Saturday, 22 December 2018

Ghost Town

I start to feel on edge a couple of motorway junctions away. This is the town I grew up in, but it’s not home.

I’m here visiting my brother – he and I are what’s left of our family. We walk through the town centre, where the air is full of familiar accents and bad memories. He says I seem distracted, asks if I’m OK.

I’m remembering the smell of the market that isn’t here any more, the name of the shop where we got our school uniforms, the taste of cheap fishsticks. I’m thinking that this is the street we walked down pretty much every Saturday except the one when the bomb went off. How lucky we were not to be there. How lucky we were that the violence was all nonlethal and contained at home. I’m remembering that he’s dead now. We sold his house to a developer, and the developer gutted it to make it sellable. If we drive past it later, it will be different. Maybe there’s another young family in there now. Maybe the dad is violent. Maybe not.

And I’m angry that my mind is going to these places. I resent the space that these thoughts are taking up. I’m furious with myself – why haven’t I done a better job of moving on? I feel guilty for raking over this again when so many people have had it so much worse. I’m ashamed of allowing the past to run riot in my head. I’m embarrassed about startling at every unexpected noise.

Then, finally, I'm allowing it all to wash over me.

I say “Yeah. It’s just weird to be back.”

To Belong

Back to the psychiatrist this week, for a go at a formal diagnosis. I wasn’t expecting this to fix everything, of course. But I had hoped that it would help me make sense of my situation and maybe arm me with some coping strategies. (like Rebecca here)

So here are the diagnoses that were under consideration 6 weeks ago.

(c-)PTSD: Nah. I startle like nobody else I know and the smell of wet pavements gives me an overwhelming sense of dread for some reason but I don’t have the right kind of hyper-vigilance or intrusive memory.

Autism Spectrum Disorder: Inconclusive. I am autistic enough for a psychiatrist to say that I “clearly have autistic traits” and recommend me some self-help books on living with autism, but not enough to be referred to an autism specialist. I wish I were kidding. I really do.

Avoidant Personality Disorder: Yes, according to the psychiatrist. Though I wouldn’t call it that. I’d call it: “I’ve found a way to survive, and it involves plenty of alone time and not having romantic partnerships.” It doesn’t really matter which of us is right, though, because the recommendations for treatment are the same: talking therapy, or nothing.

Dysthymia: Ding ding ding! We have a winner! It wasn’t a big revelation. I’ve known for years that dysthymia seemed to fit, and I have known for ages that the treatments for dysthymia are very much like the treatments for depression, which I was already trying. But now that a psychiatrist has said it, it’s official, and it opens up some new drug treatment options that a GP wouldn’t have given me.

So that’s a start.

Friday, 21 December 2018

A Guide to the Academic Job Market, by Lyra Swann

Just a quick one to present this cheerful guide from Lyra Swann

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

My Dad loves me

This is another guest post by Lyra Swann. Her first post is here
My dad loves me. 

He emails me, he wants to know how I'm doing, he cares about me, he wants me to be happy. 

He offers me advice, he offers money, he reminds me that if I need help then I can call on him. He cries when I leave.

He jokes, he uses sarcasm and play-irritation. He feigns anger for laughs. I laugh along. It's less scary that way.

I can't tell when his mood switches. Perhaps he was always angry. Perhaps he never was. His irritation is genuine now.

I put my head down. I minimise my presence, just as I did as a child. Even the wrong look used to provoke a harsh word, a smack.

I've spent my life trying to please him. And he wants to see me, to have a relationship with me. He'll be very upset if I don’t. It seems like the easiest option.

My dad loves me.

Monday, 3 December 2018

December’s traditions: guest post by Dorothy Donald

This is another guest post by Dorothy Donald

I only went and got sick, didn’t I? I have been as sick as a metaphorical dog. For a week.

And I had been doing OK at the whole juggling-gyroscopes-on-a-unicycle act that is maintaining my mental health. Now my lovely sensible routine is all disastered up and I live in a cocoon of pain and nausea in which I do two things: 1) buy more Lucozade, and 2) tell people I’m sorry but I’m not going to do that thing I promised.

This happens every bloody winter. I think my immune system hibernates.

And this, now, is the dangerous time. When I’m not quite well enough to Do All The Things again but well enough to convince myself that I should. When I start beating myself up for being flaky. When I get overwhelmed with all the stuff I’ve let slide and it becomes too much. When something in me has shifted in a way I can’t explain and everything just feels that little bit harder. When the head-fog that comes with sickness hangs back, thickens, takes on another character. When I can’t quite envisage feeling OK again.

This, now, is the dangerous time. I’m calling in reinforcements.

Friday, 30 November 2018

This Year: Guest post by Dorothy Donald

This is another guest post by Dorothy Donald

Please list publications since last review and planned outputs
Here are a couple of papers that came out just before I… stopped working. My planned outputs are the same as last year’s.

Please list your outputs for REF2020
What? No I can’t I don’t I – what? OK. OK, breathe. I’ve already got this list somewhere and it’s been OK’d by someone above my pay grade. Copy, paste.

List current grant funding, applications made and applications planned
I have no grant funding. I haven’t made any applications this year. My plan is my plan my plan my plan is I can’t I can’t OK come back to this later

Discuss teaching activities
They’re the same as last year. Oh, except we were on strike a few months back, then I did teach-outs. That was good.

Discuss student feedback – highlight examples of excellence
Some of my students like my teaching, some of them don’t. I’m not excellent.

Discuss contributions to the Department, Faculty, University and the wider academic community
Oh Christ, what counts as a ‘contribution’? I hate this.

Discuss other activities and esteem
…esteem…esteem… sounds nice

List your main objectives for the next 12 months
Fuck, I DON’T KNOW. Stay alive? I mean I know last year I said some optimistic shit about promotion and world-leading research group but honestly I just want to do stuff that I am proud of and not feel scared and hurt all the time. Will that do? Of course it won’t.

Any other points for discussion
I’m so tired

<delete it all>
<start again>