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Posts tagged “Mental health

When tomorrow’s dream became yesterday

Fifteen years, you chase a dream for so long it becomes a part of you. You wake up, check the boxes you need to the best you can, and do it all again tomorrow. Then you do it again. And you do it again. And you keep taking the steps to get where you want to be, because you’ve already been doing it for so long you figure it would be a shame to throw in the towel now. You’ve bled for the dream, sacrificed for the dream, it’s in you now. After a few years maybe you even start to think it will never happen, because if it was going to happen, it would’ve already. Right? Until one day you wake up, you cross that finish line and the dream you spent so much of your life working towards becomes history. What happens when your dream of tomorrow becomes the history of yesterday?

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Dear past me…

Not too long ago I wrote about something I thought was an interesting idea. We can’t go back in time, but we can go forward. So while you can’t talk to your past self, you can send your future self all the letters and notes you want. It’s not as dramatic as going back with the knowledge you possess, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing. I’ve written a few letters to myself now including via blog (here). I’m not sentimental, but I figured if I was going to send a message forward, I might as well let past me know how things are going. While writing letters to your past self is more common, I didn’t think about doing it until I read some of the public letters that people wrote to their future selves then responded to those letters. So yeah, here goes nothing.

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Together we served

Sure…

This is probably not the post you think it is. It’s Veteran’s day, which if you don’t know me or haven’t seen my previous posts on the matter, I’m not a huge fan of it. Sure, celebrations, free food, blah, blah, blah, all great. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to come off as the person who doesn’t like a party, or worse someone who wants to berate people for having fun. No, I just don’t particularly care about the day. But since it’s here, I will give my semi-regular reminder that Veteran’s day isn’t about the Veterans at all. It’s about feeling good about war and giving politicians an excuse to, “out appreciate” each other. I mean what gives me the right to complain about how Veterans are being treated when I get a free* meal once a year at Applebees?

*restrictions and exclusions apply, food may be stepped on, offer not valid if still living, see store trash can for details,

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Dear future me…

What I wouldn’t give for a time machine. I think we all agree there’s at least a few things we wish we could go back and change. Wrongs that need to be righted and all that, or maybe it’s just to stop yourself from doing something you’ll regret, you know what I’m talking about *wink, wink* because we all have regrets. I think it’s one thing we can agree on and despite the trend of people suggesting they are living without regret, I’m sure there would be one thing they wish they could change. Hindsight is 20/20 afterall, even if it’s just to have a chance to say a missed goodbye to a loved one who’s no longer with us. I think a time machine is one thing we can universally agree we would use consequences be damned. But alas the past is closed to us for now, but the future is always open.

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The taboo of failure

We celebrate a lot of exciting things. You get into your dream school? Let’s party! Getting married? Time to celebrate! Win the big game? Well you get the point. As a culture, here in the US anyway, we celebrate victories and make fun of people who try to include the people who lose. If you’ve never seen the “participation trophy” discourse then it’s probably better to live in ignorance, trust me on that. In short, we celebrate the winners because they accomplished something and if you failed then clearly you did not.

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The drop

This time of the year is pretty rough for me. Everytime I think, “hey this isn’t so bad,” I’m reminded by my brain that, yeah, in fact it is. Stupid brain, I swear if I could go back in time and step on the fish that thought it was a good idea to start walking on land I would. And before anyone says anything, yes I’m aware that’s an oversimplification, it’s not like a time machine is elementary. Anyway I feel like I’ve already taken a left in my topic and I haven’t even gotten the first paragraph out, that’s how you know it’s THAT time of the year.

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No time like tomorrow

astronaut relaxing in space

I’m not a procrastinator at all. In fact to prove it, I’ll list all the reasons why I don’t procrastinate, tomorrow. But seriously, sometimes putting things off until tomorrow is the best kind of care and time management. In the magical world of tomorrow you’ll feel fully awake, well rested, and the best you’ve ever felt. Of course, that’s just a fantasy, but even then sometimes self care is the best thing you can do for yourself. Which is why I’ve decided to put off the work I wanted to get done today for the magic world of tomorrow.

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Long experiment aftermath

Well yesterday happened and I can feel it. Everything hurts at the moment, but I knew I was going to be sore today so there is absolutely nothing serious planned today besides maybe cooking something for dinner, maybe. Leftovers are a way of life in research, leftovers and protein bars. I wish I were joking, both hospital-PI and I brought protein bars as a “lunch” yesterday, which may or may not have been eaten as we ran from one part of the hospital to the next.

