Friday, October 27, 2006

One of those weeks

Did you ever have one of those weeks where you feel totally, utterly, and absolutely unmotivated? This has been one of those weeks for me. I've gotten very little accomplished in the lab, other than going to seminars constantly. I bailed on our MSTP monthly dinner meeting Wednesday night, and I bailed on the MSTP women's dinner last night. I have my first indoor soccer practice tonight, and although I'll still go, I've had definite thoughts of bailing.

I just want to go home, curl up under a fleece blanket, and watch some TV. Or a movie. Or read a book. Something relaxing. In reality, what I really need to do is clean my house, because it is getting way gross.

It's just been a blah week. I wish soccer practice started before 9 PM (and it's right by my parent's house, so that's another 1/2 hour drive each way). It totally kills my night to have it start so late. But, it's exercise and being social at the same time, so I can't really turn it down.

I guess that's it for now. Just wishing I was home. But at least the weekend is coming--that's definitely good news.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


HowManyOfMe.com
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One decision down, a million to go...

Tim and I game-planned last night, and we decided to pass on the house stuff for now. While we could technically afford a bigger mortgage payment, much of that is due to the fact that we don't have car payments right now. Unfortunately, that is likely to change in the near future. His truck is at almost 150,000 miles, and my car is over 80,000. And there's no way we could swing a bigger mortgage and a car payment.

Add to that all the uncertainty about the housing market, moving for residency, maybe wanting to move to a better school district when we finally have kids, plus having to fix up and sell our house, and it's just not worth it right now.

We think it's good to keep an eye out and see what the market is doing, but for at least the next few years (until we know about my residency stuff), we're going to stay put.

I'm surprisingly happy with that decision. I thought I'd be all bummed, but really, it's a relief. All the work to sell our house would be killer. I'm glad we have a few years to spread it out now instead of trying to get it all done in six months.

Not much else going on. I'm feeling like a total procrastinator at work today, which is bad because I have stuff to do. I almost played hooky today--it was all sunny and crisp, the leaves are gorgeous, and I just wanted to have a nice day to enjoy doing nothing. Maybe another time, I guess.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Getting the message

Sometimes I wonder how life works the way it does. Exhibit A: Cleveland. Or rather, the constant debate I have with myself about staying in Cleveland for residency versus leaving.

As a quick primer for non-medical peoples, I'm (hopefully) going to start residency in July 2010. It'll probably be three years of internal medicine followed by three to four years of some specialty. I'd like to do residency and fellowship in the same area, if possible, so I don't have to move constantly--I'll likely have to move at the end of all of this when I finally get a real job in 2016/2017.

The debate has been: do we stay in Cleveland for this, or do we move? I wanted to move for med school, but for a variety of reasons (Tim's job, the best fit of MD and PhD programs for me), we stayed in Cleveland. This has been fine, really. I like my program--I just hate my lab.

My plan had been to go somewhere else for MD/PhD, then come back for residency. I have family here, and I figured I'd be having kids around residency time, so the option of having family support while I am constantly working 80 hour weeks with overnight call sounded good.

Since we stayed here, I have been thinking maybe we should move for residency. My desire to move increases: 1) when I visit a city/school I like, 2) when it snows here, 3) when I'm feeling the need for a little space from our fams, and 4) when I just want a total, radical change in my life. Another big thing is that moving is how it's done. Sure, there's a percentage (maybe 30%) of both MSTP and medical students that stay in Cleveland every year. But generally, my program places people in big-name hospitals, like Johns Hopkins or Massachusetts General or the like. It's expected that you'll go to the best hospital you can get into, and those that stay are just settling.

So there is both outside pressure to move, and there is personal pressure too. The comfortable thing would be to stay--we have a house, Tim has a good job, we know the area (and generally like it), and both of our families are here. Simple, right? But I don't want to stay just because it's comfortable. I want to stay because it's the best choice.

Anyway, back to the point. I've really been thinking more and more about moving. And yet, over the past few weeks, I've been feeling like someone's trying to send me a message. There were the applicants last week, who raved about Cleveland just as I was feeling negative about it. Then it was talking to several other, more senior MSTP students who are thinking of staying around for residency. And then there was finding all these house options. Then today, we had a women in science speaker who talked about how having family nearby to support her during her postdoc and first job was absolutely critical. And Thursday we are having a women in MSTP dinner and pumpkin carving, and for some reason, I always want to stay here after we all get together.

