Welcome to 100 Blogs: The Voices of Our Authors

We are excited to welcome readers to the 100th Voices of Academia blog! When we started out, we could not have anticipated reaching 100 blogs or creating such a vibrant, diverse and supportive #AcademicMentalHealth community. Along with many other accounts/organisations such as @OpenAcademics, @DragonflyMH, @ThePhDPlace and @ThinkAcademia (to mention just a few!), we are incredibly proud to be part of the movement toward creating a mentally healthier academia for all.  

At this point in time, we realise that some readers may be wondering about the future of Voices of Academia and whether it has served its purpose. Why should we continue publishing blog submissions? Is there really a need to keep sharing stories after reaching such a milestone? We argue that the answer is “yes”. As mentioned in our blog to celebrate two years of Voices of Academia, both research and anecdotal evidence indicate that stress and mental illness remain major issues of concern in higher education settings. For example, recent articles in both the popular press and academic journals have highlighted the unhappy experiences of many PhD students as well as Early Career Academics, and stories of faculty burnout are common. Yet we know people are often reluctant to discuss such issues, especially experiences of mental illness, in higher education settings. We believe it is through sharing our lived experiences that we can connect with others, learn lessons and coping strategies, and help to reduce the stigma about mental illness and related issues in the ivory tower.  Indeed, feedback from our readers tells us that reading the blogs has helped them feel less alone and, in some cases, inspired them to reach out for help. It is these stories that encourage us to keep going.  

What will we do moving forward? While we still hope to publish submissions in future, there are considerable costs associated with running the blog. We have an active fundraiser and we would welcome any contribution, large or small, to help ensure the future of Voices of Academia. Although our team of volunteers is entirely unpaid, we would like to continue paying authors for their work and the emotional labour associated with disclosing their lived experiences. Any donations will also help to cover the costs of maintaining the website and future fundraising efforts. At the moment, we are still far from our fundraising goal, so if you would like to support us, we would be extremely grateful!

Instead of writing a full blog post this week, we thought instead we would highlight the mental health stories of our 100 bloggers to date, highlighting a small, powerful section of each of their blogs, and hopefully encourage you to read them in full.

#1 – Why your voice matters, Marissa Kate Edwards and Zoe Ayres, @AcademicVoices

“Ultimately, we believe that it is through sharing our stories that we can find ways to promote mental health in higher education, and work towards creating a culture where wellness is acknowledged as a critical part of being a successful academic.”

#2 -The Pressure to Change the World, Nat Rodrigues Lopes, @NatRodLopes1

“When it gets too much (and, inevitably, it does), I find myself asking: why? Why the need to do all these things? What are you trying to prove? Who are you trying to impress? Why do you need the validation?”

#3 – Anxiety and depression: my abusive love affair with alcohol, Dan Lester, @Polymer_RTP

“What followed was a few months of crippling depression and developing an unhealthy relationship with alcohol on a different continent. I can’t remember this period of my life too well for various reasons, but I estimate I was only eating 1 or 2 meals a week and drinking 10-15 pints a day. It was my only way to cope with the situation I was in.” 

#4 – Grief and a PhD: A personal journey, Jasmine Schipp, @JasmineSchipp

“Grief is not a linear journey of improvement, moving neatly through the five stages. It comes in waves (a cliché I heard a lot). I found anniversaries and birthdays especially hard, and it was helpful to have a plan for approaching these days. I had to learn to be kinder and gentler with myself.” 

#5 – Pulled too thin, Olga Vvenskaya, @earlgrey_addict

“I actually do not remember myself not pulling my hair. The first time I remember thinking about it was when I was around 4 years old in a summer camp. Apparently, the stress of not being at home during the whole summer was too much for me to handle without pulling my hair.”

#6 – Suffering is not my standard, Ioana Weber

“The more I tore into my energy reserves with long workdays, the more my perception of my research started to change. As it turns out, lab procedures that were once fun started to feel tedious and unmanageable, the finicky ones like nerve-wracking exercises, and setbacks I would have normally taken in stride started to seem insurmountable.”

#7 – When Panic Attacks, Karen Tang, @KarenTang_

“All my brain could process was the erratic pounding of my heart. One heartbeat later, I remember a tissue box appeared in my hands as tears streamed down my cheeks. In the next heartbeat, I remember trying to verbally express that I was having difficulty breathing, but I was unable to form a coherent sentence.”

#8 – PMDD and me, Katie Love, @love_Kitkat

“I was driving on the motorway – fast, in torrential rain, crying my eyes out. I don’t remember why. But I do remember feeling the pull of desire to veer into the metal central reservation, knowing it would probably kill me. I managed to fight it and calm down. I called the doctor the next day.”

#9 – Finding my confidence, Anthony Lucio, @anthonyjlucio

“In graduate school, I honestly always thought that once I defended my thesis and was awarded my PhD, that some light bulb of knowledge would switch on in my brain and I would feel as smart as everyone else around me. In hindsight, I suspect I was able to use that justification as a means to shield myself from facing the fact that I ultimately lacked confidence in myself.”

#10 – The power of connection, Victor See, @astroVictorSee

“Human beings are social creatures. In our hunter-gatherer days, having a community meant that we were safer from wild animals or rival tribes and could pool resources and effort. Although animal attacks are not exactly a concern for us in modern times, those instincts to seek connection and build community remain strong.”

