Mother’s Day

I posted this on Twitter first, but I’m posting it here too.

“Did not expect an overwhelming sadness ab not being preg &having a baby this Mother’s Day. Cool.Thks #depression & uterus for that blindside”

Apparently I am really struggling with that today, and am going to need to spend a significant amount of time distracting myself from it.

I know I’m not well enough to take care of myself, and my pets, let alone be pregnant and take care of an infant, but that doesn’t stop that deep, consuming, desire to want to be pregnant right now. I don’t just want to be a mother, I desperately want to be pregnant, to give birth. The whole deal. I’ve thought about it before, and if that doesn’t happen for me- if I can’t get pregnant, then I can never go the surrogate route. That would kill me. I could adopt, but not an infant. For some reason it is integral to me to go through the whole pregnancy, to go through nursing. I can’t explain it and it certainly doesn’t agree with my rational thinking, but it is there and I do recognize it.

So for everyone else struggling with deep seated emotions today, and the likely fall out that will follow for the next few days, know you aren’t alone. I’m there with you.

Engaging through Twitter

I’ve been using Twitter to engage in academia more, and I love it. It can be overwhelming, so I use TweetDeck to help me stay organized, and I try not to sweat the small stuff. If I miss things I miss things.

But there is something about being limited to 140 characters that feels less intimidating than approaching a journal article or book, or paper. I can approach 140 characters at a time. And if I need to vent or tweet about something else, I can. It isn’t purely academic. I can tweet about health stuff, or medical stuff, or things I’m a fan of. And I can engage with others. I’m really enjoying it as a stepping stone to becoming involved in academia and scholarship again.

I spent today home, trying not to vomit every time I moved (what is wrong with you body?!) and besides napping, I managed to engage in two academic chats on Twitter. Which actually turned it into a pretty decent day, besides me feeling like crap.


I am trying to be very open lately. Even more so than I have been here, which includes increased utilization of Instagram and Twitter. In that spirit I had an exchange with another graduate student in my cohort this week that I am going to share here; because finally typing some of it was a realization for me.

To preface, the cohort-mate asked how I was doing as an offset of another email-conversation a group of us were having, and a comment I made in that context. I replied by sharing with her the metaphor I posted here. She responded with:

“Damn, Britni.  I think I just finished reading an extraordinarily articulate description of clinical depression.  I’m not a doctor (I don’t even play one on TV), but I do have some background in this and that is what it sounds like.

What type of support do you have?  How is [Mr. Liar] handling this?
Have you considered relieving yourself of this PhD burden, at least temporarily, until you can get to a better place and then maybe re-evaluate your trajectory with this program ?
Kind of like, get out of academia and get yourself in a fresher space.  Like a space where you can smell cows and horses and new mown hay and where your biggest concerns are taking care of animals (4-legged) and growing vegetables and picking fruit?! Lay in the grass.  Sit in the sun.  Take long walks in the countryside and do yoga. Put the angst you have about being stymied with this PhD crap away in a little box and put it on the top shelf of your closet for awhile (or maybe forever).  You’re young!  There is so much more to life than this program we’re in.  Give yourself a break, for goodness sake!
Honestly, I’ll understand, if you nicely let me know this is none of my concern, but let me know if I can help.
You, barely functioning, still equals most of us functioning at full cognitive capacity.  You have so much to offer.  I think maybe (at this moment) your being a student at VT in this program, is not where you can be your most authentic self.”
And, since I had just met with my counselor and am working on sharing more and being more honest with everyone, I let myself word-vomit all over the page. Normally this isn’t something I do with a classmate. But I’m glad I did.

“Oh, I have moderately severe clinical depression. We’re treating it. We reached a dose of prozac where I can feel anything other than emptiness again. I still feel like I’m constantly treading water, but I’m no longer drowning and get a breath of fresh air again for the first time in years. Unfortunately, whatever cognitive difficulties are going on are driving the depression and not a mere symptom of it. The antidepressants have certainly helped improved my blind groping, in that I come am willing to search for the puzzle pieces again and even come up with the puzzle pieces occasionally. But alas, I am fairly certain there is something else going on as well. We just haven’t made any headway in figuring it out.