Plus Tim's got a good job. A really good job--not in the monetary sense, although it's not bad, but in the great work environment sense. He's suffered through a few real stinkers of jobs, and now he's finally in a place that respects him. And a happy Tim makes my life better too.

It's not all about him. His job is in demand everywhere that they are building things, so there's a lot of geographical flexibility. And he's offered to move, preferably to Richmond, where his company has another office. Too bad there isn't a great hospital in Richmond.

Back to the point. Today, as I was leaving the lunch, I suddenly became aware that there has been this message screaming at me the past few weeks. I've still got years to decide (which is both good and bad), but it seems that life is telling me not to take my current location for granted. I don't know what career path I want to take yet. If it's academic medicine and research, my pedigree makes a big difference in my ability to get jobs and grants. If it's private practice, or teaching, or some other pathway, the residency I choose isn't such a big deal. And it's not like there aren't two higher-tier residencies in my backyard anyway (the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals). It's not like I'm going to Bob's Hospital in Backwoods, USA.

I think I've wanted to leave Cleveland just to prove that I can do it. I somehow need to prove to myself that I can succeed outside of my little circle. I showed some of that when I went to the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, for four months. It's just that I chose to go to college in Ohio, then med/graduate school in Ohio, and now maybe residency in Ohio. I need to prove that it's not a fluke, that I am competitive.

But who is making me prove it? Just me. No one else (well, maybe a few faculty in my program, but they don't count) has told me I have to move. In fact, a lot recommend staying.

The point of this rambling post is that I've decided that I can't decide right now. I need to not limit myself to only Cleveland, but I also need to not eliminate it as a choice. I'm too all-or-nothing in my life. I need to let there be a little gray area from time to time.

Monday, October 23, 2006

House hunting, an explanation as promised

There are about six houses all in the same basic area that have been up for sale for a while. They started way out of our price range, but over the past eight months or so, they've dropped about fifty grand. They are all about ten years old, 2500 ft2, four bedroom colonials with basements and nice yards. That's pretty much what we wanted to move into ten years from now. And the fact that they are dropping into our price range got us a little excited.

Tim's pretty calm about the whole thing, but that's his personality. I, on the other hand, am not. And especially not about houses. Friday I ran all the numbers. Yes, we can afford the houses, but the extra mortgage and property taxes would cramp our savings plan some. And we’d either have to sell our house first or get a bridge loan, neither of which is to be taken lightly. That had me leaning towards not moving on Friday.

Saturday we drove past the houses. And Tim & I loved them. And we were already talking about calling the realtor and the bank.

Yesterday and today, my sanity returned. There’s only one question: do we need to move now? The answer: no. Yes, these are great houses. Yes, they are a bargain right now. Yes, the finances work out. But do we need to move right now? No. Our current house is small, but we don’t have kids, and we won’t for a while. Even if we wait four years to move (about residency time), that’s four years of smaller mortgage payments, four years of half the property tax, four years of building equity in our current house, and four years of saving money for emergencies. Yes, we’ll continue to be cramped here. Yes, we’ll still have a longer commute. But it makes so much more financial sense to wait.

All I do know is that I think houses, for me, have become a way to channel my anxiety. There are so many things I want to change in my life, and there are so many things I feel like I have no control over. Moving involves both change and control. And, if we move now, it also sort of forces me to stay in Cleveland for residency—thus making that decision for me.

I think the moving pattern is part of it too. I haven’t stayed in one place very long—the pattern for me is: six years (Barberton), three years (Brunswick), six years (Pittsburgh), three and a half years (Medina), four years (college), four years (current house). That could be a big part of it for me. I feel like it’s time. The longest I’ve live anywhere is six years, and that felt like a lifetime. Maybe I’m just ready to change it up.

These colonials we are looking at all fit my forever house description. The one we looked at about nine months ago was still pretty small—we both agreed that house would be an in-between for us. If all we wanted was a bargain in-between house, there are about a million of them in the area. These six colonials are different. They could be it for us. A forever house. Roots.

That appeals to me. To know we won’t have to move again, unless we choose to. Tim’s current company, which he loves, and I love because it’s so good for him, is between a 10-15 minute drive from these houses. And it’s about a half hour for me, maybe a few minutes more. That halves our commutes. It seems perfect.

