Monday, 25 February 2013

Vignette: Quick as a flash

What set it off?

Most likely just plain hungry. Raised stress levels. Feeling lonely with Susanne out on vacation, and not dealing with that very gracefully. Increasingly stressed once we DID get around to talking. Ended up with her being annoyed that I wasn't paying enough attention to all the glorious things she was talking about.

So afterwards I just crashed. I haven't dove this deep since I started medicating. I couldn't contain myself — I walked around my apartment, crying in jagged hulking sobs, getting some food started so I could try to do something concrete about it all. Wanted to call Susanne, to have her help me through it, but also didn't want to dump this on her lap.

And then. Suddenly. It all just stopped again. Right now, my eyes still burn a little from the tears, and I feel hungry and stressed, but the sobbing is gone. The absolute conviction I am a bad husband who deserves nothing of what I have is gone.

Quick as a flash it shows up.

Quick as a flash it leaves again.

Leaving a trail of emotional devastation in anyone who had to witness it.

Routines and redundancies

I've had an exciting time recently. U Glasgow invited me as their first colloquium speaker for the year, and we have interesting career-developing activities going on here.

It has also been about a week's worth of scheduling SNAFUs and multiple tasks and interests pulling me in different directions. Distressingly so.

I don't deal very well with sudden schedule changes in the best of cases. If something suddenly comes up and changes my expectations of stuff, I react badly to the change. Even when my expectations are based in an erroneous memory or worldview.

This past weekend has been bad for me. The Glasgow visit pegged my capacity for extroverted socializing and strained my energy levels. After returning, I foolishly tried to make it out to a friend's party the same night. And so was overcommitted and stressed out when for the first time in almost half a week I could have talked to Susanne.

Saturday was a complete waste. I argued with Susanne, because of the stress. And I didn't enjoy the party because I had spent all my energy already: on the colloquium, on the travel, on preparing, on arguing. I shouldn't have gone, but didn't realize until I had already been at the party for a while.

And today, I still do not feel entirely restored. I had bad dreams this night, and I am sitting at my desk, trying to prepare for our reading group in just over an hour, and more and more I feel that a more sensible place for me is curled up under my desk, hiding from the world.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Vignette: What's enjoyment again?

Up and down a bit. Well down.  Not particularly depressed, maybe about 2-3 on my 10 point scale of depression (actually it's a 21 point scale from -10 to +10, but negative numbers are mythical.)

Driving into work I listen to a podcast I enjoy.   And I'm sitting in the car thinking "why am I not enjoying it?"

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Vignette: Over-interpretation

I just posted about this in a comment thread, but it strikes me that it is worth pulling to the front page.

One of the things I do when I am down is that I start over-interpreting. I start picking up on minute body language or subtextual cues from Susanne or other close friends. And then imbue the cues with monumental significance and upsetting emotional charge.

I'll see Susanne glance at something, or fail to glance at something, or grow distracted because — say —  she remembered something about her work schedule for tomorrow, or whatever. And in my mind, before I am able to do anything about it, this minute gesture. The glance, the distraction, whatever it was, has blossomed out into something hugely significant. In spite of everything she says and does — enthusiastically listening to me or talking about something — this subtle sign tells me her true emotional state: annoyance, anger, boredom; and I am the cause of it. She is angry with me, and I don't know why, but clearly she is — otherwise she wouldn't have given me that glance. No matter that I didn't do anything to anger her, or have any other signs that she might be angry — the subtle sign overrules all the unsubtle signs.

So I'll grow worried. Anxious. Sad. Afraid. Apologetic. Desperate for reassurances, for physical contact, for consolation. At the same time, especially if I am magnifying Susanne's projections, as much as I desperately crave reassurance and affirmation, I grow utterly terrified to articulate the need, to actually seek the contact I want. What if I just would make it worse? What if she gets angrier with me?

These are the times when I feel just as Depression Quest so beautifully put it in one of the character dialogues:
I feel like you forget I love you sometimes. 
These are the times I forget that Susanne loves me.

Nowadays, I am getting more and more tools to deal with it. Luckily, Susanne plays no social games. Ever. She is utterly unsubtle in her communication. And so, I am able to detect when this is happening by realizing that whatever I think requires for her to either be a telepath, or at the very least have some bizarre reason to hide her feelings under a façade, and instead communicate them through very subtle, almost non-existent cues. Since she never does that, whenever I react to a subtle cue, it is in fact my own brain lying to me.

