I am trying to be very open lately. Even more so than I have been here, which includes increased utilization of Instagram and Twitter. In that spirit I had an exchange with another graduate student in my cohort this week that I am going to share here; because finally typing some of it was a realization for me.
To preface, the cohort-mate asked how I was doing as an offset of another email-conversation a group of us were having, and a comment I made in that context. I replied by sharing with her the metaphor I posted here. She responded with:
“Damn, Britni. I think I just finished reading an extraordinarily articulate description of clinical depression. I’m not a doctor (I don’t even play one on TV), but I do have some background in this and that is what it sounds like.
I have thought about stepping down from my PhD and finishing off a masters instead. And, its still on the table, but I’m going to ride out my PhD for a bit longer, now that I’m taking baby-steps forward again. Honestly, I don’t let much of the usual grad-school stress even get to me much anymore. I’m doing the very best I can to stay afloat, and if the grad school has something to say about my progress, they can talk to all my doctors and my counselor about it. Thankfully my committee has been nothing short of spectacular, and hasn’t asked for anything other than try to take care of myself. If they weren’t so understanding and supportive I would have had to step out of the program a long time ago. Unfortunately, I am quite unable to physically, let alone financially, just take time to hang out with animals, grow things, and do yoga. And I’d probably find it rather dissatisfying. Not being able to preform how I desire and think I should be in academia contributed a massive amount to my depression. Thanks to counseling, I’m now a lot kinder on myself and more accepting of my abilities. But I do feel best when I am able to get something academic done. The other day I had a fantastic conversation on twitter with some instructional designers, edtech folk, & digital pedagogy folk, and that’s the best I’ve felt in a long while. My ability to participate in that sort of discussion, and especially to articulate what I want to say, is just few and far between these days. Twitter is actually helping me get back there a lot, though not at a PhD level, it’s more of a lateral step that I am happy to be taking, because its engaging more than I had in the previous year. And I crave that engagement. …I just also need to know when I’m hitting my threshold for mental and emotional involvement,not push myself over it anymore, and be satisfied with what I was able to do. Its a very fine balancing act. But I honestly don’t think I would be happy if I wasn’t in academia. Especially since I can’t physically do anything from my BS or MS – let alone mentally at this point. And being productive, and making life better for others, is such an essential part of who I am and who I need to be to be happy. It’s just doing to either take me a while to get back to where I was, or a lot of acceptance of the new me, and figuring out new ways to get where I need to be.
I’ve emphasized the parts that I consider revelations. I wasn’t putting much thought into them when I wrote them, I just wrote how I was feeling. And once I wrote it, it hit me how important it was to me. I’m sure I’ve known academia is important to me, after all you don’t stay in school as long as I am if it isn’t, but realizing being in academia is a critical component to how I see myself, my future, and where I wanted to be in the world hit me suddenly. And that’s not to say I want to be a professor – I’m still torn on what I want to do when I finish my doctorate, and I’m not worrying about it too much because who knows what will being going on at that time. But the tenets of academia and science speak to me. I want to always be seeking, questioning, constructing, discovering, and sharing. I want to help shape the world into a place I think is “better” for all of us who live in it. And honestly, I’ve been a scholar for so long, I don’t know if I know how to be anything else, and don’t want to be.