succumbing to peer pressure

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Another mental health day

I was talking to AWB the other day about one of her friends who is having a tough time adjusting to life after recovering from a non-trivial physical ailment. This friend used to be an athlete, and I was saying that I wondered if part of the trouble was the athletic background - feeling betrayed by a body you once trusted. Since my stress and anxiety manifests itself in such wildly physical ways, that's how I feel - like I used to have this body that I knew really well and could rely on, and now I never know when it's going to go haywire. And the thing is, I may talk about good days and bad days, but here I am, 17 months out, and, frankly, I still feel broken. I don't know how to get back to feeling un-broken. Many of us, with mental health problems, talk about how you're never 'cured' you just have longer and longer stretches of time when you're not thinking about your particular issue. So I don't know if it's even attainable, to get back to un-broken. But I'd like to get back to trusting myself.

So what brought this on? Scheduling for spring semester. My advisor wants me to take a class on spatial statistics, and I want to take the class - it's being taught by a prof I really like, and it covers material that I both 'should' know (in a professional sense) and want to know (in a dorky, curious sense). would be the first serious class since the qualifying exam. It would include weekly homework assignments that require deriving equations with Greek letters. And for months after the exam I just lost all those abilities - I couldn't bring myself to think about math or read journal articles or anything. Sure, some of that was certainly just burn out, but some of it was also this sense of being broken. And since I still feel that way, I still feel like I can't trust myself to be able to sit down every week and work through it. I've gotten back to where I can think about math, to where my research is interesting and motivating again, to where sitting down and thinking about a problem for which I don't know the answer doesn't immediately freak me out. And I don't feel like I can afford to lose that again. I'd rather hang on to my ability to work on my dissertation, and pass up a class, than risk it. But maybe it's a growth opportunity? I can't be scared of classes + work for the rest of my life, even if I am mostly done being a student.


Anonymous heebie-geebie said...

Can you audit the class? Or take it pass/fail? Just to formally couch it in the setting of "I'm taking this for the material's sake, and there's no performance attached."

8:19 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

I really want to audit the class, and I think now that's (hopefully) what I'll end up doing. My advisor is against it, which is sort of reasonable, since it's true that typically if you're auditing a class you may have good intentions but you're probably not going to do as much work or learn as much as if it were for a grade. But I think my mental health is a good justification for needing to drop the performance measure part of the class, and I think I'm going to just be honest with her about that. I've already spoken to the prof about it, and admitted in rather vague terms why I was torn about taking his class, and he suggested I audit, so I know he's cool with it. (He emphasized, "You've got to take care of yourself.")

This is a new place for me, admitting to non-friends that I'm having trouble, but so far so good.

8:31 AM  
Anonymous heebie_geebie said...

Yeah, and it *is* true that you might slack halfway through the semester and not learn as much as you would if you were taking it for a grade.

But your time and mental health are finite resources. This class, mid-semester, may be the responsible place to cut back. Auditting sets up the structure ahead of time that allows you to cut back when you need to, and that is a reasonable way to take care of yourself.

Which I know you know. But I like to be repetitive like that. :)

12:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree. Audit. We're at the point now when classes just encourage us to learn what we can on our own but may not push ourselves to otherwise. You have nothing left to prove in terms of classes. And as for admitting you're not always okay--I've stopped believing anyone is. All those things I used to observe in others and secretly think "how sad"...well, I'm starting to discover all those tendencies within myself. You're doing wonderfully, dahling.

11:02 PM  

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