Co-Housing

I’m binge watching youtube video’s, as I do when I’m doing nothing on the weekend and I stumble on this TED talk on co-housing:

This got me thinking of all of the different types of houses I’ve lived in over the years and I’d thought I share my stories and experiences with them.

My personal values are (I can actually use the mnemonic CASE to remember them);

  • Community
  • Adding value
  • Sustainability
  • Experiences over things

Living in sharehousing/cohousing actually aligns with my all of my core values in some way.

Student Housing in Sweden

I lived in Sweden as an exchange student for a year between 2009-2010. I lived in a corridor in a student housing complex. Each corridor had 13 separate bedroom & bathroom units and a central kitchen/lounge room that was shared amongst the 13 corridor tenants. Each floor had 2 corridors and most buildings 4 levels.

Stereotypical floor plan for a corridor

This student complex had a building for every letter of the alphabet. There was a communial laundry for every few buildings in the basement. The gym was in building A:

Google street view of the buildings and gym in the student complex DELPHI
Here’s a satellite view of that complex

I lived in a Swedish corridor that only had 2 international student rooms. I’m really grateful for this mix because another corridor in our building was all international students. In my mind this was close to pretty much ideal living situations for a student. I had never felt this socially connected before. If there wasn’t a party happening somewhere in Delphi there was another student complex up the road that someone else knew where a party was happening.

Costs

Rent for this accommodation equated to about $125 AUD a week and included nearly everything. It was very reasonable and within my means being on government payments even though I didn’t receive rent assistance. I was getting around $375 AUD every two weeks from study allowance. My only extra bill was internet which was crazy cheap and fast (roughly $10 AUD per month for a basic 200GB package that had fast fibre speeds)

Drawbacks

The only drawback I experienced in this situation was because I was only there for a year, I couldn’t personalise my space as much as my local Swedish neighbours could.

Variety of share houses

I’ve lived in a variety of share houses since then. While finishing uni I lived in around 5 different situations. Rents were between $60 AUD to $130 per week. I lived with a lady from Bangladesh and her two kids in a tiny apartment in Sandy Bay, in a old 3 story brick house in Glebe, an out the back granny flat in Glenorchy and a huge old house in Taroona.

Taroona

Taroona was my cheapest share house but they came with some big problems. The house it self was huge. It was a two storey 3 bedroom house with a second loungeroom downstairs. We converted the downstairs loungeroom into a 4th bedroom. The total rent for the house was $270 per week. We had split the rent to between $60 to $80 per week per room. Only thing is the house came with a troll.

The troll of Taroona

There was a granny flat underneath half the house and it was occupied by a single guy. He was the troll in our house. He would bang on our floor when when we were being “too loud”, fill our house with the stink of weed, have random burnoffs in the back yard, have loud aggressive arguments with his ex misses about shared custody of their kid. He made living in this house very hard.

Drawbacks

Another drawback to this place was one of my house mates was struggling with rent. Another housemate would vouch for him but he kept getting further and further behind. I ended up leaving that house with this person owing me over $1000 in food, rent and shared bills. I’ve never seen any of this money and I have never spoken to this person since then.

Communal Housing in Bland Street, Ashfield

Since moving to Sydney at the start of 2014 I’ve lived in about 9 different places. I haven’t had a lot of stability in my living arrangements. One of the more interesting places has become a old Victorian era town house converted into a communal community house in Ashfield, also known as Bland St. This house had around 11 bedrooms and 20-ish residents.

Sense of Community

I love the sense of community in this situation. I would often cook communal meals and had gardening and home brewing projects with a lot of the residents. I baked so many brownies. The average demographic was between 18-25 so I was a bit on the older side and most people were working holiday visa types. The house is always changing it’s personality.

Share rooms in Sydney

In Bland St most rooms were shared 2 person (usually strangers) per room. Sydney is ripe with this type of arrangement because rent is so dam expensive. I was paying between $150-$225 (ish) per week depending on the room arrangements and location. I’ve lived in this type of situation in Darlinghurst, China Town, Pyrmont and Ashfield.

