Friday, June 26, 2009

Rx Drugs

I started taking wellbutrin SR last week to help me quit smoking, as it worked 6 years ago. (I started again after beginning my career in outside sales.)

I've had the side effects that I remember from last time - can't sleep for shit during the first week of taking it twice a day, my left hand shakes if I hold it a certain way, I feel jittery and jumpy, and have the occasional dizzy spell. Last time I was on it, all of these were gone by the end of the first month. 

Anyway, because a new side effect has started up (severe night sweats), I wanted to look up the patient info to verify that this was in fact a side effect of the wellbutrin. So I googled it. One of the sites I decided to look at has firsthand experiences of people taking particular medications. I was bored, so I said what the hell, I'll read through some of these. 

OMG. The first whole page is people who are taking wellbutrin and prozac at the same time. The second page is people who are like "Yeah, my doctor gave me atavan (sp?) to help with the sleeplessness, but now he's taken it away permanently :-(" and "I've been on wellbutrin for 7 months, and at night I take it with 10mg of valium, and now my doctor wants me to try seroquel in addition, even though it's an antipsychotic and I'm not psychotic."

It contains advice such as "If you're getting the jitters, you should ask your doctor for klonipan, because it worked for me while I was on the wellbutrin." Or "I recommend taking a Xanax at night if the jitters keep you up." Or "The prozac + wellbutrin killed my sex life, so my doctor gave me an Rx for Viagra." One person said "I like getting the jitters and the energy on wellbutrin - it has taken away my daily desire for cocaine which I quit 7 years ago."

OMG, the PILL POPPING in this country!!!!! Taking medications to treat the side effects of medications!! 

I have never met a doctor in my LIFE that would give someone who was on wellbutrin for depression a prescription for valium. Talk about begging for an addiction!

Now I personally have never gone to a doctor to ask for a medication to treat a side effect of a medication. I HAVE gone to the doctor and said, "I hate the side effects of this medication. Is there something else we can try instead?" I'm not judging the people who ask for it, but at the same time I wonder if we just walk around with the expectation that we should never feel uncomfortable for any reason. 

We as a society seem to believe that there is a pill to solve every problem we have in life. People no longer balance priorities and make decisions that way - they think they are entitled to have everything and shouldn't have to decide. 

For example, wellbutrin is known as the "sex-friendly" antidepressant, whereas the SSRIs tend to kill your sex drive or ability to perform. But wellbutrin has the side effect of increasing anxiety, something that Prozac can fix.

I look at it this way: what's more important, sex life or experiencing anxiety? I'd take the anxiety, hands-down. But the men on this thread chose to take both wellbutrin and prozac, plus viagra, while the women who are taking both wellbutrin and prozac are complaining that there IS NO viagra for women! They're bitching about not having that third option! STOP TAKING THE PROZAC AND DO SOME GODDAMN YOGA!!!!!!!

I feel sorry for these people. It makes me wonder about the psychiatrists. I personally chose not to take that career path because I have always thought of them as primarily drug dealers. Which I get - they are trained in medicine (diagnose and treat), and since psychologists can't prescribe medication, most patients of psychiatrists are there for only one reason - to get the Rx for the meds. They get their therapy elsewhere. 

I just resent this social climate of "Oh, you have a problem? We have a pill for that! Oh, taking that pill makes you nauseous? We have a pill for that too!"

I am never going to message boards to find out about experiences with medication again. It's too depressing. And I'm already on a pill for that.


I really wanted to talk to my husband about this, but I didn't get a chance today. There isn't really anyone in my life that knows about this and I'd prefer to keep it that way, so here I am talking to you folks. I hope you don't mind. And if you do mind, then feel free to click out at the point of TMI. I promise, I won't be offended. 

My husband left in March, as many of you know. I visited him Memorial Day weekend. When I came back, I stopped taking the Pill. We talked about it, and figured we'd just see what happens until mid-October, and then I'd go back on the Pill if nothing happened. I kinda dug this approach - it's almost like a non-decision. 

But today I went for my annual OB/GYN visit. They of course asked, "Are you still taking the Seasonale?" and I had to say no. Next question: "Oh! Are you trying to get pregnant?" My response, "Well, not really. We're just not trying to NOT get pregnant."

Next thing I knew I was being handed a bag full of pre-natal vitamin samples for me to try, then to call them when I decide which one I like. I freaked my husband out though, lol. I texted him with "And so now apparently I am taking Rx prenatal vitamins." And he was like "WTF?" LOL. 

So as I'm waiting for the CNP to come in and do the exam (my doctor is on maternity leave), I pick up the first magazine I grab next to the exam table. It's "Conceive" magazine. I start flipping through it, and I find myself bombarded by ads for sperm banks, egg donor agencies, prenatal vitamins, pregnancy pillows. Images of pregnant women, babies, new moms, cribs, etc. 

