Category Archives: life

Open Sourcing Mental Illness

Open Sourcing Mental IllnessAt PHP Tek 2014, I saw a set of talks organized by a guy named Ed Finkler. This included a talk by Greg Baugues and Paddy Foran. They really opened up and talked about their own mental health issues including anxiety, depression and more. There was not a dry eye in the house. I’m not going to tell their story. That’s their to share. What I am going to share is how it affected me and my story.

Reason I’m blogging about this now is that I recently had a chance to interview Ed and post that to Code to Live.

I’ve always joked about having ADHD but it was always just a joke. My wife, Phoebe, was talking to someone (I don’t remember who) and they recommended that I read a book called Delivered from Distraction.  The first thing that I did when the book came in was the self diagnosis and wow did I score highly on that. The one set of questions that I missed on were the ones about relationships. I got lucky and married a very supportive wife. One of the big things that I learned was that one of the dark sides of ADHD is that people with it suffer from low self-esteem and depression. While I’ve suffered from this myself, I had never attributed it to ADHD and while I joked about it, I hadn’t thought that I actually had it or had any idea how to deal with it until I read the book. And very importantly, I was making the biggest mistake that most people make here – I was trying to deal with it on my own rather than seeking help.

Shortly after this I went to a therapist who specializes in ADHD. He worked with a phycologist and between the two, I was officially diagnosed with ADHD in 2008. I was prescribed with Adderall. The good news is that I knew what that was because I had read about it and the upsides and the side affects. There are two basic types of ADHD meds, anti-depressants and stimulants. They work very differently and sometimes one works better for one person than the other. If you suffer from ADHD, you should work with your mental health professional(s) to figure out what’s going to work for you.

This happened in 2008 but the reality is that I didn’t talk to people other than good friends until 2014 because I was ashamed about it. Ed, Greg and Paddy showed me that we need to talk about mental illness and take away the stigmas. That’s the only way that we can actually create a supportive and healthy environment. The worst thing that we can do is try to suffer in silence and not seek help.

If you want to learn more, if you’re suffering or are not sure if you’re suffering a mental health issue, there are resources up on Ed’s site at

What is ¡Pura Vida!

I recently got back from an amazing trip to Costa Rica. It was absolutely amazing and has changed me (I hope) forever and for the better. Unfortunately it wasn’t 31 days, but rather it was only 8 days. However I’m taking on a writing challenge of writing something every single day for 31 days straight. I decided to write about the change in my life…

¡Pura Vida! is the Costa Rican way of life. Translated it’s “pure life” which sounds pretty simple but in practice it goes much deeper. Most of the time folks look at it as just like a “hang loose” or something like that. But it goes a lot deeper than that.

It started in a 1956 film from Mexico called Pura Vida in which the main character said the catch phrase all the time as an expression of unbridled enthusiasm. The movie was a hit and the phrase started spreading. It was slow but by the 1970s, it was all over Costa Rica. It was even officially recognized in dictionaries in the 90s.

The phrase really means that life is wonderful, that there is always someone who is less fortunate that you and we are all in this together. This pervasive outlook on life is outstanding and something that more of us need to adopt.

As I looked around Costa Rica, I saw some real poverty but everywhere I looked I saw amazing generosity, joy and community. Jeremy Sublet and I were driving through a small town and stopped for lunch. The town obviously didn’t have any money and everywhere I looked I saw joy and love whether it was couples walking in the park or having lunch together or kids playing in the streets. At the end lunch, we were headed back to the car when one of the guys at the bar held up his beer to us and I heard that phrase for the first time – “¡Pura Vida!”.

At the time I didn’t understand what it meant. But I laughed and said “¡Pura Vida!”.

Now that I understand more about it, I look at my life and think about all of the times when I’m wallowing in self pity. Yes, I have hardships in my life. But there are so many people who have so many more real troubles in their life.

Over the next 31 days, I’ll be writing about ¡Pura Vida! and how I’m going to be trying to incorporate it into my life.

Deciding to go to Costa Rica

Justin Bronder in a boat at Rio Clara

Justin Bronder in a boat at Rio Clara

The first time that I met Justin Bronder, he was just back from a trip that he acted like was the trip of a lifetime. He showed me amazing pictures of obscure birds and crazy little monkeys. Actually, the first picture that I saw was of a monkey’s behind as it mooned the camera. I thought he was nuts, that he was was awesome and that we’d be friends all at the same time. Turns out I was right on all accounts.

Fast forward a year and I know for a fact that Justin has got one of the biggest hearts that I know. And amazingly, he headed back to Costa Rica and invited me to come with him. Something in Costa Rica had touched him and he wanted to share that with more people.

The restaurant at Copa de Arbol at night.

The restaurant at Copa de Arbol at night.

While I was excited to go, I really didn’t know what to expect. Justin had talked about the both the jungle and 5 star resort and pointed me at the hotel web site – When I looked at the web site, I saw that it was both – a 5 star resort in the middle of the jungle. There were some other things that were fun. The resort is right on the edge of the Corcovada National Part which is a green zone. There’s no roads to the property so everything is water taxi or hiking. That made me even more excited.

I talked to my wife and got permission to go.

Honestly though, I didn’t spend enough time researching Costa Rica. That was a failing on my part.But I didn’t look at the amazing country that I was about to go to other than seeing it’s in Central America. I spent a little time reviewing my pathetic Spanish. “Gracias”, “Hola”, “Adios”, “Caliente”, “Frío”,  “Uno, “Dos”, “Tres”…  I spent some time looking at my camera gear, picking up waterproof backpacks (I picked up an awesome one – Phantom Aquatics Walrus 25 Premium Waterproof Backpack Dry Bag) and the like.

It was all completely selfish but the good news is that despite this failing, I was ready to start packing for the trip.