe I was and I just wasn't paying attention. Like, I'm not even being distracted BY anything. I would just rather lay my head on the table and listen to music than do my work.

2019-03-27 22:49

Well. Math exam is done. I have some intro to semiconductors, but I'm debating whether I want to even try because there's no way in hell I'm finishing it in an hour. Ignore the fact that I've been faffling about on Twitter for the past 30-40 minutes or so.

23:10

Still haven't started. I mean, I've opened the homework. And I'm stuck on the first problem. I know how to get there, the solution is somewhere in the pile of spaghetti that is my thoughts. I think you run the transistors in parallel to get a NOR gate? *sigh* I mean, obviously I could just google it. But then I'm stuck on what format I do the homework in, especially considering that I need to draw diagrams, and if I did that on paper it takes like 10 or 15 minutes to scan it in, and that would leave me with about 30 minutes to complete everything.

I might just call this one a wash. It's homework 8 out of 11. Big whoop. I'm just hoping... aw dammit. Let me check... Lol yeah I forgot the last two homework assignments. Like, flat out didn't even realize they existed.

Wow my life sucks right now.

I think I'm going to go home and work on that ADHD article some more. I gave a first draft to Sprite and... he was moved by it. So evidently I've got something good brewing here. I'm just sort of afraid of being yet another one of those ~uwu i'm mentally ill kawaii desu~ sorts of internet people. Ya know? I want to work on it more because I want to add some more sections for a few more symptoms. Like Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria, which I was going to mention but failed to come up with any good examples. (taking criticism! receiving test scores!)

I hate this feeling I'm feeling right now. The feeling of not being enough despite trying my best. ...the feeling of not even being sure if I tried my best. Or if I tried at all.

Oh yeah, the exam. That went... not great. It could have been much worse. I did vaguely know how to answer most of the questions. Vaguely. Probably screwed most of them up. But I had the right idea. Like, somehow I remembered how to do partial fractions, which is astonishing. But yeah. Pretty terrible overall. I wouldn't be surprised if I failed this course. And that still scares me. Or disappoints me. I feel very uneasy right now, and I'm not sure what words I'd pin on it.

Also lol yeah I can't even do that homework now it's 23:25.

2019-03-29 14:35

i really really wish I could focus more. or at all. Here's a note I found in the margins of my notes from I think late January or so. (I'd guess Feb 8, judging from earlier diary entries.)

I'm not okay r/n.
I'm in and out of depression again.
I missed my appointment and let people down.
I'm going to fail everything.
I've already failed everything.
I don't have the GPA for an internship.
I'm not sure if I have friends.
I can't fucking focus.
I can't fucking breathe.
I thought things would be better, but they AREN'T.
And I don't know how to fix it.
Who am I?
Who do I want to be?
All I know is what I don't want.
I just tried to choke myself with my scarf.
Twice.
I'm.
Not.
Okay.
I barely remember this week.
In fact I don't. At all.

Later I wrote, in a different color of pen, "Hang in there girl. It'll be okay soon." And yeah, it got better. But oof.

That said me, please focus you're skipping work to study for this exam and it's been almost 2 hours and you haven't studied. At all.

I hate using ADHD as an excuse. So much. So. Fucking. Much. I should be better than this.

But here I am.

Whatever.

I did have ADHD before that, let's be perfectly clear. I'd been discussing this with my therapist a bit by that time. But it was never this bad. I was skipping classes to try very hard to do homework for other classes, which just got me even more behind. So that's what got me and my doctor considering medication, and writing the ADHD article.

But the summer. That should have been easier. Just the research job. Nothing else. And I had been diagnosed with ADHD, and perscribed medication. How did that go?

