an update


Welcome to any new readers I may have picked up with last week’s post on academia, graduate students, and the job market! Keep stopping by and commenting!

Those of you who have read this blog for a while have likely picked up on the fact that things haven’t been so great for the past few months. I’m not going into detail but progress in my program has ground to a complete halt and my completing the program is looking less likely than it ever has. I’m not seriously considering quitting (yet) because the problem isn’t really about my work. I returned from a subfield conference incredibly energized about my work and my field, only to be completely blindsided by the sudden and incredibly unjust reappearance of longstanding academic problems that quickly fed into my longstanding personal problems. And now I’m battling mental problems of the medical variety that I’m prone to but had held off for many years. Quitting means losing access to the only professional help I can afford, losing my living arrangements, and generally unsettling my life even more than it already is. Plus quitting means admitting I’ve failed to my family (which is really just one person) and seeing that my family is one source of incredible pain, having to slink back to it is a really undesirable result.

[Warning: this post may disappear if I think better of it in a few days.]

So I’m stuck. Leaving isn’t an option; staying’s incredibly difficult. I’m spending so much time in my apartment that my landlady sent me an email telling me that I should let her know if I’m laid up with the flu or something. I can’t work and my not working is going to create problems down the line. In addition to what it means for my job prospects next fall, round 2 of the incident that sparked all of this is coming soon because I haven’t made any progress.

I’d like to think that I can shake this off soon and get back to work. But my realistic side is telling me that it’s going to be incredibly difficult to come back from this. I am so angry about what has happened that when my mental issues stop being so crippling (as they should in 4-6 weeks, thanks to some pharmaceuticals), that anger will still be there. The way I have shut down in response to what’s happened is because of all my baggage and difficulties dealing with my baggage. But the situation that sparked the problem? That’s real, I’m not in the wrong, there’s no spinning it positively. I’ve been treated incredibly unfairly, I’m stuck in the situation, and it’s an incredibly toxic situation to be writing in.

So that’s where I am. It’s impossible to say how much it sucks. The only saving grace is that the same thing that’s keeping me from working, the need to keep my mind distracted enough not to focus on the emotions I can’t handle, is the same thing that’s keeping me from sinking into truly catastrophic mental distress. (Or at least that’s what my therapist keeps saying.) The mental quiet required to do work (or read anything) is a vacuum into which all the nastiness rushes in. And so I try to clear out my tivo backlog, watch a ton of sports, blow through my netflix queue, go to bed incredibly late, wake up incredibly late, and get out of bed even later. And when I have to have any dealings with people other than a very tiny group of close graduate school friends (b/c people not in graduate school wouldn’t understand why what’s happened is so bad), I slap on my happy face and fake my way through.


6 Responses to “an update”

  1. 1 The History Enthusiast

    I am sorry that things are still not going well 🙂 If you want to talk over email, you know where to find me.

    I hope that your therapist is giving you great advice and support. Hang in there!

  2. 2 The History Enthusiast

    That was supposed to be a frowny face above. But, here’s an intentional smiley face to cheer you up 🙂

  3. 3 Deborah

    How is it that grad school does this to so many smart, talented people?

    On the bright side, at least you’re not breaking out in hives! That was my body’s reaction about a year ago to stress involving anything related to my dissertation. I’d start think about everything I was supposed to have accomplished but hadn’t, and I would break out in hives. I’d have a meeting with someone Very Important, and, right before, I’d break out in hives. The hives stopped when I started smoking again.

    Good luck working through your issues. Whatever’s going on, things can’t suck this much forever (at least that’s what I’ve told myself). Something has to give sooner or later.

  4. I’m glad you’ve gotten some help (yah pharmaceuticals!) with the personal side of things. On the academic side, who is helping you? anyone? It’s important that you have someone who can make things happen on your side. Easier said than done but even a casual conversation–and by casual I mean “I’m not asking you to do anything I just need to get it off my chest”–discussion with the dean of graduate students could help. It’s hir job to make sure students are okay and if the problem isn’t you and I completely believe that it isn’t, zie might be able to give you some guidance if not directly help address the problem.

    Sorry for the unsolicited advice. I know what it’s like for your progress to grind to a halt and the toll that takes on your psyche. I am so sorry that’s happening to you. It isn’t your fault.

  5. 5 thefrogprincess

    Yeah Anastasia, that’s the part that’s really missing, the academic support. One of the contributing factors to my current position is that very few professors in my department know me as a person, not as a student. There are people who have written recommendations for me but I’m not comfortable going to them with this situation. There’s nobody who has my back in that sense. So yeah I’ve been thinking about going to one of the deans for a while now; I just need to accept that this is a situation I haven’t created and that I can’t fix and ask for some help.

  6. 6 Kristen Epps

    I really like Anastasia’s suggestion. I wonder if you have an ombudsperson who could also serve as a sounding board for your frustrations? I don’t know if that’s part of their job description but I know they’re required to keep things confidential.

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