Not smug

So, I’ve been struggling a bit these last few weeks.  I have been tired, run-down, no energy to speak of, irritable, reclusive and increasingly depressed.  I’d like to take this moment to say pregnancy sucks.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy beyond belief that around Thanksgiving, Husband and I will finally, finally have a baby.  But, all the stuff between now and then?  Sucks.  I know my situation could be worse.  I could be having more complications, for instance.  But, dude, this blissed-out feeling earth mother feeling that I’ve heard about?  Not coming my way.

I hear it gets better in the second trimester.  As I am now at the end of the first trimester, I’m wondering when that’s going to happen.  I can’t imagine I’m going to ever get to the earth mother stage, though.  I mean, it’s not like I’m the first woman to ever get pregnant.  Or the first mammal for that matter.  And, I’m only having one (according to the ultrasound, thank God), not carrying around a litter like cats, dogs, and mice do.  Nor do I have to be pregnant for almost two years, unlike elephants (really, really thank God for that one!).  Or have to sit on a nest for days on end like egg-layers do (though that might actually be better if I could get Husband to do it for awhile after he gets home from work).  So I’m not sure what there is to get high and mighty about.  Frankly, at this stage in the game, I’m actually a little irritated that this whole thing is going on inside me where I can’t observe it.  Do other scientists feel that way, too?  I mean, if I had my way, I’d have high-resolution ultrasound every other day so I can see what’s going on.  I had one a few weeks ago and my doctor pointed out the head and limb buds (correct number of everything, fortunately, no homeotic mutations visible), but I’m pretty sure things have changed a bit since then.  How many ultrasounds is it safe to have?  Do you suppose there’s a research study I could join that does them weekly?

Anyway, getting back to the point of this post I’ve been feeling like crap.  Yesterday, I went to see my psych doc for our monthly meeting (I’ve been having them pretty much once a month since I started going to see her; I’m guessing it will increase as we get closer to the due date and certainly after the birth).  And, here’s the thing, how do we determine if I’m feeling like crap because I’m pregnant (and am, essentially, a walking bag of hormones) or if I’m feeling like crap because I’m depressed?  Or is it both?  Having never been pregnant before, it’s difficult for me to tell, exactly, but it feels like a mild depression.  So, we eventually decided to up my SSRI and see if that helps.

Another reason this whole thing sucks is that it is spring and normally this is the time of year I feel really good, sometimes almost a little too good.  This really good feeling lasts until about mid-summer when it starts to change into just feeling good by the end of the summer, okay by mid-fall, and bad by winter until around March or so.*  So, I feel a little gypped out of my really good time of year.  In fact, I would have to say that I’ve mostly slept through spring.  And spring is really lovely here in the bay area.  Today, in fact, it’s 85 degrees out.  I’d go for a swim if I wasn’t so damn tired.**

So, that’s what’s going on in Mrs Whatsit-land.  Please tell me you guys are doing better.  I need to hear some good news to balance my mood.

*Given that cycle, it really would have been better for me to get pregnant in the fall and give birth in the spring so that I won’t get hit with the double whammy of postpartum depression and seasonal affective disorder.

**I’ve got another rant about maternity clothes, btw.

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Still Alive

State of the Thesis

  • Abstract–95% complete, waiting for comments from Advisor
  • Chapter 1–95% complete, needs a figure and some formatting changes
  • Chapter 2–90% complete, still waiting to hear back from Advisor on this one, for some reason, it’s taking him a long time to get this chapter to me, probably because he’s looking at it as a journal article, not my thesis chapter
  • Chapter 3–98% complete, needs some formatting changes
  • Appendix A–50% complete, needs materials and methods section, and to be sent to Advisor for comments
  • Appendix B–90% complete, waiting for comments from Advisor
  • References–70% complete
  • Table of Contents–not started
  • List of Figures–not started
  • Acknowlegements–not started

I’m trying to get my defense scheduled for the last week in April.  That means I need to get my thesis to my committee by April 12 at the latest (departmental rules).  Since I’ll be shipping my thesis, my actual due date is a little earlier than that.  I’m still not sure how I’m going to get 4 copies of my thesis, my little inkjet would die if I tried to make it spit out that many pages.  Probably, I will go to Kinkos.  So, let’s say my due date is April 5.  I think I’m in pretty good shape as long as Advisor gets back to me relatively soon with the comments on the chapters I need.

