If We Were Having Coffee…..

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you the first week of the new year was a decent one, for me at least. It’s nice to not have to start off by hitting the ground running for a change. I wish this week was as smooth for the rest of the world. Here is hoping week two of 2015 is more peaceful on the international level.

If we were having coffee, it would probably be out of cardboard cups at a coffee shop and you wouldn’t get to see my awesome Jack Skellington mug in person. Good thing I took a picture with my phone! Adding my favourite geek characters into my day makes it more enjoyable!

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My Jack mug!!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that my manuscript was finally accepted for publication! That sounds like good news and it is always good to add another first authorship to my CV, but it is also a big headache. The peer-reviewers want me to make some significant changes before they publish. This is the norm and wouldn’t be such a big deal if it were a current study. It’s an older study though and not related to what I am working on right now. When I wrote the paper, I read all the associated literature and knew our data inside out. I submitted the paper and went on to other things (sick leave and our current studies). Now, I am in a completely different head space! I’m going to have to change gears and re-read all the literature as well as go over all the data again before I can even attempt to make the changes they are asking of me. Ugh. I suppose I should just put my head down and keep my eye on the prize. First authorship. First authorship!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that it’s wedding season over here again! The reason I say “again” is because I still feel like mine just ended. It was in June of 2013. My little sister got engaged Christmas Day and is planning her big day for this September! I’m thrilled to say she has asked me to be the Maid of Honour! It’s been about two weeks since the engagement and most of it is planned already! No, it’s not magic, lol. During my own wedding process, I hooked up my sister, a then photography student, with my wedding photographer. They worked together for over a year, so now my sister has so much wedding experience (and valuable connections to wedding vendors) that she knows exactly what she wants. We are all so thankful for this because she lives in Thunder Bay and wants to have the wedding here in Montreal. I imagine long distance wedding planning can be difficult!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that Ewok (my cat) was in full-blown psycho kitty mode this morning. Thankfully, she has tuckered herself out and is now in her usual post-psycho position belly-up on the floor. She was darting all over the apartment with her ears flat against her head making those little tribble coo sounds. I keep telling her, being called “Ewok” she can’t go around making tribble noises. It’s not right. You can’t have a Star Wars cat making Star Trek sounds. She blatantly ignored me though.

ewok belly up

This pic is from a little while ago. She is looking a lot smaller now since we gave her a bit of a hair cut.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I’ve signed up for a few online art workshops; Journal52, The 2015 Art Project and The Documented Life Project – The Journal. I’m a little nervous about sharing my work, but I think it’ll be fun to meet some new people and maybe grow as an artist.

What’s on your mind? What would you say if we were having coffee?

(This conversational coffee post is part of a weekend link-up hosted by Part-Time Monster. Join in the fun!)

Current Plan of Action and a Bit of Ewok

It is a really cold day! I’m in bed with a hot tea right now. Why am I in bed in the middle of the afternoon? Well, for one, it is THAT cold!! Second, it’s because I wanted to hang out with my cat, Ewok. Within the last few days, Ewok has discovered how comfortable it is to nap on soft cozy surfaces. Her spot of choice has been at the end of the bed burrowed into blankets. No matter how many times I bring her in the other room to spend some time with me…she ends up back in her burrow. So I have given up and decided to do things her way. So here we are in bed in the middle of the afternoon.

This may not sound strange to a lot of you, but it is definitely strange behaviour for Ewok. She normally doesn’t like soft spots, she likes to lie on hard surfaces. Even as a kitten, she would usually fall asleep on the floor or the coffee table, never the couch. We later found out this was because she was peeing on the couch. Poor confused kitten. Don’t worry, we were able to clean it! Eventually, we moved and got different furniture, but she still preferred hard surfaces. Her napping spots were usually the coffee table, a stiff carpet or on top of the printer. When she got older, she started sleeping by my head in bed, but only if I moved the pillow and blanket to make room for her. So finding her the last few days lying on the bed, sinking into the mattress surrounded by blankets has been a weird sight. I hope everything is ok with her. I think she’s fine, she’s eating and drinking and happily snorting away over there.

