March was a month of coming to terms with self negotiations…

March – a month in which I marched over my own needs

I negotiated for quite a while to sort the length of my temporary leave from academia.  I negotiated with my therapist, who generously wanted me to take an entire year off.  This in itself made me panic as I feared I would fall off the academic map in that year away, so for me I couldn’t even consider that long of a break. I negotiated with my three supervisors, two of whom told me that they took at least 4 years instead of the proposed 3 years to write their dissertations — a fact I certainly could have benefitted from at the beginning of my studies instead of in the midst of my breakdown! The worst negotiation was the one I held with myself.  I knew I needed to take some time off.  I knew that I had reached a point where I was completely unable to function even the simplest daily tasks, but I also knew that a year off in academia can mean death to an up and coming doctoral career.  On the back end of a year filled with conferences, and two published texts, taking a year off and being silent academically terrified me all the more than even my own physical demise.  After all this work, and all these years of research, taking a year off felt like academic suicide.  And no matter what anyone said, I was convinced I didn’t need it.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and a curse.  Now I know better.  But in February, I was convinced I could rejoin the academy, restart my studies, and jump right back into the game without missing a beat.  Delusional in many ways, I went back to uni in March and began by presenting my research at a monthly seminar hosted by my department.  Seminar slots are a gift — only 4 opportunities are given to post graduate researchers per year.  The rest of the presentation slots belong to well-established scholars who present us with the latest research and discussions in our field.  I knew by being assigned a presentation slot that my supervisors had a sense of confidence in my research — at least that my theories were ready to be shared with my department.  I knew this was the one opportunity I had to get some real critical feedback on my theories and ideas (which are quite radical by my department’s standards).  To me, it was an opportunity I couldn’t afford to pass up.  So after three months of rest, I furiously went back to work.

In hindsight, I am glad I made the seminar presentation because it led to a conference presentation recently that has placed my work securly in one of my three major academic fields. But I’m also well aware that I wasn’t ready to go back….not yet anyway.

March was hard.  I went from not working at all to once again pushing myself for really long days.  I had two weeks to write and polish my presentation.  It’s never enough time.  I did however manage to get it done, and I was, for the most part, glad I presented.  It did, however, take me a week to recover.

What did make me feel better while I was torturing myself about my academic absence was meeting with one of my colleagues from the department…he, too, was taking a leave from uni.  His father had passed away unexpectedly.  He found himself pretty much in the same emotional and physical state that I was in.  He made the same negotiations that I did, but he finally settled for six months away — no research.  it made me feel like I wasn’t alone in my solitude.  And somehow having someone there, in the same position, made me feel better.

Now, looking back, I wasn’t ready to return to uni in March…  Only now can I truly say that I should have negotiated a better deal with myself!  I hope you keep that in mind should you find yourself in the same position.  Uni can wait…your health is what matters.

Take care of yourself, and thanks for reading.

Peace,

*Alma*

 

Comments Posted

Comment by Rees posted on Mon, 14/06/2010 22:45

It sounds like you’ve made some incredible accomplishments despite the obvious difficulties – I’m amazed at how much you’ve done since we last heard from you – I’d have been impressed if you said you were feeling better and were going to return to your course next semester! I’m glad the experience made you a little wiser too, but I think your year’s blog would be great evidence against the stereotype that people suffering from depression are somehow lazy or underachieving. Nice one!