Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Weekend

So after a very stressful week with a heart-pounding event I did manage to live through, I ended up having a lovely weekend.  We decided that Saturday would be our celebration day because Sunday I just had to devote to grading (because I am so behind because I am sick and unable to do as much as I normally do, a slower grader than usual, and had to devote most of my attention to aforementioned heart-pounding event). Things felt really awful and claustrophobic there for a while, but then yesterday I focused on getting enough sleep, gardening, going out to a scrumptious meal we then got eat for leftovers tonight, and watched a much-beloved movie about sticking it to the man.

Even grading today and fighting my own tendency to think about the truly awful things going on in my department, I managed to have a good day.  Last week, you understand, every day I came home I felt completely terrible and worn out. I've been wondering if teaching isn't just too stressful -- too full of adrenal surges -- for me.  And then, I find it almost impossible to teach and then grade.  I just don't know how people do it.  I need a day of no teaching to grade, and this quarter, I teach four days a week.  I refuse to work every day, so that's one day down.  (I need that.  If I hadn't taken yesterday 100% off to the point of not checking email, I wouldn't be okay today, I'm sure.  I need to completely re-center.  I wish I could be more centered during the week though!)

Anyway, I feel more centered in my own life.  I think this was helped, ironically, by our cat going missing for a day and a half.  We were all worried, and worrying that I was going to find his remains at the intersection down the road helped put things in perspective.  (He's back.  He's fine.)  I wish I didn't think of my hellish department, with the Devil Chair and his Puppet Master, and the arguments I have to make very soon in order to get what I deserve right when I wake up.  That would be nice.  I hate the whole free rent in my head thing.  Forget it.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Poetry Update and Spirit Sickness

So I think Poetry Month was a resounding success.  While I didn't write a poem or a "poem" daily, I did think or work on something related to poetry every day in April and reaffirmed a commitment to it by the end to where I'm feeling more energized about it.

Unfortunately, that is just about the only thing I'm jazzed about, the only thing I want to do at all, except when I'm home and maybe gardening.  It was a hard week.  I have big stacks of grading that haven't gotten done because when I go home, I'm exhausted.  I can't pull a whole other shift of grading.  I need to rest.  Not that I go home and rest because we also have a home life.  Just getting through the day is difficult enough.  When I'm done for the day, I just want to lay my head down and go to sleep, not drive home and then pay attention and be active in home life.  I'm exhausted.  I really just want to go to bed for a day.  I dream about going to a hotel for a week and being left alone and sleeping an awful lot and eating nice room service and reading books.  An alternative to that might be an in-patient situation but I doubt it because I think the mentally ill typically don't receive quality treatment in this country, made all the more plain by today's dreadful vote for a "healthcare" bill that disenfranchises a number of people in my family because of pre-existing conditions, myself included (for multiple).  It's bullshit.  But I digress. 

I hate being sick, and I don't like being in my own head when I'm sick and hate myself like this, and I hate worrying others because I don't have a brain in my head.  I dream about going on short-term disability, but I won't.  But I'd like to.  Some days I feel good, like the medication is working, and I'm on the mend.  Other days I'm an idiot and my thinking is messed up or I forget something I am supposed to be responsible for -- in short, I fuck up in some way that feels epic.  I can't trust myself (not like I'm going to hurt myself or others, but like I'm just stupid and don't look around or think things through, like some part of me is just not there and that's true because I'm medicated right now and being medicated is not quite being your regular self), and that's really uncomfortable.  That's when you'd like to be able to stay in a nice safe space, like your home, preferably your bed.  I often think the real cure for me is to stay under the covers until I get good and sick of it and come out of my own accord.  But that is the problem of modern life; we can't do what we need to for our spirit.  And that's what depression is, or at least my depression is:  spirit sickness.  This depression is a big giant wakeup call, the one ironically I thought I wanted when I was listless and trying to figure out what I should do with myself:  you can't keep doing what you're doing.  We must make a change.  If only knowing that you're doing good in the world were enough to make you happy.  Damn.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Happy National Poetry Month!

