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All posts for the month October, 2012

I Hate You (When You’re Drunk)

Published October 26, 2012 by Tabby

This isn’t meant to apply to anyone in particular, just a random muse. I’m finding that some of my creative side is coming back after a miserable hiatus.

This is pretty general so I’m sure that most people that have been a designated driver, exasperated significant other, drunk babysitter, annoyed friend, etc. can find something in here. I find it odd that when things like this happen, a lot of people have these really tough, mean thoughts. Then later the thoughts more than likely pass. But then you still feel guilty for having such mean thoughts in the first place. What if the frustration is warranted-where is the line to which you allow your mind to go?

(Be nice regarding length, stanza, and all that other poetry jazz. I don’t care, this is mine).

I Hate You (When You’re Drunk)

I’ve seen all of this before

And it’s always such a bore.

Existing as only half a person

I question if you’re even worth it.

Everything can go just fine

Then destroyed by just one time.

I can’t hear any more ignorant excuses

You refuse to see that you’re useless.

It’s making me become so mean

But you’ve no idea what I’ve seen.

Coldly watching you fall to the floor

I don’t want to do this anymore.

Chorus

Gagging on your rancid vinegar stench

And how your hands find me a wench.

Baby you have no idea how much

I ‘m hating each and every touch.

You’re starting to speak slow

And turning into such a man ho.

Sickened by everything that you do

You’re drunk and I hate you.

Oh yes, everyone around us knows

And my humiliation can only grow.

I won’t be just like them and you

I’ve got much better things to do.

There’s only one way for me to feel

The only thing in this room that’s real.

Funny how simple things become complicated

And my disgusted hatred even more understated.

Even with eveyone telling me, insisting

But I can’t even get you to listen.

Lately I can only keep one thing straight

You give new meaning to the idea love/hate.

Chorus

I want to be anywhere else instead

Especially when you tell me it’s all in my head.

I can’t tune out your idiotic fake laughing

I almost wish you never happened.

Chorus

10/26/2012 original work

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How to Fail a Ph.D.

Published October 23, 2012 by Tabby

This is a great blog I found elsewhere. I’m so guilty of many of these and they make complete sense. And I agree getting a Ph.D. is monastic.

“10 easy ways to fail a Ph.D.” http://matt.might.net/articles/ways-to-fail-a-phd/

The attrition rate in Ph.D. school is high. Anywhere from a third to half will fail. In fact, there’s a disturbing consistency to grad school failure. I’m supervising a lot of new grad students this semester, so for their sake, I’m cataloging the common reasons for failure.

Read on for the top ten reasons students fail out of Ph.D. school.

1. Focus on grades or coursework
No one cares about grades in grad school.

There’s a simple formula for the optimal GPA in grad school:

Optimal GPA = Minimum Required GPA + ε
Anything higher implies time that could have been spent on research was wasted on classes. Advisors might even raise an eyebrow at a 4.0

During the first two years, students need to find an advisor, pick a research area, read a lot of papers and try small, exploratory research projects. Spending too much time on coursework distracts from these objectives.

2. Learn too much

Some students go to Ph.D. school because they want to learn.

Let there be no mistake: Ph.D. school involves a lot of learning.

But, it requires focused learning directed toward an eventual thesis.

Taking (or sitting in on) non-required classes outside one’s focus is almost always a waste of time, and it’s always unnecessary.

By the end of the third year, a typical Ph.D. student needs to have read about 50 to 150 papers to defend the novelty of a proposed thesis.

Of course, some students go too far with the related work search, reading so much about their intended area of research that they never start that research.

Advisors will lose patience with “eternal” students that aren’t focused on the goal–making a small but significant contribution to human knowledge.

In the interest of personal disclosure, I suffered from the “want to learn everything” bug when I got to Ph.D. school.

I took classes all over campus for my first two years: Arabic, linguistics, economics, physics, math and even philosophy. In computer science, I took lots of classes in areas that had nothing to do with my research.

The price of all this “enlightenment” was an extra year on my Ph.D.

I only got away with this detour because while I was doing all that, I was a TA, which meant I wasn’t wasting my advisor’s grant funding.

3. Expect perfection

Perfectionism is a tragic affliction in academia, since it tends to hit the brightest the hardest.

Perfection cannot be attained. It is approached in the limit.

Students that polish a research paper well past the point of diminishing returns, expecting to hit perfection, will never stop polishing.

Students that can’t begin to write until they have the perfect structure of the paper mapped out will never get started.

For students with problems starting on a paper or dissertation, my advice is that writing a paper should be an iterative process: start with an outline and some rough notes; take a pass over the paper and improve it a little; rinse; repeat. When the paper changes little with each pass, it’s at diminishing returns. One or two more passes over the paper are all it needs at that point.

“Good enough” is better than “perfect.”

4. Procrastinate

Chronic perfectionists also tend to be procrastinators.

So do eternal students with a drive to learn instead of research.

Ph.D. school seems to be a magnet for every kind of procrastinator.

Unfortunately, it is also a sieve that weeds out the unproductive.

Procrastinators should check out my tips for boosting productivity.

5. Go rogue too soon/too late

The advisor-advisee dynamic needs to shift over the course of a degree.

Early on, the advisor should be hands on, doling out specific topics and helping to craft early papers.

Toward the end, the student should know more than the advisor about her topic. Once the inversion happens, she needs to “go rogue” and start choosing the topics to investigate and initiating the paper write-ups. She needs to do so even if her advisor is insisting she do something else.

The trick is getting the timing right.