Toolbox for depressed perfectionists

Keelium writes about some cognitive tricks that work for her to break out of mental loops, depressed moods and perfectionist hangups. I'll give a condensed list here, using her headings, but go there and read the entire piece! It's worth it.

Let hard things be hard.Believe in the power of ritual.Go somewhere.Help someone else.Check SOMETHING off your list, no matter how small.When all else fails, bake brownies.Call in the professionals.

Some of these things, I know I don't do enough myself; I could use more rituals myself. Other things, I have already run across as useful mental hacks: for instance, whenever I feel the improductivity-guilt gearing up, it is useful to remind myself that I am indeed one of the best people in the world at what I do, and that I have heard several grad students point out that they use me as their role model.

Srsly. Depressed me should listen more to the grad students who want to be me.

I don't want to kill myself

A couple of weeks before starting Depressed Academics, I started an entirely private blog just for myself about my depression.  These are some posts collated from that.

December 28, 2012: I don't want to kill myself

I thought I should get the good news out of the way in my headline. I don't want to kill myself. But on the other hand, I think to myself "I want to kill myself" several times every day.   Sometimes I say it out loud, though almost always when I'm alone, or think I'm alone at least.

It happens after I have some negative thought.  Most commonly it's something from the past where I think I did something wrong, even if that's with hindsight.   It might happen several times in a row.   I could be happy enough and suddenly a thought comes which makes me negative and makes me think "I want to kill myself."

I know I should be able to get out of this, and I wish I could think of this great SMBC comic.   If I can successfully do that it reminds me I shouldn't let my brain do this to me.

But for now, I'll be reassured that I don't really want to kill myself.

December 28, 2012: I like SMBC!

Since writing my first and last post, I have been trying to get back into the habit of thinking of that comic when I feel something bad in my mind.

So I've been trying to stop myself saying "I want to kill myself" and replace it with "I like SMBC!" or if I don't catch it in time, saying "I like SMBC!" after "... myself".

It's been kind of working today, but I don't know if I can keep it up.

January 4, 2013: Not Been Too Bad

Since my last posts the SMBC thing has been more or less working.

I spent a day or two pretty much saying "I want to kill myself. ... no I love SMBC" or even "I want to .... love SMBC".   Over and over again, many times a day.

Since then it's slowed down, which is great.  That means that I don't tell myself I want to kill myself nearly so much.  When I do I usually catch it and am not replacing it with SMBC, but just that I don't.

And I've been a lot more cheerful.   Probably at about 1 or even sometimes 0.   On a pointer where 0 equals normality, to be described in a later post.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Down and Up Again

It's been an odd week.  

On Wednesday night and Thursday morning I was very down.  On my scale I would say I was at about 4, where maybe about 5 is where I start to fail in terms of getting through the day.

At that time I literally thought I couldn't put together a simple website.   Yesterday I went to work and talked to a friend and got tips on how to set it up.   It's now up in a stub form. I think being able to talk about depression helped because I could just be open and say I had an attack of feeling useless.   Getting that together seems to have got be back to about 1.

It was weird looking at my recent posts.  I honestly thought that this burst of low mood had started with the car problem on Tuesday.  But I see I had already put out two posts about feeling low before that happened.   Something gave me a dip and I don't know what.

Depression Quest

This link comes with a trigger warning. It is a text-based “adventure” game, that takes you through the paces of discovering and dealing with depression (or not, depending on your choices). Many times along my one playthrough, I recognized themes and situations I have been through myself, and thoughts and worries I have experienced.

Depression Quest

Don't play it if you feel you might get triggered by it. On the other hand, this might be a useful link to help convey experiences to friends and family who want to understand but don't.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Talking about depression 2

I think the biggest problem in trying to talk about depression is the lack of  shared references. For sure, we can each tell our stories about the circumstances of our depression. Mine were: end of PGR funding/relationship/folk-punk band/living in remote Fife cottage; start of awful housing arrangement/teaching 18-24 hours a week at an HE College. But that says nothing, really. Lots of people cope with far worse.

Trying to express how I felt is just so hard. OK, we can all play party games about whether or not we see the same colours, but when we try to talk about our internal states all we seem to have is cliches. And colour words: black, blue, grey...

