17 March 2012 by Ian Davis
Things are changing in my life which means I’ll be writing a lot more on this blog about me and what is happening instead of my usual topics. I won’t be writing about technology for the forseeable future so if you mainly subscribe or read my blog for my opinions on RDF and Web Architecture then you might want to consider unsubscribing for a while and checking back every few months to see if things have improved.
Talking or writing about myself has never been easy for me and it hasn’t got any easier with recent events. My faint hope is that if I can talk openly about what I’m feeling then it might help me overcome it and perhaps help others in the future. If you’re reading this then I’ve managed to conquer my fear of exposure and actually pressed the publish button.
At the end of January I resigned from Talis, the company I have devoted myself to for more than six years. Devotion is the right word. I put the whole of myself into Talis and Talis put itself into me. I was a director for several years, am a significant shareholder and during my time have been through some of the toughest situations you can imagine for a small company. Walking away from that and from some of my closest friends is, even weeks later, umbelievable to me.
You might be wondering what precipitated it and whether there was a single triggering event, some kind of final confrontation. Well there wasn’t but there were a series of situations and experiences that brought doubt and mistrust into my mind as I was fighting and losing battles on four different fronts. Obviously I can’t and won’t disclose the nature of those events but I can talk about how the isolation affected me and what I feel today.
Back in August I noticed that I was feeling lethargic and demotivated. I put it down to the usual post holiday blues; after all who doesn’t feel down when they come back to work after a fabulous holiday with the people they love? However, this time the blues didn’t lift and they became deeper as time went on. Every day became more of a struggle to get motivated and I could feel myself closing parts of myself down, giving up in some areas that I formerly cared about. My sleep was severely affected, but at first I didn’t recognise the symptoms. I’ve been a night owl forever and I’ve always loved that quiet time that I have to myself while the house is sleeping but this was different. Instead of those late nights being my most creative, they became destructive, my heart racing, my anxiety mounting, lying awake for hours, latched onto a single situation or event, playing it over and over in my mind.
I went offline over Christmas for two amazing weeks, all of which was spent simply playing with and enjoying time with my family. But when I returned in January so did the blues and with them a new feeling of paranoia as I tried to understand the behaviour of people around me that I had trusted so deeply for so many years. Was I imagining things or was this reality? One day I realised that it was impossible to tell and that I couldn’t even trust my own judgment. So I resigned.
The doctor’s diagnosis is depression brought on by stress. I have pills whose printed guidance contains the reassuring sentence that “no-one knows how they work”. In our profession we call it burn out, and its something we read about and fear.
My last day employed by Talis is September 2nd and between now and then I am officially on “gardening leave”. As yet I have no plans past that date. I am truly in between times, not yet sure what I will become.
As a young man starting out I always believed the worst thing to happen to me in the profession I’d chosen would be to lose my sight or the use of my hands. How could I program or create without either of those two things? I was completely wrong though. The worst thing to happen to me is to lose creativity itself. For the whole of my life I have had ideas burning within me, competing for release. I used to laugh and call it a curse to have so many things I wanted to do and so little time to actually do them! Now I am cursed with all the time in the world with no ideas or motivation to create. What scares me the most is the thought that it might not come back.
Now I’ve written this, I like to think that I can write more and that it may be of some use to people who find themselves in the same place as me. I’ve had plenty of time to think over the past few weeks and though most of those thoughts don’t deserve to be aired in public a few might and I’ll attempt to share them in the coming weeks. I’m also interested in hearing from anyone who’s been through this. Email email@example.com