2019-06-03 9:12

It's 9:12. Here's been my day so far. I woke up at 7:45 and turned off the alarm clock. Went back to bed, surfed the internet for a little. A lottle. Point is I had to literally DRAG myself out of bed so I could take my damn medication at like 8:40 before just collapsing as a pile of blegh. Had to DRAG myself to the closet just to get clothes. Thankfuly I'm dressed (I just got sidetraked because I left my computer on last night and lol twitter) but that's all I am. I hate this so fucking much. I feel powerless and unable to do anything. God, if that ADHD medication hadn't started working I'd still probably be laying on the fucking floor. Fuck my life, fuck this shit, I was supposed to be at work 15 minutes ago and I haven't even eaten breakfast yet.

20:57

Today got a lot better, really. I still stayed at work too long (got into a discussion about the difficulty of interfacing with raw NAND flash, which led me to a short rabbithole of wondering why the hell that problem hasn't been solved yet??), and this morning was shit, but the rest was decent. Had a talk with [coworker/mentor] about my sort of mental health stuff, and that, well, HECK. He noticed I was a little differnt on Friday, he empathized (sympathized?) with me over my shitty mental health, and he told me that he was PROUD of how much I've grown as a person. I didn't realize it at the time, but yeah, considering the first time he asked me "hey, what video games do you like to play?" I broke down into an anxious mess, and then like a few weeks ago? I showed him the Inviz stuff, well, YEAH. I DID.

Also, also, he and earlier last week two other people have pretty much told me that I'd be perfect to be the new programming subteam lead once summer ends. Just to be clear, that's a huge freaking deal. Like, I'm a ~leader~. I'm in charge of people. And projects. And I think I can handle it? Delegating tasks (which is something I've actually been doing a little lately?) is kinda neat? I mean, I'm not going to let the power get to my head, ha hah no, I think I'm pretty grounded there. (she says, foreshadowing her impending doom...) Nah, but I dunno. I'm a smart cookie... saddled by surprisingly poor mental health.

I dunno. Scroll all the way back up, to piece of shit 2017 me... okay, i'm a little proud of her, but still. I never would have admitted that I had poor mental health. For all I knew everything was going swimmingly, except for that time I cried my heart out that one time, or the fact that I couldn't seem to make friends??? I'll admit, I don't remember a whole lot of that first semester. I remember it happened, for sure, but the actual events of that long ago are so fuzzy and distant. I vaguely remember that Cards Against Humanity game that first week, I remember my English class pretty well, and we can't forget my rad Physics professor. ...but really, do i remember anything going on in my life? at all? The election, I guess?

...where the hell was I going with that? I had a point there besides being nostalgic while listening to the Minecraft OST remixed into chillhop. I dunno. I should buy groceries so I can eat. ...and yeah I'm probs gonna buy McDonalds for the third week in a row. Sue me, sue me miss hero pants, I dare you. ;)

Um, [Viz]? That means you have to get up. Come on now. Shoo.

...

[VIZ]. SERIOUSLY. FOOD. PLEASE.

2019-06-04 10:04

So last night after the meds wore off was absolute shit. My anxiety flared up, I had a panic attack trying to find parking, I couldn't stop beating myself up because I didn't know how to cook and I was so deathly afraid of spending too much on groceries. It was a slow decline, the first half of the grocery trip was honestly fine, but then it sort of reached the point where I couldn't help but start intensely hating myself. So when I finally drove home I just sat there in the car and yelled and screamed and felt like shit and then cried and then stumbled home.

But more to the point, my ADHD meds are great *when I'm on them*. I feel like I'm capable of doing things, I'm chipper, it's a good time. But it wears off, and when that happens I crash. HARD. This morning was almost a repeat of last morning, except I had just a little bit more motivation. I still spent the first 20 or 30 minutes just laying on the floor feeling like trash, and I almost broke down crying because I dropped an egg on the ground (decided to just not have eggs this morning), but I took a shower, which is good. And I arrived here at 10, which isn't 9 but dammit that's okay.

I'll be okay at the end. I'm just so DONE with dealing with this shit. I just want to live a normal life where I can just go home every day and chill and watch Netflix or go for a bike ride or whatever and not have to worry about this anymore.