I have thought about stepping down from my PhD and finishing off a masters instead. And, its still on the table, but I’m going to ride out my PhD for a bit longer, now that I’m taking baby-steps forward again. Honestly, I don’t let much of the usual grad-school stress even get to me much anymore. I’m doing the very best I can to stay afloat, and if the grad school has something to say about my progress, they can talk to all my doctors and my counselor about it. Thankfully my committee has been nothing short of spectacular, and hasn’t asked for anything other than try to take care of myself. If they weren’t so understanding and supportive I would have had to step out of the program a long time ago. Unfortunately, I am quite unable to physically, let alone financially, just take time to hang out with animals, grow things, and do yoga. And I’d probably find it rather dissatisfying. Not being able to preform how I desire and think I should be in academia contributed a massive amount to my depression. Thanks to counseling, I’m now a lot kinder on myself and more accepting of my abilities. But I do feel best when I am able to get something academic done. The other day I had a fantastic conversation on twitter with some instructional designers, edtech folk, & digital pedagogy folk, and that’s the best I’ve felt in a long while. My ability to participate in that sort of discussion, and especially to articulate what I want to say, is just few and far between these days. Twitter is actually helping me get back there a lot, though not at a PhD level, it’s more of a lateral step that I am happy to be taking, because its engaging more than I had in the previous year. And I crave that engagement. …I just also need to know when I’m hitting my threshold for mental and emotional involvement,not push myself over it anymore, and be satisfied with what I was able to do. Its a very fine balancing act. But I honestly don’t think I would be happy if I wasn’t in academia. Especially since I can’t physically do anything from my BS or MS – let alone mentally at this point. And being productive, and making life better for others, is such an essential part of who I am and who I need to be to be happy. It’s just doing to either take me a while to get back to where I was, or a lot of acceptance of the new me, and figuring out new ways to get where I need to be.

I do love hearing your thoughts though, because I know you give them out of love and concern for me. Thankfully, I have a fantastic support network – [Mr. Liar], friends, doctors, counselors, committee, I wouldn’t be where I am now with out all of you. ❤

Haha, I do wish me barely functioning was where others are at full cognitive capacity. We haven’t had much of an in-person chat in a while, let alone and academic one, but boy the difference between the me you had classes with and the me now, cognitively, is striking. I’m good at faking it when I need to though. I won’t argue that I’m not still smarter than the average bear, so to speak, but it sure does take a hell of a lot more effort and is a lot slower than it used to be.
I have no doubt that I still have something to offer. I am going to shake things up, share my opinions, be out there making noise. It just is going to take longer than I ever expected. Which is fine, I am young after all. I’ve got plenty of time to cause trouble. :p”

I’ve emphasized the parts that I consider revelations. I wasn’t putting much thought into them when I wrote them, I just wrote how I was feeling. And once I wrote it, it hit me how important it was to me. I’m sure I’ve known academia is important to me, after all you don’t stay in school as long as I am if it isn’t, but realizing being in academia is a critical component to how I see myself, my future, and where I wanted to be in the world hit me suddenly. And that’s not to say I want to be a professor – I’m still torn on what I want to do when I finish my doctorate, and I’m not worrying about it too much because who knows what will being going on at that time. But the tenets of academia and science speak to me. I want to always be seeking, questioning, constructing, discovering, and sharing. I want to help shape the world into a place I think is “better” for all of us who live in it. And honestly, I’ve been a scholar for so long, I don’t know if I know how to be anything else, and don’t want to be.


The single best thing I have done for my health has been to go to counseling. I see my counselor once every two weeks, and a psychiatrist once a month, and in the short time between now and January it has helped so much.
The only thing that has come close improving my quality of life as much as counseling has was my surgery and the acupuncture that switched my migraines from constant incredible pain to just auras.

That’s not to say its been easy, or counseling has been an immediate fix. It takes hard work and time.

But without counseling I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t be feeling optimistic and engaged on a level that I haven’t been in years. Even through the struggles and challenges, counseling is helping me find the tools, resources, and support I need to get through them — and get through them positively.

I am thankful every day for my ability to see my counselor (shout-out J, you’re the best!) and to be able to do so through my university.

Holding off on the Prozac… and getting an Endocrinologist

I talked to Dr. B2 today over the university’s health care messaging system. She thought it would be best if I didn’t start the Prozac, and that the neurologist (Dr. C) would be the best person to recommend an anti-depressant given all of my other conditions/symptoms. She also said that because I was on such a low dose of Zoloft, that she doesn’t think I’ll go through withdrawal.

