story 12

Getting a job "easily enough" is still a big risk to take when you own a home and have a wife and two kids. I was in a job that deteriorated to the point that it was making me so miserable I would get physically ill around 3-4pm on Sundays due to having to go to work on Monday. It took me about 5-7 months to get to the point where I quit.

It is not an easy step to take. I was 24-25, enrolled in a Master’s program (easy enough to explain why I left without a job) living in a house that I was not paying rent for and had the full support of both my parents and my fiancé. I didn’t want to be a burden to my family. I was scared it would take me another 7 months to find a job like it did when I graduated from college in 2010. I had bills to pay. All of that was overwhelming despite me logically knowing I would be fine and that I wouldn’t starve or go homeless or miss a bill payment because my fiancé or parents had stated so.

I can only imagine the pressures he thought he faced at home if he felt like it was his responsibility to take care of his family. It was probably so overwhelming that he saw no other out.

It is hard to describe to someone who never experienced a job that is overwhelmingly and exclusively awful how much of an impact it makes on you. And I am not talking about a job that you don’t like or don’t enjoy. I mean a job that has zero redeeming qualities and a culture that is incredibly toxic. You feel like a failure at work. You are miserable. And you see an out (quitting) but if you quit (without a job) there are a whole bunch of questions. And in some ways those unknowns are even worse than the misery. But then you go back in the next day and go "no way the prospect of losing my home can be worse than this." Then you go home and it is "no way my job can be worse than losing my home and failing my wife and kids." And it both cases you realize that, yes, somehow, both of those statements are true. The job is more miserable than losing the home which is more miserable than the job which is more miserable than letting down my wife and kids which is more miserable than my job which is more miserable than…

… and suddenly you find yourself with a gun in the front seat of your car because there is nothing in life that is not miserable. Nothing.

story 11

Funny, I had a colleague who we all thought had cancer (terminal), fundraising had begun for treatmenet etc. Anyway another friend and I went over to see him one evening to play computer games and just hang out, as he seemed pretty down. During that time we were chatting about his cancer etc. and the subject of suicide came up. I (apparently) said that "I thought it was the cowards way out" (I do not feel that way any more I may say)

Anyway, apparently this stuck in his mind as he had been planning on committing suicide that evening. He never told me this, but it was relayed. Turned out the cancer was entirely made up as he wanted to have a legitimate excuse for committing suicide!

He’s well now thankfully.

It’s funny the tiny chancy things you can do that can have huge consequences.

My heart goes out to this family, and if you do have friends / colleagues that are down or talking darkly. Do reach out to them (however uncomfortable you may find the process), you might really make a difference.

story 10

I wish I had done the same. Years ago an old friend got in touch and we started taking about going to see the Corvette museum together. For various reasons I couldn’t do the trip any time soon. Not long after he killed himself. I don’t know if going on that trip would’ve changed anything, but I’m forever left with the doubt. I can’t say I will never again, but I don’t want to ever let down friends or family again.

story 9

A while ago, a long long friend of mine suddenly messaged me out of the blue reminiscing on old times and stuff. I could sense something was amiss. I planned an impromptu trip to see him. I didn’t bring anything up…we just chatted about the good old times, cracked a few inside jokes etc. He was visibly much better when I started back after a few days. We promised to be in touch but it kinda dwindled from there.

He got back in touch again and this time told me that he was seriously contemplating the last ride and my trip made him change his mind.

story 8

It’s easy to forget that depression isn’t rational. A depressed person may worry that they’re unhirable and won’t be able to find a job in those 4-6 months. They may expect that any job they do find will be as bad as the current one, or worse. If they’re on a visa, they may worry about deportation and having to upend their lives if they leave their current job. They may worry that a gap on their resume will affect their career prospects. They may worry that their friends and family will judge them if they’re unemployed for a while. Etcetera ad infinitum.

story 7

I went through a rough period last summer where a project I was involved in was a complete disaster. I basically spent 24×7 terrified that a new "emergency" was going to roll in on my phone via email with a stakeholder telling me how this new issue was ruining their life and how disappointed they were; an issue which I was expected to deal with immediately. After that summer and to this day I keep my phone in "Do Not Disturb" mode 24×7 and treat it as a passive communications device that I only check when I want to, because I have literally run out of notification tones on my phone that don’t send a burst of adrenaline through my body upon hearing them.

This is even after that project is over. I feel like it permanently damaged my brain and my ability to deal with stress.

I have used smartwatches that notify you when an email comes in by vibrating on your wrist. I view these as modern-day human "shock collars" where the shock collar beneficiary is actually not you, but your employer. I actually warn others against falling into that trap of wearing a "shock collar for work". Having your arm vibrate the moment an email comes in is not healthy.

story 6

This was so difficult for me to read.

I have struggled with extreme anxiety and chronic depression and brushed up against the thought of there being no way forward or out but suicide. During the closest calls, I was making the most I ever had, living in a nice house, etc. It didn’t really matter though. I felt a tightness in my chest and a boiling kettle of acid in my stomach from the second I woke up until the second I fell into fitful sleep. I had a Pavlovian response to the sound of email arriving on my phone, to the point where it would be in my nightmares. But it was more than just work; irrational panic and anxiety filled everything facet of my life. I would nearly pass out from panic attacks when flying, or worry that the police I saw were going to arrest or harass me for an unknown crime, or think that any time my family was calling it would be tragic news.

