The Truth about my Cliff

My dad (and probably a cousin or two) is going to hate me for telling this story, but here’s the truth about my history that led me to a serious brain disease and disability now:

Back in my 20’s, I worked 10-12 hours a day on my part-time MBA and full-time career for 3.5 years. Then, did a startup, Shopseen (which was backed by 500 Startups), where I was working a ton…14-16 hour days for a year. Life was going great! 28-29 years old; Co-Founder of a venture-backed company, newly minted millionaire, just completed my MBA, and first-time homeowner in SF. Really enjoying all of it including working my ass off! Something cropped up at the tail end of the startup though.

My dad got diagnosed with Interstitial Lung Disease (i.e. ILD) a month after his retirement (that slowly suffocates people to death within 2-5 years and has no cure) back in 2/2014. Then, I, honestly, stopped working on the startup because I felt overly depressed. My other founder, logically, booted me out because I wasn’t really working for a few months thereafter, runway was very short, and I hadn’t told him what was going on with me personally. On that last month, my dad’s oldest sister passed away from the same disease…I distinctly remember crying that night about her (she was really a really joyful and awesome aunt) and thinking I was an idiot for going the entrepreneurial route rather than spending more time with my parents.

From what I remember, that feeling continued for months including in the middle of interviews. It took ~2.5 months to find work. Through that process, I went back to reset: volunteered as a tutor to underprivileged kids, reconnected with friends to seek advice, ended up meeting my first girlfriend, and getting a good PM job at a good company on 6/2014. Life was pretty on track.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. The company, Granicus, decided to move to Denver about 3-4 months into me being there. So, I had to make a decision to leave my dying dad (from what I thought at the time), my girlfriend, and my close friends in Silicon Valley for Denver to keep the job. Instead, I decided to move back closer to home and find work around there at Ooyala.

Work at Ooyala was promising early on just like at Granicus, but I really needed a break, have something stable, and to slow down. I didn’t get that due to the ability that I showed at work (was doing very well early on and getting a ton of opportunity). I didn’t understand it at the time, but I should have been seeing a therapist. While my health got worse, I also started getting weird allergic reactions to tofu which I hadn’t been allergic to previously for years (told my family at the time)…and then a whole host of other symptoms…that led to a serious brain disease. It’s a sad story.

In hindsight, a mix of un-forced life factors, stress, a predisposition, and lack of early treatment for Depression really messed up my promising life for a number of years and, probably, going forward. It caused a lot of grief and uncertainty to people that care and love me as well. On the other hand, my dad’s doing well and daily breathing exercises help him, my mom, and me a ton ever since I’ve been at home. Mindfulness really works! Also, so does medication, therapy, good diet, exercise, and talking to people through it. I’m out of my first episode and its well-managed as well as perfectly livable now.

…this is the real story. It’s the honest one with a clear mind after so many years. Time to move forward; with better living and no allergies.