I admit that it's probably not the smartest thing for a depressed and overworked person to decide to take on an intense challenge like NaPoWriMo.  Partly, that's my ornery nature that leads me to not be the sad kind of depression, but to have agitated depression, which I've been meaning to write a post about but have been grading instead. So here's the short version, which is probably a blessing: although I am sometimes just lethargic and/or sad or have no feeling at all, most of the time I am irritable, agitated, or just plain pissed off, sometimes actually screaming.  (I know, people who know me in real life are thinking -- well, how can we tell the difference between this and the way she is normally?  Yes, yes.  It turns out, it's an illness, not just general bitchiness.)  Basically, it's like this.  Those of you who know about how bad perimenopausal PMS is, where it turns into PMDD and you're sure every single thing in your life is veined with irremediable wrongness and rottedness to it -- from your marriage to your job to your child -- your fault, of course.  Everything is deeply deeply wrong.  I call these black moods (though I realize that sucks from a racial point of view and have been trying to come up with some better descriptor).  That's what agitated depression feels like all the time until you realize that you're the problem and then when you feel full of badness and craziness all all uncontrolled and loose inside you all at the same time, that's when you want most to cry and go to bed.

And instead of me being alternately bitchy and helpless, I am taking sertraline, which also might be giving me delusions of grandeur about how much energy I should have or maybe one day will have.  I definitely feel more productive and analytical, which is why I should focus on NaPoWriMo, because it's more difficult to get more creative and, if I am taking prescription drugs, I should at least get good things out of it like creativity.  Partly, though, this is from the example of JaneB over at Now, what was I doing? who has done NaNoWriMo so many times!  I don't know how she does it!  But I'm going to try to figure that out this month.  Anyway,  I figure if I end up writing a "poem" half the time I intend to and then half of those end up worth looking at again, then that's a ton of work, actually most of what I'd intended to do in a year.  I'll just start and see what happens. 

But now I am letting blogging get in the way of getting me to write a "poem" which I need to do before I get onto my syllabi for the next quarter.  Need to hop to!

And no, I won't be posting my "poems."  Just no. 

You're welcome.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Depression is. . .

being so stressed that your muscles all hurt when touched, and your shoulder are so tense they ache from nothing at all.

knowing that you're off-kilter and so you decide it's worth it to take extra time to carefully lay everything out, each class's folder and today's handouts and the reading in careful piles you can just pick up and take.  When you get to class, you realize the pile you picked up is the wrong one. 

even after the time you really did leave the burner on, though it didn't hurt anything, and you've tried to be super-careful most nights when you cook, you sit down and he says "the burner is on" and gets up to turn it off.  There's no question.  You did it again.

forgetting that you're preheating the oven to heat up a burrito and walking into the kitchen authentically surprised to see the burrito waiting there twice in ten minutes.

working plenty of hours this week (42 hours though I didn't factor in every email) but still insanely behind because you  And I can't push myself very hard either because just going forward at all is such a struggle and clearly I can blow a gasket because I am so close to gasket-blowing every time some jerk does something foolish on the highway so I just try to keep as even keeled as possible and ask others to step in where they can.  Poor Husband.

hating being sick. Hating being a burden and a source of worry.  Don't worry.  Don't hate me because I'm going a little crazy now.  I'm sorry. Every meeting I go to, every class I teach I just want to say look, I am so sorry.  You totally deserve better than this, but this is all I've got.  I know it's shite but I really am doing the very best that I can. I don't even want to talk about how I feel about my parenting just now.  Right now Spirited! is being parented by Yoda.  He's gone ape over Star Wars.

walking from your office through the hallway to the classroom realizing you could cry right now, you could just burst into tears right at this minute but you're not going to and you're just going to pull yourself together and take a deep breath and go teach your class.

choosing to treat yourself carefully so you don't get so flaming pissed that you're screaming your head off in your car or having a panic attack while driving in the snow.

Friday, March 10, 2017

I'm Depressed. How Are You?

So Bardiac has a post up just now about seeing a student in office hours who is missing a lot of class because of anxiety and depression.  And I found myself having a lot to say in the comment I was going to leave because -- get this -- I just today went to my doctor to get meds because I'm having a major depressive episode.  I found myself writing a comment that was really all about trying to explain what it feels like to have a major depressive episode to someone who either hasn't had one or has had one but copes well enough through it to not be a menace to herself or others.  (I say that Bardiac may be a coper because she spoke of how for so many people "just getting up and dragging themselves through the day is how they get by a lot of the time."  That is how depression feels, so I'm thinking she just was able to slug through it in ways that some of us may not be able to.  I don't know.)  Anyway, it became clear I have something to say on this subject.