I had an anxiety attack. At first I was like "Wow, I can't imagine wanting something so badly that I would turn to an article about Feng Shui for fertility." (No offense to those of you who have gone through fertility treatments and all that - no judgment here.) But then I was like "Holy SHIT! WTF am I DOING???? What is wrong with me??? Am I on crack???"

I want to be a mom. I just don't want to be pregnant. I am terrified of the idea of spending 40 weeks knowing that I have just made the most permanent decision EVER. I miss the days of believing that storks brought babies to lucky couples. I'm scared that it will change who I am, that I will become someone who cares about nothing but her child. I don't want to be a Stepford Wife. I want to be Dr. Mom. 

A big part of it too is that even though I consciously know that I'm 26, I still feel like I'm 16 - when pregnancy was just the most horrific thing I could imagine. I am still scared to tell my parents, even knowing that my mom WANTS me to have kids. In fact, (I don't know if I posted this before), she recently said to me: "Are you guys planning to start trying to have a baby anytime soon? Because you ARE 26, and, I mean, not that that's old or anything, know."

I can picture myself as a mom. I can't picture or imagine myself pregnant. It's almost like I'm too much of a tomboy or something, I don't know. I'm not crazy about the idea of not being able to just do what I want when I want anymore, but the fact is that I don't do shit NOW, so I'll never know the difference. But still. It's just so FINAL. 

I must seem so childish and silly. Is it weird to feel like I'm ready to be a mom but not ready to be pregnant? It seems really weird to me. 

And it's all so STUPID. Because I'll only be off the Pill until mid-October, and then if nothing has happened I'm going back on it until next summer. I know the chances of something happening in a month and a half period are pretty low, but like a friend of mine said "It only takes 30 seconds."

And if I DO find myself knocked up this fall, will I be able to concentrate on grad school apps? If I go for interviews, are they going to see a pregnant chick and be like "fuck this"? It's moments like this when I feel like I should've just gone to R2 - one of their students had a baby in her first semester of grad school and was about to defend her thesis. 

Am I setting myself up for failure? Or setting myself up for settling? What if I get pregnant, and 6 months into it I'm like "OMG, WTF was I thinking? I can't do this!"

I'm freakin' terrified. But I think I probably always will be. I don't know. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Nutrition Facts

Did you know that Cracklin' Oat Bran (my favorite cereal ever) has more calories, more fat, and more sugar than Fruity Pebbles (my second favorite cereal ever)?

Did you know that a glass of 1% milk contains 12g of sugars? How is that even possible? 

No wonder this country has such widespread weight problems. Even when you think you're making healthy choices, you're totally not. That's fucked up. 

I get that things need to taste good, I really do. But we don't even have the option of something that is truly healthy. Whole-grain foods have a higher calorie content and often a higher level of sodium. If something is low-fat, it contains a shit-ton of sugar or sodium. If something is low-sodium, it contains a shit-ton of fat. If something is low sodium AND low-fat, it's chicken broth and you need to make something out of it. 

I mean how are we, as a nation, supposed to get and stay healthy when something called "Cracklin' Oat Bran" has more sugar than a children's cereal called "Fruity Pebbles?"

That reminds me, I need to go check my Fruity Pebbles box to see if there's a prize inside....


A random question occured to me while watching Comedy Central that will probably get me some really strange search hits, but what the hell:

Why is it okay to say "tits" on TV, but not "dick" or "cock?"

You can say "bitch" now or call someone a "pussy," but you can't say "dickhead" or "asshole?"

I'm just sayin'. I'm all for gender equality in our cuss words. 

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ah, Snobbery In Psychology. So Funny.

Regarding the famous behaviorist John Watson, I just read the following quote in the book I'm reading:

"When he was not tormenting Little Albert, dangling newborns from pencils, or making out with his graduate student, Watson famously boasted...."

LOL. I see this stuff in psychology books all the time, and it never fails to crack me up. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Animal Research and the Social Psych Perspective

I almost didn't get this post out. I got distracted by a request for a movie I can't remember the title of, and completely lost my train of thought between the post over at Dr. Isis and here. But thanks to SciCurious, I finally remembered WTF I was going to say!! YIPPEE!!!

Okay, first, the repost of the comment I made over at Dr. Isis:

I love cats just as much as Dr. J does. I also have cats. I also have a really hard time imagining anyone doing anything mean to animals that are cute. I hate animal abusers and I would punch each and every one of them in the face if I could. I feel the same way about child abusers.

I, myself, personally could never do research involving animals. I couldn't handle it.


Animal research is necessary. "Cute" animal research is necessary. I trust the scientific community to treat the animals humanely and subject them to as little pain and suffering as possible. Scientists are humans too, and the types of people who get off on hurting animals don't get PhDs or MDs.

