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Posts tagged “Mental health

Mental health in academia

Five years, that’s the average time it takes to finish your PhD. Depending on who you are and how you think, that may be a blink of an eye or forever. I signed away four years of my life early on so five years and frankly the commitments leading up to it didn’t feel like that long at all. In a lot of ways getting a PhD is a lifetime of work and not long at all. I’ve hit the half way point roughly and I can see why so many people drop out of the program. It’s a lot.

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Another approaching deadline!

Well it’s going to be down to the wire this week. It’s good to know we’re keeping the theme, if you’ve been following along for awhile you already know it’s always down to the wire. This week is particularly challenging because I have competing interests for the time I have. There’s only 24 hours in a day, so there’s only so much work that can get done. I would prefer to not do it at the last minute, but here we are… again.

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Cracks in the support system

Family, friends, relationships, these are just a few things that provide people with a safety net. How many people, if they lost their job, would be able to rely on family for support? Surely not everyone, but a good portion of people have others to help them if they were in need. Hell, here in the US we’ve made it almost necessary to rely on the kindness of others to crowd fund for healthcare needs. Like it or not, people need people, well most do anyway…

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Caution: under pressure

For a third week in a row I’ve been instructed by my main-PI to give our lab virtual presentations on the work I’ve been doing. It’s been a point of stress now for almost a full month and doesn’t seem to be letting up any time soon. After every meeting I get a list of things I need to do before the following meeting and this time was no different, so today I guess we’re going to take a look at what exactly is next on my to-do list.

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Great expectations

What did you want to be when you grew up? Sometimes the question ends in hilarity, a dinosaur, a unicorn, or maybe some other type of animal. Sometimes it leads to dreams of a sci-fi future, deep space traveller, Mars colonist, maybe a superhero. Whatever the answer is, they all have something in common. No one dreams of being average, but the average exists because so many people fall into it. Most of us have our dreams die as the reality of our existence becomes clear. I say fuck that, dream big until your last breath, why not?

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On the stories we tell

It’s been a busy week, there was so much to do that I was worried it wasn’t going to all get done, but here we are! Things got done, mental health was prioritized, and I figure it’s a good time to talk about words. Or rather the stories they form, it’s a complex topic and this is really more for me than anything, a friendly reminder that I really enjoy writing. After all, while this blog is meant to help others, it’s also a message in a bottle to my future self, a reminder that I was really here and actually did the work. An ever growing time capsule of my thoughts if you will.

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The tightrope of mental health

My mental health is like walking on a tightrope, one slip and I’m done. Getting back up could take years for someone like me. The truth is, things are hard on the best of days. Getting out of bed, shaving, cutting my hair at regular intervals, things that would come easy to some require sheer force of will to accomplish. All the small choices through the day eat away at what little energy I have until I’m drained before breakfast. Yet here I am, pushing forward. It’s days like today remind me that for all the progress I’ve made, it’s still just a tightrope I walk.

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Not cool Robert Frost!

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…” starts Frost in a poem that most people are at least familiar with, but typically is misnamed. The poem is typically identified as, “The Road Less Traveled”. This makes sense because the poem talks about the thought process behind why he chose the road less traveled and that it was worth it. That’s not the name of the poem though.

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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.

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Time management as a student

AHHHHH! There’s so much going on right now my head feels like it’s going to explode. Still, I am hopeful that today is the day that I check a few of those things off my list. Let me just say, the more I have to remember the more stressed out I get, mostly because I’m afraid I’ll forget something. The solution is simple, don’t try to remember anything, but that is problematic… right?

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Overloading in education

Get your PhD they said! It will be worth it they said. You’ll have a good time they said! They certainly say a lot don’t they? Well I say things shouldn’t be so freaking hard. I get that getting your PhD requires work and frankly, it should require work, I mean it’s a freaking PhD! That said, it shouldn’t be a four to six year gauntlet of torture to see how many times you break down mentally and physically. It doesn’t build character, or better PhD’s, but it is the system we work in.

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How do I relax?

Yes, once again I am trying to force myself to do nothing useful. Or rather to do useful things for myself instead of for others. My mental health has run ragged since the pandemic hit and it only got worse as the year progressed. Since winter time is particularly difficult for me to deal, I plan on some decompression time. I’ve talked about it before, but what’s the point of blogging daily if I can’t talk about it again?

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Winter woodworking

Gluing up the frame for the vanity, it should be dry at this point.

It’s the day after Christmas for me and blah! The holidays are an excuse to eat like garbage and let me tell you I feel it. Yesterday I did absolutely nothing above what I needed to do. Basically no work, school, home, or otherwise. It was nice, but I get antsy so today I’m planning to do some work on a project I started over the summer.

