Tag Archives: crazy

Crazy — ha ha, whatevs, or uh oh.

I get lots and lots of sleep. So so so much sleep. Not because I go to bed early or because I turn off all electronics an hour before bed or have a great bedtime ritual or anything. Nope. None of those good things.

I get a ton of sleep for one reason only… because I am terrible at waking up. Terrible!

My favorite place... bed.
My favorite place… bed.

Always have been, probably always will be. It’s ridiculous. Ask my husband. He hates it. It’s not even a snooze problem. It’s a shut-the-alarm-off-and-go-completely-back-to-sleep-without-even-realizing-the-alarm-ever-sounded problem. (Or wake-up-imagining-I-overslept-at-3:18-am-and-immediately-jump-panicking-into-the-shower-only-to-emerge-squeaky-clean-and-painfully-exhaustingly-ridiculously-early problem, granted that occurs less often these days.)

Over the past month or so, believe it or not, my inability to wake up has gotten even worse, but not for the normal (non-)reason. This time, it’s because even though I’m sleeping (for hours and hours and hours, as I said above), I’m still exhausted. Exhausted from some seriously vivid dreams. Mundane, but vivid.

So ridiculously vivid that I’m legitimately unsure at times if something is a real memory… or if it was just a dream. I literally cannot tell. And it’s freaking me out.

My depression is no secret, of course. We’ve talked about it before. Sometimes I feel down, really really down, and talking about it often makes me feel embarrassed, but it’s part of me and I do myself and others a disservice if I fail to tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, except for humorous embellishment, so help me God. So I should probably mention this little bump in the road as well.

Melissa-- light

True story: a friend who recently discovered my blog says I have to come down off my pedestal now. Fair enough. ūüôā

I have dealt with depression, off and on (except I think we know that it’s always really “on” in some capacity or another) since I was relatively young. As part of treatment, I have been on a number of different anti-depressant medications. The tricky thing about antidepressants is that they 1) take a while to work, 2) work differently for every individual, and 3) there’s no great way to know a) which one is going to work or b) what the exact side-effect profile, if any, is going to look like for you personally.

Oy– the uncertainty! It’s pretty traumatic, especially for someone who suffers from delusions of obtainable perfection. (Self-diagnosis.)

Most recently, I switched medications after a side-effect of the one (in me, specifically, of course) proved itself to be dramatic weight gain. And when I say dramatic, I mean it. Like 10-pounds-in-a-single-week dramatic. I could see that, I could feel that, but so could my prescriber. So after giving it some time (and a lot of pounds) we switched to something else. It’s been smooth sailing for a good six months or so. Maybe closer to a year. And then all of the sudden…

The dreams.

For the most part, I can deal with side-effects in a rational manner. I’ve dealt with dry mouth and weight gain, jitters and minor insomnia. Little things that I can see, attribute to the medication, and say, “but it’s worth it because the depression is at bay.”

Oh so worth it.

I tried to do the same thing for the dreams.

It’s just a dream. So you’re a little tired, have some tea. No big deal, you’re still getting lots and lots of sleep, as per usual.

Until I couldn’t. Because I’m too afraid of crazy. And this feeling? This feeling is crazy. Not ha ha, you craaaazy. Or you think I’m crazy? Whatevs. More along the lines of crap, this might be legitimately crazy. The uh oh one.

To not be able to tell what’s real… that’s too much.

So I went to see my prescriber one early morning this week. I got out of bed, quicker than usual, because she’s just the best, best, best. So good at simultaneously laughing at my jokes (because humor is generally how I deal and acknowledging that I’m funny is basically the best compliment a person can give me) while also taking me and my reports of the symptoms that are concerning me seriously. More clinicians could learn from the brilliant Celeste, I think. (Plus, she has an excellent name. Kudos to her parents.)

We’ve got a plan of action and a plan for ongoing communication about the symptoms. I’m tired, the dreams probably won’t go away immediately, but I do feel a sense of relief just knowing that the crazy (the scary kind) can be controlled, prevented, addressed, whatever. Thank goodness.