Going rogue before the student knows how to choose good topics and write well will end in wasted paper submissions and a grumpy advisor.

On the other hand, continuing to act only when ordered to act past a certain point will strain an advisor that expects to start seeing a “return” on an investment of time and hard-won grant money.

Advisors expect near-terminal Ph.D. students to be proto-professors with intimate knowledge of the challenges in their field. They should be capable of selecting and attacking research problems of appropriate size and scope.

6. Treat Ph.D. school like school or work

Ph.D. school is neither school nor work.

Ph.D. school is a monastic experience. And, a jealous hobby.

Solving problems and writing up papers well enough to pass peer review demands contemplative labor on days, nights and weekends.

Reading through all of the related work takes biblical levels of devotion.

Ph.D. school even comes with built-in vows of poverty and obedience.

The end brings an ecclesiastical robe and a clerical hood.

Students that treat Ph.D. school like a 9-5 endeavor are the ones that take 7+ years to finish, or end up ABD.

7. Ignore the committee

Some Ph.D. students forget that a committee has to sign off on their Ph.D.

It’s important for students to maintain contact with committee members in the latter years of a Ph.D. They need to know what a student is doing.

It’s also easy to forget advice from a committee member since they’re not an everyday presence like an advisor.

Committee members, however, rarely forget the advice they give.

It doesn’t usually happen, but I’ve seen a shouting match between a committee member and a defender where they disagreed over the metrics used for evaluation of an experiment. This committee member warned the student at his proposal about his choice of metrics.

He ignored that warning.

He was lucky: it added only one more semester to his Ph.D.

Another student I knew in grad school was told not to defend, based on the draft of his dissertation. He overruled his committee’s advice, and failed his defense. He was told to scrap his entire dissertaton and start over. It took him over ten years to finish his Ph.D.

8. Aim too low

Some students look at the weakest student to get a Ph.D. in their department and aim for that.

This attitude guarantees that no professorship will be waiting for them.

And, it all but promises failure.

The weakest Ph.D. to escape was probably repeatedly unlucky with research topics, and had to settle for a contingency plan.

Aiming low leaves no room for uncertainty.

And, research is always uncertain.

9. Aim too high

A Ph.D. seems like a major undertaking from the perspective of the student.

It is.

But, it is not the final undertaking. It’s the start of a scientific career.

A Ph.D. does not have to cure cancer or enable cold fusion.

At best a handful of chemists remember what Einstein’s Ph.D. was in.

Einstein’s Ph.D. dissertation was a principled calculation meant to estimate Avogadro’s number. He got it wrong. By a factor of 3.

He still got a Ph.D.

A Ph.D. is a small but significant contribution to human knowledge.

Impact is something students should aim for over a lifetime of research.

Making a big impact with a Ph.D. is about as likely as hitting a bullseye the very first time you’ve fired a gun.

Once you know how to shoot, you can keep shooting until you hit it.

Plus, with a Ph.D., you get a lifetime supply of ammo.

Some advisors can give you a list of potential research topics. If they can, pick the topic that’s easiest to do but which still retains your interest.

It does not matter at all what you get your Ph.D. in.

All that matters is that you get one.

It’s the training that counts–not the topic.

10. Miss the real milestones

Most schools require coursework, qualifiers, thesis proposal, thesis defense and dissertation. These are the requirements on paper.

In practice, the real milestones are three good publications connected by a (perhaps loosely) unified theme.

Coursework and qualifiers are meant to undo admissions mistakes. A student that has published by the time she takes her qualifiers is not a mistake.

Once a student has two good publications, if she convinces her committee that she can extrapolate a third, she has a thesis proposal.

Once a student has three publications, she has defended, with reasonable confidence, that she can repeatedly conduct research of sufficient quality to meet the standards of peer review. If she draws a unifying theme, she has a thesis, and if she staples her publications together, she has a dissertation.

I fantasize about buying an industrial-grade stapler capable of punching through three journal papers and calling it The Dissertator.

Of course, three publications is nowhere near enough to get a professorship–even at a crappy school. But, it’s about enough to get a Ph.D.

The Eleven Leadership Secrets You’ve Never Heard About

Published October 22, 2012 by Tabby

I have always had conflicting views regarding leadership. I never believed in leadership programs in school (high school or college) as I thought it was something you could not just teach someone, you had to just have “it.” Leadership was a natural talent that someone is born with and can hone and develop as they grow as a person. I also wondered if everyone is a leader, then what is the point? You must have followers to support a leader as no one can do everything on their own.

To me, there are also different types of leaders. The loudest (and sometimes most obnoxious) person in a situation does not automatically mean they are a leader. Sure, there are plenty of extra-extraverted leaders but I have quite a bit of admiration for the quiet leaders. Those quiet leaders take the ego out of it, not boisterously bossing anyone around but stepping up and providing direction, organization, and charisma to solve a problem.

I found this article quite a while ago but found it’s concept fascinating: “great followers follow by leading.” It also features various characteristics that are admirable regardless of leader/follower designation. What do you think?

August Turak, “The 11 Leadership Secrets You’ve Never Heard About,” Forbes Magazine http://www.forbes.com/sites/augustturak/2012/07/17/the-11-leadership-secrets-you-never-heard-about/ (accessed October 22, 2012). The old distinctions between leaders and followers are gone. Great followers follow by leading. Here’s 11 ways to make sure you do just that.

In 1982 I left a great job at MTV: Music Television for what is now the A&E Network for one reason: to work for Jim Collins. A highly successful executive, Collins poured wisdom into my head by the bucket while keeping me in stitches with his big-hearted Irish sense of humor. One day he said:

“Remember Augie, everybody got a boss. The vice president reports to the president and the president reports to the CEO. The CEO reports to the chairman of the board and the chairman reports to his wife. All God’s children got a boss. If you want to be a great leader you must also be a great follower.”