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Happy Holidays!

If you read my blog, it’s no secret I celebrate a non-religious Christmas, but no matter what you celebrate I hope you and your loved ones have a happy holiday season. While the pandemic means that things may look different for a lot of us, we shouldn’t need a holiday to remind us to be kind and love one another. The holiday season may be a good time to remember that lesson, but it doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate any time of the year. When this is all over we can mourn the loss of loved ones and celebrate being able to be close once again properly. For now, stay safe, stay vigilant, and hopefully the new year will bring some good changes.


A Video Game Christmas

Twas the day before Christmas and all through the house, the computer could be heard along with the clicking of a mouse. Sure it’s a cheesy way to start today’s post, but have you seen the rest of the blog? Without all the traditional holiday festivities due to COVID, I’m making a moderately sized dinner tomorrow. Since I don’t need to do a whole lot of prep, I’m free to find other activities for the day.

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The pandemic, holidays, and your mental health

When was the last time you thought about your own mental health? I mean really thought about how you’re doing right now, not the typical, “Huh, I think things are going to hell, but I’ll worry about it later” kind of thinking about things. Maybe it’s just me, but this time of year is hard to begin with, add to that the fact that we’re almost a full year into the pandemic and I would think this time of year would be overwhelming for the majority of people.

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Time off!

Today was the last experiment that I’ll be doing for the next couple of weeks and since classes are over it’s time to kick my feet up and relax. Okay, not really. There are still some odds and ends that I will probably be working on while I’m “taking a break,” but overall I’m excited to not have things I NEED to do. I’ll probably be doing some house stuff too, but hey at least its a change.

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The art of doing nothing!

That’s right kids, it’s time to let my hair down and relax! Time to change out of my fancy sweatpants into the causal ones. We’re going all out and I’m moving from the computer next to the couch to the dammmmn couch! I’m going from bare foot to bare foot, I’m talking comfy shirt to pajama shirt, the whole works! Okay so maybe the comfy lifestyle in a pandemic makes taking a break a little less obvious, but it’s still worth it!

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A mental health day

Today the fatigue of the past few weeks has finally caught up to me. With the adrenaline rush that came to a head from the presentation I did yesterday wearing off, I feel exhausted. So today I am taking some time to recharge and rethink what the next few months will look like. This is me taking a mental health day, but let’s talk about the events leading up to today and what the plan is, at least for today.

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How to fail giving a presentation

Today is the big day! The day where I showcase the stuff I’ve done. It’s a bit anticlimactic to be honest because I haven’t had time to do a full analysis, just a very general overview. It was COVID you see, we shut down for a few months there so I didn’t get any data collected. When we finally got started again I had weeks to do the analysis, not months. Needless to say it’s not good.

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In need of a break

Well that’s the post. Okay fine I’ll elaborate. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, if I’m honest it’s been a busy couple of months! Between all the writing, data collection, surgery, data analysis, code writing, etc, I haven’t had a chance to breathe! Maybe that’s why I feel dead, I haven’t had a moment to collect my thoughts.

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Disability and Education

Per the VA, I am 100% totally and permanently disabled. I wasn’t always given that designation, I had to fight for it, go through years (yes, years and in fact almost a decade) of medical tests and several diagnoses before they finally acknowledged it. Thinking about how hard it was to get to this point, reminded me of an important issue, disability and education. The system isn’t accessible, but don’t worry that’s by design.

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Please don’t thank me for my service

I swear I didn't kill anyone by the incredibly talented Lora Zombie.
I swear I didn't kill anyone by the incredibly talented Lora Zombie.
Art by the amazing Lora Zombie. (two days in a row, because I love her art)

Yesterday was veterans day, the day before that was the Marine Corps birthday. I purposefully was going to ignore both, but an interaction on twitter the other day made me realize that I should at least touch on the subject. My feelings surrounding my service have always been complicated, but why not talk about it?

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Why do we lack a safety net?

Art by the incredibly talented Lora Zombie

Ever have a day where you just don’t want to do anything, but need to do basically everything? Today is one of those days. Most of the time when the feeling hits I have at least a buffer that I can use to relax and not have to worry, but unfortunately that’s not the case this time. Why the hell we built a society like this is beyond me, but here we are.

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On anxiety

If you’re finding yourself in the high anxiety club, welcome! I’ve been a member since well before the pandemic. I’m sorry, but I’ve got some bad news for you. We are constantly being bombarded with reasons why we should be highly efficient and constantly producing something. That’s how we end up with articles claiming that we can turn anxiety into a super power. Which are complete garbage and are written by people who’ve obviously never lived with chronic anxiety.

