The Perfect (Medication) Cocktail

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DeeDee:

Hey, look! I finally got my meds right!
Well, mostly. The sinus meds are making my heart rate skyrocket, so they need some adjustment. But the rest of it is finally A-OK. Hurray!

Originally posted on A Canvas Of The Minds:

click to read DeeDee's bio

click to read DeeDee’s bio

It seems like almost everyone who has been under long-term psychiatric care has embarked on a quest for the Holy Grail: the perfect medication cocktail. And it also seems like a lot of people never find it.

But I’m pleased to discover–my therapist and psych nurse both concur–that I’ve finally found mine. It treats a biological failure to produce enough of a couple critical substances: dopamine and progesterone.

My perfect cocktail includes medicated sinus rinses, nasal spray, a slew of vitamins and supplements, and a couple of prescriptions.

My perfect cocktail includes sinus treatments, a slew of vitamins and supplements, a couple of psychoactive drugs, low-dose naltrexone, and progesterone (not pictured).

I’ve known for years that dopamine was to blame for my mood and attention issues because only dopaminergic drugs ever helped. But there’s no “dopamine deficiency disorder” in the DSM, so they’ve labeled me with ADHD and Major Depressive Disorder. Although Wellbutrin XL and Adderall XR is a bad combo for most people–it makes…

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All The Things Are Happening, Again

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Been awhile, hasn’t it? That’s because life has been a nonstop action-packed adventure flick for the last few weeks.

After chewing my nails for weeks waiting to find out about jobs, I got not one, but two job offers! It came down to choosing between Midwestern State University and University of Mid-Atlantic, Flagship. My preference was clear; I used the offers to negotiate a slightly better package (and my offer was already pretty stellar) and then sealed the deal at Mid-Atlantic. In a few months, we’ll be moving our nest south of the Mason-Dixon, where I’m pretty sure they eat Yankees like me, to a sprawling metro area. In August, I’ll officially become an assistant professor.

It’s both terrifying and exhilarating. I haven’t had enough down time for terror to really sink in, though. As soon as I signed the offer letter, we started the mad race to get our house ready to sell.

If you’ve never prepared a house to list, you probably have no idea what kind of horrific endurance test I’m talking about. For nearly a month, every day, evening, and weekend has been filled with scraping, scrubbing, painting, repairing, upgrading, and facelifting our 86-year-old bungalow. In the process, I’ve triggered a carpal tunnel flare-up that requires me to wear a brace at night (minimum) if I want to sleep.

Last weekend I installed a new metal tile backsplash because the Formica was gross and burned.

Last weekend I installed a new metal tile backsplash and it looks damn fine.

In addition to overhauling the kitchen, touching up all the things, disposing of tons of stuff we don’t plan to move, and packing away everything we could possibly live without, we shelled out for a staging consultant and a pre-listing home inspection. There’s nothing for the ego quite like getting multiple professional opinions on the deficiencies of your home.

As a result, we still have a to-do list for repairs after the inspection, and we pretty much completely rearranged our house. Only 2 or 3 pieces of furniture remain where they were before. It’s disorienting and frustrating to live in a space that feels so foreign and temporary. It’s also nerve-wracking to try to keep everything spotless, depersonalized, and perfectly orderly for unknown visitors who may descend with minimal notice at any time.

But that’s just the beginning. The really stressful thing, which I try to ignore, is that we need to sell our house fast so that we have a down payment for new living quarters. And boy oh boy is housing expensive in our new neighborhood. Like, three to six times higher cost than we currently pay. Ouch.

So despite a 50% raise in my pay, Mr. Chickadee hasn’t yet had time to secure a job, and we have very little buying power. We can only finance about double the house we have now, and you can’t touch a house like ours in the new locale for less than five times the value of our current property. What that means for us, because renting is even more absurd, is shopping for condos and townhouses instead of traditional single-family homes. But it looks like we’ve found a decent area for our needs, so we’re planning to take that university-funded house-hunting trip later this month.

At the same time, I just had an article in the crème de la crème scientific publication, got invited to facilitate a workshop in Italy (yes! yes! yes!), and got sucked into heading up Mid-Atlantic’s end of an NSF proposal with only a week to write the grant. My travel schedule for the next few months is off the charts: six trips before we move, and a few more after that. It’s stressful and exciting, and it’s really all good, so long as I can keep my wits about me.