#11 – The impact of mental health on friendship, Adriana Bankston, @AdrianaBankston

“Looking back, I suspect he probably knew that I was depressed before I did, and he did not let it define me. He also could tell that I did not have the capacity to focus on self-care, so he tried to incentivize that by encouraging me to focus on myself, and praising me whenever I successfully achieved that, no matter how small it was.”

#12 – Today is a bad day, Kelly Jowett, @kelly_jowett

“Ostensibly it would not seem to be so: the sun is shining, I have a safe and lovely home, a supportive partner, and I love my work. Everything is fine—but I am not. I am sitting in the garden, trying to compress the rising panic, breathing slow and deep to ebb away the tears building behind my eyes, and the tightening of my throat.”

#13 – Fighting Uncertainty: Lessons Learned from Lockdown, Maddy Bleasdale, @maddy_bleasdale

“The challenges of academia are not new and many are deeply ingrained, but some aspects have been pulled into sharp focus during the course of this pandemic. COVID-19 has shown us all that uncertainty and insecurity can have a huge impact on our mental health and wellbeing. We have the chance to reflect on what we want to change in academia and the actions we can take to reduce some of the uncertainty in our lives.”

#14 – Culture Shock, Tahira Anwar, @Dr_Tahira_Anwar

“I soon realized that “isolation” was a common feature also in the supervision of PhD students. Students in Finland had a degree of freedom and independence I had never seen before; they were expected to fully lead and make their own project work, mostly by themselves with minimum contact time.”

#15 – Why so shocked? I’m neurodivergent not unintelligent, Linda Corcoran, @lindaCCor

“‘You did really good on that test, didn’t you?’. A voice of surprise, shock, perhaps even disbelief coming from a university lecturer who is aware that I have a learning disability. I’d like to say that it was an isolated incident in my life, but it’s something I’ve become accustomed to, especially since I was diagnosed with dyslexia, ADHD, and autistic-like traits in my late teenage years.”

#16 – Confronting the culture of overwork: Less is more, Brittany Uhlorn, @BrittanyUhlorn

“Only worked 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. today? Don’t expect to get tenure any time soon. This dangerous and pervasive narrative, fuelled by a combination of impostor syndrome and the “publish or perish” mentality, causes many academics to feel compelled to spend every waking hour reading the literature, refining lectures and perfecting their ideas so that they can keep their careers afloat.”

#17 – The power of peer-to-peer coaching, Stefano Zucca, @StefanoZucca5

“We also discussed the possibility of introducing a mentoring element to the sessions: however, we realised it was enough to share our experiences and leave each person to decide whether they wanted to implement the suggested strategy. In this way, we increased the number of options the person could choose, without giving any advice.”

#18 – Navigating grief and bereavement in academia, Ryan Linn Brown, @ryanlinnbrown

“In graduate school, I was constantly in ‘threat-mode’ (akin to be chased by lions) because of my dad’s imminent death. I had uncontrollable crying episodes at my desk, which led to panic attacks and more impostor syndrome. I was worried about losing my dad while navigating the first semester of graduate school, which included hours-long qualitative interviews with our bereaved participants about their early life experiences and past traumas.”

#19 – The second year slump, Lea Martin, @DocLeaMaria

“I had proposed my Masters, taught an undergraduate lab, and secured funding for the next three years via a supplemental grant, but I had never in my life felt worse about myself or my future. I had lost any motivation to work in the area I was studying or academia in general and wanted to quit nearly every day. I struggled to communicate my needs with my advisor, who was so enthusiastic about his work that he didn’t seem to notice my struggling.”

#20 – The words we say, Julia Maristany, @juliamaristany

“I want to talk about how the linguistic monopoly that English has in academia affects the mental wellbeing of a large part of the student body. From feelings of isolation from your community, to increased exhaustion from studying and working all day in a language that it is not your own, language has a silent but strong effect on the daily life of many students.”

#21 – Fighting sexual harassment and power abuse in academia, Marta Oliveira, @martaboliv

“She told me she had been sexually harassed by the postdoc she was working with. She had asked for help from the Graduate Office, the HR department, and her group leader. Nothing. It turned out that the postdoc was one of the group leader’s favourite scientists, and that seemed to matter more than the sexual harassment.”

#22 – Adjusting to academic life with chronic illness, Stephanie Zihms, @geomechsteph

“After the initial shock I went into researcher mode – now I knew I had a legitimate reason to be delving deep into understanding MS. I read a lot of research papers and made some drastic diet decisions; in hindsight, these were all coping mechanisms and it worked for a while. At work, I told HR quite quickly because I wanted the protection of them knowing in case things became worse and I needed adjustments beyond the flexibilities of a postdoc position.”

#23 – Return of the mummy: trials and tribulations of post-maternity leave, Jennifer Paxton, @dr_JZP

“I found the transition back to work much harder to adjust to than the leave itself, and I felt like I was failing at every opportunity, both at home and at work. It has taken me many, many months to re-establish myself in a healthy balance and I can honestly say that as bad as things got (more about that later… ), it’s made me a much better scientist, teacher, and most importantly, wife and mum.”