Though I've felt low for a long time, until this point I wanted to avoid covering up my unhappiness with meds and tried to address it naturally through supplements and herbs. (Also perimenopause is kicking my ass, especially how it has amped up my PMS to the point I really do actually hate everything for a few days and am sure that every single thing in my life is poisoned.) That I went to go get anti-depressants is a measure of how bad things are just now.  Part of why I chose to take meds this time is desperation -- I can't do anything about the things making me unhappy if I have no energy and motivation to do anything but be pissy about my unhappy lot.  (Quite literally, I don't have the energy to catch up on my grading or to apply to job postings I've found that sound like much better jobs than my own.  Help!) Also to control the damage -- I'm so low now I can't quite keep myself from letting it leak out, either in grumpy comments (you should see me cuss out every other driver on the highway), or cursing, even in front of my child, or snapping at people, especially my child.  So while I do on a regular basis drag myself out of bed and through my day, I'm doing it incredibly poorly now and with such bad grace. A huge part of my ability to drag myself through my day at all has to do with habit and responsibility and maturity -- absolutely zero of it has to do with how I feel or my energy level.  I have a kid and a breadwinner responsibility; that, my coffee, and more supplements than you would believe get me out of bed in the morning.  That's powerful force to counter the heavy weight around my ankle that is depression.  But if I only had myself to care for, as I did when I started this blog, I'd probably be in bed all the time.  I've certainly documented in times past the struggles I have to get myself to do things on my own.

Because of the times that I really struggle to cope, I empathize with students who suffer from anxiety and depression.  I get it. 

Sorry to be Debbie Downer.  That's what I'm really good at, these days.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ten Years Later

This blog's ten-year anniversary came and went in December, not that I've been blogging for that long -- there are several years I didn't write a thing here.  I certainly remembered and thought of the anniversary last month, but December is a really busy time with the holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries all crowded up against each other.  So the blog, as usual, gets short shrift.

But I wanted to note something here just for the record.  Ten years ago, I started this blog when I went to the Big Academic Conference for interviews for the first time.   I couldn't see into the future and imagine where I'd be in ten years but I was interviewing for jobs.  Where am I?  I'm tenured, overworked, out of place.  I'm married with a son.  It feels funny to have worked so hard in grad school and now I wonder whether the academy is the best place for me, though I honestly can't think of a better place.  What's going on with me now besides moving my projects forward at the snail's pace that is my wont is that I've taken up a hobby, purely and totally for enjoyment.  No little voice in the back of my head saying maybe I could make extra money at this or change jobs or whatever.  I've finally, in my forties, learned the value of something that is 100% a hobby (unlike crochet, where you get something at the end of it and so can call it useful).  And that seems important, not just in terms of my own life, but also that in terms of what becomes important to a person who is post-tenure.  You know what's important?  Joy.  Delight.  Happy times.  (Not working all the time.)

I want to go dancing.  (Some things don't change.)

Friday, August 12, 2016

Slow Week the Last: Conclusion: Collaboration and Thinking Together

For our final week of discussion, in the Conclusion, the authors reflect on their own collaboration in writing the book, which they describe as putting Slow principles into practice, as well as the various merits of "thinking together." Fundamentally, inspired discussion and supportive collaboration builds and is built on trust. 

Since the co-authors had known each other for a long time, "we were more patient with each other and more compassionate when life events or work pressure intervened in a deadline. Recognizing that the understanding and care that we extended to each other brought out the best in us has made us more compassionate towards our students" (88).  They sandwich in that sentence the idea that this support, rather than some kind of organizational cure-all or fire-rimmed deadlines, brings out the best in themselves and each other.  (Something in me instinctively bristles at this, as if "the best in us" is made by more exacting standards rather than loving support -- and I'm not sure I like what I'm discovering about myself.)

This is the conclusion, after all, and so there's only time for one more definitional clarification: "Slow philosophy overall should not be interpreted, Petrini reminds us, as "the contrast . . . between slowness and speed -- slow versus fast -- but rather between attention and distraction; slowness, in fact, is not so much a question of duration as of an ability to distinguish and evaluate, with the propensity to cultivate pleasure, knowledge, and quality" . . . Slow professors act with purpose, cultivating emotional and intellectual resilience to the effects of the corporatization of higher education" (89-90).

So in the face of the fast currents coming at him or her, the Slow Professor aims to not get caught up in it and instead think deeply and purposefully.

This is our last week and so is a great time for summing up.  What have you gotten out of this reading and discussion?  Can you imagine going about your professorial life differently -- with a more conscious consideration of Slow principles?  How can you make time for timeless time?  What ideas do you have for teaching more Slow-ly?  How can a consideration of Slow principles help to nurture your research and scholarship?  How can you engage in building the kind of trust in your department or academic circle that will nurture your intellect and emotions?  How can you work to champion work-life balance for you and your colleagues?