According to Louis Mobley, my mentor and the director of the IBM Executive School, Albert Einstein did far more than reinvent physics. Human beings are no longer just passive cogs in Newton’s mechanistic machine inexorably driven by the iron wheel of cause and effect. Instead we are all conscious agents, thinking for ourselves, just as capable of causing change as being driven by it. Einstein’s universe is a fluid place of feedback loops where cause and effect are interchangeable and often indistinguishable. Does the media lead public opinion or merely reflect it? Do parents produce children or children produce parents? Are consumers hapless victims of marketing or are marketing folks just hapless victims of a fickle consumer?

For leadership, Einstein’s revolution means that the old, neat distinction between leaders and followers no longer exists. Those bright lines between kings and subjects, nobles and serfs, bosses and “workers” are gone. We often switch between leader and follower many times in a single day, and success depends just as much on being a great follower as it does on being a great leader. Great followers follow by leading and here are 11 ways to do just that.

1) Great Followers Seize the Initiative: The days of leaders saying “Jump!” and subordinates asking “How high?” are over. Today’s leader desperately needs followers that bring fresh ideas not passive worker bees waiting to be told what to do. Great followers say, “This is what I think we should do.” not “What do you want me to do?”

2) Great Followers Create their Own Job: Collins taught me a model for every new job I took. Moving quickly I’d identify a quantifiable goal that I could achieve in a reasonably short amount of time. I would then write up a plan for achieving that goal along with a weekly reporting process. But most importantly, I always presented my plan before my boss asked for it. In this way I demonstrated that I could lead myself. The side benefit of creating my own job was getting the autonomy that turns work into fun.

3) Great Followers are Coachable: One time Collins shared a “secret” with me. Rather than lug around a notebook, he folded a sheet of paper into thirds and put it into the breast pocket of his jacket for notes. I faithfully imitated him, but the first thing I did after leaving the company was stop carrying that damn sheet of paper. It may seem that I was just playing the phony to ingratiate myself, but I had a nobler objective. I wanted to demonstrate to Collins that I was coachable. I used a little thing to signal that I was coachable on the big ones.

4) Great Followers Anticipate: One of the most humorous bits from the TV series M*A*S*H is Cpl. “Radar” O’Reilly consistently anticipating Col. Blake and later Col. Potter. They can barely open their mouths before Radar finishes their sentence by assuring them that whatever they are looking for is already done. Like Radar, great followers stay a step ahead of their boss by proactively asking: “If I were my boss what would I want next?” My 23- year -old sales assistant at MTV, Sheri Gottlieb was so good that within weeks 90% of the work that hit my in-box went straight to my out-box with only “Sheri, please handle” for instruction. Soon and without being asked, like Radar, she was intercepting most of my office work before it even hit my desk. Sheri, unsurprisingly, quickly rose from “lowly secretary” to vice president.

5) Great Followers are Great Communicators: If your boss ever has to ask for a status report, you are failing as a follower. Great leaders are great worriers. Great followers preempt worry by proactively communicating in writing. If you do not communicate your boss will naturally worry that you are hiding bad news. Besides, unbidden information is treated far more credibly than information demanded. Poor communicators consistently find themselves on the defensive and perpetually wondering why.

6) Great Followers are Goal Driven: Leaders are busy. The last thing they want to do is “supervise.” Great followers reason backwards: they use future goals to prioritize today’s “activity.” Poor followers reason forward: They react to their in-box and email in the forlorn hope that just staying busy will magically produce results somewhere “down the road.” Your boss is not paying you to “stay busy” or even to “work hard.” He is paying you to strategically deliver on clearly defined goals that materially impact the mission. This is true no matter where you are on the corporate ladder as my assistant Sheri repeatedly demonstrated.

7) Great Followers Show Don’t Tell: I am coaching a young MBA student. At our first meeting I began groping for a quote, and this young man quietly pulled out a neatly tabbed binder with everything I had ever written and quickly pulled out the quote. His preparation demonstrated seriousness far more convincingly than an impassioned speech ever could. I am now investing far more in him. Human beings are wired to value action and discount verbiage, use this trait to your advantage.

8) Great Followers Earn Trust: My number one goal upon taking a new job was getting my boss to relax. The sooner I earned his trust, the quicker he would spend his most valuable asset, time, worrying about something other than me. Louis Mobley said trust relies on promise and fulfillment. People who keep promises can be trusted. Those who don’t cannot. Great followers keep promises. It is critical, especially early in your relationship with your boss, that you deliver on every commitment no matter how trivial.

9) Great Followers Offer Solutions: Any damn fool can turn his problems into problems for his boss. Great followers solve problems. If they cannot they always offer their boss solutions along with the problem.

10) Great Followers are Compassionate: Often referred to as “managing your boss,” great followers are sympathetic to the enormous pressure that leaders must endure. For example, leaders may wait too long to make a change or fill a position. Then they spend months and many thousands of dollars recruiting while Rome burns around them. Once they fill the position they still spend sleepless nights haunted by the chance that they hired the wrong person. If they have, not only must they go through the agonizing process again, but answer to their own unsympathetic boss about their poor decision. Examples like this are the ordinary lot of leadership, and great followers not only empathize but look for ways to reassure their boss that at least one person understands his pain and can be counted on to alleviate it.