However, I found a naive computational analogy which seems to work with other computational melancholics. It's like there's an background process in the brain to do with worry/anxiety/self doubt which probably everyone has, but which somehow gets maximum priority scheduling in conditions of unmanageable stress. And because it gets in the way of other processes to do with really important stuff, the failure to suspend it adds to the worry/anxiety/self doubt which then become self-reinforcing, maintaining the process's high priority. After each of my parents died, I realised that my grief operated in almost the same manner, but with grief it mutes, they say at a rate of one month for every year you knew the person.

Then I read Daniel Dennet's "Consciousness Explained". No, of course it isn't. But he describes a evolutionary  mind-less brain which fires off loads of random problem solving agents and the one's that are fit get to reproduce. So maybe depression is when melancholy agents get to reproduce at the expense of those we'd regard as actually fit? Note the use of a mind-full "we" AKA "I" which is doing the regarding...

Being anti-depressed: My experience taking setraline (Guest Post)

By Evgenij Thorstensen from his blog Journey is return.

Quite a lot has been written about what being depressed feels like. However, I have seen comparatively little about what taking an antidepressant feels like. Note the "feels like": There's plenty of information about the risks, effects, and side-effects in clinical terms, on wikipedia and beyond. When I went to see a doctor about my depression and started taking an antidepressant, I had done my research, but I can't say that I knew what it would feel like.


In retrospect, I remember having depressive episodes since the age of 14. I am now 25; I finally sought medical treatment about a year ago. My doctor prescribed me setraline, initially 50mg/day, a low therapeutic dose. I took this for about two months with initial positive effect that gradually died down. My doctor then proposed to up the dose to 100mg/day, which I accepted and have been taking for about seven months (with persistent positive effect) before gradually tapering off over a month. At the time of writing, I am no longer taking setraline as of three weeks ago. The reason I decided to stop taking the drug was basically to see what would happen, since I had been free from depression for eight months or so, and since the (mostly sexual) side effects, while bearable, were nevertheless unpleasant. These, as they say, are the facts; the goal of this article is to describe what effect taking setraline had on me, and more specifically, what it felt like.

The phrase "anti-depressed" in the title of this article is from an article by Johann Hari, which I found a few months after starting treatment. In it, he talks about his experience taking an SSRI (paroxetine) for many years. The whole article is worth reading, but in particular, he reports, from his own experience, that
You enter a new state that I think of as ‘anti-depression’. We are not depressed, but nor are we like the undepressed. We are different. Whatever we do, wherever we go, we will never be truly, madly, deeply unhappy. It’s like we have been inoculated from the miseries of life.
I relate strongly to this. For me, a large part of being depressed was that nearly everything had strong emotional significance. The smallest experiences had intense emotional affect attached, whether good or bad. During the first month of taking setraline, I noticed my emotions gradually lose some of their intensity. The small things and experiences in my life no longer had much emotional impact on me.

As an illustration of what I mean by that, consider the song "Breaking the habit". It's a favourite of mine (Linkin Park seems to be high on the "depressed people's choice" list of bands), and has plenty of emotional significance. Before taking setraline, I remember listening to it on repeat (ten times? fifteen?), raw emotion going through me, without abating even after the song had repeated a few times. Sometimes this (or other) songs would play in my head as background music, with vivid emotions attached. On setraline, listening to it no longer immediately brings a strong emotional reaction. The memories I associate with this song feel more detached, less vivid. Most days, it's now just a song I like. Putting it on repeat becomes boring after one repetition, maybe two.

Before taking setraline, strong emotions were my constant companion. In retrospect, it was like the stereotypical description of being fourteen --- an intense level of emotional affect attached to everyday things. I felt in tune with the universe, but with a constant and consuming undercurrent of being not of this world, of not belonging. This undercurrent would rise to the surface from time to time (sometimes triggered by something, sometimes not), and presto! Depressive episode. On setraline, this "in-tunedness" went away, only making appearances in settings that should have a strong emotional effect on a person, say upon reading a particularly emotive scene in a novel, or having a deeply heartfelt conversation with a close friend.

Apropos friends, the second effect I noticed was that I felt less affected by other people. In particular, I felt less connected to people around me, perhaps less empathic. It doesn't sound very nice, but bear with me. Empathy, in one sense, is feeling what someone you're interacting with feels. Before taking setraline, I felt a strong sense of connection when interacting with my friends, and it seemed to me that I felt what they felt when it came to emotional situations. On setraline and looking back, however, it seems that in such situations, rather than feeling what somebody else was, the feelings on my side were a lot stronger --- a kind of magnified empathy, out of proportion to the other person's actual emotions. When a friend told me about something bad that happened to them, I felt strongly for them, even when the incident hadn't affected them very much. If someone was upset, it felt to me like it was a big deal for them, even when it was actually small and insignificant.