#24 – I will no longer suffer in silence, Joy Ismail, @joynismail

“In the first semester of my PhD, I often found myself locked up in a bathroom stall, between classes, having a breakdown. I was overwhelmed, to say the least. I was shocked by the nonchalant way in which information and tasks were dumped on us, without the slightest regard for whether we would cope. I already knew I had anxiety and a small tendency to experience episodes of depression, but add the stress I was feeling from the PhD and you got the perfect concoction for a severe blow to my mental health.”

#25 – Dealing with your PhD when life happens, Jelena O’Reily, @phdmentalhealth

“I’ve suffered with Bipolar disorder since my late teens which had been under control for several years until moving to a new country, lack of appropriate support and the stresses of PhD life triggered my first episode in 2015 and I was put on antipsychotic medication. In addition the stress of moving to another country, I also did not adjust well to the isolation that is common during a PhD.”

#26 – Managing Upward, Christiane Whitehouse, @ch_whitehouse

“Academia is undergoing a cultural shift. Research highlighting the “evidence for a mental health crisis in graduate education”1 is demanding we re-examine how mental health and wellness are prioritized in academia. Although this cultural shift is occurring slowly and needs to be adopted by those in positions of power (faculty, universities, scientific societies), graduate students can still take meaningful steps to care for their own mental health and wellness by “managing upward”.

#27 – My Queer Impostor Syndrome, Andrea Welsh, @theoreticalwzrd

“I grew up being told by my mother that “Bi people didn’t exist” and where “gay” was used in a negative way. If I tried to put out my feelers by saying someone I knew was bisexual, she would reply “They are just saying that for attention.” I hated attention, and felt that if this was true, then I couldn’t be myself. I needed to be invisible. This, obviously, had a heavy impact on my mental health. I didn’t date anyone for a while, so hiding my sexuality was an easy thing to do.”

#28 – Eating disorders and academia: the fight for control, Emily Ennis, @emilyennis

“These feelings of self-hatred, intense dislike for myself, and my desire to suffer in the pursuit of achievement, which had begun in my experiences as an academic, had already transferred onto my feelings about my body. Suffering was key, and I never felt more like I was suffering than when I was starving myself. Losing weight became a way of managing and measuring my success, where success and control had otherwise been denied to me professionally.”

#29 – International Isolation: An Unconventional Journey, Kat Kennedy, @sphynxkennedy

“It was a kind of “me and them” feeling, being an international student. I mean, you couldn’t tell I was any different just by looking at me, but as soon as I opened my mouth and the British accent spilled out, it was a focal point.  It became something to draw attention to, which wasn’t always what I wanted, particularly on a bad day. I’m proud to be British and I have a plethora of stories about life on that tiny isle, but it gets old sometimes, constantly acknowledging the cultural rift. See, we speak the same language, but we’re worlds apart in many ways.”

#30 – The pain of pursuing a PhD as a young adult, Elizabeth Haris, @ElizabethHaris

“I didn’t happen upon this career path until I was in my thirties. I didn’t find the career that fit without going through a number of jobs that didn’t fit. So, here I am starting a PhD in my mid-thirties. Inevitably asking myself if I made the right decision. Sceptically asking myself if I’m capable of completing a PhD. And constantly asking myself if pursuing a PhD at this point in my life is even worth it.”

#31 – The perpetual “problem” child, Amy Andes, @AmyAndes

“I have always felt like a “problem child”, whether that be in my lab, in my committee, or in my department. I typically point a finger at my imposter syndrome for making me feel this way; however, some people’s words and actions during my journey have merited considerable attention as to why I feel emotionally depleted.What I mean by “problem child” is that I feel I cause inconveniences, errors, and unnecessary work for others simply by existing.”

#32 – Finding self-acceptance: ASC and a PhD, Daisy Shearer, @QuantumDaisy

“The more accounts I read describing the experiences of autistic women who were diagnosed late in life, the more I realised that my own life was being reflected back at me in these stories. I went through the diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and found that I did in fact seem to fit the diagnosis even if I didn’t present autistic traits in the same way as is portrayed in the media.”

#33 – The Secret Life of a Bipolar Student, Sophie Prosolek, @infraredrum

“I am destructively depressed; I sometimes think about hurting myself. These are my medicated thoughts – perhaps you’d call them ‘secrets’? An insight into my secret life; information I cannot share with you at work, on conference coffee breaks, or at lab-group festive lunches held at mid-price eateries of least offence. This may be an uncomfortable read for some – it’s uncomfortable, but it’s true. Welcome to my secret life as a Bipolar PhD student.”

#34 – How do you define success?, Tricia Carmichael, @myatomicnumber

“On paper, it seems like I had everything figured out, but the real story is far more complex. In academia, we idealize success and hide challenges – particularly mental health challenges. These “hidden” stories are closely intertwined with professional biographies but rarely told together. In the full story, the biography of an academic becomes more relatable and, well, more human.”

#35 – You are worth it, Dominic Sirianni, @DrSirianni

“I kept asking myself why I wasn’t making any progress towards my thesis project; why I wasn’t enjoying even my passions any longer; why all of my relationships seemed to be crumbling. All of my classmates were able to pull themselves together after candidacy, so why wasn’t I? Should I even be in grad school? Should I even be in science?”