State of the Mind

Improving.  I still get anxious and a little ill thinking about my defense.  My depression has been holding on for dear life and stubbornly refuses to go away, even with medication changes.  However, we did make one change recently that improved things somewhat.  Enough that I feel a noticeable difference.  But, I’m still not 100% better.  I spend a significant part of the day just laying down doing nothing, especially on days like today when it’s rainy all day.  As you can see from the State of the Thesis, I have been working on my thesis a little every day.  It’s not as much as I would like and for awhile I was really worried I wouldn’t make it to graduate this quarter (which I MUST do because I’m paying my own tuition and can’t afford another quarter).  But, recently I’ve been more optimistic about actually getting done.

The soul-crushing anxiety I was feeling before has gone away.  That’s not to say I feel no anxiety at all, just that it’s a small amount compared to what I was feeling before.  At least I can leave the house and I’m not spending time curled up into a ball crying because I’m scared of just about everything.  So, overall that’s a huge improvement.

I’m seeing a new psychiatrist this Monday.  It’s going to be interesting.  I’ve only had one psychiatrist and I started seeing her in 2001 so it’s going to be very strange to see someone else.  Also, I don’t want to give up my current doc.  So much has changed in my life over the last year, having the same doctor has really given me a sense of stability.  Also, she is fabulous.  I know I need someone here because phone appointments aren’t the best method of treatment.  But, that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Totally Random

Can anybody recommend a good CD of harpsichord music?  I’m wearing out the one that I have.

Unreasonable anxiety

As the conference approaches (leaving tomorrow), I have more and more anxiety about the whole thing.  I was freaking out about renting a car and maybe getting lost or the car breaking down (not to mention the expense), so I ditched the car and now I’m worried about what happens if I need to go to the store because the airline lost my luggage and I have deodorant.  So then I think, well, I’ll bring my deodorant in my carry-on, and an extra shirt and underwear just in case my luggage gets lost and then I worry about my deodorant getting confiscated by security for being the wrong size and then I’m back to the problem of having no deodorant.  Maybe the answer is to have two deodorants?

And then there’s the flight back.  The conference ends with lunch from noon-2 and my flight’s not until 5pm.  Then, there’s a four hour layover in Dulles before the very long flight back.  What will I do during all of that time?  I hope I can sleep on the flight but that still leaves me with all the extraneous time in the airport.  Why this freaks me out, I have no idea.  Now, if I was traveling with small children and had to keep them entertained all that time, that might be something to freak out about.  But, it’s just myself I have to try to keep entertained.

Somehow, the conference itself doesn’t seem as scary as the traveling, I’m not sure why.  I guess because if I completely freak out, I can go hide in my hotel room if I have to.  The traveling makes me feel…trapped, I guess.  Trapped in one place with no where to go and nothing that can be done if I’m uncomfortable or freaking out.

I hate having all of this anxiety and feeling like I’m completely messed up.

Losing myself

Let me tell you a story.  There once was a girl from Iowa who grew up in a lower class family whose parents had to work many hours a week just so that the family could have the necessities.  In junior high, this girl decided that, in order to avoid her parents fate, she should go to college.  But, since there was not enough money to send her to college, she would need scholarships.  To get scholarships she knew she needed to have a really good academic record, therefore, she resolved to get all A’s in high school.  She thought she would be able to get into any school she wanted with this kind of record, but alas, her school didn’t have honors or AP classes or weighted grades so despite having the top grade in her class, she wasn’t able to get into her first choice school.  However, she was able to go to a good school in Boston.  So, despite never having been to the city of Boston, she headed there for school, alone, confident she would be able to handle whatever problems there were.