Before taking setraline, wronging someone felt like the end of the world, and being apart from people felt like crushing loneliness. After, the strength of emotion that other people's experiences and stories inspire in me seem more proportional to the strength of their emotions. It has become easier to apologise, since doing someone a minor wrong does not feel like the end of the world any more. I feel much less lonely, even if I have seen less of my friends recently, rather than more. In short, everything is less intense, which echoes the quote from Hari's article above. However, his article continues:
People who cannot feel physical pain end up getting into terrible accidents. They burn their hands without realising it, crush their legs in doors, contract illnesses that eat away at them unawares.
There is a similar process when you cannot feel searing mental pain. Like all the anti-depressed people I know, I have racked up big debts, been crazily casual about my health, and allowed myself to continue in emotionally damaging relationships for years, all because none of it really hurts.
Here his experience and mine part ways. I would instead liken my experience to having my pain threshold go from an extremely low level (everything is emotionally significant) to a moderate one. Likewise, the part about it "none of it really hurting" has not been true for me. Everything does hurt less, and it has become much easier to push away something that's on my mind. So far, however, a lot of the worrying in my life has been what I call worrying "on idle", like a parked car with the engine running. You're worrying about something, but not actually getting anywhere or doing anything about it, mainly because there isn't anything that can be done, at least for the moment. Instead of leaving it be and doing something else, however, we worry and ruminate. I knew how to deal with it even before I started setraline, but...

On setraline, this "idling" is pretty much gone. Pushing something that I don't want to think about away from my mind and doing something else (productive or otherwise) is much easier. As for the things that do need attention, I find that they are still amenable to rational thought, without as much anxiety and worry attached. Such thought then either leads to a plan and then to action, or to pushing the issue away, without the idling. It does sometimes require effort to not ignore something I'd rather not think about, but I haven't found it to be a problem. So far, my life hasn't slid out of control as per Hari's description, anyway. And as for everything painful hurting less, I'd say it's less rather than not at all. Breaking up with my ex-boyfriend hurt, for example, but instead of sending me into a depressive episode I spent a week in a funk, then gradually went back to normal the week after that. From what I hear, that is the healthy emotional reaction to an amicable breakup.

Actually, re-reading this paragraph I am reminded of the serenity prayer, which goes
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Ignoring God and the wisdom part, there's a more general point to be made here. Of the things I tend to worry about, there are more of the kind that I can't do anything about, at least in the short term. Consequently, given an issue that is on my mind, letting it slide is the right decision more frequently than worrying about it would be, and so erring on the side of letting things slide seems to have the higher expected utility. Other people's ratio of things worth worrying about to things worth leaving alone may of course be different, and that may be one possible explanation of why my experience differs from Johann Hari's.

Now that I am no longer taking setraline, some of the emotional intensity of everyday things has come back, but (so far) nowhere near the original level. Likewise, putting something out of my mind requires more effort. Picture a line from "nothing is emotionally significant" to "everything is". Taking setraline took me from the latter end to somewhere closer to the middle, rather than to the other end. Now that I am no longer taking it, I can feel myself slowly move in the "everything" direction. This, again, is similar to what Johann Hari reports experiencing, and his article concludes:
It feels real. It feels human. It feels like me, after all these years.
For me it feels more like "old me", which would be the depressed me. However, as of yet there isn't a non-depressed (rather than anti-depressed) me to compare to. I hope that there soon will be.

P.S: I very much recommend Johann Hari's other articles about depression.

This post was offered to Depressed Academics by Evgenij Thorstensen.  It originally appeared on his blog Journey is return. It is published here under Creative Commons and Evgenij retains copyright. We thank Evgenij very much for this very interesting and personal post. 

List of Resources from The Professor Is In

The Professor Is In (Karen L Kelsky) has compiled a list of resources on Academia and Mental Illness.

This looks like an extremely useful list and we'd like to thank her for compiling it.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Welcome, Visitors from The Professor Is In

I happened to glance at the blog stats and noticed a sudden upsurge in page views and especially from North America.   Googling around I found that The Professor Is In (Karen L Kelsky) mentioned this blog on her facebook page.

We are a very new blog, founded a month ago.   We are not mental health professionals in any way, just people in academia with depression or just thoughts about depression.  We want there to be a place where people can open up about the issue either with their real names or not.  

