Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Mood swings.

Yesterday I somehow got out of my inertia and got a lot done. I ended by feeling virtuous and productive. So that was good. Unfortunately I know it's not a robust system: not very easily reproducible.

This morning I dragged myself out of bed. I've been feeling, as I have ephemerally earlier in the week also, like I'm on the verge of tears.

The last couple of days I have been okay because nothing has happened to push me over that edge. Yes, it's that time of month, and I am doing all the things I usually do to try to feel better or at least functional. And mostly it is working.

Today I am at that point again, and trying really hard to shore up the walls of my protective bubble to avoid bursting out crying if someone says the wrong thing or my experiments aren't working.

I never used to mind if my experiments didn't work, I would just try again until they did. Lately I've had less patience for that, maybe because my impostor syndrome is restricted to my wondering if I would be done being a postdoc by now if I just had better hands (or a technician to help me). I'm still doing it, but it bothers me a lot more that it takes so long.

I know my project is harder than most, but that it's not obvious until you actually try to do these experiments. I also know that I have higher standards than many. I wouldn't want to put my name on something sloppy or publish something no one else could reproduce.

Unfortunately this also means that my advisor seems to expect more from me, and it feels like too much pressure sometimes. Pressure without any pep talks (while watching certain coworker morons publish absolute slop, get jobs, and leave).

So today I sucked it up when I found myself doing something that gave me graduate school deja vu in the worst way, that took what seemed like forever and made me feel like I've made no progress whatsoever in all these years, and I will never, ever get out of here.

And I sucked it up when the postdocs who got jobs last year started talking about their plans for leaving.

And I sucked it up when a couple of former postdocs were in town visiting, glowing and agreeing that yes, it is better when you get your own lab.

I am going to try to get some work done, since that usually makes me feel better.
I have to admit I'm not sure it's going to do the trick today. All I want to do it go home and go back to bed.

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At 4:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry your day sucked. Mine did too, big time. Having a beer now, yes its Wednesday but a day like today deserves one (or maybe 2). Definitely one of those days where I wonder, why the hell did I do this in the first place? Yes, science is fun, but the fringe benefits suck. You get to spend your twenties and thirties making crap wages, with very little prospect of advancing to a real job. Argh!!!!

At 5:11 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Honestly it's not the money that bugs me, most days, so much as being trapped indoors, being exhausted all the time, and not having time to eat anything good (especially during the week).

In grad school I used to at least eat lunch outdoors or even take a walk in the afternoon, some days. It helped that I had at least one person who usually wanted to join me.

As a postdoc most of my friends have kids so they're very 'wham bam thank you m'am' about coming in, getting shit done, and then they're outta here (translation: no break for lunch).

So even though I don't have kids (or ever want any!) I mostly eat at my desk while working, and I think it's part of the problem.

At 3:32 AM, Blogger Super Babe said...

I think eating at your desk is part of the problem... but I do it all the time as well, especially now that I'm far away (doing post-doc in Germany, all family and friends in the other side of the world).

Sorry that your day was hard, I hope you were able to be productive. Sometimes I find that even little tasks, when completed, make me feel better in those days.

Of course, today sort of sucks, as I found out that one of my proposals didn't get funded for another year (you posted on that particular post, about "the loser's smile")... so... I'm with you on the feeling BLAH...

At 6:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think its important to keep up those little breaks, regardless of whether you have company or not. For the first year or so of my postdoc I was in a similar situation in that there was nobody to take that afternoon break with. I went anyway, as I felt I needed to get outside and away from the lab for at least a short time each day. Even a 10 minute walk to the local coffee shop is better than nothing.

At 6:02 AM, Blogger Jennie said...

You should go for those lunch time walks alone if you have to. It will be a great way to break up the day and, as I'm sure you know, will help you think about all that's going on. A good debriefer if you will. It's nice to be alone with your thoughts, and depending on where you are the air is nice a crisp now and the fall colors a changing. Pretty soon it will be cold and you won't be missing outside walks.

At 8:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ask your friend(s) to have a quick coffee/tea break with you if lunch is something that would take too much time. bring this kind of thing up in advance. i think interacting with people you like is an important part of boosting your self esteem and enjoying the work environment.

At 11:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you ever spoken with a therapist?

Your frustration sounds a lot like what a loved one had gone through for some time. She was clinically depressed.

This may not be your problem... it may in fact all be circumstantial or time-of-the-month-related, so forgive me to overstep my bounds.

But for my loved one, medical attention and therapy have gone a long way for improving quality of life.

At 11:11 AM, Blogger ChrisC said...

Take a lunch break. Even if not every day. Make it a 15-30 minute break - a real one, away from the desk, the lab, the god-damned computer. I try to have lunch with another post-doc from the lab at least once a week, shoot the breeze, talk science or politics or baseball or whatever, and I've found that it really helps to keep me sane, especially during the dull but hectic winter months.

At 6:07 PM, Anonymous bubz said...

It's that time of the month for me too! I took one whole day off yesterday. :P

Hope you feel better soon! :)


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