Monday, November 19, 2007

The drugs don't work.

Hey y'all, and especially to the ones who wrote the impassioned "Get on medication now!!" diatribes, I'm feeling a lot better this week.

Know what I did?

I went to two yoga classes this weekend, instead of one.

Or worse, like last week, none.

Yup. That did the trick.

(Note to self: make time to go to extra yoga if regular class is canceled due to pointless federal holiday. )

I know I'm supposed to have faith in science and all that. I do and I don't. Allergy medicine helps me a lot. Birth control medicine had a lot of nasty side-effects so I got away from that.

I'm sure for some people antidepressants are the greatest thing ever, but I still have no interest in taking mind-altering drugs of any kind.

No matter how depressed I get, I would rather get a new job (yes, plans B, C and D are being investigated) than take medication just to deal with the one I have now.

Btw I've tried taking fatty acid supplements and while they sometimes help me have more energy, I find that I get a lot more impatient and angry about little things on the days when I take them. I can't afford to be angry before I even leave the house! It makes it even harder to deal with the major annoyances that are an almost-daily occurrence in lab.

So, to sum up, I like the yoga solution a lot better.

Still up in the air about the hair, but thanks for all the comments on the do's and don'ts of showering, that amused me a lot.

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At 12:15 PM, Anonymous chall said...

When I was tilting towards the deep end of the pool this summer and my shrink said 'anti depressants' I responded ok... but can we give my method two weeks to see if it helps. She said sure and then I went into the gym and ran and lifted some weights together with my regular kickboxing classes, in total 5 nights a week. And yes, sure enough, the endorfines helped and I am getting better already.

I find when I am the least inclined to do excersie, i.e. bad day at work with bacteria not helping out at all, that is when I really need the outlet of either kickboxing or running.

Good luck!!!

At 1:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exercise is good :) Some studies comparing exercise and pharmacotherapy have found similar rates of effectiveness (I got that article from a quick Google Scholar search, I'm not an expert in this field!).

At 3:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

diatribe: a bitter, sharply abusive denunciation, attack, or criticism

Not one post on drugs struck me as bitter, sharply abusive or a denunciation attack or criticism. Not one.

Suit yourself, just trying to help. But just remember, saying you choose not to take drugs is nt the same as saying they don't work

At 6:03 PM, Anonymous JR said...

The best medicine for you is getting out of that shitty postdoc. All this yoga and kickboxing and whatever are just distractions. However, they do get you out of the lab and remind you what a normal life is like, so they aren't bad things, just temporary solutions to your major problem.

As far as the drugs, they aren't like lithium anymore. I have some friends who are on Zoloft and they say that it is very helpful. Reduces the anxiety and provides balance. They aren't a forever drug. Most people take them for a short period of time until things get back on track. Think of it this way...when you are chest deep in your own miserable life, how can you expect yourself to make major life decisions? The medicines just remove the fog of anxiety and anxiousness so that you can make a few clear decisions. Its really not a big deal. I'm sure most of the people you work are medicated. You're not alone and you are not the first person to go through this.

Start giving yourself some deadlines, like if you don't get an interview by June 08, I'm outta there. If you get an interview then give yourself until September to get an offer. Change the dates to whatever is reasonable, but the idea is that you are setting limits of opportunity. You just can't wait forever for an opportunity that may never present itself. Its your life. You are in the power position. Rather than just waiting to get picked, get up and take your game somewhere else. Keep the perspective that it is their loss if they don't want you. Trust me when I say that it is the best feeling to be out for just 2 years and realize 1. how much you have developed in a new environment and 2. how little the lab that you left has developed in the same period of time. They will still be struggling with the same BS problems because reinventing fire is the only thing that some people are capable of.

At 7:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was the one that suggested talking to a professional. This doesn't mean you need to take drugs. I was simply suggesting talking to a shrink to help you overcome some of your feelings of depression.

This is in now way an attack. Just an observation from an outside observer. You sound as if you are on the edge and I just wanted to help.

