We're a little crazy, about science!

Posts tagged “depression

No tree survives alone in the forest

From season 2 of The OA

Humans are odd creatures. We have weird quarks that make us want to organize the world in ways that make no sense. In this case I’m talking about trees. We have this thing about planting trees in straight lines. I think it’s because it adds a touch of order to something so organic and wild. Being the tiny insignificant things we really are, we cling to that order as a little reminder that we are something special. We don’t often acknowledge the idea that plants are living and intelligent things because they act so differently than things we prescribe intelligence. Put bluntly, the things that act like us. In reality, from what we can tell, trees talk to each other (more) and they know that there is strength in family because the truth is, a tree falls alone.

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I’m still afraid to open my eyes

There are some events in life that will forever change you as a person. I’m not the person I was when I went into the military and I’m certainly not the person I would’ve been had I chose not to enlist. Some things just stick with you for your life. This isn’t a military story though, I don’t particularly like talking about those days. Instead this is yet another story of my transition to civilian life and how difficult it was to make the leap. How even now, the stability I’ve found is only just so.

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Midway through summer

Well in about a month and a half we’re going back to school! Wait… oh no. Okay the good news is I’ve accomplished a lot this summer! The bad news is I had no time for myself yet. That will change though, I plan on taking a few weeks for myself right before classes start back up again and since we’re at about the half way mark, I figured today we can look at what I’ve done and what I plan on doing. Today is where I force myself to take a damned break… eventually.

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The big brick wall

Art by the incredibly talented Lora Zombie (who will never read this, but her art really helped me)

No one likes to think about dying. Death is one of those things that is taboo because we’re alive and don’t need to worry about that sort of thing right now. There’s too much to live for to worry about death, so we tend to ignore the big brick wall we’re headed right for. No one lives forever and frankly I’m not sure that I would want to even if I could, but I can’t help but think about what happens when I get closer to that wall and what life will look like before the day I hit it.

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On the research I do

My 3D printed spine (as in my own spine made from my CT scans, make your own body part here!).

“They are changing the world and I want to help,” one of our regular volunteers told the guy who runs the hospital department. It was a glowing review from someone who had spent the better part of the last decade paralyzed after a high level (cervical) spinal cord injury. We’ve seen him regularly for the better part of a year now and you would’ve thought we coached him if you could hear the review he gave the man who came to see our little lab. I feel stuck a lot, but yesterday I was reminded of why I do what I do.

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Recognizing the scars of abuse

I hate being right. We should of course start at the beginning, but the point is that I saw something today that made it very clear that a person close to me had been abused. No one else saw it, but I knew and afterwards a discussion in private made me realize that those scars aren’t always obvious to others who don’t know what they are seeing. But I knew, because I lived that too. I hate that there are so many of us out there, it makes me so fucking angry.

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The need for support

Yesterday was a big deal for me. I’ve been to conferences, spoke at them, and done all of that, but this was the first time I was selected for an award. Moreover it was the first time since I started my PhD that I got to share some of the stuff I’m working on because of COVID and the transition from mechanical to neuro. Of course I invited everyone (here) to come say hi and I have to say you all did not disappoint! Then the moment passed, I shut off my camera, and had no one to share it with.

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And nothing was wrong with me…

Last summer I had some sort of autoimmune thing kick up. Frankly I’m not sure it was autoimmune or what the hell it was, but it hurt, left me feeling exhausted, and caused my hands, face, and elbows to form raised red spots that later peeled off (here). It was incredibly painful, made me question the minor breakouts of whatever it was that had been going on for a good ten years or so prior, and was a red flag that I was not okay. But the pandemic has been ongoing so getting attention from the VA, which is notoriously awful, had been difficult. Had been, I finally got the chance to see someone.

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Depression, a tale of hunger

Let’s pretend you have a pet that is constantly hungry. You can’t leave the house, you can’t sleep, you can’t even take a shower because anytime you want to do something for yourself this monster of a pet just won’t allow it to happen. It’s hungry. It wants to be fed and it wants to be fed NOW. Oh you’re exhausted, feed it. You want to do something for yourself? Too bad, feed it. It’s all consuming, it never sleeps, it never is satisfied, and you cannot get rid of it. Chronic depression is the pet you never asked for that demands your attention all day, every day.

