How depression killed my dream project

Milo Xeon, 2020

Here’s a story about how depression killed my magnum opus dream project.

It all started back in 2018. I saw the Launchpad app and wanted to create a product that allows you to build an Awwwards-level website just as effortlessly as you can make music with Launchpad.

Long story short, I failed. My depression lead to lack of mental resources to build such app. Here’s my story.

It all started with this pitch I wrote about Project Orca, named after a majestic apex predator:

I saw that YCombinator was open for projects and I recorded the pitch video. Needless to say it wasn’t accepted. Manic episodes already started at that time but I wasn’t aware of what they really are and what they’ll lead to.

But I didn’t need the money they give, I could build such an easy project myself because later I decided to cut the original full-blown dynamic functionality to just the static landing pages generator with a hosting.

I read The Lean Startup and summarized it for myself:

I was working with Alexander Isora to grasp some of his experience to create a PR strategy. Here’s what I come up with after:

Orca was renamed to Thepresence. The design process started with this postcard:

I found a great story on Getautopsy and the particular paragraph of this story really got to me. I pinned it on top of the Notion document where all the work was happening. Here it is:

I got a Wacom drawing device and completed several graphic design courses from Calarts. Here’s some of my work during that period:

Later I decided to cut out the hosting and custom domains functionality, allowing to just create a website and export it as HTML.

I started to research animations. Long story short, here’s a Bezier timing function parameters that I found to be the smoothest and overall the most appealing one:

0.22, 0.61, 0.41, 1.08

I started coding the backend. Here’s a repo. There’s also some React frontend for slides picking and sorting.

🤖 Repo link

Researching Awwwards I understood that appealing graphic design isn’t universal, and for graphic design to be good it probably should be individually created for the content.

At that point I was just building a website generator with a somewhat generic design, just not as “trendy” as the existing ones and more of a modernist, hipster one.

I hired Ruletik – a very talented graphic designer. All of the graphics you see here except for the original postcard and my graphic design course materials are created by him.

Here’s some of the the blocks that he created:

You can have the experience of launching popular products, you can have a talented team and skills to manage it, you can have the polished idea and strategies that are proven to work. You can have all this at once, but when you have a mental illness like depression, your thought process itself can be impossible.

I was caught in a downward spiral of irrational guilt which you can’t fight by yourself. It’s just there and there are no arguments or reasoning to break it. I can code and I have the experience of building an entire complex product alone for the company and refactoring legacy code that makes no sense, but then I had sleep problems and was just sitting there, trying to implement the simplest authorization and failing. I could build such a thing in like half an hour, but when you’re depressed, it just doesn’t work. You can see the different letters of code on your screen but you can’t read it, you just don’t understand what’s going on in the code you just wrote. Examples on GitHub don’t help either as you are unable to comprehend them.

Receiving every new block from a designer was a nightmare. No matter if it was actually great or not, voices in my head were already shaming me as if my product was already released and failed miserably. I was seeing nightmares about tens of thousands of downvotes on my release page with comments that shamed me. I was seeing that I came to the job interview later and they just laughed at me for my failed product.

The power of will can do nothing with depression. It’s caused by a chemical imbalance inside your brain, so there’s no thought process you can establish to escape such a state. Existing medical treatment strategies weren’t effective enough in my case, so I’m still on my therapy.

As I was unable to complete the product, I decided that it’s better to write a story about it and end it all rather than to continue the fight I couldn’t win. Several of my friends also have depression and are trying to build their products so at least my story could be useful.

As I published the story, I felt relieved. This was a great experience and I have no regrets.

Lessons learned

I regret nothing.

Thank you!