While in Boston, the girl had her second major depressive episode (the first was just before junior high) and it had a negative effect on her classwork and relationships.  But, she persevered and was able to graduate with a reasonably good GPA and honors.  At the time, she didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life except to move to a large city in the midwest because that was where her boyfriend was going to school and she was sure she would marry this man.  So, having very little in savings and no job whatsoever, she moved to this large city, confident she would be able to be hired to do something even if it was only waiting tables.  She first got a job at a store selling lingerie  but eventually was able to get a job as a tech.

Then, the girl decided that she would really like to backpack around Europe.  So, she planned and planned and despite never having been abroad before and having very little safety net should it all go horribly wrong, and despite speaking very little of the languages for the countries she was visiting, she took a long vacation from her tech job and went with a friend and stayed in youth hostels for three and a half weeks while visiting four countries.

After being a tech for several years, the girl decided to go to grad school.  She got into a good school and that was when she had her third major depressive episode and it was such a doozie that she started seeing a therapist and eventually started taking medication.  And she fought the depression really hard and after years of therapy and medication changes and tears and fear it would never get any better, she got better.

Now, let’s talk about another girl.  This girl is trying to finish her PhD.  She’s desperately trying to write her thesis while in the midst of a major depressive episode.  For reasons she doesn’t understand, she is filled with anxiety about very simple things like going to the grocery store.  She has to summon up courage whenever she wants to leave the house.  She is totally freaking out about going to a conference and about all of the things that could go wrong there (and worrying about money on top of it) even though she went to this conference once before and it was great and it’s in the same location and some of the same people she met last time will be there.  She seems to have anxiety all of the time and has to take something for it.  She has to work like crazy just to be able to focus for two hours a day on her thesis.  The rest of the time is spent worrying or reading a book, or watching TV because those are about the only things she can handle.

I do not understand how I can be both girls in the story.  Something has happened to me.   Somehow, I went from being a person who had no problem taking big chances to a person who’s afraid to take small risks.  I went from being a person who had lots of ambition to a person with no ambition.  I’m not exactly sure how it all happened.  It doesn’t feel like it should have been able to happen, and yet, it did.  Some of it, I blame on grad school.  I never had such great self-esteem to begin with and it really took a beating in grad school.  Now, my self-esteem is so low as to be practically non-existent.  How I’m going to get through my defense in this shape I have no idea.

What seems clear to me, at this point, is that I need help.  I have a doctor and I love her but we can only communicate via email and the phone.  I think I might be better with a doctor here, except I’m scared to try to find one (what if the first person I talk to is no good?).  I think I need a new therapist, too, but again, I’m scared to try and find one.  I’ve just about reached my breaking point, though, where i feel so bad, I’m willing to do something scary like find a new doctor just in the hopes that I will feel better.

No news is never good news

You might think that I haven’t been posting because I have been too busy writing my thesis or that maybe I went on vacation or some other, positive reason.  You would be wrong.

Inevitably, when I fall off the face of the earth it is because my mood has taken a dive and I’m either in the midst of a serious depression or I am trying to recover from said depression.  This recent disappearance from the blog is no exception.  Fortunately,  I am now on the mend.

I can trace this most recent relapse into depression to a very specific cause:  decreasing my medication.  As you know, I have been wanting to get pregnant.  So, with my doctor’s approval, I started tapering down on my medications in preparation for that.  I peeled back one medication after the other until, suddenly, I went a little too far and I collapsed.  This collapse was somewhat different from my previous breakdowns because instead of being confined to bed and sleeping all day and all night because I couldn’t face getting up , I was consumed by anxiety and paranoia and couldn’t sleep at all (mostly due to a horrible, horrible attack of restless legs syndrome which limited my ability to sleep to about two hours at a time which probably contributed to the crazy).  Which then made me depressed because I was scared to leave the house and I know this is not a normal state of being.