My computer password right now (need to change it soon) is a little positive reaffirmation to myself. I type it in every day and it's a little reminder that I got this. I've gone a long way, and I can keep going. I will make it through this.

Bad. Pretty bad. Turns out the particular medication I was on made me pretty depressed, but that's beside the point I think. I wasn't doing very good. Summer of 2018 I was biking and visiting parks and thrift store shopping and exploring town and doing cool hobby projects and all sorts of stuff. Here, yeah, I was struggling to make it to work on time and cook breakfast without bursting into tears.

I'm going to be blunt: that research position was me trading my sanity for potential career options. I can write on my resume "basically wrote an entire embedded system by myself (minus some low-level bits)" and I've got great references and it's just good. But I was miserable, and falling apart. The ADHD article, which I had started sometime around the start of 2019, wasn't finished and published until July. But I was doing good at work, doing a really good job at hitting deadlines. So it was all okay. All okay...

Then school started back again. This coincided with a dosage adjustment of my medication, which unfortunately left me completely floundering with about zero executive function. And still a job, a research position, and a whole class schedule. More diary excerpts:

2019-11-22 21:51

I have, at best, two hours to slam my head to the grinder and type out two more pages of essay. Right now I have a few fleshed out sections that make up two pages and a general outline. I had a month to do this. I started the essay at about noon today.

What I have is great progress for, like, day 1. But it's due *tonight*. At *midnight*.

The thing is, I'm doing a very good job. I just *don't have the time*. Or the brainpower. I've been sitting in the exact chair since about 18:00 and yeah I got a lot done but also I'm tired and I want to throw in the towel.

The worst thing is that I spent a lot of my productive time today in the digital logic lab. Which yeah I got a hell of a lot of stuff done there that NEEDED to get done. But also, this. I'm allllmmmmooooossssst in a stride, but I keep falling out. Constantly.

22:54

I've resorted to killing the Wi-Fi on my laptop and my phone. Granted that also kills my music and my ability to look up information, but it's a small price to pay for *getting the fucking paper done*.

2019-11-25 11:28

I'm projected to get an F in one of my classes. Despite everything. EVERYTHING. I'm looking at the homework list for that semester and I've skipped WAY too many. I'm getting shitty scores on the exams. I couldn't even drag myself to class this morning, AGAIN. Right now I'm just sitting in the library feeling completely incapable of doing anything at all.

I genuinely can't do college anymore. But I don't have a plan B. What the hell do I do?

11:46

i still am just sorta emotionally void right now. i genuinely don't know what to do. ~wake me up when september ends~.

got work in an hour. i'm good at work. i also have a quiz in the class that i'm failing, several work meetings, frankly i just can't right now.

need to take a break from college. no class next semester. just work and viz and maybe research. roll around in the cash money to make up for the no class thing.

i'm just afraid of completely losing sight of a good future. i don't want to drop out forever. but it's literally impossible for me to keep going as-is.

if i were, ya know, *smart* i'd be doing that quiz right now. but i a: need to eat before work and b: am absolutely not in the mood to take a quiz i know i'm going to fail. it would.. also.. help if i left to eat because otherwise i'm on the bus in 25 minutes. eh. who gives a shit.

i just. don't have the internal drive to do anything right now. but *fine*. I'll get *food* dammit. right after this song finishes.

22:53

on the plus side, i rocked the research/work stuff today and i did that quiz. on the other hand i got a 3.5/10 on that quiz. i'm serious, i genuinely can't do school anymore.

2019-11-26 1:02

Ruined my going-to-bed-early streak by playing some NiTW. Turned my mood from sour to somber, so that's something. I think I also might have the words to describe why taking a break from college makes me feel uneasy.

Most people that graduated from my high school went to one of the local community colleges. From there they *might* have had a decent job but there's still some that are farmers or Snack Falcon employees or whatever. From the get-go I was always seen as more than that. More than just a mere retail worker. Someone who could *do* something with her life, someone who could *make a difference in the world*. Someone who could escape the tedious bullshit of <insert small town here> and live whatever life I wanted.