I trust Dr. B2, so I’m going to follow her advice and hold off. The September 14th neuro appointment can’t get here soon enough!

In other news, I had a follow up DEXA scan on Tuesday, and it showed a 0.5% decrease in lumbar spine density since last year and a 1.8% decrease right hip, 1.4 % decrease left hip.  All are still in osteopenia range; lumbar spine is 89% age matched group and hips are 80%. Since I have osteopenia so young, Dr. B2 thinks I need to see an endocrinologist. So I’m adding more doctors to my already expansive collection.

No More Zoloft

I think I had an allergic reaction to it.

Last night about 15 minutes after taking it I thought I had heartburn in my lower throat so took some Tums and drank some water. But my throat was tight, and it felt like there was a lump in my throat, and there was no actual burning. Plus, I’d only had a BLT for dinner, which isn’t really a big heartburn food.

So I kept hoping it would ease up with the Tums, and instead it kept getting worse. To the point I was having a hard time breathing.

At 10:57 pm I finally decided it was time to use my inhaler. 2 puffs. And it helped, but not completely.

By this point I was think it was probably not heartburn and more likely an allergic reaction. I didn’t want to go to the ER, since I was having an easier time breathing, so I took 2 Benadryl,and went to bed.

Before going to sleep, I remembered that something similar had happened before, in the past week or so, but not as bad. That time, I wrote it off as heartburn and went to bed too.But there never really was any burning and it was the same lump in throat feeling.

This morning I called Dr. B’s office, (since she’s the one who prescribed it) and talked to her nurse. I’m to stop taking the Zoloft. I guess I’ll add that to my allergy list. And she’s going to call in a script of 10mg Prozac, daily, to Kroger to switch to.

But of course her office called me back AT 5, and I was just about to go to the bathroom, and my brain is all slow and doesn’t work right… so I realized AFTER the call that I don’t know if I should add the Prozac in before the Neurology appointment. I really want to stop adding variables… BUT I also don’t want to have bad Zoloft withdrawal if I don’t add in another antidepressant.

So now I’m torn on if I’m going to call her office back tomorrow and say I’ll to take the Prozac until after I see the neurologist, or if I’m just going to pick it up tomorrow and take it …because I really cant handle my depression coming back like it was and withdrawal and classes right now. And the Zoloft was helping my depression.


Met with Dr. B this morning. I didn’t give her the list of I keep of what’s been going on since my last doctors appointment; she hardly ever addresses my concerns anyway. I even mentioned I had a neurologist appointment in September, and she didn’t ask why or who was sending me there.

She did conclude that I have depression (which, we’d discussed before), and apparently an anxiety disorder (I’m unconvinced).

We were discussing the efficacy of amitriptilyne in treating my migraines. Which it isn’t anymore. And she wanted to change the drug, rather than the dose. She mentioned the other options were blood pressure medication, or topamax- but topamax can make you foggy. I told her that cognitive issues were currently my biggest complaint and I couldn’t handle being foggy anymore than I already am.

She concluded that I am too anxious to concentrate, because I’m already focusing on the next thing to worry about. …I’m not.

I think my level of anxiety is appropriate for what is going on in my life.

But, I do agree that my depression needs to be treated. It has gotten really bad lately. And while I think the depression is a result of my inability to concentrate or think clearly and get done what I need to, I think the depression feeds my cognitive issues. Hopefully treating it will help.

I’m also out of letrozole and norethindrone on Thursday, so we’ll see if coming out of chemical menopause helps my cognition any.

We did opt not to change my amitriptyline until after I see Dr. C, the neurologist. Since I was only ever given the ocular migraine diagnosis by opthomologists who couldn’t see any other retinal problems, I’m looking forward to getting a neurologist’s opinion.


I was going to write a post about my worsening depression. How being unable to feel productive and capable of doing the things I need to be able to do, and once could do so easily, was driving me into a deeper pit of melancholy and despair. But I didn’t. Because the depression robs me of my ability to get things done just as much as my other ailments.

And then I had a [mildly] productive week. I called Dr. S’ office to check on the neurology referral… which I am still waiting on. They were apparently playing fax-tag with my medical records when I called early last week, and I haven’t heard anything since.