Drawbacks

The main drawback to co-sharing a room is the disrupted sleep. My depression gets when I don’t get enough sleep. The young vibe of Bland Street meant I felt like I drank too much alcohol, I still feel that now but at least I’ve reduced the social drinking urge.

Co Housing in the future?

It seems that co-housing in Sydney is starting to open up. For example apparently we opened our first co-housing in September this year. Only thing is, the rent for this is incredible expensive ($525 per week). I currently pay $300 per week for a my own room in a 2 bedroom apartment in Wollstonecraft. It’s a stone throws away from the train station. $350 is my maximum budget that I’m willing to spend on renting in Sydney.

Tiny Housing

Tiny house that comes with a green house 

I have an obsession with tiny houses. I have a loft bed in my bedroom. it’s pretty cool. I love the idea of tiny housing and being efficient with space. Small housing also has less environmental impacts, requires less resources to maintain and all that stuff. It’s been really nice to furnish my own room with second hand furniture and to experiment with space saving ideas. 

My ideal living arrangements

Is probably a share house communal living arrangement. I would love to live in something like I did in Sweden where I can furnish my own space but partake in communal cooking. I’d love to live in a place with an easy to access community garden. It’ll probably be apartment based if I was in a city like Sydney or maybe wooden cabins based if I had my own land in Tasmania. I want something that’s nicely designed as opposed the regular cheap as possible option often seen here in Sydney.

What would be your ideal living arrangements?

How an offhand comment can trigger a depressive episode

I had a low day on Friday. I’ve had a persistent headache and fatigue for a few months now and a head cold on Friday brought out the worse of it. I’ve lived with depression for eight years now so I know when to have a day off to take it easy. Friday started with a 2 hour struggle to get out of bed. It was one of those days.

When I’m in these low moods my obsessive nature and harsh internal self critic can get completely hooked on little comments that people make. This blog is a reflection on this internal thought process to help you understand what might be going through a depressed person’s head.

The comment

In conversation someone mentioned something about, “… being a big girl”, it was related to me being able to look after myself. I responded with “I use to be a lot bigger” and someone else in the conversation added, “keep away from the pork and you’ll stay that way”. In the moment I didn’t think anything of it. But my obsessive nature got hooked and over the afternoon I couldn’t let it go.

The obsession

I became completely obsessed over everything I had eaten recently infront of said company. I replayed the dinner we had recently over and over and over in my head. I counted every calorie, it came out to about 2000KJ and 10gm of protein. Then my internal harsh critic got on board. It starting saying to me, “you are fat, lazy good for nothing, completely worthless, you should just curl up and die”. So now there was a battle going on in my head, the obsessor just going over and over and the critic telling me I’m worthless. Normally these thoughts aren’t that loud but they get overwhelming on low days.

My obsessor wanted to figure out how to write a response to those comments. This blog post is an attempt at pleasing the obsessor because I am still thinking about it after 4 days.

Good intentions

I know those comments come from good intentions, people say these things because they care. The only nutritional goals I stick too (under the advice of my weight loss clinics nutritionist) is to get 60gm of protein a day and to take my daily multivitamin. I’ve had a lifetime of people commenting on my weight. I thought I had developed a thick skin for it, obviously I hadn’t. Or maybe it just hurts more the closer to home it is?

Self Compassion

I’m at a stage now where I can try to practice self compassion (I try but it’s hard). I would catch these thoughts and tell myself, “that’s not a very nice thing to say Sam, you are one of most proactive people I know. You are so far from lazy and worthless it isn’t funny. Look, you even had lunch with someone who thanked you for your help with their CV recently and they are starting a new job soon because of you. Remember that Buddhist monk on youtube? Try and practice letting go.” Here is the youtube video I was thinking of:

How to be supportive

If someone has opened up about their mental health and they raise something like this with you, please don’t feel like you need to censor yourself. That is stressful and not healthy. Often when these things come up for me, I never raise them with the person who caused the trigger because I know deep down it’s just my mind overreacting. So being open and empathetic if someone does raise this is all I ask for.

