Broken ankle’s impact on a broken mind

Nearly two weeks ago I broke my ankle. I had a fall while indoor rock climbing (bouldering). There are no harnesses; bouldering is just climbing up to about 2 metres and there’s lots of soft mats to fall onto. I was climbing over a corner, reaching for the last hold and I didn’t quite have the reach. I feel on top of the cover between the soft mats and wall and my ankle slipped under the wall. I dislocated and shattered my ankle into 4 pieces. ouch.

broken ankle, x-ray and cast

I spent a week in hospital, had 2 surgeries, there’s now a plate and about a dozen bolts now in my leg. It now looks like there’s a tooth brush in there. I’ll be in a cast for 12 weeks and I’ll need to have day surgery again to remove the big giant bolt running through my ankle before I can bear weight on it again. I have to figure out if my super hero name should be cyborg sam or titanium sam?

xray of plate and bolts after the first surgery

I’m now mostly getting around on crutches and a knee walker.

sammy on a knee walker in a red lady bug dress from review

Now that I’ve told you the story of how I broke my ankle, I also want to tell you how it’s impacted my broken mind. This has been stressful. If you’ve read my other posts you would know that I’m also looking for a job and I haven’t had much luck there yet (another stressor). I have at least 3 stories about my mental health to share with you.

My first story; So I was rushed through emergency and had surgery within 24 hours of the accident. The accident occurred on a Saturday. The first day in hospital was hard, I couldn’t sleep well after the surgery and I broke down into tears a few times. Hospitals are noisy and the pain/discomfort makes it really hard to sleep. Nothing out of the ordinary and it’s to be expected. The physio had cleared me to leave on Tuesday but no doctor came to give me the all clear. Turns out the doctor wanted to do a second surgery on Thursday. Coming out of Surgery Thursday evening was hard, probably my hardest day. I couldn’t sleep. I was just starting to get use to sleeping with it before the second surgery, I didn’t realize how much healing had occurred in just a few days. And then I was back to square one. I had a lack of sleep induced depressive episode Friday night. It was the worse episode I’ve had in a long time. One of my triggers; from about 5-6 pm Friday evening I was trying to request a sleeping pill to help that night. The nurses changed shifts and at around 10:30 pm the nurse told me the doctor couldn’t be bothered filling in a script for 1 night. That rejection hit me like a brick wall, it was the last straw that put me over the edge and I fell into a downward spiral of depression. I was probably in this state for around 30 minutes, tears rolling down my face and thoughts of, “I’m broken, I’m just so tired, etc” rolling through my mind. One of the thoughts that kept me in this spiral was just realizing the fact I was having a depressive episode. Go figure. It was actually an interesting experience from a mindfulness point of view. What got me out of it was realizing that I needed to call the nurse and try to push for that sleeping pill again. That thought had to come along a few times before it helped me get out of that cycle. I didn’t actually call the nurse a second time but had managed to fall asleep for a few hours before someone’s machine started beeping at 1:30am, I asked the nurse for some endone and the warn fuzzies from that was enough to help me sleep until the early morning.

My second story involves my job hunting efforts. While in hospital I had to cancel/postpone a few leads in regards to job hunting. I had 3 interviews scheduled for that week. 1 I withdrew my interest because I wasn’t that excited about the company. 1 I was able to move to a skype interview. I had a skype interview on Wednesday in my hospital gown while laying in bed; hospital equipment in the background. I even put on my suit jacket to smarten up the hospital gown. Unfortunately I found out I was unsuccessful with this interview, I mentioned my perfect role would be more like a quality coach role and apparently that turned them off. I rescheduled one interview for today at 1pm. Fingers crossed this goes well because it’s the last interview I have booked with 13 companies so far. Nothing else has turned up a promising job offer yet. So on top of feeling broken physically I feel constantly bombarded with these messages of rejection due to job hunting efforts. It’s taking a toll on me.

