As a 22 year old dealing with Anxiety for most of my life, I was always looking for new ways to manage my thoughts and stress levels. With anxiety, you can constantly find yourself overthinking, focusing on negatives, which ultimately fuels your body’s stress responses and can lead to an endless cycle that can feel almost impossible to break free from. Finding ways to deal with this is extremely important, Things such as Mindfulness and CBT can be very helpful with identifying your feedback loops, and challenging your negative thoughts allowing you to break the cycle.
One thing I have noticed with Anxiety is the tendency to ‘Pause’ not in a positive manner such as when practising Mindfulness, but a pause in which you find yourself engulfed in a stream of negative thoughts, or self-checking, sometimes even holding the breath in order to count heartbeats and make sure that everything is ‘OK’. Sometimes this can continue without the realization that you are doing it, as you are so focused on your worries.
During my second year of University, my Anxiety began to get the better of me, experiencing the occasional panic attack, but most noteworthy was the constant fear and stream of negative thoughts that began to plague my life. I tried many different things to help, following others suggestions, visiting the GP, etc. but the anxiety continued.
During this time, my sister was kind enough to give me her old Macbook Pro, I had always been interested in coding and app development, but I assumed it was too challenging or mathematical, after receiving the laptop I decided it couldn’t hurt to do some research and try building an app of my own. Little did I know I would stumble upon a tool that would give me a well-needed break from a lot of my anxiety, and improve my life.
I started researching how to create an iOS application, downloaded all the necessary tools, and thought about an app that I could create in order to learn as I went along. I was interested in Cryptocurrencies at the time and so decided on creating a cryptocurrency tracker application. Firstly I followed a short free course, to get the gist of writing code, it seemed challenging at first, but shortly I started to feel real satisfaction in understanding the semantics of how different coding languages function, and this opened my eyes to the unlimited possibilities that a few lines of code can bring.
I then started to work on my own application in Xcode, using Swift – a coding language. Starting very simply I created a blank screen, which contained a logo and a line of text with a number underneath it. The logo was for the Ethereum cryptocurrency and the app would pull the price of Ethereum from the internet and display it in the app. Getting it to work was an amazing feeling. Over the next few months, I worked on this every day, learning new ways to do things, learning to think logically and systematically and after many questions on Stackoverflow was able to create a functioning application that I am proud to have on the App store now.
Learning to code taught me to think in new ways, using logic and reasoning to think in a step by step basis, rather than jumping to conclusions or focusing on the negative, I would focus on how I WOULD make something work rather than why it wasn’t working or why I COULDN’T do something. Coding also allowed me to use the energy and thinking power that would usually be spent on something negative and anxiety fueling, to focusing on finding solutions for problems, there are many moments in the shower in which I would have too much time to think, and start building a foundation of anxiety for the day, which was replaced by Eureka moments when I finally thought up of a way to write the code to solve a problem that I had been facing in the app that I was working on.
Countless worrying hours were replaced by productive and meaningful, and extremely satisfying and fun hours of coding and problem solving, that satisfaction of using your own mind and creating something in your vision, that functions and people can use is great, and I am sure that this can apply to many other forms of work, but this is something that worked for me and helped improve my quality of life. From this, I decided to start my own business and work on other apps such as OpnMsg, an app where you can anonymously share messages, acting as a form of writing therapy, as sometimes I find that writing things out can be a form of relief.
Ultimately after my experience with Antidepressants, which due to side effects caused me to experience an extreme increase in anxiety and develop a panic disorder, and my experience in withdrawal, Coding was one of the only coping mechanisms I had left, in order to get me through this experience. My experience through withdrawal and reading about the experience of others inspired me to begin working on the BrainZaps! app, to help me get through my withdrawal by doing something that distracted me and I enjoyed, and to potentially help countless other people experiencing the same thing.
I am proud to work on BrainZaps! and am inspired by the stories I hear every day from others to continue working and create something that can really help, even if it helps in a small way it is worth it!
I have more stories to tell and can’t wait to share more about this journey here! Please share and follow!