Please be mindful of how your words can hurt. It reminds me of the common rhyme about sticks and stones I was told about as a kid. Here’s my new version:

Sticks and stones may break my bones 

But harsh words from a loved one

Can make me wish I was dead

I’m grateful I’ve never been suicidal but I still live with this kind of depression on a fairly regular basis. My partner has probably seen me go through about 4 or 5 episodes now over a 2 year period.

I’m grateful I can be this open about this huge cause of internal stress. A lot of people who struggle with similar things aren’t as blunt as I am and keep the struggle to themselves.

Goal setting for 2019

I’m starting my goal setting early. I wrote this blog for goal setting for 2018. On reflection; I haven’t slipped back into obesity at least, which I was super concerned about as I spent the first six months of 2018 recovering from a broken ankle. Here’s my thinking behind my goal setting for 2019 and why I’m starting early.

Brainstorm everything I want to do

As an exercise, I listed everything I want to do and then asked myself, What do I have time to do? What is more important? What aligns the most with my personal values? I’ve had to eliminate a lot of extra curricular ideas and I still feel like I have a lot on my plate 🙁 .

This is a handwritten note of me brainstorming everything I want to do. I have things like learning Australian sign language, Japanese, podcasting, a masters in statistics and live testing as things I'd love to do but don't have the time for.
I don’t have enough time to do all the things I’d like to do

I then came up with the following list of things that are really important to me. They are themed around personal, career, family and financial goals:

  • Beat the overweight label (personal)
  • Maintain a daily meditation practice
  • Write a book (career)
  • Teach my Nan digital marketing (career and family)
  • Launch an app
  • Pay off half of my credit card debt (financial)
  • Speak at one international conference and take my Mum
  • Brew two whole grain beers
  • Keep Sydney Testers going
  • Create enough content to run a 3 day workshop

Why start the goal setting early?

I’m going to focus on developing my morning habit for the rest of this year. I’m going to get up early, meditate and write before heading off to work. If I can do this for the rest of the year, I’ll be in a good place to expand it come 2019. The green in the following table is this minimum commitment:

My ideal morning starts at 5:30, followed by exercise from 6 for up to hour. Next will be a twenty minute meditation from 7 flowwed by half an hour of writing from 7:30. I'll have breakfast at some point and be ready for work from 8:30 AM

I’ve put together an idea of what my ideal morning and ideal week looks like. If I do not put aside time to do things that are important to me, it’ll never get done. I reflected on what I could squeeze in. Unfortunately things like studying Japanese just don’t fit in financially and time wise. So here’s my ideal week to work towards in 2019:

My ideal week taken from a screenshot of a spreadsheet, please excuse the lack of transcribing here as I think the main information here is also covered in my external accountability section

There are some goals that I haven’t put aside any weekly or morning time for but they can’t easily be chipped away with a daily/weekly habit.

Keep goals measurable but hard to achieve

Everyone seems to be talking about Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) for goal setting these days. One of the important things with OKRs is that they are hard to achieve. When you reflect back on your goals you should be able to say you hit up to 80% of your objective. If you hit 100% you actually set your goals to easy. For example, I’m going to work towards beating the overweight label but I’m not going to consider myself a failure if I only get halfway there. By listing up my ideal morning/week it gives me an ideal to work towards but by highlighting my minimum commitments I won’t beat myself up if I have a bad week or two.

External Accountability

There’s no point in setting vague goals that you don’t tell anyone about. To ensure external accountability with my goals I’m going to;

  • Pay for a personal trainer for a twice a week weight lifting session
  • Go climbing with my partner every Wednesday and Saturday
  • Pay for a publisher’s time to help keep me focused on writing

How will you go about goal setting for next year? What measures will you take to ensure accountability? Please let me know.

