What a Mess

I’ve been thinking about writing for a while now, but I haven’t figured out exactly what to say. Finally, I decided I better just write something, anything, or I’m never going to get started again. I don’t think I have the words to explain the last several months, but I’ll try my best.

I was overwhelmed with work life and home life, depressed, anxious and not sleeping. The lack of sleep was starting to get to me. I was constantly nauseous or dealing with a headache. I don’t know if you’d call it hallucinating or not, but I’d mix up reality with whatever my brain came up with when I dozed off for a few minutes. I’ve been this way before, but I’ve always pushed through. I always thought if I just push through to the other side things will start looking up and I’ll get to a place where I feel safe, can relax and maybe enjoy something. By safe, I mean a home, a secure career, a steady income, family, friends and no huge financial problems. Maybe it was the sleep deprivation or maybe it was starting Quentiapine but, I guess the difference this time was that I finally realized that is never going to happen. No matter how hard I work now, I’ll never reach a place where I can breathe. There will always be more responsibility, another commitment, another challenge. It is just going to keep going like that. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. So what is the point in killing myself, working so hard only to make myself miserable? Well, there is no point. So I stopped.

wordle depression

You’ll have to bear with me for a while, I haven’t been doing any doodling.


I know the ideal is to achieve a balanced life. Things should be done in moderation so you get your work done, but also enjoy life a bit too. Logically, this makes total sense but, it is still completely foreign to me. Like many people with depression, I am a very black and white thinker. You know, all or nothing. How can you enjoy playing when you know there is work to be done? I guess this is why I have always held on to the principle of work hard, play later.

Anyway, I guess this realization was the last straw. I just stopped everything and imploded into a sobbing, hyperventilating, irrational mess. I had to bail on a conference I was supposed to speak at, I stopped going to work, stopped answering the phone, going out, working out, blogging, drawing, etc. After going full steam ahead for so long it was a big crash and burn. The only good thing about this was that I was finally able to sleep. In fact, that’s pretty much all I did. I slept, I cried and I watched TV.

I wasn’t proud of myself, but sleep or TV (basically avoidance) were the only things that got my brain distracted enough to get relief. It was like this for a couple months. I am so thankful for my family. They were patient and didn’t make me feel worse. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be here.

Picture quote

Picture quote

After my months of avoidance, I started to feel like I could handle doing little things again. Things like driving my mom wherever she needed to go or reading a magazine. Eventually, I felt I could handle thinking about work again. I came up with a plan to take the rest of the semester off and go back in January. That may not be happening anymore, but that’s another story.

For now, I’m just going to try to enjoy and participate in as much of the holiday season as I can. I hope all of you have been well over these last few months and I look forward to catching up. 🙂

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

Why Can’t I?

This lack of motivation and inspiration is starting to seep into all parts of my life, not just work and being healthy. I’ve been having trouble drawing and blogging the past week. These are usually my outlets. I am already feeling quite low, so not being about to do what I normally enjoy is just going to make it worse. I’m trying to make myself do the things I supposedly enjoy anyway in hopes of it helping.2014-05-30 12.51.47

Have you ever tried Art Journaling? I think it’s a beautiful form or expression. It combines mixed media art and writing your thoughts down. I find it quite intimidating as most of the pieces I have seen are quite beautiful. So I decided to start small and I bought a book, “Art, Doodle, Love” by Dawn DeVries Sokol. It provides pre-made backgrounds and writing prompts to help you get started with art journaling. I have really been enjoying it. Art journaling doesn’t seem quite so scary now.

I’m relying on this book to give me some inspiration for a post. One of the pages from the book is called “Why Can’t I?” It asks you what holds you back from fulfilling your dreams. You’re supposed to answer the question with doodles and photos, washi tape, whatever you feel like. I thought this was good to think about.