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The reason I want to be around Ewok is because she is a great comfort to me. I’m not sure how to describe how I am feeling right now and listening to her snorting or purring or seeing her cute little smooshy face makes me feel better. I am definitely feeling better than I was in the fall. I’m not overwhelmed and not having the suicidal ideation, but I’m not great either. My sleep is so-so and I feel sort of paralyzed. I have to force myself to do everything, otherwise, I just get lost in my head. Thinking about work. During the holidays I was preoccupied with the dread of going back to grad school full time. Now that I know I’m going to start back part time, I’m not feeling panicky and having nightmares about it. I’m still dreading it though.

The plan is to go back two days a week. I’m going to make a detailed schedule for the next two months and have it approved by psych. When the two months are up, we’ll evaluate and see if I should continue as is or take on more. I think that is fair. Hubby does too. He thinks I always jump into things and take on too much. Maybe he is right.

I hope I can finish my Ph.D. I’m not sure if it’s the depression talking or not, but I think I hate it. I like parts of it. My supervisor is great, I’m learning a lot. I like reading, brainstorming, gathering information, sorting it, teaching it and writing about what I learn. I don’t mind managing students and volunteers either. It’s the constant trouble-shooting, working around barriers, asking for money, trying to find people who qualify to participate and then begging them to participate. When working with human subjects, research depends a lot on the cooperation of other people. It’s not that others don’t want to cooperate, they just don’t want to take on extra work (no matter how minute) or disrupt their routines. I don’t just mean potential participants, I mean doctors, receptionists, technicians, volunteers and other hospital staff. I am always friendly and polite with these people. I even bring them treats, but they are never happy to see me. I am a symbol extra work, change or disruption to their routine. It’s not a pleasant work environment for me. Research is also a lot of rejection and a lot of work for very little success or progress.

Now that I have gotten all these studies through ethics, all I am doing are the things I hate. Thinking of going in fills me with dread. I really hope I can get through it. As a more senior researcher (someone with a Ph.D.), I wont have to do this part anymore. I can send students (like me now), research associates and volunteers off to do it for me. I just don’t think I’ll ever get there. If there were an end in sight, I could probably force myself through, but there is no end. I have lost faith in my project and it feels like I will be a student forever.

Oh, The Possibilities…..

here comes the sun

It looks like another sleepless night for me. I lay in bed wishing for sleep to come for about two hours when Ewok came in and decided my face would be a nice place for a catnap. Thanks kitty. That’s when I decided to give up and do something else….like blog!

I feel like I’m bursting with possibility at the moment. Maybe that’s why I can’t sleep. At least its a good reason this time. Possibility leads to hope and hope is what makes life worth living. I’m not seeing a light at the end of the tunnel yet, but I have hope that I can pull myself out of this black hole I’ve been in for most of the year.

The first set of possibilities involves a bunch of creative projects I have on the go. A couple of them I owe to Christy over at Normal in Training. If you haven’t been to her blog yet, you really should stop by. As a psychologist who has both depression and anxiety, she sees both sides of the proverbial mental health coin, offering a unique perspective.

Back to the creative projects…..I never dreamed of doing any of these projects because I’m not good enough, but being creative is something I enjoy. I think that’s what I need to focus on right now, enjoying. It is likely that these projects wont amount to anything and, I am ok with that. That is not my goal. I just want to have something to enjoy, something to look forward to doing. For once in my life I am going to focus on the process, not the outcome.

More possibilities…..a new Ph.D. student has started at the lab! I completely forgot he was starting until he arrived. This means someone to work with, someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to consult with and someone to share the responsibilities of the lab. This has already started to lift some of the dread I’ve been having surrounding work over the last few months.

I also mustered up the guts to talk to my supervisor about the state of my mental health and how overwhelmed I am. She was sympathetic to my being depressed and unable to sleep and she took the time off prescribed by the psychiatrist well. I’m still not sure if I want to take time off. I can’t take time until I get the new guy settled and do my conference presentation in mid September, so I have time to think about it.

Have you ever taken sick leave? How long did you take? What did you do with your time?

As for being overwhelmed, she understood that too. She emphasized that I am a Ph.D. student first (my dissertation comes first) and a lab coordinator second. Easier said than done. She said that as a lab coordinator it is my job to organize the lab and delegate tasks. If a project failed because the other lab members weren’t participating enough, it was not my responsibility. I was relieved to hear that. I don’t know if I could just let a project fail because of someone under me, but I’ll keep that in mind for when I get stressed.