In fact, I was in the middle of writing a post to the blog describing the anxiety I was feeling and what went through my mind everytime I tried to leave the house and how I was feeling like I had accomplished something pretty major since I had managed to go to the pharmacy to pick up the one medication I was still taking when I realized how absolutely off my rocker I sounded and I contacted my doctor and said, “We’ve got to fix this.  NOW.”

So, back on the medications I went.  And, here I am–mostly stable, frustrated with my brain chemistry, and with very little progress on my thesis since last I wrote because the funny thing is, when you are feeling like you lack the wherewithal to make it five minutes in the world outside your apt., you don’t spend much time writing your thesis because it is simply a given in your head that you will never pass your defense.  So, why bother?

Now that I’m stable, I’ve been working on my thesis about three hours a day on the weekdays.  Which is pretty damn impressive considering I was only managing about a half an hour a day prior to this most recent breakdown.  Which also indicates that I wasn’t doing so hot before the breakdown anyway.

So, what does this mean in terms of getting pregnant?  It means the baby-making is on hold.  If you’ve never tried to get pregnant, you might not realize this but trying to get pregnant is stressful.  You’d think it would be fun, at least in the beginning, if it doesn’t take you too long to get pregnant.  And, maybe it is for some people.  I’m just not one of them.  I’ve wanted a baby for too long, and, at 35, I’m worried that my window of opportunity is narrowing (please don’t tell me that 35 is still young, the fact is that the older you are, the harder it is to get pregnant and the greater chance there is of something going wrong).  So, right off the bat we were planning sex according to when I might be ovulating and getting my period seemed like the end of the world.*  Finishing my degree is stressful enough without the pregnancy stress on top of it.  And, while I won’t be going off my meds in preparation for pregancy the next time, I might try going off of them for the first trimester and that really will not be conducive to writing, as I have already discovered.  So, we are waiting for a few more months.

As for thesis writing, I’ve set a deadline for myself.  The thesis has to be done by mid-Feb. at the latest.  By done I mean ready to hand to my committee.  To do this, I think I need to have a first draft to my advisor by mid- to late Jan.  I think I need to make this deadline in order to push myself to have a hope of ever being finished.  Without a deadline in my head, I haven’t felt the need to push myself to work more and harder.  Consequently, I have just been floating along.  The reward structure I set up helped me a little, but it wasn’t getting me in front of the computer enough.  I find I’m much more productive now that I have a deadline for myself.

So, that’s where I’m at.  Now that I’m feeling better, I suspect I will be posting to the blog more frequently (probably bemoaning how I hate writing my thesis).

*I may have said this before, but, I really, really wish we had started trying to get pregnant earlier in our lives because then we could simply stop using birth control and not try to plan so much and maybe be a little more relaxed about getting pregnant.

Housewife, domestic goddess–whatever you call it, I like it

First off, thanks for all of the welcome back messages.  It really means a lot to me to know that I was missed!

One thing that has been a pretty big surprise for me is that I like staying home.  I really thought that, after a couple of weeks, I would go stir crazy and need to get some kind of job, but that hasn’t happened.  Instead, I find myself cooking dinner, doing the laundry, cleaning, sewing clothes, and knitting and I like it.  I really do (okay, maybe not the cleaning part so much, and thank God for the dishwasher, but mostly I like it).  Some of this may be thesis avoidance, but mostly, I think I just like staying home.

I do get out a bit.  I’ve got two knitting groups I go to and I do the grocery shopping and stuff.  I go to church.  I go for walks (though not as much right now because it is beastly hot out here).  I have lunch with Husband.

