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Author Topic: Managing long-term depression and its affect upon work  (Read 2868601 times)
zarathustra
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« Reply #15 on: March 10, 2012, 2:23:40 PM »

<<hugs all around>>

How's everyone doing?  Spring is supposedly, and ironically, a more depressing season than the winter holidays, from some stuff I've read (maybe Kay Redfield Jamison?).   

I hope everyone can get out and get some sun.  It's chilly but sunny here.
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The Squishiest!
alto_stratus
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« Reply #16 on: March 10, 2012, 9:58:34 PM »

Lack of sleep seems to make things worse for me, and it's hard to avoid with my current schedule.  I'm considering heading to bed an hour early tonight so I don't lose that hour of sleep to daylight savings.   
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crumpet
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« Reply #17 on: March 11, 2012, 8:30:33 AM »

Sorry Britmom, and others, that you're experiencing this. I'm a long-time sufferer of depression and it is very difficult to manage.

I agree with Itried about maintaining your work-life balance as much as possible. I try to keep track of what makes things worse and better for me. I need to get better at doing this but its already helped some.

This term has been particularly difficult on me because the UK academic world is becoming really miserable (REF, student-as-consumer, etc). I work all the time. My department has also had a lot of turmoil, which has also added to my workload. If you have similar, more recent stressors, make a note of it. I'm not sure what we can do to improve things, but maybe see what's happening?
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britmom
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« Reply #18 on: March 11, 2012, 5:18:25 PM »

Sadsock and irhack: I’m so sorry to hear that you’re struggling – it really is the pits. 

I’m finally feeling a bit better, probably due to an increase in the dose of one of my medications. Unfortunately, that increase has brought side effects by the bucket load (terrible joint pain, stiff and aching muscles, feeling like I could sleep for a week.) I’m now taking more medications to counter these side effects than I am to treat the depression.

On the positive side, I saw my psychologist this week; we spent an hour talking about how the depression affects my research, and vice versa.  I found it really helpful.

She helped me to realise that when I start feeling low, I almost immediately start worrying about how it’s going to affect my research. That anxiety makes it harder for me to focus upon my research, which makes me feel more anxious and aggravates my low mood…  Until that point, I hadn’t realised how much a drop in mood triggers those anxieties. I’m still not sure how to change this, but hopefully just realising that’s the case will help me to step back from my fears. (Crumpet: I'm with you on the miserable state of UK academia at the moment, especially with the REF.)

I’ve also realised that coffee is not my friend; it ruins my sleep and sends my anxiety sky high. I think that might have played a part in triggering this low as I was drinking it by the bucket load in the weeks  before. (Part of the problem of writing in coffee shops.)

Sending lots of cyber-hugs to everyone struggling against depression.
« Last Edit: March 11, 2012, 5:21:21 PM by britmom » Logged

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oldfullprof
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« Reply #19 on: March 11, 2012, 5:47:26 PM »

Still swear by Effexor (Venlefexine) which is an SSNRI, not an SSRI.  I did have to continue with bedtime Trazodone because Effexor is not a soporific.  Feel better.
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crumpet
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« Reply #20 on: March 11, 2012, 6:27:20 PM »

Britmom, I'm with you on the coffee. I'm reducing it seriously and may even cut it out. Tea, however, has been very kind to me.

Are people up for trying to keep this thread going? For me, it would be good to check in and update you all about what's happening with me and have sympathetic ears (Erm, eyes).
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msparticularity
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« Reply #21 on: March 12, 2012, 12:01:52 AM »

Britmom, I'm checking in here to raise the issue you haven't mentioned yet on this thread: parenting. My mood was far more volatile when I was juggling mom-related responsibilities on a moment-to-moment basis (which is, after all, the norm with small children), than it was once my daughter was older. Guilt over what I should have been doing more effectively (be it parenting or academic work) was pretty pervasive for me when my daughter was young than it is now.

So, yeah. Age helps. Menopause helps. Grown child helps. It is terribly, terribly hard to juggle an academic career and children. It does, however, get better--every year. Hang in there, because it really and truly does improve.
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britmom
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« Reply #22 on: March 12, 2012, 5:38:12 AM »

Are people up for trying to keep this thread going? For me, it would be good to check in and update you all about what's happening with me and have sympathetic ears (Erm, eyes).