11) Great Followers are Loyal: If I could not, in clear conscience, back my boss to the hilt then it was time to change jobs or take an unpaid sabbatical. Great followers take pride in making their boss “look good.” Even if I disagreed in private, it was still my job to present a united front once the decision had been made. I never undermined my boss to curry favor with my own people or played politics at his expense. I only went over his head to let his superiors know how great he was, and I constantly looked for reasons to do just that.

As I hope you’ve noticed, many of the same traits I ascribe to great followers apply to great leaders. Great leaders not only acquire these traits as followers, but model them for their own subordinates. But most importantly their interchangeable nature makes my point: Just as the distinction between noble and serf is a thing of the past so are the distinctions between leaders and followers. Everybody got a boss and I was fortunate to have the privilege of avidly following a number of great teachers and business leaders like Jim Collins. And my efforts to become the best follower I could possibly be paid off handsomely when I finally found myself leading my own company… What do you think makes a great leader?

Understanding Someone with Adult ADHD and Quitting Medication

Published October 21, 2012 by Tabby

It’s amazing how many people unknowingly have friends, family, and/or colleagues with adult ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, etc. These unseen conditions do affect people and awareness would greatly benefit not only those with these conditions but also their loved ones. Maybe it would also lessen those who believe these conditions don’t really exist. (I’d invite them to spend a day with an adult ADHD sufferer, without their meds, in a small non-stimulating environment).

Part of having these conditions is facing the decision whether to medicate. I’m not a fan of taking medication or the belief many non-sufferers have that we take medication just to be taking a pill. While I do believe many are over-prescribed and some people do abuse them, but not everyone. It’s sometimes an amazing/unreadable concept to some that some people need medication to function in an every day life. I’m sure many people who need these medications would love to stop spending the money, stressing their liver and dealing with side effects, it’s just not plausible. Natural cures are great if they work, but they don’t for everyone. And for the Tom Cruises out there, exercise and vitamins are great regardless but don’t correct glitches in your brain.

A less favorable aspect of necessary medication is finding the right one. Since modern medical science doesn’t yet understand what causes ADHD, they are also unsure of why certain medications work and others do not. This means that often people must try multiple medications until the right one is discovered. It’s not fun being a human experiment while searching for the correct medication: there are vast unpleasant side effects. In addition, it often takes months or years to find the correct medication and dosage. And sometimes you have to judge if the long term effects from the medication are worth the payoff. Most of the time there is no choice.

One example for adult ADHD is Adderall. It is a controlled prescription form of meth, basically. It’s a stimulant. Adderall is highly addictive and abused (not just by people who need it). The side effects include dehydration, addiction, insomnia, lack of sexual desire, irritability, mood swings, heart palpitations, skin wounds, urinary tract infections, and more. Not everyone experiences these effects but they are pretty common. But for those who try Adderall in the quest for a normal existence and discover it is not for them, there is another problem: you can’t instantly quit taking it. “Cold turkey” stopping of the medication can cause lifelong seizures, death, and same withdrawal symptoms of a lifelong drug addict quitting heroin. They must slowly reduce their dosage until they can safely stop taking the medication. This withdrawal time is the hardest. The following is an article from a website for ADHD sufferers attempting to quit Adderall. Please keep this in mind if you or anyone you know is going through a withdrawal period-it’s not just for street drug addicts.

“How to Help a Friend Quit Adderall,” Quitting Adderall.com, http://quittingadderall.com/7-ways-loved-quitting-adderall/

Note: I’m going to switch gender pronouns back an forth. Most of this applies to guys and girls, friends and spouses.

1. Be the one person who understands why they’re quitting

For your friend, one of the hardest parts of quitting Adderall will be that everybody else will think he’s crazy. If he were quitting cigarettes or alcohol, all of his good friends would pat him on the back and say “Good job, Jimmy! Congrats on getting sober! We’re so proud of you!”
But that’s not what happens with Adderall.

On the contrary, most of his peers will act concerned and disapproving when he quits, and say things like “What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you getting your work done? Why are you sleeping all the time? Why are you so morose lately? Did you take your medicine today? You should take your medicine, because you’re pretty worthless without it. What do you mean you’re quitting?! It’s just a medicine. I mean, I take prozac. It’s not a big deal. Just take it.”

Think about what’s going on there. Think about how he hears those statements: He is trying to quit taking a drug, and all of his peers are directly or indirectly encouraging him to stay on the drugs. This makes quitting Adderall a very lonely struggle for your friend, who will constantly question his decision because it gets so little support from his peers.

He knows that to make everybody else happy, it would be easier just to stay on Adderall. But he’s at a point where he’s finally ready to start trying to make himself happy first. And for somebody like him, who cares very much about the approval of others, that’s a big step. Now, what you can do as his friend is be on his side when nobody else is.

Even if you cannot become convinced that quitting is the right thing for your friend to do, for his sake it will help if you at least understand his motives and encourage him to see them through.
If you’ve never taken Adderall, it might be a bit hard to fully understand why somebody would want to quit, but I’ll try to explain anyway…

Why most people quit Adderall

In the movie Neverending Story II, there’s an evil witch who gives the main character (Sebastian) a device that will grant him any wish he desires, at the expense of one of his childhood memories (one memory per wish granted).
Wish by wish, young Sebastian gains a power and loses his memories. By the end of the movie Sebastian is very powerful, with all his wishes granted, but he has forgotten everything that makes him who he is. Adderall has a similar effect on many people. This is why the number one reason people decide to quit Adderall is “To get back of a piece of myself that feels lost.”
By quitting Adderall, your friend is hoping that he will eventually get back some of those special parts of himself that he feels like he’s lost. Maybe it’s a passion (acting, writing, painting, making short films, etc.) that he doesn’t prioritize enough when he’s on Adderall. Maybe it’s his sense of humor. Or maybe it’s his willpower and self-discipline that he misses.

