Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What to say?

I'm in one of those times where I'm not really sure what to say. I'm feeling overwhelmed and anxious, but I also don't want to sound negative all the time. Then again, blogging is cathartic. That's why I started doing it many moons ago. So, I guess you'll just have to bear with me.

Monday was my first pseudo-day in the new lab. That meant that this past week has been very sleepless for me. Much of it was due to Sophie's cold. However, even more was due to my anxiety level. Sunday night I didn't sleep at all.

It's my own fault. I know I'm anxious, but nothing I have done has lowered my panic level. I've been trying to figure out why I am so freaked out about the lab. I like the PIs, I like the people, it's a good project, and it is back to a topic I really like. So, I don't think it is the lab per se that is causing me so much stress.

I think it is the decision in general. I am sure I would be even more anxious if I had chosen to go back to medical school. Deep down, I really do feel that switching labs is the best choice for me. But the actual change makes this entire nightmarish situation real.

On Monday, I had to admit that I wasn't goind to get a thesis out of Dr. B's lab. I had to admit that the last three years have been worthless. I had to admit that I would not be going back to medical school with my class. I had to admit that, best case scenario, I will have spent 6 years in the PhD alone, ten years total in the MD/PhD program.

Basically, I had to admit that things wouldn't work out according to plan.

This is extremely tough for me. I'm a planner, and I'm an overachiever. I've failed on both levels with this PhD stuff. People have tried to be very supportive--it's not my fault, I've just fallen into bad situations, etc. But isn't part of my job to get past all the road blocks?

I've spent a lot of time in woulda-coulda-shoulda mode lately. I should have moved when Frank moved. I should have switched departments after he left. I should have fought harder to not go into Dr. B's lab. I should have gotten off my initial Dr. B project sooner. I should have left Dr. B's lab a year ago.

How many more should haves will I have with this decision? I know I will have some. That's life. But I can't let them control everything.

There are three dissertation defenses this week that are from MSTP students. One is a woman in my class, two are men from the class below mine. And they are all going back to med school in November.

And yesterday, I went to a dissertation for a physiology grad student. And as I listened to him, I thought, "I deserve my PhD just as much as he does, but without the publications, I have no leverage." That was tough.

After spending most of the day in the new lab on Monday, I do feel a bit better. Like I said before, everyone is super friendly and helpful. I knew the technician from Bill's lab, back in undergrad, so that was like a flashback for me. And in general, the surgical techniques are nearly identical to what I did with Frank (just a much longer survival time), and the molecular biology techniques will be mostly what I learned with Dr. B.

They are cramped for space in M's lab, so for the time being, I go upstairs for procedures, etc, and I stay at my old desk in Dr. B's lab to read papers and work on my proposal. I will eventually move upstairs, which will complete the switch. But for now, I am in a state of flux.

I'm just having a hard time mentally adjusting. I'm a perfectionist--it's hard to swallow that the last three years have been for nothing. That feels like utter failure to me.

And I've got to work on balancing. For the next long time, I've got to give everything I have to getting this project up and going. That's fine, but I've worn myself out so much emotionally that what I really need is a break.

I'm nearly worthless at home at the moment. I'm so exhausted that a victory is coming home, scrounging for dinner, getting groceries, and putting Sophie to bed. I get very little else done. My house is a mess, we're having family over for Sophie's birthday in ten days, and there are literally mountains of crap on every table and flat surface in the house.

I'm totally overwhelmed by the lab stuff, totally overwhelmed by the house stuff, and just generally frozen and incapable of moving forward. I know I need to break things off into manageable chunks and work on them a little bit at a time. I'll get to that point. For now, I just need to make it through my day without having a total meltdown.

Things will get easier, I know. As I assimilate into the new lab, memories of Dr. B's lab will become less and less prominent. I'll get there. But I need my body to cooperate and calm down so that I'm in one piece.

So, that's me for now. I got almost 5 hours of sleep last night, which is more than I've gotten in one night in a long time--probably since August. Hopefully catching up on sleep will bring my sympathetic nerve tone back to normal. I understand that adrenaline and cortisol are useful in emergency situations, but I've been living it for a few months now.

And let's not even talk about what this stress is doing for my eating disorder. I've kept things mostly under control, but it wouldn't take more than a little slip to start that whole cycle up and running again. Regaining control of something and punishing myself for not living up to my standards--that was the definition of my eating issues a few years ago. I definitely don't need to go through that again. So far, so good, but I can't stop being vigilant. And for as hard as it has been not to slip into that pattern again, it goes without saying that my hope to bring my diet and exercise back as a priority has been pushed to the bottom of the list again.

Really, someday it'll be back to working on me. But I've got to get out of crisis mode first.

Anyway, back to work. I just wanted to let you know why things have been a bit sporadic for the last few weeks. Once I get back in a rhythm again, life should calm down. Right?

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