Book chapter update
It feels like it’s been a while since we talked explicitly about the book chapter I am writing. A lot has happened since that first post, mostly edits and what not. Since the second round of edits was due yesterday (and I hit that goal, thank you!) it won’t hurt to do a bit of a refresh and remind everyone why I took on yet another thing on my long list of to-do tasks.
Another day in my life, a neuroengineering PhD candidate. For those just joining, this is my second year of blogging every single day to capture the struggles, victories, highs, and lows of the decision I made to get my PhD. Among other issues I have, my mental health is crap. I mean that’s probably putting it a bit bluntly, but I find that I need a very delicate balance in my life or I will find myself in a depression hole that I may or may not find my way out of. There’s no judgement here, so if you’re struggling with your mental health and think that maybe making the jump to a PhD wouldn’t be the best thing for you, I say it’s very person specific. I’m doing it because I’ve gotten good at maintaining my balance, not everyone is so lucky.
Which leads us into the topic of the day, my book chapter. Almost a full year ago I found a call for disabled scientists to tell their stories. The money wasn’t much, but I wasn’t doing it for money, I was doing it to share my story. I wrote an introductory paragraph explaining the story of how I went from a Marine to a PhD candidate and why it was never supposed to happen that way. Despite my feelings about my (awful) writing style, they selected me as one of the authors for the book.
If you read the first post when I broke the news, you’ll know I had mixed feelings about being selected. On one hand I want to tell my story, on the other I enjoy being semi-anonymous and in control of the writing I do. If I was so inclined I could remove every bit of my writing from my blog in one click of a mouse button. I wouldn’t and I won’t, but having that power makes me feel slightly safer about telling my story. In the case of a book chapter, I would no longer have control over the story, it would be its own living breathing thing in a whole book of other living breathing stories.
It’s not the first time I’ve done something out of my comfort zone, I do that regularly in fact. It’s just that none of those things are quite as… permanent. Additionally, this will be the first time I’ve told my story so succinctly. Normally when I talk about my past, my trauma, etc, I do it in bits and pieces. It feels strange having a polished piece of writing talking about it all. Needless to say, I’m feeling a lot of emotions about all of this and what it means.
I’m doing this to help others who have a story similar to mine. That’s the why, that’s the reason that keeps me going. I’ve read, edited, reread, and re-edited my words. I’ve cried, laughed, and felt a range of emotions in between all of this. The story is old now, I mean smartphones were barely a thing when I served in the Marines.
My story is a very familiar set of scars, but I still feel a bit of pain anytime I rub against them, even if it’s for a good cause. There’s a bit of nostalgia there too, you always wonder about the road not taken, if it would’ve been better. The choices that you made that led you to where you are today, how just a single one of those things not happening could’ve caused you to spiral down a totally different and unrelated path all together. Or maybe it’s just me.
Telling my story is also therapeutic in a sense. It reminds me that it’s okay to talk about it. Mental illness is so stigmatized sometimes it’s nice to say ‘fuck you I don’t care here’s my story anyway.’ There’s been a lot going on lately and I’ve survived my life by looking towards the promise of a better tomorrow. Looking back is unfamiliar and foreign, I rarely do it outside of therapy and while I’ve tried several times on this blog (not linking to any of them because it’s slightly embarrassing to me to call attention to it) it’s not something I particularly make an effort to do.
There will probably be several more rounds of edits prior to the final version being published, so there will be more visits to that time in my life undoubtedly. I don’t know if doing this will help me find relief from all of that, but I hope that others find relief knowing that they aren’t alone. Because no matter how bad things got, the worst feeling was thinking I was the only one going through it all.