I barely miss lab at all.  I miss the people, but working at the bench not so much.  I don’t even miss science at this point.  Which goes to show that I was really, really burned out.  I’m sure I’ll start to miss science sometime in the future and I’ll get involved in science outreach or something, but guys, I’m telling you, I am happy as a clam to not be in lab.

This is not to say that all is well in the mental health department.  In addition to freaking out about having my husband around (now nicely managed with an atypical antipsychotic), I started having weird paranoid thoughts about somebody being in the apartment while my husband was away on an observing run.*  Then, I started thinking I could hear someone in the apt.  Not good.  More atypical antipsychotic, please!

All of the weirdness may be related to some PTSD stuff I’ve had in the past brought up by the trauma of the move which is good to know, but…OY!  It is not fun at all.  Thank God my psychiatrist does phone appointments, is all I’ve got to say.

So, now, I just need to start working on my thesis.  I was doing pretty good for awhile, working on it every day and then that stopped.  My motivation factor for writing the thing is about nil, but it needs to be done.  Maybe I’ll put a little Thesis Progress widget in the sidebar with the number of hours I worked on it each week as a way to give myself some accountability.  Though, I’m leaving for Iowa tomorrow for a week so I doubt I’ll be getting much done on the thesis once I’m there.  I’ll be too busy visiting family and holding babies.

*Supposedly, the telescope is in Hawaii.  I’m not sure I buy that though.  I think it may be a hoax perpetrated by the astronomy community so that they can go to Hawaii for a week on a regular basis.  😉

Sweeping out the cobwebs

Hi, remember me?  I used to blog around here pretty regularly once upon a time!

The unintended blog hiatus was caused by me getting used to living in California with my husband (incidentally, if there’s anyone out there who lives in the LA area and would like to get together for tea/coffee sometime, shoot me an email).  It’s been, well, interesting.

First, California:

  1. Seafood is cheaper than meat here, which is the opposite of the midwest.
  2. The Farmer’s Market has fresh seafood and locally grown citrus and avacados which is WAY different from the midwest.
  3. The sun is really intense here.  My husband tells me this is not my imagination.
  4. It’s really hot these days but at night it cools off to 70 degrees or so which is awesome.
  5. The yarn stores have very small sections for sock yarn.  Funny how nobody wants to make wool socks around here.

Now, living with Husband.  It’s been, well, weird.  In the beginning, it really felt like we were starting our relationship all over again which was not a very good feeling at all.  I had a really hard time getting used to having someone in my space.  I’m the kind of person who likes to have her own space and we live in a rather small one-bedroom apt.  At first, I couldn’t decide if the problem was that I specifically didn’t want Husband around (an upsetting idea) or if I didn’t want anyone around in general (a much more manageable idea, but still a problem in this apt.).  I had a few torturous days dealing with that!

Then, there was the fact that I really felt like I was moving into Husband’s place, not our place.  For awhile, I really felt homeless, even after all of my stuff arrived, particularly because there was no place to put my stuff.  Our bed is now four feet high because I had to buy risers to put under the legs so we could store stuff there and there are two huge rubbermaid containers full of winter clothes and coats and blankets and stuffed animals because there’s no place to put them.  At first, there was no place to put my clothes at all, we had to buy a dresser from IKEA (putting that together was a joy, let me tell you).  The funny thing is, just about everything in the apt. is stuff we bought together or that I collected at one point or another.  But, having been away from it for 2.5 years, it didn’t feel like it was mine anymore.  Husband found this particularly upsetting because he says he always thought of this as our apt., but even so, both of us were saying things like, “Do you have a [ ]?” (instead of, “Do we have a [ ]?”).

Things are getting better, though.  I’ve been decorating and rearranging things and putting up pictures, all of which make this place feel more like home.  Husband and I are getting used to each other and I no longer freak out about someone being around all of the time (that one required a medication change; thankfully my psychiatrist does phone appointments).  I found two knitting groups and a church I like and yarn stores and have been to tea twice.  So, I’m definitely on an upswing.  We’ll see how it goes.