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A few new skills

Not working on anything serious today. Nope, not doing it. I took yesterday for myself and I’m taking today for myself. So instead of working on something strictly productive, I’m going to spend some of the day, maybe just a few hours, looking over some of the skills I’ve been meaning to pick up that I haven’t had time to learn/read about. Will this help my work? Yeah, of course, but it’s also something fun I wanted to learn. I’m a sucker for learning something new and that’s exactly what the plan is for the day.

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The internal scars

Not all trauma leaves a visible mark. Just like not everyone who is disabled “looks” disabled, not everyone who has had a traumatic event, even a very physical one, will have scars that show. That doesn’t mean they aren’t there, or that if you look hard enough you can’t find evidence of them, it’s just not a big flashing neon sign saying, “here I am!” It also doesn’t make them hurt any less, or make them any less real. Sometimes the trauma you can’t see is the trauma that hurts the most to carry.

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The final year

Well today kicks off the final year of 365 days of academia, this will be year four of my little project and year five of my PhD. There is a chance we may have to extend slightly, but for now I’m keeping my eye on the prize and until the deadline comes and goes, I am planning to do whatever I can to make sure I graduate on time. It’s going to be a challenging year, but since it’s a new beginning let’s talk about how we got here. Three years is a long time after all!

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Music to kill myself to

This time of the year is always hard for me. It’s close to the anniversary of my last suicide attempt and while a lot has changed, there’s always some things that stay the same. Today marks the end of year three of my 365 days of academia and today we’re talking about suicide and music. What is it about a song that when you hear it you remember things so clearly? This post wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for something very special that occurred this year and there’s been a wide range of emotions leading up to it.

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The hidden support system

I don’t feel like I bring much to the table as a friend. I mean a co-worker, sure. I feel pretty confident in my ability to do my job. It’s like the one thing I feel confident about, but human interaction has always been a struggle. I just assume generally speaking my relationship with people ends where our collaboration ends. But sometimes we get shocked into remembering that isn’t always the case. In this case, it was because I had an emergency this morning.

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The mechanisms of depression

Art by the incredibly talented DestinyBlue

In news that will surprise almost zero depressed people, we are once again adjusting our thought process on what causes depression. But in an effort to stave off bad advice, people telling you to stop taking your medication, and just general confusion, let’s do what we do best and talk it out. First, let’s be clear, don’t stop taking your meds, it’s never a good idea, I promise, 10 out of 10 times it’s a bad idea unless you’ve spoken with a doctor or are having serious side effects. So let’s talk about the latest news, shall we?

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Everything you ever wanted and more

You wake up one morning and get a frantic phone call. A family member lets you know that a person very close to you, someone you miss dearly, maybe even someone you thought was dead, was very much alive. A dream come true, right? If you are like me you would rush out the door and do whatever it takes to find the person. But it gets better, you don’t have to plan a long flight or find money to make the trip. They live close by, very close. It’s a dream come true.

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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.

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Work and School

Let’s face it, if you’ve ever gotten any sort of degree, you know it’s a job all its own. You can even say you’re a student on almost all things that ask for employment, so it’s not a new idea. When you start a PhD or in some cases, even your Masters, you even get paid for your work, albeit not great. So I was always impressed, and surprised, by people who work while pursuing a degree because I knew I could never do something like that, then I did.

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A mental health day

Let’s face it, it’s been a busy…. life. This week has been the longest month for me and we’re doing it all again next week, so I need a minute. Mostly my brain is tired and since it needs to do a lot of work tomorrow I want to give it the day off and just relax. So once again I’m reminding, mostly myself, that it’s okay to do that from time to time. My goal has been to write something daily while doing my PhD and while this arguably sort of counts, even if I wrote nothing (like what happened recently), it’s a good reminder that not doing something doesn’t set you back to zero. So for today I’m taking a little break for myself. Heck, depending on how tomorrow goes, don’t be surprised if I take the day for myself too.

Over the years I’ve learned that mental health is a balancing act, don’t mind me while I shift the balance a little.