Except that we didn’t expect to be making this move for a few more years. And that, really, is the issue: timing. Are we ready to commit to Cleveland for good? Are we ready to commit to a house for good? Or do we still need a few more years to decide? I mean, come on. I’m 26, Tim’s almost 28. How many people move into their forever house at that age? Somehow, when we were talking about moving to an in-between house, it was less scary. It was the same situation as our current house—we knew we wouldn’t live in an in-between house for more than 5-10 years. No pressure. If we don’t like it, we just try it again in a few years. Talking about a forever house is a bit scarier.

It’s weird. I’m torn between this whole commitment/non-commitment thing. I think staying in our current house is the best option until we can figure out what is best for us.

I guess that means I am going to have to turn off the house lusting for a while.

Snow!

Yes, it was snowing here this morning. My school is on the east side of town, which is by the lake. The snow belt is eastern, so since I live on the west side, I might leave in the morning with no snow, and I get here and it's snowing. Such was the case this morning. I should've known it was coming--it was sort of icing as we left the Browns game last night, and it was cold as balls in the stands--but I was in denial that it could possibly snow in October.

The good news is that it's supposed to warm back up this week. I'm so not ready for winter yet.

This past weekend seemed to fly by. We were house hunting on Saturday (I'll come back to that) and then went to an MSTP dinner, and then Sunday was a blur of Joe's confirmation-lunch with the fam-hurrying to the Browns game-getting massacred at the game-driving Joe back to my parent's house-helping Tim with calculus-bed. Good times. And I have a bunch of gels to run this week in the lab, but I'm just having a hard time getting started today.

Anyway: house hunting. Well, we were. I don't think we are anymore. It was sort of a brief bout of insanity for me. I'll post the specifics later (that way, if it bores you to tears, you can skip it). But the big picture is: yes, we could afford it. Yes, they are nice houses. Yes, they are closer to work. But: we'd have to sell our house, we'd have to commit to being in the area for at least five years (thus staying for residency), and we don't really need the space right now, although we'll probably buy a house like this some day. So that's that, I guess.

I've really got to accomplish something in the lab today. I'll ramble more later, I'm sure.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

{hangs head in shame}

Wow, I was a pissy beyotch earlier today. While I still agree with my lab assessments, the applicant thing was really fun. I picked up three students at 3 o'clock from the airport. We went back to my house for about an hour, played with the crazy dog (which they all really liked), hit the drugstore (one guy's bags got lost! including his suit!), and then I took them on a brief driving tour of Cleveland. After that, we headed to the dinner party.

What an eye opener. They were all really fun. And it gave me such perspective. Here's a little (anonymous) background: one girl is from Minnesota, and she goes to school at a North Carolina university (and she's one of your former Kaplan students, Sarah). A guy is from New Orleans and also goes to said NC school. The last guy has been out of school for a while. He's from Philly but went to college in DC.

Things they said that made me pause:
  • Wow, what a nice area! Such cute little houses! (And this was in the old part of my town).
  • This reminds me of the quiet little street I lived on as a kid.
  • What a nice house! It's so big! (It's only 1500 sq ft, but compared to a dorm room, I guess that's big).
  • It's so beautiful here. Look at the trees! They are such pretty colors. (This statement was made multiple times, at multiple locations across the city).
  • Wow, I never knew! This puts my (hometown, college town) to shame!
  • Downtown looks really nice. And three sports teams--cool!
  • (We drove through downtown to the east side). Look! A lake! Is that a Great Lake? (I said yes, Lake Erie). Cool! That means we're by Cedar Point! (Yes, it's about an hour away).
  • (I took them down MLK, through Rockefeller Park, to University Circle). This is so beautiful! It's like it's out of a movie. And ethnic gardens! (Each country has its own little garden). And there's the art museum, and the botanical gardens, and the symphony, and the natural history museum! How great! (I told them you could get into most of them free with your ID)--Really? I bet you are here all the time (I'm not, but maybe I should be).
  • (I told them you could also get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center for free with your ID)--Wow! What a great program! There's so much to do here!
  • (I took them through Case, past the hospitals and research buildings) These are all Case/UH? Three research buildings? Amazing! (My college) isn't nearly this nice!
  • (I took them through north campus, past the Peter B. Lewis building) This is modern art! So cool! But wow, I almost like all of these other gothic/greek revival buildings better. It's so gorgeous!
  • (I took them on a driving tour of little Italy) So many restaurants! And they cost how much (About $10-20 a person, depending on the restaurant). That's so cheap!
  • (I took them through Cleveland Heights, to the dinner party). These houses are gorgeous! And students can own them? (Yes, a lot do). But they must cost so much! (No, between $140-180k, generally). Wow! That's so cheap!
  • (We went past a bunch of shops and restaurants). Such cute little shopping areas! And they aren't chains? How cool! (I told them there are some chain center, like Legacy Village, that have Trader Joe's, the Cheesecake Factory, etc.) That's good to know too--national stores and local ones--pretty cool!
  • (As we are pulling in). Wow, I never knew Cleveland had so much to offer! I'm definitely sold! (I tell them that I had no intention of selling it, and that's the honest truth). I know--it sold itself!

