Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Racing heart? Numinous dread?

I'm getting what I suspect to be a side-effect of my Wellbutrin: for about a day and a half now, I've had this weird feeling in my chest.

Sometimes it feels like my heart'd be racing -- but when I try to time my pulse it doesn't seem that fast.

Sometimes it feels like … well … like an anxiety attack without the anxiety attack.

I should probably bring this up with my psychiatrist; but at the same time -- while uncomfortable -- it doesn't really do much. My mood doesn't change from it (much), and it doesn't really influence my functioning.

It's just … weird. And I can't come up with good googleable descriptions of it.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Nerd sniping

…or how a change in medicines reacquaints me with my hypomanic personality sides.

My psychiatrist and I have been fiddling a fair amount with my medication over the past 6 months. We first weaned me off of Fluoxetin and Wellbutrin, and then started me up on Lamotrigin. The transition period made December of 2014 one of the worst periods in my life to date (mental health-wise). Lamotrigin seems to work a bit — even if I still had a bit too much grinding sadness and emotional lability to be completely happy.

Thus, as of last week, we added Wellbutrin back again. And whoooo boy is there a difference!

FDA has, among other things, the following to say on the subject:
Antidepressant treatment can precipitate a manic, mixed, or hypomanic manic episode. The risk appears to be increased in patients with bipolar disorder or who have risk factors for bipolar disorder. Prior to initiating WELLBUTRIN, screen patients for a history of bipolar disorder and the presence of risk factors for bipolar disorder (e.g., family history of bipolar disorder, suicide, or depression).
Mind you, my psychiatrist is a specialist on Bipolar II, and both he and I knew what we were doing when adding Wellbutrin. For me, this is the healthiest I have been for years. The daily anxiety pangs and spontaneous crying jags are gone. The cotton blanket of fluoxetin is gone. The damper on my initiative is gone.

On the other hand — it can precipitate an episode. I'm noticing related bits and pieces already, and chief among those is a sudden tendency to fall into what I'm tempted to call hyperfocal activities.
I get easy to nerd snipe. And when caught up in something, I really don't like interruptions.

So far, in the week since I started on it, I've gotten dug down in:

I'm productive as hell, I enjoy it, but I have so far gotten annoyed at people for interacting with me when I'm in the zone, and I have forgotten the time, and forgotten to eat.
I also seem to have a little less control over where I'm productive now. I should've spent today working on my next lecture (Friday afternoon) and the research needed before the Dubai conference; but instead I built a website.

So… probably should keep a close eye on how I'm doing day to day in the next weeks. The medication can punch you up, and it seems to at least be pushing me that way.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Eclipse Day

Today was a wonderful horrible day. An eclipse day.

There was a partial eclipse of the sun.  In Fife it was about 95% coverage, which is still not total but impressive. It was expected to be cloud covered by the day dawned clear.  And it stayed clear. Even though as I drove in to St Andrews, the town looked cloud covered.  But by the time I got there, the sun was out (though partially covered).  It stayed out throughout.

There was a gathering outside our Physics and Astronomy department, and although I had not been able to bring a pair of eclipse glasses, there was lots of ways to see the eclipse.

I've got pictures here of two that I was particularly pleased with. One is of hundreds of images of the eclipsed sun formed by gaps in a bush the sun was shining through.  I've seen this before (in Sitges, Spain, in 2005) and knew to look out for it.  Most people missed it, except some cognoscenti and some people we told.

The other was nothing to do with me, but the picture shows somebody who knew just what to do. Making a pinhole with one hand he stretched his other out to capture the image.  It's not very clear at this magnification but indeed there were two separate and very clear images of the eclipse on his hand.  This is as low-tech an eclipse viewer as you could get: anybody (non-disabled) in human history could have done it during an eclipse!

Then I went to work and really had a pretty good day.  I had a few nice chats with people, about work and non work things.  I continued a work chat from yesterday and made some progress with it, having a small but cute idea with my colleague.  I talked to his PhD student and found out what he's been doing and found out that indeed it does look very good: I'd kind of missed this because a lot of it happened while I was off ill.  Also it suggested a way we could approach a problem.  I actually managed to start work again on a paper I've not been working on, but which I should have been. I didn't make a lot of progress but it was good to do something instead of nothing.  I had one long chat which I was deeply touched to be involved in.

As I was packing up to go home I realised I'd had as good a day at work as one could reasonably imagine.

And I was more or less miserable pretty much all day.  No special reason that I know about.

If I remember to do so I can call days like this an "eclipse day". As a memory of this wonderful horrible day, and because of analogy of there being a bright sun but also 95% darkness.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

What I'd like my Wikipedia page to say

I was pretty miserable yesterday, though I did have the pleasure of being sent some pictures of puppies by our very own Depressed Academic blogger Patch.

Last night I was googling "Petrie Multiplier" and noticed to my great pleasure that it now has a Wikipedia page.

Then I noticed that it links to my Wikipedia page. Which is obviously a nice ego boost. It was set up about a week ago.  I promise you, I had nothing to do with it. I did once buy somebody a beer to name something the "Gent representation" but my ego hasn't extended to writing or asking anybody to write a wikipedia page for me.

I'm not allowed to edit it myself (in theory), but there's a lot of things I would like my wikipedia page to say.

 Two of the most important are ...

In January 2013 Ian Gent founded the blog Depressed Academics with Mikael Vejdemo-Johansson.

In September 2014, Ian Gent was diagnosed with anxiety and was unable to work for two months, writing publicly about some aspects of his situation.

Various links on depressed academics can serve as sources for these if you feel like adding those (though I think wikipedia sometimes hassles you for using blog posts.)

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Vignette: A fleeting moment of happiness

One of the things I have been trying to do this year is keep a "happiness diary", where I jot down things that make me happy, as soon as possible.  At the end of the day it's good to know that some things made you happy, and they don't always spring to mind if you don't write them down - like trying to remember a shopping list at the supermarket when 12 hours ago you thought "oh we need pasta."

I haven't been good at keeping it up - the same with my to do list in the same notebook (yes, paper and pencil). Anyway, that's not the point.

The point is I had a look at it today and noticed for Jan 5: "Fleeting moment of happiness".

Well it was nice I was happy, not so good that just one moment is noteworthy.