I think she had the right idea.

As of today I’m discharged from my psychiatrist’s care- she has been laid off due to funding cutbacks, and is moving back to Halifax. I’m not a high-priority mental patient because I can pretty much take care of myself, and with help from my GP, I’ve been managing my medication. About three weeks ago I suffered from a very severe episode (I discuss it slightly here) of paranoid, psychotic thoughts and while I was more or less able to work during this time (I analyzed data for a paper which I was able to finish last week), it was very difficult for me to function. I’m fine now- apparently the culprit was some new medication my psychiatrist put me on where the dose was too high.

I’m not going to belabour the point that mental illness is hard. I expect this diary will, over time, demonstrate my struggles perfectly eloquently. I will not tell you everything I experience (this is not a place for horror stories), but just enough to make my point: that I’m basically a normal person, pretty much like you, and once in a while I get a little bit weird, a little bit lost.

Tonight is a quiet night. Seth, my husband, is making and canning homemade gourmet ketchup and barbecue sauce (hickory-smoked! Very tasty) and I am sitting with a pile of reading. We do not have cable because of where we live in the country, and we also now do not have satellite reception (it went down a few weeks ago, mysteriously), so we are catching up on our favourite shows via downloads we watch directly on our television. I don’t always pay much attention to the television, particularly when I’m busy writing something or working up plans on a spreadsheet.

I’ve been doing a lot of financial planning lately because I want to be able to pay for my two-week research trip to UCLA to study a novel cancer-fighting gut bacterium (my fundraising page that describes this project is here). This is a passion project for me because it involves work I was inspired to do, in part because my brother died of cancer in 2003.I’m taking all my vacation days and working through them to do this project, because I can’t afford an extended unpaid period away from my job. I am pleased that I’ve been getting some assistance from various academics, and I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to get enough data to be able to write an R21 with the help of my collaborator, Dr. Schiestl, at UCLA. Everyone’s funding is tight though- the glory days of lots of extra money in research are long gone.

In my spare time I try to write fiction, and I’ve decided to finish a novel I began in 1998. Finding the time to work on it, uninterrupted, is a challenge. My research trip in July is coming up soon, and I am spending a lot of time planning it. I am trying to make sense of a mass of data (none of it generated by me!) for my full-time job- that’s the pile of reading sitting by me, waiting for me to finish this post. I’ve mostly figured it out, I just need to synthesize the results, and so another trusty spreadsheet will open. I need to check on the laundry and I need to find half an hour to get on my elliptical and try to get in better physical shape. I’ve got a stack of books to read, a business plan to write, and a stack of references that I plan to use to synthesize a hypothesis paper (unrelated to my full-time job, this paper is something I have come up with in my spare-time readings and musings). Somehow writing for pleasure has taken a back seat to all of these things. If I had a month to myself to sit on a patio with my computer and simply write, all day, every day, I’d get the novel finished.

I need my income at the moment, but my husband is hatching a variety of business plans (my financial planning is partly to keep track of his various sources of income, to assist him in writing his own business plans) and perhaps someday I will be able to take a month or two and spend it following up on all the projects my current hamster-wheel lifestyle is preventing me from progressing on. Before she told me she was discharging me, my psychiatrist said she took a month to herself to catch up on a mountain of work she had been lagging behind on. She went to Mexico and sat on the beach and wrote report after report, and cleared her backlog of work. I think she had the right idea.

I am not in a position to be able to do that myself just yet, but perhaps someday soon, I’ll be able to go somewhere sunny and sit comfortably outside at a table with my laptop, and catch up on all the things I love to do which are so important to me.


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