Wednesday, December 14, 2011

So, I guess it's time for a more practical update (Of course, during finals week. Very timely.). It's been a lot of me trying to conceptualize what I've been going through, etc. And I suppose that is practical in one sense. But here is an entry that's a bit less abstract. Well, I guess words will always remain abstract -- that's the nature of trying to linguistically capture emotions and ideas. But here's my attempt.

Okay, maybe this will just end up being more of a ramble.

Yesterday, during my paper writing frenzy, I had a mini breakdown and I began wondering, "How the f*ck do people DO things? How do people get through life -- go to work, go to school, sleep and wake up on time, eat normally, throw on clothes without rethinking it 10 times, go to the bathroom the appropriate number of times?" You get the idea.

Well, I just wanted to make the reality of being in grad school more transparent. Because I think the image is that people go through college, go through grad school, as if it's the most natural thing. They shoot out three 20 page papers in one week during finals, go out to dinner happily with their classmates, read 184029584 pages in five days, always know the perfect question or comments to say during seminar, and on and on.

This is not me. And I suspect it's not most people. But on the surface, this is what it looks like. Even as an insider. I'm lucky if I can go a whole year without hospitalization (And actually, aside from partial, I haven't been back IP in a whole year! Which I'm quite proud of!) I guess I just wanted to write this entry, because for me, this is the part of the reason I have this blog after all. I want to reveal that being in academia is not a smooth ride. Sometimes I don't finish all 200 pages or reading, because I spent all day binging and purging. Some days, I don't go to class because my eyes are too swollen from crying all night and my arms are freshly covered in cuts. Other days, I'm late to teach my students because I had a late night, paralyzed by frightening hallucinations. And days like yesterday, I let myself be held captive by an overwhelming insecurity, and only managed to write 16 pages for a 20 page assignment.

I'll probably get a B (and we alllll know that a B in grad school is like DEATH). But you know? I tried. Honestly, I feel stupid and useless. I feel like everybody else is smarter than me, functions way more normally than me. But you know what? I gave it what I could. Maybe it wasn't 150% like I wish it was. In fact, it wasn't even 85%. But I have to remind myself that I have disabilities, and sometimes staying in school the whole semester is enough to be proud of. I'm trying to be positive about this.

Well, that was a long ramble, but I wanted to reveal a bit about what it's like to be in grad school with a mental disorder, or multiple disorders. I also wanted to say that it sucks sometimes, and I doubt myself endlessly. But, it CAN be done. You may not get straight As, you might not be able to read all 200 pages for all three seminars in one week, like everyone else, but you're there. I just wanted to make this all a bit more REAL. So, there ya go.


  1. can I just say that you freaking amaze me? I know that you got a B and all, but the fact that you are in grad school given what you go through in terms of mantal illness is just amazing.

    Maybe I will make some people mad by saying this, but I think it is harder to go to school with a mental illness disability than with a physical one (like a wheelchair). There are so many occomodations that can be made to help people with physical handicaps access education, but with mental illness the territory is less certain. And there is still the stigma. Like being afraid to ask for an extension on a paper because you are struggling with your illness (which is totally ok, except I dont know what the rules are in grad school). People accept a disability that they can see, but mental illness is more likely to be seen as lazyness or lack of discipline, or worse, attention seeking behavior.
    I dont know where I am going with this. But I did want to say that you have impressed me with your tenacity and willingness to go forward in spite of how difficult every day life can be.

  2. sometimes? I get up and put on my pants? And that's like, enough. Life demands a lot. All we can do is try.

  3. lisa, thanks so much. its really validating to hear those things. sometimes its just enough to know that other people can relate to what youre going through! :)

    erin, indeed. i pulled one of those the other day. woke up at 3 pm, brushed my teeth, turned the tv on, and laid in bed. sometimes, thats what the body/mind needs.