Here I Am Again

About a year ago, I stopped posting on this blog because I felt that it had served its purpose, run its course. I wasn’t updating as I should and I had worked past the worst of my depression. I thought about continuing with the blog but last year ended up being very busy and I just never found the time to return.

But now, here I am.

2016 was a busy year for me: I attended an academic conference in March. I was voted Representative of an international student organization in April. I went to New York for the first time ever in May. In June and July I taught at a prestigious summer studies program. In August I attended the World Science Fiction convention in Kansas City with my best friend. And then the Fall semester started. And in October I moved for the third year in a row.

At first, it seemed that 2016 was going to be a good year for me. I was doing some great things. Experiencing new and exciting things. But then in July I took a nosedive. I started becoming increasingly anxious about everything: my teaching, being alone, travel, everything. My teaching position in July became a source of pain for me and I spent a lot of nights crying and thinking about quitting. By the time the Fall semester started at the end of August I was barely holding it together. My anxiety and depression were becoming so bad I was thinking about quitting my full-time teaching position and damn the consequences. The move in October was excruciating. I went so far down hill that by the end of October I was suicidal again. I was a little better over Winter break, without the threat of teaching to fuel my anxiety, but just barely. I nearly refused my teaching position for the Spring semester, but finally decided I couldn’t afford to refuse the job when I didn’t have another job lined up.

So here I am.

I’m halfway through the Spring semester. I’m on Spring break. And my depression and anxiety are still so severe I’m barely functioning. I manage to teach twice a week, but every other day of the week I sleep until 11am and then I crawl out of bed and onto the sofa and stare at the television for hours. I’m behind on all my grading. I haven’t worked on my dissertation in months and months. I daydream about quitting. Quitting everything. My job. My PhD. My life. Everything.

In the midst of all of this I have a conference to attend next week. And I have so many responsibilities for this conference I don’t know how I’m going to manage it. Executive Board meetings to attend, and panels to organize, and student organization events to manage, and on and on. I did this to myself, of course, but when I signed up to be responsible for all these things I was feeling much better about my life. Now I’m not sure how I’m going to hold it all together. But somehow I have to. People are counting on me. I have responsibilities. Duties. Somehow I have to do this. I have to. I have no choice.

I thought that returning to this blog might help like it did last time. Give me an outlet. Or something. I can’t promise I’ll do much more than come here to vent every once in awhile. In any case, here I am. Again. For whatever that’s worth.

Update

My February “Long Shot” has failed, as expected. I’m not bitter or upset about it. It was what I was expecting, and I’m okay with that. I’m glad I tried anyway. I haven’t decided what my Long Shot will be for March yet.

I’ve been very busy working on a conference paper for a conference I’m presenting at in mid-March. And I’ve been torturing myself over my dissertation. And my meds are still all messed up. And I really need a doctor’s appt but with my insurance all messed up I haven’t been able to get one.

All of this is to say I’m having a rough time and I’m really busy and I’m probably not going to be posting here for a while.

In fact, I’ve been half-considering shutting down this blog entirely. It served its purpose, which was mainly to get me through my suicidal phase last July-September, and now it seems to be in a holding pattern, just a place I come to occasionally to complain or update my small number of readers. And why would readers continue to come to a place that only does occasional personal updates rather than actual CONTENT? And how does this blog do me or anyone else any good if it only serves as a place for whining every two or three weeks? I don’t know… I haven’t decided for certain yet. This isn’t my first blog and it will likely not be my last, but maybe it’s time to just let this one die.

Going Wrong

Everything is going wrong in my head. I feel like my brain is moving in slow motion. Like I’m trying to walk under water. Like I’m slowly sinking.

I suspect the Seroquel is having a negative affect…

Addition 1 (Feb 17): I mean… It’s ridiculous and more than a little terrifying how quickly I can slide back down the hill. It took an act of god to get me out of bed this morning, at a 11am, after weeks of being up by 8-8:30. I feel like shit. I just want to curl up on the sofa and stare into space for the next month. My brain power has completely vanished. How is this fair?

Addition 2 (Feb 18): I’m really not okay. I didn’t take the Seroquel last night. And I have a few Abilify left so I’m going to take half of one tonight to see if that’ll help keep me above water while I try to figure out what to do long term.

The Long Shot Clause: Or, learning to be brave

I’m trying something a bit different lately. Something I’m (somewhat goofily) calling my “Long Shot Clause.” Each month I’m going to try something that is a long shot, that I acknowledge and accept is a long shot, something that would be really nice if it worked, but which I understand is not likely to work and for which I will not punish myself if it doesn’t. I’m not sure I’m explaining this very well, but you get the gist, I’m sure. Failing at these things cannot hurt me. But succeeding at them can help me immensely. And they help me learn to be brave.

Here’s an example: my first “long shot” was in November 2015. I picked a paper I’d written for a class, added to it, cleaned it up, edited it, etc. And then I submitted it to an academic journal to be considered for publication. I knew it was a long shot. I had no expectation of being accepted. I saw it more as an opportunity to possibly receive some feedback so I would know how to improve submissions in the future. And I figured at some point I just had to TRY or I was never going to get anywhere in my academic career.

Shockingly, in early January, I discovered that the journal had in fact accepted my submission, with very few required revisions. And now I have an article published in an online academic journal! Admittedly, online academic journals (particularly new ones like this one) are not QUITE as prestigious as more long-running, or print academic journals, but it is still a big deal to me, and it is still a great step in the right direction for an academic career. (You’ll have to forgive me for not posting the journal or article here, as it would negate the semi-anonymity I have here).

My “long shot” for January was to apply for a teaching position with the Duke Talent Identification Program – a position, as I mentioned before, I got with enormous speed and ease mere hours after my interview process. So, two long shots, two successes so far.

This month, my “long shot” is to submit a short story for publication. Specifically, I added to and edited the short story “Gone” I posted here (I’ve now changed the title to “The Haunting of Alex Dietrich” which is more catchy I think), and yesterday I mailed it to the submissions at the literary magazine Conjunctions. Now, Conjunctions publishes both known and unknown writers, including some pretty big names in the business, so I have absolutely NO illusions about being accepted. But again, at some point you just have to TRY and see what happens. Perhaps I will at least receive some constructive criticism from the editors. Maybe all I’ll get is a “no thanks.” Either way, it could be months before I hear back from them. But at the very least, I am trying to do things. To be brave. To push myself. To put myself on the line in ways that are fruitful but will not utterly destroy me if I fail.

I haven’t yet decided what my “long shot” will be for the month of March. I might not be able to think of anything else so soon after my last few attempts. I’d like to try to do something every month, but I won’t kill myself over it, because I think that would destroy the low-stakes feeling of it all. If anyone has any suggestions on other things I could try, or if you have “long shots” you want to try for yourself, please feel free to share. I’d love to hear about them.

Affirmation

Thing I said on the phone with my best friend just now that I feel is worth repeating to myself: “I absolutely refuse to feel miserable, or mediocre, or like I wasted my potential, for my whole damn life.”

I don’t know exactly how to accomplish this yet, but it’s been decided. I absolutely refuse.

Quick Update

So, the health insurance said no to pre-authorization, demanding to know if I had tried a whole list of other meds first, and had proof they didn’t work. So, the doc has put me on Seroquel now (though at the pharmacy the insurance company even gave me trouble about THAT). Tonight is my second day on it. I’m having some trouble with it so far – nausea and headache and some shakiness, but nothing too serious. It usually takes me a few days to get used to new medications. We’ll see how I’m doing in another few days.