Update 18 Dec 2015. Dan is going to blog about his recovery at roughrecovery.com. Please do read and follow his progress there. And great blog title, by the way!
The following is a cross post of a beautiful post - at his request - by Dan Rough. Dan is a PhD student in Computer Science at St Andrews University in Scotland. To read more of his writings please visit his blog, PhD (please help Daniel).
I don't write much. Any writing I do is purely for others (Facebook messages, Christmas cards, love letters to Nigella Lawson, the like). So I really didn't really expect to be writing this, and yet, it's been a long time coming.
I don't know who'll read it, if anyone, but it feels important to me to get it out of my head, and onto paper. Well, the monitor, whatever. For my own good as much as anyone else's, but with a small hope that someone else will identify.
I'm now on a temporary leave of absence from my PhD, currently scheduled for 3 months but extendible as needs be. It's not been an easy decision, and even now my mind's a bit all over the place, but the more I think about it the more certain it becomes.
Prior to the PhD I had recovered from a struggle with anorexia. Somehow, through the strength and support of everyone around me, I made a full recovery within a year and was back to a healthy weight and mindset.
Since beginning, these past couple of years have seen me in and out of relapsing almost constantly. After returning from a great conference in the US just over a month ago, my weight's plummeted again through the stress of travel, presenting my research to the pros of the field, returning and trying to catch up on work, figuring out where I'm going with the research question, and above all trying to shun the demons telling me that I'm totally incapable of doing it.
The PhD isn't the root cause of the disorder, but right now, attempting to recover from this nadir while also trying to stay above board with research are two conflicting goals. My ill health means that I can't focus properly, which means work falls behind, which causes additional stress and subsequent ill-health. It's a Catch-22 that needs to be broken.
Everyone told me so, but I pressed on regardless, convinced that I was coping. In fact, the PhD ended up being a distraction; an excuse for not eating properly, for being reclusive, and for generally encouraging all my bad ED behaviours.
I've been blessed to have the full support of family, supervisor, friends, doctor and Student Services. They've reassured me throughout the whole process that this is the right decision; that taking time off to focus on physical and mental recovery from anorexia is necessary. It's got to the point that health can't take a back seat any more.
It's not a failing to admit that I need help.
Success isn't two letters at the start of my name; it's two fingers to the demons trying to take it all away from me, and two hands on the reins to take control of my life again