H is for Hopelessness

Ahhhhh, I dropped the ball on this challenge! It’s not that I haven’t had the time to write a post. I have. I just haven’t felt up to it. I guess I am sinking into another depressive episode.

Most people think “sad” when they hear someone is depressed. For me, being depressed has nothing to do with sad. It is hopelessness. Nothing is important, nothing is interesting, you hate yourself and everything is difficult. The worst part is, life is going to stay like this. Everyday, you push yourself to do the things that are required of you. Sometimes you succeed, which gives you no satisfaction and sometimes you fail which makes you hate yourself some more. Everyday is like this regardless of how hard you push yourself. It just goes on and on like this until you start to wonder, what’s the point?


I started to do some reading about hopelessness. I guess I was looking for ways to overcome it. Anyway, I found out there are nine different types of hopelessness. Wow. There are nine different ways I can feel like this. Great. They all stem from one or more basic needs being disrupted. I was going to summarize the nine types for you, but this article is so short, you can read it. The article is heavy on CBT which, if you read my “C” post, you know I am not a fan of personally. CBT does make sense though, there is no arguing that.

In the end, I think learning about the nine different types of hopelessness will be helpful for me. Feelings are abstract and hard to understand, but they are always tied to a thought or set of circumstances. They don’t just occur in a vacuum on their own. Instead of trying to combat the hopeless feeling itself, I can determine what is causing it or which basic needs are being disrupted. At least this way I have something more concrete to work with.

Give the article a read. Tell me what you think.

H.O.P.E. Hold on, pain ends

H.O.P.E. Hold on, pain ends

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 🙂

Unexpected Inspiration

I was lucky enough to catch wind of a Dr. Jane Goodall lecture put on by my former university. I knew Dr. Goodall was an expert in primatology and a legend in chimpanzee research, but I had never heard her speak before. Since I’m mostly from the medical field, I didn’t know much more about her and would have let the opportunity slide. I had been feeling pretty low about my own research endeavors lately and the last thing I wanted to hear about was a Ph.D. success story, let alone the Jane Goodall story.

She was scheduled to give a lecture followed by a book signing. Upon hearing this, my husband, a former wildlife biologist, hijacked my alumni identity and signed us up before I could protest. This lecture was only open to those affiliated with the university, so hubby couldn’t go without me. Finally, after all the “please donate” harassment, there was a perk to being alumni….for my husband at least. So Friday night found us standing outside in the rain waiting to be let in to the lecture venue. The night was not off to a good start.

In the end, I was pleasantly surprised. Jane Goodall is an excellent speaker and story teller. Of course, my husband had told me this, but I figured he was biased, still being a wildlife biologist at heart. I had expected her talk to be more chimpanzee research oriented, but it wasn’t. She talked about hope, inspiration and humanity, topics I think everyone in the audience could relate to and some of which (hope and inspiration) I was severely lacking. She spoke of her mother who encouraged her curious mind as a child. She told us her inspiration to study chimpanzees was Tarzan and that he had married the wrong Jane. She was funny too. I was more surprised to learn that she didn’t have the money to go to university and it took her years to save enough just to go to Africa. Once in Africa, she convinced the leading primatologist that she should be the one doing his research despite having no degree. She stressed the importance of patience, curiosity, tenacity, and of learning from mistakes. She did eventually go on to get the research qualifications, at Cambridge no less, but she didn’t start until she was 27! I’m 28 and I’m already significantly ahead of where she started. Maybe there is hope for me yet.

What’s the difference between the 1960s Jane and I? She wasn’t going to give up the fight when the going got tough. She was driven by her passion and curiosity to learn more about a developing field. That was originally what drove me. I guessI had lost patience and forgotten somewhere along the way what my reasons for this pursuit were. If I could contribute to my niche a fraction of what she has given to the world, I would be more than satisfied. It’s time to pick up the pieces of my shattered self-esteem and get back to why I started my Ph.D. in the first place.

To remind myself of this, I bought one of her books, Reason for Hope. It’s basically her memoir. I’m hoping that reading it will help keep me optimistic about my future despite how many times I have failed and have yet to fail. By the time I had gotten my book and waited my turn to get Dr. Goodall’s autograph, it was about 10pm. At nearly 80 years old and after traveling, lecturing and meeting fans all day, Dr. Jane was tired to say the least. So I quickly thanked her for the autograph, wished her a happy early birthday and went on my way. I couldn’t speak for the audience, but what I wanted to tell her was that her lecture was a success, I got the message. She reached me and inspired hope where there was none.

2014-03-29 15.39.47

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