#36 – How to write a thesis whilst going through depression, Isabel Rojas-Ferrer, @LilMsEthologist

“Like many of my peers, I suffer from anxiety and depression. I’ve experienced periods of incapacitation and hospitalization; simultaneously I have a Masters, am almost finished with my PhD, and am a published author. Fun fact: my family and my friends never suspected I was incapacitated as I kept smiling, making people laugh, taking care of my appearance, turning in my work, being ‘deceptively’ successful.”

#37 – Coping with chronic illness during a PhD, Lieselot Nguyen, @youngscientistdiary

“My endometriosis diagnosis is likely to have long-term ramifications for my career in academia. For background, endometriosis is a chronic illness that impacts 1 in 10 women. On average, it takes 7.5 years to reach a diagnosis in the UK. “Endo” is difficult to diagnose because symptoms vary from one patient to the next and throughout their life. The causes are not yet known and there is no cure.”

#38 – The gremlin and the superpower: how OCD has shaped my academic career, Simon Fox, @UncleBeard1978

“To illustrate this, I always describe my OCD as being “mentally deafening”. When the voice in my head is lying to me (which is most of the time), it is very, very loud. Imagine driving with a bullying gremlin in the back of your car screaming through a megaphone that you’re not driving correctly, and you’ll get somewhere near the volume of my internal voice and what it shouts at me.”

#39 – Rediscovering Your worth after Quitting a PhD, Sophia Upshaw, @thegoodgraduate

“Upon transitioning out of my doctoral program, those three simple words haunted me. I found myself stuck in an empty void called unemployment, where I neither belonged in academia nor the corporate world. I still had an ambitious spirit within me but had no defined benchmark of success. Gradually, the illusion of having my life “figured out” faded away, leaving me feeling devoid of worth. I questioned daily what value, if any, I had to those around me if I didn’t have a graduate degree or a paying job.

#40 – Managing Mental Health and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Aniqa Khalik, @Aniqa_Attic

“I have suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS-D) for just over 10 years now, which is a condition that affects the digestive system, causing stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea (IBS-D) and constipation (IBS-C). Despite this being a lifelong condition there is no cure and the exact cause of IBS is still unknown. The two main triggers of IBS are food and stress, and for me the trigger was being trapped in a failing marriage with an abusive partner, and then moving abroad where things only became worse.

#41 – Surviving Isolation as a Grad Student, Nancy Yuan, @fancynancyyuan

“It hasn’t always been this way, but for over five years, I’ve struggled mentally, emotionally, and physically with living and working in isolation. I’ve broken down and cried alone in the microscope room, in empty conference rooms, in my own living room. Isolation isn’t just a physical state of having no one around you. A lot of the time, it’s a feeling that even when you have people around you, you still feel very much alone.”

#42 – Learning to accept your own mental illness, Lucy Arkinstall, @lucy_arkinstall

“I suddenly went from being surrounded by a large support network whom I had shared all my worries with to being alone and bottling-up all my thoughts. This, alongside a doubt about whether I was good enough to be at university, led me to obsessively throw myself into my studies, an obsession which soon became out of control. Family members became increasingly concerned.”

#43 – Bullying can come from any direction but so can support, Anon

“There are stories of academics shouting at admin and admin stifling academics with bureaucratic processes. But there are also different stories, which show that while bad behaviour can come from any direction, so too can support. I am writing about one of the support stories. I am an admin, writing this so that others don’t feel alone, to raise awareness of this dynamic, and to thank my academic colleagues.”

#44 – Trying to be superwoman, Hannah Roberts, @HannahNikeR

“I spent the next four years flitting from a prestigious graduate development scheme in industry to research business management then a teaching qualification. None of it was right. It felt like my peers and friends were all moving forwards and I kept starting and restarting over and over again. How could someone with so much potential end up like this?”

#45 – Empowering early career researchers: improving culture in academia, Kartik Aiyer, @kartik_s_aiyer

“Navigating research can be a huge challenge for early career researchers, particularly if the academic hierarchies are not structured well. It is crucial to discuss systemic issues that plague the academic landscape. Talking openly about systemic racism, harassment, poor work-life balance and other issues may be uncomfortable, but it is very much necessary.”

#46 – Managing isolation as a field biologist Partha Sarathi, @Partha_Marcus

“With time, instead of getting better, I was getting  worse, with my mood shifting a lot and it affected my life. I was always sad and experienced frequent headaches. I am grateful to the friends who were with me even though I snapped at them at times. I knew I needed help but I couldn’t find anyone who could consult for free as I had no money to spare for treatment costs.”

#47 – How to be a Productive Tortoise: Neurodivergence and asking for academic adjustments, Victoria Bowskill, @Vicky_Bowskill

“Asking for reasonable adjustments can be hard, especially for hidden disabilities like autism. It took me over three decades to learn how to do it and I’ve finally made it to graduate school. Writing about it is also hard but I’m sharing part of my story here in the hope that this will encourage anyone who is struggling with asking for academic help to speak up.”

