Overwork and the consequences
Yesterday’s post came late in the day, but it wasn’t because I was busy or even because I was hard at work. The truth is I was hard at rest. After two weeks of rushing, working, prepping, and basically all the -ing you could think of, it was bound to happen. I needed a break and I was forced to take one, my only saving grace was that it was the weekend so it could happen, but it’s a good reminder that we all have limits.
A quick introduction since I haven’t done one in… forever now. I’m a fourth year PhD candidate in neuroengineering. We’re at the final countdown (hopefully) and next year (again, hopefully) I’ll graduate. I have my BS and MS in mechanical engineering, I’ve been a student for so very, very long. And I’m doing super cool (IMO), cutting edge research that I finally have had the chance to share (like yesterday). I also struggle with mental health issues, physical health issues, and not so fun reminder, with constant thoughts of suicide, but I’m here, I’m okay (as much as I can be), and thanks to all of you out there, I have grown an amazing support system.
That background is somewhat important, because over the last decade or so since I’ve been a student, I’ve learned that I have some serious limitations to what I can and cannot do. My mental and physical health are very fragile and even though I’m still young…ish? I feel twice my age most times and have the health problems of someone three times my age. It’s not a great life, but it’s mine and I’ve come to accept it and acceptance is the first step to something or another. So it goes.
For the past two weeks we’ve been doing some really interesting experiments, like seriously interesting, nature paper worthy (hopefully) experiments. Hospital-PI has been teasing me because I am 98% confident it’s nature worthy, but we’ll see. For those not in academia, nature is like the top journal we could publish in, and it’s basically a popularity contest between journals and not a content contest, but they want stuff that will be cited and make a big splash. I’m hopeful we’ll hit it, but who knows?
The amount of work that went into these experiments is exhausting and I’m currently begging the hospital for about $50k to get some equipment to help, but it probably won’t happen until after the experiments are done and we write a grant for it. The major issue is that we’re using three different systems at the moment. Three, which triples the amount of work we need to do as well as the things that can go wrong. Oh boy, did things go wrong. But we got our data and things were looking good.
In all the adrenaline pumping activity going on in the past two weeks I’ve barely had a chance to take a break, because while these two experiments were “bonus” experiments to test out our equipment and make sure we were ready for the main event, we needed to put our best foot forward. It went well for the most part, but man was it exhausting. It just never really occurred to me how exhausting, because in all the excitement I had forgotten to just sit for a minute and not do anything. Which took a toll on me and, if you hadn’t noticed, my blogging habits, since I missed several days without even a sorry post.
That should’ve been my first clue something was wrong and in the future I’ll be more cautious. Sometimes these things sneak up on you and I was so focused on the finish line I forgot to even double check with my body to make sure it was still in one piece. Last Friday ended and besides being incredibly tired and just wanting to sleep, I felt nothing seriously wrong.
Then I woke the next morning to a brutal headache. I’m famous for my bad headaches, but this was one of the worst in a long time. So bad I had to take medication to help with the nausea because I was going to vomit if I didn’t. The day went by in a blur. I remember waking up, eating a late lunch, writing yesterday’s post, dinner, and sleep. I passed out in my living room for most of the day and before I knew it, it was evening. The only reason yesterday’s post even happened was because the headache went away and after sleeping for 8 or so hours during the day, I felt better. I still went to sleep uncharacteristically early for me and didn’t even bother turning on my alarm so I slept in (I have odd sleep patterns normally so I try to go to bed and wake up the same time daily regardless of weekend or weekday in case you’re wondering about the alarm).
Today I definitely feel the aches of the past two weeks that I didn’t notice, but all in all, I feel better. It’s an important reminder that I need to pay attention to those things though, especially as I am starting to collect data for my dissertation project. Besides this post, I’m not doing any sort of work today though, I’m probably going to catch up on some reading, maybe watch a movie, and just do nothing. Easier said than done, historically doing nothing stresses me out, but I’m doing it anyway.
The next few weeks should be “light” though so I’m grateful that I can get a break between now and when my dissertation data collections start in earnest. Which should be (hopefully!!) in a few weeks depending on when the equipment we ordered for the project arrives.
With that, I’m off to do some relaxing.
I was growing a little concerned about all your missed blog days. Not that you’re under any obligation to keep blogging every day, but it seems like an outlet for you. So I wondered if you might miss doing it and/or this was a sign you were really under strain. Guess so.
When I started having migraines as a teenager, I could trigger one in a pretty similar way: get too little sleep during the week, sleep a lot Friday night/Saturday morning, get nasty headache partway through Saturday. It used to happen fairly often, though I’ve since tamed them with magnesium supplements. The funny thing is that backing off and catching up on sleep was what seemed to make them hit.
Besides the general pain, I always found it frustrating to lose an evening in bed trying to cope with one of those (and mine weren’t even that bad usually). Sorry you had to go through that.
But unless I’m reading you wrong, you seem to be in pretty good spirits lately? Encouraging if true.
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June 27, 2022 at 12:48 am
Yeah, like I said, I should’ve taken my missed posts as a hint I was pushing too hard. Something to watch out for in the future I guess.
I didn’t know magnesium helped with headaches. I was prescribed something for daily use and something for really bad times, but they don’t work super well (or maybe I just don’t realize how bad it would be not using them, hard to tell.
I’m feeling pretty good for the moment. I just needed some rest I think. Luckily these next few weeks should be calmer. It will pick up again, but I’m hoping it won’t be so intense next time.
Thank you and you too, take care.
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June 27, 2022 at 10:39 pm
Yeah, magnesium is reputedly good for migraines. I didn’t even know that when I started taking it … oh, about eight years ago? I suspected I had a magnesium deficiency for other reasons (that’s a long story), started dosing myself with magnesium citrate, and then noticed after doing that for months that I wasn’t having nearly as many headaches anymore – but if I backed off the dose, they started up again. Which was some pretty good dumb luck, because they were getting to be a real problem. I was having almost one a week for a while. Nowadays I can go months without a significant migraine. And my neurologist was incidentally happy to hear I was taking magnesium when I had to see him for the neuropathy business.
I’m not sure what the root cause of your headaches is, so I have no idea whether it’d help you or not. But if it wouldn’t interact poorly with any of your medications, it might not hurt to try it.
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June 28, 2022 at 12:54 am
You learn something new every day! Thank you, I’ll have to check for contraindications. It wouldn’t hurt to try if it doesn’t cause any problems with what I’m taking now.
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June 28, 2022 at 6:22 pm