I don't want to see it. I don't even want to read about it. It's kinda like when you're scared of needles and you're about to have blood drawn - you know it has to happen even though you don't like it, so you look away but with the full awareness of what's going on.

Now, a sample reference for what I'm about to launch into:

Okay. All settled in with your background info? Great. Off we go. 

In psychology, we have found with a fair amount of consistency that when people feel disgust, they become more extreme in their worldviews. Homophobia, anti-abortion sentiments, etc., are all subject to this phenomenon. When people feel disgust, they also feel a greater propensity toward violence that serves to reaffirm their worldview - shooting doctors who perform abortions, hate crimes, blowing up the cars of animal researchers, etc. 

I said above that I don't want to see, hear, think, or read about what may or may not be happening to animals who serve as subjects in research. I, personally, could never engage in that kind of research because I couldn't handle it. 

I hate it. It makes me sad. But it doesn't disgust me. I hypothesize that the difference between the people who just can't stand the thought of animals suffering in any way and the people who attack human beings for the sake of so-called animal "rights" is that the extremists feel disgusted at the thought, and the rest of us just feel sad. 

Also, as I said in my comment, I choose to "look away" from animal research but maintain the knowledge of what is going on. I don't think the extremists are capable of just looking away. In fact, I hypothesize that the kind of disgust that engages embodied moral judgment renders a person unable to look away. 

Willful acts of cruelty against animals are unforgivable, just as willful acts of cruelty against children, the disabled, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations are. All of these are protected by IRBs in their ethics review - they are considered to afford "special" protections because of their vulnerability. 

I think the extremists are forgetting not only the protections that animals are subject to in scientific research, but they are also forgetting that there are no willful acts of cruelty going on. But scientists have been painted as these puppy-bashing, cat-torturing, animal-hating sociopaths in the minds of these people. They have forgotten that you are human beings with hearts, that while yes, you do have a greater tolerance for animals in pain than the average person (you HAVE to), you are not doing it because you LIKE it. 

The extremists have dehumanized you in an effort to reaffirm their worldview. If we were to look at abortion, you would also see that the extremists have reduced women to bodies - to wombs, to temporary housing facilities for baby humans. When disgust is activated as embodied moral judgment, a journey down a slippery slope begins. You believe something is wrong, you are disgusted by it, you feel angry about it, you find a place to direct that anger, you dehumanize what you perceive to be the source, you feel a propensity toward violence, you commit the violence, you justify and feel justified in that violence. 

I wonder if the things these people imagine to be going on inside your labs is a million times worse than what is actually happening. I believe it must be the case. I wonder if there is a way to reduce the disgust by showing them the reality. 

Because I think that's the solution to the problem. The disgust needs to be reduced or eliminated and scientists need to be humanized again in their eyes. Unfortunately, you can't trust these people to come into your labs to actually see what's going on. 

Anyway, back to my main point. Disgust activates in different people for different reasons. I think in the case of Dr. J, she finds herself specifically disgusted by the thought of cats being subject to experiments. If you read through her words, you can almost watch the transition happening:

"sick minded" = signals disgust
"evil" = signals moral judgment
"mo fo bastards" = signals anger
"low life scum" followed by specifics of who qualifies = directing anger
people who abuse animals are "as bad as pedophiles" = beginning to dehumanize

"if I thought anyone strapped one of my cats down and did to them some of the things that apparently go on, I would have no hesitation in what I would do them - it would be extreme but proportional." = propensity toward violence

In order to address this problem and make everyone happy, we first need to figure out how to break the cycle. 

For All My Academic BlogPals

I urge you to go check out Adventures In Adulthood, a series of essays by college professor and author John Sheirer. 

This one in particular is my favorite - two of his commencement speeches. I find the second one particularly funny. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Getting Ripped Off On Student Loans

I am wicked pissed off right now at Sallie Mae. The DAY that my student loan was disbursed to MRU, I started paying on it even though I didn't have to. My grace period ended this month, as I am no longer in school full-time. But I have made 20 payments without actually needing to. 

Now, maybe I just really suck at math, but I feel like having paid $1,000 (literally) on a loan with a 6% interest rate on a balance of $8500 ($4250 for the first 4 months of payments) should have brought my principal balance down by more than just $70. 

Can I seriously be paying $50 a MONTH in finance charges on a student loan?? Because if so, that's fucking RIDICULOUS. How does anyone ever pay this shit off??? 

I sent them an email like "WTF???" and they replied with some generic email including the equation for calculating simple interest loans. I am not fucking sitting here and doing the math out. 

I am also pissed off that the incentive for paying on time (1% interest drop for every 12 months of on-time payments) does not include payments made ahead of schedule. 

Student loans are such a fucking racket. When I was in college in 2000-2001, the interest rates on student loans were like 3%. One of the two loans I had to take out this time gave me an interest rate of 8.6%. That's higher than the interest rate was on my CAR. And I have a credit score of 790!!!!!

