The last several weeks have been pretty miserable for me. I just feel down, unmotivated, tired all the time. I’ve had a pretty bad case of writer’s block (No! Really?) and getting myself to do labwork has been a real struggle. Frankly, if I can manage to be in lab every weekday for 8 hours, I’m impressed with my accomplishment.
I get like this sometimes, I know I suffer from major depression (I’ve been officially diagnosed and am medicated and everything) and that I’m bound to have relapses, but each one comes hard. There’s never a good time to be mind-numbingly depressed but I think it’s safe to say that when you are finishing your thesis work is really not a good time. I need to be pushing hard, working long hours, in lab on weekends but instead I’m fighting not to get back into bed every morning.
My psychiatrist and I are working on this problem from the medication aspect. The side effects I’ve encountered so far have been: crushing fatigue (discontinued that med), severe anxiety including the worst panic attack I’ve had in years (went back to a lower dosage on that med) (that was while riding in a car with R; and I’ve got to say that it doesn’t help matters to go crazy in front of your friends–really doesn’t help with the taming of the panic attack; I would really rather be all by myself when those things happen), restless legs when I’m trying to sleep so bad that it wakes me up (caused by the med that caused the anxiety) which went away when I went down on that med, but then we increased a different med and now I have trouble falling asleep because of restless legs. And I’ve had to give up all alcohol because the the increased risk of seizure with the high dosages of meds that I’m taking.
That’s right, seizure.
Giving up alcohol is not such a big deal, because I’m not the kind of person who goes out drinking. But, I did like sipping a glass of wine in the evenings. I like the taste of wine and in my family we only had wine on holidays so having wine for no reason at all was a luxury. It made me feel like I was treating myself. Now, I have hot chocolate with whipped cream, but it’s really not the same.
And to top it off, I had a bit of a kerfluffle with the insurance company and my pharmacy and a medication change that took hours to fix with much calling between me and my psychiatrist and the psychiatrist and the pharmacy that resulted in me walking 10 blocks in the cold when I was so sick with a cold all I did that day was sleep at 9pm so I could get my damn prescription. On the Friday after Thanksgiving. And I’m not sure it was worth it because the medication change doesn’t seem to be helping and I’ve got my restless legs back.
I’ve gotta say, it’s a good thing I’m not suicidal because that little episode might have pushed me over the edge.
My lab work suffers when I have these relapses. My motivation is so low, my outlook so dismal, it’s difficult for me to do anything at all, let alone troubleshoot troublesome experiments. And my concentration is crap. I make stupid mistakes–the kind of mistakes that I don’t make when I’m well. My psychiatrist once said I’m one of the highest functioning depressives she’s ever met, and given the very little that I’m able to accomplish, I would hate to see what a low-functioning depressive looks like.
These little episodes lead to very interesting conversations with my advisor where I go in, shut the door and basically say, “Hey, I’m crazy again, and you know how I can’t get any good labwork done when I’m like this, but I’m adjusting my meds and I should be sane any day now and then it will be business as usual.” I don’t envy him. There’s not much he can say. “Well, I hope things get better soon,” is about the extent of it.
And yet, how reasonable is it to expect me to be mentally healthy at this point in my life? My husband lives a long plane ride away. My thesis project has been subjected to an unreasonable amount of bad luck (my advisor actually speculated that the universe hates me). I feel trapped with no good options. Option 1: stay in this miserable existence until I finally, finally get all of my labwork done. Option 2: quit, but do so knowing that I’m about 1 month of hard work away from having all of the experiments done. Option 3: stay in bed.
I question myself about this almost every day and usually select option 1, although on bad days, I’ve gone with option 3. Sometimes, I manage a combination of 1 and 3 where I’m capable of getting myself out of my apartment for the afternoon at least.
This is really not the way to get a PhD finished.
But, I’m not prepared to select option 2.