Tuesday, 18 March 2014

[LINK] Academia Is Killing My Friends


Gathering anonymous stories of issues in academia — including harassment and mental health.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Decisions, decisions, decisions

It's been almost two months since my last post. I did make the switch to Tegretol and am now completely off the Depakote. I would say the transition has been successful. No strange side effects. No major setbacks. Moreover, my mood has been fairly consistent.

Since taking a medical withdrawal, I kept in touch with my advisor from the University. In mid March, I will be coordinating with faculty and my doctors to get my documentation together for the readmission process. A couple months ago, the thought to return was scary and brought much stress. In order to sort my thoughts out on returning I took up a suggestion of a previous therapist to create a CBT grid listing the disadvantages and advantages of going back to my PhD versus not returning. I won't reproduce the whole list but this was kind of the gist:

Advantages of returning to my PhD:

  • Tuition covered plus stipend 
  • Support from doctor, therapist and program
  • Many opportunities I wouldn't otherwise have
  • Passionate about the field of study
  • Job opportunities
  • The possibility to travel and do research
  • Strong program and responsive and dedicated faculty

Disadvantages of returning:

  • PhD programs are high stress and have high expectations, which could be a strain on my health
  • Worry that I'm unprepared and/or made a bad first impression
  • Might have to go back on a higher dose of medications or even make a medication change
  • My current support won't be there
After writing up the list, I didn't look at it for sometime. Lately though, I've been reading and rereading it daily. Whereas there is a variety of advantages to going back, the core of the disadvantages centers around my health. I have never ever felt like my emotional dysregulation disabled me. It never felt like a crutch. Or something which held me back. But it's pretty obvious from looking at my list that my health concerns are a factor in whether or not I return to my PhD. 

It's crazy to think what this list might look like had I not had these health issues. But then again, I wouldn't have taken a medical withdrawal if it wasn't for my health. I could wonder what life would be like if it were only a little different but I don't think that kind of thinking would help my current situation much. For now, I'm clinging to my list. And taking it day by day.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

The three difficulties; and self-esteem

I went out with friends tonight, mid-conference, to a pub I like here.

About three beers down, the conversation turned to mental health, and coping strategies, and related subjects. I started talking about my issues in the past, and present, and how I am now in the habit of consciously reminding myself that whatever my internal commentary track is telling me might not be the ground truth.

At this point, a (buddhist) good friend of mine interrupted me and told me about the Slogans of Lojong, and specifically about this one:

Train in the three difficulties
The first difficulty is to even see a neurosis for what it is. The second is to be able to deal with the neurosis, and the third is to deal permanently with the neurosis
(paraphrased from my friend's explanation)
He pointed out that my even being able to recognize my mood spirals for what they were, and able to try to tell myself to temper my trust in my intuitions based on my impression of my depression talking over my more sensible thoughts was already achieving the first of the Three Difficulties, and for him an ability well worth respect.

It is very helpful, at times, to be reminded that as far as I may feel I have yet to travel to some sort of sensible, workable, harmonious end-state in my relationship to my depression; where I am now is significantly further along than where I started.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Researcher Development assistance


The Guardian writes about mental health support system in universities for PhD students and academics; and the culture they need to overcome just to even reach the academics they could help.