I am so mad. 

But on the bright side, I got my car back today!!!!!!!! 

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Somewhat Substantial HodgePodge of Bloggy Goodness

Nothing particularly substantial to blog about today, but have no fear - I just got my copies of JPSP and SPPB in the mail and I'm sure I'll have lots to share about some of the articles in there. 

I had a complete meltdown on friday afternoon after a member of a helping profession pointed out to me that "none of us have any control over what happens in our lives, despite the persistent illusion to the contrary." I don't think she knew I was an Atheist when she said this to me, because if she had she might have sugar-coated it or softened it a bit. The only thing that separates an Atheist from a Nihilist (in my opinion) is the belief that we have at least some measure of control over our lives. In essence, one could also say that this is the core difference between Atheism and Theism. 

In relation to the car accident, this was a relevant concept to explain that despite all of my efforts to be a safe driver (never caused an accident in 11 years of driving), and all of my efforts to be on the lookout for dumbass people behind the wheel, at the end of the day it means nothing because someone can always hit ME. And there isn't really a damn thing I can do about it. There was nothing I could have done to prevent the accident I was in. 

It seems so simple, doesn't it? But not for me. I started realizing that this explains why bad things happen to good people, why people who do everything they're supposed to do just can't get ahead, etc. She tried to make this idea a little more palatable for me by adding "The only things we can control are our own thoughts, feelings, and behavior."

But given all that I know about psychology, I'm pretty sure this is bullshit too. Implicit associations and priming, attempting to control intrusive thoughts, the daunting task of trying to self-soothe during an anxiety attack, trying to keep from crying, etc., - I think the only thing we really can control is our own behavior. Because our thoughts and emotions often have minds of their own. I have oodles of studies to back this up. 

So I found myself in a crisis, asking things like "What is the fucking POINT, then??" I am not a spiritualist by any means, but it took listening to Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart to calm me down. (Thanks AA, for the post title the other day. That's what made me think of it.)

Chodron talks about how life is filled with distractions to keep us from feeling emotions that have been labeled as negative. We don't want to feel bored, lonely, sad, etc., so we find things to distract us from feeling that way. Instead, she says we should try and sit with it for as long as we can stand it as often as we can, to build up a sort of tolerance for it. Just sit and feel it. 

So I figured, what the hell, and I tried it. I sat with the feeling of helplessness and anxiety. I sat with the sadness, the anger, and the panic. The only distraction was the sound of her voice telling me why I needed to do it. It took about 1-2 hours, but it went away. I didn't need to try and resolve it, think it through, find ways to fix it. I just acknowledged that I was feeling miserable, let myself feel miserable, and it went away like when one of my cats is desperate for attention but only wants it for 5 minutes before he or she is content to move on. 

I guess this post is more substantial than I thought it was going to be. LOL. Anyway, my point is that I recommend the audio version of Chodron's book for times of emotional upheaval like that. Her voice alone is very soothing. 

In other news, I got to video chat with my husband yesterday through gchat. It was awesome. Unfortunately he can't do it again today because the internet at the base is down. 

The Wii Active Personal Trainer is awesome, but it hates me. I went out dancing on friday night so my thighs were nice and sore yesterday. I turn on the Wii Active, and it made me do 6 sets of 20 lunges in all directions and variations. Now my legs really hurt. But on the bright side, I have lost 4 inches off my waist and 3 inches off my hips since I posted about being frustrated by my lack of progress, and about 6lbs or so since I bought that new scale. I have accomplished this through a daily combination of the Wii Fit, Wii Active Personal Trainer, and Zumba Fitness Latin dancing. I increased my calorie intake slightly by eating less food more often: 1 piece of whole grain toast with peanut butter and a glass of V8 Frusion in the morning, a yogurt or one of those Green Giant Steamers veggie things for lunch, my favorite sandwich ever for dinner (see below), a small bowl of macaroni salad with tuna after working out, and some Doritos for a nighttime snack. I also drink a shitload more water. 

Best Sandwich Ever:

I used to love this sandwich from Panera Bread until they posted their nutrition facts and I discovered that their version has about 1100 calories in it. I might as well eat McDonald's. I knew I could make a much, much healthier version of it at home. Here are the results:

Chipotle Mayonnaise - I bought a bottle of Chipotle hot sauce from the marinade/steak sauce section of the grocery store. I combined 1 cup of Helmann's mayo with 1 clove of minced garlic in a tupperware bowl (I didn't want to have to make this every day). I added the hot sauce to taste while stirring, then added Roasted Garlic & Bell Pepper seasoning and some Cayenne pepper until I achieved my desired level of spiciness. 

