Reflections on this Year of Upheaval

I’ve been itching to get back to this blog so here we are! Hope life’s been treating you passably well in my absence?

I’ve been in my new job in Medical Communications for two and a half months and it’s going well so far. I passed my six-week review with flying colours and a short-ish list of things to work on. My colleagues are lovely people and the team is working really well together. After a slow start, my primary project has kicked off and I have plenty to keep me busy. I’m learning loads on the job as I go, and while it’s been difficult at points, it’s great to develop a whole flotilla of non-science skills. My job is a combination of events planner, project manager and client handler, so it’s very, very different to the PhD.

The commuting is taxing but I’m handling it much better than I thought I would. What annoys me most is the truly awful mobile internet coverage. It’s sooooo patchy and intermittent, it’s impossible to browse the internet properly and means I can’t use the considerable time spent on the train to either work, play or blog in any meaningful way. Not having a Tablet or iPad etc also doesn’t help matters so it’s on my birthday wish list!

What I am finding difficult at work is the occasional anxiety. I know the two key situations where it flares up. First, checking emails when I, for whatever reason, fear I might be in trouble and that the email will be the bearer of bad news. It doesn’t stop me getting work done but I am aware when I’m averse to checking my email because of fear, and it’s more often than I like. The thing I’m afraid of – being in trouble – has yet to happen and I hope that the more I put myself through the momentary fear and anxiety, the easier it will become. I know why it frightens me too – stupid PhD hangover from dealing with awful, bullying supervisors, but that doesn’t make it any easier to make the dread go away! *Sigh*.

The second situation is in asking for help/doing something new with too little instruction – I don’t like interrupting people and ugh, what if I get/do the thing wrong? Being aware that that’s what the anxiety is about does help a bit, and again, it’s not crippling, it’s just unpleasant. I figure as long as I try to be aware of the low level anxiety and keep an eye out for if it gets worse, I’ll be okay.

Because that’s the other thing – I’ve been off citalopram since the middle of August. I’d weaned down to 10 mg/daily and had been there for over a month and then I, after a conversation with my GP, stopped taking it all together. I have a back up prescription of  Sertraline/Zoloft just in case but I’m seeing how long I can go without to see if the depression that’s been dragging at my heels for the last 5 years is in remittance for the time being. And actually right now, I’m pretty much fine. Mainly what I’m waiting for is the last of the citalopram side effects to disappear.

The weight I gained hasn’t gone anywhere but I’m not taking active steps to see if I can shift it because body-positivity and laziness. (Frankly, I just love cake! And sweets, and chocolate, and popcorn, and alcohol… You know, all the tasty things). The boobs leaking tiny quantities of milk (galactorrhea) stopped within a few weeks of ceasing citalopram and my sex drive has slowly been returning, which is a huge relief. Nothing like feeling guilty because you don’t want sex as often as your partner after previously having a vigorous and highly regular sex life with them! My periods still haven’t returned but that may partly be because of the Mirena coil rather than the citalopram alone.

The downside is that my Reynaud’s Syndrome has returned with a vengeance. I am feeling the autumnal cold in the mornings like nobody’s business and washing my hands under too cold water is guaranteed to turn my fingers white. SSRIs have been noted as relieving Reynaud’s and part of me is considering taking the sertraline just so I don’t have to be cold all the time throughout winter. Which, may not be the best reason for taking it, especially as I don’t know how else it will affect me, but not having to deal with the Reynaud’s would be nice!

I figure once I’m back to “normal” and have settled there for a while I’ll start taking sertaline for a trial period and see how it goes. Because whilst the anxiety isn’t stopping me from living my life, I have been feeling more emotional and prone to tears than I would like, and I don’t know if that’s just me, having feelings and being better at being aware of them, or whether it’s an *Issue*.  My Beck Depression Inventory-II score is 7 (“not depressed”) if I’m really fishing to answer any of the questions with anything other than 0, whereas back in January 2015 it was around 25-30 – which scores as moderate-to-severe depression. So that’s not actually a problem to be worried about right now, which is bloomin’ marvelous! Seriously, if you’d asked me back in January, or hell, even in June, before my graduation and landing this job in Med Comms, whether I’d be feeling this well by now, I think I’d have strangled you just for asking, and then burst into tears about how awful my life was.