Mental Heath Update

I haven’t blogged about mental health for a while. Here’s an update on where I’m at. Overall; this week I’m feeling good. I’ve been experiencing a reasonable amount of fatigue/change recently which has made the last two weeks a little low.

Breakdown at the bus stop

reference

I had a mental breakdown at a bus stop a week ago because I was tired, cold, wet and was stuck waiting in the rain for bus for 15 minutes. I just cracked it, I’d had enough. I needed a good cry. Getting overwhelmed with emotions is fine, for me I just need to watch out when that sensation sticks around all day. This feeling didn’t stick around all day. So that’s some progress atleast.

Mindful Eating Practice

reference

I visited my psychologist yesterday morning to talk about developing a mindful eating practice. I will be using an app called Recovery Record to track my food and mood over the next two weeks and this will be shared with them, I will also be putting aside one meal a day to practice mindful eating. Mindful eating is where you practice dedicating all of your senses to the act of eating; what do you smell, feel, hear, see, think and taste while you eat? Can you take as much time as you need to really enjoy your meal? Can you practice dedicating all of your focus to eating rather than being distracted by everything else?

Meditation Practice

reference

Two weeks ago I started doing a meditation course with Nicho Plowman, one of the owners of Insight Timer (the company I’m working for). It’s a Vedic Meditation practice that is suitable for a busy lifestyle. It’s a silent mantra based and we are meant to keep up a 20 minutes twice a day routine. I’m currently meditating on the bus to work, in the evening in the office and wherever else I can get the time. I attempted meditation at the hair dressers when my partner was getting their hair cut. I didn’t exactly get a deep meditation but that’s the point of practicing in these loud and distracting environments. I had some negative emotions come up when I started, I would be overwhelmed with thoughts that would bring tears to my eyes but it’s not happening as much now. I’m generally keeping up the practice (I forgot completely to meditate on Sunday). I’m enjoying putting aside the time for it. I had been meaning to establish a meditation routine for ages.

Do you have a meditation or mindfulness routine? What works for you?

Are you Hungry? Try the Carrot Test

Have you ever found yourself with a strong desire to eat almost anything and thought to yourself, “why do I want eat?”, “Am I really hungry?”? Often the drivers for eating are emotions; we could be bored, stressed or feeling low. We could be looking for that quick comfort and unfortunately a lot of what we eat is unconscious; we do it without even thinking. It’s habit that feeds our desire to eat, here is an article on 5 reasons why you can’t stop eating.

Afternoon Boredom

I get this desire nearly every afternoon around 3PM when I’m at work, I just want to stuff my face. Sometimes anything will do. There’s been the occasion where I’ve pigged out on plain salada biscuits before. I’ve now started bringing baby carrots and baby cucumbers to work and sitting them on my desk for when that desire hits. I call it the carrot test. If I’m not hungry enough to eat something bland like a carrot/cucumber then I’m not really hungry. Sometimes I’m just bored/tired and looking to take my mind off work. I might be thirsty and confusing it for hunger. So after eating a carrot and having a glass of water I recheck with that desire. If it still exists, I’ll reach for some fruit. Carrots are my choice because they are a low energy density food. If I binge on carrots, how much damage can I really do?

Carrot from a farm
Mmm, carrots.

The Carrot Test fails when there’s chocolate

Carrots can’t help me in the face of chocolate. I will stuff my face when there are these tasty morsels floating around. Sometimes I can’t help myself. I’ve always struggled when I’ve been in situations where there was ample food around. At a social gathering I’d be tempted to try everything and go back for seconds or thirds. Having most of my stomach removed has helped quell this desire some. My stomach physically doesn’t have the space to try everything, it has helped me curb my behaviour a little. There’s still situations where I find myself loosing control of what I eat but now the damage I can do to myself is reduced. I no longer feel guilty when this occurs, I’m trying to practice self compassion with my thinking but it’s a slow journey.