Pain is an important part of life. Pain tells you when you’re doing something stupid and wrong that you should stop doing. Adderall, in a way, is like an anesthetic for work-related pain. On Adderall you will never think “this work sucks”. You will never think “I don’t like this job.” And you will never think “Gee I really wish I was doing something I enjoyed.” At least, not to the extent sober people feel those sentiments.

Part of finding your place in this world is going through lots of work you don’t like doing to find work that you do like doing. Adderall blocks that process. So part of what your friend is doing is turning his pain sensors back on so he can step back on that path that will lead him (through discomfort) to a calling that suits him.

Whatever he’s lost, he’s hoping that by quitting Adderall he will get it back. And he’s counting on being able to feel pain again to point him in the right direction. He knows he’s going to be worthless for a while. He knows it’s going to be very hard. But he hopes that eventually with enough work he’ll be a stronger, more genuine person than he ever was before. And here’s the secret: he will be.

In time, he will be noticeably better, and his decision to quit Adderall will be seen in a more positive light by his peers, who didn’t realize what he was doing until it was done.
Your role, as his angel and friend, will be to swallow an ounce of faith and support his reasons for quitting before anybody else does. It’s a very courageous thing your friend is doing, and you can be his hero by seeing it in that light when nobody else does.

2. Understand that she doesn’t like being an unproductive slug all day

Your friend/significant other turned to Adderall in the first place because she has a deep desire to contribute and excel in all areas of her life, especially work. When she quits Adderall and suddenly loses her ability to produce, it will be very hard for her.

She has pressured herself into a very high standard of productivity, which Adderall helps her maintain even to exess. When she quits Adderall, she still has this high standard, but suddenly she can’t bring herself to meet it anymore, and the pressure of her sudden helplessness compared against the mountain of work she has invited on herself will crush her at first.

She’s the type of person who will always feel like she could have done more even when she’s producing twice as much as everybody else, and now she’s completely stripping herself of her ability to produce at all (and for the first time less than everybody else). It’s agonizing. And the guilt is overwhelming.

If you want to make an ex Adderall user reach for her pills, make her feel like you’re disappointed in her for not getting any work done. She wants desparately to get the work done and to do it very well, and she wants to earn your respect and make you proud. But right now, for this little period of her life, she can’t.

3. Point out positive changes when you see them

There are plenty of negative side effects that crop up when a person quits Adderall, but there are also some good, pleasant side effects as well. It will help to point out these positive changes when you notice them, to help show your friend that he’s making progress even if he may not be aware of it.

As you observed your friend over the course of his time on Adderall, you probably noticed many of the positive affects of the drug: He was more energetic, more confident, he seemed to be much more productive, he lost weight, etc.

And you probably noticed some undesirable quirks in his behavior too: Maybe his sleep cycle was erratic (binge/crash), he spoke too fast, he spent too much time on trivial details and sometimes had trouble completing projects because he got so wrapped up in them and ran out of time.

If you’re in a relationship with the person, there’s a whole slew of additional negative behaviors you might notice when they’re on Adderall. Maybe they don’t pay as much attention to you, don’t seem to need you as much, their sex drive is lower than you’d like it to be, they can’t have silly fun like they used to, they can’t relax when you just want to chill out and have fun, they’re always thinking about work, or they obsesses over too many things. Maybe he’s a little full of himself.

Often when a person quits Adderall, all the positive and negative changes the Adderall brought are completely turned on their head (reversed). If their sex drive went down on Adderall, it will probably go up when they quit. If they were full of themselves on Adderall, they will probably feel insecure and inferior when they quit.

You can pretty much go down the list of what they were like on Adderall, and expect the direct opposite behavior when they quit. This is why quitting Adderall is one of the biggest changes you can make in your life: it turns your world around, quite literally.

Many of the behavior changes you notice after they quit Adderall will be unpleasant and negative, for you and for them. But there will be a few things that are noticeably positive improvements. It’s important that you point these positive changes out to your friend when you see them, because it’s very hard for him to feel the good parts of quitting despite the bad (at first).

Positive changes to watch for:
Sense of humor coming back
Sex drive pleasantly increasing
Ability to chill out and relax more
Talking about/renewed interest in artistic & creative things like writing, painting, acting.
In general, watch for these: Humor, sex, silly fun, child-like creativity, love of being outdoors.
When you notice these positive changes, say something! It really helps.

4. Take any work off her plate that you can (at first)
When she first quits Adderall, it will be very hard for your friend to do anything besides lay in bed all day and deal with the withdrawals. When she does manage to crawl out of her dopamine-depleted coma, it will be a challenge for her just to make food, get dressed, and make it into work reasonably close to on-time.

Adderall is a drug that helps people work. So when it’s taken away, they’re left with what remains of their natural work muscles (willpower, self-discipline, etc.), which won’t amount to much after years depending on Adderall to get the job done. Think of it like somebody who’s been walking with bionic-assisted legs for years, and then the bionic attachments break and she has to try and walk on her shriveled, atrophied original muscles. It’s not pretty.

In the first months after she quits Adderall, your friend will be putting off and casting aside tasks as if she were the laziest person ever born. But it’s not laziness. She is acutely aware of every single task, and she wants to get them all done and make everyone proud, but she can’t figure out how to get through them without incurring so much stress and mental pain that she goes running back to her pill bottle. So she just shuts down.

