The biggest career risk I've taken and how I found the courage take it - Saron Yitbarek, Code NewbiesFeatured

What's the biggest risk you've ever taken in your career and how did you build up the courage to do it?The biggest risk I ever took in my career was deciding to take medication for my anxiety and bipolar disorder. I’d been diagnosed with general anxiety and bipolar disorder a while ago, and I decided I wanted to try treating it through lifestyle changes instead of medication. I ate better, exercised daily, slept more regularly. Months passed, and things seemed, not perfect, but under control. Then I started getting panic attacks. They came more frequently. Sometimes, they were triggered, but often times, they seemed to come out of nowhere. For about two months, I had a panic attack almost everyday. I couldn’t get work done. Every time I opened my laptop, I felt my chest tighten, and minutes later I couldn’t breathe. I tried to brute force my way through it. Brute force has been my go-to strategy for a long time, and I tried to be strong enough and just push past, but it wasn’t working.If felt like medication was my only choice. The very idea of taking drugs filled me with shame. Often times, you feel worse before you feel better, and I told myself I was afraid of the possible side effects. But the truth was, I was ashamed that I couldn’t figure this out on my own. I was angry that my feelings were running the show, keeping me from being the clear headed, entrepreneur badass I wanted to be. I was embarrassed that I couldn’t keep my emotions under control.This doesn’t make sense. I graduated with a degree in psychology, and I’ve always taken mental health seriously. I would never judge someone for being on medication. In fact, I’d be proud of them for tackling the problem head-on. But for some reason, that logic didn’t apply to me. I felt like I was giving up. And I don’t give up.I started taking medication. I swallowed my pills with shame, and braced myself for the side effects. I was worried they would make me even more unproductive, would keep me away from my business even more. And in the beginning, it did make things harder. But once my body got used to it, it saved me. I’m more productive and more healthy than I’ve been in a very long time. And I can see the effects of it in my business.The biggest takeaway for me isn’t that medication is great, and to be fair, lifestyle changes and therapy were huge components as well. The takeaway is that the tools you love don’t always work. My tool was always pushing through. No matter what the challenge was, you put your head down and push until you win. That was always what worked for me. But then it stopped working. Accepting that and ceding control to something else was terrifying for me, but it allowed me the opportunity to grow as a person and an entrepreneur. It gave me a chance to try a new tool that ultimately helped my business as much as it’s helped me.Saron Yitbarek is a developer and CEO of CodeNewbie, a supportive community of programmers and people learning to code. On the CodeNewbie podcast she interviews incredible people in tech. She’s also a prolific public speaker and publishes a weekly personal newsletter. Prior to that she worked at Microsoft managing a new tech training program called Tech Jobs Academy.
Hi Elphas – as a reminder – this is part of our new public posts series sharing conversations with women across tech on the topic of #careergrowth. Please share your perspectives and thoughts in the comments below.Saron, thanks for sharing this powerful and vulnerable insight with us.
Saron, I love the way you explained the mental struggle you experienced in coming to terms with managing your brain health. I try to advocate for brain health by asking, would you have a problem with taking insulin if you were a Type 1 diabetic? I manage my health with medication and most recently, lost someone very close to me because of their brain health degradation resulting from not taking medication because of all these ego-based, incorrect connotations related to meds. I am so happy that you are exemplifying the alternative and more healthy (for you) option. You help yourself and everyone around you too for the better. Such a beautiful journey!
"The takeaway is that the tools you love don’t always work." Lessons for makers. 👏🏼
So true!
It takes incredible courage Saron to find and try something new and then to write about it. Well done. Your story is inspiring and will help others try new tools for new challenges.
Your story and the decision to choose a new tool are so inspiring. It reminded me of a book in which the author, who is an exec coach, wrote that many execs need to abandon the tools that got them to their place in order to make the next leap. I want to have your quote framed by my desk. Thank you for sharing such a vulnerable story with us.
I love that! I guess my question is now: how do you search for and find the right tool?
Yeah, that's a hard one, and everyone has their own method. My go-to would be 1) listen to my guts and intuitions, and explore those and see where they lead. 2) Have a 3rd perspective. Speak to a mentor or a coach and get some outsider insights. I'm someone who also talks out-loud when I'm thinking or brainstorming, so having people to bounce ideas off with me is always helpful.
thank you for sharing this inspiring story! life is so fluid and constantly evolving, and we never know what's next. recognizing that change was needed is a strength in itself.
Hi Saron, In my humble opinion, you should work on your resilience to tackle the anxieties. The medicine quickly becomes a placebo and I'd advise you to take on a more sustainable strategy - to master your mind so that you don't need medicine. Personally I would take anxiety as a clue that there is something that frustrates me, rather than use medication - especially that it was never your first choice. That means deep inside, you know better. I wouldn't push through those attacks, because that's ignoring them and they don't like to be ignored.. I've worked with a couple people with anxieties where after a single session the anxieties would be gone for weeks, and they get a tool to deal with their particular anxiety from me so that they can use them as needed. Unless you handle the root cause of your anxiety, it will keep coming back, and growing, causing consecutive diseases. I know it sounds harsh, but even if you don't like this, I felt like I had to warn you. I'm saying this with love. I hope you're doing great!