The Brain: My Barrier to Learning

Hey everyone, my name is Chris and I experience mental health issues on a daily basis.

Now that I have that out of the way, let me tell you my story. Maybe, five or so years ago I was diagnosed with having O.C.D. (obsessive compulsive disorder), depression, and anxiety. I work in one of the WORST fields to be in when it comes to experiencing mental illness on a daily basis, trust me, fighting with your thoughts and processes is not fun, yet I still push through as hard as it is somedays.

It hasn’t always been this way. I have been building on the web for 22 years and for the better part of a decade I have struggled with these issues.


As many of you know, or don’t know, the biggest issue I deal with is grasping and retaining JavaScript knowledge. I am NOT a JavaScript developer, that doesn’t mean I am not a developer, I am not a “designer” either. To paraphrase Angelina Fabbro:

If you write code you are a programmer: The end!

I liken myself to being able to do both. I have designed and built those experiences in code my whole life. Flat out, I AM a developer and to be specific I am a senior ui developer that focuses on all aspects of the front end stack, except JavaScript. I write code 95% of the day, 5 days a week, and when I am at home, I am also writing code.

When you pigeonhole someone that has mental issues into thinking they are any less of a developer, the chances of them learning “new” things makes it that much harder, the struggle is real, trust me.

New & Shiny

Everyday when I come home from work and jump on my machine a few thoughts race through my head.

  1. What is the next project I will attempt to build?
  2. When will I pick up that project that I put on the back burner?
  3. What language, framework, library should I use next.

The third question is the kicker. I have come home from work with racing thoughts that transition to learning Vue to React to Angular. These thoughts are horrible. I feel trapped in a cage of learning and I can’t get free.

Vue, React, and Angular

Just the other day I came home, wanting to build something in Vue and maybe using GraphQL and did a total 180° and tried installing Gatsby again because my brain said, “No you must learn Gatsby, because it uses React and GraphQL.” Really brain? You couldn’t just let me focus on ONE thing and ONE thing only?

In that same thread, my mind goes back-and-forth with learning some type of state management tool. I can’t physically tell my brain to slow down and focus. It doesn’t work that way.


The way I fix this is I don’t. I don’t know how to just steadily focus on one thing and one thing only when it seems every company out there wants you to know React, Vue, Redux, Vuex, Angular, AngularJS, Apollo, GraphQL, Elm, Ember, etc.

This is not the way it should be and it makes it that more difficult for someone like myself to learn anything new.

Being able to grok the language itself, VanillaJS, will continue to also be a struggle because in my mind, that may not be reality, you can’t learn anything listed above UNLESS you know JavaScript the language, front-to-back. I know personally this is not a true statement, BUT my mind doesn’t AND that is the underlying problem.

Where to go from here?

That is a great question. To be honest. I don’t know. I will continue to fight with my mind and thoughts until something pans out. At this point, giving up seems to be the best option. The constant daily fighting and struggling to learn is starting to burn me out and with all I do outside of work with community and speaking, I can’t let that get to me.

My questions to you are, have you experienced this before? How did you overcome your brain taking charge in order to learn something new? How did you maintain that focus of ONE subject without your mind letting another barge through and quickly make you shift gears when all it is doing is putting the brakes on each and every time? If you don’t know how to build something from scratch, how do you learn and retain that knowledge?