Cleveland? Really? I guess I've taken it for granted my whole life. I do like that it's a mid-size city, that the cost of living is cheap, that there's always something to do, that I can live in a suburb and still be near the city. I like having four (relatively) mild seasons, although I could stand a shorter winter. Although, compared to Minnesota, where it's 95 and humid in the summer and 0 degrees and blizzarding in the winter, Cleveland sounds pretty good.

I was just shocked at how impressed they were, and they seemed very genuine. At the end of the night, I got a few hugs goodbye. And I only spent five hours with them! If all the applicants were like that, this program would kick rear.

It made me feel really bad about how I've been overlooking the positive and focusing on the negative. Yes, lab is terrible. But there are others in my program in worse situations than mine, and they are surviving. I have a husband, family, friends, and great MSTP classmates who are there to support me. I have a house--it might be small, but it's mine (well, the bank's , but partially mine). I live in an underrated town that I overlook too often. And these people were from cities I was strongly considering for residency--I haven't taken them off my list, but I definitely got a new view. Every city has problems, I guess.

It's easy for me to sit here and wish for a bigger house, a different city, a different job. But that doesn't change right now. I need to focus more on today. I can't change the past, and focusing on the future just freezes me up. I need to take care of today, and that's manageable. Sure, I dread going to work tomorrow, but I just need to get through one day at a time.

I'll work on the whininess, too.

If you don't have anything nice to say...

That title is why I haven't posted in a while. I don't have anything nice to say. Lab has been taken to a new low this past week. I had to go work in the library for several hours yesterday for fear I may acutally do bodily harm to someone.

I had to present journal club this morning. That's no big deal. I've been trying to work on it for a while now, but I am constantly interrupted. This ordering crap has gotten out of hand, and Dr. B. is only making things worse. We went from "Bridgette orders general lab stuff one day a week--do the rest yourself" to "Just tell her what you want, she'll find it and order it RIGHT NOW." I've tried to get Dr. B. to intervene on my behalf, but I think it backfired.

So, of course, this meant I got home at 7:30 after horses, ate, worked on journal club till late, got up at 5:30 AM, got here to finish it, gave it from 9-10, and have since been pestered for the last three hours. I don't know how I'm ever go to get my own stuff done here. Plus, I have to leave at 2:15 to pick up three MSTP applicants from the airport, amuse them for a few hours somehow, then take them to a dinner party. Another case of Bridgette can't say no, so just screw her over: it started as me attending the dinner party. Then someone bailed on picking up their applicant, so I said I could do it. Somehow, they gave me three people instead of one, and I got the earliest pickup time (3 PM)--despite the fact that year 1&2 med students are off by noon, and I'm in the lab. I tried to switch, but no go. Then I was told that the dinner wouldn't start till six, so could I find something to do with them in the meantime?

I used to love recruiting. It was one of my favorite activities. I loved hearing about the applicants, and I was more than happy to share what I thought about the program. Now I'm all bitter and angry--not the best person to leave three applicants with for a few hours, right? That's what I thought.

Ok. Pity party over. I'll do my job, and I'll even try to be pleasant about it. It's not the applicant's fault I got screwed somehow. I'm sure they are very nice people.

Things are bad. How bad? Tim asked me yesterday if I just wanted to quit and go back to med school. Even when I was seriously debating that very fact earlier this year, he was against it (as nicely as he could be). The fact that he actually suggested it? Not a good sign.

I'm stressed, my body is breaking down, I'm about two seconds away from a nervous breakdown at all times, and each time I think it is getting better, it gets worse. I need to find a way to cope with this. I've got 2.5 years invested in my PhD--I only need another 1.5. I keep telling myself this. But another year and a half of this makes me want to cry.

