Birthday Presents!

I turned 27 yesterday! That means I’m properly in my late twenties now! Hurrah! Also, I have a shiny new toy and am typing this on it! Got a Galaxy tab S2 – go me! So shiny! Much pretty! This is the first top of the range piece of gadgetry that i’ve ever owned. The laptop I bought for undergraduate uni is still clinging on for dear life but good lord, is it sloooooowww. And also large and heavy. And not very portable. It was never top-of-the-range, although it has served me faithfully for 8 years so far.

This on the otherhand is shiny and new! Playing app games on it is actually fun. Tumblr, WordPress and FB work prroperly on it, as opposed to on my old Windows Phone, Lumia 520. I have MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote on it so I can do proper work things on it too if I need to (I hope I won’t). I got a nice faux-leather and microfibre cover in turquoise blue with a dinky little bluetooth keyboard for actual typing, and that’s partly why this post – to see how well it works. It’s good so far. Wouldn’t want to type a thesis on it but it works for blogging, which is what I really wanted.

Expect to see me posting more things on tumblr too, now that gifs and pictures load properly (so fast!). I’d forgotten what I was missing!

In more serious news, I’m about a week into my course of zoloft, which I expect I’ll be on until the Spring at least. Turns out my brain wasn’t quite as recovered as I’d hoped. My mood had been going downhill for a number of weeks to the point that people at work had noticed and I was being terribly short-tempered with Squishy at home, feeling sad and worried for no concrete reason (I mean, there is a concrete reason – my brain doesn’t make as much serotonin as it perhaps should) but I had a list of worries a mile long with nothing specific to point to.

In thinking about it with a long view, realistically I’ve suffered with depression and anxiety to varying degrees since I was a teenager. My first depressive episode lasted about 6 months, and started when I was 15. I was ok from then until about 2nd yr Uni when my beloved Pompa (Grandad) died, which triggered an episode that lasted about 6 months, maybe longer. Starting on the pill made me depressed again – for about 3 months, until I stopped taking it. I started to recover – finished 3rd Yr, moved to Scouseland for the PhD. Cue going rapidly downhill as I was stranded without any real support network close by, close on the heels of my parents’ separation, with PhD supervisors who were utter bollocks, and all of the general PhD stress, which is well documented here. So, a relatively brief period of depression as a teen, followed by roughly 2 years depression/anxiety through undergrad, followed by 4.5 years of depression/anxiety as a PhD student.

Looking back over my university years, depression and anxiety have dogged my steps the whole way. Six and a half years of up and down mental health, severely aggravated by the very nature of higher academic study. Is it any surprise then that maybe I’m not as recovered as I hoped?

People say there’s no shame in taking medication for badbrain issues. And not just people in general, but my specific people, my friends, my family. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a little disheartening to be on meds again. Doesn’t mean my jerkbrain doesn’t try to skew it as failure, as weakness.

My history of depression and anxiety as a young adault (and I am no longer a Young Adult according to demographics questions!) makes it likely that I’ll have to manage it for many years, if not all the rest of my adult life. Which means maybe I could or should switch to thinking about myself as a person with a mental health disability. And that is something to consider and not take lightly.

I mean, I am quite matter-of-fact about my mental health troubles with friends and acquaintances. I am now out about it to my line manager at work, as well as half the team. I don’t want to use it to make excuses anymore. I just have to live with it, manage it, take care of myself, and be aware that it’s a thing that I struggle with occassionally. Which is an okay place to be.

Anyway, I hope you and yours are okay, especially in light of recent events.


Reflections on finishing my PhD

Unlike my usual self, I’ve been lost for words lately. Many of my posts about my PhD experience have been word vomits – chucking all my strong feelings at the page and just letting it all out in the hopes that it begins to make sense to me, and that I can calm myself in the process. Writing here has been a vital safety valve, both for the virtues of the process itself and the support you my readers have given me.

The thing is, at the moment, life is pretty cushty. I’m settled in with Squisher, our house looks like a proper grown-up house, we get to chill out in each others’ company of an evening and at weekends. My PhD is finally, completely, utterly finished. My corrections have been accepted and I will be graduating on the 22nd July which is only a few weeks away. Soon, very soon, I will never have to interact with my wretched supervisor again. Once I have his reference, and have handed my lab boooks and laptop back to the lab, I am done. With him and with it.

The approaching freedom is so close I can taste it. 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

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…


Motivation vs Guilt

Welp, you know you’re having a bad day when you don’t even want to binge-watch your favourite TV shows.

Turns out, texting my beloved friends and family to say “I feel awful and I can’t muster up the energy to do anything” results in phone calls with conversations that make me feel better. Who knew?!