Let’s just take a look at a post from February, after I’d handed in my PhD Thesis for comparison.

“The only downside to all of this was that emotionally I was still a wreck. I cried/had hysterics once a day for over a fortnight. I.e. things were not that great. I was massively anxious and panicking about my future and all the things I have to do over the next several months. The list is as follows:

  1. Prepare for my Viva Voce exam
  2. Start claiming Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
  3. Job hunt for temp work while I prep for my viva
  4. Job hunt for permanent work, probably in the Med Comms industry
  5. Move in with Squishy in deepest darkest Kent, i.e. a long way away from where most of the Med Comms companies are, likely necessitating communting into London for work, the thing I said I’d never do.

So, no biggie, right? All small, minor obstacles that can easily be overcome, right?

Wrong!

Try major, stress-inducing issues, each with their own set of sub-tasks and problems. All at once, when I’m still physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted from finishing my thesis.”

Soooo, I wasn’t in the best place in the world but it’s inspiring to look at that list and see that I’ve handled all of those things.

I had my viva, and passed it well. I went on JSA and found a part-time job to keep body and soul together and get some relevant work experience (organising travel and booking hotel rooms was one of the reasons my company gave me the job!). I landed a job in Med Comms which suits me, that I’m enjoying and want to stay in for the foreseeable future and which pays reasonably well. And finally, I’ve moved in with Squishy and have been living with him for over 7 months and it’s good! It’s not 100% to my liking but that’s because housework sucks and we both work long hours and spend upwards of 20 hours a week each commuting to London, on top of the hours we actually spend at work. So when we do see each other in the  evenings, we’re usually both tired and hungry and have to be up again for work in not enough hours.

Three months ago, I literally couldn’t see myself where I am now and for that I am deeply grateful.

 

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6 weeks at the new job

Just dropping in to say hi, my lovelies. I’m still alive and doing rather well at the moment.

I’ve passed my 6 week probation at work, and my line manager is really happy with how quickly I’m picking things up. The work’s getting interesting as the two big projects I’m working on are gathering steam. The people I’m working with in the office are great and I have a good line manager for the first time. It’s such a change to struggling under my former PhD supervisor.

I’m getting used to the London commute, but it’s two hours each way which means I’m spending 20 hours a week commuting. It’s brutal and means I have very little free time at home during the week. By the time I walk in the door all I want is to eat instant food that requires no effort on my part, say hello to my Squishy,  and fall into bed. I do technically have the time on my commute all to myself but there’s hardly any 3G signal in Kent so I can’t read the internet on my phone! Arghhh! Also, my tiny phone screen is not the best thing to attempt to write blog posts on, which is partly why I’ve hardly been here the last two months.

That, and I have no idea what the focus for my blog should be any more. I don’t have the trauma of my PhD to resolve through the written word, and while I’m sure I will think about it and it’s on-going effects  on occasion, it’s not so burning an issue that I must write about it now. Which, tbh, is what drove the posts I felt most on fire about when writing.

So, this blog is going on a hiatus for the time being.

Which makes me kind of sad as WordPress informed me this week that it has been three years since I commandeered this domain. I’m still reblogging stuff I find pretty/amusing/interesting on Tumblr but again, now that I don’t have hours and hours of my day to burn, plus the crappiness of the internet interface on windows phone/internet explorer (which also hinders my WordPress usage after all their crappy “improvements”!), means that my queue is much shorter than it was when I was denying the horrors of my PhD and unemployment.

Love to you all, and see you around.

I’ll drop in once a month or so between now and Christmas, so I won’t be gone completely, and you can always email me (see my About page).

