Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

I have been out of the psychiatric hospital for three months, can you believe it? I hadn’t even thought about it until today, when they conducted their three month follow-up interview.

For those of you who don’t know the story, I was caught attempting suicide early in August, was taken to the ER and then placed in a state psychiatic hospital against my will for four months where I was diagnosed with a rapidly cycling bipolar disorder.

So basically, today was a time of reflection about my previous three months of freedom. It probably wouldn’t surprise any of you to know that the first month was astonishingly lonely. In fact, my life was so desolate that it was downright painful. I struggled almost constantly with the idea that I would go back to the hospital because I was so lonely, without any close friends on the outside. In fact, all of my close friends — my cheering section — are the result of this blog and the people who have contacted me as a result of reading something I’ve written here.

So I got to work on my blog, starting with posting a “word of the day” and an “image of the day” and then, as I recovered, writing pieces for you to read. I finally recovered most of my long-time readers, along with a bunch of new readers as well — all good people who have been there for me, reading, emailing and sending gifts that remind me that I am in your thoughts. That alone is quite a gift to me.

As time went on, life became somewhat easier, even though I still have some fairly abrupt mood swings, but they are not nearly as devastating as they were. Unfortunately, I still have nightmares and intrusive thoughts and racing thoughts and I have days when I think I am something incredibly special (the past few days are an example), as well as other days when I am terrified to get out of bed (much of last week), but it’s all part of the disorder that I am trying to live with.

I also spent this past three months seeking a source for my meds for cheap (or free) — a task that I am still working on.

Fortunately, the doctors listened to my complaints and are changing my meds a little bit; they are substituting Seroquel for Zyprexa. Some of you might recall that Zyprexa, manufactured by Eli Lily, results in extreme weight gain in some 30% of all people who take it, and it also causes diabetes. Seroquel supposedly causes none of these changes, so I am looking forward to the day when I never again take another Zyprexa tablet, especially since it was causing my blood sugar to be abnormally high — and I have no family history of diabetes.

Anyway, as I reflect on these past three months, there has been one thing that I have done during this time that has given me pleasure; writing this blog for all of you. So thanks everyone for reading and commenting and for your kindness and support. It has meant everything to me.


  1. #1 Kristjan Wager
    March 6, 2007

    Thank you for telling us how it’s going.
    I’m glad to hear that it’s going better, and that the doctors are listening to you.

  2. #2 Jonathan Vause
    March 6, 2007

    we all think you’re incredibly special. keep up the great blog

  3. #3 Barry
    March 6, 2007

    Best of luck!

  4. #4 Katherine Sharpe
    March 6, 2007

    I’m glad to hear that things are getting better bit by bit, too. What a three months!

  5. #5 John
    March 6, 2007

    I am glad that you have managed to stay out for three months. Keep it up!

  6. #6 Diane in Ohio
    March 6, 2007

    I’m so happy to hear about the med. change! I hope it works for you and if it doesn’t maybe try another or another till one “fits”! You are on my mind daily and I speak often of your wonderful blog. Seemingly smarter,as my gal pals say,from articles I read here. I would luv to hear about your birdies sometime,I’m sure they are great companions.What about the ant farm? Is the Lory email list still alive? I really enjoyed that group when I had my Blue Streak,”Red”. Thanks for the feedback. :o)

  7. #7 ciel
    March 6, 2007

    Congratulations are in order for your courage in walking through that first month which was so challenging. Of course, all challenges are not over yet, but working with your doctors, and sharing what is happening with others who appreciate you, and care about you, is certainly the healthy course of action.

    I have enjoyed your entries quite a bit, and appreciate greatly your openness and candor!

  8. #8 GrrlScientist
    March 6, 2007

    my ants all died. boohoo. they only live somewhere between 30 days, or 60 days at the most. i felt bad about the last surviving ant having no one to rub antennae with. i should get another ant farm, i suppose. they were so interesting. but now i am thinking of getting either stick insects or preying mantis or a chinchilla as a pet instead: stick insects/preying mantids because they are interesting and a chinchilla because they are fuzzy and are pet-able, unlike insects.

    my birds — those that survived my hospitalization — are doing well. elektra, the solomon island eclectus, is talking a lot. her voice is very clear and sweet, making me wonder where she learned all that from? she says a lot of things, and is daily learning more. the lories are rambunctious as usual, and make me miss breeding and raising their chickies. if the mice weren’t so persistent in my apartment, i’d give them a nestbox and let them breed, but i am worried that the mice might kill the chicks.

  9. #9 AriSan in New York
    March 6, 2007

    I have never suspected that you needed medications and had to talk to doctors. The issues you brought to this pages failed me to harbor any inkling that you have been experiencing a ‘painful longliness,’ while you were creating, encouraging, informing, helping, leading a community of remarkable and amaging intellectuals. I value you greatly, and wish you to get back to your whole being without feeling want, although I know well the interruptedness from your normal professional flow is the cruel culprit. I hope someone spots you how brilliant, caring, and multitalented you are on top of a thoroughly trained scientist. Who would have thought anyone would be unemployed after what you have been prepared for?! More than that, you are not just sitting down and sulking, but a great force serving the community of souls by putting time and energy combined with vision and lucidity. My symphathy and admiration expressed in these pages are too meager to match your real worth. I hope your situation gets better soon to the degree you aspire, while you would not abandon leading these pages.
    Best Regards,
    AriSan in New York

  10. #10 Joshua
    March 6, 2007


    Just so you know, I have a friend who recently has been going through similar troubles with suicidal thoughts and bipolar disorder. The difference is, he checked himself in voluntarily when he was feeling suicidal; knowing him, if he had tried something, he probably would have succeeded, so this was a good thing.