Exercise is a great thing for sure, but it isn't going to help you resolve your feelings of anger (at others who have gotten jobs) or bitterness about your current situation.

At 8:44 PM, Blogger Unbalanced Reaction said...

I'm not about to join the drug debate, so I'm gunna comment about endorphins instead!

I love endorphins. I'm taking a break from boy-toys, so my sole source right now (unless you count disgusting amounts of chocolate) are my workouts. I loathe the elliptical machine, but holy crap do I feel great an hour later!!

At 10:10 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...


Thanks, I know what you mean. To me it's horrifying that most of the people I work with are medicated (and they are). They're still miserable to be around. I can't imagine what they'd be like without it!

I'm very uncomfortable with the idea of making big decisions while medicated. To me that's worse than making them while being 'chest deep.' I think I would look back and regret it when I was off the drugs.

In theory I like the idea of deadlines. It's hard for me to look at it as 'forever' just yet. I'm pretty sure I can't last another year, but I said that 2 years ago and I did. I have a chronic problem of quitting things too early and then regretting it later. And I've only been at this ~6 years. I know several people who got faculty positions after 8 or 9 years of postdoc. I know it sounds ridiculous but it's hard for me to quit just yet. But I am getting used to idea that I will probably leave empty-handed no matter what, it's just a question of when.

Of course the lab here will be struggling the same way they always have been. They don't care that I'm here now, so why would they miss me? That has nothing to do with it.

It has a lot more to do with whether I think I can still contribute something to science ON MY OWN, and whether I want to.

FSP blogged recently about ungrateful people who quit academia after all this time and money has been invested in training them. If I quit, I will be one of those people. And I have no intention, right now anyway, of having anything more to do with science if I quit. I would rather work in a coffee shop than work in industry, or government, or any of it.

It's not quite so simple as getting out of a shitty postdoc. My situation is not typical and I am not a typical person. But I can't really blog much about it, so it's easier for everyone to make assumptions that they know what is going on.

I have to admit that today I am daydreaming about setting my office on fire, Die Hard style, and just walking out. Instead I might just go out for lunch with another bitter postdoc friend, who has an interview next week for an industry job and is also considering leaving without publishing what he's worked on for 2+ years.

I still think that if the cancer patients and parents of autistic kids and children of parents with alzheimer's understood what the fucked up system is doing to waste all the hard scientific work we've done, they might stand up and say ENOUGH ALREADY.

That's the part that makes me really mad. I still feel I have an ethical obligation to leave a public record of what I've done before I quit. I'm not quite there yet.

At 12:34 PM, Anonymous lost academic said...

Hey...I haven't commented before, but I've been reading for awhile.

You don't have to try medications. You don't really HAVE to do anything. But you probably should. Some of us have been where you are, and we know what it feels like in many of the ways that you describe, some over and over again. What you really SHOULD try is finding a therapist/psychologist/psychiatrist out there to develop a rapport with and see once a week or so to, if nothing else, use someone who's an expert to help get a little perspective and also help you cope with where you are and what you want to do. Sometimes just changing the situation that is contributing the most to your misery isn't a solution that anyone can implement very quickly, but there's almost always more you can do. That's what those people are there for--and if you don't like the first one, or three, find another. You don't give up on your research, you shouldn't give up on yourself, because it's obvious you have too much dedication and talent to waste even part of it like this.

I think also you're taking FSP's post about people leaving graduate programs a little too hard--there's a VAST difference between a confused/lost/untalented/lazy 2nd year graduate student and someone like you, complete with PhD and postdoc experience. The postdoc is a holding pattern--I obviously don't know you or your personal situation professionally, but there is hardly any way you have anything owed at this stage in your life. From a moral/ethical perspective, that's one thing, but you don't have to be where you are to continue to contribute, even publicly. Your definition of quitting is pretty rigid--it's yours, not for me or anyone else right now to try and change--but to some extent it's boxing you into a corner quite tightly. Maybe what you really could use is a serious change of focus, even if you're still working on something similar--another school, institute, country, anything. Even as loathsome as industry sounds to you, you aren't joining 'industry', you're doing something very specific, and I don't really see how it's going to close doors for you. Maybe it's what you need to boost you up to a T-T offer. Maybe not.

