It's strange to think about now, but for over ten years of my life I got on average four hours of sleep a night. I worked almost constantly, always juggling several projects in and out of work.
I thought it made sense when I was in school. I worked several retail jobs, supporting my family while putting me and my partner through school. I wanted to finish my degree and get a good job and be free.
When I got my degree and got a good job and was more free by my previous perspective, I felt myself gripped by the same fear I felt in school. What if I got fired? What if there was something better out there? Shouldn't I still be working all the time to achieve more, and to survive, to not lose everything?
Taking a lot of time off recently opened my eyes to what I had lost. Instead of putting all my focus on what I had to lose, my focus shifted to what I was already losing. And maybe taking the risk of failure and danger was worth it if it meant actually living and cherishing the only life I have, the limited time I have with loved ones.
I have too many memories that are gone.
I hadn't spent nearly enough time with those I love, with those who mean a lot to me. I hadn't spent a lot of time just enjoying life.
And this skill I had worked over ten years to excel at-- first in studying mathematics, then in computer science-- had felt like it had gone away. I'd stare at a screen for hours, crippled by anxiety. When I was in that state, even basic questions escaped me. My brain shut down. Sometimes I'd make excuses and do something else other than coding, sometimes I'd just sit there and cry and fully absorb how I felt unable to do anything and go home with not a single line of code written.
I started healing by attuning myself to when I felt anxious. I didn't think this would heal me, but at least it was a step in the right direction. Reducing coffee intake sometimes, eating healthy. Paying attention to how external factors made me feel-- disabling my phone's notifications, listening to less anxiety-inducing music. Always getting 8 hours of sleep. Taking time to breathe when I recognized anxiety-- breathe and totally disconnect.
I had already let go of my previous perceived notions of "success" and stress that used to result from that.
When I first started my business, I somehow snagged a meeting with a famous computer scientist. Giddy and somewhat nervous, I stumbled into the meeting not knowing what to expect. He seemed depressed and anxious. He seemed like he felt trapped, like this wasn't the life he wanted. He seemed like he didn't think the work he was doing was that intriguing, but saw no other options.
Didn't matter that other people saw him as successful-- he isn't happy.
I look at people I trust, who I admire for their zest for life, for their values and commitment to helping others, for their level of happiness and relaxation in their lives, for the freedom they have. And I see how they respond to what I do, just to have some sort of sanity check.
Success is being happy.
The other day I got some coding done on a recent project and felt very excited about progress. And then an odd feeling came over me-- I was healed. I still have healing to do, but this was farther than I thought I could get nine months ago.
I realize my memories aren't gone-- my brain just could not handle any more trauma, and making it hard to remember the past and work was a way to protect myself. As I sleep, as I think more intelligently about how I want to live life, as I spend more time letting my mind wander and rest-- more comes back to me, and I'm able to code and live life without being motivated by fear.
I'm lucky I have space to keep healing even further, and to live life.