The end of a story

I love to read and if you do too you can probably empathize with this. What is it about the end of a story that makes the disconnect so painful? Maybe painful isn’t the right word, jarring perhaps? Abrupt? Whatever the adjective you choose closing one book leaves a world of possibilities for the next, but for me, there is always a bit of a hangover jumping from one universe to the next. Leaving me to wonder if that’s a common phenomenon.

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Robot paper is live!

sad beat up old retro robot on a wooden floor shot from above
sad beat up old retro robot on a wooden floor shot from above

Finally! After years and years of trying to get this published I finally have the paper out in the world. Okay, to be fair it was accepted about a month ago and I did a deep dive into the paper itself (here), but it feels a little more official now that it’s out there in the wild, or at least open-access like it should be! Granted I’ve told this story before, but indulge me as I recount for the final time why this paper almost killed me, literally.

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The mental illness monster

Fun fact those of us who suffer from mental illness are more likely to harm ourselves than others. That isn’t to say it doesn’t happen, but the rate of violent behavior among people who have mental illness is no higher than the average. So when a politician, who isn’t even qualified to speak on the topic, much less give an option, blames mental health for…. oh I don’t know someone shooting a school, it makes me angry. Being an asshole isn’t a mental illness and going on a murder spree doesn’t qualify as a mental illness. The problem isn’t mental illness, it’s access to firearms. Yes, I’m am a monster, but the only one in danger is me.

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Calm before the storm

It’s going to be a busy week and while I feel like I need to say that every week, this week in particular is going to be challenging. There are several experiments scheduled that I’ll be in charge of, or at least have a big role in, on top of papers (multiple), and other work. So instead of getting a head start, I’ve been trying to take a break. Because if you’re going to have to push yourself, there’s no point in starting the race exhausted.

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Another year of lazy goals

It looks like today is officially the end of the school term for me. It’s somewhat artificial since I was never taking any real classes anyway, but we need to mark time somehow and the school term works as well as anything I guess. But with the end of the semester, we have the start of academic summer, which means it’s time for me to plan out my goals. My lazy goals that is, or how I make sure I take some much needed rest.

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How to save a life

You’re on a boat in the middle of the ocean and you’re taking on water. You suddenly find yourself with your head barely above the water in the middle of nowhere. The depths of the ocean here are unfathomable, you’re tired, you hurt, the ocean keeps fighting your every move. You’re one wave away from death. No salvation is coming because this is depression and to everyone around you, you look perfectly normal.

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Yet another book chapter update!

Well if the universe isn’t apologizing for the last few decades of hell and torment, I’m not sure what’s going on, but good things seem to be happening. I’m not going to question it so when I saw an email recently about the latest with the book chapter I got very excited. It sounds like the book, along with my chapter, will be coming out very soon.

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Mental health and medication

Pills
Pills

Mental illness is like any other issue with the body. There are effects from it, there are treatments for it, and like someone who’s diabetic, you (probably) lack the correct balance of chemicals in the brain and there are medications for that. Of course we live in a society where a small, but vocal, group of people are pushing for “purity.” You don’t need medication, you can just eat healthy, think your way through, change your attitude. That is a lie and one that is deadly. You cannot fix mental illness through diet and exercise anymore than you could ask a diabetic to start producing insulin on their own.

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Another day off

When I started the 365 days of academia project, the goal was simple. Write daily, that was it. In hindsight it was both a lofty goal and one that has been as rewarding as it has been challenging. It turns out I have a lot to say about a lot of topics and despite feeling like I would run out of something to write about, almost three years later I still have things I want to say.

However, we all need a break sometimes. So for my mental and physical health, this is all I’m writing for the day. I hope my little break reminds you to take one as well. Because rest, like food, water, and shelter, is part of the process of living, not separate from it. It is certainly not a reward for doing something, so kick your feet up and take a break. I’m sure you could use one too.


The myth of “better”

It’s somehow Friday, finally. It’s been one hell of a week and things are slowly ramping up so it’s only going to get worse. There are a lot of moving parts happening right now and I’m just trying to keep a handle on things, so if mental health seems to be the theme of the week, then well it’s with good reason. Also it’s mental health awareness month. Which, somewhat ironically, I was not aware of until recently. So the theme of my life fits the month I guess.

