Wednesday, 30 October 2013

An Honour and a Privilege

I am a person of enthusiasms.  It's a good thing and a bad thing.

A good thing is that I can move fast with something I care deeply about.  Such as Depressed Academics.

A bad thing is that I don't always sustain the energy to keep going - even at a slower pace - over a long period.

So my posting rate to Depressed Academics has been slow recently, while over at my regular blog I've been posting a lot about sexism and general inclusiveness in tech and CS because I think it's so important. Of course some of those posts could easily belong here, like this one, where I talk about one of the unhappiest times of my life when I MUST have been depressed in a clinical sense, but just felt like I was miserable.  It literally never occurred to me to visit a doctor.  (Please don't make this mistake: if life is awful for you, even if there is a good reason, please look for medical help.)

Here's a random story. I once applied for a job at a place that will remain nameless (I'm lying, it was HP Labs, Bristol). I didn't get it and one reason was because they hired a psychologist to do evaluations of applicants and he said that I was a "butterfly", i.e. got enthusiastic for one thing, then moved on to another, and another.  As I just said, he was right in one sense. But it made me extremely miserable to have been analysed by a psychologist whose professional interest was in stopping me getting a job I wanted, rather than helping me, and who had labelled me in what I felt was an unfair way.  It was one of those times I thought what I should have said when it was too late.  I really wish I'd said this: "Yeah, you're right, obviously as a student who is just about to finish a high quality Maths degree at Cambridge University, obviously I can't stick to anything really really difficult over a period of years."  

That story didn't mean anything.  I just remembered it, and I wanted to tell you.

So I've been feeling a bit guilty about D.A. recently.  But not very, because a butterfly can still do good things even if I don't post here regularly.

But it's nice to be inspired to come here and post again for a change.

And there's a good reason.  Not because I'm miserable but because I am honoured and privileged.

I am NOT going to go into details. But somebody praised me for starting this blog and told me things they never would have done as a relatively remote acquaintance. To be trusted like that is an honour and a privilege.

Whoever you are, and you know who you are, thank you.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The face of my depression or facing my depression?

There are many faces that a bipolar person has: the face of depression, mania and even of a mixed state. Sometimes we can conceal a depressed or manic face so that even our loved ones can't tell. Other times the face of despair and hopelessness is realized by others through dark circles under the eyes, a constant frown, tears. The lighted face of mania--wild eyed and flushed--can draw attention from even strangers. The most difficult part about this, however, is not what other people notice. But what we see when we are standing alone in front of a mirror, honestly looking at ourselves. Honestly looking into ourselves.

And because looking at ourselves at our most vulnerable is a very personal thing, I'll switch to the first person now....

What I saw today when I looked at myself was so subtle that I doubt anyone would know anything was wrong. It only took one glance into the side mirror of a car for me to tell that something was terribly wrong. Of course I knew my mood hadn't been great. But for the first time in a long while I saw hopelessness, disappointment, fear. I was seeing the face of my depression (again!).

Excuse me though as I try to catch you up briefly. My last post was end of June so there's obviously going to be pieces missing, but these are the big events since my last post:
  • End of July: Moved across country to find a place to live for the upcoming semester.
  • Mid-Late August: Began first semester of PhD.
  • Early September: Made some poor choices.
    • Risky sex.
    • Drug use --> Mania-like symptoms.
    • Irregular sleeping.
    • Missing class --> Fell behind in school.
  • Mid October: Was kicked out of house by druggie landlord in the middle of the night.
  • October 22: Turned in paperwork for medical withdrawal from my university.
So the ugly face of depression has reappeared. As of today, I have withdrawn from my university, and I am wondering what the hell is next. I sort of have a plan in place and that means facing my depression instead of just staring at it helplessly.

The plan:

  • Return to the basics.
    • Sleep regulation
    • Exercise & healthy eating
    • Medication and supplement management
  • Attend therapy.
    • Mindfulness practice in between
    • Mood-tracking and sending charts to both my doctor and therapist
Yeah so that's that. Oh, and also, I can still return to school (when I'm ready). I have to show documentation of improvement before I can be readmitted. But I'll think of that when it comes...

Monday, 14 October 2013

Vignette: Bang! Slump

I was doing great today.

My blog post on "The Petrie Multiplier" has been receiving thousands of hits and been tweeted and retweeted like crazy.   This is great because it's important, and people like it.

I was very happy.

I forgot to take my daughter to her piano lesson.  The piano teacher was not very gracious when I rang up to apologise.


Since then I've been in a slump and miserable.

That's all.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Vignette: I must be doing ok

Today I surfed over to Google Scholar and discovered my h-index had increased by one.

If you don't know what h-index is, all that matters is that it's a measure of citations of an academic, and like logarithms, it increases slowly.  So a single increment in your h-index is fairly rare.  But if you know me, you know I can obsess over citations - both mine and other people's.

I was really happy it clicked up by one.  Which is normal.  But the last couple of times it has I felt nothing, just as I did when I had a major paper accepted.

So the fact that I was happy about my h-index going up suggests I must be doing ok.