How to Survive a Coding Bootcamp with a Brain Disease

As I finish up my time here at Flatiron School in Denver, I realize that I’ve faced some problems and situations that perhaps my peers have no way of understanding. For example: trying to learn JavaScript while being given an intravenous dose of cortisone and a strong antihistamine for 6 hours is a truly unique experience (not terrible, but not super great either; interesting for sure).

I became sporadically diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis approximately 3 months after completing my degree in Biomedical Science in 2017. There was no adjustment period from my “before” to“after” me, and I almost immediately started giving myself injections 3x/week (I’ve since switched to infusion therapy) to kill my immune system. For about 6 months after my diagnosis, I was partially blind, had no balance, could not use my hands, nor could I feel my body from the neck down. Also it hurt. It’s hard to explain. You kinda had to be there.

The first thing that anyone will tell you after you relieve this diagnosis is to Avoid Stress (the second thing they’ll tell you is to not bring it up during an interview). In fact, before the mid 1990’s there was virtually no treatment for MS, and doctors used prescribe “Avoid Stress” as the number 1 medicine for the illness.


Thankfully, it is the year of our Lord 2021 and there is absolutely nothing to be stressed about anymore! Everything that I don’t like or makes me feel uncomfortable is fake and I will continue to not acknowledge them. However, learning a new skill? With my brain? Well, it’s more likely than you think…

Here are 5 simple tips for navigating a coding bootcamp with a brain disease (and without one probably too):

  1. Be patient with yourself. Learning a new technology is hard under any circumstances. Understand that you may not understand things right away- that’s literally a part of how learning works and it’s supposed to happen.
  2. Take breaks. Then, take extra breaks if you need them. Stretch. If you’re tired, take a nap. If you’re still tired, stay in bed. Bad days are expected.
  3. This one is a little more general, but it’s super important not to compare yourself with your peers. They do not face the same hurdles you do, nor do you they! Everyone is on their own journey, and this one is yours. You are not behind or before anyone else.
  4. You’ll have days where you aren’t motivated to code. Or you’ll hate code and question your entire life circumstances. Maybe your attention span is suffering, or you’re in pain, or you just want to spend the day outside. That’s ok. There will also be days where you’re excited to learn, where you’ll feel good, and you’ll work on projects that you have to stop yourself from working on. Neither of these two scenarios are permanent- expect that.
  5. You aren’t alone, even if you truly do feel like it. And if you do truly feel like it, please do not hesitate to reach out because I feel the exact same way! :’ ) 💖




Research scientist turned aspiring software developer

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Jo Siciliano

Jo Siciliano

Research scientist turned aspiring software developer

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