July 11, 2014

Two Weeks and Counting (aka Congratulations to Me!)

Remember that post where I told you all about how depressed I've been this year and how long it took for me to get help (again) because of that depression? I wrote that four weeks ago and, well, things have changed quite a bit.

The exact same day that I posted that, just as I was handed a dirty martini at a happy hour with some friends, another friend called and asked how I would feel about working at the school that rejected me in April for the job that would have been perfect for me. A teacher resigned somewhat (but not really) unexpectedly and they needed to fill her position for a year while the curriculum is being restructured. They were very clear that it is only for a year, not a long-term position. Needless to say, I could care less. I need experience in an independent school because I obviously can't count on a TT job (seriously, is anyone out there still counting on that?) but I love teaching and don't want to stop.

I need out of Delaware. I need out of my parents' house. I need out of the adjunct "life." I need a change.

Long story short, it has been a crazy four weeks because I'm moving to Reno. I finished my adjunct classes, found an apartment, hired a moving company, and gave my notice to my bartending job - so long, suckers!

I also have to find time to hang out with the people I want to see before I leave and somehow this feels like a more permanent goodbye. I knew when I moved to Canada that I would most likely move back to the States, if that dream job in Scotland never materialized, that is. Obviously I hope that this year teaching in Reno will help me land a job at another school, but it's starting to feel very real that I won't live in this area again. That's a little sad because now I'm remembering what I like about this place, especially the beach. If only there was something for me to do here other than bartend, work in retail, sell real estate, or teach in a public school (no, thank you). That's always been the problem with Rehoboth, though. The exact reason I love it is the exact reason I can't stay. There just isn't enough for me here, no matter how much I wish there was.

In the meantime, I have to sort through boxes and boxes of...stuff to decide what goes with me and what gets donated. A lot of stuff is still packed from my move back from Canada, but I've somehow accumulated a ton in two years that needs to be packed. Did I mention I'm not a fan of packing? And how I have two boxes of toiletries, I have no idea! The moving company picks up my stuff in two weeks and I have so much to do!

June 23, 2014

A Brief Glimpse

I felt like myself the other day. It only lasted for a few hours, but it was wonderful.

I got off work, put my bathing suit on, and jumped in the ocean that was cold and choppy thanks to an impending storm. Then I just sat on the beach and stared at the water for awhile.

When I left I had sand all over my feet and glorious beach hair. I was me again and it was amazing.

June 13, 2014

Bad Blogger!

I don't know if anyone has noticed, but I've been a really bad blogger lately. I haven't had anything to say, or rather I've had too much to say.

Some of you know this, but some of you don't and I've debated about putting this out there for public consumption, especially if I ever hope to get a job in academia, but I think that in the interest of full disclosure, I should share my full story. I hope I don't regret this, but if I do, well, that's ok.

It's been a rough year. It's been the worst year of my life. Today is the one-year anniversary of the day we put Tank to sleep. It seems like that touched off a downward spiral from which I didn't think I would recover. I'm still not sure I will. My job situation was...not the best. My finances were a wreck. I'm no longer friends with someone who I grew up with and had been my best friend for over 30 years. Dewey got sick and I had to put him to sleep after watching him fade from his happy, loving, silly, amazing self into a shell of what he once was. Princess had a stroke and died in my arms. Zeke had a heart attack because of the trauma of Princess' death and died ten days later. On top of all of this, I was rejected from a job that would have been perfect for at a private high school out west. I really wanted that job. I had a campus visit and everything and they really liked me, but it still didn't happen.

To say I have been depressed is downplaying the situation. I have cried every single day since I put Dewey to sleep. The daily crying actually started before that but I can't even remember when because crying is so completely normal and part of my daily life that it's all a blur. I had a physical at the end of March and told my doctor I was depressed again and needed help. She is my new doctor and seemed doubtful that I needed anti-depressants and perhaps I was just scamming her, but once she asked me a few questions, it was very obvious I was severely depressed and, of course, I started crying, too, because no one likes being depressed and it's a very hard thing to admit you need help. She recommended therapy in addition to the anti-depressants. That was no surprise. This is not my first depression rodeo, guys. It's something I have struggled with on and off for over a decade.