My third story happened just this morning. Since I got out of hospital I had been hanging out at my partner’s parents place. They offered me their spare room while I recover and my partner’s mum is a nurse. It seemed convenient and I took them up on their offer. Last night I went to my uncle’s for the first time since getting out of hospital. I couldn’t really sleep very well last night because I’m starting to get stressed about my job hunting efforts. My uncle’s live in Edgecliff so it appears more convenient than Gladesville where my partner’s parents live. However Edgecliff is hillier; it was a challenge getting down the driveway this morning on my walker. It’s not something I want to do every day. So I get to Edgecliff shopping centre and wait around to get some blood tests done for my weight loss surgery catch up next week. After this I go to head down to the station platform. Turns out Edgecliff doesn’t have a lift down to the platform. This hit me more than I expected. I needed to go to the toilet to have a little teary. I think I’m over it now and it wasn’t a full on depressive episode but that little reminder of how broken I feel hurt. I couldn’t even get up to the buses to get into the city. I ended up getting an uber. So I probably won’t be staying at my uncle’s while I recover which is a shame. It’s just too hard.

I have some other stories; adventures with wheel chair accessible buses, financial stresses due to this accident, healing and fatigues impact on my mental health and the differences between having a physical injury vs mental injury but I’ll leave these for another time as I have to leave this cafe soon.

Have you ever had an injury that impacted your mental health? My sciatic nerve injury 2 years ago had a similar impact on my mental state too.

job hunting diaries

I’ve been job hunting now for nearly 4 weeks. I’ve had face to face interviews with 6 companies, done 3 technical tasks, have 2 more interviews scheduled, have 3 more technical tasks to do and 3 more leads I’m chasing up. And I’m exhausted. I’ve been rejected by 3 of those interviews, I turned down progressing further for 1. All of this on top of attempting to work a full time job, speaking at EuroSTAR in Copenhagen and having a life. It’s getting to me mentally. I really struggled to get out of bed this morning. I even sat in front of this computer for 10 minutes struggling to start this blog post. But I’m doing this for my own therapy.

My tactics for job hunting have been;

  1. Enable the “open to new jobs” label on my LinkedIn
  2. Reaching out to recruiters who’ve I’ve had good experiences with before
  3. Reaching out to old colleagues
  4. Reaching out to people who I’ve met through the tech/meetup scene
  5. Applying for roles on LinkedIn
  6. Browsing the careers pages of some known companies and applying that way

In terms of tactic number 1, I was concerned that I would be swamped with recruiters. I’m glad I wasn’t, in fact I’ve only had 1 lead get generated this way. Tactic 2 has been the most successful in generating leads, it makes sense because these are guys who are literally in the business of recruiting tech talent. Every other tactic has generated a lead or two, tactic 5 has had the lowest lead generation rates.

The feedback I get is that I interview very well, I pride myself on my skill in testing and I enjoy talking to people about it. This passion comes off in my interview and often my interviewers walk away saying they actually enjoyed the experience. One role I was rejected for was because they thought I would actually get bored in the role, that’s a far call to make and if they aren’t willing to be flexible to accommodate my skill set that is the best call to make. On a side note this is actually the third interview I’ve had in my lifetime of testing interviews to come back with that feedback. I have huge respect for companies who can be open enough to make this call.

One role I didn’t do so well with the technical task, basically they asked me to automate some tests using visual studio, c# and Selenium. I said automation is not my strong point, I haven’t touched windows in over 2 years but give me enough time with google and stack overflow I can work something out. After tackling with the tools for 3 hours I submitted the task, I hadn’t completed it 100% but I thought it would be enough to help them assess my coding styles and thought processes. I wasn’t successful and there weren’t any surprises there. I interviewed well but I was being tested on tools I had barely touched. I can code, it just takes me a ridiculously long time to do so because it’s not a skill I practice every day and I’m not going to mislead anyone about my skills here. I could have sunk more time into the technical task but for my mental well being I drew the line at 11:30PM. Lack of sleep is one of the easiest things I can do if I want to experience a relapse of depression. I got to the point where in the workplace I would ask a fellow colleague for some assistance or looked at similar tests to get inspiration but I didn’t have access to those types of resources. In terms of assessing my technical chops, I think a pair programming exercise is better suited for me.

I’m a little annoyed at what feels like wasted mental energy but I should try not to dwell on the past too much. I have a few more leads that I’m more excited about so I hope they turn up more promising results. An example role that gets me excited to apply for is Quality Coach, an example job ad can be seen here. Anything that has an emphasis on automation testing over people skills is a little bit of a red flag for me because I’ve been burnt a few too many times now. How do you handle rejection in the job hunting process?

