Dan's Musings

Anxiety, Depression, and Their Effects on My Hobbies

My chief hobby is collecting hobbies. Seriously. I have learned so many things over the years in hopes that they would stick:

  • Programming
  • HAM Radio
  • Woodworking
  • Knitting
  • Knitting Needle Manufacture
  • Knifes and Knifemaking (didn't quite make one...yet)
  • Chess
  • Go

However, a couple of them have stuck. Programming has been evergreen in my life, though it has waned in the last few years. The pandemic saw a seismic shift in my hobbies, because of all the anxiety I was going through at the time. Lately, I have been having a bout of depression, and my hobbies have changed again.

I think that I have three hobbies that have really stuck, and which one is dominant depends on my mood. When I am bored, I program. When I am exhausted, I watch TV. When I am anxious, I knit. When I am depressed, I play chess or Go. With all these hobbies, there is one theme: they are portable, and help me move back into balance with my mood. That is why I think they have stuck.

Programming has been the dominant force in my life hobby-wise for years. I will do it more or less depending on the week, depending on how much creative energy I have had to pour into my job that week. If I have had to think hard at work, I'm more likely to watch TV when I get home. This was how I lived when I worked at SlingTV from 2016 through 2017 and into 2018.

I kept on it at Verisk, but Verisk changed me. I started there 2018 or so. There was much less talking to people at work, and much less work to do in general. I am an extrovert, and found this out keenly when I didn't have as much dialog at work as I used to have. I took to going to my brother in law's in the evenings to talk to him somehting like twice a week for two hours. I needed the interaction to stay sane.

My hobbies changed too. Programming kept me sane for a while, but as the pandemic began and then dragged on, I was even more isolated by working from home. Further, I had less and less work to do. This was because I was in an ill-favored department, the VM department, which people in the company associated with on-prem deployments. As the company was moving to the cloud, the work dried up. These two facts together -- reduced work and interaction -- served to cause acute mental health problems. I became incredibly anxious.

I had picked up knitting in 2019 shortly after I started at Verisk, but this hobby really bloomed and flourished during this time. Knitting calms. I was able to use it to cope with my anxiety. I knitted a hoodie, two sweaters, a double-knitted scarf, a hat, two pairs of gloves, and two pairs of socks in the time between 2020 and 2022.

I also sought psychological and psychiatric help during this time, to great effect. Always seek medical and professional help when anxiety and depression become acute.

Switching jobs away from Verisk did wonders for my health. I am at Angel Studios now. (By the way, Verisk as a company is awesome, would recommend. Just the particular place I was didn't serve me well.) Being closer to the "startup" end of the spectrum, there was lots of work to do and lots of interaction to have. I was able to improve my medication and got back into programming around this time. To my chagrin, my knitting hobby has suffered. (I still have three sweaters to finish!) However, I have been happier.

For some reason though, I have been more depressed lately. These things are unpredictable. Nothing at work has changed too drastically, either. I'm still trying to figure it out. At any rate, I have seen another shift in my hobbies. I am not in the mood to program or knit lately, but I can't seem to get enough or Go or Chess.

Chess is literally crack. I have had to uninstall the chess.com app off of my phone in order to preserve my home and professional life. Even when I'm happhy, if I let it, it can become all consuming. There is something wonderful about learning new ways of playing it. Go is similiar; it is a turn-based strategy game that is easily playable on a phone, has a strong community, and is just as complicated to get right or more. These are the only things that interest me when I'm depressed, if anything interests me at all. Depression is the most dangerous mood.

It's sad, because I want to knit more, and I want to program more. I just don't know what to choose sometimes, but at least they all serve a purpose. The hobbies that have stuck are always available and keep my balanced.