    I had forwarded him your blog before that happened, because I knew he was in therapy and struggling with depression. I don’t know if he still reads your blog, but maybe, in some small way, your story influenced him to seek out the help that he needed rather than letting matters be taken out of his hands.

    Stay strong!

  11. #11 GrrlScientist
    March 6, 2007

    yes, men are known to use more lethal methods (guns, hanging, jumping off tall objects) than women (drug overdose — which was my chosen method, until i then planned a hanging) so it is a good thing that your friend sought help before things got more out of control than they already were.

    i would like to believe that my story has helped someone, especially since writing about it is difficult. in fact, the hope that i might help someone else was the reason i said anything about it at all.

  12. #12 Abel Pharmboy
    March 6, 2007

    Nor can I believe it’s been three months already although it probably seems like ten times as long for you. Heartiest congatulations to you for your bravery, honesty, and sharing your experience with many people who will be helped by your writing. I’m sorry to hear that Lilly’s patient assistance program couldn’t be of more help with the Zyprexa, so good luck with the med change!

  13. #13 Christopher Gwyn
    March 6, 2007

    Thank you for your writing.

  14. #14 David Harmon
    March 6, 2007

    Congratulations! It’s not everyone who can turn their trials into treasure, and that just about describes the last few months of this blog. Besides “sharing your story” (which does help), you’ve been bringing out a steady stream of science, humor, and gorgeous nature images, which we appreciate in its own right. Thanks!

  15. #15 Miranda
    March 6, 2007

    It has been nice to have you back.

  16. #16 cephyn
    March 6, 2007

    Glad to hear things are a little brighter lately, Grrl. I am always impressed with your posts – I never seem to be able to post as much on my blog, with quality, as you and some of your fellow sciblings do!

  17. #17 llewelly
    March 6, 2007

    Congratulations, and glad to hear about the drug switch.
    Thank you for all the fine articles you provide us with.

  18. #18 Bob O'H
    March 7, 2007

    Thanks for the update: it’s good to hear that things are improving (if slowly).

    Have you asked anyone at the AMNH about keeping ants? I know there are a few people there with experience of it.


  19. #19 gladio
    March 7, 2007

    Thank you so much for posting this.

    Even when we believe that we are on our own and buried deep in the pit – we are never alone.

  20. #20 Chris' Wills
    March 7, 2007

    As a newbie to your blog I never realised.
    Your the 1st or 2nd blog (sometimes Goodmath is 1st) I read each day and find it fascinating and engaging.

    Good luck with finding the best medication for you.

  21. #21 Donna
    March 7, 2007

    What a great anniversary! You are doing it, girl!

    As for the cost of prescriptions, I found that some of my medications are on the $5.00 a month drug list at Wal-Mart. As much as I am not a fan of big box stores, the difference between paying $153.00 a month or $5.00 a month means keeping my head above water. Their list of reduced cost drugs is on-line.

  22. #22 David Harmon
    March 7, 2007

    Bob O’H: I suspect the problem with the ants is simply their lifespan. The ants sent to purchasers of ant farms are all workers; IIRC, it’s illegal to ship the queens interstate due to invasive-species concerns.
    (Quite reasonable!)

    I suppose she could dig up a local hive, but here in NYC that might involve some serious excavation. Not to mention objections from the victimized ants!

  23. #23 Alison
    March 7, 2007

    Congratulations on hitting the three month mark. I just wanted to say chinchilla’s have wonderful personalities. Just make sure you can handle them using their wheel all night long. They love raisins and to roll in their dust. You won’t feel anything softer than their coat. One time I was at my parents place for the weekend. I was taking a shower and the chinchilla was out for a run in the bathroom at the same time. he kept jumping up on the edge of the tub to see what I was doing. They are so curious. :)

  24. #24 biosparite
    March 7, 2007

    Your Houston fan club is unanimous in its pleasure over your achieving this milestone.

  25. #25 JPS
    March 7, 2007

    It must be difficult to write about your BP, and I admire your courage.

    My comments about it are a pep-talk for myself as much as they are support for you. In that way when your write about it, it helps me too.

  26. #26 arturo
    March 7, 2007

    Thanks for writing, I enjoy reading it very much. Saludos!

  27. #27 LabCat
    March 9, 2007

    Three months. Wow. That is great news. It is great that we all needed reminding.

    I hope the new medication works out for you.

  28. #28 Alvaro
    April 20, 2007

    Thanks for sharing this story.

    Thanks for sharing so many beautiful images.

    Looking forward to reading your blog many many more years-we need help in getting more people live the scientific life :-)

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