I would certainly like to have some where to vent/share tips.

Britmom, I'm with you on the coffee. I'm reducing it seriously and may even cut it out. Tea, however, has been very kind to me.
I've reduced my coffee intake down to one per day. No caffeine at all after 2pm. (UK people: I've found that M & S sell the best decaffeinated tea. I can hardly tell the difference from the regular stuff).

Britmom, I'm checking in here to raise the issue you haven't mentioned yet on this thread: parenting. My mood was far more volatile when I was juggling mom-related responsibilities on a moment-to-moment basis (which is, after all, the norm with small children), than it was once my daughter was older. Guilt over what I should have been doing more effectively (be it parenting or academic work) was pretty pervasive for me when my daughter was young than it is now.

So, yeah. Age helps. Menopause helps. Grown child helps. It is terribly, terribly hard to juggle an academic career and children. It does, however, get better--every year. Hang in there, because it really and truly does improve.

Ah, yes, thank you for saying that. I feel terrible saying this, but I dread the weekends when things are bad. The kids can be so tiring and they don't let up for a minute. I love them to bits, of course, but I struggle when I feel drained and all I want to do is curl up in a ball. Then I feel stupidly guilty. I've found that getting out of the house with them helps a lot--it makes me feel better about myself as they're having fun and able to run off some of their energy.

I'm looking forward to the youngest getting a bit older (she's just turned 2) so that we're able to go out and do family activities (cinema, bowling, trips out). The girls have started playing together a lot more over the last few weeks. It's lovely to see that and it's given me a glimpse of how things might be in the future.



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itried
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« Reply #23 on: March 12, 2012, 8:32:25 AM »

Just checking in and also sending my support in the form of cyber-hugs.
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britmom
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« Reply #24 on: March 13, 2012, 8:28:35 AM »

I'm looking for opinions on how to manage time off sick/low mood.. I've been signed off sick by my GP for a further 2 weeks, having already been off 3 weeks. I'm really torn over whether this is the right thing to do. I could manage to work, but the side effects of the medication changes are still there, I'm lacking in energy and generally not doing so well on the focus/concentration front. I'm on sabbatical at the moment so completely focussed upon writing, which I find to be the most draining type of work and is the first thing to be affected when I'm not feeling 100%.

However, that's balanaced by 1) the social isolation of being off sick - it really does aggravate my low mood. I am fortunate to have some wonderful colleagues who I genuinely enjoy being around, 2) the worry that this is going to looked upon unfavourably by those higher up in the University. I sense that there's already been whispers about my illness and its impact upon my research. I fear that this absence is going to further damage my reputation/prospects. (Yes, I know that's unfair, but I have to be realistic.)

Having said that, I am managing to write. I'm finding it hard to figure out how much more I'd be doing without everything else that's going on. I'm wondering whether part of my difficulties is just being tired of writing and generally feeling under pressure to be productive and churn out these two articles. I fear that I just need to 'man up' and realise that everyone has problems. Then again, something in my gut tells me that I'm really not back to 'normal'.

As you can see, I'm going around in circles about this and getting myself really wound up. Any suggestions? I really want to go in to work and see if this makes a difference. I think it might do, but I obviously can't do this whilst signed off sick.

Finally - to get to the point - how do others manage episodes in relation to work? Only take time off if you are absolutely at the very lowest point? Take time off when you don't feel right and think that it will affect your performance to a reasonable degree? Some where in between?

Edited to add: we have a new Dean who I haven't met yet. I have no idea what his take might be on all of this. I'm worried that the first thing he's going to know about me is that I'm taking prolonged periods of time off sick and not managing to make the most of my sabbatical.
« Last Edit: March 13, 2012, 8:32:02 AM by britmom » Logged

Sometimes the only way to stay sane is to go a little crazy - Girl Interrupted
crumpet
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« Reply #25 on: March 13, 2012, 9:26:47 AM »

Britmom, I deeply sympathize. My lowest depression episode of late occurred last autumn when I was on research leave. The pressure, isolation, and ample time (well, at least it feels like that compared to normal!) cultivated my depression. Schedules and changes in pace helped me. I tried to run every day, cook myself nice food, etc. Of course, this depended on my depression but if I could force myself out, it really helped.