It’s been mind-boggling, kids. Wish me luck! I’ll try to check in again soon.

Job Search Crazy Times

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I haven’t been keeping up because I’ve been trying to get a job. Big deal, you might say, but unless you’re in academia (and therefore already pitying me) then you’re probably underestimating the level of torture involved in the professorial job search.

The academic job search goes like this:

  1. Apply for jobs from September through November. Application materials: cover letter (2 pgs), CV (mine’s 10 pgs), research statement (2 pgs), teaching statement (1 pg), 3–4 carefully selected references, and 1–3 writing samples of published papers. Each item must be painstakingly crafted to demonstrate superior abilities. 200 other people will apply for each job; I applied for 6.5 jobs.
  2. Wait.
  3. Get phone/Skype interviews in December and January. Spend about 3 days per interview preparing for a 20–45 minute screening call. For each position, a search committee will interview around 12–20 people. I got 4 phone interviews.
  4. Wait.
  5. Do “flyouts”, “campus visits”, or “campus interviews” in January–February. Spend about a week per visit preparing for an intense 2-day gauntlet during which every moment is scheduled, aside from 10 PM to 8 AM; you’ll be lucky if they remember to offer bathroom breaks. Meet up to 20+ faculty each time, either in group meetings that feel like firing squads or endless back-to-back half hour meetings where you must impress each person individually. Give a 35-60 minute “job talk”, then meet with graduate students/deans/department chairs, tour the campus, and literally talk yourself hoarse while charming everyone at every moment. Each position will have 3–4 candidates visit. I got 2 campus visits.
  6. Write thank-you notes to every individual that you met at each visit.
  7. Wait.
  8. Wait.
  9. Get paranoid and drunk a lot.
  10. Wait.
  11. Sometime in March, if you’re very lucky, get an offer or two.
  12. Negotiate.
  13. Wait.
  14. Negotiate.
  15. Wait.
  16. Sign a contract.
  17. Pack up your whole life and move.

I’m somewhere around step 9 and it’s driving me (and Mr. Chickadee) crazy. I can’t think about anything except this impending transition. I search for places to live in each city I’ve visited, increasingly horrified by cost of living and suburban banality, and then second-guess every interaction along the way. From all accounts, I performed brilliantly at the interviews, and the fact that 1/3 of my applications yielded campus visits is actually quite good.

This week I attended my favorite annual conference. I thought it would be a great distraction, but faculty from both schools I visited were there and everyone asked how the job search is going, over and over. Instead of being fun like usual, it was a pressure cooker. I cried myself to sleep but barely slept, ending up so exhausted that I could hardly pay attention to content or conversations. Worst of all, I co-organized a workshop with two people who are on the search committee for one of the jobs I’m up for. I couldn’t get drunk fast enough at the end of that day.

I was constantly under scrutiny and trying to maintain a good show, but the stress was killer. I resorted to avoiding people, leaving events early, taking breaks to be outside by myself where no one could judge me, and drinking heavily. Which may not have been terribly wise, but my coping skills just couldn’t overcome that much stress.

I tried (and failed) to put on a brave face, and all my friends heard the truth: I’m terrified. I can’t draw good comparisons between the schools because they’re so very different, and despite excellent feedback, I don’t know if I’ll get job offers. Although there’s nothing I can do and it’s like picking at a scab until the wound becomes infected, I just can’t let it go. And I still have at least two more weeks to wait.

Miss Diagnoses

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DeeDee:

I don’t even know how many times I’ve been misdiagnosed at this point. But the hits just keep on coming…

Originally posted on A Canvas Of The Minds:

DeeDee newAnyone who has ever looked up a “serious mental illness” like bipolar disorder has been smacked in the face with dire warnings and frightening statistics about misdiagnosis. If you google my lifelong companion ADD, you’ll see lots and lots of dire warnings and hand-wringing about overdiagnosis. But you won’t run into are dire warnings, frightening statistics, and hand-wringing about repeated, compounded misdiagnoses.