#48 – Is success worth more than my life?, Norah Koch, @k0chnorah

“I tried to commit suicide during my Bachelor degree. I wasn’t performing well and it felt like my life was ending because I couldn’t get good grades. I thought that my life was a waste anyway. My mother found me in time. Before that moment, I used to think that my family only cared about my grades. I wasn’t as important as success was. I was crying hysterically when she found me and everything inside me burst.”

#49 – Feelings of an Imposter through the lens of a South Asian Woman of Colour, Kelly Trivedy, @trivedUcation

“I am constantly ‘branded’ as an overachiever. For a long time, I viewed this as negative and resented it. I hadn’t thought about why. I compared myself to others doing the same role or a role I aspired to do. I was quick to pick out the attractive, professional qualities and skills that they had and that I didn’t have. This again led to the neglect of my talents and achievements. I was flippant and treated my qualities as: ‘Well everyone can do that, it’s nothing special.’”

#50 – It’s not you, it’s me, Bella Boulderstone, @BBoulderstone

“My time in academia was tough, but it was also wonderful. My group were close knit and my supervisors were supportive. I met many friends, got to travel the world, saw the most beautiful skies in the world and ultimately (and to my own surprise) I produced a thesis during a pandemic. PhD students (and postdocs) can be some of the most overlooked and underappreciated parts of academia so it’s important to remember: it’s not just you.”

#51 – Publish or perish: but what about if you are not a native speaker?, Amilton Barbosa Botelho Junior, @abbotelhojunior

“The pressure to publish was always present. I remember my supervisor in our year-end meetings planning with us the publications for the next year. And also requiring the manuscripts of the last twelve months. It was difficult to keep up. The struggle to produce results and then publish made most of us depressed and anxious, and medicines, drugs, and alcohol were a few ways to suppress the pain and pressure.”

#52 – One year on: VoA, Marissa Kate Edwards and Zoe Ayres, @AcademicVoices

“In creating a space for people to share their stories, we have also found amazing members of the academic community that have joined the Voices of Academia team and enabled us to expand to have even greater impact in the future. These people volunteer their time to help us fight the stigma around mental health in academia.”

#53 – When  it all falls down: PhDing with learning disabilities and ADHD, in a culturally insensitive society, Lara Jimenez, @lara_jimenez1

“I always thought I had a learning disability, but my mother (through no fault of her own) didn’t entertain the possibility: you just have to try harder. After years of jumping through hoops of not being able to afford the services to be tested, at age 25 I was diagnosed with adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and at 26, I was diagnosed with learning disabilities and slow processing speed.”

#54 – Academia in pain: What I’ve lost and what I’ve gained, Sara Villa, @VillaScience

“All those years, I just pushed, pushed and pushed. I kept feeling guilty for not pushing enough, for being weak, for not working enough hours, for not doing enough experiments. I blamed myself for not being able to think properly (what I now know to be brain fog), for not reading enough papers. I pushed aside the idea of asking for help and I pushed away all my people because I couldn’t bear others misunderstanding what was happening to me: I didn’t understand it myself!”

#55 – A PhD, BPD & me, Emma Corbin, @ekc96

“It didn’t take long for me to realise the realities of academic life. You look failure in the eye on a daily basis, and  I believed that I wasn’t equipped with the tools I needed to survive the pressure. My mental health deterioration wasn’t far behind the deterioration of my lab work. I was, of course, hiding this from everyone around me.”

#56 – Writing, Compulsitivity and Valuing Time, Kirsty Alexander, @DrKirstyAlex

“This sense of failure and inadequacy followed me everywhere. It was my shadow, but the kind of shadow that buries itself in the soul. I became quietly and persistently confused. I had definitely written a doctoral thesis. I could write. To make matters worse, I passed the viva with no changes or corrections, just before my twenty-fifth birthday. As I was told fairly often, this was quite an achievement.”

#57 – Never Good Enough: The Untangling of Shame, Andy Harrod, @AndyHarrod79

“There was a particularly tough day early on when I was considering the direction of my PhD and reviewing the literature where I wanted to crawl under my desk, wrap my arms around my knees and sob. I remember being the last to leave and running home, turning a four-mile journey into ten, part wanting to get something from the day, part punishment. I just left myself exhausted. I remember feeling isolated, alone.”

#58 – Coping with trauma from research context: Conducting Genocide Research, Melanie O’Brien, @DrMelOB

“I have noticed that, in the past few years, when I tell people what I do, the response has started to be ‘that must be really difficult’. Without a doubt, it is impossible to work in my field without a healthy dose of resilience. However, even a strong, resilient researcher becomes affected by traumatic, violent content after years of absorbing it.”

#59 – Down The Rabbit Hole: My Journey with Anxiety, Alcohol and Benzodiazepine Use, Anon

“Looking back, depression and anxiety have been present throughout my life, and I struggled with both throughout my academic career. Even as an undergraduate student, I recall vomiting with anxiety before exams and hyperventilating in the moments before important presentations. And while I was known as a top performer, who was pretty highly strung, I was able to hide the anxiety fairly well.”

#60 – The long-lasting effects of cultural misconceptions, Irina Anna Rose, @IrinaAnnaRose

“Every visitor’s or expat’s culture shock is different. For me, once a graduate student from Russia, now an American permanent resident and immigrant, it’s the dreaded and inevitable question: “Where are you from?” Such unintentional, seemingly benign, casual, yet annoying moments can, and do, provoke a deep feeling of alienation.”