How do you control those desires? What habits do you try to form around food?

Getting up on stage

I enjoy performing. Don’t ask me why. I can’t explain it. You could say it’s something to do with the rush, or the perception of adding value or entertainment for other people. I want to tell you a few stories about my adventures in performing. Do you want to improve your performances? I’m available for free consultations on improving technical presentations.

During High School

I was involved with nearly every extra curricular activity I could sign up for. I was in the school concert band; I played trombone. I can legitimately say, “this one time in band camp …”. I was the fat kid in school, there weren’t many other kids fatter than I. I once got up in front of my whole school dressed up in a Santa suit and played Jingle Bells on the trombone. Talk about a nerve racking, getting out of my comfort zone experience. I got a laugh at least. I was in an Auslan signing choir (Australian Sign Language) and a singing choir too. In the signing choir we would often perform to retirement homes in the area and our signature song was, “I believe I can fly” by R Kelly. I could still sign to that song. What does a signing choir performance look like? Check out this example on YouTube;

Watching that makes me want to sign up to an auslan class and pursue deaf poetry.

I was also in a musical. It was called Wolfstock, it was a 1950’s themed musical about a 16 year old boy called Jay, his parents had sold his soul to the devil and had to get to wolfstock (aka woodstock) before the next full moon or else he would remain a warewolf. I played Wolfman Jack in act 2; a character based on the DJ host by the same name, I even had my own song. I’m sure the musical was terrible. My mum has it on tape somewhere. I’m sorry mum for putting you through all of my horrible performances in school.

During Uni

I ran my own radio show on a community radio station called, “chat with an engineer”. I would interview engineers in our community and chat about the work they did. It was to help raise the profile of Engineering. I didn’t have the budget for the training course so I asked Engineers Australia if they’d paid for me to do the course. They did and I’m forever grateful for that. My biggest success was interviewing 2012’s Young Australian of the Year; Marita Cheng. She was visiting a high school as part of a Robogals visit and we were able to organise an interview.

I also started the Robogals Chapter in Tasmania. Robogals is a student run group who promote engineering and technology to young kids through lego robotics workshops with the goal of increasing female engineers. I taught robotics to over 1000 kids in tasmania in the 1.5 years I was involved with Robogals with next to no funding and while going through my first bout of chronic depression. I can’t understand how I was functioning, I wasn’t passing uni so let’s just say I wasn’t functioning very well. Teaching is another type of performance that I enjoy.

Professional Presentations

During my professional career the main performances I’ve been involved with are presentations. My most nerve wracking experience was getting up in front of the whole company during an all hands and talking about my struggles with depression. Getting that venerable in front of such a large crowd is another one of those big, “getting out of my comfort zone” experiences. It’s definitely made giving technical presentations easier. Interviews are another performance. A lot of people hate interviews, in a weird way I enjoy them. Having that opportunity to talk about my passions in software testing is what I enjoy. I am narcissistic. I remember doing a first year psychology 101 personality test during uni, I scored very highly on the narcissistic scale and I’m ok with that. It’s only an issue when it’s combined with a lack of empathy.

I’ve been involved with a few community bands since moving to Sydney. The Sydney homotones and Sunday Assembly being the main ones. I’m not actively involved with any now but I would love to join a community swing band. Or do some taiko drum classes. Or learn how to play the double bass. Garhhh, I can’t decide.

My favourite presentation has been my talk at YOW! Connected last year on using robots for mobile testing;

I was able to combine my passion for music, robots and mobile testing. #Winning at life.

I’ve collected a bunch of hints and tips on giving presentations. Reach out to me at sam[AT]thebughunter.com.au if you’d like a free consultation.

Back on the job market

I find myself back on the job market after a break up with Campaign Monitor. I didn’t successfully pass probation. It was a mutual thing and both sides of the discussion were adult about it. These aren’t easy conversations to have and it doesn’t serve any purpose to get angry and rage quit. I am a little sad to leave because I enjoyed the company and people but I wasn’t able to advocate for quality in a way that added the business value they needed from the role.

