Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Sadly sighing...still

I was sitting in a group meeting today, dutifully offering suggestions on presentations for an upcoming conference I won’t attend.

“Use a san-serif font. It tends to be easier to read.”

“The slide is too wordy.”

“You need arrows. Or circles. It’s too hard to tell what’s important.”

“Move along. 1 minute per slide or people get bored.”

“Could you animate this? Have the descriptions appear as you talk so your audience knows where to direct their attention?”

I was content, I decided, then wrinkled my nose over the lie. I’m not. I’m really unhappy lately. After acknowledging my desperate desire to not return, I realized it’s not going so well. And my typical sunny attitude isn’t fitting so well. I’m putting in the effort, but it’s coming off as fake. I’m too easy to read – people frown at my false smiles, cut off conversations when they can tell I’m painfully bored.

I’m depressed. I could feel it coming – found it far too easy to disengage and just let life happen when I was in Hawaii. It’s atypical for me to be that relaxed. I really didn’t care what happened. Just zoned out and stared at the ocean for hours. Talking to M, but stream of consciousness talking, not really the careful, thoughtful speech I tend to favor. It was just easy, and I realized I want it to be easy for a little while. Well, maybe longer than the 5 days I allowed because I’m stamping my foot and pouting at the idea of doing all this work!

So I don’t do it. But I worry about it. Fret and watch the clock and try to force myself to just open some files and stare at the data in hopes of working up some minor motivation to make progress. Send a couple of emails then battle back the extreme irritation over people who actually respond to them and ask me to make good on the promises to help with their projects. Grit my teeth through meetings while nodding and smiling and offering up “Of course! Definitely! I’d love to attend that meeting/work on the project/take over that work.” That’s how I function – I’d rather accept inconveniences than push them on other people. I hate letting people down nearly as much as I fret over being late.

So when I avert my eyes as I stand in front of mirrors, I’m forcing myself to look up. “Not hideous.” I tell myself sternly, then try to soothe. “Nearly pretty. Nice lip gloss, hair’s getting a bit long, but it’s not bad. I still like the glasses. Losing weight – slowly, yes, but it’s still something. You’re fine.” Yet I sigh before I turn to leave because nobody loves me. Then I roll my eyes because why do I insist on dwelling on the negative? It’s frustrating!

Likewise, when I was sulkily perusing job postings online today, I talked myself back from it. I love what I have planned here. Nothing’s started yet – a few minor projects while I wait for IRB approval and billing resolutions. But in terms of what I could have set up – faculty available, resources, learning opportunities – it’s honestly pretty ideal here. Yes, there are problems. Frustrations, really bad days. But overall? I don’t know that I could do better. This should be a high point professionally. Yet I’m unhappy.

Mom has a phrase she overused when I was growing up. “Find something you like about it.” I hate those words put together in that order. Hate. I’ve argued against them many times – sometimes you can find a better job, get out of a relationship that’s not working very well, buy new clothes, exercise more! But sometimes everything is OK, I think. My surroundings, decisions, life here – all good. The problem is me. Which sucks because that’s the factor that’s constant, right?

Perhaps I’m getting closer to considering how to handle this. My graceless retreat from therapy in grad school seems like it happened a long time ago. I’m certainly not eager to try again, but I’m beginning to consider it. Medications? I’ve always been in favor of them in theory, but hesitate to try for a couple reasons. I’m functional, I tell myself. I’m going to work (though less often and for shorter times than I should be), I listen to people, can laugh at their jokes, am happy when they share good news, and cried today over a profoundly sad event. It’s not like I’m completely distant, but I’m definitely farther away than I’d like. I’m looking at yet another night of taking something to sleep – I get less sad/irritable and much more panicked at night. That’s by far the most unpleasant, honestly. I hate lying in the dark, spinning through worst case scenarios, worrying about issues that wouldn’t normally even register. I also know I’ll get better – I always do – but am getting less tolerant of myself during these down times. I don’t really want to do this forever.

So I sigh, sitting here in my living room sipping a large Cherry Diet Coke. I’m not awful – no reason to worry for anyone other than me. It’s just occupying my thoughts lately and I couldn’t come up with a story for you. Just trying to figure myself out here. And wallowing, of course. Because that's what I do.


Traveler, not tourist said...

Hey Katie. Just dropped in to say you're doing fine. I know it. This is just a temporary thing. Tomorrow will be better, you'll see.

apparently said...

Reading this makes me think the little voice in my head got her own blog. All we can do is move forward. I take solace in knowing that academic life is fleeting. 4 years in UG, 5 (well 6 in my case) years in grad school, a few post doc-ing. Soon we'll be in new surroudings which always helps break depression.

post-doc said...

Today is a bit better, Traveler. Many, many thanks for the support. It's very sweet of you and I'm grateful.

Apparently- Right. Moving forward. Limiting the wallowing. :) New surroundings are sounding too appealing right now, but then there's the question of performing well enough here to get something better in a year or 2, which makes me nervous all over again! It's ever so helpful to not feel alone in feeling like this sometimes, so many thanks to you too.

It's times like this - reading good comments - that I think keeping a blog is such a good idea.

JustMe said...

Hey, I understand what you're saying... (the body-image not thinking you're good enough thing, the not wanting to do anything thing...and more) I was depressed in UG. and it can be really hard. I did meds and therapy, but I lucked out and found a fabulous therapist as my first one. I have yet to meet a friend who was so lucky...

If you want to talk more, let me know!

ScienceWoman said...

The sun will come tomorrow, tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there'll be sun....


CharlieAmra said...

I can understand your desire to stick around and do all the experiments that you designed for this post-doc, but don't let that hold you back from applying to a great job. Remember, the post-doc is just a stage in your training, not the ultimate destination.

I never published a lick of data from my first post-doc but that has not hindered my career one iota.

And don't worry, you have already made it. You already have your PhD, and before 30 no less!

post-doc said...

Aw...You guys really are the best. Thank you - a lot - really. I'm going back and forth. I'll feel better, then withdraw and sulk for a while. I so appreciate the support and good wishes and reminders that things aren't so bad. Many, many thanks.

Post a Comment