'Manning up' and 'realizing everyone has problems' is a cycle I get into as well when I have particularly strong depression. But we need to remind ourselves that depression is like other illnesses in its impact on our ability to work and carry out normal lives. I wouldn't tell someone with cancer that everyone has problems. Keep in mind that depression is a serious illness. Your doctor would not have signed you off as sick if he didn't think you needed the space to recuperate.
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britmom
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« Reply #26 on: March 13, 2012, 9:46:34 AM »

Thanks, Crumpet. If you don't mind me asking - did you take any time off sick?

I'm caught between thinking it needs to be made official so that I can explain a lower level of productivity, and thinking that it doesn't make any difference to their expectations of me. All it does is draw even more attention to me.

(It won't make any difference to REF, unless I'm off for 6 months.)
« Last Edit: March 13, 2012, 9:47:13 AM by britmom » Logged

Sometimes the only way to stay sane is to go a little crazy - Girl Interrupted
crumpet
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« Reply #27 on: March 13, 2012, 10:16:35 AM »

Thanks, Crumpet. If you don't mind me asking - did you take any time off sick?

I'm caught between thinking it needs to be made official so that I can explain a lower level of productivity, and thinking that it doesn't make any difference to their expectations of me. All it does is draw even more attention to me.

(It won't make any difference to REF, unless I'm off for 6 months.)

I'm currently wrestling with disclosure. I have been given an unusually high teaching and admin load at my job, which exacerbates the depression since I have very little free time. I keep urging them to bring it down to standard levels, but it hasn't changed. I'm pre-probation, so I feel I have little recourse.

I'm on the verge of disclosure to my HoD because the work load has impacted my health, but (like you) I worry about perception within my department. I had so many problems with friends and family accepting my depression that I am terrified of disclosing it unless I think someone will be sympathetic. Judgemental responses only worsen my depression.

Do let me know how you get on with it. Legality is certainly on your side, but I do understand your reluctance (at least from my own experiences).
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britmom
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« Reply #28 on: March 13, 2012, 12:56:42 PM »

That sounds crappy, Crumpet. I'm fortunate to be beyond probation.

I disclosed my situation at the end of 2010, when I returned to work from maternity leave. I didn't have a whole lot of choice, really. Oc Health have been good and seem most interested in supporting me and trying to ensure that work doesn't aggravate my health, although I remain acutely aware that this could change. They have been completely open with me and I've always had access to letters etc. Any letters that go to my line manager come to me first to check that I'm happy with the content.

The only people that were made aware of my situation by Oc Health was HR and the Dean. (Four separate departments were amalgamated in to a School a few years ago so he's technically my line manager. I also told our programme convenor as he deals with the day-to-day management stuff.) It was clear that they were all acutely aware of the legalities of it all and were very careful in what they said. The Dean came across as supportive, although I'm still not sure what was really going through his mind. I never thought about what would happen once he was replaced (as is the case now). That's going to be something I'll have to deal with. I'm really concerned that I'm going to be sidelined as a result of this.

If you're going to disclose to anyone, I'd suggest doing it via Oc Health first. Do you have an idea of what you would like to happen? I know that they need to make reasonable adjustments, but I've found that such adjustments aren't necessarily the greatest help.
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crumpet
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« Reply #29 on: March 13, 2012, 8:13:59 PM »

Thanks Britmom -- its helpful to hear how someone else went through disclosure and to hear a positive outcome (for the time being at least).

The primary outcome I have in mind is to give me a standard workload, which would enable me to seek counseling when I need it and give me time to recoup at a normal pace. What has happened to me of late is that I push myself way to hard and try to ignore depression signs. Then it just gets worse and I have longer, deeper episodes like I did on my research leave.

I feel like my request is reasonable -- just give me a normal work load, but we'll see. Tensions seem to be running very high in my normally supportive department. If I even suggest I have to much on, people get snippy. I think this is mostly REF stress and I'm considered not too important because I'm new.

In any event, it sounds like you already have a good relationship with Oc Health, so that's really positive. I think you have things in control really well and you've managed things as best you can. No mean feat when you're suffering from depression.

If you're where I was last fall, you're probably making yourself feel overly guilty for what you're going through. Take some deep breaths and remind yourself that its important to take care of these health issues and to keep doing what you're doing. I think you're on a very good path!
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