#61 – Coping as a PhD Student During COVID-19, Alex Wakeman, @al_wakeman

“My first night alone I lay awake in fear. I’m not sure what I was afraid of, or why this fear had only taken hold of me when I turned out the lights. Maybe I wasn’t afraid so much as my body was exhibiting the symptoms of fear and I was along for the ride. An anticipatory homesickness, for the isolated months to come.”

#62 – Learning the importance of self-care during your PhD, Eleni Routoula, @eleniroutoula

“I was constantly at the verge of crying, my positive, smiley attitude had taken a plunge, I was quick to help others see the bright side of their problems but I was failing to see the bright side in mine. On top of that, many days I had a heavy feeling when I woke up, wishing for all of it to be over soon, but not so soon that I wouldn’t have time to make it work and prove that I was a worthy PhD candidate.”  

#63 – Studying while Recovering: Learning to be Authentically Me, Lizzie Salter, @Lizzie_Salter22

“It took a lot of courage for me to be able to talk to my supervisors, my tutors and my institution about the mental health issues I was facing, and it took an admission to the mental health crisis team to finally take that step of saying, “Hey—I am not okay and I need support.” For the remaining two years of my degree, I constantly battled between wanting to be the best I could be and do the best I could do.”

#64 – No, I’m not a serial killer, I’m a PhD Student –living with Dissociative Identity Disorder, Nicole Melzack, @nmelzack

“It took years of not trusting myself, not understanding myself, and a ten-week stint as an inpatient in a psychiatric unit to find out what was going on. I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) – formerly known as multiple personality disorder. So, when triggered, I, Nicole, dissociate, and other parts of my consciousness ‘front’ and control this body.”

#65 – Living with Anxiety in Academia: The Importance of Acceptance and Support , Carla Aranda, @lightsoncarla

“The education system has many flaws, but one of the most damaging for me has been some educators’ unsympathetic regard for their students’ problems.  I find this ironic given how many universities impart classes about how students can reduce academic stress and how important it is that we sleep and eat well.”

#66 – Harm masquerading as help: Isolation, abuse and crisis in grad school, Tina Lasisi, @TinaLasisi

“I was actually hospitalized twice within the space of 12 hours. The first time I was brought in by my abuser to treat an injury I’d suffered because of him when he locked me in a room. The second time I was brought in because he fulfilled his threat to tell people I was a danger to myself if I did not “calm down” and stop trying to leave his apartment.”

#67 – I don’t want to dance in the dark: Disclosing Mental Illness and Neurodiversity in the Ableist Academy, Marco Miguel Valero Sanchez, @MValeroSanchez

“When it comes to depression and ADHD in academia – as with any other invisible condition – several questions arise: Do I have to disclose my conditions to my colleagues and supervisors at work? Is it okay if I only talk about certain symptoms or do I also have to disclose a diagnosis? What impact will this have on social interactions and future career prospects? Wouldn’t it be easier not to talk about it at all and just keep everything to myself?”

#68 – Finding a Friend in Failure, Victor Mosconi, @DocMosPsych

Failure is a powerful word that creates all sorts of negative thoughts in the mind. Even just seeing the word creates anxiety and stress in some people. And if you experience the imposter phenomenon as I do, then not only do you worry about failing, but you internalize it as well and you see yourself as a failure.”

#69 – Rethinking Our Compulsion to Comparison, Emily Beswick, @beswick_emily

“Making a conscious effort to define our own metric of success can help us to flourish. Ensuring this definition is flexible can also be essential in maintaining long-term well-being. Some days will be more productive; you will write better, think clearer and work more efficiently. Conversely, there will be some days where things are harder and perhaps smaller administrative tasks are more feasible.”

#70 – Chin Up! Cheerleading and Bias in Academia, Jennifer Kriegel, @Jen_LS_Kriegel

“Those who have been affected with mental health issues in any walk of life have at least once encountered the phrase “chin up!” suggesting that the affliction is, in fact, their own fault. Consistently, on my journey I have encountered both such stigmas, as well as resounding cheerleaders championing my success. Because of the stigmas, I generally refer to my condition as “recovered.””

#71 – Obsessing about the Academy: Finding life with OCD, Zachary G. Smith, @ZGSmith

“My body knew there was a problem before my brain. During my doctoral program, I began to suffer full-fledged panic attacks several times a day accompanied by sensory issues. Loud noises were piercing triggers, and a passing siren would leave me in a fetal position. I had never experienced anything like it, and I felt like I was spiralling out of control.”

#72 – Natural Highs and Crushing Lows on my way up the Academic Ladder, Anon

“The many student activities came with a drinking culture that, in retrospect, was not healthy for people like me who generally aren’t good at setting limits. Alcohol had proven to be slightly dangerous for me when I was depressed, but much more so when I experienced hypomania (the high or “up” state). While most people I know can stop drinking and say “that’s is enough for me”, I always kept wanting more as the evening progressed.”