The thing that was most interesting to me in this instance is that I’ve frequently felt crazy in the first two ways I described. The ha ha way– I mean, this hair, right? It certainly has an air of crazy about it (that’s the frizz). And even the, oh, right, you think I’m crazy– whatevs, kind. I have tummy troubles and a weird case of hand eczema that I believe to be associated with gluten. Doctors don’t believe me. They think I’m crazy. Whatevs.

But being called crazy, even by a medical professional (implied only, granted I haven’t actually read my chart), frustrating as it may be, is not, in fact, scary like this is scary. That’s what this kind of crazy felt like.

And paradoxically, that actually makes me feel kind of proud. Because it means that I am trusting my body. Trusting my own symptoms and my own intuition to know when something is real, regardless of whether it is recognized.

I know that there is something wrong with my gastrointestinal system. I can work with it sometimes, but not all the time. A diagnosis of we-don’t-know-you-must-be-crazy (anyone know the ICD-9 code for that???) is not helpful, exactly, but I can live with it. I can work with it. I can continue to trust my body and keep trying to calm it down however I can. Likewise, with the eczema on my hands and feet, I see a link with gluten and flares. Yes, there are other things too– stress and hot weather and travel all seem to play a role, but not if I stay away from gluten. So I stay away from gluten, and the doctor says I’m crazy for it, but that’s ok.

Not this time though. This time, crazy is not ha ha. It’s not whatevs. It’s scary. And I trusted myself to know that I needed to seek professional medical help. I have a good relationship with Celeste, I trust her and get the sense that she trusts me to report accurately. She worked with me, with my crazy, to make a plan. I can get on board with that too.

Annoying as it may be (because in my dreams last night, I simply could not understand how my math professor was working out the problems and I was never going to pass– a new story every night), I am encouraged by my ability to trust myself, even in my crazy, to be able to distinguish just what type of crazy it was. When the push for help is not only meaningful, but necessary. And I’m grateful that Celeste seems to get that too.


The Corner of My Brain Where Ann Lives

People leave impressions on me all the time– big ones, small ones, profound ones, good ones, bad ones, green ones. All different kinds of impressions.

But some people do a bit more than just leave an impression. Some people seem to inhabit a corner of my brain in a way that reminds me a lot like a photograph in the magical world of Harry Potter — more than just a picture, you know? Rather, an interactive depiction of the person captured.

I started thinking about this the other day as I watched someone give a PowerPoint presentation and found myself repeatedly distressed about things like hanging widows, inconsistently bulleted lists, and, worst of all: “neiserria gonorrhoeae.” Not italicized. Not capitalized (i.e.¬†Neisseria gonorrhoeae) and I was just horrified. I found myself mentally screaming at the presenter: “You’ve got to have¬†respect for the pathogen!!! Geez!!!” It was only after the fact that I realized where that intense feeling came from– it was Ann’s!

Ann was my advisor in grad school. I suppose when you spend 6 straight years under the tutelage of any one person, they’re going to leave a pretty big impression, yet… it’s so much more than just an impression. She truly inhabits a corner of my brain at this point and the thoughts that come from that corner belong to both Ann and to me. I was just as upset about the non-italicized pathogen name as Ann would have been– the thought was independently mine, yet clearly planted by Ann.

A photograph of the actual brain transfer in progress just before my dissertation defense.
A photograph of the actual brain transfer in progress just before my dissertation defense.

And there are other people occupying other corners and niches… most of them for the better.

