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Archive for January, 2012

First off, Johnson & Johnson (or Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. a subsidiary of J&J) has recently been entangled in a number of lawsuits over the drug that I was taking, Risperdal. The claim is that J&J exaggerated the drug’s effectiveness, while downplaying it’s harmful side-effects–specifically, the risk of developing diabetes. None of this surprises me. I’m sure the majority of pharmaceutical companies do the same thing. And the way that med makes you crave carbs and sugar, it’s no wonder people develop diabetes while on it. All of this just makes me more determined to find a way to manage my anxiety without medication. And so far, I seem to be doing just that. It’s not perfect by any means, but it seems to be getting better.

Meditation: I’ve been pretty good with the meditation resolution. I don’t get to meditate on the weekends, and, caught up in my nerves about teaching, I forgot to meditate on Monday. Right now my meditations are very short, but I’ve also been trying to work Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing technique into my days (twice a day if I remember).

Schedule (maintaining work/life balance): I’m nearing the end of week two, and this seems to be going okay, but I am already running up against not having enough time (a common lament, I’m sure). Week one without student papers to respond to and with prepping only introductory material is easy. Now comes the hard part: lots of reading, students papers, and intense prep. What I am trying to become better at though is compartmentalizing. When I decide my work day is over (and I’m trying to keep this kind of standard 8-4, 9-5, 7-3), then I try to really shut work out and focus on the things I enjoy: currently working on a puzzle that I got for Christmas, crocheting, and my guilty pleasures: American Idol and Biggest Loser.

Last week, I didn’t have time for an hour of organizing and didn’t even finish cleaning the house this weekend. These things kind of aggravate me, but I’m trying not to let them get me down. I did, however, spend about 20 minutes organizing some paperwork, and I spent about the same amount of time with my Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. I think that focusing on the things that I have accomplished is probably a better approach than cataloging those that I haven’t.

I also scheduled a massage for my first Thursday afternoon “hooky” session which is coming up next month.

The next couple of days and upcoming weekend are feeling pretty unmanageable to me at this point. There is just not enough time to get everything done that I want and need to do. This is why life is all about prioritizing. I am determined to cook some healthy food on Sunday, because I haven’t been doing so well with the dietary improvements.

So nearing the end of the first month of 2012, and I’m still getting along and focused on these goals and resolutions. Let’s see what February has to offer.

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Today is President’s Day–the kickoff to the new semester.  I have dull sense of dread in my body.  During therapy last week, D suggested I think about my fear as something that can be with me but that I don’t have to be attached to.  She created this image of my fear as a separate person that I can kind of have sitting next to me while I do my work, move forward with my days, etc.  As in, okay fear, I know you’re here, but I’m working anyways.  I think it’s a helpful thought. 

In addition, I’ve been reading the book Comfort:  An Atlas for the Body and SoulIt’s written by a Catholic priest.  Probably the first book I’ve ever read written by a priest, but it’s really working for me.  Brett Hoover describes comfort as the thing we are all seeking, and yet he reminds us that discomfort is an integral part of life and something we can all learn and grow from.  It might seem kind of obvious, but it’s a lovely reminder.  My desire to leave academia was/is driven so heavily by this idea of seeking comfort–of wanting to be somewhere that I feel safe and within my comfort zone.  But this isn’t necessarily the best kind of drive, and I’m comforted by this articulation of the issue. 

This reminds me of the fortune that I got on New Year’s Eve:  “A solid challenge will bring forth your finest abilities.”  Let this be my new mantra for 2012!

 

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It seems like the mantra stuck in my head last semester was, “I’m not doing enough.” This semester, I’d like to try to shift it to: “I’m doing what I can, and it’s good enough.” Maybe it seems like I’m only striving for mediocrity, but if you ask me, that is all I got out of last semester anyway. So what good did all the berating of self accomplish? This shift in thinking goes along with the idea that we are “human beings” not “human doings.” We all need some time to just “be.” If I keep promising myself that I will make room for that this semester, then maybe it will actually happen. This also reminds me of the new year’s resolution that I forgot to put on my list, but which is seemingly most important in shifting my way of thinking: meditation. My goal is to meditate five days a week.

Quick resolution check-in: Not doing so well with the limiting sweets. Had a chocolate chip cookie at the local coffee shop and then baked apple cake last night. Yum!

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So I did not set any new year’s resolutions this year–not wanting to make myself feel worse if I could no longer maintain them once the new semester starts. My fear of the new semester, as I’ve discussed, has been paralyzing and therefore ruling my decision-making. However, inspired by some other academic bloggers, I have decided that having something to strive for might help me out of my depression. Having a goal is, after all, why I love doing triathlons and road races. They give me something to concrete to work for, and I can watch (and be amazed by) my progress. Of course there is always the fear of failure, that fear of not being able to do it, but that hasn’t stopped my training for the past two racing seasons during which I’ve completed four triathlons, three team triathlons, two half marathons, one duathlon, and a slew of shorter road races. So my resolutions are as follows:

  • To take one Thursday afternoon each month and a href=”http://profgrrrrl.com/?p=1441″”play hooky”/a–that is, do whatever I want including:
  • Go to the craft store
  • Watch episodes of Mad Men (or Breaking Bad or True Blood or Lost or Friday Night Lights or The Wire or any other show that I start watching/want to watch/but never have the time to watch)
  • Get a pedicure
  • Massage or shiatsu session
  • Read for pleasure with a steaming cup of hot chocolate in hand
  • Crochet
  • One hour a week for “organizational hour”–projects include:
  • kitchen cupboards
  • basket of outdoor gear/accessories
  • home office closet
  • school office
  • Half hour per week to work with my Anxiety and Phobia workbook
  • Eat fewer sweets and drink more water. I’d also like to cook more often than I do, but it just doesn’t seem feasible with my schedule.
  • Stick to the schedule I’ve set for myself to maintain better work/life balance. With this schedule I attempt to work a 40 hour work week (though I know that I rarely do this), with the following breakdown of tasks: 24 hours for teaching, 8 hours for meetings and committee work, and 8 hours for my writing/research and film project(s). (This resolution was inspired by Dr Crazy’s “Workload Watchers” idea).

