We're a little crazy, about science!

Falling up

Things are still falling apart in my life. My mental health has tanked, and while life never had the shine it should, it looks especially dull at the moment. In short, my world has been steadily unraveling and will probably continue to do so for some time. As painful as all that is the most disorenting thing about my life has been falling up, and it’s happened again.

Yes poor me, something good happens and now I’m upset about it. It’s not that simple though. Life is stressful enough as it is, then something comes up that throws a wrench into the mix and even if the outcome is better than expected, you still can’t get away from the damage that wrench has done. The universe has been constantly throwing wrenches into my life and somehow in the end it all works out.

I became aware of this weird quark about a decade ago after my suicide attempt. More than a decade ago now that I think about it, but that’s beside the point. It started with my degree. As an undergrad I had to apply to the main school I wanted my degree from. I wanted to be a mechanical engineer so I had to apply to the mechanical school, that’s how it worked and in previous years that’s all there was, you applied, got accepted, end of story.

Once I finally got my life back together enough to really focus on my education, the school had changed that policy. Too many students, not enough instructors, so applications became competitive. You know who wasn’t going to make it?

Me. I was told flat out not to bother applying.

Not happy with that answer, I spoke with the head of the undergrad program, he accepted me conditionally into that program, and here I am with both my BS and MS from that school in, you guessed it, mechanical engineering. But while it was a happy outcome, it was also incredibly stressful. Double so because I was still only barely back on my feet and suicide is never far from my thoughts, even these days. I don’t know where I would be if they had turned me away, but it probably wouldn’t be alive. If I hadn’t had my downward spiral I would’ve gotten into the program by default (my grades would’ve been good enough anyway, but it wouldn’t have even mattered).

Then of course there was the whole PhD program and hunting one down. Not sure if I ever fully told the story, but the bottomline is that no one wanted me. I think looking back on it, the issue was that I wanted to go to a different field so I would need to be trained in that field I wouldn’t be ready to go like other PhD students. But several very bad things later, and suddenly several good things happened. I flew down to meet with a potential PI, he turned me away, but set me up on the path I am now on. A happy ending, but overwhelming, stressful, and traumatizing.

This of course may all be my fault anyway, but is it so wrong to want something to just go right the first time without all the stress beforehand?

While I have other examples, the example I want to talk about today is my Co-PI situation. Awhile ago I wrote the long goodbye (here) and have been overwhelmed ever since. My Co-PI had just happened to get an offer from another hospital, an incredible offer, one that I didn’t think he would be able to turn down. For months I’ve lost sleep over this and I just wanted it to end and for him to make a choice.

We’ve all been stressed about this, there were a lot of people who rely on him and he’s basically the linchpin in the whole department. So if he left, a lot of good people would have to come up with other plans and while we would have months to make those plans, they take a lot of mental effort to make. The stuff going on this month has been sudden, brutal, and to be perfectly and candidly honest, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through. This in contrast has been gnawing on me for months, like an infection, and it has not been fun.

Today I got an email letting me know he had made his choice. He’s staying. The hospital he is at, the one I just took a job at, made him a very good offer. They matched the offer he got from the other hospital, but that was about a month and a half ago. Just two days ago he said he was almost positive that he was leaving. I literally walked out of the lab and cried because I know the one thing I NEED in life is stability and I haven’t had any of that these past few months.

But now, he is staying.

I am grateful and I respect that the choice was probably very hard for him to make. He has a family and children so it couldn’t have been easy to decide what is best for his career and for his family. He is a good person, a kind, and respectful person. He’s someone I really look up to and would like to be like one day. And now he’s staying.

I am happy and of all the emotions I feel right now it’s relief. At least that part of my life will remain as everything else about me is stripped away I can hold on for dear life to that small part. These next few months are not going to be good for me. I may or may not have to go away for a bit and check myself into the VA again to make sure I don’t do something I will regret (again I’m safe and more importantly I’m aware enough to know when I’m not and to get help).

But after all of this, he isn’t going anywhere and I still hurt. It’s not his fault, it’s no ones fault, it’s just life. I don’t know how much others can look at me and see my scars, how broken I am, or how even though I laugh and smile I feel scared inside all the fucking time.

I have not had an easy life and this next bit is going to be the most painful thing I’ve ever had to experience. I don’t know what the next few months will look like exactly, but the best case scenario is still a scorched earth scenario. At least I have this little bit of solace to hold on to as this whole process starts. I wish I felt comfortable talking about it openly, but I am not.

The hardest part about falling up is that it’s so incredibly disorienting. My Co-PI is staying and I’ve spent months making plans for when he was gone. Don’t get me wrong, I fall down plenty, and fucking hard, but that’s the expectation.

For right now though, my Co-PI is staying and if that’s all the good news I can get I will take it.


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