My supervisor also renewed my confidence in my own dissertation. I was starting to think it was poorly thought out, a bad idea and not worth it. She reminded me of how excited she was about my research and about the other professors that wanted to be involved when I presented my proposal to the department. She also pointed out that people from the granting agencies who didn’t know me from the next guy had read my proposal and thought it was do-able. She said to not have faith in myself after all that was insulting to the professors and granting agencies. That hit a chord, lol. She was using my low self-esteem to get me to see reality. How could I be right in thinking my research was garbage when these experts thought otherwise? There’s no way I could be right over them. Are you following my twisted line of thought here? I am now feeling better about my dissertation. So much so that I was able to make the final corrections I had been putting off for the last month and resubmit to ethics. Phew.

And now that I’ve rambled on for a bit here, I’m going to try to sleep again. Thanks for listening 🙂

Work, Optional?!

The Daily Prompt:

Work? Optional! If money were out of the equation, would you still work? If yes, why, and how much? If not, what would you do with your free time?

I find it amusing that this prompt pops up now. I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the past few days. I had an appointment with my psychiatrist on Monday. It wasn’t pretty. Tears streamed down my face during the whole appointment as I desperately tried not to sob. He recommended that I see a psychologist for regular therapy and take some time off work/school to figure out if doing a Ph.D. is the right thing for me. I haven’t told my supervisor yet, nor have I decided whether or not to take psych’s advice about taking time off….but this is what started my thought processes. Money is already not part of the equation. I finally got a fellowship this year, but it doesn’t pay much. I guess I’m hoping I’ll make money some day in the future. If I could spend my days doing anything without any consequences, would I still be doing this?

After much thought and more tears, I think the answer is yes. I would still like to be doing vision research…..but not like this. In an ideal world (aka, not this one), I’d have a flexible schedule and do research part time so I could focus on my doodles, blog and writing the rest of the time. I’d love to have time to learn to paint, develop my writing skills and maybe write a children’s book or something. That would be my answer to today’s prompt but, I’m only dreaming.

Back to reality. I want to continue in vision research because I enjoy learning about the topic and helping the older population I work with. The thing I like about research is the learning, the challenge and the information. I love collecting information, breaking it down into the basics in order to understand it and then building up the story from there. This makes me think doing a Ph.D. is the right thing for me. I want to be a student though and at the moment, I think I might be juggling more responsibility than a student is supposed to have. I’m not sure though, I may have a skewed perspective because I have nothing to compare to.

I run the lab. I organize the people and the paperwork and I mentor the students and volunteers. I am involved in everything from study planning and grant applications to recruitment, testing, data analysis and reporting results. Right now, we have 6 studies running. I have spent the last year trying to get them all through ethics and am now finally collecting data. This does not include my dissertation by the way, that makes 7 studies. There is also an ongoing research-clinician program that I had to take over and the results of an 8th study that have to be published. I appreciate the opportunity to be involved in such a variety of projects. It will only look good on me when the research starts moving and I get to populate my CV.

Is this the way it usually goes? Or am I only supposed to be worrying about my dissertation? I am overwhelmed, but I’m not sure if my workload is normal for a Ph.D. candidate or not. What do you think? Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

tree with roots

Self-esteem Challenge: Day 26

This blog challenge was developed by betterthandarkchocolate.tumblr.com. If you missed the introduction or want to see a summary of all the questions, go here.

Day 26:
What is your favorite compliment to give and receive, and why?
When’s the last time you were too hard on yourself? What do you think you could have done to treat and comfort yourself instead?

I think my favourite compliment to give and receive is something along the lines of “good work”. Doing a good job is important to me and something I always try to accomplish in anything that I do. So hearing “good work” means I have been successful. If I’m telling someone else “good work” it means they have accomplished the same thing and hopefully my acknowledging that makes them feel good.

It definitely wasn’t the last time I was hard on myself, but it is the time that sticks out most in my mind. My Master’s degree. I should have celebrated it. I should have let myself feel the accomplishment. I regret sweeping that under the rug, especially now as I watch my sister-in-law finish her Master’s degree. She’s on cloud nine lapping up all the praise. All I felt when I got my M.Sc. was guilt. I didn’t deserve it. Nevermind the paper I published from my thesis, the four experts that applauded my defense or the database that is used internationally! I ignored it all and came to the conclusion that I didn’t deserve it. What is wrong with me?!

so much to learn

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