I know I'm a strong person. I've been through some tough crap in my life. But this is breaking me. I used to be optimistic. I used to be able to have fun. Now I'm cynical and bitter, and it's not me. I'm so tired when I get home on Fridays that I collapse. I sleep for 16-18 hours on the weekend just to recharge. And finally, on Sunday nights, when I feel like I am almost a human being again, the dread wells up in the pit of my stomach, and it's back to lab-induced insomnia.

I know my body can't take this forever. And please, I'm not even physically abusing it yet, what with the 80 hour work weeks and overnight call I have in my distant future. I've got to change something or else it's going to be all bad.

I know the only part of my lab situation I have control over is me. I need to get a better attitude about things. Here's a start:

-It's only temporary.

-The lab doesn't define me as a person.

-I'm not the only person who has ever struggled.

-Just because I don't get everything done in a day that I want to doesn't mean I'm lazy.

-Just because certain lab folk talk down to me doesn't mean I'm an idiot (I already believe that one.)

-I will not be here for the rest of my life.

-I'm doing this because I really like science.

-Not all research is this bad.

-There are people--teachers, bosses, admission committees, mentors--who thought I was capable enough, worthy enough to enter this program. I need to remember that.

-When I'm 80 years old, my 4 years in the lab will only be 5% of my life. I will have been sleeping for a bigger percentage of my life.

-My job doesn't define me.

-I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and dog-gone-it, people like me.

Ok, Stuart Smalley was a bit much. But I'm going to keep working on it. Think positive. Think positive.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Blabbity blah

I'm feeling very blah today. A little down, but not depressed. I'm moved on since my close encounter of the binge kind. It's just the same old family drama. And although work sucks, it sucks no more than usual. I just don't know where my funk is coming from. Blah.

A brief update: the kaplan interview went fine. It was really informal, actually. It was me and three guys. One guy was in a suit, and he was all hardcore with handouts and everything on how to make bread. One guy, in a t shirt and jeans, winged it on how to make home brewed beer. I went, and I had visual aids and drew on the board some, but no hardcore handouts. The last guy came in late and basically started by saying, "I didn't really prepare anything...." He talked about how to be a freelance journalist and sort of "umm'd..." his way through it. We were all interested in teaching different tests, so it wasn't competitive at all. The vibe I got from the organizer guy seemed like if they had a need for the area you wanted to teach, they'd call you for training. If they didn't, well, thanks anyway. He said it would take about a week or two to hear back. I'm pretty cool with whatever. If it works out, great. If not, oh well. I'm pretty meh about it all.

Really, I'm pretty meh about everything. I need to find a journal article to present next week. Meh. I need to clean my house and actually cook. Meh. I should start putting my data into some sort of logical progression to go over with Dr. B (even though he thinks things are fine). Double meh.

I'm just really blah today. Dr. B left yesterday, and he won't be back till Monday. I'm running a big experiment today, and all I have to do tomorrow is pass my cells. Theoretically, I could just come in, do my cells, and leave. I think that's what the rest of the lab is doing. I feel bad ditching, but if I don't have much else to do (except all those things you should do when you have free time--read papers, go over data, etc), should I just head home? I haven't decided on that one yet.

So yeah. Meh. It's not that anything terribly bad has happened, or that I'm all depressed or upset. I think I'm just burned out. I need a break from every one and every thing for a day or two. I just need to relax and recharge with no "woulda, shoulda, coulda" lists for once. Wishful thinking, I suppose.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

You sing a sad song just to turn it around...

Confession time.

Yesterday, for the first time in a long, long while, I revisited my eating disorder. I’ve been doing much better lately. I’ve not been dieting per se, but I’ve been conscious of making good food choices and trying to work in more exercise. It’s been going pretty well, and occasionally I’ll lose a part of a pound here or there. All the more of a bonus. I’ve been able to stay on track without totally depriving myself of real food. It’s been mostly a success.

Yesterday was the perfect storm. Lab was awful—bad cells, bad experiments, ordering issues, people laying their personal conflicts on me, dealing with the completely useless rotation student, and overall lab frustration. I was insanely busy all day long, so I had a glass of milk for breakfast and my emergency can of soup for lunch at about 2:30 (since the cafeteria was closed). I got home about 7 PM, and I think I had maybe 200-300 calories for the whole day at that point.