In order to make changes in life, you have to disrupt your routine. It’s different for all of us, but a routine is normally good for me, it keeps me functional as opposed to freaking out or being unable to get out of bed. Changing a routine and remaining functional requires a lot of effort. It’s not that I don’t want to put in the effort, it’s just that I feel like I already have enough on my plate. This can be overwhelming. Feeling overwhelmed is your body’s way of telling you to dial it down. This creates an internal conflict. You want to make improvements, but you’re completely overwhelmed.

When I thought about it, besides being overwhelmed, I realized everything that holds me back is self-imposed. Things like waiting for the right time, assuming I know what the outcome will be, negative self-talk, comfortable habits, thinking that I have to be the best, fear of failure….the underlying reason for all this is the belief that I am not good enough.

It's not who you think you are that holds you back, it's who you think you are not.

I hate those infomercials that say you can be anything you want as long as you think positive and visualize success. It’s not that simple. Sure, that’s part of it. Research has shown that success has more to do with attitude and motivation than raw talent. Everyone doubts themselves once and a while, but for people like me and many others that have depression, not only do we have to think positive which is unnatural, but we have to find the motivation (which is lacking) AND we have to overcome core beliefs that we are not good enough and don’t deserve success. I’m not saying it’s not possible, I’m just pointing out that it’s exhausting. Fighting against beliefs that make you who you are is hard work.

So ignore everyone else when they say you aren’t trying hard enough. If they haven’t been there, there’s no way they can understand how difficult it can get.  Be honest with yourself, are you genuinely trying? Yes? Good! It’s ok to collapse from mental exhaustion once and while. Just don’t forget to pick yourself back up again.

artdoodlelove Why can't I 1 artdoodlelove Why can't I 2


O is for Overwhelmed

I’m overwhelmed. I think a lot of people are. Most of us aren’t taking on any extraordinary tasks, we’re just trying to juggle all of our responsibilities. I get overwhelmed when I think of the future. I’m going to have to manage all I’m managing now, plus a real job instead of grad school, kids maybe and an entire house some day. Nevermind all the things I want to do with my life that I haven’t even started yet. The thought of adding more to the mix makes me very anxious and knowing that I can’t handle a normal life makes me depressed. I’m sorry folks, I have no wisdom to offer you on this one. What I do have is silliness in the form of cartoons and a rhyme. It’s easier to get through things when you can laugh at yourself.

I want to be everythingenergizer

to all those in my life.

I’m afraid of failure.

It gives me much strife.

I’m a daughter, a wife,

I’m a sister and friend.

Ph.D. candidate.

Expectation without end.

I live in Quebec.

French I cannot speak.

I should really learn it,

but having time looks bleak.

I have an apartment.

I should cook and clean more.

I’m often too tired,

it’s too much of a chore.

I am a cat owner2014-03-20 08.55.00

Mum to a fur baby.

I feed her and pet her

and she loves me, maybe.

I am a cake addict.

Have to watch what I eat.

I always feel guilty

when I crave something sweet.

I want to be pretty.

I should workout, be fit.

I try, but get nothing.sweet tooth

Must keep at it, can’t quit.

Scientific research.

Must be a team player.

But also make my mark,

oppose the nay-sayer.

I’m to manage the lab.

Keep in working order.

A student still learning,

there’s so much disorder.

I am shy, I am quiet.

I’m a nervous presenter.

To set the example,

supposed to be a mentor.

I’m at the hospital.

I do volunteer.

Got to make time for it,

need to get into gear.

Miss my creative mind,

into art, like to draw.

As a perfectionist,

must be best, show no flaw.

I have anxiety

and I have depression.

Need to work on myself,

make a good impression.

I’m irreplaceable,

at least I aim to be.

I feel I’m a failure,

any could replace me.

I want to do lots more,

but seems to be too much.

I want to be successful,

but don’t have the right touch.


Should be handling it all.

Everyone can do it,

but I hit a brick wall.

I’m overwhelmed

Expect too much of me

I do it to myself.

Moderation is key.


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