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The importance of boundaries

Often times I hear stories about people who feel powerless doing a PhD and I can understand why. You’re given a position with some freedom, certainly more than you had as an undergraduate, but at the same time you have no real power. You’re an adult who is starting a career, but you have very little say in that career. The system is designed in such a way that you need to trust that your PI will take your feelings into consideration, but that doesn’t mean that they have to, are incentivized to, or frankly that they even will.

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On finishing a story

I am an avid reader. I absolutely love books and if I had more time I would probably read even more than I do. Despite being incredibly busy, I read daily and the amount I read varies wildly depending on how much time I have. Still, I manage to read an hour or so a day depending on how I’m feeling. So far this year I’ve read 19 books with a goal of hitting 30 by the end of the year. I would’ve gone for the whole book a week thing, but that felt like too much pressure for something I enjoy doing as a hobby. The problem with all that reading is inevitably stories end.

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On birth and family

Sometimes a topic just rattles around in my head until I get it out. Today is one of those days. A friend recently decided to cut ties with some toxic family and it was probably well overdue. I’m happy for them and I think they are making the right choice, but I know not everyone would see it that way. Sometimes people confuse the idea of family and romanticize it, but the truth of the matter is family isn’t the people who gave birth to you, it’s the people you choose.

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Presentation anxiety

Today is day two (of three) for the first conference of the year for me (more here). Presenting live is always a challenge and the difference between a good presentation and an okay presentation (any attempt is at least an okay attempt in my opinion) is a combination of planning, practicing, and luck. Of course there are things that can make this particularly difficult, for example one of the issues I have is aphasia, so while I can write normally (mostly), speaking can be a challenge. This is particularly apparent when I’m stressed, so presentations are a challenge.

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On saying “thank you”

The day to day pleasantries, I’m sure we go through the motions on a regular basis, please, thank you, it’s pretty engrained into most of us. At least I would hope, broad statements like that always have exceptions, but more often than not I would like to believe that the majority of people are decent enough to say thank you to someone who is doing something for them, even if it’s just their job. Sometimes simply saying thank you can have a huge impact to a person, even if you don’t expect it to.

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Half done, or half left?

With the end of the term, I’m dealing with a lot of complex emotions. Maybe it’s the fact that my funding is running out soon and I need to come up with options before I take (at best) a significant pay cut. It could be the fact that my research, the stuff I REALLY want to do seems to keep slipping further away from me. It may even be because I’m still, STILL trying to get my papers published and it’s just disheartening. Whatever the reason, I’m at the halfway point and I’m just not sure what I’m feeling exactly.

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Return of the lazy goals

It’s the end of the term and that means two things. The first is that I no longer have to worry about classes. Actually that’s going to be a permanent shift now that I’m done with the required classes for my degree (aww yeah!), so that’s handy. The second is, of course, taking extra time to focus on my mental health. Hence what I like to call my lazy goals, because let’s face it, goal setting just feels like the adult way to make sure you’re relaxing the way you really want to.

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On the prefrontal cortex and abuse

Adulthood is often thought of as the point where you’re done developing. Most states for example don’t allow anyone under 21 to drink because that was where we drew the line, but we allow people as young as 18 (here in the US) to join the military, vote, etc. You may think that this would be roughly where we stop developing and that would explain the somewhat artificial line we’ve drawn. The truth is much stranger than that and when it comes to the brain you don’t develop evenly.

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Mental health and time management

I don’t make the rules. As much as I like to think I’m in charge of my body and that I can will it to do what I want, I’m more of a passenger here. Sure I can make plans, that doesn’t mean my body will agree or that my brain will let me do all the things. It’s a very tense arrangement, I have life stuff to do because I have basic human needs and my body/brain tells me exactly where I can shove all that. Somehow I’ve managed and I figure why not share how I’ve developed work arounds for some of this, maybe it will help someone else in the same boat.