(Side note: Shit. That's a long struggle. I didn't realize it's been that long, since I had years of not being depressed, but, yeah, it's been close to 12 years now.)

The doctor's visit was nine days before Princess died. After that, there were days (too many days) that I cried nonstop for hours, only to cry myself asleep, wake up, and start crying again. I couldn't fall asleep unless I cried myself to sleep, which wasn't a problem, because I was so aware of the fact that Princess died in my bed, while we were trying to fall asleep. I'd wake up in the morning and cry because she wasn't there to nudge me awake or cuddle closer in an effort to keep me from getting up.

I didn't tell anyone any of this. My parents, who I still live with, knew I was struggling and that I randomly burst into tears a lot, far too much, but they didn't know the extent, still don't know the extent. I only started talking about it because of my dissertation. It always comes back to the dissertation, right? I've tried to work on it, really I have. There were days when I even wrote a couple of hundred words, but those days were so few that it didn't make a difference. Guilt over not writing, not being able to write, not being physically able to sit at the computer and work on it worsened the depression. I had to tell my supervisor and the graduate chair of my department, especially once the grad chair emailed me to ask for a paragraph about the progress I've made to send to my committee. The idea of any progress would be laughable if it wasn't so awful. So I confessed. Everything. I told her and my supervisor almost everything I wrote above (leaving out some of the details because they really didn't need to know the triggers, just the effects). I asked if it would be possible to take another leave of absence, but for medical reasons, so I could focus on getting better because I don't think I can write until I get better enough to get out of bed on days that I don't have to get out of bed. I didn't know if this was possible because of the year I took off after moving home from Canada. I think a year is the limit or at least three semesters consecutively is all they grant. My supervisor, the grad chair, and the rest of the committee once they were informed of the situation, were all very supportive. The grad chair wrote a letter of support for me, as did my supervisor. The rest of the committee will if it is necessary, though I hope it's not necessary. I don't want to get kicked out of the program this close to the end, but that's what I've been afraid will happen. I've obsessed over that possibility, further deepening the depression because how could I be such a loser to get kicked out so close to the end? How could I spend so much time, not to mention so much money, only to have no degree to show for it?

That's what depression does. You focus on little things, things that upset you, things that have happened or things that might not ever happen, and you play those little things over and over and over in your head until you are convinced that the very worst case is what will surely happen because that is what always happens to you. You know, deep down, that all of that obsessing is not rational, but rationality has nothing to do with it. That is how depression screws with you. It turns you into a puddle of self-doubt and anxiety and completely removes your ability to fix yourself or to get help or to force yourself to get off the couch.

I finally got off the couch. Well, I got off my couch and onto a therapist's couch. I started seeing a new therapist a few weeks ago. It took so long because I just couldn't. I couldn't handle telling someone how miserable and messed up and lonely I actually was. I couldn't confess that this was a depression so deep that I didn't think I would ever drag myself out of it, that I didn't know how, that I didn't know if I even wanted to because what was the point? I haven't had a lot of sessions yet, but it was a relief to start therapy, to have a place where I could cry and say the things I haven't been able to say for months, to have an outlet for all of this misery that I've had to cover up because who wants to hear that? Who wants to be dragged down to this level of hopelessness? No one. I told no one because I had no one to tell, but now I do and it is helping already. It's also helped writing this post, though I've cried almost the whole time I've been writing it. I'm not even sure I'll publish this post, but, if I do, I promise not to write about the depression a lot because that would just be the worst blog ever, but, like I said, this is a full disclosure blog. I think, and there's been a lot of talk about this lately, that academia is a hothouse for depression and too many people, in academia and out, refuse to discuss it because there is a stigma attached. Maybe if more of us share our stories that stigma will go away.

Tomorrow is my 37th birthday. I don't think I've looked forward to a birthday as much as this one since I turned 21. All I want for my birthday is to put this miserable year behind me. I want the depression to go away. I want my happiness back. I want my life back.

