Where I’ve been

I’ve been absent awhile. From work. From friends. From activities. From, really, life.

I needed a break. Or, rather, my body/brain decided I needed a break and they weren’t taking “no” for an answer.

If I look back, I can see the spiral for over a year. My brain tried to tell me, tried to send me messages in the form of migraines, etc. But, like always, I ignored it and just kept going.

And really, that’s both why and how I fell part. Keep going. Just buckle down and get it done. If it needs to be done I will figure out a way to do it, including teaching myself or finding a workaround, and just get things done. And then I hit a wall and I literally could not keep going anymore. I collapsed.

So I’m tired. Exhausted, both mentally and physically. Worn out, worn down, drained. Weary.

I made an effort to stay connected while figuring out why I was so tired and falling apart. Only being out “intermittently.” I really tried, even if it may not have looked that way to many people. If you haven’t been there, it’s hard to explain depression/anxiety to someone.

It’s not a choice. You really just cannot do, well, anything. It’s a struggle to get out of bed to even walk the dog or eat or get some water. Add the “anxiety shakes” when you even think about leaving and going out to interact with anyone or anything and you really just freeze up and cannot do anything. You just can’t. Not won’t, but can’t.

Eventually I admitted that “intermittent” wasn’t enough. The stress of trying to find the energy to get up and go to work, interact with the world, while pretending that everything was just fine and I was doing better was too much. I couldn’t do it. So I took some time away.

I’m grateful I have the option to do that, to take time, with the support of my place of work.

Yes, I am seeing a therapist and my doctor. We’ve adjusted meds. Changed meds. Tried this cocktail of meds, this dosage, that dosage, and hey, here’s one we haven’t tried yet. Anything to help me leave my apartment and interact with more than my pets in person.

Tired. So damn tired.

When my therapist asked me to give him three words to describe “me” to him, all I could come up with was:

  • responsible
  • competent
  • reliable

I’ve been “the responsible one/child/person/student/friend” for as long as I can remember. I was “the good/positive example.” The “good influence” on others. I’ve been “adulting” for decades, and I’m only 40. My sorority and my rugby team in college nicknamed me “mom” before I could legally drink.

I took it as an affectionate nickname, but really, it wasn’t a good thing.

I got called “mom” because I was always there to get things done. Everyone knew I was responsible and would keep it together.

I’ve just kept going, doing what needed to be done, for so long I don’t know how not to. I don’t know how not to fill in the gaps. To be the helper.

And I’m tired. So tired.

I’m going back to work this week. And I’m scared. I’m scared I’ve disappointed people or that I will as I try to integrate myself back into work. That, disappointing someone, terrifies me like nothing else. But I need to be better about boundaries. And I don’t have the energy to be everyone’s helper. I still barely have the energy to get up some days.

I’m sure I will lose some friendships/relationships, that some folks will lose or have already lost their respect for me. If I haven’t disappointed someone yet, I probably will as I try to learn boundaries and how not to always be the “responsible helper.”

I’ve been warned that being public about my battle with depression will hurt me. Hurt my career, my relationships, etc. But I’m too damn tired to hide it anymore. Depression will most likely be with me in some form for the rest of my life. And being silent doesn’t help anyone. I’d rather follow the example of people like The Bloggess Jenny Lawson, Wil Wheaton, and Carrie Fisher (who will always be one of my (s)heroes) who speak out about mental illness and struggles, letting people know that they’re not alone.

Because depression lies. It tells you that you’re not good enough. That you’re in this, fighting this, alone. But you’re not. And I have to keep telling myself that. That people won’t hate me or be disappointed when I just can’t.

Depression lies.

Posted in depression | 2 Comments

Imaginary friends

I have two chronic diseases/illnesses. They’re largely invisible. And for the most part they stay in hibernation.

One, Asthma, is easier to see when it gets cranky. There’s the wheezing noise. The coughing. The accouterments: inhaler(s), personal home nebulizer, extra pillows. People understand. They believe the invisible friend of asthma is real.