To help, take whatever tasks you can off your friend’s plate. Reduce the stress of her workload. Take tasks in shear numbers, or leave her the easy tasks and you take the big, creative, heavy-lifting ones (note: here I mean mental heavy lifting). Give her time to be a slug and recover her chemicals for a month or two. The more you depressurize her to-do list, the less she will have to be anxious about, and ultimately the more she’ll be able to focus on her recovery.
Remember: She would do it for you.

5. Try not to throw big tasks at him, but do throw little tasks at him

Do you remember your last math class in school? Math is easy when you only have to worry about one variable, like “x”. It’s a little tricky when you start adding “y” and then it gets downright daunting when you have to worry about x, y, z, m, and lots of other factors…all of which have to be factored for and calculated with perfect arithmetic or the whole problem goes to hell.
This is why math teachers start out teaching single-variable problems. Then as the class moves through the chapters and the students get comfortable, the teacher starts increasing the number of variables and complications in each problem, until eventually you find yourself coasting easily through a problem at end of the semester that would have given you a panic attack if you’d seen it at the beginning.

Generally, this is the approach you should take with your friend the newly-sober Adderallic. Start him off on very simple problems with few variables, and work him up as he gets comfortable.
When he first quits Adderall, it will be the large, complex, multi-variable problems that are the most difficult for him (because his attention span, interest level, and patience will be 1/10th of what they were).

Trying to make your friend do a task that is too mentally demanding too early will be the equivalent of throwing a PhD-level math problem at a freshmen and telling him that he has to solve it right now or he will fail at life and everyone he cares about will hate him.

All that said, do throw tasks at him. He will need a little discomfort to keep his willpower and work ethic on the mend. Just don’t go too big too early, or it’ll break him.

Here are some tips:
Physical tasks (e.g., “clean the basement”) are more manageable than mental and emotional tasks (e.g., “fill out this application”)

In terms of your friend’s reactions to the work: Groaning and discomfort is fine, but watch for anxiety. You want to avoid causing him so much mental stress that he freaks out.
You goal here is not to push him and give him “tough love”. Your goal his to help him convince him that he is still capable of doing work, by giving him things he can digest.

6. Be a pleasant distraction for her

The one thing your friend is going to crave like crazy when she first quits Adderall is distractions. Something, anything she can use as an excuse not to face the horrible reality that she is now excruciatingly incompetent at all things productivity and work.

In the beginning, she will often trap herself between her sense of obligation to work and her inability to meet that obligation. You can offer her escape from this by jumping in and wisking her away to fun distractions. See, it’s hard for her to distract herself without feeling guilty like she’s procrastinating. But if you pull her away for something pleasant, she allows it though her guilt filter. Because you are an obligation. She has to keep your approval. So if she has to go ride roller coasters with you to keep your approval…that’s permissible in her mind.

It is in this way that you can give your dear friend a much-needed sense of break and enjoyment in her quitting Adderall struggle. Don’t pull her away if you see her actually making progress on something, but if she’s slumped on the couch looking like she wants to die, give her something better to do.

Additionally, most Adderall uses report a significantly increased desire to exercise after quitting Adderall. That’s something you can do together, which can be fun and beneficial for both of you.

7. When in doubt, just leave him alone and let him recover.

If you’re too much in their face, you become an obligation that stresses them. This is especially true of Introverts. Quitting Adderall is in every way a battle against the self. It is a very lonely war that few people are capable of fully understanding. Ultimately, you can help them in lots of ways, but they’re going to have to teach themselves how to live and work again without Adderall.
Most Adderall users are by nature approval addicts, who are hyper-sensitive to obligations that they feel are placed on them by others. This is why a largely hands-off approach can often work best (as a default approach) when dealing with a newly-sober Adderallic. Give them lots of time and space to feel free of others and obligations. Part of the quitting process will involve them creating, sometimes for the first time, a space in their life that is all their own. It is in that space that they will grow into the kind of person that doesn’t need Adderall anymore.

Oh What a Loss and Resulting Void: Goodbye to an Old Friend

Published October 11, 2012 by Tabby

Yesterday afternoon I lost my bearded dragon, Gimpy. I had had her since I was nineteen years old and she was about six or seven years old. I’m grieving similar to those who have lost a family member or close friend, because I have. For many of you, you may not know what a bearded dragon is or say, “big deal? It’s just a lizard. It’s not like it was a dog or something.” Gimpy was more than “just a lizard,” and this is why.

I got Gimpy for my nineteenth birthday from my now-ex boyfriend’s parents. We drove to a pet store in Shawnee, OK and I picked out the adorable five inch bearded dragon. I loved her instantly, with her inquisitive eyes. On the car ride home, I noticed she was very still in her too-small box. So I opened it and let her sit in my hand. She was calm and seemed to enjoy both being out of the box and looking at me. I noticed she was missing her back foot and part of her tail. It was an old wound, with no bleeding or sores. The pet store owner had said she wasn’t taken out of the cage with her mother in time and they tend to nip babies. I had a rough childhood too and could commiserate with her. I was asked if I wanted to take her back and exchange her and I felt that would have been like taking a baby back to the hospital after giving birth. Yeah, I was that attached and protective from just the car ride home.

At the time, I lived with the now-ex boyfriend, sharing his bedroom at his parents’ house. I held her and played with her every single day at multiple times. She loved to run on the bed and climb the blanket mountains I’d make her. Eventually, she became part of how I coped with stress and bad times. I’d simply pick her up and carry her around, which always made me feel better.