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The mental health stigma

You don’t look depressed. Chances are if you struggle with depression you’ve heard that once or twice, or dozens of times on a seemingly never ending loop. If you have a broken bone you can be diagnosed via an x-ray or CT. If you have cancer, there are blood tests or MRI scans that can catch it. If you get sick, rapid tests or PCR will tell you if it’s COVID. But how do you diagnose depression?

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It’s okay to not be okay

It’s okay to not be okay. The world is on fire, almost literally, people are having rights stripped away before our eyes, the environment is a disaster, global warming is going to kill everyone in probably very horrible ways and no one cares, and the pandemic is being ignored, much like everything else on this very long list. In the face of all of this and far more than I can list, I will let you in on a secret. It’s normal to not be okay right now.

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Fighting to live

drowning being pulled underwater by dark tentacles
drowning being pulled underwater by dark tentacles

Medication roulette, it’s what I call the process I started over a decade ago. It’s the process where you start a medication, wait weeks/months for side effects or benefits from it, inevitably stop because something serious happens, and then the painful, literally, process of coming off only to go to the next. If you’re lucky this process is quick, you try your hand at the roulette wheel and you walk away slightly better than when you stepped up. Or if you’re like me, you play like a gambling addict hoping for the magical win. But what if you found it, then had it taken away?

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Old wounds

You ever wake up anxious and wonder what the hell happened? It occurred to me upon further reflection that today is Easter and while the day itself fluxuates I will always associate Easter with loss. Sometimes you want to forget something, but for whatever reason your brain won’t let you. Not that I ever really forget, or that I didn’t know the day was coming, but in the fog of waking up, you don’t generally expect such intense feelings.

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Education and mental health

In the US, roughly 12% of college students report the occurrence of suicide ideation during their first four years in college, with 2.6% percent reporting persistent suicide ideation.

I write about mental health a lot, full disclosure because my mental health is bad on a good day. I’ve found little respite from the depression, PTSD, etc. via pharmacological means or through therapy. I still try, but the results are the same and what’s that saying about crazy meaning trying the same thing and expecting a different result? In any case, there are few things in this world that tests my mental health like education. Because the system is broken and there’s nothing that can be done.

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The lost children

Can you mourn the loss of something you never had? Imagine for a second you were born without a limb. Can you miss it if you never had it to begin with? I’ve been struggling with this question a lot lately, not because I was born without a limb, but because I was born without a family and in some ways that isn’t too different. Maybe it’s wrong to compare a missing limb to a missing family, but I honestly can’t think of a better way to describe it, because family is an extension of you.

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Success! Journal paper 3 of 4

Days turned to weeks, turned to months, turned to years. I was slowly getting to the point that I wanted to give up and I honestly didn’t think this day would ever come. Yesterday night I got the news, robot paper was accepted for publication and I literally cried. I almost have a whole ass PhD and this was my Masters work, but we can now get things ready for actually publishing the damned thing!

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Burnout and mental health

After yesterday’s post on the whole match situation, I figure it’s probably time to talk about burnout. Because truthfully when you work yourself past your limit and you get even a small rejection, much less a rejection of that magnitude, you’re setting yourself up for a bad time. As a society we are told to push ourselves, to work harder, to “grind” as much as we can because only then will the system acknowledge our worth and reward us for our efforts. It’s a lie and we all know it, but propaganda is a powerful thing.

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Match, SOAP, and Suicide

Well how could I forget to talk about match? Unlike previous years, I’ve got several friends who are anxiously waiting or at least were waiting, to find out if they got matched or not. The medical system is broken and match is part of the problem, but for those who aren’t in it, you may not understand what match even is or why it’s important. In fact, if you don’t follow medical students on twitter for example, you may never even realize match was happening.

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Failing for success

Sometimes I get into a groove and since we’ve been talking about failure, I think it’s time I shared why failure isn’t the end of the story. Failure sucks, let’s be real for a second, it hurts, it’s not fun, and it feels like a very personal attack. Or at least that’s what it feels like to me. When someone rejects something I’ve written or proposed I feel like I’m being told I’m not good enough or that I don’t deserve to be a researcher, imposter syndrome is a bitch. But failure isn’t the end, it’s just somewhere in the middle.

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More on failure

After a rough night of sleep I knew exactly what I wanted to talk about today. Failure. Because like I mentioned yesterday, in my journey to a PhD, there was plenty of it. Part of this was due to the fact that I had no idea what the hell was going on or how to prepare for my PhD, but a big part of this was due to the fact that I held a belief that wasn’t true. I thought, because it’s what we’re told, that when applying to grad school grades aren’t the only thing that matters. And I was lied to.