April 3, 2014

24 Hours

24 hours ago my life was completely different.

24 hours ago I was almost happy.

24 hours ago I didn't know that my life was about to take a drastic turn.

24 hours ago I was sitting on the couch, watching tv, waiting for the US friendly with Mexico to start, with Princess curled up on my legs, just as she did almost every single time I sat on the couch. If I was sitting, she was next to me.

24 hours ago I didn't know that Princess would only be with me for four more hours.

23 hours ago Princess threw up, which isn't exactly abnormal for dogs. She didn't seem to be breathing very well, though, so I woke my parents up for backup. She settled down, though, and got back on the couch with me, cuddled up a little closer than normal. I knew she wasn't feeling well, but I thought it would pass. My parents went back to bed, thinking she was ok-ish.

I went to bed after the soccer match was over. Princess wouldn't get up because she was sick, so I carried her little self to bed. I've done that a million times. I've carried her all over the place because she's so stubborn, but she's only 50 pounds and easy to carry.

She snuggled in really close, like she does when I'm upset or she's upset. She was still having trouble breathing, but only sometimes. I wasn't sleeping because I was listening for her in case she needed me.

She needed me. I just couldn't do anything to help her.

An hour after we went to bed, Princess started throwing up again, or trying to. She wasn't able to sit up. She was choking, but seemed, I don't know, sort of paralyzed. I tried to help her up, so she wouldn't choke, but she was limp. She couldn't support herself. And then she had what seemed like a seizure.

And then it was over.

I lost her. I lost her. I lost the only reason I've had to be happy in 4.5 months. I lost the only reason I get out of bed some days. I lost the most precious little girl who threw herself at me every time I walked in the door, who ran into the room looking for me every time she came in from going outside, who would sleep on her back with her tongue hanging out, who snored louder than an old man, who insisted on a belly rub every night before going out for the last time and before going to bed, who would sit like a little meerkat with her paws in my hands for as long as I would sit on the floor with her.

I lost my little dog who had the saddest eyes, who mourned her brother's death for months, who was so much like Dewey that it is like losing him all over again.

I haven't recovered from Dewey. I was only surviving because of Princess. Now she's gone, too. There is no dog pushing their way through two other dogs to get to me when I walk in the door. There is no dog that looks for me first thing when they wake up. There is no dog curled up on my lap. There is no dog to sleep in my bed.

For the first time in over 20 years, I don't have a dog.

I don't have a dog who sleeps on me.

I don't have a dog who wants to be as close as possible to me.

I don't have a dog who thinks my only crime is not paying them constant attention.

I don't have a dog who puts me above everyone else in the world.

I don't have a dog.

February 8, 2014

AHA 2015

I'm fairly certain I've never posted a CFP on my personal blog before, but we're getting down to the wire and can't find a third panelist. If you think anyone would be interested in joining our panel, let them (and me) know. Spread the word, please!


A colleague and I are trying to put together a panel for the AHA meeting in New York next year based around our mutual research interests. We intend the panel to explore examples of historical interaction between early modern empires and dissenting religious groups. Specifically, we are interested in how empires used or abused religious groups to pursue their own imperial goals, and how dissenting groups in turn adapted imperial patronage or persecution to toward their own ends.

My paper will examine non-English Episcopalians in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution who sought the British government’s aid to secure toleration for their faith and to help them preserve the structure of their churches as their institutions were swept away in Scotland and Ireland, and various American colonies.

My colleague's paper will look at dissident Presbyterians from Scotland and Ulster in the British Atlantic in the late seventeenth-century. His focus will be on the transatlantic networks they formed to help their religious kin and fellow countrymen evade English imperial oversight in an era when the Stuart dynasty was trying to crack down on their type of dissenting Protestantism.