#73 – Ripping Off the Band-Aid: The Struggle of Asking for Help, Lauren Cuthbert, @laurenycuthbert

“PhD is a very lonely undertaking, and that’s something you have to be comfortable with when you commit to it. You have your supervisor, of course, but you really have to work hard to find others who are in similar positions, since there’s no easy, obvious way of meeting others, like there would be in a lecture hall or a seminar room.” 

#74 – Beyond Academic Stress and Burnout: Nurturing a Healthier Academia, Déborah Ruper

“Changing mindset doesn’t happen overnight. At first, I consider recovery as another task to perform. The high achiever in me is very pleased. My plan is to do this, and this, and that to take care of myself and feel better…But I quickly realize that it is not working. I simply don’t have the mental and physical energy to “push myself to rest”.”

#75 – On My First Job in Academia: The Challenges, Mental Health, and Coping Mechanisms, Ritika Mahajan,@RitikaM07435068

“I was told that I was a good student because I followed all the instructions and scored the highest in examinations. A student who came on time, obeyed without asking questions, learned things by heart, and gave the expected answers was the best student. When I look back, I realise the message was clear – compliance is excellence.”

#76 – Jumping into the Deep: Insecurities as a Foreign PhD Candidate during Times of COVID, Janne Punski-Hooger, @JanneLissaMd

“Although I am highly passionate about the topic of my PhD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and love doing my research projects, being a PhD student – especially in a foreign country – comes with many challenges. Some expected, some less so. Some are overwhelming, others somewhat minor. It’s a process of introspection and accepting strengths and weaknesses; of showing vulnerability and accepting help, while also being self-reliant and independent. It’s a journey, and although beautiful it’s for sure far from easy.”

#77 – Embracing Emotion: The Philosophy PhD and BPD, Alexandra Gustafson, @alexxguss

“This diagnosis, given to me just last summer, has answered a lot of questions (“Is that why I take criticism as a sign of deep, personal failure?”). I’m thankful for it. Still, the choice to “go public” has been difficult. BPD is heavily stigmatized, and so-called “Cluster B” personality disorders (of which, BPD is one) are even more so. And yet, these kinds of diagnoses are not so rare: close to 10% of the population is thought to have a personality disorder.”

#78 – Believing in Better, Meschach Pierre, @meshach_pierre

“Guyana, my home country, had the highest suicide rate in the world in 2014, and I felt first-hand a lot of the reasons why that might be the case. That very same year, I came down with the worst bout of what I thought was only anxiety but was also a full depressive episode, fuelled by my untreated attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder – combined presentation (ADHD-C). 

#79 – My Journey to Mental Illness Recovery Maintenance, Zoë Ayres, @zjayres

“For as long as I can remember I had compared myself with others and minimised my own experience, by looking at the struggles of those around me and thinking “What do I really have to complain about?”. I had steady income, a supportive husband, friends and family that would be there in an instant, if I were to simply ask. That’s the thing with depression: it can make us feel incredibly guilty for not feeling happy.”

#80 – When Universities Listen to Sexual Harassment Survivors, Anon

“When you hear about allegations of abuse and mistreatment in higher education, so many of the stories are from people who feel that the systems failed them, their experiences were “swept under the carpet”, and administrators failed to investigate and/or act on the allegations. My story, thankfully, is different.”

#81 – What does self-care really mean? Jessie Shepherd, @JriShepherd

“We all know that doing a PhD is hard: there are mental challenges, physical exhaustion, and self-doubt that must be overcome to successfully navigate this path. How do we last on this very long journey without allowing the weight of it all to overwhelm us? What does it really mean to take care of ourselves while still managing all that we do?”

#82 – It Gets Lonely Out Here: On Self-Disclosure of Lived Experience in the Social Work Field, Teresa Theophano, @teresatheo

“As a queer femme doctoral student in social work and a practicing mental health clinician who is also a recipient of mental health care services, I tend to be out, loud, and–if not exactly proud–consistently working on alleviating my own internalized shame. After all, homophobia, misogyny, and stereotyping mean that someone like me is not entirely unlikely to be branded the c-word: crazy.”

#83 – To Quit or Not to Quit: Pursuing a PhD During the Pandemic as an International Scholar, Athira Unni, @utopianfemme

“It is a special kind of passion (or masochism) that makes one apply for a PhD during a pandemic. While it is well-known that doctoral studies can be isolating compared to other student experiences, it is especially isolating to undertake this journey today and study in a foreign country.”

#84 – It does not (just) get better, Jo Breit

“If you are a young researcher (maybe a student or a postdoc), struggling with anxiety and depression, maybe you think it will get better once I graduate, or maybe you think it will get better once I get a postdoc with a fancy group, or it will get better once I get a paper in a prestigious journal, or it will get better once I get a tenure track faculty position…I am here to tell you that those things will not make it better.”

#85 – How to support someone with bipolar disorder, Jahanvi J, @jahanvi1012

“Living with bipolar disorder is not easy. You have to struggle daily to regulate your mood and emotions. It’s a challenge in itself. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, bipolar disorder is defined as a “mental disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.” Your energy, mood, and productivity shift a lot throughout the day.”