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I’m writing a book chapter!

Well talk about spoilers am I right? The title gives away the surprise for sure, but we can talk details since that’s probably why you’re even reading this. I get to write a book chapter, as in a actual published book you could get at the library, book chapter. Not something technical either, something more personal. Don’t worry I’ll explain.

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Today is a bad day

The day hasn’t even started yet, but it’s a bad day. No I’m not ripping off a children’s book with a similar, if not more hyperbolic name, it’s seriously going to be a bad day. You may be wondering how I know, well this time of the year is always rough for me. A lot of bad things happened that I don’t have the space, mental capacity, or time to talk about. Today is a bad day.

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War and (hunger) games Part 3

Well I just started book three and thought it would be fitting to have a third talk about war and Hunger Games (Part 1, Part 2). To be honest, this post wasn’t going to exist. I’ve shared my suicide attempts, my depression, my anxiety, and all the seemingly taboo bits of myself. Today I’m sharing something that’s hard even for me to talk about. In a lot of ways dreams are very personal. I don’t know about dreams, but I can tell you about nightmares. If you’re squeamish, this is your warning to turn away now.

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War and (hunger) games Part 2

Obviously I’ve had more thoughts since yesterday’s post. With the fourth book just being released I’m giving the hunger games series a reread so I can refresh my memory before diving into the new addition. Sure it’s a prequel, but reading in published order never hurt anyone. Others have had the same thought obviously and yesterday’s post was inspired, in part, by someone’s take on the books. Now that I have had some time to think about it, let’s talk about the Hunger Games.

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War and (hunger) games

The first time someone asked me if I killed anyone I was taken by surprise. It’s a deeply intimate question, but a question that some people seem to ask so flippantly. It’s a taboo, even in my small military circle of friends. One that I don’t talk about and one that we will certainly not be talking about today. I’m reading, or rather rereading, the Hunger Games trilogy and it made me think about the first time I read it.

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Distractions, distractions

Comic by theAwkwardYeti

Why people think that we could be MORE productive in a pandemic is beyond me. I can barely get myself out of bed most mornings when there ISN’T a pandemic killing ~1200 people a day. I mean how high does that number need to be before you too are less productive my fellow compassionate human?

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On being exceptional

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time then you know I’ve had a hard life. A very, very, hard life. The thing that keeps me going isn’t money, it’s not the chance for fame, or for people to remember me when I’m gone. The thing that keeps me from very literally killing myself is the chance to help people. That’s a selfish goal, but everything that drives us at its core is a selfish thing.

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The end

I fully and completely wanted to die. I like starting stories of my life off that way so you set your expectations low and your pity high. I wanted to die and I tried to kill myself the best way I could think of, obviously it didn’t take. Today is the end of my 365 days of academia project and I feel like looking back, way back. If you feel like reading a super depressing tale, then this is for you!

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Day 364: The lazy goals

An old photo, but one that I think came out nice.

Awhile back I made some goals for myself. They weren’t your normal everyday kind of go get em’ goals, they were what I call lazy goals. That’s right as a full grown adult I reserve the right to have lazy goals. I even check them off on a list, seriously. You should too, it really does help remind you to take a break.

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Day 355: Nostalgia for the unsentimental

Memories

One of the oldest photos I still have, it seemed appropriate for the post today.

To say I had a whirlwind of a life would be an understatement. Until my mid-twenties I moved at minimum once every two years. Not just moved across town, as in moved states. To be fair, as a kid it was bouncing between a few states. It wasn’t until adulthood that I started moving further away. Oddly enough, it wasn’t by choice, life just seemed to get in the way of staying in one place long enough to settle in.

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Day 344: In which we are reminded I’m not that smart

Depression

It will pass, it always does, but for now I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. I don’t enjoy the feeling of being average, or more than likely below average. It means I have to do twice the work for half the result. I see genuine greatness and know that no matter how hard I try, that will always be out of reach for me. What do you do when you want something so bad you would die to get it and you know you will never reach your goal?

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Day 338: Feeling stuck, again

feeling stuck

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I feel stuck. With the pandemic going on and the protests (Which are still happening!) I don’t feel like there has been any forward movement in anything I’ve been involved with. I hate feeling like this, it’s so frustrating especially when I feel like I’m drowning in work to be done.

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Day 322: Stuck

hamster wheel

Ever feel like you’re just going around in circles like a hamster in a wheel? I’ve been working on about a million different things and I just can’t seem to get them off my plate. The work just keeps going and it’s got me somewhat down. Maybe I just need a day off or something.