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I did not set any new year’s resolutions this year. This is unlike me. I am typically a list person, a goal-setting person. I love writing things down, checking them off, seeing their fruition. This year, in the depth of my depression, I just felt like goal-setting would make me feel worse about myself than I already do/was. I felt conflicted over this, as I typically love to start a new year with that turning-over-leaf-feeling. I appreciate the hope and possibility that resounds with the ringing in of a new year, but this year I just wasn’t feeling it. I’m still not. However, this morning I was reading some of my favorite blogs by other academics. These bloggers had splendid new year’s posts complete with reflections on the previous year. They made resolutions and detailed how they might achieve them. I tried not to beat myself up for not attempting similar things. What struck me most, however, was the fact that these women too struggle with some of the work/life balance stuff that I do. When I’m in my anxious/depressed state, it’s easy for me to fall into strong feelings of envy and to convince myself that everyone’s life is “perfect.” It was a good reminder to read these posts and remember that we all struggle. We all want to make ourselves better and that wanting that doesn’t mean we are failures currently. This also relates to the reading I did last night in the book Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha. Although, I refused to make resolutions, I did encourage myself to read five pages from this book each night before bed. I started last night. Brach explains that “radical acceptance” doesn’t mean that we don’t continue to want to improve ourselves. It’s not about resignation. Instead, “Radical Acceptance means bringing a clear, kind attention to our capacities and limitations without giving our fear-based stories the power to shut down our lives” (38). Right now “fear-based stories” are ruling my days and paralyzing me when it comes to work.

It helped to read Dr. Crazy’s reflections on 2011 and see that she is still going strong (stronger even) despite the conflicts with her Chair and Dean. It’s a reminder that I can (and will) encounter critique in my job, but that it doesn’t necessarily mean I will fail at/in my job. Reading Geeky Mom’s various posts on her struggles to keep her house in order and her idea to tackle her resolutions in the form of small daily activities, helped remind me to not become obsessed and overwhelmed by the big picture. Looking at the semester as a WHOLE seems like SO much work! And reading some of her past posts about life/work struggles made me feel better about my own mad juggling.

This illustrates one of the beauties of blogging: reminding each other that we are not alone.

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A little over two weeks ago I discussed going off my meds with my psychiatric nurse practitioner. We both a agreed that the holiday break would be an ideal time to experiment with this. I titrated and have been med-free for a week and two days. I’m in a very bad place mentally, but I’m determined to give it two weeks and see if I start to feel better. I am hoping a regimen of meditation, talk therapy (have to find a good cognitive behavioral therapist first), spiritual/self-help reading, exercise/yoga, and regular massage might be able to take the place of the medication. As I strive to put all of this into the written word, it feels so complicated. My depression and anxiety are very deeply attached to my career, and yet, I know that I have a “dream job.” If I describe my 2011, it seems that it’s the year that I got everything I have ever wanted and worked so hard for: I finished my PhD and got a tenure-track job at a local liberal arts college much like my alma mater. I share a cute little house with my wonderful partner–white picket fence and a cute dog included. My life is very close to how I envisioned it when I started out on my graduate school journey back in 1998 (except for the fact that I’m not in Vermont and have a different life partner). So why am I so unhappy? Why am I paralyzed with fear and anxiety? Currently I have myself convinced that it is all because of my job. My anxieties about teaching and my lack of confidence over what I know (and don’t) in my field(s) are overwhelming. I have two weeks until the semester starts, and I am wasting time in state of dysfunction where I spend LOTS of time worrying about the coming semester and feeling like a failure and NO time doing anything about prepping and doing the work that I promised myself I’d get to over break. These two weeks will pass in a flash, and suddenly I will enter into semester number two on the tenure-track filled with the same (or worse) feelings of inadequacy that I had throughout the first semester. I spend a lot of time obsessing over whether or not a career change would truly make me happy; however, my goal is to find happiness free from anxiety and depression DESPITE my current career situation. I need to surrender more to the universe and to God. This is all very difficult to do while in the state that I’m in. It’s hard to get myself going each day and when I don’t accomplish anything work-wise, I beat myself up terribly.

My last therapist had this mug that I loved. It read simply: Where’s the evidence? At this moment I do not have evidence of my failings as a teacher (of course I have not yet read my student evaluations–frightened as I am over the tailspin that they could very well send me into). At this moment I actually have evidence of my success as a teacher: overall strong evaluations from the Dean and colleagues who observed my classes this past semester. And yet, despite the evidence (and lack) I cannot seem to convince myself that this is where I should be and that this is what I should be doing. I hate the erratic scheduling of higher education: 15 week sprints followed by a month to three months of recovery, while I’m more a slow and steady kind of person. I cannot seem to balance the work/life thing at all. And so begins the spiral that I am spending nearly all of my time stuck in these days. I don’t feel that I deserve a break, yet I’m giving myself one anyways and not enjoying it all at the same time.

As I watch, read, and listen to stories of leaving behind 2011 and resolving something new for 2012, I struggle to be part of the merriment and to be filled with the kind of hope that others seem to have. I am, however, resolved to hang on med-free for a bit longer and see if it gets better. That is how I enter into this new year–with a hope that I don’t yet feel in my heart. I enter into 2012 simply waiting….

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