But I definitely stand by the main point here: you're not learning anything by the misery, and there are plenty of things you can do about it.

At 3:33 PM, Anonymous JR said...

You have to stop thinking of it as quitting. You are not quitting. You are seeking new opportunities. You have put in 6 years of postdoctoral training which is more than enough to give at least an indication of what opportunity exists for you in the competitive academic research world.

It is completely incorrect to think that leaving academic research is the same as leaving science. It is equally incorrect to think that leaving academic research is walking away on all the money and time spent training you. Please realize a few things. First, there are more possibilities of using a scientific career than we can imagine, and dare I say, some of these unrecognized fields practice more true methods of science than I ever experienced in the Ivory Tower. Second, if the training of young scientists was selective, purposeful and well intended, I would feel some negative feeling about walking away from academic research, but we all know this is not the case. Research has become one of those pyramid schemes. Just enough people make it to the top to encourage those below to keep pushing and make unreasonable sacrifices for the gain and fortune of those at the top. Your description of the comments by FSP about ungrateful people leaving science is just an insult to those who either don't want to get ripped off anymore, find better opportunity elsewhere, or have received a embarrassment of a scientific training that they are no longer employable outside of basic bench work.

I guess what I am getting at is that you have to manage your career. You don't owe academic research anything. You have given 6 years of underpaid and undervalued research all for the gain of your PI. It is now your turn to step up and say what's in this for me. If there is no further direction for you, then you are wasting your time by staying there any longer.

At 5:31 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

JR wrote: "It is completely incorrect to think that leaving academic research is the same as leaving science. "

No, see, that's what I'm saying. I personally would rather do NO SCIENCE than do SOMEONE ELSE'S RESEARCH.

I've written at length about why I have zero interest in industry, but it basically all comes down to this. Nobody in industry is going to hand me the reins the way they do in tenure track positions. And sure, you can say "Genentech"- everybody does- but the requirements for getting that kind of job are identical to the qualifications I'm lacking for tenure track positions.

If I went to industry it to be to pay the bills, nothing more. And I would expect to hate it, and hate it I probably would. But I like the idea of hating it less hours a week!

I would love to know what these other, unrecognized areas are that practice more true methods of science and for which positions they are hiring someone like me, right now, with the qualifications I already have. Because I am not going back to school for anything.

Regardless, I totally agree with you that I shouldn't feel guilty about leaving science altogether because the system really didn't offer me what it advertises.

I like that you said I don't owe them anything, despite what FSP said I think you're absolutely right- as is the person who pointed out that it's not like I'm in the middle of grad school, for chrissakes.

What's in this for me. Hmph. I've been saying that pretty much all along. It's gotten me into a lot of trouble! Some would even say I would have done a lot 'better' if I had kept my mouth shut, but I don't think my silence would have helped enough to make up for all the shit I've been through.

I'm definitely thinking that if I quit, I'll write a book. I'm like a postergirl for everything that's wrong with academic research.

At 5:58 PM, Blogger EcoGeoFemme said...

I think you should try to feel a little more empowered. It's your degree and your work experience. You earned them. You can do whatever you want with them. You've done your service by post doc-ing all that time (not that I believe you ever owed anyone anything). If the tt job isn't working out and you don't want to pursue other 'traditional' jobs like government or industry, why not try something totally different? Congressional science fellow or science journalist or financial analyst covering pharma.

What I really think is that if you're not going to do research or something else that leaves you really fullfilled, find something lucrative.

At 7:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You kind of scare me with the Die Hard talk! I know (or at least think I know) that you aren't serious about that but saying it brings you one step closer to doing it.

In the words of Krammer: "That's just kookie-talk!"

At 12:21 AM, Blogger Super Babe said...

I thought your comment about fatty acids was interesting. I take fish oil... Maybe I should start experimenting, ha ha.

Yoga and exercise are the best things to deal with feeling "blue"... you know, before you change jobs :)


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