While normally I think Mikael's posts are wonderful, I'm going to point you at my first post on the blog, where I explain why this blog should exist even though we don't claim academia and depression have particular links.

One thing that comes up sometimes: it may well be easier to be open about issues like depression when you are already safe in a tenured position.  Of the three post authors so far, two are tenured professors (full professors in US terms), but one is most definitely not.   Yes, my concerns will be different to those of a postdoc madly job hunting, not knowing if academia is for them or not, or if it is whether they can stay in it.  But also, let me tell you that depression does not go away just because everything is going right in your life.

Most importantly though, we really want to create a community, and the invitation is always open to guest post to anyone at any level of academia (or post academia).  Our only terms are that posts cannot be offensive (in our judgement) and you are prepared to licence them under creative commons, allowing us to share it freely while you retain copyright.   We can post for you if you send us text, or we can add you as a blog author.  We will take posts under real names or pseudonyms or just anonymously.

The Higgs Boson is confirmed

Don't get too excited, this is nothing to do with the Higgs Boson.

It's just that it reminds me of that stage where they were pretty sure they had the Boson but couldn't quite announce it.

Turns out I was right yesterday.  My finely tuned depression detection machine was right. Today I am feeling more miserable than I have for weeks.  Not super miserable, but enough that I know I'm depressed, everything seems harder, and wasting time on facebook seems like a depressing vicious cycle instead of a happy goofing off.

The facebook cycle is: must get thing done, don't have enough energy, I'm not good enough, just surf facebook.  Oh I'm wasting my time, this is terrible, I'm bad... so repeat cycle.

I had a weird couple of weeks at the start of the year where I was happy and the cycle was: should get stuff done, who cares, what's on facebook, oh should have got stuff done, who cares?   And genuinely I didn't feel guilty about it - a very rare feeling for me.

Like I say this is not very miserable on my terms, the pointer at maybe 1 or 2.  But it is interesting that I spotted it coming yesterday.

UPDATE:  Went to get my daughter from school.  Wouldn't normally give her a lift but she was not on top form today (is that a British expression, not being on top form = being a little ill?)  Anyway, discovered I'd parked with my lights on and drained the battery.  We all walked home and got rather miserable.  Later on I can go and get the car when I have scored a jump lead and a friend to drive there.

But two things upset me.  One is that I just couldn't cope with the situation well and calmly as I should have done.  The second is that my decision making was way off.   A cold walk home for half an hour with two under-the-weather kids was a mistake (could have called a breakdown service or a friend or just got a taxi home).   And I left the car unlocked in case the electric doors couldn't open, realising when nearly home my car has a backup key entry so I could have locked it after all.  

To medicate or not to medicate

I woke up this morning to find the following exchange waiting for me on twitter:

  1. RT  People say meds are a crutch. So is a crutch, but you wouldn't take it away from someone with a broken leg 
  2.   I am seriously concerned that meds will stop me from being productive. Successful research is all I have to hope for.
  This is a concern I've heard many researchers express. , you want to help field this one?

I started medicating early January. I was worried when I started whether medicating would remain sensible, what with my intense reliance on my brain and my creativity for my work, exactly like LeSabot here worries.

For me, with a history of manic-spectrum issues in addition to my depression, there is the additional worry that SSRIs may actually trigger manias if you are unlucky enough.

So I went into medication with a pretty vigilant mind. On the lookout for Things That Might Change Me. I figured that in the worst case scenario — drugs are actively counter-productive — it's worth losing, say, 3-4 months to find out whether they could have worked or not. And the best case scenario removes so much sadness, anguish, and problems that investing in this test is worthwhile doing.

I have been at it for a bit over a month now, and finally the side-effects are starting to wane. First month on meds was kinda shitty — I still had bad moods, but I ended up having a very flat, apathetic approach to both my moods and everything else. I have not had any significant mania-spectrum events. 

And what's most likely important to this discussion: so far, about a month into daily medication with fluoxetin, I have not noticed any change in my intellectual prowess. I pushed out two papers since medication started — one SIGGRAPH submission (which honestly was pretty punishing in stress levels and workloads) and one arXiv preprint — and more than anything, the medication frees up parts of my brain that were working on keeping my emotions in check.

I'm not sure whether I end up more productive now. But at the very least, I can say with confidence, SSRIs have certainly not made me less productive.