Hackathon Fatigue

I’m currently participating in GovHack 2017 at the Sydney location (add a 2017 year in review link like this 2016 one when available). It’s the first hackathon I’ve attended this year. When I first moved to Sydney 4 years ago I participated in 4-5 hackathons the first year and it’s slowly died down since then. Even though I love the atmosphere, the community and the collaboration during hackathons; I am suffering from hackathon fatigue.

Last year at GovHack 2016 I tried to participate. I turned up to the opening evening but was struggling mentally. I was going through a relapse of depression and I could not hold it together enough to participate. Reflecting on this, I’d always walk away from a hackathon mentally exhausted and last year I was overwhelmed with the thought of “I can’t handle this stimulation right now”. Going back to work on the Monday after a hackathon always felt hard and would trigger an existential crisis week that involved continuous thoughts of, “fuck I’m tired”. It’s the combination of socialising with all of these new people, trying to frantically work on an idea and eating food that I wouldn’t normally eat that really throws out my routine/mood. I often turn up to work on Monday after a hackathon not rested and with a complaining digestive system. This is my first hackathon since my weight loss surgery which has put a control on the amount of crap that I can eat but I’ve still turned up to last day of the hackathon feeling exhausted. I’m all hackathoned out and I do not have the motivation to submit a story.

Do you suffer from Hackathon fatigue? How do you overcome it?

The 5 elements of my health

I have 5 elements of health/well-being that are important to me and that have a huge impact on my overall well-being when just one is lacking. They all have cascading effects on my overall enjoyment of life.

First up is my physical health. To me this is what I eat, how well I poop, how much I exercise and how well I’m sleeping. One of the easiest ways for me to experience a minor relapse of depression is not getting enough sleep. My menstrual cycle creates natural high’s and lows that impact my physical health, e.g. some women get less sleep/irregular bowel movements during PMS or during menstration. It’s not generally a fun time. My bad ankle/sciatic nerve injury have contributed negatively to my physical health. I’ve caught a cold recently which is putting a little downer on this part of my health.

Next is mental health. This can be general satisfaction with life but is more often associated with depression. When I’m not going through a bout of depression I would say that I have good mental health. Mindfulness therapy has helped me develop my mental health but it’s something I can always work on improving this. My period is a good time for a mental health check, if I’m in a poor mental state I’m more likely to turn into a blubbering mess around that poor time of month.

I also have financial well being, social and sexual health in my list. I could classify sexual health as a sub component of physical health but I find it important enough to mention on it’s own. I feel really lucky to have a partner where I’m comfortable exploring this side of me, I will save you the details but it has been rare for me to find a partner that I can explore with ;). When I don’t have my financial well being under control I’m more stressed and can’t function as well. Social well being comes from friends and family. I have worked hard to develop my sense of community and I’m grateful for it.

Since my weight loss surgery I have generally felt more in control of my life and all elements of my health have improved. It’s pretty amazing. Now I’ve still had some hiccups and I’m working on some behaviour that I’d like to tweak but these hiccups haven’t caused any long term downward spirals yet and I hope that I continue to take life’s bumps and hiccups in my stride.

Some people might also consider spiritual health to be important but it’s not critical for me. What other elements of health are important for you?

1 day before surgery

I have my first ever surgery tomorrow. I’m nervous yet excited. The pre surgery diet has been ok. When I was in Melbourne 2 weeks ago for a conference I slipped up and I didn’t stick to the diet completely. Part of me feels like a failure for needing to rely on surgery to get on top of my health, it feels like I didn’t care enough about my health to want to do anything about it. But a few months ago, I tried a liquid food diet with the idea of , “if I can keep this up, I don’t need surgery” but I couldn’t keep it up and that was a realization for me.

I’m an emotional and experience eater. When I’m upset I often want to eat my emotions, I didn’t sleep very well while in Melbourne and I was a bit pre menstrual. So we can say my emotions were running high. I also find it hard to walk past a new experience, one of my undoings on my road trip was wanting to try all of the country towns pies. If I’m surrounded by a feast of food, I want to try everything at least once.

other than the slip up in Melbourne I’ve been ok with the diet. At least I’m not a boredom eater or an over obsessive clean eater. What type of eater are you?

Most. Stressful. Day.