When I got home, I started cooking dinner (since we had no food in the house). Of course, since I was starving, I reached for the first edible thing I could find. This happened to be a piece of leftover chocolate cake from Tim’s dad’s surprise party on Sunday. I haven’t had real cake (not the diet stuff I make and call cake) for probably over a year. Immediately after I finished the cake, things just exploded for me. That delicious, fatty, sugary, amazing chocolate cake was my trigger. I knew things had just gotten out of control.

I was making parsley potatoes with sausage for dinner. As bad as it sounds, it’s actually pretty healthy. I use low fat kielbasa and very little butter. Tasty and healthy. Of course, it’s only healthy when you eat one serving of it. Unfortunately, it was the closest thing I had to comfort food in the house. I don’t keep my triggers in the house anymore—ice cream much?—but warm potatoes seemed to fill in for the night. Instead of having one small bowl of potatoes and sausage, I had three. I couldn’t stop. I felt like I was starving (which, when I first got home, I probably was). And that feeling of starvation did it for me—I was officially bingeing.

In calorie and sheer volume measurements, it wasn’t as big as the binges I used to have. But my therapist said during “crazy talk” that disordered eating for me is eating with no control, with no sense of how my body is feeling, without the ability to stop, and with guilt and shame afterwards. That was definitely yesterday.

I just couldn’t cope with life yesterday, and bingeing was the comforting pattern I fell into. I was so stressed from the lab, so frustrated, so hungry from not eating much. Then I got home late, realized I had no food and needed to cook, and looked around and saw how much needed to be done around the house. The anxiety, the frustration, the despair of my day coupled with my feelings of inadequacy as a student, a researcher, a wife, and a home owner. What I needed was a good cry. What I did was eat.

When Tim got home from class at about 10:15, I fessed up to him. He’s not the food police. He knows it’s in his best interest to never assume that role with me. I know that too, but I had to tell someone. I had to speak what happened. Otherwise, it’s back to bingeing. Keeping it a secret, feeling guilty, and eating to silence my guilt—that’s the life I used to have. The only way to break the cycle is to fess up and own it.

And I did. It really tore me up. I feel weak. For as much as I try to be Superman (or Superwoman, I suppose), I feel like my relationship with food is my deep, dark secret. Call me an out of control pig, and you’ve found my kryptonite.

Tim did the best he could to help me feel better. I really feel bad for him. I don’t think he knows what to say in order to make me feel better. I don’t hold that against him. I think it’s tough for anyone who has never struggled with food to really understand what’s going on. Heck, I didn’t understand until after I had spent over a year in therapy. From the outside, it looks so simple. You are feeling out of control? Stop eating. Easy, right? For me, it’s not. It’s like an out of body experience. I’m watching myself eat, and there’s no way I can turn it off.

I started therapy (we called it “crazy talk”) in 2003. It didn’t begin as therapy for an eating disorder. I wanted help dealing with my stress. However, as we moved along, it was apparent that I had deeper issues that just learning how to relax. We dealt with it for over a year, and I’ve been finished with therapy for almost a year and a half now. I don’t think I’ve had more than one or two binges in that time, until yesterday. I got to a place where I didn’t need food to cope. It worked on a daily basis. Unfortunately, I still bottle things up, and when I let them explode like I did yesterday, somehow bingeing seems to be my comfort zone.

I think confessing this to Tim, and now posting it out there in the blogosphere, will keep me accountable. I have guilt from actually bingeing, but it’s keeping the binge secret that causes the most shame.

I also fessed up to the scale. Luckily, I’ve never been a compulsive scale-hopper, so seeing my weight is still a helpful tool. It’s depressing as hell to see that number go up four pounds overnight. Part of me knows that I really ate maybe 1500 calories extra, so much of that number is water retention, which will go away. Still, it’s motivation. Pre-“crazy talk”, I would’ve given up. I would’ve said, “See! I already screwed up! No point in trying to be healthy.” Now, I’m owning it, and I’m going to grow from it. It’s not going to be easy to be healthy 100% of the time, but at least for the next few days, I need to be 100% to get past the binge monster. Later, I’ll give myself back some of the leeway with my eating patterns. For now, it’s time to get back on track.