Complicated post-PhD and job-hunting feels

I had a pretty rough day yesterday. Job hunting is not going well – there are hardly any entry level medical writer jobs available. All of them want  3-6 months med comms experience. Which, how the fuck am I supposed to get that without someone taking me on with no experience? I have a fucking PhD – med comms is supposed to be great for those with a PhD but no companies that I can reasonably get to are hiring. And relocating is not an option because of Squisher’s job, not unless we want to go back to long distance. Which, we don’t. We’ve only been living together for about three months!

The recruiters I’ve spoken to suggested getting an unpaid internship. Like, ahahaha no. I didn’t put myself through the agony of the PhD just so I could work for free. Continue reading

Unexpected Feels: Safety, Failure, and Loss

Let’s start with the good news.

First, I have completely unpacked all my belongings and found homes for everything. The dining room is no longer a mountain of boxes and it has a dining table which is doubling up as my desk at the moment. I also found curtains for the living room. Second, with the help of Mum, I’ve finished digging up the weeds in the garden and sown my flower seeds. She also identified all the mystery shrubs. There’s a Weigela, a Ceanothus and a Hydrangea. There’s also a Himalayan Honeysuckle which is in bud. Very exciting!

In the interesting news category, this coming week is my last at the RCN. I am sad to be leaving but also grateful as I had reached the limits of the interesting bits of the job and have spent the last two weeks bored out of my skull with not quite enough to do. I am however going to miss my paycheck, especially as I don’t have anything lined up for when I get back from sailing.

Speaking of which, I’m going sailing on the Stavros in a week’s time! Much Excite! Southampton to Cardiff with a sea shanty group! Hopefully the weather will have the correct amount of wind, in the right direction. The bad news is that we are currently lacking enough Watch Leaders and Deckhands. I hope to Neptune they fill the volunteer crew positions in time else I am going to be VERY busy.

Pink weigela flowers

Flowering Weigela – very pretty!

In between all the things I’ve been doing lately, I’ve been having some interesting emotional outbursts. I’ll just start feeling sad for what seems like no reason and then tears follow. Continue reading

Settling In to my New Home

This weekend was our first proper weekend in mine and Squishy’s new house! i.e. we were actually at home and not galivanting off to other parts of the country. We’re cohabiting for the first time so this is a major life milestone for us both. We got things done! For example, replacing the overflow pipe for the bath, replacing the shower head and doing all the laundry. Well, all my laundry at any rate.

We arranged the living room furniture so we have a sofa to sit on, a TV to watch and a HiFi to listen to. All our DVDs, computer games and CDs are on the shelves. We haven’t merged CD or book collections because I have OPINIONS on how they should be ordered, as does he. He thinks they MUST be alphabetical whereas I like mine to be ordered thematically and then by artist/author. In the case of books it’s doubly complicated because they must also be pleasing to the eye, and that means accounting for spine height. Srsly, nothing gets me more than having books in the same series by the same author from different print editions. Who thought changing the book dimensions was a good idea?!! The Terry Pratchett (may he find what he hopes for across the desert) books are particularly bad for this, especially once you start mixing hardback and paperback. ANYWAY. Continue reading

Still alive!

Just a quick post to say Hi!

I’m moving house today – moving in with Squishy for the first time! No more long distance for us! Finally!

I’ve been busy with work and packing and that sort of thing. I should also be starting on my corrections next week and I really, really need to sort out my CV/resumé.

I will also admit that I’m at a bit of a loss as to what to write about here. I’ve spent two long years hating on the PhD process and what it’s done to my mental health but it’s not actively an issue right now. The sources of pressure are significantly reduced and at a distance. I’m still a bit anxious about working through my corrections and working on the paper with my collaborators but these tasks feel eminently achieveable. Finding the time to focus on them while also job hunting and moving house has been difficult but I’m sure I can figure it out.

Red dahlia against a brick wall

Red Dahlia – CC NessieMonster

I’m burned out on the whole feminist ranting about sexism thing too. I haven’t read anything recently that’s shattered my world view and it all seems a bit samey topic-wise. Reading about how women get screwed over in career advancement, in the home, in politics and in health matters is just depressing. Yes, I am well aware the world is full of shocking, hurtful things and that many people really suffer from it, thanks. Just reading the word “r*pe” in a headline is enough to make my stomach sink and frankly, I don’t need to put myself through that anymore. I’m much more at peace with my own trauma history than I was a few years ago. It still affects me from time to time but I mostly know where those tripwires are and for the most part I can talk it through with Squishy if it’s actively affecting our sex life in the moment. Continue reading

Please Welcome… Dr Nessie Monster! aka Post-Viva Feelings

Hello my dears, how are you?