I still have the gut feeling that giving up, even for a little bit, is just pissing all that away, throwing in the towel and concretely saying "I'm not as good as you thought I was". Which tbh is true, and false, in different ways. Society just... isn't made for those who can't. And I'm not sure if I can't because I'm burnt out or I'm an awful person or just because I *can't*. And on that note "burnt out" feels really pretentious. Like, boo hoo, you can't handle the pressure of *college*, how the hell are you going to handle *work*.

I think, at this point, considering I'm very very likely to fail a class for a second semester in a row, and I was damn near close to failing two, that I need to take a fucking break. But will the break help me? I need to be financially stable, but how is that going to be possible if I can't even get a fucking college degree? I can't imagine they're that hard. Only because the consequences of failure are too damn high. If I can't get through this then, frankly, I'm fucked. I'm so so fucked.

The weird thing is that most people who can't do college fizzle out after the first semester or two. They don't make it 4 years in before throwing in the towel. I have most of a degree, just not enough to actually be able to graduate.

I feel like myself right now. I didn't for a lot of today. That scares me. College is tearing me apart. I need a break. I'm terrified of the future. I don't know what to do. For once in my life I don't have a solid plan forwards and that scares me. There's no more medication I can take, no more schools I can transfer to, no more revelations about myself. I'm at the end of the line re: bones thrown my way. It's alllll me now.

And I'm *not* up to the challenge.

My bicycle tire went flat sometime that semester. I never got it repaired. I had also completely isolated myself from my IRL social group, and I was barely functional on the rare occasion I did meet up with them. I was not okay.

Part 5: 2020 Viz

So, I took a break. I took a fucking break. After that last semester that I entirely bombed, I just didn't sign up for classes the next semester. Cleared it up with my parents and my workplace and the financial aid office and all of that, I was good. So, hopefully, I can do a summer again and get myself onwords to the path of recovery. Hopefully.

...hah hah no.

2020-01-03 18:06

Feeling really tired again today, probably because I only ever went to bed at 4 because I took a nap earlier that day and IDK. Tired. I'm realizing that I'm really overthinking my low-energy problem. It really is just insomnia. Because of my stupid phone addiction. Why did I ever remove the SleepTown app? What a fucking idiot I was.

I tried just now to take a nap and it didn't work but I'm less tired so maybe that's a good thing? IDK. I'm gonna barf out a Park City library now, so I won't have that hanging over my head.

Also, politics. I'm so god damn tired of politics.

2020-02-10 13:48

Having a bad time at work again. I'm barely effective trying to solve shit by myself cooped up in this damn lab. I'm bitter and lonely and miserable and I just spent my entire weekend utterly depressed...

I should go outside and like look for cool rocks and shake my fist at the moon and shit but all of that honestly feels like too much work. The park is aaaaalll the way over *there* and my bike is still not really working and besides, I've been to the park before. What's the damn point? Life just slips by and I'm powerless to stop it. I work so hard just to survive that when I finally get the time to live, I'm too drained to enjoy it.

In the few moments where I have everything I want, I am utterly miserable. Did I spend my winter break well? Yes, in some regards. I liked then. But also I don't remember all that much of then. It came. It went. And now it's actually Feburary, somehow.

I'm tired of computers, yet they're the only way I can make a living, talk to my friends, and experience the world. Without the internet, I am nothing.

I want to be something other than a turn-ideas-into-thing-ifier. Especially if the ideas are boring and routine and pointless. I want to be a lot more, I dunno, *useful*? I like research. I like asking what *can* we do to make this better? What have we already done? I just... I don't know, anymore, what a good career would be. I want to do something that doesn't involve computers. I like them, it's a fun hobby. But it's not my life. And I had that ephinany a while back about just wanting to be a *research* engineer, taking bleeding edge science and seeing what useful things we can make out of it. And... yeah, that would be fantastic. But it's not realistic. I do not want to be an engineer. Full stop. But I don't know what I *do* want to be.

