I needed that today

I started the day feeling discouraged and wrung out.  Both physically—I’ve been fighting a cold—and mentally—I’m always fighting to stave off the thought that I’m never going to finish my PhD.  My one significant accomplishment of late (the Paper From Hell was accepted for publication!!!) had been deflated by the realization that there were small errors in two of the figures.  Very tiny errors, really; little points in the middle of a bunch of other points on a plot.  They have no effect on our interpretation of the data or the paper’s conclusions.  Still, they are real mistakes and will need to be fixed before the official version of the paper is published.

Fixing the mistakes means sending updated figures to the journal when I check the page proofs.  I think you can do that, but I felt so embarrassed about having to do it.  How could I have missed these details?  What is the editor going to think about having to sign off on the changes?

I was feeling completely un-confident about my ability to do anything right.

In a perfect coincidence, that’s when the hashtag #FailingInSTEM appeared in my Twitter feed.  Scientists were sharing their stories about screwing up in ways big and small.  It was such a relief to be reassured that everybody makes mistakes sometimes, even folks who go on to be very successful in academia and in life.

I learned that someone I deeply respect once had to issue an erratum to correct some misplaced points in a published plot.  Suddenly catching a similar issue at the proofs stage didn’t seem so bad.  This is the stage when I’m supposed to double-check everything one last time, right?

Sometime, when I’m feeling a bit more coherent, I’ll write a longer post on how academia promotes a culture of You Should Be The Best Perfect Best Amazing Perfect Researcher and how that’s fed the hungry brain monster of my perfectionism.  For now, let me just say that I wish we talked more about our mistakes.  It helps those of us who feel terrible about ourselves.  It really does.

The worst part of depression is

Briefly trending on Twitter last Friday was the hashtag #TheWorstPartOfDepressionIs.  It dropped off the radar almost as quickly as it appeared, but produced some profound statements about what it’s like to live with depression.  Here are a few that stood out to me.

This is true, and it’s incredibly frustrating.  You can be doing all the right things, and still feel crappy.  Checking all the boxes on the list isn’t a cure.  That being said, not doing all the things tends to make me worse—if I don’t get enough sleep, for instance, my mental health crashes.

Answer: Everything and nothing.  Nothing and everything.  You want to be hugged and you want no one to touch you.  You want to be somewhere else but you can’t think of anywhere else to be.

Look at all the time you have to do exciting things today! says my brain.  But ugh, I don’t want to do any of those things, and now I can’t remember what all of them are, and what if you forget to do something more important? 

It doesn’t take very long to get to, I actually don’t have the energy to do anything and there’s no time to finish anything properly so why even start?  I wonder what it’s like to have mental energy every single day.

Because what if you forget that important thing you need to worry about?  My subconscious seems to believe that if it enjoys happiness it has not earned, something bad will happen.

Yes.

How can you be sure which parts are the lies?  What if you really are making a fool of yourself?  What if you really are ugly?  I get annoyed with discussions on how to combat “imposter syndrome” for this reason—the cures all seem to revolve around recognizing your true accomplishments, but that requires (a) having true accomplishments and (b) believing part (a).

Then there’s this one, which is utterly terrifying:

I’m just going to stay in denial about the fact that my kid has some of my genes, OK?  I mean it—if I never admit that this is something I’d ever have to worry about, then it must not exist as a threat.  Right?  Right?

I added a few contributions, including this:

It was kind of nice to know that this struck a chord with at least two other people.  That I’m not the only one for whom worrying about fatigue is a component of my mental health.

Finally, there was this guy, who, really, says it all:

 

Readers, what would you add?

Follow me on Twitter! or, Was this really a good idea?

So, this happened:

Yep, that’s right.  I—the proud owner of non-smart phone and a person generally uninterested in celebrities and small talk—have joined Twitter.  I have finally entered the second decade of the new millennium.  Which means that if you are reading this and have a Twitter account, you can now follow me on Twitter!  If you are reading this and don’t have a Twitter account, you can scroll down a bit on the side of the page to find my latest tweets.

I’m excited, but I’m also a little bit terrified.

I started coming around to the idea of Twitter when I noticed that I had a lot of little things that I wanted to share.  Thoughts that weren’t big enough to expand into a full blog post.  Links that were worth pointing out, but with only brief additional comments.  And thus @crazygradmama was born.

But it’s a risk, trying something new.  Will I wind up putting pressure on myself to be witty and remarkable with every Tweet?  Is this just a little too far “out there” for a socially anxious introvert?

I don’t know.  I suppose the only way to find out is to give it a shot.