The Sandwich - 2 slices of Wonder 100% Whole Grain bread (total 160 calories), 1 tbsp of the Chipotle mayo (80 calories), 1 slice of Kraft Deli Deluxe american cheese (70 calories), thinly sliced red onion, lettuce (both with negligible calorie content), and 6 slices of Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh shaved turkey breast (45 calories). 

Fuckin YUMMY at a total calorie content of about 355 calories. Fuck Panera Bread.

Their version. Image from WebMD's article about the worst sandwiches ever.

***Update: Totally forgot to add this. When I started working out I could do like 2-3 push-ups (the real way) on a good day, 0.5 pull-ups, and couldn't run for shit. Now I can do 10 push-ups putting my nose to the floor, 3 pull-ups, and the Wii Fit is telling me I could probably run 1.5 miles in slightly less than 11 minutes. I feel diesel. ;)***

Thursday, June 11, 2009

At The Edge of Insanity

I'm guessing that at some point, my readers got sick of me talking about my personal life because my readership is definitely down these days. 

But it's my blog, so fuck it. 

I think the car accident pushed me to the edge of insanity. I was doing okay with the husband being gone, I was hanging in there. Then the major changes came down from my company and I was upset for a couple of days and got over it. But then that woman ran the stop sign, taking my car away from me, and I lost my shit. 

I've been really nervous driving for the first time in my life. I see people constantly doing stupid shit - running stop signs and red lights, pulling out into oncoming traffic, etc. And I get really, really angry because their stupidity is compromising MY safety and well-being. 

My little sister has become a traffic vigiliante, which I love. She got herself some glass chalk, and when someone parks all crooked and what not in the parking lot at her work, she'll write things like "You park like an asshole" on their driver's side window. Guess what. You can't just wipe that shit off with your sleeve, which means that person had to drive home with that written on their car. Public humiliation is a great deterrant to doing stupid things. My sister is a genius. 

The other day I saw a woman trying to park this big-ass SUV. I don't remember what it was, but it was much, much, much bigger than mine and much taller. Like a Ford Explorer on full-size truck tires or something. Either way, she couldn't park the damn thing even though the space next to her was vacant. All I could think was if I had some glass chalk, I would wait for her to go inside, and then write on the car window "If you can't park it, you shouldn't drive it."

Seriously, I could spend my whole summer driving around watching for stupid and reckless people and then write messages on their car windows telling them what fucking douchebags they are. I'm considering making it my new hobby. 

Anyway, so yesterday my nerves were all sorts of shot from driving around in my mom's car and people just driving around me like this town is the site of a demolition derby. I come home to discover that Husband's Scary Reptile is hungry. Which means I have to feed it. Which means I have to open the cage and insert dead animals. Which means I have to put my life at risk for a few minutes. Yikes. 

I didn't have the dead animals to feed her last night and planned to go get them today (which I did). She was all sorts of active in her cage, and while I was trying to sleep last night it suddenly occurred to me that she might break out of her cage in order to get some food. Husband has assured me multiple times that she can't break out of this cage, but I'm not so sure. And we have cats. For scary reptile, cats = food. Their litter box is down in the basement where scary reptile is kept. In my extreme anxiety, I felt the need to go downstairs, get the litterbox, bring it upstairs, and lock the cat door so the cats can't get to the basement. Just in case. Only then was I able to sleep. 

But today I have to feed her once the dead animals are dethawed. And I am very, very nervous about doing this. I am making Husband call me and I am going to put him on speaker phone while I do it. I figure if I stop responding to him, he'll know something is wrong and can hang up and dial 911 and animal control. 

Fuck. I really want him to get rid of this pet. I can't deal with losing sleep over it anymore. 

So right now I am nervous to drive, depressed because I don't have my car or my husband, anxious about feeding this damned reptile, and on the border of going insane. 

And if I get the job at SFRSHS West, I will have to MOVE this scary reptile to the other side of the country. My heart pounds just at the thought. 

Monday, June 8, 2009

Chippers, Smokers, & The Tipping Point

Last night I finished reading The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. I am not going to do a full review of the book, but I will say this - very interesting read, hard to put down, a fascinating look at the social psychological aspects of epidemics and trends. I loved it.

Unfortunately, I have already returned the book to the library so my discussion of the content is going to be without specific names, references, and page numbers. I apologize in advance for the inconvenience - I just didn't think about it. 

Smoking, and teen smoking in particular, is the main topic of the last chapter of the book. The main question posed by Gladwell (and many, many others) is this: Why, in the face of years and years of anti-smoking campaigns, higher-priced cigarettes, falling adult smoking rates, and tons of new health information about the negative effects of smoking has the teen smoking rate been increasing in ridiculous amounts?