Monday, 11 February 2013

More Finely Tuned Depression Detection Machine

This year - and I suspect not coincidentally following founding Depressed Academics with Mikael - I have been pretty happy. 

I can't see this corresponds with an increase in smarts or concentration or ability to get things done.  But it does seem to correlate with an increased level of confidence.  Things I would normally be scared to try seem easier to try at least, and if they don't work out, so what?

One of those things is the most ambitious project of my academic career.   It is - I'm not joking about this - meant to be what I'm remembered for and to change the field (of Computer Science).   Not quite ready to tell you what it is yet, sorry!

But suddenly I find myself thinking "I can't do this, I'm not the right person, it doesn't matter anyway", and thinking how convenient and simple life will be if I just don't bother. 

I don't really believe that, but even though I'm still pretty happy, it does seem to indicate my brain is becoming a more finely tuned machine to detect depression.   Not even knowing I had depression till it was diagnosed a few years ago, and now I can detect it just like that!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Vignette: Quick as a flash…

Quick as a flash it comes.
I'm worthless. The things I do are bad.
But Susanne just told me how good she thinks I cook.
It'll be bad. We won't like it. I'll have spoilt an entire huge pot of food.
She praised it. What am I on about?
And I'm ugly. I'll just curl up here and hope nobody sees me.
Y'know, I am curled up in her lap. And she's kissing me.
I just want to be alone.
She's offering me food. Drinks. Candy. Kisses. Kisses are welcome. Even now.
I'm not paying attention to our movie. I'm a bad husband. I'm inattentive.
I am lying to myself.

Quick as a flash it goes. I cried a bit. I whined a bit about how I especially wanted to be good and stable tonight. And all of a sudden, it is as if nothing had happened. My face is streaked with tears, but that's just moisture by now.

Talking about depression

I'm Greg and I'm melancholic. All right, depressive. I was first diagnosed in 1978,
in circumstances that I'll maybe relate another time, and was prescribed tri-cyclic antidepressants for about 18 months. I've had attacks on and off ever since, but with markedly decreased frequency and reduced duration.

At the time, I didn't tell anyone. I wasn't ashamed. Rather, I didn't want fuss and I didn't want sympathy. I didn't want people to treat me differently though I'm sure they'd have been uniformly kind and understanding. I just wanted the black moods
 to stop and I wanted to feel normal, what ever that was.

I found that three things helped me apart from the green and black pills. First of all, standing in front of a class, trying to explain stuff I knew backwards and didn't
entirely understand why others found hard, forced me to de-centre. Secondly,
exercise, especially long walks, untensed my body and calmed the looping brain.
 And third, pursuing non-work projects with other people again took me out of
myself. In particular, I helped write and record a radio play called "Biggles and the
Day Glo Fokker", with a cast of tens, using bodjo reel to reel and cassette equipment, and BBC sound effect LPs. No it was never broadcast...

Very few of my friends and almost none of my colleagues now know I'm depressive. I'm still not ashamed. I just don't think it's relevant.

However, as  a student mentor and a UCU member supporter, and in the past as an academic manager, I find myself trying to help lots of people who are in crisis, where  reactive or endogenous depression was often at the  root or a complicating factor. So the first thing I tell them is about my own experience,  and that almost always eases their trusting me and my being able to point them at appropriate help.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Telling your colleagues

Some of my current colleagues know.

Some of my past colleagues know — Ian for instance.

My current HR admins know: they have reimbursed me for my psychiatrist sessions.

I vacillate on whether to tell all my current colleagues; whether to tell my boss. I almost get all the way to “Yes”, and then something happens — something at once small and insignificant and also a warning flag. A nervous comment about an incoming new colleague, outing their minority status at a largish meeting and commenting on their perceivable ‘weirdness’.

And on the one hand, I understand this as what it is: trying to handle something unfamiliar and dealing with a potentially problematic subject from a leadership position. On the other hand, I know several people who would be furious at being outed this way.

I certainly would not want the first thing my new colleagues know about me to be “Mikael is depressed and medicating.”

Maybe fifth.

Not first.

Saturday, 2 February 2013


What if I won't enjoy our planned afternoon of gaming?

What if I suddenly grow sad and apathetic in the middle of our hosting friends?

We have done really nice things with that wall.

What if my side-effects screw me up, and I won't even care?

What if I cannot pull off my chosen career?
Cannot be a career academic?
Cannot get a permanent position?

What if the research I do is not good enough?
Not interesting enough?
Not published enough?

What if…