Let me tell you a story about a stressful day that I had today. I think it’s the most stressed I’ve ever felt. This story actually started a few weeks ago. I was riding my motorbike from Sydney to Cairns. I get up there with no problems. On the way back on Friday the 30th of September I stop in the Gold Coast for a few days to catch up with my siblings for my brothers belated 18th birthday celebrations. I found a nice Airbnb in Miami, I got to my Airbnb half an hour early and I decide to go for a quick swim before checking in. By the time I get back to my bike, I can’t find my key  and I discover I’ve got a flat tire.

Panic starts to set in. I backtrack my steps but I can’t find it. I think someone stole my key from my jeans while I went for a quick swim.  I ask the local pub and surf club if anyone has turned in a key. No luck. I leave my contact details in case it turns up.  I then report it to the police.  I tried calling a few locksmiths but because it was a long weekend and they couldn’t help me until the Tuesday. I needed to be in Melbourne by Tuesday for a conference.

I end up deciding to tow my bike to the airport and park it there for a fortnight and come back later with my spare key. The tow truck guy was at least able to fill up the tire before dropping it off. I was hoping it was just a leaky valve because I couldn’t find a puncture.  At least I got to spend an extra day on the Gold Coast.

Now this is where my stressful day starts.  Before flying to the Gold Coast today I had a pretty tough conversation at work that left me in tears for quite sometime, so I was already emotionally worked up.  I get to the Gold Coast airport and I start walking in the wrong direction for the parking.  I call the parking guy and it turns out my tire is still flat and there’s a guy in a shuttle bus waiting to take me to the parking.  Here starts my second wave of uncontrollable tears.  I eventually get to my bike and the shuttle bus driver was really helpful, he was trying to offer suggestions and what not. I decide to wheel my bike out and have a shot at some roadside assistance.  I give my insurance a call and it turns out, I’m not covered. I start crying on the phone. The insurance lady was lovely she offered to help me with Googling businesses  and what not but it was something I was able to do with my phone and most of the local businesses would be shut anyway, this was around 5pm Queensland time and 6pm New South Wales time.

I’m feeling lost and stranded in the Gold Coast. I panic and I end up giving a random Tinder Gold Coast guy a call that I had gone on one date with 2 weeks ago when I was last in the Gold Coast. I then start googling some near by motorbike repair stores and trying any number I can get my hands on. No luck. Then I hear another motorbike startup, turns out the workshop next to the parking was still open and a guy was starting up his dirt bike. He gives me a bit of air and we discover a puncture. It’s leaking air. I had enough air to ride it to the nearest motorbike store, the store opens at 8:30 tomorrow morning and I hope they can help me. I’ve checked into a motel in Tweed Heads and at least I’ll try to sort something out tomorrow. I know I had family that I could have called but I was already a blubbering mess and I really don’t like crying in front of people, especially people I know.

I guess I have another travel story to share now, this one isn’t that pleasant though.

3 things that pissed me off while riding my motorbike from Sydney to Cairns

Let’s have a whinge about travel, I feel like everyone loves sharing the good bits but hardly share the annoying bits. Let’s celebrate all elements of travel.

I’ll tell you 3 things that have been pissing me off the most on my most recent motorbike road trip (I rode my motorbike from Sydney to Cairns and back):

1) having an itchy ear underneath a helmet and not being able to scratch it without stopping, sometimes it feels like a bug is crawling around in my helmet.

2) this heat. I’m just not use to this warm weather. Last night the air conditioning in the hostel automatically switched off at 10pm and switched back on at 7am, probably to save power but it meant I slept fitfully waking up constantly in my own sweat. Heat + fitful sleep make me a not so happy camper.

3) bugs; them hitting my helmet at 110km/hour sometimes shocking me like a bullet would and leaving smears of gunk on my helmet visor. I find myself flinching at butterflies because they are really loud when you hit them, they never seem to get out the way quick enough and you see them before you hit them. Most bugs you don’t see until you hear them smash against your helmet. And bugs hitting exposed skin, I don’t have much exposed skin but I’ve been hit on my neck just under my helmet and when I’ve had my visor up for airflow I’ve been hit on the checks and forehead. It stings like a {insert appropriate swear word} and makes me flinch something fierce, I can even feel the stings under my jacket and thick riding jeans

So it’s not all sunshine and lolly pops like my previous posts would lead you to believe.

