The Skeptic’s Guide to The Universe podcast This week (ep #531) just asked the titular question to this post. In the context of the show, they were talking about how to challenge your ideas about things, if you’re a conspiracy theorist (or anyone, really), a question to ask is “What would convince me that I am wrong about topic XYZ?”. In science, we’re trained to do this as well, though we’re not perfect at this by any means.
And it resonated with me.
Hilda Bastian (@Hildabast) shared this cartoon earlier today with the caption:
“Experience can just mean making the same mistake with increasing confidence”
In some ways, I’m experienced, but lately I feel like I keep doing things, not so much with increasing confidence, but feel like I’m trapped doing the same things, repeating patterns and not able to get out of them.
I am feeling burned out. Overwhelmed. Depressed. Low energy. Lacking in joy (laughter doesn’t come easily to me anymore…). Unsure what will help me turn a corner anymore, any action seems arbitrary as I try to figure out how to find my next career step and at least accept/not flagellate myself over struggling with depression & being subpar as a human and scientist for the past several years. Even writing here, being vulnerable and open on the internet seems risky. But it’s also a form of productivity for me right now. Something I can point to say at least I have done something, shared my story (if only, as I say often, it’s a good example of what not to do in life, generally speaking).
As you can tell, my brain is a master of being hard to myself, being cruel, and rationally, if someone were doing something like this to a friend of mine (or anyone), I would intervene and tell them to stop.
I am trying some new things. I am trying to enforce my one day a week truly off from work and not feel guilty about it. (I am allowed to write in a day off).
The question that I need to find a way to convince myself of is “What will convince me that I am worthy of anything?”. My answer all too often in my head is “nothing, you’re obviously not worthy and are a defective human and no matter what, nothing will change that”.
Just being human & part of humanity? That does not seem super-convincing to me, though it is something I feel I would say to someone else.
Being hyper-organized with everything? This may be unrealistic (there will always be something), but would help me feel better about a lot of things, I think. Make me feel like I can also do other things in a community.
Finding my next career path? I think this would help too, though it’s a circular argument in a way. And seems to be a narrow definition of worthiness, defining myself by my work (which is something I am no longer interested in doing, I’d like work to be one aspect of my life).
Having a regular group of friends (maybe even significant other) I see in real life often? Again, this would help me feel less disconnected. Finding this though is not easy as an adult. And at least this is something beyond work that would give me a sense of belonging.
Publishing in “real” places, not just my own blogs/platforms? Probably. I’m not one to hold extreme views on most things, and I don’t insist my view is right usually (& will cite the science when that exists) which seems anathema to much of the internet/publication mediums. I have done this in small ways, at least, & my big goal is to educate, or point people to things I know about that may be of use to them.
Learning all the skills? Probably. Part of feeling worthy is feeling like what I know I can do is useful to the world. If I don’t see where my skills (in beating myself up, a common thing for me to think is that I don’t have any skills & as the cartoon caption suggests, I’m just making the same mistake over and over again). Then this leads to what skills to learn? what am I good at/have aptitude for learning? How to approach it without a fixed mindset and finding the time to learn…these are all currently overwhelming questions.
Just taking it easy on myself? Am I worthy of that? Is everyone? I tend to feel better when I can cut myself some slack, but again, it’s hard to convince myself that I don’t deserve to be dragged through the square and put in the stockades for some reason. But would that help me do better or just cause me to shut down more (that’s what I tend to do now…it does take quite a bit of energy to beat myself up or distracting myself from beating myself up & I could otherwise use that time productively)?
A lot of these have the theme of connection, and being connected- and depression is at least in part a loss of connection. Feeling like a person, not just connecting through screens (as is the majority of my connection now), as good as it is for me (better than nothing), is no substitute for real life.
The one friend that has permission to call me without scheduling ahead of time called me the other day (otherwise, I often just let things go to voicemail). I went car shopping with a friend last night & then we went out to a good restaurant/bar. I am calendarizing my life more– including downtime– trying to schedule reasonable amounts of productivity each day as well as things I’ll enjoy, that will let me de-compress a bit. And I am earnestly and slowly trying to learn statistics, R, and computer language/logging into remote servers and making use of “big data” (still early on in this process though, which is frustrating– I could use a learning community, but hard to do that remotely too). really, I need a way to make learning a bit more fun, even if it’s by definition a hard process.
I’m not sure whether or not this leaves a lot of time for job searching, networking, being an educator, communicator etc. but I hope so. I’m also trying some new things to manage depressive symptoms. And I hope that that it will all lead me to feeling more like a person, with a feeling that I’m contributing to something in a meaningful way.
All I know is the pattern I’ve been following isn’t working, and it’s really not clear what to do to address it (though I laid out some ideas here; getting up the energy to follow them is another thing). I could use a vacation, but unsure if it’s possible for me to take one any time soon (even though I know the evidence says vacations really do help us be healthier). And I suppose I need to let go of pride, ask for things from others more often including help. It may help get me out of this sense of disconnection that is all too present. The frustration is I’ve been working on these things for years and yet I’m still treading water, not swimming.