I spent nearly 40 years in cybersecurity, longer than almost any other expert on the planet, and there right from the start. I was traveling the world, working for governments, the military, the intelligence community, even dared to take on the NSA.
But that forty years was not quite as long as the 50 years I spent wrestling every single day with nearly half a dozen untreated mental illnesses, demons that shackled and tormented my every minute.
Which resulted in 30 years of chronic stress, in large part from trying to hide my mental illnesses so that they wouldn’t derail a career in a world that had little tolerance for mental illness.
And all leading to catastrophic burnout, complete mental and physical exhaustion, and one awful day sitting on the edge of a bed in Wyoming Ohio, and once again, this time very earnestly, gun loaded and safety off, considering suicide.
I resisted the temptation, once again, but realized that I would probably not survive the next time. I knew I had to do something, my wife said that if I wouldn’t, she would. But instead of going into the default state of therapy and medications, I would first use this very analytical threat-modeling mind of mine to learn about what I was dealing with, why my brain seemed to be so different, and what my real options would be.
I closed one door so I could make it through another. I turned my back on my award-winning career, and decided to focus instead on the mind. Mine and others.
I spent the last three years learning everything I could about the mind and the brain. About mental illness and mental wellness. About neuroplasticity, neurogenesis, and neurotransmitters. I have to admit I had a good head start though. It’s been more than 30 years since I bought my first book about the brain, called The Mind Machine, and I still have a copy today.
I started applying my new-found awareness to the PsyberResilience project, to help address the chronic stress and burnout that’s now rampant across the cybersecurity industry – more than three quarters of cybersecurity professionals admit they would like to quit the entire industry because of the stress.
I started a project with NIST to explore how our future smart cities could be partners in the mental health of the people living, working, and walking through them. From sensors that could recognize changes in mental wellness and engage to help, to buildings designed to be friendly to the mind.
I’m working on a global project to help make communities more emotionally resilient and better able to cope with increasingly stressful events, from political and social unrest, to climate change and natural disasters.
And I started working on Get a Grip, the largest collection of educational videos on everything to do with the mind and the brain, mental wellness and brain health, and how we can so easily exert such a tight and healthy grip on them if we can only figure out how.
To anyone who wants to listen, I share how I was finally able to fix the damage of the 50 years of mental illness and 30 years of chronic stress, tame all the chaos, get that grip, in just five minutes. Even though it sounds like a cheesy infomercial for fixing mold and mildew – remove decades of grunge and grime in just five minutes and with a little elbow grease.
But it’s true, it happened, just like that, and it continues to work. Even for a card carrying, dyed-in-the-wool, born, bred, and buttered cynical old Irisman.