Japanese Bowls

I’m apologise for just posting videos this week but my mom just sent me this and it moved me to tears so I wanted to share.

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4 Psychological Terms Used Incorrectly

Sorry I’ve had no time to write in the past 2 weeks. New post coming this weekend. But until then, if you do nothing else today then watch this video:

4 Psychological Terms Used Incorrectly

 

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No “Culture of Acceptance” of Mental Health Problems in Academia

“A PhD is not a 9-to-5 job. It’ll take over your life. Become an obsession. You’ll eat, sleep, and drink it.”

These were just some of the words of encouragement given to me by various professors and postdoctoral students during the first month of my PhD.

Not long ago, there was a great article in the Guardian (link here) claiming that there is a “culture of acceptance” around mental illness in academia. However, the “culture of acceptance” is not of mental health problems itself but rather the lifestyle leading up to them.

Students and professors alike brag about working long hours and getting too little sleep. It’s almost like an academic one-upmanship to see who can work the hardest before we finally crack. But if you ask us how we are doing, we’ll just smile and say “Glorious, as always!” no matter how shitty things really are. (There’s actually a guy in my department who says that and part of me wants to turn to him and say, “no one is always glorious.”)

Excuse the cliché, but mental illness really is the elephant in the room. We all know it’s there but even if that elephant is sitting on us, crushing us under its weight, we’re afraid to speak up for fear of being judged.

What we need in academia is to develop a true “culture of acceptance” around mental illness. One in which it is OK to talk about mental health before it becomes a problem.  But how? This is an honest question, something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. If you have any ideas or experiences related to attitudes towards mental health/illness at university, comments are most welcome :)

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Writing About Mental Illness

I never planned on writing about mental illness. In fact, when I started keeping a blog I was determined to not write about mental illness- especially my own. That was done. Over. In the past.

However, I slowly realised that it would never be done or over or in the past. Although my illness does not define me, my illness (and perhaps more importantly my recovery) has made me who I am and shaped how I experience the world. It’s why I cry after a great night out with my coursemates and laugh when I get caught in the rain.

Yet its the one thing I cannot talk about with others. And even if I can, I often struggle to find the right words and become frustrated if (or when) they don’t understand. But how can I expect them to?

And so I write. Not because I think my experience is unique, but because it isn’t. Not because I think I have all the answers, but because I’m still grappling with my own questions. Not because I want to become an world-famous blogger, but because I just want to feel less alone.

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Identity

For many of us, the most dangerous point in our illness is when it becomes our identity. When we can’t imaging our lives or ourselves without it.

No matter how many times doctors and therapists try to separate us from our illness by telling us that it’s a ‘brain disorder,’ we still feel as if it is this dark but integral part of ourselves without which we’d be but a shell. Or was that just me?

I don’t know when or how that started to change for me, but I know why. I’ve been lucky enough to have a few people in my life who stubbornly refuse to accept my illness as my identity, no matter how fundamentally and irreversibly f***ed up I think I am. They’re the people that see me when I can’t stand to look at myself. I owe the world to those people because now, just every once in a while, I can see myself through their eyes.

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Through the Fog

I didn’t believe my supervisor when he said that the first month(s) of a PhD are like driving through fog. Or rather, I believed that might be true for some people but that if I planned everything just right, I could somehow navigate my way around it.

Now I feel as if I am lost in a dense cloud of uncertainty, insecurity, and anxiety. Every day I spend my days scouring journal articles, hoping to find some clue as to where I am and which direction I should go. But it’s not easy. Each article seems to provide multiple often conflicting directions.

However, I am ever so slightly comforted by the fact that this is entirely normal and that I am probably handling it better than many of my so-called “healthy” colleagues without a mental health condition. I do yoga every day, eat regular meals and snacks, talk with family and friends, and avoid using alcohol to placate my anxiety. So although I feel a little lost right now, I’m okay with that. Eventually I’ll make it through the fog.

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Recovery is a lonely road

He’s spent the last 2 years working with indigenous tribes in South America. She’s spent the last 7 years living in Nigeria doing some sort of humanitarian work. I’ve….umm…spent the last 5 years in and out of intensive therapy until I finally got my shit together?

I’ve almost never felt more out of place than I did today at my scholarship awards reception. It seemed as if everyone there had done something incredible except for me. Actually that’s not true. I have done something incredible. It’s just that I can’t tell anyone about it…

Recovery is a lonely road.

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