October 12, 2011
The beatings will continue until morale improves.
I used to beat myself up all the time. I still do on occasion. Although it may be a viable strategy to run a business (though I doubt that too), it's not way to operate a self. It would all start innocently enough, something would go wrong and it would morph into the idea that I can't do anything and it was easy to find 'evidence' for that hypothesis. Of course, the experiment lacked rigor and didn't have a proper control and no objective measurement. This led to anxiety to trying anything new and of course depression because I didn't feel able to make progress on anything. I finally seem to be coming out of that loop and am actually steadily trying new things and pushing myself to get outside of my admittedly narrow comfort zone. I've noticed that in all areas of my life this last year, the arrows are all pointing up as I do things, often fail, but then try doing them again, but better. It's true in the lab and my work is moving in an interesting direction. My biggest anxiety is that I've broken out of the loop way too late and anything I do now is kind of pointless; like trying to come back from a 3 touch down deficit inside of two minutes in the fourth quarter (maybe I should create a new metaphor). The upside is that at least I feel more like I can be myself around others and not shut myself off from the world. I'm writing this blog, aren't I? Will confessing that depression ground my career and life to a halt for too long make me un-hirable? I don't know. But it is something I feel I'm not alone in and maybe I can serve as an example to other scientists of to avoid ending up in a deep dark ravine. In climbing out the other side, I have a new perspective and way of thinking that seems much more productive, though I still have a ways to go before I'm enjoying the view from the top of the ledge. So now that my morale has improved, I can stop the beatings and get some real work done while not hiding myself behind the mental walls I had up in my brain.