The other, Depression, is harder to see. And people are less likely to believe it exists.

They’re the imaginary friends I never wanted.

I had imaginary friends as a child. 5 of them. Eventually they didn’t hang out with me anymore, but I remember them. They were important. They were real to me. My mother, bless her, never argued about their existence. She accepted them. There was Eric, who wore a brown leisure suit with a cream ribbed turtleneck (it was the 70s!). Eric was my scapegoat. Momma yelled at me, I yelled at Eric. He was always being naughty. There was Big Dave, the gorilla, who protected the house and us. There was a little girl in a pretty party dress, who’s name I can’t remember. And one minor player that I can’t remember other than they existed for me.

And there was Alligator. Alligator was my everything. My best friend. He went everywhere with me. I could never describe him to others, but it didn’t matter. Alligator was Alligator.

No one could see him, but he was very much real. To the point my dad had to stop driving once and open the door to let Alligator in the car. I was inconsolable until he did that. After that I was perfectly happy.

Depression is a lot like Alligator. Except that Depression is an unwanted invisible friend that showed up for the first time in high school. And then again in college. And then never left. Now Depression goes everywhere with me. Sometimes Depression makes me inconsolable. Depression is hard to describe to others, he’s unique to me.

But it impacts everything. Depression shows up without warning. And Depression has come for an extended visit lately. Depression is always hungry when he visits. He eats my energy, my motivation. I’m trying to live with him again, but I’m not doing so well. I’m worried about work, about people there understanding because Depression is invisible and hard to describe. He’s ever present, generally content to just exist as an imaginary friend, subdued by medication and various tools and tricks, but right now he is demanding attention like whoa. It’s hard to function when Depression is demanding. It would be nice if like my childhood friends Depression would just fade away into a memory.

Alternately, I wish Alligator could come back and eat my unwanted invisible friend Depression.

Posted in depression, life | 4 Comments

Thoughts on data editing

It has been made painfully apparent that I might have some strong feelings about metadata editing. OK, some very VERY strong feelings.

As my staff will tell you (and tell you I repeat this to the point of annoyance), I take the following approach:

RULE #1: If it’s not wrong, leave it alone. Always. 

When editing, follow these three metadata editing steps:

  1. Fix errors. If something is wrong, fix it or remove it. Fix spelling errors, incorrect controlled vocabulary/identities, etc. Delete anything blatantly incorrect.
  2. Enhance. ADD value to the record to make it more findable. Add controlled data points (codes, controlled vocabulary, identities, relationship terms, etc.)
  3. Make it pretty. But ONLY if you have time to do so. It doesn’t matter how pretty the data is if no one can find it. Frankly, the user isn’t going to care if the note isn’t phrased “just so” as long as it has the information they need. Likewise, while all caps are annoying, they don’t impact indexing or findability (normalization…remember NORMALIZATION of all variable fields happens in indexing/searching) so just let it go. LET IT GO.

Don’t get me wrong. It took a LONG time for me to get to the point of letting go of the instinct to make everything pretty. I mean, I went into cataloging/metadata to channel my OCD in a positive/healthy direction. But I realized that my energy is better spent adding value and figuring out how to improve the system than on the little details that have no impact on findability.

And remember, sometimes you’re adding controlled data points for future use.  Just because your current system can’t use it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. It just may be that the value can’t be realized in the current environment. Identifiers and controlled vocabularies and controlled data points (fixed codes) are what make the intertubes go ’round. Think about what your data will be able to do once it’s no longer silo-ed with that added data value.

Ultimately, always ask the following: IS IT FINDABLE?

If the answer is no, FIX IT and make it findable.

If the answer is yes, but not very well or it’s missing stuff…then ADD VALUE to make it more findable.

If the answer is yes, then just leave it be.

And if the answer is yes but I want to make it pretty, then BACK AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD.

Spend your time and energy wisely. As with everything else, you want the best return on investment. And if you follow the main rule, and the three steps outlined above, you’ll see a positive impact on the findability of resources, without working overtime.

Posted in cataloging, librarianship | Leave a comment