2020-02-20 18:12

This weekend (on Sunday, I was dysfunctional on Saturday) I had a nice adventure. I just took my bike pump with me biking (so I could actually use it for a little bit at a time) back to that one park and got to see the river half frozen over and I walked through the woods and ate some snow and saw that big dead tree I adore and got to the end of the trail and saw an itty bitty little snowman on the railing and somehow I ended up at a school that looked very climbable so I did and I did gay crimes then I played on the playground a bit and that was fun and I enjoyed seeing people the whole way out and enjoying themselves and I left to accidentally run into yet another park where I built a snowman! It was a fantastic day!

The rest of the week though? Eh. My nights are pretty boring because everything interesting around here takes a *lot* of effort for me to get to. It's not like I'm still at [residence of summer 2018] and I can just walk down to the park right there whenever I want. ...which I didn't do much that summer but still. The option was there. And even this last summer, I was fairly close to downtown. Fairly. I was struggling with a lot of shit then and I wish I had been in a better headspace then.

So yeah. I like my research gig, that's getting very close to the end. Plus the debugging work is rewarding when you have good leads. ...and you have an excuse to use the cool old logic analyzer with a CRT. I *like* old technology. It's my passion. Also, I'm growing increasingly resentful of my other workplace, something I thought I'd never say but the tasks there just aren't interesting and I just don't really care. Honestly, I don't like that 8 hours a day is the standard work period. It's too much. Too much. Back in high school I had school from like 7 to 3, then I had the rest of my day from 3 to 10 or 11. As much as I hated getting up at 6 AM, that really did work better for me. It didn't feel like my day was over the moment I got home. Like it does now... I suppose the solution here would be to just get up earlier, but hah hah I'm slipping again. Falling back into my old routine of staying up late to squeeze more out of the day and then having to forcefully drag myself out of bed in the morning as a result.

2020-03-06 12:43

so, um, i was experimentally just not taking the adhd medication all week. it's been mostly totally fine, but for some reason today i'm incredibly cold and i just want to crawl into a hole and workthrough my imminent mental breakdown in peace. i suppose the biggest catalyst was me realizing that maybe my summer internship wasn't as in the bad as i thought. remembering that my gpa is still shit. climate change shit, bernie dreams being crushed, this coronavirus thing going around that i probably don't have but still. i'm just mentally not doing great right now.

what the hell am i supposed to be doing today at work? everything seems like it's done and okay?

13:00

i'm really not well.

13:41

I made some minimal code changes and now I'm just kinda sitting here listening to the same songs I've listened to for years and just kinda letting that happen. I probably should have taken my medication this morning, but honestly I was mostly fineup until I talked with the professor this morning. Then I just kinda got the big anxiety and broke down. Also I'm really not feeling that cold anymore.

And theeeeennnnnnn a pandemic hit. I skedaddled back to my parents place and, honestly, it was what I needed. Nice remote job, no long bus journeys every day, I even got laid off from the first job I was starting to resent. I maybe didn't love my childhood bedroom, but it had everything I could have possibly needed or wanted. My family, all the video games and movies I could ask for, a very nice, big desk, all the time in the world.

And I did better. Not perfect. But better. I started up stuff like a Macintosh emulator... and then abandoned it after two months or so. But I really got into drawing with my new digital tablet, maybe not as often as I'd like, but it's a fun enough hobby. That said, I stil was rather dysfunctional. I'd often doze off to sleep during work hours, and after work I'd struggle to do anything besides lay down, no video games or movie watching. But it was a marked improvement. I thought I could handle school. I was dreading it, the thought of doing more homework still made me want to puke a little, but I thought I could handle it.

And now we reach today, where it's very, very, VERY obvious I can't. I'm burnt the fuck out. I have no hope for my career anymore. I'm struggling to determine what to do from here because I simply can not do school anymore. I can barely check my email, let alone actually do assignments. There's no realistic path to me completing college given my current mental health state.

Part 6: Lessons Learned

First, the most important lesson from all of this. (Yes I'm stealing images from the internet, I wasn't in the mood to illustrate an entire article...)