About three months after I most seriously considered suicide, I got a new job, saw a psychiatrist, saw a counselor, and a few years later I was pretty much stable. I did have to detox off benzos, but that wasn’t too bad.

It has to be understood that highly motivated, highly intelligent people can be driven to irrational levels of stress from their work. Unfortunately it isn’t as easy as just reminding the person that they aren’t their job or their career, just like you can’t treat depression by telling a depressed person to turn their frown upside-down. This man may still have struggled with stress, anxiety, and depression even if he left Uber for somewhere healthier; what’s important now is that people reading this story or these comments realise that there are always so many ways out, and that no matter what there are resources to keep you afloat.

story 5

I also was in a similar situation. Not as bad as the engineer in discussion but, I went through similar situation.

Years ago, I started getting signals that my work was preparing to let me go, like putting me on Performance Enhancement Program, etc etc. The thing is I had not kept up with my skills and so I really couldn’t find any work with similar pay I could switch to. I also decided to stay to do better work in order to prove the managers wrong. I wanted to prove the management wrong, that I’m someone worthy of employment. I wanted to prove to them that I am a person, not some disposable tool to be tossed aside. I now know it was a mistake.

The stress at work kept building up in me for weeks. I woke up in middle of nights, and I am someone who sleeps like a brick.

And it hit me. One morning, as I was stuck in a stop-and-go traffic on way to work on freeway, I went over the little section of freeway that allows you a full view of the long lines of cars packing the freeway. This view suddenly caused me panic attack and I began to feel claustrophobic. I felt the urge to take off my socks (and strip off shirt, which I didn’t) and open the window (which I did) so that I could relieve the feeling of trapped in the car. I had never felt such sensation before. I believe the issue of claustrophobia went on for about 2 years, as I remember worrying about taking a flight to visit family.

I never never had such issues before.

I think I can understand why the engineer didn’t leave for another job. With his experience, he could’ve have gotten another similar or better job, but I believe he wanted to prove the management wrong. But unfortunately the stress got to him first.

story 4

I’ve worked at startups where we had to bust ass to get things done… mid-90s… sleeping at the office, going weeks without a paycheck to get the product to launch, living off Jolt and pizza — and trying to build something that we honestly weren’t sure could be built. And even if the work wasn’t always done the exact way I would have suggested or agreed with, if I had a boss that took 5 minutes to explain why we were doing it… it was fine. No stress, just get it done.
I’ve worked at places that didn’t require anywhere near that level of focus or time commitment that left me feeling just drained and miserable. Miserable to the point of wanting to pack it up and never see a computer again. Miserable to the point of acting out… little self-destructive things like sending snarky emails, calling in sick to play hooky, or indulging in office gossip. All because I had a boss who just demanded I do things without giving any reason, or who wasn’t consistent with their stories.
Now I know enough, years of therapy / career coaching… and just age… when I see someone in a leadership position who just says, "Do what I say…" I start shopping for a new job. Or if they pull any manipulation crap like, "Sally and Mike know about X, but John thinks it’s Y, and Sally can’t know that Mike knows…" Or just simple lying… if they tell you something different than they tell anyone else. Life’s too short to deal with those people.
Transparency, integrity, honesty… without those things in a boss, it doesn’t matter how much work there is to do — it’ll be very stressful. It took me 10+ years to really nail down why I was successful at some jobs and not at others… for me, it all came down to the sort of boss I had. Didn’t have much to do with me liking the person (or the scope of the work), or vise versa, as long as they weren’t Machiavellian we could work well together.

story 3

Years ago I worked for a hospital. I noticed that many nurses smoked while physicians (mostly) did not. They read the same studies on the effects of smoking and treated the same emphysema and lung cancer patients. Yet, the difference in behavior was there. A friend of mine was a psychologist who worked on smoking cessation so I related the phenomenon to her. Apparently, it’s well-known that people in jobs with high responsibility and low decision-making authority tend toward smoking and other stress relievers. That description certainly fits nurses.
Software developers tend to be in that position now. Organizations increasingly rely on software as the embodiment of their processes and gatekeeper of their information. Yet, we seem to be a leaf-node on the decision-making tree.
The job I had prior to the hospital was a startup company in the Boston area, circa 1995. I was picked for a team of 8 or so to implement a system that was, in essence, an PaaS forerunner. (They put the senior-most people on the project, which was sad because I had only two years of professional experience as a developer. But, that’s another matter.) For about 8 weeks, we worked between 60-80 hours trying to jam it in. During that time, one team member went to the hospital with chest pains while another had an outright heart attack. But, the company did reward us with a $100 American Express gift card for each team member.
At some point, I keep hoping that organizations will start recognizing that we need to be used strategically: a voice in decisions on how to use technology. Frankly, organizations aren’t getting full value for us until they do.