Another thing that hit me when I lost her was how much I’ve gone through since I was nineteen and that she was with me for all of it. I’m not saying I didn’t have family and friends to lean on, but I often don’t vocalize my feelings, and she was right there in every bedroom I lived in from then on. She was the one I held, snuggled with, and cried with. She saw me at some high points and some of the lowest in my life. She never talked back or told me how stupid I was being but she did sometimes give me the stank eye.

She saw me through three college degrees, often running around on the bed while I did homework. She’d then tire herself out and sleep in the bend of my elbow when she was small or against my neck as she grew. She saw me through five moves and always viewed new surroundings not with fear but curiosity. She saw me through the departure of my now-ex, planning a doomed marriage, and the long and torturous process of abandonment and divorce. She saw me pick myself up and move on my own. She saw me to the happier time in which I now reside. And now she’s gone.

 In a lot of ways she served as the last bridge between now and my nineteen year old self. She reminded me of how much I had survived through, in a good way. So full of personality, I always loved how she never wanted me to put her down. How she tolerated other people in my life (despite always giving them the stank eye) but always loved me most, unconditionally. I will always remember her strong character and the wonderful memories. But the best people, and bearded dragons, leave the biggest voids when they leave us. Goodbye, Gimpy.

Things to Never Ask or Tell a College Professor

Published October 5, 2012 by Tabby

Working as a college professor while attending college has opened my eyes to both sides of the roles/experiences of professor and student. To me, I tend to have a better understanding of my students because I can still relate to them and know what it is like going through classes. On the other hand, sometimes I catch myself almost attempting to take control when a discussion in a class I’m taking is lagging. Sometimes a double edged sword, but I love every minute of it.

While I can relate to them and understand what they are going through, sometimes I get caught off guard by s**t some students say. I’m excited that my brain-to-mouth filter works much better than in the past but instead of blurting out whatever my cynical and tactless brain comes up with, I have been rendered speechless with a blank stare at the student. (I’m trying to work on my poker face but so far have just been able to prevent a stank-eye) There are some things I’ve been told/asked or my colleagues have been that I could never imagine having the guts to ask or tell a professor. I’m sure a lot of it is that they don’t think before they ask or realize what it means to us but on the other hand, some of it comes from the self-entitled spoiled little special snowflakes.

This list is by no mean complete or encompassing everything college professors experience. It is also not meant to be an insult against all students as an “all students are stupid” rant. I really, really enjoy teaching and love my students. Yes, there are days I would like to throw a book at them, but for the most part, they are quite lovely. I see myself as their instructor, guidance, and cheerleader. I WANT them to succeed, and I see myself as teaching them how. I try to teach them not only a basic understanding of my field (history) but also skills to succeed in other classes and life in general.

Anyways, unlike the exhaustingly cheerful highly-caffeinated cheerleader, I have sore spots. This list covers quite a bit of them. The first ten are from the article “10 Questions You Should Never Ask Your Professor,” by Jill Rooney, Ph.D. and the rest are from me or other professors. Keep these in mind before you ask a professor a question and never forget you can always ask questions from other students!

1. “Did we do anything important when I was out?”

This is my least favorite question in the entire world. I have heard many answers to this from my colleagues, everything from patient explanations of the course content to “ask your classmates for their notes.” The smart ass part of me just wants to say, “No, we couldn’t possibly get on without you here and prayed for your safe return.” I just tell them to check the syllabus and get someone’s notes. A better way to ask is: “How can I get the material I missed when I was out?”

2. “Why do we have to learn this?”

(Insert fingernails on chalkboard sound here). *Shudder. When a student asks this, I mostly hear “This is stupid and I shouldn’t have to be here.” Especially since in all of my lectures, especially in a freshman class, I explain how it’s relevant to today and thus, why it’s important. I have yet to really come up with a professional and polite answer to this question. It’s mostly a brief stare and repeating why whatever I’m talking about is relevant to today or can translate into a life skill or “because it makes you into a well-rounded educated person.”

3“Do we need the book?”

Are you really asking this-or do you think we professors just randomly pick books off the shelf and assign them because we find it amusing to watch you read a book you don’t need? Of course you need the book. Sometimes you need it for actual use in class; sometimes you need it to read on your own as a supplement to the course content. A good rule of thumb is that if it is listed as required on the syllabus, you need it. If you have a financial difficulty with purchasing required textbooks, as many students do these days, talk privately with your professor, who can direct you to the appropriate resources.

4“How much work do we have to do in this class?”

This one is another temper point for me. I just want to immediate retort, “Get out.” As a college student by choice, you don’t have to do anything. But as you chose to take the course, you should be prepared to do the required amount of work, which is outlined on the syllabus. You can try to skate through it like some students, who only do the minimum amount of work, but that’s risky-and one thing I can guarantee you is that having to take the course all over again when you fail is really quite a lot of work. A better way to handle any concerns about the work load is to ask your professor for tips on how to handle the work load. We’re always more than happy to help out with such suggestions. And, at the end of the semester, if you have a 59.99 and I know you’ve purposely been doing the minimum, I’m not going to round up your grade because you don’t deserve it. Professors will help way more if you are actually trying and being a productive human being. (Thank you to a couple of science and math teachers for sympathy As).

5“When will final grades be posted?”