I spent more than two hours in bed this morning after I woke up and it wasn’t the fun kind of staying in bed where you’re glued to the pages of your current novel, but the bad kind of staying in bed where you stare at the wall thinking “I should get up”. “I ought to get dressed.” “I need to take my meds”. “It’s a lovely day outside, I could go for a walk” – “But that involves getting up, and putting on clothes, and eating food, and going outside”.

I didn’t even want to read my latest Terry Pratchett novel. I read a few pages and then was completely underwhelmed with disinterest.

I didn’t want to play the piano. I didn’t want to bake a cake. I didn’t want to go outside. Hell, I didn’t even want to blog, even though writing down my feelings and my thoughts makes me feel better, every time. I got as far as the opening sentence above, and gave up. Continue reading

An Up-and-Down Week

More musings of a personal nature I’m afraid. You never know, I might get back to the social justice side of things one day.

As of last Tuesday’s post, my feelings had been more than a bit mixed after my trip to Cottonopolis. Monday was a positive and productive day but Tuesday was its antithesis. God, I felt so low. The day started off with another anxious dream and it went downhill from there. The only things I ticked off my list were 1/ get up, 2/ eat breakfast, 3/ take meds. I spent the rest of the day zonked out in front of the TV aka my laptop.

Wednesday was much better. It started the same as Tuesday – anxious dream, get up, breakfast, meds. Then I bathed and painted my nails. Then there was a highly stressful, upsetting phone call with the NHS IAPT service. The lady I spoke to was nice, and we talked through my answers to an assessment questionnaire, my current circumstances, what I’m doing to cope and what my support network is like. The conclusion was yes, they can help, someone will call within 28 days so I can be booked in for Behavioural Activation therapy. From my brief googling, this boils down to highly specific, timed appointments with yourself to do specific tasks, including both things you like doing to relax and some of the tasks you’ve been avoiding, in order to build up your ability to do stuff even when you don’t feel like it, or are actively anxious about it. It’s less about “working through your feelings” than “tricking yourself into working anyway, seeing as you’ll feel equally bad whether you do the dreaded task or not”. This sounds eminently helpful Continue reading

100th Post! Dealing with Overwhelming Feelings

So! This is my 100th post! I was intending to do that fun post with pictures of ships and boats and other exploits but that will have to wait. I haven’t even rescued the photos off my camera yet.

Also, and more importantly, I need to blog about feelings right now. I’m feeling quite overwhelmed.

*deep breath*

The Introduction Chapter of a Thesis is a big deal. It sets the tone and the scene for the everything that follows, and without a good Introduction, your examiners will question everything else much more critically. A poor Introduction will make them doubt you, while a good one will put them in a better mood for reading the rest of your weighty tome. It has to explain the background and context, and describe why you chose to do this particular work. It sets out your hypotheses and gives them a guide for what’s to follow. It positions you as an academic within a particular field, and if you are crossing fields (as I am), it has to cover each of those fields in enough depth for you to make your case. The Introduction also has to be clear and concise, whereas I am a wordy mofo in general. I will have to pick and choose carefully to ensure what I include is relevant, while also not leaving out some key detail they need to follow my train of thought.

I’ve been looking over my Introduction – the one I wrote in Second Year – these last few days, and oh dear God, it is a disaster. Or that’s what my brain’s telling me. It’s following up that thought with: There is so much to do! You’ll never get it all done in time! You don’t even know half the things you need to know in enough depth to be able to talk about in the Viva! Your referencing was TERRIBLE! Where are the original sources? These are all mostly review articles! It reads like a list! God, I thought you had more to work from! Continue reading

Depression, Anxiety and Meds

So, where to start? Big news first I guess. As of today I’m on an anti-depressant for the first time in my life. I have a feeling I should have looked into it months ago. As you might have guessed from the previous couple of posts, things are not so great in my head at the moment.

(Apologies, this is going to be long, rambly and possibly incoherent. I need to rant today.)

Mind you, they’ve not been great for a while. Kinda seems like I just swing from one crisis to the next, you know? There’s no denying the PhD’s been hell every step of the way, but also I am a terrible procrastinator? Or a lazy fuck? Who can’t be arsed? Who is making excuses for her own failings, when she should just. be. working. already. for. fuck’s. sake.

And yet, if I said those things to a friend who was struggling to work, I would be a horrible person, so why the hell am I accusing myself of those things? I think this might be a serious case of the Sneaky JerkBrain? Because only a Sneaky JerkBrain would think that being a jerkoff douchecanoe will help motivate me? Because what I really need right now is a bag of guilt pulling at my heels at every step? Continue reading