Adventures in Therapy: Fear is the mind killer, and other nerdy things

It never ceases to amuse me what things terrify a person (and probably shouldn’t) and what things don’t (but probably should).

I was sitting in my boss’ office talking about potentially getting a new fancypants machine that cures UV coating using a curtain of electrons to bust open bonds instead of using UV light to bust up photoinitiators so that they can then, in turn, bust open bonds.  There are various advantages to doing it this way…all of which I will NOT go into now, because I’m sure you don’t care.

The point here is you get to pummel molecules with an electron curtain, which immediately conjures an image of the Iron Curtain, then an iron fist and then we go back full circle to a fist of electrons punching molecules right in their molecular faces.  When all is said and done, the rumble results in shiny coating.  BAM!

As you might guess, something that shoots electrons at other things at high rates might be a little dangerous. Apparently, the state of New Jersey thinks so too and in order to use this thing you need special training, and then 100 hours of use supervised by a Platinum User or whatever they’re called.  You also need to wear an “Am I Getting Irradiated Yet?” badge when using it.  Before anyone gets to use it, there are million inspections including a “Is this thing leaking horrible gamma rays?” inspection.

At this point in the conversation I started reminiscing about my good old days as an intern, employed at a place that had one of these things in the middle of the lab.  I remembered how every time we fired that baby up I would immediately get dizzy.  I would say, “This thing makes me dizzy? Why?” And my supervisors would say, “Oh, there’s a magnet in there.” “Oh,” I would say, “OK. Sounds legit.  I’m just dizzy because of a super magnet.” And I would sit there feeling woozy while I went about my business.

So here I am today finding out that this thing, according to the state of New Jersey anyway, is basically the equivalent of a well shielded dumpster of uranium, and I was exposed to it like it was nothing when I was 19.

My response to this? Light hearted laughter! And a request to get trained in how to use it and all that.  I made some joke to myself about how between the pyrrodine I had to play with (at the same place) and the uranium dumpster, I’m probably sterile! HA! But ultimately, I felt zero fear about this.

Now, part of the reason for that is that I don’t actually think these things are the equivalent of a dumpster filled with uranium.  New Jersey is notoriously strict in all their health and environmental regulations and while I am not going to discourage them from being thorough and mindful, I would describe some of their requirements as Bat Shit.  It’s like how California has a list of chemicals that have to be listed on material safety data sheets because they possibly might cause cancer.  This list includes coffee, alcoholic beverages, and saw dust.

But the other reason is that, well, this just isn’t a fear of mine.  I have always been respectful of chemicals and the reality of the dangers of physical science, and I protect myself from them, but I don’t really think or worry about it.  So my mind goes instead to images of Indiana Jones surviving a nuclear blast in a lead lined refrigerator or other nonsense, but fearing this stuff doesn’t really enter into the equation.

What do I fear? People being mad at me or not liking me, my imperfections pushing everyone I love away, being a burden, and various other variations on the theme of “I will work harder! I will be better! Just please don’t leave!!!”

And when these fears started to border on crippling, I sought out help.  Of course, I was initially quite resistant to medication because I figured that I was weak if I couldn’t do it on my own and I wanted to disprove my weakness…so that people would still want to be around me.  And when I finally noticed that ridiculous thought process, I knew that it was time to try it.

I was afraid of becoming someone other than myself.  I was afraid I wouldn’t be funny anymore.  I was afraid that I wouldn’t feel anymore.  But finally, I was so tired of listening to the nagging, nasty thoughts that were perpetually in my head that those extreme possibilities would be worth it, at least for a time.

And I got lucky. One medication and a month of hell later and suddenly I was feeling OK, and I never realized how much I yearned to feel OK.  The absence of a good deal of my anxiety and depression allowed me to handle stressors in healthy ways and with much less fear.  The way I usually describe how Zoloft improved my life is that no, I am not a different person than I used to be…I am who I have always been with considerably smaller heaps of bullshit weighing me down.

I have been taking Zoloft for 8 months and sometimes I have hard days, but it usually does me good if I can remember how much I have changed and improved and how I generally look at hard days as hard days, not some insurmountable thing that is symptomatic of everything wrong with me.

The first time I really started thinking about medication was when Shaun and Ginny moved in and I was really happy about that…so happy, that I was terrified that I would somehow fuck it up by not…cleaning enough, or being organized enough, or considering their comfort as my number one priority every waking moment I was home.

Yes, it was awful.  I was in a constant state of high stress, cleaning to the point where I would practically fall over and would consider my tiredness some form of failure and that at any moment they would decide that moving in was a big mistake.  I was crying daily and felt completely out of control.  Luckily, I had a lot of people to tell me “Gina, you are driving yourself nuts!” And finally, I saw it and knew that therapy and meds were something that I needed.  After the house was set up, I kept waiting to feel better again, but the effects of the stress I put myself under were persistent and unrelenting.  Those feelings that I spiked never really went away.

So here I am again, still recovering from the great wage debacle of 2013, and I’m starting to come to terms about the fact that the extreme stress I was under during that may be another persistent unrelenting thing.  I may have changed my brain again with how much I put on myself for 6 months trying to remain strong and resolute and not take no for an answer.  I was also convinced that I would be fired for asking for something that I want.  I didn’t think I was a person who got to do that and would be dealt with harshly.

Things aren’t nearly as bad as they were before but I think that I may need an upward adjustment to compensate. And of course, I have fears again about what that will do.  Will it be an amount that DOES change me for the worse? Will it not do anything good and I will have to start looking for a new drug? But my fear of reverting trumps those other fears and I’m willing to work on it even if the answer is not obvious.

I have an appointment in a month and have decided to spend this month paying attention to my moods and focusing on healthy habits (super healthy diet, lots of water, exercise).  I’ve been bad with the exercise, but it’s only day two of my “resolution”.  Then I will go to my appointment with a more scientific approach to whether I need more meds, or simply more discipline.  Probably both.

I am lucky to have the people close to me that I do.  They make this infinitely easier, even when it is feeling so difficult.

I am also lucky that safety standards in laboratories for the time that I have been working in them are really good and so I can joke about radiation leakage instead of lamenting the giant talking tumor that came home with from my internship.  And really, we all know that I want the training so that I can get a certificate with the word Radiation on it to hang on my wall!  I have one that certifies me to handle liquid nitrogen (in 2002…) and it’s the coolest.

See what I did there?  Ugh.