Depression and Job Hunting

When I was job hunting around 8-9 months ago, it took me well over 2 months to find a job and interviews with over 13 companies (blog). However in that situation I wasn’t in a rush and was willing to wait for something that looked like it would fit me well. The constant rejections were hard to deal with; especially when I had been experiencing a spell of imposter phenomenon and feeling like I was not good enough for anything. I also broke my ankle during these job hunting efforts which had a huge impact on my mental well being (blog).

My broken ankle contributed to a relapse of depression at the start of the year. Because of this I wasn’t able to give my 100% to the new job at Campaign Monitor and this negatively impacted the engineering’s team view of the Quality Coach role. Once your perception of value is seen in a non favorable light, it is very challenging to recover. You only get one shot at leaving a first impression and your reputation is built up on that. I didn’t do a great job when I started, then I tried a new team and a new process and saw some improvements. However there were still some doubts if this role was what the company needed and if it was the right fit for my skills. I went to a third team for the last 3 weeks but I feel like the decision had already been made by that point.

Keeping Track of Job Hunting

I used a spreadsheet in my previous job hunting efforts to help me keep track of where I was up to with every company;

spreadsheet of previous job hunting efforts

With this spreadsheet I noted the source of  the lead; I was relying on mostly LinkedIn and a technical recruiter from Opus. I noted down where I was up to in the interview process, excitement for the role (out of 5) and any follow up notes. I also noted the few companies who contact me after I had received a successful job offer.

Will I do the same thing this time? I’m not too sure. I’ve got the luxury of around 2-3 weeks for job hunting before the personal budget starts getting a little tight but it would be worth experimenting with the spreadsheet again this time.

What am I looking for in a new job?

This time round I have more confidence in my skills as a tester. Last time I wanted to quit testing and try something different (either Android Development or Product Manager). However now I know I love growing my reputation for being known as a passionate tester. In a few years time I’d love to be running my own company focusing on running workshops for technical testing and mobile apps (e.g. TDD and kotlin, Continuous Integration and iOS). I’m not there yet so I’m looking for a mobile app testing role while I work on workshops in my spare time.

I’d love to have a role with support for speaking at conferences. I’m speaking at Agile Australia on how to get more people involved with testing in a few weeks, Selenium Conf in India at the end of June on using robots for mobile app testing, CAST in Florida in August on stories in becoming a quality coach. I now have an anecdote where that didn’t work out for me so that should be an interesting talk.

Broken Ankle update

I broke my ankle just over 3 months ago now. It happened early December while indoor rock climbing (I fell off a wall). I’m recovering slowly and it’s nice to see the healing progress. It’s still really slow though. Before you ask about belay’s and harnesses, I was bouldering (so there weren’t any harnesses/belay’s) and instead of landing on the mat my ankle slipped between the wall and the mat. It was a freak of an accident and if I had fallen straight down it wouldn’t have happened. It’s only cause I swung out to try and reach for a hold, missed it and swung back in towards the wall.

My break was pretty bad. On the spectrum of ankle injuries; 1 = sprained ankle and 10 = complete ankle reconstruction I was about an 8 out of 10. It was a high impact fall, shattered my Fibula into 4 tiny pieces and dislocated my ankle. I had a plate, a dozen screws and 2 bolts in my ankle. I’ve had 3 surgeries so far. 2 in the first week in hospital, then 1 at the 12 week mark to remove the two bolts and to insert an artificial ligament so I could start walking again.

If you sprain your ankle, you might be advised to spend 2 weeks on crutches, then there’s a single break where you might just be put in a cast for 6 weeks and then there’s my accident. 12 weeks of no walking/weight bearing. I’ve read a few other blogs of other ankle injuries and it seems the average is around 6-8 weeks of no walking.