***Disclaimer - this book was published in 2000, and I feel like teen smoking has declined since then (I could be wrong), but I still think this is a very interesting discussion.***

In an informal survey with a large but unrepresentative sample, Gladwell found a common theme among the responses given when people were asked about their first experience with smoking. He sums it up in a single word: sophistication. The respondents had come into contact with a person they saw as grown-up, mature, rebellious, independent - the very characteristics that most teenagers strive to exhibit. This person was a smoker. In some cases it was a parent. But it also could have been an exchange student, an older or admired peer, a person they had a crush on, etc. It doesn't really matter who. 

And Gladwell makes a very striking statement in response to this:

"It's not that smoking is cool. It's that smokers are cool."

The psychologist Hans Eysenck discovered what he calls "the smoker's personality type." Smokers tend to be very social, always in need of someone to talk to, rebellious, risk-taking, sensation-seeking, have a lot of friends, more honest with and about themselves, and in general care very little about what other people think of them. 

Think about those descriptors and then compare it in your mind with the average teen. Those are the characteristics they WANT to have if they don't have them already. In modeling themselves after an influential person in their life who has that personality, taking up smoking is a byproduct - much like choosing to dress like that person. 

I can personally attest to the truth behind this idea. The people in my life who were most like the kind of person I wanted to be as a teen - in short, badasses - were always smokers. My outgoing, outspoken, devil-may-care sarcastic mom, the girls at school that nobody fucked with, etc. The first time I smoked a cigarette I stole one from my mom's pack - it was a Misty Ultra-Light 100 menthol. Yuck. But I smoked it by myself to see what it was like. There was no peer pressure. I knew it was really bad for me (in fact, it turns out that most smokers overestimate the harm it causes, not underestimate), but none of that mattered. I got an awesome head rush even though it tasted gross. I liked the feel of smoking. I felt more grown up and definitely cooler, even though there was no one around to validate that feeling. 

Evidence suggests that whether or not you experience a head rush the first time you try a cigarette can predict whether or not you will take up the habit. A similar line of evidence suggests that there is a genetic predisposition for your body's ability to handle and process nicotine - if your body is good at it, you'll get a head rush. If it isn't, you'll just think it's gross. 

This is fascinating if you think about it, because it suggests that family lines of smokers has much more to do with genetics than with social modeling - without the genetics model, it is puzzling to realize that children of non-smokers are just as likely to smoke as children of parents who smoke and vice versa. My sister and I grew up in the same environment full of smokers - parents, grandparents, cousins, everyone. I became a smoker at age 12. My sister doesn't smoke and never has. She finds it disgusting. 

Now when a teen starts smoking, they are never regular, hardcore smokers. They are what has been termed "chippers" - people who smoke fewer than 5 cigarettes a day on average of about 4 days per week. There are a lot of adults in the world who never go beyond being a chipper. They often label themselves social smokers and are not by any means nicotine addicts. This brings about a new question: why do some people remain chippers and others move into the realm of addiction?

The foremost researcher on smoking (whose name I can't remember, dammit), estimates that the "tipping point" of nicotine addiction is a daily intake of (I think, could get the numbers wrong but it's irrelevant for the point) 5-6mg, which I think equals about 10 cigarettes per day. If you never cross that threshold, you will never become addicted to nicotine. You will remain a chipper. 

A couple of scientists (again, sorry) took this information and wrote an article suggesting that the tobacco companies be forced to lower the amount of nicotine in cigarettes to make it nearly impossible to intake the threshold amount in a given day, thereby reducing the likelihood that a person would become addicted. Gladwell thinks this is a good idea. 

I think it's a good idea, sort of. The reason I have reservations about this is because the existing smokers would be screwed. The actual health problem of smoking has nothing at all to do with nicotine (the patch doesn't give you cancer). It is about the shit that you are taking into your lungs in order to GET that nicotine. If cigarettes suddenly didn't contain enough nicotine to sustain your addiction, you'd just smoke more and more and more to try to get that "hit" you need. We'd be putting even more shit into our lungs to get the same amount of the drug. And you can't come up with a "hardened smoker" brand of cigarettes, because then teens will just want those instead. But I digress. 

We have talked about the social factors that get teens to try smoking, the genetic factors that likely separate the continuing smokers from the experimenters, and the tipping point of developing a nicotine addiction. But what might separate the chippers from the chain-smokers? Why do chippers never feel the need to smoke more than 5 cigarettes per day?

The answer, research suggests, is mental illness. There is a significant correlation between smoking and depression. Alcoholics smoke at a rate something like 13 times the national rate. 90% of schizophrenics smoke. Nicotine is believed to act on dopamine and norepinephrine in the pre-frontal cortex, associated with pleasure. When the antidepressant bupropion (wellbutrin) was being tested, there were tons of reports coming in from patients saying "I no longer feel the need to smoke," or "I just don't like the taste of cigarettes anymore."