I am exhausted but relieved. I passed my viva, emerging with minor corrections, so you may now address me as Dr Nessie Monster!

😉

I slept for 11 hours straight last night and feel somewhat more human today, although I am yet to get out of my pajamas and red fluffy dressing-gown.

I can’t believe the viva is over and went so smoothly. It was difficult at first and there was a bit of scrabbling for answers to the more general questions at the beginning but once we got into the specifics of my text and experiments, it was fine. The first thing they did was congratulate me on producing one of the best written theses they’d read in years, that was also clearly structured, which is high praise from such experienced examiners. Their biggest criticism was a lack of illustrative diagrams for the signalling pathways and cross-talk mechanisms, and that, as with many students, I hadn’t spent enough time in “fantasy land” in the Discussion Chapter. I could have been far more explicit and specific about what I would do next if I had all the money, resources and time in the world, and if I had the opportunity to start over, what I would do differently. However, as I was able to talk about that at length in the viva, it wasn’t a major stumbling block. Continue reading

Citalopram Side-Effects

Soooo, I’ve been taking Celexa/Citalopram for 6 months now. Two months ago we increased my dose to 40 mg/day because I was sufferring badly with depression and anxiety symptoms.

Two weeks after handing in my thesis, I had a PHQ-9 score of 11 and a GAD-7 score of 14, flagging up as moderate depression and moderate generalised anxiety. I was having crying boughts/hysterics every day, nightmares *every* night and what I now know is “sleep maintenance insomnia”, which is where you wake up in the small hours of the morning and are unable to get back into (a deep) sleep. I couldn’t make any decisions and trying to plan anything resulted in my mind going completely blank with fear and dread. Alternatively, my mind would get stuck in a loop of a list of all the things I have to do and the order in which to do them. So I’d decide “first this then that, then the other thing….” ending up with a massive list and yet being unable to complete even the “simplest” first task on the list, which would be something like “get out of bed” or “put on clothes” or “clean teeth”.

After upping the the dose to 40 mg, these problems slowly subsided, particularly the anxiety-type symptoms, only to be replaced with crushing anhedonia. This alleviated after two to three weeks of being on the higher dose. After that time, I started my new job at the RCN (which is going really well by the way!).

Turns out I am capable of getting up in the morning, doing the London commute (only by avoiding the Central line entirely!), and turning up to work *on time*. Turning up on time was emphatically NOT something I was capable of whilst doing the PhD, to the point that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to manage it on the job. So, winning so far.

Once at work, I can make polite/friendly conversation and LEARN NEW THINGS. Yes!

AND…. *drumroll please*…. NOT dick about on Facebook/Wordpress/Tumblr/the Internets in general aaaaall day. Again, not my strong suit whilst doing the PhD. This equals win number 3.

So, it’s sounding good, right?

The downsides are:

  1. Still suffering the with sleep maintenance insomnia
  2. Still suffering with nightmares/bad dreams
  3. Being so tired when I get home after work that I basically go straight to bed. I didn’t used to be a bed-by-9pm gal. This has affected my plans for working on my thesis/reading papers for a couple of hours every evening, which is really, really bad given how close my viva is.
  4. Libido, what libido? Squishy has been like “sex? pretty please?” and I’m like “nah, not really feeling it”. This is SO UNLIKE me, you don’t even know! I haven’t even felt inclined to masturbate. Sad, sad times.
  5. Rapid weight gain. I’ve gone up to a size 18 for my jeans, which I noticed round about Christmas, and when I weighed myself for the first time in months, turns out I’ve gained over a stone (14 lbs for you Americans). That is a lot to gain in the space of a few months.

Guess who’s going back to her GP! Perhaps once her viva is out of the way…