Phase 1: The no walking phase

I was getting around on a knee scooter for 12 weeks, the first couple of weeks were hard. I had my mobility taken away in an instant. It’s an easy thing to take for granted until you don’t have it anymore. There was also a reasonable amount of pain, throbbing and swelling. Also just always being tired (sleep is really good for healing though). I’m grateful that I had the support of family. My partner’s parents offered me their spare room while I recovered and my partner’s mum is a nurse. It was a great convenience and an offer I took them up on.

I’m also grateful for the public transport in Sydney, I was limited to the wheel chair options for transport. Sure it’s not perfect but I was able to get around on bus, light rail, ferry and train. It was pretty amazing. When you rock up at a train station you let one of the staff members know where you are going and they will pull out the ramp to let you on the train, they will also phone the station ahead to make sure someone is there with a ramp when you get off. So not every train station has staff 24/7 or has lift access but it’s still great to be able to have this as an option for getting around. The first time I took a bus on my own with my knee scooter I was just so nervous, I think I had a mobility induced anxiety attack. I had the same sensation getting on a packed light rail during peak hour. I got quite emotional (in a good way) when I actually got on the bus for the first time.

The first time I got in the pool I cried with happy emotions, it was great to feel more mobile. Not being able to carry almost anything sucks, everything requires just a little more planning and often it’s easier to go, “F%#k that” and not bother. Don’t bother about doing your choirs, grocery shopping will be hard. Even sitting in the kitchen with a cup of freshly made coffee will feel like the biggest achievement.

There were great highs and great lows. This phase has given me empathy for accessibility users of public transport and no envy of people who suffer from bi polar. Sure some of those highs felt great but I wouldn’t want anyone to go through the lows like I went through just to experience those highs. By the end of this phase I had gotten quite efficient with the knee scooter, I could role down the street at a reasonable pace.

Phase 2: The walking with assistance phase

After a few hours of getting out of surgery I was able to use an a walking frame thing to go to the toilet, it hurt a lot but it felt amazing to be walking again. The next morning I was walking in a moon boot around the ward unassisted by crutches/frame. I even went to minigolf that day. It was quite tiring though. Over the next 3 weeks I progressed from walking slowly with a cane and moon boot to being able to walk short distances around the house without aids. The first time I tried walking from home to the train station was complete torture though. The walk usually takes around 10 minutes. I was getting to a point on the knee scooter where I could get it done in roughly 10 minutes. The first time without the knee scooter it took me 40 minutes and every step was torture. It was slow going. Luckily I had the option of staying with my uncle’s while I recovered during this phase. I missed the knee scooter but I knew I couldn’t go back to it. They live a lot closer to a train station (just 2 minutes according to google maps). They also have a heated indoor pool which was amazing for recovery. I tried not to have unrealistic expectations during this phase but it still hit me like a brick wall. It was an adjustment going from the knee scooter to very very slow walking. It has been nice to see the progress but I somewhat thought it would be a little quicker.

Phase 3: Walking without mobility aids

Yesterday was the first day I walked to work without any aids, no moon boot and no cane and over 12,000 steps in one day. I’ll start proper physio in a few weeks to help build up strength and mobility back into the ankle and calf. I still can’t do a single leg calf raise on the bad leg, that’s how much strength I’ve lost in it. Walking is a little slow/tight but at least it doesn’t feel painful enough to want to take too many mild painkillers. I’m actually feeling a little tired/over it today but the feeling will pass. I’m constantly testing where the boundary is with the ankle and pushing a little out of my comfort zone.

Phase 4: back to “normal”?

The next phase should be, it feels mostly normal now. Where the idea of running/climbing/jumping don’t feel me with dread. I’m looking forward to getting back into an exercise routine because not exercising has really sucked. This broken ankle has had a huge impact on my mental health which was to be expected but I didn’t realize how much it would. I’m almost at the 16 weeks since the accident. It might take over 6 months to get back to a “normal” state. We will see but I’ll keep you posted.

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?