Past & progress & a science-writing retrospective

So it’s been a while. Mental health issues and an intense relationship later, I’m finally feeling sort of stable again, still slightly oscillating but not to any extremes. My psychologist suggested I make a mind-map to develop my study and work goals, and it was immensely helpful. It is just so refreshing feeling interested in things again, feeling capable and optimistic and working towards goals. Depression can seem like an all-consuming and endless fog, making everything hazy, making it impossible to navigate, you alternate between drifting and sinking even deeper. This is a pretty corny analogy, but I think it’s apt; one day, somehow, you find that the fog is beginning to lift. Change of circumstances, new medication, bipolar cycling – probably a combination of factors. Things start becoming discernible again and you don’t feel so lost and isolated. Negativity still creeps in sometimes, but this is a normal part of remission, as is impaired sustained attention, (for detailed info, see journal article: ‘The ascent into mania’) something I’ve definitely been experiencing and impedes my sense of productivity. I’m working on rebuilding this skill, taking small steps and accepting that it will take time and practice.

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I’ve started preliminary planning for a neuroscience masters in Germany next year, exploring course options. On a related tangent; I met a guy on the bus the other day who happened to sit beside me and was holding a book I’d recently bought myself (The Fabric of the Cosmos, Brian Greene). I felt confident enough to start a conversation with a stranger, something I don’t think I’ve done since being manic (I don’t think I’m on the way to another episode though, no sleep disturbances or increased energy or grandiosity, I think it’s more a matter of improved self-worth and renewed interest in people). We were talking about studying and I told him about Germany’s abolishment of tuition fees, which he was previously unaware of. I feel like this should be more widespread knowledge, especially among students. If education can be free at high-quality universities in one country, there is no reason why other countries can’t follow suit. Of course profit-making gets in the way, but that’s a topic for a whole new anti-capitalist blog post.

I want to get back into science writing; it’s something I enjoy, something I’m good at and something I dream of one day being recognised for. During my mind-mapping, I thought that choosing a theme would be a good idea – giving myself boundaries to work within, not feeling overwhelmed by choices, and perhaps developing something unique. A piece of writing that I’m particularly proud of is an essay I wrote in my final year of university about Richard Axel, detailing his career and discoveries. And one of my first pieces of tertiary writing, which in fact got me into writing for my student newspaper, was an obituary about Ralph Steinman. The difference between these pieces is pretty startling, from 4 references to almost 40, from a high-school understanding of biology and scientific research to something much more sophisticated, informed by first-hand experience. I’ve decided that my theme should be biographical accounts of scientists, outlining their contributions to science alongside their human idiosyncrasies. I want to create articles accessible to a general audience, but still detailed enough and relevant to science types. First, I want to post the aforementioned pieces of writing, then start this new series with an article about David Nutt, because I admire him so – stay tuned to find out why 🙂

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