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Self care and health care

Maybe it’s just me, but going to the doctor is exhausting. I think selfcare in general is exhausting and so I’ve basically automated my routine, or maybe created a standard routine it is the correct way to phrase that, to make my life as simple as possible. One thing I can’t do is that with is my health care. I can’t be the only one, so in the spirit of sharing, let’s talk about self care and health care.

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Mentoring and mental health

With great power comes great responsibilities. Well as a grad student, you don’t have a whole lot of power (see: none), but you do have responsibilities. You also have more freedom to do the things you want (need) to do the way you want. One of those responsibilities, and my favorite frankly, is mentoring. With all the stress of doing my PhD, being a mentor is something that helps keep me sane, so today I’m going to share some great news along with why I enjoy doing the mentor thing.

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The final days of the “last paper”

Well I don’t want to get my hopes up, but I have some big news! As promised in the last, last paper update, I wasn’t going to talk about it until we had submitted the paper for review. Well as of today, last paper is FINALLY in review! Now this could be months before we get it actually published and maybe even longer if there is several rounds to the edits, but this is a big step.

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Pardon the dust…

Well today I’ve had a major demolition project going on at home (see yesterday’s post for details), which has left precious little time for anything else, much less blogging. Sorry, but for the day this is it. As a reminder, no matter how big your goal, no matter how far you’ve come, it’s okay to take a break if you need it. My goal was 365 days of academic blogging and well sometimes you need time away. It doesn’t reset the clock, it just makes you human. So take a minute for yourself if you need it, I certainly do!


The hits keep coming

Art by: J.C. Leyendecker from November 21, 1914 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, titled “Beat-up Boy, Football Hero”

You know, if I wasn’t living it I wouldn’t believe it. I honestly question if my coworkers believe it. I have some crap luck. I get the sense that if it weren’t for the photographic evidence of my horrible luck no one would believe me and frankly I wouldn’t blame them. Even with photos, I’m wondering if people are questioning, because how many times can something go wrong with one person?

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Sanity and the week ahead

The past week has been surprisingly difficult. There are a lot of things right now that are up in the air and without moving forward, nothing will be settled. Still, there are ways to prepare and things that can be done now to take the stress off. We already know how last week went, so let’s take a break from directly talking about my horrible mental health and take a look at the week ahead. Spoiler, this is another way I deal with my horrible mental health. You didn’t think it wasn’t related, right?

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Death and depression

Fair warning, today’s post is heavier than usual. There will be discussion about suicide, death, depression, mental health, etc. If you’re not in a good place, this probably isn’t for you. Never fear, there’s help (suicide prevention hotline for one), you’re not alone, despite what it feels like. For everyone else, welcome to my brain once again, but the content is probably not suitable for anyone, including myself.

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For the love of war

Aren’t there enough things trying to kill us? Between global warming, pollution, and the pandemic, I feel like something somewhere wants us gone. Then again, humans are stupid, I include myself in that statement. So here we are talking about something I wasn’t expecting to talk about and that my dear readers is combat.

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The way through

Well new year, new problems. I’m not super surprised I guess given… life. I’m incredibly tired, like mentally and physically exhausted, but we do what we need to in order to move forward. Like I said yesterday, the only way is through, so today is an example of how I try to cope with living. That’s right, time to plan and figure some things out.

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The only way is through

Well I’ve been on a talking about mental health kick lately and I guess that fits with today’s topic. Sometimes in life we find ourselves out numbered, outmaneuvered, outsmarted, and without any real power. It never feels good to find yourself in that kind of situation. I’m proud of how far I’ve come mentally, because if the situation I’m in now had occurred even just a few years ago, I would be checking myself into a hospital for my own safety again. When the weight of the world presses you down so hard you just want to scream, all you can do is push back.

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Time management and mental health

We’re all super busy… right? I don’t think it’s just me, we feel like there’s a mountain of things to do. Then you try to get through the list and when you look away just for a second, suddenly you have twice the work left. This is particularly troublesome for someone like me who has serious mental health issues (along with physical health issues). I want to do all the things, but my mind and body have other plans for me. Somehow I still manage my deadlines and since I was specifically asked to share, we’ll talk about how I do it.

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