mental illness · personal · Uncategorized

dissertating while depressed

I keep trying to finish start a new draft of my introduction for my dissertation. I have words on the page, but I don’t like them. So I’m trying to rework them. I know exactly what I want to say. But somehow I haven’t said it yet. So I know this has something to do with my mental health issues. Oddly enough, stress actually causes a recurrence in depression and anxiety. Even more strange, the extreme release of stress that came from completing my comprehensive exams actually caused a recurrence in depression and anxiety, too. See, that’s how depression and anxiety work: good things and bad things can trigger it. There’s just no telling what will happen.

Yoga practice has helped me feel better. Reaching out to friends and engaging in my social network also helps.

Ultimately, though, I just need to write. And grade. And apply for jobs.

People often like to say “Things will get better” or “Everything will be okay” or “You just have to get through this one more thing.” I’ve decided that I’m going to reject all of those thoughts and take a much more practical look at things, which, for me, is actually also much more helpful and also much more freeing than forced optimism.

  1. “Things will get better.” Things will not get better. Some things will get better, yes. A lot of things, though, will just stay the same, or even get worse. Yes, I will finish graduate school. Yes, I will land a job somewhere. Yes, I will have more financial stability. (fingers crossed) However, things will also get more challenging. I will have to move. I will have to acclimate myself to a new department, new city, new state. I will have to continue to juggle grading and research, teaching and scholarly work, personal and professional life. I will continue to cope with my depression and anxiety my entire life. I will have relapses, and I will have periods where I am balanced, content, even joyful. The world’s inhabitants will still be at war.  People will be homeless, starving, frightened, cruel, kind, compassionate. People will be in love, and in hate. Our resources will continue to be depleted, our animals hunted to extinction, our planet abused. And people will continue to try to save the animals, look for alternative resources, and find ways to heal our planet. Some things will get better. Some things will get worse. Some things will just stay the same. Expecting things to get better and then finding that they don’t is just a way to set myself up for disappointment. So, things will not get better. They will just be.
  2. “Everything will be okay.”  Things are not okay right now. That’s really what matters. Actually focusing on the here and now is much more effective for me than thinking about some nebulous future where “everything will be fine.” In my life, there are very, very short periods where everything has been okay. So few and so short are they, that I often have difficulty believing they ever happened. Yet, this phrase “everything will be okay” most frequently comes to my lips, and others’ lips, when our loved ones are struggling. It can be infuriating. It can be discouraging. If things have never been okay for someone, this is a phrase that is difficult to believe in. I’ve stopped telling myself things will be okay. They just are, and the state of things is what I have to deal with, whether it’s okay or not. (or better. sometimes things are better than okay. it’s easier to take joy in them when I haven’t been expecting or waiting for them).
  3. “You just have to get through this one thing”  And another, and another, and another thing after that. Life is a series of happenings that we can’t always plan for. Serendipitous events happen, yes, but just as often life’s surprises are not pleasant. Each time I convince myself that a hurdle is “the one thing” I have to get through, the only reaction I can muster when another hurdle is waiting is dismay. So instead of “I have to get through one more thing” my new mantra is just “I have to get through.” That’s the best option available. Just get through. One hurdle or a hundred.


I’ve been retraining my mind to avoid thinking in these platitudes, so that I can focus more on the experiences and life I have now, instead of wishing it away for the time that things will be better. Because things really won’t be better, unless we focus on what we have now and what we can do to guarantee that things will be better.

2 thoughts on “dissertating while depressed

  1. I’ve been meditating on similar issues and am finding this quote from NCIS: LA helpful ” Problems only appear when you run around trying to find a solution. You can’t force it you have to let it flow. More being less doing.” Sam NCIS LA

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s