It’s really bad for people with mental health issues to get the wrong diagnosis and treatment. But it’s just as bad for those with somatic health issues to get the wrong diagnosis and treatment.

And it’s very, very easy to get misdiagnosed. Consistently. Repeatedly.

How does it happen? The biggest problem is that myriad conditions can cause psychological symptoms: vitamin deficiencies, endocrine imbalances, chronic stress, and many more. But the main problem, from what I’ve seen, is cost-control driven negligence: major psychiatric diagnoses made on the first 15-to-30-minute…

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Mental Health Bloggers Widen Their Support Systems on WordPress.com

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DeeDee:

What she said.

Originally posted on WordPress.com News:

When we start a blog instead of simply keeping a private diary, it’s because we want to connect with others. When you start to blog, you join a community.

It comes as no surprise that many bloggers are drawn to online communities as a place to work through challenges — to heal and process, find others with similar experiences, and seek (or offer) support. There are lots of supportive communities around WordPress.com: women dealing with breast cancer, people managing diabetes, parents of children with unique needs, and many, many more. Throughout January, we’ll be zooming in on how bloggers use WordPress.com to support their health and wellness.

Today, on the heels of the Blog for Mental Health 2014 kick-off, we’re focusing on mental health. Read on for a look at the many ways WordPress.com bloggers use their sites to improve their own lives, and the lives of others who have…

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A Week in the Sun

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I live in Central New York, which parallels the Pacific Northwest for gray skies and precipitation; we just get ours as snow rather than rain. For about 6 months out of the year, the skies are oppressive, with just 70 hours of sunshine on average in December. That’s about 2.5 hours a day, but sometimes we don’t see the sun for more than a week at a time.

View from my rainforest lanai, complete with a tangerine tree.

View from my rainforest lanai, complete with a tangerine tree.

So spending a week in the sun during January is a great way to recharge myself enough to power through the rest of the winter. Last year I enjoyed wintery sunshine in northern New Mexico, but this year I soaked up my rays in Hawaii on the “Big Island,” spending about half of my time on the dry sunny northwest coast near Waikoloa, and the other half in the rainforests of the southeastern coast in the Puna district.

Sunburn ensued, obviously. I didn’t mind at all; it felt good to get a little spanking from the sun. But I also spent some time under gray skies that still felt re-invigorating because everything around me was lush, green, and dripping with exotic vegetation. Well, except for the barren lava flows, but even there, the novelty of the moon-like terrain was refreshing.

The conference that took up my first 4 days on the island (and was my excuse for travel) had me a little overstimulated and feeling frayed at times. I tried to manage my needs to prevent a meltdown, taking alone time when I needed it and getting at least 6 hours of sleep a night. I still had a mini-meltdown (it really was a lot of stress) and a sinus infection flare-up, but did pretty well most of the time.

The end of the Chain of Craters Road in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

The end of the Chain of Craters Road in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

I’m glad I planned several days of vacation on my own to follow the intense professional interactions. The biggest drawback was that Mr. Chickadee stayed home, by his own choice (I have enough frequent flyer miles for a ticket to paradise) so I explored on my own. Although I saw a few sights and spent a lot of time at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, there’s still so much left to explore next time. I promised Mr. Chickadee that I’ll walk to the end of the road again when he’s ready to come with me.

I’m this writing from 37,000 feet (Tuesday), operating on about 3 hours of spotty sleep after getting up at 4:30 AM HST to see birds and boarding a 10:15 PM (Monday) plane in Kona. I won’t get home until 7 PM EST. Factoring everything in — sleep deprivation, Dramamine, Sudafed, missing my sweetheart, a 5-hour time difference, and the fresh dose of sunshine and greenery — I feel great and awful at the same time.

There’s no making it easier on myself; I’ve done all I can to soften the blow. Mr. Chickadee thinks it’s not worth it, but he wasn’t there. It was worth it. Nonetheless, tomorrow (Wednesday) will be very hard (it was) and the coming weeks will be more stressful than I’ve experienced in years as the job search intensifies. I’m grateful I soaked up some sun while I could, and I’m returning to face these challenges fortified by experiences that remind me that there’s more to life than the hard stuff.

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