Here are my other annoyances on this trip (in no particular order of annoyance) :
4) highways that aren’t the most fun to ride that seem to stretch forever

5) a noisy helmet that feels like I’m causing damage to me ears (fixed with a scarf or earplugs but the earplugs contribute to the itchy ear and have contributed to a mild ear infection)

6) a glaring sun that gives me a headache by the end of the day (I left my prescription sunglasses at home, I got a cheap pair of sunnys from a pharmacist that I’m wearing over my normal glasses)

7) feeling like I have to constantly go to the toilet because of keeping my fluids up

8) Feeling a little socially isolated but that comes with traveling alone and it’s by choice, I did want some me time

9) Getting sunburnt on the small of my back between my motorbike jacket and my jeans because of my sitting position on my bike

10) Shoulders aching from the days of riding (got a massage in cairns to help release some of the tension)

11) What felt like RSI developing in my right wrist from holding the accelerator on the bike (the 2 days rest in cairns helped)

12) Traffic because damn it, I’m on this trip to be on the open road

13) Road works because damn it, I want to feel the wind and not crawl to a stop in the sweltering heat with all of my motorbike gear

14) Not having enough time to do all of the exploring that I want to do

15) Losing my motorbike key in the Gold Coast – grrr this was annoying and an expensive thing to fix

16) trucks; either getting stuck behind them or the shock of their tail winds as they rush past in the opposite direction

17) Camping and getting eaten alive by mosquitos

18) Not being as well rested as I thought I would be and having high expectations of travel

Despite all of these annoyances though this trip has still been totally worth it, I should write a post of what I’ve been grateful for after this

//end rant

On a side note, I can argue that all of things are both positive and negative because they are all related to the experience of traveling

When traveling, what has pissed you off the most?

Surgery, Surgery

Those words remind me of “Repo! The Genetic opera” and this catchy song:

Repo! is a musical set in some future time where people are addicted to surgery/body modifications. And if you can’t pay the repayments the repo man will come and take back what was modified; leaving people dead, disabled or otherwise incapacitated. It’s an interesting reflection on our consumerist society.

Anyway, I digress. The reason I’m thinking about surgery is because I’ve booked myself in for weight loss surgery for mid October. This will be my first ever operation. I feel like this is a sensitive topic. By now it seems that a sensitive topic = time for me to write a blog post about it. I feel like this is a extreme procedure but I obviously have an issue with my weight and I haven’t been able to fix it completely on my own. I currently weigh 126 kg and it puts my BMI at 47 which is in the, “Morbidly Obese” category. I’m going for the sleeve option where they remove 4/5ths of the stomach and staple it up. There’s around a 1 to 4 week recovery time.

I would like to take a risk based approach to this surgery. Being obese increases my risks of developing type 2 diabetes, poor mobility, poor mental health, reduced life span and reduced quality of life. Most people think life is a priceless thing that should be protected/preserved no matter what. By doing an extreme thing like weight loss surgery, I will greatly increase my chances of having a longer, more fulfilling life. My goal is to get my waistline below 80cm, I don’t actually care about the weight itself that much. My weight does impact my mental health and my mental health has been something shocking recently.

 

Would you consider almost any options to get a few more quality years later on in life?

Mental Health Strategy

I need to improve my mental and physical health. I have gained over 20kg in the last 18 months. I feel like all of the hard work that I put in when I first moved to Sydney has been undone. I often feel fat, lazy and out of control with my behaviour. I feel like my home life reflects those bad thoughts back onto me. I know these are irrational feelings, I’m hardly lazy. Lazy people don’t involved with their communities but I still feel these feelings.

Back to the strategy, I think a core part of a strategy is a purpose (it has to achieve something), a distinct measurable goal (to know when we’ve achieved something), a plan of what to do which includes tactics/approaches in how we will achieve our purpose.

Purpose

Improve my mental and physical well-being

Measurements

  • Not feeling like I’m having a mental breakdown during an emotional time of the month
  • No more weight gain

Tactics

  • Change my home environment to encourage incidental exercise (move closer to work)
  • Get back onto a soylent diet (this should help both diet and financial as I’ll reduce my impulse food spendings)

Here is a diagram that might help communicate part of what bothers me:

Mental Health Strategy (1)

I’m starting my strategy off small, make it achievable. Then reassess and reiterate in a few weeks to see if I’m improving.