My Disease

2013 has been a rough year for me. Don't get me wrong: lots of wonderful things have happened or are about to happen, but my health has known better days.

In March I went to Lisbon to give a 2 hour lesson about Angular and Node.js, which I almost failed to give because my illness took the best of me. Thanks for the ones that endured the lesson and please realize that I was at 20% of my planned capacity.

In August I had to spend a nice 8 day stay at the hospital and in November I had to go under surgery, for which I'm still recovering.

I have an illness called Crohn's disease, a type of inflamatory bowel disease that may or may not cause a variety of symptoms. In my case it affected my Ileum region, sending me around once a year to a hospital to recover for some days.

I was first diagnosed 15 years ago, when I was 23 and starting my first job while finishing my last year at university. Since then I have sort of kept it a secret between colleagues and clients, afraid that it might somehow diminish my professional value. My family and close friends knew about it, but I tried to hide it from everybody else as a personal and secret weakness that I though I had.

But ever since the last crisis in August 2013 and the decision to finally give in and go under surgery, I made it public by tweeting about it. People, friends and followers kept asking me about it, and so I decided to come completely clean and explain exactly what my condition was.

Before, whenever I entered a crisis, I had to take some anti-inflamatory meds like Prednisone to stop the inflamation. This works to calm the inflamation down, but had severe side effects like insomnia, euphoria or anxiety. At the peak of it seamed to me that I could work for hours without the need to sleep more than 3 hours a day, an infinite source of creative energy was at my disposal (some of my opensource materials were indeed created under this condition), but my anxiety quickly became unbearable for others to support. It also has some other long-term side effects where your body swells because of the retained liquids. Not pretty.

Fortunately I only had a mild condition that, when uncontrollable, threw me for a week into the hospital every year or two, which is not too bad if I looked at fellow patients with a similar condition.

But the repeated inflamations degraded this one spot in my bowels, and finally it was time to take it out. The good news is that the doctor says that, after surgery my bowels are healthier than ever and that I may never see any further manifestation of the disease, at least for a decade or two.

The stress factor and the impact

My disease has made a severe impact in my profession: even though I'm a productive and responsible person, having to disapear for a week or two to go to the hospital in the mid of an important project is not beneficial at all to my work reputation and represented a significant risk to my employer, as you may imagine.

Since this is an autoimmune disease, stress factors make the illness worst. This made me seek less stressful positions. But first, let me define what stress is for me:

What stressed me the most were not deadlines or misbehaving systems, but frustration: Unrepairable and eternalized conditions which I have no power to improve and that have a direct negative impact in the product or the people that I have to deal with. This is what drives my stress.

My solution

Because of this I always tried to get jobs that would minimize my stress: not get too attached to a full-time job in a big and secure company where things are like they always were and little will change in the future and there is nothing you can do about it.

Instead I tried running my own company and later went freelancing, and whenever I got too frustrated with a project or client, I'd just get a new one. This does not mean I was job-hopping without a care: it meant that I always strived for the best possible situation where everybody wins. Once that condition was no long met, I tried improving things. If, after some time, that failed, it was time to move on.

Because, for me, life is a gift which you have to be thankful for and try to make the best of the few seconds you have on this universe. This can mean different things to different people: either relaxing all day at the beach, reading, writing, traveling or, for me, trying to satisfy an endless curiosity, learning new things, trying to make a positive impact on people's lives and be surrounded by interesting kind, and lovable people.

I realize that me and every one has little time to make the best of it: leading your life in a way to minimize risk, maximize safety and repeatability is not for me. This is what makes me stress.

New ideas or uncharted territory bring the best in me, that's where I get happy and giddy like a playful child.