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Not so alone

Of all the odd twists and random occurrences that have happened in my life, I think yesterday was probably in the top ten, if not top five in my most unexpected events list. For those who don’t follow me on Twitter (you totally should FYI), I’ll explain and if you already know what I’m talking about then maybe just skip to the middle/end of the post because that would be for you specifically.

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When the exhaustion hits

Woke up this morning feeling less than stellar. This happens pretty regularly when I push myself for long periods of time. It’s not ideal, since I still have a bunch of stuff to do, but thankfully after living with my limits for so long I have a few back up strategies to help me get through it all. Ideally the school would offer accommodations to people like me, but to get them there is a lot of hoop jumping, enough that it doesn’t make it worth the effort. I suspect that’s the point.

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Mental health in academia

Five years, that’s the average time it takes to finish your PhD. Depending on who you are and how you think, that may be a blink of an eye or forever. I signed away four years of my life early on so five years and frankly the commitments leading up to it didn’t feel like that long at all. In a lot of ways getting a PhD is a lifetime of work and not long at all. I’ve hit the half way point roughly and I can see why so many people drop out of the program. It’s a lot.

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Cracks in the support system

Family, friends, relationships, these are just a few things that provide people with a safety net. How many people, if they lost their job, would be able to rely on family for support? Surely not everyone, but a good portion of people have others to help them if they were in need. Hell, here in the US we’ve made it almost necessary to rely on the kindness of others to crowd fund for healthcare needs. Like it or not, people need people, well most do anyway…

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On failure

Maybe it’s the hangover from yesterday’s news about my fellowship, but I feel like I got backed over repeatedly by a truck. Maybe it’s the uncertainty of the future, or all the work I still need to get done for tomorrow, maybe it’s a lot of things. Somedays I wish I could just pause, but I don’t think I’ve ever been able to stop and don’t really know what I would do with myself if I did. Actually I do know, since I can recall at least one time in my life where I hit the pause button and it didn’t end well.

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The tightrope of mental health

My mental health is like walking on a tightrope, one slip and I’m done. Getting back up could take years for someone like me. The truth is, things are hard on the best of days. Getting out of bed, shaving, cutting my hair at regular intervals, things that would come easy to some require sheer force of will to accomplish. All the small choices through the day eat away at what little energy I have until I’m drained before breakfast. Yet here I am, pushing forward. It’s days like today remind me that for all the progress I’ve made, it’s still just a tightrope I walk.

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Not cool Robert Frost!

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…” starts Frost in a poem that most people are at least familiar with, but typically is misnamed. The poem is typically identified as, “The Road Less Traveled”. This makes sense because the poem talks about the thought process behind why he chose the road less traveled and that it was worth it. That’s not the name of the poem though.

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Book chapter update

It feels like it’s been a while since we talked explicitly about the book chapter I am writing. A lot has happened since that first post, mostly edits and what not. Since the second round of edits was due yesterday (and I hit that goal, thank you!) it won’t hurt to do a bit of a refresh and remind everyone why I took on yet another thing on my long list of to-do tasks.

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Time management as a student

AHHHHH! There’s so much going on right now my head feels like it’s going to explode. Still, I am hopeful that today is the day that I check a few of those things off my list. Let me just say, the more I have to remember the more stressed out I get, mostly because I’m afraid I’ll forget something. The solution is simple, don’t try to remember anything, but that is problematic… right?

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Overloading in education

Get your PhD they said! It will be worth it they said. You’ll have a good time they said! They certainly say a lot don’t they? Well I say things shouldn’t be so freaking hard. I get that getting your PhD requires work and frankly, it should require work, I mean it’s a freaking PhD! That said, it shouldn’t be a four to six year gauntlet of torture to see how many times you break down mentally and physically. It doesn’t build character, or better PhD’s, but it is the system we work in.

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Happy Holidays!