This was contributed by the folks over at Profology on Twitter, who added the related question, “can you email me my final grade?” This is an interesting one, because as a rule professors of course don’t mind sharing your grade with you–it’s our job! They are your grades and you are entitled to them. But there are certain things we cannot do, based on federal law-including e-mailing your grade or publicly posting them-because that violates student privacy laws. The real problem here is that you already know when your grades will be available because the syllabus usually explains that. This question is related to one highlighted as a no-no by Florida Gulf Coast University: “Do you have our grades yet?” The answer is always the same: “No, I don’t. I’ve been too busy eating bon-bons by the Jacuzzi to grade your papers. But I’m sure that Jeeves will be through with them forthwith.” Grading takes time!

6“How many footnotes/sources do I need?”

The answer to this one is also always the same: You need as many footnotes as you require to appropriately cite your sources and to support your argument. There is no other measure. I’m pretty sure you’ve been told this before.

7“Do we need to know this for the exam?”

Similar to the “why do we have to learn this?” question, this one is always a joy for professors to hear because it assumes that only the stuff that will show up on the exam is worth your time. Educator Gabriella Grossbeck (@ggrossbeck on Twitter), told me that she usually replies, “Where were you?” because the student is responsible for following course content and instructions. The answer I always give is “I don’t know,” because I never re-use exams and create new ones every semester. That’s also a useful answer to hold onto in your head, because a good exam answer brings in as much material as possible and demonstrates thoroughness.

8Do you have a stapler?

What am I, a walking office supply store? Being prepared for class is your responsibility, not mine. Also, stop asking to borrow my pen! Show respect for your class, your professor, and yourself by taking your responsibilities seriously. Besides, these are special teacher pens, and if I loan you my pen, I will lose all my professor powers, like Samson and his hair.

9“Can I leave early?/Is it OK if I go to my club meeting?”

Sure, you can do both. You can do anything you want because you chose to take this course and it is yours to do with as you wish: pass, fail, whatever. This question is much better asked as, “Will I fail the class if I don’t take it seriously and value my social life and extracurricular activities more?”  I think you already know the answer to that question.

10“Are you sure you that’s right?”

Yes. Yes, I am. I’m the professor. Unless you’ve gone to graduate school and have developed an expertise in this field since enrolling in the course, you would be advised to ask this question in a better way: “I’ve heard/read/been told by another professor something different from what you just said. Can you explain this a little more?” That gives us an opportunity to really delve into the issue and help you link together the material you may have learned in other courses, which helps create a general body of knowledge for you. Also, it’s not an insinuation of incompetence on our part. It’s an invitation to academic debate. We love that!

My additions

1. Asking anything you already know the answer to

I get this somewhat often. I’ll have the one student that is not only an overachiever (because that’s perfectly awesome) but an aspiring teacher’s pet. It doesn’t work in college the way it works in high school. I can tell when a student asks a question he/she already knows, just to be speaking in class or to appear smart or to be doing extra work. It doesn’t impress me and it just annoys me and the rest of your classmates. Yeah, they know when you’re doing it too.

2. Can’t you just give me an A?

This one was asked of me while passing out a study guide. I’m serious, and so was he. Again, my filter stopped the knee-jerk response of “get out.” You EARN grades. You (or your parents, scholarship foundation, government) are paying to BE there, not for the grade. And honestly, I get paid the same whether you pass or fail. It’s much more frustrating when I get asked this in a class with several other students that attend every class and put forth real effort. What does he think I’m going to say? “Sure! See these students that have been working their asses off all semester? I’m just going to throw them all under the bus and give you an A for gracing us with your presence once every three weeks because you’re just so special.” If this question ever occurs to you, you need to go away and really think about why you’re even in college in the first place.

3. Can I get an extension on this assignment? I’ve been really stressed lately.

Disclaimer: if there’s a serious, real emergency, such as an emergency room visit or death of close relative, yes I do consider extensions or assignment substitutions. Otherwise I take absolutely no late work whatsoever. You have deadlines in the real world (job) and you will here too. In addition, that means I have to do more work to grade your late work and get it posted instead of doing it with all of your classmates. No, not happening.

4. I didn’t have time to study for this test. I had a lot of math homework this week.

I got this statement written at the bottom of a test. I simply wrote back, “time management skills.” It’s college, you’re going to take multiple classes at once. If the workload is too much, don’t take so many courses. College is also a great place to learn multi-tasking. I will not shape my courses to what other professors are teaching. That’s your problem, not mine.

5. The student who never stops talking…ever.

This one isn’t really a specific question or statement but a common problem. I’ll have one student every semester that while a perfectly fine person and student, will constantly interrupt class with inane commentary. Most of the time they don’t realize they’re doing it and it’s hard to stop them without seeming rude. But it is the professor’s job to keep charge of the discussion and class time. By all means, participate and contribute to class, but is your statement relevant and provide information to the class? Also, keep your comments short and get to the point quickly. I think this annoys other students more than it does me. This person will always sit as close as possible and when they start speaking, I can see immediately see twenty sets of eyes roll. I’ve been in classes with these types of people and when the professors failed to keep the class moving forward, as soon as the interruption started, I’d start balancing my checkbook or something to keep from strangling them. (I’d like to thank a certain graduate from UCO who kept a certain person from interrupting my thesis defense because you were sure I would kill him/her. You’re a hero).

6. Asking me to explain what I just finished explaining

I understand that sometimes our minds wander, mine is no exception. It is one of my pet peeves to be interrupted by someone asking something I had just said because they weren’t paying attention. If your mind has wandered, ask a fellow student or wait until the end of class to ask.

7. What are we doing today?

Trying to find Narnia. As innocent as this question probably is, it’s still slightly grating. I outline in the syllabus the topic of discussion and chapters for every single class. Check the syllabus. It’s always in the syllabus.

Do you have questions you hate to be asked as a teacher or as a student?

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