I even worked on submitting an abstract and summary for a poster at an academic conference, with a co-worker. I hadn’t felt that academically capable in a long time. Unfortunately, it didn’t last, and as soon as I tried to read the literature for my own scholarly interests again, my brain went back to sluggish understanding and struggling to make critical connections. I did manage to get three chapters read last week. That’s nothing really; I should be reading more at least 5 or 6 chapters or articles a day, and doing a lot of writing. But I’m trying to stay positive, and take some joy and accomplishment from what I am currently capable of doing.

And I crocheted up a couple of drink cozies as part of an ongoing project I’m working on. They’re for a fundraiser the greyhound adoption group I volunteer with has been invited to participate in, in October. I’m getting a head-start now, before classes start again. I’m making drink cozies, some clutches, and a houndstooth scarf. I’m hoping they will go over well and bring in some nice donations.

Unfortunately, over the past few days I’ve also had a worsening of, what I assume is, gallbladder symptoms. Mainly right sided pain- under my ribs, but some upper left sided pain too. And an increasing feeling of heart burn… but not really heart burn. Plus some right shoulder pain. It’s not just after I eat though. Its starting to be pretty prevalent throughout the entire day.

I’m also having more pelvic pain. That lower right side pain that never went away after surgery is still there. It isn’t nearly as bad as it was before, but it likes to pop in and remind me it’s still there.

I’m exhausted, and I don’t know what to do next. Do I try to go back and see Dr. S and have the gallbladder out? Can I even afford to do that this summer? Will I ever get an appointment with the neurologist? Will it even tell me something? Will I be able to make it through the next semester? Through my PhD program in a timely manner? What do I do if I can’t?

I don’t have the answer to any of these questions. I feel like I’m stuck in a holding-pattern when I desperately want to make some progress and move forwards. But I’m just waiting. waiting. waiting.

If its not one thing, its another

I was finally feeling a smidge better; just clear enough that I could read some of the literature I need for my prelim and feel confident that I could cognitively process and make connections on a level that I needed to. Something I’ve been having the hardest time with lately. Why, oh why, has my thinking gotten so slow and difficult? I misuse words- often saying something entirely different than what I mean, even if I recognize it immediately. I feel as if my brain is swimming in cloudy jello. Its so much effort that I’m not used to putting into thinking, and not high level, innovating, working on ill-structured thinking–I’m accustom to working really hard at that– just basic thinking.

So I finally feel a bit of a break in the cloudy jello, and I get one chapter down and eagerly start on a second when all of a sudden I notice I’m not breathing. The same kind of thing that happened on the percocet. I doubt I don’t breathe for long, but it’s long enough to notice and feel short on air and my brain to go “OH SHIT BREATHE IN DAMN IT.” And then I can barely get air in. I tried counting my breaths in and out, with a longer exhale. I tried changing position. Nope, nada. So I break out my inhaler.

I don’t know I’ve said this before. I hate my inhaler. It makes me all jittery, and my brain has a hard time focusing, and it really only barely helps my breathing. Thankfully I hadn’t needed it all winter. I hadn’t taken a puff since August. But tonight I had to. Two puffs at 9:00pm.

And I still have to consciously think about breathing. If I don’t concentrate I’ll catch myself not inhaling again. At least my lungs feel like they can get air when I inhale, but I guess I’m done with work for the night. I certainly can’t focus on my reading, and meaning building, and conceptualizing while every second I have to pay attention to breathing. It’s been hard enough to write this damn post. And thank goodness for the easy ability to edit on via computers, or else this would have been an illegible mess, I’ve misspelled about every other damn word, hit the wrong button for delete over half the time, and had to take many breaks to string my thoughts together while thinking about getting air.

What a lovely way to end my day. As if all this health stuff wasn’t getting to me lately anyway. And I wasn’t already feeling awful about the amount of attention and work my academic career has been getting.

Like yesterday, I’ll be doing my best not to breakdown and cry myself to sleep. At least the amitriptyline helps me fall asleep, even if I have been getting flashes in my vision again by the end of the day.


Depression has been hitting me hard the past couple weeks.

My depression usually manifests as an unyielding and overwhelming lack of interest and motivation. It’s been making working on my preliminary exam, which I really need to work on, incredibly difficult. I’ve been crocheting small projects in a desperate hope that completing something, anything, that I put effort into will pull me out of this tail spin, but it hasn’t helped.