If you read my blog, it’s no secret I celebrate a non-religious Christmas, but no matter what you celebrate I hope you and your loved ones have a happy holiday season. While the pandemic means that things may look different for a lot of us, we shouldn’t need a holiday to remind us to be kind and love one another. The holiday season may be a good time to remember that lesson, but it doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate any time of the year. When this is all over we can mourn the loss of loved ones and celebrate being able to be close once again properly. For now, stay safe, stay vigilant, and hopefully the new year will bring some good changes.


A Video Game Christmas

Twas the day before Christmas and all through the house, the computer could be heard along with the clicking of a mouse. Sure it’s a cheesy way to start today’s post, but have you seen the rest of the blog? Without all the traditional holiday festivities due to COVID, I’m making a moderately sized dinner tomorrow. Since I don’t need to do a whole lot of prep, I’m free to find other activities for the day.

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It’s Christmas so why shouldn’t everything break?

It’s the holiday season, for me that means Christmas. I’m not religious and while the holiday has religious undertones, let’s face it, a lot of people celebrate it who aren’t religious. Regardless of what you celebrate, there is probably some expense attached to it. For some it may be more than others, if you’re like me and are a poor college student your budget is pretty tiny to begin with, but you save over the year and manage to eek out a little something to make the season magic. Of course, that means you have no savings, but what could go wrong?

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The pandemic, holidays, and your mental health

When was the last time you thought about your own mental health? I mean really thought about how you’re doing right now, not the typical, “Huh, I think things are going to hell, but I’ll worry about it later” kind of thinking about things. Maybe it’s just me, but this time of year is hard to begin with, add to that the fact that we’re almost a full year into the pandemic and I would think this time of year would be overwhelming for the majority of people.

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Time off!

Today was the last experiment that I’ll be doing for the next couple of weeks and since classes are over it’s time to kick my feet up and relax. Okay, not really. There are still some odds and ends that I will probably be working on while I’m “taking a break,” but overall I’m excited to not have things I NEED to do. I’ll probably be doing some house stuff too, but hey at least its a change.

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The art of doing nothing!

That’s right kids, it’s time to let my hair down and relax! Time to change out of my fancy sweatpants into the causal ones. We’re going all out and I’m moving from the computer next to the couch to the dammmmn couch! I’m going from bare foot to bare foot, I’m talking comfy shirt to pajama shirt, the whole works! Okay so maybe the comfy lifestyle in a pandemic makes taking a break a little less obvious, but it’s still worth it!

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A mental health day

Today the fatigue of the past few weeks has finally caught up to me. With the adrenaline rush that came to a head from the presentation I did yesterday wearing off, I feel exhausted. So today I am taking some time to recharge and rethink what the next few months will look like. This is me taking a mental health day, but let’s talk about the events leading up to today and what the plan is, at least for today.

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How to fail giving a presentation

Today is the big day! The day where I showcase the stuff I’ve done. It’s a bit anticlimactic to be honest because I haven’t had time to do a full analysis, just a very general overview. It was COVID you see, we shut down for a few months there so I didn’t get any data collected. When we finally got started again I had weeks to do the analysis, not months. Needless to say it’s not good.

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In need of a break

Well that’s the post. Okay fine I’ll elaborate. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, if I’m honest it’s been a busy couple of months! Between all the writing, data collection, surgery, data analysis, code writing, etc, I haven’t had a chance to breathe! Maybe that’s why I feel dead, I haven’t had a moment to collect my thoughts.

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Please don’t thank me for my service

I swear I didn't kill anyone by the incredibly talented Lora Zombie.
I swear I didn't kill anyone by the incredibly talented Lora Zombie.
Art by the amazing Lora Zombie. (two days in a row, because I love her art)

Yesterday was veterans day, the day before that was the Marine Corps birthday. I purposefully was going to ignore both, but an interaction on twitter the other day made me realize that I should at least touch on the subject. My feelings surrounding my service have always been complicated, but why not talk about it?

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Why do we lack a safety net?

Art by the incredibly talented Lora Zombie

Ever have a day where you just don’t want to do anything, but need to do basically everything? Today is one of those days. Most of the time when the feeling hits I have at least a buffer that I can use to relax and not have to worry, but unfortunately that’s not the case this time. Why the hell we built a society like this is beyond me, but here we are.

