Saturday, August 15, 2009

Shut up, subconscious!

Been doing okay with the whole work-stress thing lately. At least, when I'm fully awake.

When I am angry or anxious, I go to the gym.

Switched to a new Omega-3-6-9 supplement and that is helping a lot with the apparently mild depression that seems to have gone away almost completely.

Calling a ridiculous and stressful situation at work "major depressive disorder" made even less sense to me after I met with the psychiatrist my now-former therapist recommended. When the doctor is hawking drugs like a street seller (Don't you want it? Come on, you know you want it! Take the drugs!), my answer is the same as it is on the street: uh, NO. Keep walking. Always feel better as soon as I turn the corner and get away from people shoving things in my face that I don't need or want to buy. And I really do feel very confident about that decision. There is no doubt in my mind.

The only lingering problem is the early morning hours when I'm not quite awake, but not entirely asleep.

At night, I have real dreams. Some of them are interesting, some are about food or vacations, but they are mostly not about work.

Sometimes I wake up very early, anywhere from 3-6 AM. Sometimes, just before I wake up I figure something out that has been puzzling me with science-related issues like what experiment to do next. That is always satisfying, and I say, Thank you, subconscious! I knew you would solve that for me!

But sometimes it's not productive, and I'd rather not be waking up at 3 AM at all. Exercising to exhaustion usually helps me sleep through the night, but it's not always practical to be tired and sore every day of the week.

Even if it only happens rarely, it's still kind of annoying because I'm more tired the rest of the day than I should be.

I usually try to go back to sleep, and sometimes it works better than others.

Those early-morning hours are the time of day when my brain insists on processing and reminding me of all the things that people have said that had implied meanings; things my adviser should have done but didn't; things that I have no control over; and worrying about the future. Etc.

For example, when some of the students or postdocs in the lab want to complain to me, I'm supposed to be sympathetic, but if I say anything in return about being frustrated with our adviser, they jump all over me like I'm the one who started complaining in the first place.

And I know they aren't sympathetic because they just don't understand. I know they're either too clueless or too terrified to admit that if it's happening to me, it will probably happen to them eventually, maybe already has and they've been trying to pretend like it hasn't. Or they've swallowed their pride or integrity or both, and tried to tell themselves that it will all be worth it.

I know it doesn't occur to them that I feel really isolated and let down by their complete lack of empathy or respect. I know all of that. But it's all I can do to politely listen and just say, "Yeah, that sucks" and stop myself from actually sharing, because I know they'll hold it against me.

So when I wake up at 3 AM, part of my brain is pointing out that I really just want to
say to them: please quit whining to me, I do not want to be your friend
because you're incredibly two-faced, self-centered and insensitive!

About half the time, I get up for a little while and do some yoga or writing or even watching tv, and when I go back to bed half an hour or an hour later, it's fine.

The rest of the time, I just can't make myself get up because I'm very tired, and then I end up having these little episodes of replaying irritating situations in my head and wondering whether I could have handled them differently.

My theory is that if I write about these things in a journal or blog before I go to bed, that might help avoid them popping up on their own and wrecking my sleep. I think it helps.

The thing is, when I'm awake I'm pretty good at noticing my thoughts and identifying them and saying, Okay, yes, that was annoying, but I need to let that go now. It's a conscious effort, though, and when I'm half-asleep apparently I can't quite pull it off.

So this is my message to myself via the internet. Shut up, subconscious! You can talk during the day if you want, but you have to let me sleep! The hours of 11 pm to 7 am are OFF-LIMITS! I will write to get you out of my system if I have to, but then you have got to shut up! Got it? Good.

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At 9:02 PM, Blogger EngiNerd said...

Sounds like you are working through things. Finding away that works for you regardless of all the non sympathetic co-workers. Having just moved on from a miserable adviser situation you are right when you say that it either is or will happen to them. The difference is some people are so unhappy that they feel being treated terrible is acceptable. Good for you passing on the drug cocktails the therapy world pushes as the solution. You are on your way to better times!