I can say from personal experience that wellbutrin does, in fact, have this effect. It's very logical - cigarettes are gross. They don't taste good. Just like how almost no one would drink if alchohol didn't provide desirable effects, if suddenly your cigarettes aren't doing anything for you, you're not going to want to smoke them anymore. It is believed that wellbutrin mimics the neurotransmitter effects of nicotine, that the increase in dopamine relieves the desire to smoke and the increase in norepinephrine reduces the withdrawal symptoms. 

It is probably a safe hypothesis to suggest that maybe those of us who become true smokers have a deficit in dopamine and norepinephrine in our brains that may or may not also result in depression. The chippers, on the other hand, probably have closer-to-normal levels and therefore simply enjoy the occasional increase. (This is just me talking now, this wasn't in the book.) When you combine this with the genetic component dealing with nicotine tolerance and processing as well as the social aspects, you can get a pretty clear picture of how a smoker becomes addicted and why others don't even smoke at all. 

I find all of this incredibly fascinating, particularly because nicotine doesn't have a conscious "high" associated with it, unlike all other drugs. I don't feel "good" when I smoke - I feel normal. When I am otherwise occupied with activities I find pleasurable, I don't feel the need to smoke. Yes, there is definitely a classically conditioned habit addiction in this for me as well - driving, for example, invokes a need to smoke. I used to believe that there was also an oral fixation thing going on, because I can distract myself from wanting to smoke by eating, which made sense given the typical weight gain that people experience when they quit. But now I'm thinking of it differently - eating is also a pleasurable activity, which is why there are food addictions. So maybe the reason eating tends to be a natural substitute is the neurotransmitter effects. Because if it was just an oral fixation, then drinking beverages and chewing gum would also work, but they don't. 

In a couple of weeks I will be seeing my doctor about quitting smoking and asking for an rx for wellbutrin because it has worked for me before. Now that I have a much better understanding about what is going on, I think I have a much better chance of successfully quitting. This topic and the new information that came along with it has given me a lot to think about. Expect me to post on this subject again sometime in the future. 

My Poor Car :(

Apparently this is what $3500 worth of visible damage looks like:

Friday, June 5, 2009

Add A Car Accident to The Week From Hell

As if I needed one of those. Some lady ran a stop sign at a T-intersection where I had the right of way because she couldn't see beyond a tractor trailer in the right lane when I was in the left, and I slammed into her. I'm okay, I think, but now that the adrenaline is wearing off my shoulder seems kinda sore.

But my car is not okay. The entire front bumper came off, the driver's side headlight is destroyed, and some big piece of metal is all bent around my driver's side front tire. I am very shaken up right now.

Why am I blogging, you ask? Because I walked home from the scene, made all the phone calls I needed to make, everyone is working so I can't talk to anyone and I can't work either.

And why is it that as soon as you pay off a car, everyone starts hitting it? My car had never been in an accident while I was paying on it for 5 years. I paid it off last year and it's been hit 4 times since then, NEVER my fault! WTF?!

And of course my husband isn't here. If he was, he would leave work and come home to be with me and help me sort all of this shit out, but I can't even get him on the phone until 6.

***Update*** - should I not work out today? I ask because my shoulder is definitely sore and I know I'm going to hurt tomorrow, so should I just avoid exercise until I see how bad this is going to feel in the morning? Or might it be good for me.....?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Take Me Away

It is now Thursday, and I have not spoken to my boss since the conference call. She seems to be avoiding calling me back and there is no one else in this company that I can talk to who a) I can trust, and b) can answer my questions. Needless to say, I am very pissed off that I can't just freaking TALK to someone right now.

I am not happy about my new territory because of the circumstances surrounding my being assigned to it. I feel guilty that someone lost their job. I know they gave me this territory because they knew I could handle it, and on some level they probably thought they were doing me some kind of favor given where it is in relation to where I live.

But the bullshit that I have seen and dealt with this week is ridiculous. I am dying to find a new job, whether with one of the SFRSHSs or somewhere else because the stress level I will be dealing with when I return to work in the fall at my current job is going to be incredibly overwhelming. Obviously I can't get into details about why this is the case, so suffice it to say that I am in limbo right now until I get some answers and the company updates its resources to reflect the changes - I no longer have the tools I need in order to do my job successfully and likely won't get them until August.

The flagrant disrespect I experienced this week has made the desire to get a new job even more urgent. I'm tired of the corporate politics and the constant shitting on of junior employees by management. I'm tired of the hypocrisy and the silencing of people with questions. I'm tired of being praised for the passion I have for my job and my customers, but criticized and belittled for it when that passion turns to face corporate and asks "WTF?" It can't just be turned off.

When I love my job and believe in the mission and purpose behind it, I find myself constantly on the lookout for ways to improve things. I've worked for small businesses, medium-sized corporations where I have a lot of autonomy, large corporations, and my current mega-huge corporation where I am given the illusion of autonomy but none of the control that goes along with it. I would make a graph, but I'm too lazy - basically, the larger the company, the more I tend to love the actual day-to-day job that I do. But at the same time, the larger the company, the less satisfied I am with that job over time.