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The stress of an education

Art by: DestinyBlue (you should read their story too if you have time)

I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment. I’m sure that’s probably true for most people, but in academia it’s somehow considered normal that you balance the tightrope of sanity while more and more pressure is added to you. It’s a toxic environment for sure, more so now that COVID and current affairs are gumming everything up.

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On anxiety

If you’re finding yourself in the high anxiety club, welcome! I’ve been a member since well before the pandemic. I’m sorry, but I’ve got some bad news for you. We are constantly being bombarded with reasons why we should be highly efficient and constantly producing something. That’s how we end up with articles claiming that we can turn anxiety into a super power. Which are complete garbage and are written by people who’ve obviously never lived with chronic anxiety.

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I’m writing a book chapter!

Well talk about spoilers am I right? The title gives away the surprise for sure, but we can talk details since that’s probably why you’re even reading this. I get to write a book chapter, as in a actual published book you could get at the library, book chapter. Not something technical either, something more personal. Don’t worry I’ll explain.

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Today is a bad day

The day hasn’t even started yet, but it’s a bad day. No I’m not ripping off a children’s book with a similar, if not more hyperbolic name, it’s seriously going to be a bad day. You may be wondering how I know, well this time of the year is always rough for me. A lot of bad things happened that I don’t have the space, mental capacity, or time to talk about. Today is a bad day.

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War and (hunger) games Part 3

Well I just started book three and thought it would be fitting to have a third talk about war and Hunger Games (Part 1, Part 2). To be honest, this post wasn’t going to exist. I’ve shared my suicide attempts, my depression, my anxiety, and all the seemingly taboo bits of myself. Today I’m sharing something that’s hard even for me to talk about. In a lot of ways dreams are very personal. I don’t know about dreams, but I can tell you about nightmares. If you’re squeamish, this is your warning to turn away now.

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War and (hunger) games Part 2

Obviously I’ve had more thoughts since yesterday’s post. With the fourth book just being released I’m giving the hunger games series a reread so I can refresh my memory before diving into the new addition. Sure it’s a prequel, but reading in published order never hurt anyone. Others have had the same thought obviously and yesterday’s post was inspired, in part, by someone’s take on the books. Now that I have had some time to think about it, let’s talk about the Hunger Games.

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War and (hunger) games

The first time someone asked me if I killed anyone I was taken by surprise. It’s a deeply intimate question, but a question that some people seem to ask so flippantly. It’s a taboo, even in my small military circle of friends. One that I don’t talk about and one that we will certainly not be talking about today. I’m reading, or rather rereading, the Hunger Games trilogy and it made me think about the first time I read it.

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On being exceptional

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time then you know I’ve had a hard life. A very, very, hard life. The thing that keeps me going isn’t money, it’s not the chance for fame, or for people to remember me when I’m gone. The thing that keeps me from very literally killing myself is the chance to help people. That’s a selfish goal, but everything that drives us at its core is a selfish thing.

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The end

I fully and completely wanted to die. I like starting stories of my life off that way so you set your expectations low and your pity high. I wanted to die and I tried to kill myself the best way I could think of, obviously it didn’t take. Today is the end of my 365 days of academia project and I feel like looking back, way back. If you feel like reading a super depressing tale, then this is for you!

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Day 364: The lazy goals

An old photo, but one that I think came out nice.

Awhile back I made some goals for myself. They weren’t your normal everyday kind of go get em’ goals, they were what I call lazy goals. That’s right as a full grown adult I reserve the right to have lazy goals. I even check them off on a list, seriously. You should too, it really does help remind you to take a break.

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Day 355: Nostalgia for the unsentimental

Memories

One of the oldest photos I still have, it seemed appropriate for the post today.

To say I had a whirlwind of a life would be an understatement. Until my mid-twenties I moved at minimum once every two years. Not just moved across town, as in moved states. To be fair, as a kid it was bouncing between a few states. It wasn’t until adulthood that I started moving further away. Oddly enough, it wasn’t by choice, life just seemed to get in the way of staying in one place long enough to settle in.

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