It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness, that is life. - Jean Luc Picard

I don't think this was avoidable, even with hindsight. I did the absolute best I could, every step of the way. I did everything correctly, and still lost. I went to community college first like everyone says to do, I got a nice, honestly pretty easy office job I could do in school. I landed a fantastic research position, and did very well there. Maybe you could argue too well. Maybe I overdid that, let them overwork me a little. But I don't think that could have been avoided. I had absolutely no choice in the matter. I needed the job, I needed the research position, I needed the classes. There is no room for failure, and yet I failed. So I guess I have three-quarters of an electrical engineering degree and $30,000 or more in student loans I need to repay somehow.

But a second, slightly more subtle lesson. Do you remember that episode of Spongebob, with the Great Snail Race? Where SpongeBob way, way overworked Gary, who tried his best but completely collapsed right before the finish line?

Gary, barely hanging on during the snail race

Yeah. Don't let that happen to you. If you're overworked, figure out how to lighten the load. Even if it feels silly, even if it feels like there's insurmountable pressure to keep going. If the workload's not sustainable, it's not sustainable.

Unfortunately, that's often not possible. I'm fairly lucky, to be not completely screwed over. I have a vague idea of a plan B at this point, I can stay with my parents, I do have that good work experience. This could be significantly worse, and I'm sure for a lot of people who lost their jobs and their homes because of the bafflingly abysmal response to COVID-19, it is. This isn't the place to rant about capitalism, but I just want to highlight that grim reality.

And I'm aware that a lot of people won't take "I need a break" for an answer. People will want to push you as hard and as far as they can to wring results out of you. Here's an excellent Tumblr post describing what that's like. And, in a lot of cases, this is unavoidable. Do protest, do raise concerns if work or whatever is making your life a living hell. But I ain't here to sugarcoat life. What's important is that you don't do this to yourself. There's people out there like Tim Urban, who I've dunked on before here who think that the best way to suceed in life is to quit your job, start a business, lock yourself into contracts you can't break, and generally make your life a nightmare of anxiety and panic in the name of forwards progress. Don't do this. (He also mentioned burnt out people as "disastinators" in a later blog post, and specifically pointed out PhD candidates as being the most susecptible to this, and yeah, that tracks. That's a very stressful place in life to be in, so no wonder they'd be burnt out. Tim's advice is to be aware of how you're spending the time, which is totally not the problem here...)

A photograph of a circuit breaker I stole from the internet

I like to think of burnout as "having a fuse blown". You worked too hard for too long, and you blew a fuse, tripped a circuit breaker. Your brain's protecting itself from being overworked and hurt even more, by actively refusing those tasks. The solution isn't to try in vain to replace the fuse, but instead to fix what's pulling so much current to make the fuse blow. If you try and push yourself harder, you're going to blow more fuses, and it'll be harder to recover. You can't force yourself through a burnout, trust me, I tried.

You should, if you're feeling burnt out, let other people know and unload as much responsibility as you resonably can first. Sort your schedule out, remember how to relax and have fun and take care of yourself. Then, slowly add it back on as you feel more and more capable, but STOP if you're feeling overwhelmed again. I'm doing a lot better than I was a month ago, because I took time off work and sorta kinda neglected my classes for weeks on end... (I don't recommend that, that's a last resort thing for people who struggle to get out of bed and make food.)

I wish we lived in a society where nobody got burnt out, and everyone could take a nice, long break if they needed to. For that matter I wish we lived in a world where we aren't expecting disabled people, people who can't work to somehow live while never once exceeding $2,000. I wish we lived in a world where we could stop the economy in the event of, say, a deadly pandemic that's killing everyone. And yet, we don't. So I understand that my advice isn't helpful in a society that pushes people above and beyond for seemingly no reason. But I figure it's better than "keep going, you can do it!" when the only thing you can cook is microwave meals and you haven't showered in days.

Take it easy, and hang in there. That's all I can say.