I had been planning to write this for Blogging Against Disablism Day – which is the 1st of May each year – but, well, this is not the greatest of weeks for me. That said: you should definitely go and check out the posts. I have been working my way through them, and really enjoyed Goldfish’s Six ways disablism makes it harder to live with chronic pain; Disability Thoughts on Dispelling ADHD Misconceptions, and The Autistic Ambivert on Ableism with Disability Services – the latter two have been really helpful in thinking through some of my teaching stuff. In addition to BADD17, you should take a look at Crip The Vote UK – on medium and Facebook.
Right. On with the blog. I had my viva examination at the end of March, and it went well, and other than some minor corrections, I am now a Dr. It doesn’t seem quite real, and, frankly, the comedown has been fucking awful. I have depression anyway – it’s something I’ve lived with for the best part of at least twelve years – but this is one of the worst spells I’ve had in a while.
There is a lot of talk (and very little doing) about mental health and PhD students – and academics in general – although this talk tends to assume that the PhD is the first time the person has experienced depression, or that the depressed person is otherwise/previously healthy and non-disabled. This talk is not followed by systemic change, although lots of people have pointed out that mental health is complicated and made worse by the bloody awful systems we are living and working under; cuts to mental health services and increasing workplace precarity and pressures combine to make everything worse – and that doesn’t even start to mention the pressure of doing a PhD for individuals. But there is not much talk of the effect of finishing a PhD on mental health – although some talk on twitter has led me to understand that even when the exam is successful, there is a period of lowness; Pat Thomson’s Patter blog on the post PhD slump is an excellent overview.
But. In the immediate aftermath of my viva, the stress and energy output combined to result in an inevitable massive flare – one that I haven’t fully recovered from, given that I’ve also been attending conferences, invigilating, marking exams, teaching, and hosting people coming to stay. This hasn’t helped my mental state one iota, but has at least given me something to do, in addition to the corrections. For me, the problem is less about not having anything to do. but about having too much to do, not enough rest, and not enough time or energy to do the things I actually enjoy doing. I am exhausted – and thus while I am aware of all the various tasks I need to get on with (updating my publication planner; postdoc and job applications; writing papers; corrections; screaming into the void) I have very little interest in getting on with those tasks. I’m barely managing to get through the admin for work and other life stuff (the impeccably timed laptop death, going to the dentist and the optician, cooking, laundry), and this just seems like too bloody much.
At the same time, I feel I shouldn’t stop – I feel that if I stop now, if I take a break, I will lose momentum and also time from the critical post-PhD getting-a-real-academic job period. I don’t have a postdoc lined up – I don’t even know if my current job will still be here in October, thanks to (among other things) the ongoing drive to limit the amount of international student visas. It is … really not a great time.
I don’t have any helpful hints at this stage. My current approach is to keep plugging along, in the hope that I’ll come across a break soon (if nothing else, I’ll stop teaching at the end of the month, until July) – and that I’ll run out of crises to deal with. I am hoping that the stress will die down with teaching coming to an end, which while it won’t help with the long-term, will help with the short-term overwhelmed feeling.