My high school biology teacher, Ms. Bertsos (because I am completely incapable of calling her Gen, no matter how old I get and how long we’ve been Facebook friends) has her own space. I channel her when I make jokes about science and when I let my weirdness shine even in¬†professional settings. Turns out, people seem to like¬†me better when I’m genuine– and to be honest, that’s probably why I always liked Ms. Bertsos so much.¬†I also channeled her every time I ever skinned a mouse, but that’s another story for another day…

Somewhere I have a picture of Ms. Bertsos making scrambled eggs over a bunsen burner for our AP biology breakfast bash... but it must be in Ypsilanti somewhere. Dang! No matter, this photo of Kelly and me was taken the very same day (see breakfast items in the background) and I've basically recreated the scene for your viewing pleasure. (Yes, this really happened.)
Somewhere I have a picture of Ms. Bertsos making scrambled eggs over a bunsen burner for our AP biology breakfast bash… but it must be in Ypsilanti somewhere. Dang! No matter, this photo of Kelly and me was taken the very same day (see breakfast items in the background) and I’ve basically recreated the scene for your viewing pleasure. (Yes, this really happened.)

My boss from the Writing Center, Sylvia, she occupies another area– it’s the area that makes me patient and thoughtful about my words. It’s the area that encourages me to be empathetic and to try as hard as I can not to judge other people. It’s the part the always assumes the best… or assumes not at all.

At this point I should think it would be obvious that I have only one picture of Sylvia and me... sad face! Brain transfer happened big time this weekend though, we were at a Writing Center conference in St. Cloud, Minnesota.
At this point I should think it would be obvious that I have only one picture of Sylvia and me… sad face! Brain transfer happened big time this weekend though, we were at a Writing Center conference in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Unfortunately, I recently¬†recognized another occupant– one that’s not so good. It seems that there is a big chunk of my brain devoted to housing what essentially amounts to an amalgamation of every “mean girl” I’ve ever encountered. The thoughts and attitude of that mean girl are, as with the good occupants, both theirs¬†and mine. And, without a doubt, the mean girl in my mind is a huge source of insecurity.

This morning at church, Seth and I ran into someone we knew up at Michigan Tech. She was an RA at the same time that we were and she was a pretty big fan of Seth (ahem). She was gorgeous then and she’s gorgeous now. Not only is she gorgeous, but she’s also the mother of a couple kids with another clearly on the way. Gorgeous, fertile, everything I am not… begin downward spiral.

The mean girls in my mind were after me with full force.

Seeing her, talking about her, the Facebook friend request she immediately sent Seth, sent me into a series of crazy thoughts– Seth could have been with her and, no doubt,¬†he would have preferred it, seeing her makes him see how much he missed out on and how ugly I really am, if Seth had married her, he’d probably have kids by now¬†and he’d have a pretty wife, I can’t be¬†either of those things for him… ¬†and so on and so forth… all the way to crazy town…

So in that moment of insecurity, I texted my friend Adriane (who was my RA when I started at Michigan Tech and is still one of my most favorite friends of all time). Her response, and I quote:

“Just be nice to everybody, maybe she’s not so bad. Besides you’re better than her anyway. Don’t let her ruin a minute of your day, it’s not worth it.”


I was letting the mean girl in my brain do all the thinking, rather than appreciating the thoughts of the crazy and awesome lady scientists Ann and Ms. Bertsos or the kind and compassionate and non-judgmental Sylvia.

In reality, it wasn’t ever a contest and it isn’t now. Seth and I¬†are Sleepless in Seattle style MFEO and I’m sure that our Tech friend’s family is happy too. We’re doing our thing, they’re doing theirs, and we just happened to end up in the same small town. We have MTU in common, we were all RAs, and we have all, no doubt, had some time to grow up. The person I am now is still, admittedly, jealous and insecure a lot of the time– but being a nice, albeit crazy, scientist overrides all that. So nice to everybody I shall be.

Thanks, Adriane! You can hang in my brain too ūüôā


PS: A “hanging widow” is what we in the biz (of being crazy) call it when one word of a longer title on a PowerPoint slide gets bumped to a second line and it makes everything look crazy unbalanced. Three options to get around it: 1) re-word the title to make it shorter, 2) make the font a bit smaller, or 3) hit enter somewhere else in the title to make it two relatively even rows of text.

Honestly, I was anal before I ever even met Ann– she just helped to shape that crazy into what it is today. I think I’m actually glad for that. She knows how to make a presentations look¬†nice. And I do love presenting things; total adrenaline high. More on those nerdy highs to come!