At 5:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Soooo, when I was having trouble with my MSc supervisor - who definitely should have been on meds - I imagined him as a frog under my microscope. And I had pins and I started experimenting/ playing with his mind. Ok, when I do this (jab), you do that. Interesting. It was how I got mental distance to deal with the situation. Some call it managing your bosses, I called it mind games. Because I had some degree of distance and power (if only in my head), I was able to manage the situation and get out.

At 10:24 AM, Blogger Unbalanced Reaction said...

Yikes! Hope you sleep better tonight. Although my subconscious hasn't particularly bothered me, I do routinely find myself getting up at 2 am. I think it must be when I'm coming out of a deep cycle (or something). Wearing ear plugs helps, maybe because it blocks out the random noises that must be waking me up? I dunno; maybe that could help?

At 1:47 PM, Blogger butterflywings said...

I SO recognise this - the replaying of the day - of the things you don't have time to think about during the day.
With me, though it's at about 11 pm that it happens, and I literally cannot sleep until I have processed them.

Sounds as if those people are happy to dump on you if they need to vent, but don't want to be your friend in return. Fuck em, I say.

Did you read The Devil Wears Prada? That thing of 'I didn't criticise the bosses, oh no not I!' reminds me of the Runway Paranoid Turnaround (when someone would criticise the boss, and if someone else agreed, act as if they hadn't). I don't get it - either you can talk to someone, or you can't.

At 4:37 PM, Blogger Balancing Act said...

please quit whining to me, I do not want to be your friend
because you're incredibly two-faced, self-centered and insensitive!

I can very much relate to this and sympathize! Good luck getting your sleeping back in order.

At 9:59 AM, Anonymous lost academic said...

I see what you're trying to say, but clinically the disorder is correctly defined as the DSM-IV does as 'major depressive disorder' your psychiatrist is just using the appropriate medical terminology. I'm sure you've looked up the criteria for the disorder before. It may not feel major or often for you, and that's fine, but what he's saying is, your conditions meet these criteria. (There are several other mood disorder too, of course.) As a society we've done a lot of misuse and mislabeling of depression, and it only hurts people who need the right issues diagnosed and managed, as well as people who need to cope with THAT and have to deal with all the extraneous crap.

At 10:37 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

lost academic wrote: what he's saying is

actually it was a FEMALE MD

just using the appropriate medical terminology

yeah, what I'm saying is, I disagree with the western medicine way of thinking about dealing with life crises

to each their own I guess

At 6:35 AM, Anonymous lost academic said...

Sorry, I just defaulted to the standard Western neutral pronoun, which of course we all know isn't really neutral at all (but all the other contrived ones just sound totally absurd).

There's nothing wrong with disagreeing, but it helps to understand the criteria she's using when she makes statements/diagnoses/etc.

Have you considered seeing someone who treats emotional conditions in a different way? I'm not sure you're going to like those any better, but perhaps something different will feel like it has the potential to make progress, and in the end, if you don't feel you have that potential in this or in any endeavor, there's basically no good it will do for you.

At 12:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi all,

hope i'll be able to help, cos i'm going through that kind of hell as well and currently self-correcting my own chattering mind plus wandering actions for couple of months now. (Showing some positive results now)

Previously diagnosed as bipolar, hypomania, depression, anxiety, hyper-vigilant bla bla. But i just know it was totally wrong and rejected those diagnosis.

2 days, i found an ebook that totally describes my condition and showing solutions that was kinda similar to my self correcting methods except that they were better organised since its professionally written.

The title of that ebook is "How To Control Your Brain At Will" by Dr. Roger Vittoz and Christian H. Godefroy.

Give it a read if u like. And if any of you dont manage to find it, drop me an email and i'll send it to you. My email is at

- Ray

At 8:25 PM, Blogger Anfa said...


At 4:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An insightfull post. Will definitely help.

Karim - Positive thinking


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