Dealing with the emotions will be more difficult. I’ve got the shame and guilt today, as usual, but I’m self-talking. I need to prevent the downward spiral of feeling like a failure because that only leads to bad places. But that’s just the emotions caused by the binge. The bigger issue is dealing with what caused me to binge in the first place. Some of that was just carelessness. I know not eating a real meal for lunch makes me starving. I almost always pack a lunch, or I’ll go down and get a big (but expensive!) salad from the cafeteria. Yesterday was a fluke—I had no food to pack for lunch, and I ate late, after the cafeteria was closed. I can be better about the food part. Tim even suggested maybe packing a meal for dinner if I know I’m going to be late, or maybe packing a snack for my hour-plus commute home. Both good ideas.

The other things that led to the binge yesterday are a bit tougher. The lab has been hell recently. I’ve made no secret of that. I’ve got over a year and a half yet to go here, and I need to find a way to cope with it. I know a lot of people use exercise. Personally, I’ve always hated exercise for exercise’s sake. When I volunteer with the horses, or play softball, I don’t mind that. It seems like it has a purpose. But to just get on the elliptical? I do it, but I hate it. I even try to distract myself with music or TV, but I still hate it. I never get those endorphins, even after an hour or so. But, I know it’s something I need to work on.

I have hobbies, sort of, but they don’t really relax me. And I’ve been so busy that I’ve abandoned a lot of them. This week is especially tough. Tonight is two classes of therapeutic riding, followed by writing some sort of talk for my Kaplan interview tomorrow. Wednesday (tomorrow) is the Kaplan interview. Thursday is free, which means I need to catch up on cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping. Friday night is the get-together of a bunch of women I know from my old church. Plus, it’s suppose to snow Friday. And then it’s the weekend. Which always seems to be busy for some reason.

Keeping busy, while not relaxing, does seem to be a good way to keep my mind off of things going on. Problem is, when I stop being busy, everything boils over. I’ve got to deal with this stuff sometime. Most of it seems to be related to the lab, and I just really feel powerless about that whole thing. I need to not take it so personally. That’s definitely an area to work on.

Ok, enough confessions for one day. It’s really emotionally draining, more so than I expected. Time to get back to work before my boss starts his daily rounds.

Friday, October 06, 2006

I write blogs not tragedies

Bonus points if you know the song title that my title came from. Tim, you don't count--you suggested it.

It's been a really up and down week for me. Tuesday afternoon was so good. Today has been so bad. I've been prepping this experiment for about a week and a half, and I was going to collect my cells today. Well, there was fungus in them. No good. There's a week's worth of work down the tubes. And the gels I ran earlier this week? The antibody's not working again. So I've got to re-grow my hybridoma and collect more antibody. Sweet.

I'm trying to think happy thoughts, to not focus on the negative. It's tough though--things in the lab are so discouraging all the time.

I did have a bit of an evil giggle today. This rotating student in my lab sort of worships my boss, why I don't know, but he just loves Dr. B. I've told him about the lab culture (of which there was more behind-the-scenes cattiness today), and I've tried to warn him about Dr. B's pet peeves and such. Well, for a week or so now, Dr. B has been convinced that this student is doing something wrong. All he has to do is scrape cells and collect them. Really easy. Dr. B insisted that he be there when the student scraped his plates today.

The student had to be in the clinic at 1, and he had class until 11. Dr. B had to leave to go out of town at 12:30. I know the student was hoping not to come in at all today, but upon Dr. B's insistence, they agreed to meet at 11 and scrape cells.

Well, 11:15 comes by. No Dr. B. The student is making excuses for him, like maybe he's in a meeting (he's not). 11:30. No Dr. B. The student walks by his office, and his door is mostly shut. 11:45. The student is pacing, so I tell him to ask the secretary what is going on. She does, and Dr. B says he'll be right there. 12:00. No Dr. B. The student is obviously impatient, and he leans over to me and says, "Ok, I'm a little pissed now." I tell him to give it ten minutes, and then just go to the clinic. Two minutes later, there's Dr. B. No apologies for being late. He just starts doing things his way and says nothing else about it.

The experiment takes all of ten minutes. As the student is leaving, he says, "You know, I wish he would've told me he was going to be late. I had other things to do."

Welcome to my life. He's the boss. He keeps appointments when he feels like it, he changes his mind every day about whether or not he likes your results. He can praise you one day and berate you the next for the same thing. And trust me, your time is unimportant to him. All that matters is his time. That's why they pay him the big bucks.

I don't think my boss is a bad person. He's just a horrible, horrible PI. He's let the catfights in the lab escalate way out of control, and if anything, he fuels the fires. He doesn't manage well. He is inconsistent at best with his decisions. He doesn't know how to troubleshoot problems, and he doesn't know how to pick effective projects.

