As 2014 progressed, I found out about mental health, and what it can do to you. As I attended the Open Sourcing Mental Illnesses talk by Ed Finkler at TrueNorthPHP in November 2013 a lot of Ed’s stories felt uncomfortably close to me. That which I had thought was part of life had a name. And something could be done about it. As I attended the Mental Health Summit at php[tek] in 2014 and heard the stories of more people with mental health issues I decided it was time to get help. I started talking to my wife about it, and my doctor directed me to a therapist.
Some of those sessions were hard. I scheduled them during days I was not really supposed to do anything, because sometimes I’d come back from a session and be drained of energy in such a way that I literally could not do anything afterwards.
Up until that point I was doing a lot of conferences. Mostly as a speaker, sometimes as a delegate. I decided that it was time for a break. I would not do any conferences, with the exception of conferences I was invited to do a keynote at (which was still something I had never done and really wanted to do). And so as PHPNW14 was over, I headed home with the plan to take that time to save some energy and be back at the whole conference adventure starting at PHPNW15.
Not doing any conferences taught me a couple of things. First of all, it taught me that conferences, as much fun as they are, take a lot of energy. The result of not doing any conferences for a year was that I had a lot more time and energy for other things. I have the utmost respect for some of the regular speakers that do multiple conferences in a row and are still able to have a life. I definitely learned that even with my modest amount of conferences every year, it was actually too much. As it turned out, low energy had a bad effect on my mental health. As I’d get into conferences again, I should do less conferences. Not an easy thing to do, but in the end, (mental) health is more important.
Another thing I learned though is how much of a family the PHP community is to me. As months went by without attending conferences, I realised how much I missed meeting the people from the community. PHP community members are like those family members that live far away and you don’t speak to often. If you don’t talk to them at all anymore, you start missing them.
Despite the occassional
riot strong discussion in the community, the PHP community is awesome. During my year off, I had 2 occassions to meet the family: I was invited to keynote at the unKonf in Mannheim and I attended Dutch PHP Conference. Those occassions to meet the family were fantastic, and made me realise how much I missed the people in that family.
If you have never been to a conference, I urge you to make it a new years resolution to attend one. If you’ve been at a conference before or are a conference regular: Consider the amount of awesome people around you when you’re at a conference. Thank you, PHPamily, for being so incredibly awesome and supportive of all members.