Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Session Two

This is another guest post from Dorothy Donald. 

We have a brief chat about what’s happened since the last session (a lot), how I’ve been doing lately (mixed), and what I hope to gain from therapy (I crack and tell him I just want to be more productive at work).

We sketch out a day in the life of Ideal Dorothy : When I’m on top form, at my best, what does my day look like? What do I want my day to look like? This isn’t very hard to fill out. The surprise comes when he asks me to rate, on a scale of one (achieving nothing at all) to ten (an Ideal Dorothy Day), where I am at the moment… and I’m not at zero. Or even three. I’m up around six or seven already. 

But what have you published lately? It’s all very well this warm fuzzy stuff about how you’re doing your best but where are you actually going to be in five years? Do you think you’re going to have any kind of career at this rate? Why aren’t you more like –

I am not doing badly. I could be doing more, but I’m working on that and it’s important to acknowledge the fact that I’ve been operating under a pretty heavy burden.

There are people who have it so much worse than you, you know. You don’t know anything about real hardship. You just crumple every time anything’s the slightest bit difficult. You’ll never –  

There are things that are working for me already, like breaking the day up into chunks that aren’t too big. Once I get going I tend to be ok – it’s the getting started that is challenging. We talk about some strategies that could help with that.

Sixty pounds an hour on making a list of nice things to say to yourself. You’re pathetic. Where is this going to get you in – 

We talk about the fact that the depressed mind is by its nature very critical. We talk about the fact that it’s hard to think about the long-term future when you’re depressed, but that I’m not bad at sketching out the next hour or two and there’s a lot that can be done that way.

Speaking of which, this hour is up and it’s time to go home. I take the scenic route – not entirely intentionally, I’ll admit, but it’s a beautiful evening.

Friday, 3 July 2015

I’m dying to tell you that I’m dying here

This is another guest post from Dorothy Donald. 

I’ve started to talk about it.

I mean, the mask was slipping anyway; I have some very astute friends and I can’t avoid them all indefinitely. But still, talking about how I feel with others – as opposed to the continual private rehearsal of my wish to disappear like some perverse mantra – feels like an important step.

Today I let myself cry on a friend’s shoulder. It was, I think, the best thing I could have done in the circumstances. I’d got into a spiral of anxiety and shame because I thought I was a lousy academic. Then, in an effort to make my problems go away, I’d started acting in a way that was at best childish and stupid and at worst morally reprehensible.* Then, of course, I got even more anxious and ashamed because now I had proof positive that I was a lousy academic. Rinse, repeat, and think of...

Fortunately, my friend had a few minutes. Even more fortunately, he is a truly excellent human being.

You’re not shit, he said. This work is hard. You do… know that?

Whoops. It hadn’t occurred to me to think of it that way.

Half an hour later I’m working reasonably effectively on my problem. Two hours later, it’s time to go home and I can do that without panic. I’m going to meet another friend for dinner.

This time I’m feeling even braver. Also, we’re not at work. I spare him the messy details but I do manage the words “I’ve been depressed for a while.” Damn, it’s a relief. There’s the warmth of sympathy without the distance of pity. There’s concern, but no scramble to fix me immediately. He is just there with me. I feel profoundly grateful not to be doing this alone. And even a little bit hopeful.

It is about six hours since I played my game.

*Another label for what I was doing is, of course, ‘human’.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Link: Life of the Mind Interrupted

We just came across the following remarkable series by Katie Rose Guest Pryal

There's really a lot of awesome stuff here, and it's well worth reading.  I haven't read all of it yet but here are some snippets from the first post...
But once she earned tenure, she felt a responsibility to speak on behalf of others who weren’t so lucky: “Finally, I realized that many are truly prevented from disclosing because they don’t have job security. Once I had tenure, I wasn’t. I thought that I had a responsibility to speak out for those who couldn’t.” 
“They hired you for your mind,” she [a different person] told me. “Why would you volunteer that there’s something wrong with it?” 
and from the most recent post as I write:
Given that new research shows that precarious academic employment itself is a risk factor for mental illness, it seems like a terrible idea for someone with a psychiatric disability to take a contingent teaching job. Too bad for seven years I never felt like I had a choice. 
Now that I’ve left academia behind, not only have those fears fallen away (well, for the most part), but I now can devote myself to writing about disability studies, my area of specialty that I rarely had time for before.
These snippets are not meant to be a balanced subset of what she is saying, just almost random illustrations of how well-worth reading the series is.

Yes, we're a year late to find this, but here it is now.