Is web development bad for you? It feels like it to me.

Tue, May 14, 2013 at 9:05PM

I'm having the worst time right now doing any work at all.  I have seemingly permanent health issues with my eyes/neck/back, which are cutting my work days short and making computer work feel stressful most of the time.  I have managed however to get inspired enough on some personal projects and writing articles during the last few months.  These tasks that I enjoy most come to me so much easier then things that I have to discipline myself to achieve.   That is normal of course, but it seems like I have to progressively endure more stress doing computer work, where no stress used to occur at all.

It's easy to find yourself in a stressful situation where you've agreed to do a complex project, but you feel unable to perform the task when it comes down to it.  You end up missing the deadline and feeling really guilty about that all the time, since you probably have several such projects in this state if you managed to mess up since all your plans collide together into a heaping mess of incomplete crap.  Now, even if you are devoid of this situation and totally caught up, that doesn't mean you're free from stress.  Office work is very stressful, especially if you overdo it like I do.   I feel stress simply from doing any kind of computer activity.  I don't even need to have a client angry at me to feel it now.  This has become extremely annoying!

In your early 20's, it's hard to imagine and plan for the day when you will feel "old".  Now that I'm 31, I feel my mortality becoming a bigger concern as past injuries and the aging process develop into major annoyances.  I'm hardly close to death, yet nothing feels as easy as it was.  I compensate for my age by leveraging the experience I've gained over the years.  I'm more efficient with the time I spend, but that time spent comes at a greater cost now.  I find myself needing more time to rest and recover from physical and mental forms of stress.  If I neglect resting, the pain materializes in a worse condition.

I've tried to do a variety of exercise and take long breaks recently to combat the pain I'm experiencing.  Those activities seem to feel alright, but sitting in front of the computer doesn't feel very good anymore.  I can't remember having so much difficulty with the simple act of sitting as I do now.  I tried to improve my chair a few times, but this isn't compensating for the problems with my spine it seems.  I must have injured my back & neck surfing over a year ago, and this condition has just worsened over time.  I also found that my chair was leaning to the side for a long time, and I eventually replaced the chair after getting sick of using pillows and towels to compensate for it.   Even the new chair isn't not comfortable enough though despite being relative the best one I could afford (it's a cheap Office Depot clearance item).

Everyone has occasional motivation issues, but lately, I've had a ton of days where I wake-up feeling awful and not caring about much of anything to do with computers.  Which is very weird, because my mind has a ton of plans for computer work, but my body tells me no.  I've tried to listen to my body, and take some days off, but it seems like I need a much longer break from using any kind of computer device.

Because I'm so inactive with client work and work in general lately, there is no way I could afford the cost of seeking a proper diagnosis with doctors, let alone treatment.  I really don't have much faith in doctors.  I know a lot of people suffer from back pain, eyes, etc.  Office work is extremely bad for humans.  It's like going to the doctor when you're dying of lung cancer, yet you refuse to stop smoking.   How can one maintain a sedentary lifestyle without falling victim to the side effects?   I try to reduce the amount of hours I spend on the computer, but I am not very consistent with this yet.   I often have days where I'm on it over 12 hours still.

A year ago, I went for a few medical tests, which produced no results, yet I had to pay over $1000 cash in addition to my $126/month health insurance plan.   That had me so broke for months, that I have never considered going to the doctor since.

I also think I have some kind of other problem related to how I digest food, which messes with my brain way too much.  Like a mild form of diabetes or some imbalance with something else like thyroid or any number of things.   The doctor had previously said that I might need a thyroid medicine, but I never went back to confirm that being so broke and mad at the cost of finding that doctors charge a fortune to tell me there is nothing wrong with me.   My digestive issues cause a variety of persistent symptoms for many years now.  On a bad day, I'm totally useless for complex programming tasks. 

Recently, I felt like I'm more allergic to things more then before.  I had a great deal of issues with the air quality in my room.  I had to get an air purifier and keep buying higher quality filters.  I also removed a lot of the fabrics and furniture from the room and cleaned it more compared to before.  I have a dog that sheds, so it's harder to keep it clean.   I think I've fixed the problem with the air now at least.  It feels good to breathe cleaner air.

I feel pain/numbness sometimes related to pinched nerves or some kind of other internal problem.   You can go on like this for decades probably and still get work done, but it's annoying!    I've also relied on inspiration so much to determine what I work on, and when you can't get inspired by any kind of computer activity, it is depressing since the only priority that seems to matter is not working.   Even video games are often stressful for me.  I have games that I haven't played simply because I'm too stressed out to get into it.  I often get dizzy with fast moving games now as well.  When I was younger, this didn't seem to happen though.   It takes a long time of laying down before I feel relaxed at night.  It is frustrating to feel so broken that you can't do your job or the stuff you like.  What is the point of using a computer when it is the reason you feel bad?  Is it really necessary to stop using computers/sitting?

I had an eye twitch that lasted for a few months, and lately, I've felt a lot more eye strain.  I think my vision is changing, but it's not getting blurry.  It's just feels uncomfortable adjusting depth of vision and to stare at the nearby text.  This is something that is immediately apparent once I wake up now.   In the past, this sensation felt temporary when I worked too much.   I get the sensation of having worked a 14 hour day after having just worked a few hours now.

I don't eat a perfect diet, but at the same time, I do eat relatively healthy with a lot of vegetables and fruit with very little junk food snacks.  I can't seem to control my health just by eating something different.   If there was an easy food remedy, I would do it.

I rode my bicycle 25 miles 2 days ago and that felt fine.  I can go surfing for hours, play basketball for hours, but doing my job has become much harder.  I'm not unhealthy in terms of physical conditioning.  I'm just having to deal with a variety of eye, spine and digestive issues which make programming exceptionally difficult at times.   I still have good days, but there have been a lot of bad ones too.

I recently put a notice on my web sites that I'm not accepting new projects.  I removed some of the sales language to discourage people from trying to solicit me while I try to figure out how to get things back in order.

I'm not suffering as bad as this may sound, but I'm definitely not the same person I used to be.

I really don't want to quit programming.   I could do any number of easier jobs for more or less pay, but I really like this stuff.  I often choose to program over playing games because it is so fun to me.

When you are in pain or very stressed, it is so much easier to feel self-destructive or to stop caring.  I have let a lot of time pass without making money and money just won't inspire me.   It feels like I'm lying to everyone if I sell them any kind of web marketing.   I don't really believe in the value of the work most of the time.  Web development only works out favorably at greater levels of automation where you get thousands of customers or by making the web more free & open somehow.   These custom web sites ideas increasingly feel like a waste of time to me.  I've set goals for making my work mean something, and that means I have to spend a lot more time not doing what clients want to get there anytime soon.

Trying to change the way you make money is a very slow process.  You become addicted to the old way, and breaking the addiction requires working harder and accepting less in return.  I'm totally ok with having a modest lifestyle.  I just feel increasingly conflicted when I'm asked to build something that doesn't support long term goals especially when my health is not at its peak.  I've already been doing web development for over 12 years, and I'm not getting any younger.  It's important to set priorities that lead me to producing meaningful work.  I feel that I'll arrive at a place that is less selfish, and more rewarding this way.   There is a great deal of stress trying to achieve custom work on a deadline.  The result is just not worth it.   Great software is built and re-built over many years.  I push more towards acting like a proper software company instead of a custom web development company as each day passes.  I hope that I can continue to cope with my human failings, and people appreciate the ways I choose to express myself and give back.

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