Hence why I tried to do everything I could to not end up back in this lab. An eight week rotation was miserable--I had no illusions that working for him would be better. And yet, here I am.

And I did try very hard to stifle my evil giggle as the rotating student had his own illusions shattered. He's been pushing hard to stay in the lab as long as he can, even though he hasn't accomplished a thing. I've been telling him to do the minimum time (which he has), and get out. We'll see if today changed his opinions at all.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Crazy crap

Ok, massive stuff has happened since I last posted (at least, massive to me). I'll end with the good news. Here's the general update:

1. Lab sucks. Nothing new. I've been busting butt the last week or so, being insanely busy, and I have jack to show for it in terms of results. That's usual. And the rotation student is making me crazy. I think my frustration is starting to become obvious, despite my best efforts to hide it.

2. I set up an interview to apply to teach for Kaplan. Funny thing is, I did the same thing last year. I applied online and had my interview all set up for October 12, 2005, and then I chickened out at the last minute. In the last week, I've run into three MSTPs who teach who brought it up, Sarah mentioned it in the comments here, and I got an email about it. So, I did it. My interview is next Wednesday night, October 11 (almost exactly a year from the cancelled interview). We'll see what happens.

3. Our roof is leaking again. Tim got up on the roof Sunday and put a tube of caulk around the sanitary stack (which had a huge gap forming in the rubber), so we'll see if that does it. The rest of the roof looks pretty good, so here's hoping.

4. I helped chop down trees this weekend in the backyard, and I also changed the showerhead from the nozzle kind to the handheld kind all by myself. I'm like the second coming of Bob Vila or something. It's all that "This Old House" we watch on the weekends.

5. I got a little mini-raise for going on the department training grant. It's not more than a couple hundred bucks a year, but it's enough to justify getting satellite TV. 20th century, here we come!

6. Tim and I talked during our two-hour walk this weekend, and it was really nice to just talk about life. I think we figured a lot of stuff out together, and we have some sort of five-to-ten year plan worked out. Most of the action happens five or so years from now, but I can stress about things a lot less when I know for sure they are a long time away. Cryptic, I know, but I have to imagine you aren't super interested in the state of my uterus (and for my sibs that are, what I'm saying is that it's going to be unoccupied for at least several more years).

7. It's freaking October. Best month ever. The reason our short walk turned into a two-hour one is because it was too gorgeous to stop. If we hadn't had the little dog with us, we probably would've kept going.

8. Amy's doing well in California. I finally heard from her this weekend, after not wanting to call so much as to be a stalker but really wanting to hear what was up. The people are a lot better than the impression Tim and I got from visiting there, and she's in a good group. And there are no wildfires around. Always nice to hear she's safe.

9. Our four year anniversary is on Thursday. The tradition is to get take-out Chinese food. No gifts, maybe a card, and take out. Romantic, I know. Jen's been pumped for it all week. She's been planning what she wants to order for days now.

10. Finally, the great, tremendous, ecstatic good news. The postdoc from my old lab emailed me a few weeks ago about some of my data. This has happened before, and I've been out of the lab for over a year now, so I never get my hopes up. Yesterday, at about 4:30, he emailed me to say he was going to make it his personal project to help publish my paper. I'll be first author. I'm so excited and happy. The thought of only having to get one first author paper out of my current horrendous project made me choked up. I've got to remember cardiology now, and it'll take a lot of work to get back into my old project while keeping up with the one I have now, but I'd do whatever it takes at this point.

So I had another stressful, painful day in the lab yesterday. And then I got that email. It was like everything changed. I need two first author papers for graduation. If I can get this one out this winter, I only need one from my current lab. I still don't think this will let me get my PhD in 2007 (we really only have one entry point to get back into med school: July. You have to be fully defended before you can go back, and if you miss the deadline, you have to wait until the next year). So, I'll be back in med school July 2008. That was always the plan, but with the way my project has been going, we had doubts we'd be able to get two papers out by then.

I can't even express to you how happy I am today. To have an endpoint in sight, to know I'm almost halfway there now--it's amazing. I have such despair in my current lab. No projects are working, the money situation is bad. That makes for cranky labmates and a cranky boss. Knowing I'll be out of here in a few more years, FOR SURE, is most excellent.

I've got an insane, long day on tap today too, so it's back to work for me.

Happy thoughts! Happy thoughts!