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Day 319: The (dis)information age

misinformation

Look around, we’re drowning in information. It’s an overload, we literally were not made to absorb this much information all at once. News stories bombard us with new bits of it. Social media is full of it. Ads promise you forbidden knowledge with this one weird trick. It’s no surprise it’s hard to tell what’s real.

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Day 318: The why.

parts

With everything going on it’s been tough to write about just one topic. When I started 365 days, I started it with the intention of highlighting my struggles and trials through one full year of my PhD with the idea that I may (or may not) keep going for the duration of my PhD process. Then COVID hit, Black lives matter protests took off (finally), and I had the realization that I, like most people, am more than just my studies.

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Day 317: Mental health and you

neural symphony

I scream it loudly from the mountain tops, I suffer all the fucking time from mental health issues. I do it because staying silent doesn’t keep me from feeling them and it does nothing for others who are suffering. Yes, it’s embarrassing to talk about it because it feels like a taboo, or something you’re making up, but that’s why we need to talk about it and why you need to keep track of your own mental health.

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Day 277: 5 tips to survive the apocalypse

Person in gas mask and full PPE holding a globe

Person in gas mask and full PPE holding a globe

The world is on fire right now. We’re literally living in a real life horror movie. Depending on your proclivity for survival you are stuck almost exclusively inside your home. Yet, everyone on the internet, your PI, and maybe even colleagues seem to tell you the same thing, you can now be more productive! Yes, we are at home almost exclusively and more and more people are suggesting to use this extra time to be more productive. Well fuck that, instead here are my five tips to help you survive all this.

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Day 276: Survivor Bias

Mom

This is my mother with me as a baby. She wrote notes on the backs of the few photos I have. It’s surreal seeing her handwriting, but it sounds like she really wanted to be a mom. I will always regret not getting the chance to know her. She may still be alive, I just don’t know and apparently no one else does either.

I have suffered more than most. I like talking about it, especially mental illness because keeping it to myself helps no one and hurts a lot of people who think they are alone. Today I will attempt to do something I am not known for, I will concisely tell a short version of my life. I will then tell you how I succeeded despite the odds. I will tell you that I struggle every damn day, but that I made it. Then I will tell you, you probably won’t and that breaks my fucking heart.

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Day 260: The thing about endings

The end

…and thus our mighty hero slay the beast and rode off into the sunset to live happily ever after. But why? Have you ever really thought about the way some stories choose their endings? Our hero goes through live altering and extremely daunting challenges only to brush it off like he caught the wrong bus. Pardon me, but what the actual fuck?

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Day 139: My cat cannot lay down right…

hikari

Huh, maybe it isn’t big enough for her to fit? No, she’s just a big weirdo, keep reading…

Well today is another day of painting the house. Like I mentioned this has been an ongoing project since I moved last year, let me just say painting takes longer than you think it will. In any case, with all the stress of possible war, I need a way to relax or at least something else to focus on. In that regard I thought I would share one of my fuzzy daughters.

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Day 135: A decade in review

robot

With everyone doing a review of what happened in the past decade, I thought it would be good to look back and cover the things I’ve done over the years. Is it a little self serving? Maybe, but then again it is my blog, so why not? Here’s my decade in review.

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Day 124: On the importance of time off

Overworked

When I left the military, I threw myself into work. I was offered — and I took — all the overtime I could get. If I stayed busy, I didn’t have to think about anything else and at the time, it is what I wanted. I didn’t want to have to think about anything else. It was an unhealthy and unsustainable lifestyle, one I don’t necessarily regret, just one I had to learn from.

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Day 107: It’s an old friend

drowning being pulled underwater by dark tentacles

drowning being pulled underwater by dark tentacles

TW: Suicidal ideation
I’m having a hard time at the moment. It’s been building and I think it would be a good idea to talk about it before it gets bad. If you aren’t in a good headspace to read this, then you should probably turn away now. Otherwise, let’s get to it.

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Day 103: A day off…

relaxing

I’ve got a lot going on, but today is a day off. It’s important to take time for yourself so when you need to do the work, you actually do the work. I’m sure we’ve all felt that way, where you force yourself to do something and spend 4+ hours doing something that you could do in less than an hour. Sometimes you need a break.

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Day 95: Housework day

Pokemon procrastination

 

Pokemon procrastination

If only it was super effective!!!!!!

So far things have been non-stop and today is no exception. I have a lot of housework to do and balancing that work with my school work (all while still trying to find time to relax some) is difficult. Nevertheless today is housework day (mostly).

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