Be wary - triumphant pride precipitates a dizzying fall…
- Darkest Dungeon narrator
» HELLO, FRIEND.
This is going to be the…first. First post in a while, first post back, first post from me on mental health, lots of firsts going on here. I want to kind of ramble a bit about what happened to me in hopes that someone else doesn’t do the same stupid things I seem to keep doing and hurting myself with. If I can save even one of you some future pain, then this post is worth it and has met its goals. Meanwhile, here’s what we’re trying to avoid:
But first, some background.
I’m sp1icer, hopefully that much was easy to grok. I’m a 28 year old eternal kid who has been obsessed with tech for as long as I can remember, and subsequently ignored that to go to college for other things. I also didn’t have access to computers as much growing up so I feel…behind. It feels like I have this constant urge to binge watch something on Netflix, except in this case it’s not Netflix, it’s tearing apart tech concepts. I also have ADHD which pairs extremely nicely with this (no, it’s not a superpower) - and when I hyperfocus, I hyperfocus. I mean it when I say I’ve gone 18 hours at a time without eating to play with computers or attack things on HacktheBox. It’s led to me rising in job titles/ranks extremely quick - I often tell people I’ve managed to get to my current job about 10 years too early. Sounds great, right?
….not quite. There’s also this lovely little problem called imposter syndrome, you may have heard a bit about it going around as more and more people are starting to pay attention to it. The basic gist is that no matter what I do, I feel like I’m not good enough and don’t deserve what I have. This doesn’t just extend to tech, but my entire life really - I go through plenty of bouts where I end up questioning whether my life is even worthwhile. Yes, it sucks - no, you don’t have to worry (I have support systems in place should things get…worse. And they often do.). It kind of brings on this quote from Mr. Robot’s Elliot:
“Maybe wars aren’t meant to be won, maybe they’re meant to be continuous.”
I know that wasn’t the intention of the original quote as Elliot was talking about external people and things, but it’s kind of how my life seems to be going. I go through a cycle of
happy for a bit -> question if I'm worthwhile -> question if I deserve my life -> crash -> happy and rinse and repeat. In a way, it’s cathartic getting this down onto the blog - it feels like I’m less alone, somehow. Anyways.
So back to the imposter syndrome - the basic gist of it is that ADHD + computer obsession + imposter syndrome = a perfect storm where no matter what I do, no matter what bugs I find, no matter what I’ve heard from co-workers/bosses/friends, I don’t think that I deserve to be where I am. It’s a constant struggle to keep my head above water in a swimming pool where someone is filling it with a fire hose aimed directly at my face.
How does that lead to the twitter crash-and-burn tweet, you ask? Let’s start by examining my study habits. At the time of that crash, here’s what I was subjecting myself to each day:
- My 40-hour-per-week job, so 8 hours per day of that
- Reading 10 pages of Web App Hacker’s Handbook
- 1.5 - 2 hours of Japanese/kanji practice
- Reading 10 pages of Mobile App Hacker’s Handbook
- 1 45-minute video from PentesterAcademy’s CRTP course
- 30 minutes - 1 hour of work related to OSSU’s FOSS CompSci degree
Writing it all down here, I’m in awe that I didn’t crash sooner. Oh yeah, somewhere along the way I wanted to go take my second exam attempt at the OSWE and try to do CVE hunting on open-source apps. I really don’t know what I was thinking, if we’re being honest.
Queue pending crash-and-burn.
» ANNIHILATION IS THE ANSWER
I hit that point, posted the message on Twitter, and then ran for the hills. It wasn’t pretty - I couldn’t do so much as look at a computer in my off time. I hit what we call burnout, the state where basically everything sucks even if you liked it before. I fought extremely hard to keep my work productivity good, but I otherwise didn’t even touch computers (including video games for a while). Once I get into burnout there’s basically only one solution - annihilation.
You can also think of it as a reset - basically I have to hard reboot once I get that low. No studying, no games, no anything - I basically just become a shut-in and watch mindless things on TV. It’s really, really, really not healthy. However, recovering can be better if and only if you manage to turn it into a set of positive habits outside of the old ones (but that’s really, realy hard to do right). Falling back into the old ways has always been my go-to, my default; it’s always been the easiest but most destructive choice I could make. Finally this time I decided enough is enough, time to fight back.
The question is, how? How do we fight burnout, how do we fight against imposter syndrome? I honestly am not entirely sure, but here’s what I’ve been doing so far.
- Focus on positive wins
- Mindfulness practice (meditation is especially helpful for me)
- Realize “true imposters” don’t feel imposter syndrome
- Talk with others, including a therapist
- Sleep more, or alternatively get better sleep
- Exercise (this was a big one for me, I’m getting quite the dad bod sans the kids)
- Mindfulness practice (meditation, again, is awesome for this)
- Go outside some
- Relax the pressure on yourself (if you’re like me and stack piles of work on yourself)
- Do creative things that aren’t related to work
And that’s really it. Ultimately it boils down to actually taking some time to have you time; and no, before you ask, you time doesn’t count if it involves more tech!
With this, dear reader, our peek into my psyche comes to a close. Thanks for sticking around while I ramble on and on about things I’m in no way qualified to talk about, but I’m hoping at least someone who’s just starting out can see what I put myself through and take it as a warning. Don’t be like me, reader - be healthy, have boundaries. Much love and happy hacking!