Why? Because when you work for a large company, the seemingly tiniest changes you would like to see made face so much red-tape and politics that your suggestions often get shut down by your immediate supervisor before they have a chance to grow legs. They don't want to deal with it, even if it's a great idea. The daunting nature of a large corporation makes them feel that it's just not worth the effort. But a mega-huge corporation is easy to fall in love with because you find yourself branded. You identify with this company and its mission - I have yet to meet anyone who finds out the company I work for and doesn't recognize the name if not share some memory of having dealt with this company in some fashion at some point in their lives. Those memories are always fond ones. In fact, it was my own memories that led me to find this job in the first place. That kind of brand recognition sucks you in.

But now I'm stuck. If I don't find a new job and soon, I will be forced to return to the aftermath of Pandora's Box this fall. Time is running out though, because research jobs are usually filled by now or will be in a matter of weeks. I don't foresee any new job postings during the summer.

I blogged before about how I NEED a research job. That need has become even more dire. I want to go to work, keep my head down, do my job, and be part of a larger purpose that I both understand and believe in. I want to be in an environment where my questions are about the work that's being done, not about why my expense reimbursement has been cut in half when GPSs are being handed out like popcorn. There are always going to be politics in every single job - academia is certainly no exception. But I anticipate having much more control over the work I do on a daily basis - if I try one method of doing something and it doesn't work, I can try a different one. I don't need to get the approval of 8 managers and a vice president to change a single item on a survey. (Maybe my dissertation committee, sure, but I would have chosen them so I had better give a damn what they think.)

I feel like a die-hard Christian waiting for the rapture - "Please, Academia! Please come and take me away from this nightmare!"

Monday, June 1, 2009

Motherfucking Hell of a Day

It is 5:12pm and I am on my second cocktail. That should give you some idea of how this day has gone.

Remember that "organizational announcements" conference call that I mentioned last week? Yeah, well that call was to announce that my company is closing half of its regions and laying off a shitload of people. My job, thankfully, is safe. So while I felt extremely badly for the people who lost their jobs, I didn't let it upset me too much. Every year they do some shit like this. This particular year just happened to be the worst so far.

But today I had another conference call with the other members of my sales team and our boss. It was mostly talking about the game plan for our "new" region and blah blah blah. Out of nowhere, my boss says "Is JLK on this call?" I took the phone off mute and said "Yeah, I'm here."

She then said "Just so you know, your new territory is State That You Live In But Don't Work In." I was a little taken aback and asked "Does that mean I no longer cover State I Have Worked In This Entire Time?" She said "Correct." I then started asking questions about what, exactly, that meant in terms of work relationships and all that. She responded to me like a mother trying to calm down an upset child, and I wasn't even upset. I asked, "Who is going to cover SIHWITET?" She replied, "Let's wait until everyone finds out about their new territories and we can discuss this then."

WTF? You tell ME on a conference call about my new territory, but don't share any other info with anyone else? She then changed the subject to what is so great about our region - the relationships that we've worked to build with our customers. I was appalled and made the mistake of piping up with "But I've spent 3.5 years building relationships with my customers and you just told me that I am no longer their rep!"

Apparently in my company, this constitutes being "an emotional bitch." Because 15 minutes after this call ended I received a phone call from the regional manager - my boss's boss. I was told that I am lacking "professional maturity" and that I shouldn't have been so "emotional" on a conference call in front of the team. I was also told that I am "selfish" because "at least you have a job."

It turned into this whole fucking unnecessary drama that ended with the regional manager wanting me to verify my whereabouts to explain why I needed to hang up on the original call. I have never had to PROVE where I was to management. EVER. He thought that I just hung up on the call in a tizzy and made up an excuse about seeing a customer in order to justify it.

I am so fucking pissed off right now I don't even know what to do. My boss calls me out on a conference call to tell me that I have been moved into what used to be a different region, I'm not allowed to ask questions, and I'm being "emotional" by doing so??? FUCK YOU, Company I Work For!!!!

I realize that I have always had the kind of tone in my voice that causes people to think I'm being bitchy when in fact I'm not. I get that. But all I could think was "If you knew HALF of the shit I WANT to say to you right now, you might have more respect for my fucking level of restraint! How DARE you question whether I was actually seeing a customer or not??"

Fuck corporate America, seriously. I have completely fucking had it with this bullshit. I'm tired of fearing for my job and having a minor heart attack every time a conference call is scheduled at the end of May, right before our new fiscal year starts. With the performance I have put into this job, I would have tenure in academia. I feel AWFUL for the people who lost their jobs due to the fucking greedy-ass shareholders of my company, but don't tell me that I'm not allowed to be upset because I should be "grateful" that I have a fucking job. Go fuck yourself.
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