I moved to Ireland on September 12, 2001. As you can imagine, air travel on that day was a little chaotic. In true personal style, I decided it was also an excellent day to work in my new Docs.

My flight was delayed by 6 hours, I wasn’t allowed any hand luggage, airport security grilled me about my vibrator (I told them it was a curling iron), and I ended up with amazing scars on my legs for years from the Docs, which I never wore again.

I had been transferred from the UK to Ireland with a job. The company had been good to me for years, and I was excited about a new challenge. Unfortunately, the job became a living nightmare that lasted 13 years.

I met my wife here after almost a year, but because Ireland didn’t recognise same sex couples, I was required to remain in my job if I wanted to stay in the country. The job got worse and worse – successive pay cuts, worsening of workplace protections, targeted bullying and harassment  – and my mental health, as well as my financial stability, became fragile at best.

I spent those years escaping into hobbies and my home. I met people online and created and nurtured online communities of people with similar interests. I learned my way around linux and console commands, and a little bit of coding. I also got really good at my terrible job, because I had no other choice. I couldn’t leave. I couldn’t be fired. Either of those things would have ended in deportation and separation from my wife who had no interest in emigrating. Others at work just gave up. They’d be watching TV in the back office while customers waited. Nobody cared anymore, but I had to push on. I couldn’t risk it.

…the job became a living nightmare that lasted 13 years.

Throughout it all, I learned a lot – both about technology and about myself. Mostly, I learned that I can get really good at anything, if I try hard enough.

When the recession started to shift, I was pregnant. At the end of my maternity leave, a job posting on Facebook saved me from having to return to that nightmare.

It required a 4 hour commute every day, and I didn’t see my daughter except on weekends, when I’d be exhausted, but the work was interesting and my colleagues were smart and caring, and I was learning every day, which made me happiest of all.

Everything I learned in the awful years turned into exactly what I needed to escape that old job, and move on. I was making more money than the previous job, but things were not easy.

Mostly, I learned that I can get really good at anything, if I try hard enough.

Between paying for the commute, buying lunches I didn’t have time or energy to prepare the night before, and raising a child, money was really tight. I was busy organising things outside of work – making sure I had a network and contacts and meeting people I genuinely wanted to hang out with – but that meant staying the night in the city, and I couldn’t afford to pay for accommodations. When I couldn’t find somewhere to crash, I would secretly sleep on the sofa at work, quite regularly. When I woke, always early, I’d go for a walk to watch the sun come up, along the River Liffey.

I felt in those moments that I was doing everything in my power to change my life. That’s an incredible high.

Two years after I took that job, I found another where I could work from home. My daughter is four now, and I see her every day. I’m no longer constantly exhausted and impatient. We have more money, some financial stability, and I still love what I’m doing and the industry I’m in. I lucked out with amazing colleagues again. I’m still learning new things every day. I hope I never have to go back to the kind of work I did before, but I know already that, if I have to, I can do anything – even that.