We hope to solicit proposals for two more papers that can both complement and expand this topic as we conceive it. Though our collective focus is largely British and Atlantic at the moment, we would welcome proposals that deal with other empires elsewhere in the world as much as papers on similar themes. This panel currently has a chair/commenter that we are very excited about. If you are interested in being on the panel, please get in touch with craig.gallagher@bc.edu by February 12th, as the AHA submission deadline is February 15th.

January 2, 2014

I HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE.

Can you tell I'm excited? I am.

I haven't had insurance since I moved back from Canada and last month, thanks to Obamacare, I finally, finally, finally qualified for Medicaid because of the lowered income requirements. I was rejected twice before because, as an adjunct, I barely made too much money - just not enough money to actually be able to afford health insurance. In August I was denied Medicaid because I made $72 too much per month. In October, after my summer job was over, I was told to reapply and then denied again because I made $2 too much per month.

Two dollars.

I know there has to be a limit, but in what world does an extra $2 or even $72 mean someone can afford health insurance? It was so frustrating. I shed a tear or two over this, out of sheer frustration alone. Finally, though, a case worker called in December because they were reviewing applications to see who would qualify under Obamacare. I more than qualified, especially since I won't be teaching next semester and have only my part-time job to rely on now.

My card already came in the mail. I called today to choose the plan and primary card provider I want. Tomorrow I get to call to make an appointment for a physical. A physical! Woohoo!

December 23, 2013

A Year in Review

I hate 2013. 

There, I said it. It's the end of the year and I'm not at all sorry to see it go. It's been the worst year of my life.

Let's look at my resolutions for the year, shall we? First up, finish my dissertation. Nope. Not even close on that one. Next up, find a job or post-doc. What is the point? I'm not even close to finishing, so why waste my time on the job search? Then there was the goal of reading 52 new books this year. Umm...I think I read ten or twelve. Maybe. I did read Pride and Prejudice twice (again). Reading for pleasure got preempted by the dissertation and stress and worrying over Dewey. Finally, there was the ever-lofty "take better care of myself" goal. Ha. I did yoga maybe twice this year, but I did lose thirty pounds. Then Dewey got sick and I ate my feelings the past three months because it was better than crying constantly, but I did that, too. I told you I was bad at resolutions. Maybe 2014 will be better resolution-wise.

I'm trying to pinpoint what exactly was so horrible about this year and I don't think it was any one thing necessarily, but a compilation of a whole lot of crap. 

Certainly, this wasn't a great year for teaching. Only teaching one class over the winter semester was terrible. It wrecked all the progress I'd made on my giant pile of grad school debt and seems to have cost me my best friend because I couldn't afford to go to her wedding in the Bahamas. We haven't talked since June and, before that, it was pretty strained, although I thought it was getting better. Then she didn't call or even text me for birthday, so I guess it was more strained than I realized. This semester was a really rough semester for teaching. I had one class that was great - good students (some not so good, too), good chemistry - and one class that started horribly, but picked up towards the end for some of the students. I just think 8:00 classes shouldn't exist. Trying to get this class to do their work, much less talk about it, was worse than pulling teeth. The number of students that failed the class is shocking, but it's impossible to pass them when they didn't do the three major assignments. Accepting that was difficult.

More difficult was losing three dogs this year. Winnie, technically my uncle's dog, but she grew up at my parents' house, with Dewey when they were puppies. She was Dewey's girlfriend and mother to the adorable duo of Princess and Tank. Then we lost Tank the day before my birthday. I thought that was horrendous, but I wasn't in any way, shape, or form prepared for what was to come - saying goodbye to Dewey. I dreaded it for years, since his first diagnosis with cancer, but November 25th was the worst day ever. Or maybe it was November 26th, when I woke up without him for the first time. 

I know he is not in pain anymore and that's what matters and I know that it gets easier over time, but living without him is hard. Every day there has been something that has reminded me of him, of how much my life revolved around him. It's been four weeks and there hasn't been a day that I haven't looked for him or called for him or wanted to hug him. I also realize I sound like a lunatic, but I'm hoping you won't judge. It was just me and him for a long time and those years were some of the toughest of my life.

Until this year. I can't wait to say goodbye and good riddance to this year.