August 15, 2013 • In web :: Features
Web coding & Anxiety
Erica Lenti discusses her personal journey with anxiety and the benefits of web coding.
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I have suffered from generalized anxiety disorder for six years.
I had my first panic attack at 13. I couldn’t seem to keep my social troubles, homework and family life in check. It all became a balancing act – one I was struggling to keep up.
One day, standing in the bathroom of my North Toronto high school, I felt that familiar pain in my chest, as if a subway train were rushing over my lungs. I couldn’t catch my breath, couldn’t do much else but cry.
The attacks never stopped.
My anxiety was not uncommon: At least 10 per cent of adolescents (ages 12 to 19) in Canada experience some form of mental illness, and young women are twice as likely as men to develop generalized anxiety – characterized by excessive worrying for more than six months at a time.
For those who identify as transgender, the numbers are even higher: Because they are more likely to develop anxiety and depression, one Ontario study found 45 per cent of trans people had attempted suicide, with trans youth at the greatest risk.
However, only one in every five youth suffering with mental illness in Canada, receives treatment. My own anxiety went untreated for years. As a teenager, coping was a solitary undertaking.
Finding an activity that could help me counteract my anxiety was key, something most with anxiety are encouraged to do. But while coding quickly became a form of therapy for me, it is not a ‘quick fix’ for others. These anxiety-busting activities are personal and unique to everyone. Sometimes, an activity alone isn’t enough to cope with anxiety, and other, more traditional forms of therapy – seeing a psychologist or counsellor, exercise and lifestyle changes and in some cases, taking medication – must be used in conjunction with these activities.
The hobby seemed out of character to those closest to me. I was always the creative type and spent my childhood writing poems and short stories, submitting them to children’s literary contests and dreaming of life as an author. Coding, on the other hand, seemed rigid, devoid of creative agency. My parents deduced that it was something better suited for my older brother, who excelled at math and science.
Better yet, my family had never heard of any self-identified female computer geeks.
But the unorthodox nature of coding is what drew me in. I found comfort in the logic and rationality of code; there is always an answer, always a way to fix what is broken. The lessons rooted in code contradict everything I ever learned about writing: There are rules, they are fixed and they will make everything I compile better.
As opposed to the events of my own life, coding brought about a sense of order, one the calmed the whirlwind of anxiety growing inside of me.