#86 – How My Side Hustle Brings Me Happiness in Academia, Victoria Ingram, @vickyingram

“Doing a PhD was the best thing I’ve done, but also the scariest, most emotional, and most challenging thing I’ve done. I’m going to tell you my story: how my PhD broke me, how the culture of academia means that we often struggle to meet some of our basic human needs, and how training to be a life coach has improved my mental health.”

#87 – Leading by Example: Living with Mental Illness in Academia, Peter Rohde, @drpeterrohde

“In my experience, even amongst those with no apparent previous signs of mental health issues, the chances of burnout at some stage are very high. This seems especially common amongst PhD students upon completing their degrees and entering the job market, something that certainly hit me at the time.

#88 – Voices of Academia, Two Years On: Where do we go from here? Marissa Edwards and Zoë Ayres, @AcademicVoices 

“To date, we are thrilled to report that we have published 87 blogs in total, covering topics from self-care, to supporting family members with mental illness, to bullying and harassment in academia. It is also notable that most of these accounts are from individuals who have decided to come forward with their own stories with their names attached.”

#89 – The Eternal Dislocation of Academic Living, Clare Griffin, @balalaichnitsa 

“You could say I left for these opportunities, but I also left because of the academic job market. Simply put, I had little choice if I wanted to stay in academia. I have been on the job market almost continuously for the past 11 years. In that time I have applied for many, many jobs in the UK. I Interviewed for four jobs and got one. I haven’t gotten as far as the interview stage of any job search in my home country in nine years.”

#90 – Loss of Identity: Surviving Post-PhD Depression, Amy Gaeta, @GaetaAmy

“Completing the biggest achievement of my life has left me in the most zombie, emotionally depleted state of my life. Immediately after defending my dissertation successfully, thereby securing my Ph.D. in English, I found myself soft crying into a pillow and trying to find enough stability to reply to all the “congratulations!” text messages pinging on my phone. This emotional release marked the start of what I’ll refer to as my post-PhD depression.”

#91 – Surviving Loss: Supporting Bereavement in Early Career Academics, Samantha Strong, @samanthastrong

“Nothing in the world can prepare a person to lose a loved one. Sure, mental health professionals can explain the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), but the path and duration of the journey is entirely individual – in my experience it’s like wading through a heavy substance. On good days you can move forwards slowly, one step at a time.”

#92 – The Perfect Researcher (And Why I am Not it), Zoë Ayres, @zjayres

“Just another typical PhD day for me. Highlighting another research paper, trying desperately to retain the salient bits. Mixing it up with different coloured highlighters. Grabbing a cup of coffee, hoping that the information might go in if I let the caffeine sink in. And yet it never quite does. I beat myself up, telling myself I am too stupid to do a PhD.”

#93 – Drought Days: Reflections on Work in Troubling Times, David Abbott, @davidabbottbris

“I had a big leadership role once as Head of School. Long story short, I thought it might be bad for me, but I also felt like I could do it with a human touch and try and protect some things that mattered. About a year and a half into the role and I go to a psychotherapist for an expensive fifty-minute hour as I’m at the end of my emotional tether.”

#94 – Challenges of Navigating a PhD while Recovering from Mental Health Conditions, Daeun Jung, @daeunljung

“My first reaction to getting the diagnosis was relief. I was relieved that my problems were medically recognised. I was not just “weak” or “lazy” or “attention-seeking”; I felt validated. Then I felt angry. Why did I have to seek validation through a medical diagnosis?”

#95 – Coping With Anxiety and Grief: Accepting Help and Moving Forward, Gurnoor Mutreja, @GurnoorMutreja

“After a few minutes of trying to decipher why I was so upset, [my counsellor] remarked, ‘You are grieving…’. Through my tears, I looked up at her in shock and confusion. ‘You are grieving the loss of the life you wanted and could never have’.” 

#96 -The power of community for addressing academic mental health, Ciro De Vincenzo, @CiroDeVincenzo1

“My inner social circle, which was composed of undergraduate students at that time, had a completely different rhythm. They went out late at night and sometimes I could not meet with them because I had classes the next day at 8 am, making me feel more and more isolated.”

#97 – Academia and Self-Esteem: A Tale of Two Things, Elia Mangrinelli, @EliaMagrinelli

“Feeling more and more distant from the identity and the goal I had been pursuing, I ultimately asked myself: Why had I wanted to pursue an academic career in the first place? Furthermore, what could I do now? What did I truly want to do? Yet I kept feeling as if I had really achieved nothing.”

#98 – From Kryptonite to Superpower: My story of being an empath in academia, Claudia Mirretta Barone, @CMirrettaBarone

“I learned that I am an empath; a highly sensitive person (HSP) who possesses heightened sensitivity to physical, emotional, and social stimuli, otherwise known as “sensory processing sensitivity.”

#99 – Honey, I shrunk the postgraduate kids!’ – Disability, precarity, and support in academia, Athanasia Francis, @AthanasiaFr

“I slowly came to accept it as a daily ritual, as was the case with the dozens of pills when I could afford the prescriptions. I have been suffering from a chronic neurological condition and its fluctuations are debilitating, even when I look ‘fine’ on the outside.”

#100 – Which brings us to today’s blog. We are incredibly honoured to have had so many academics, from professors to PhD students to admin staff to people that have long left academia, share their powerful stories with us. Thank you for all your support to date – we couldn’t do it without you!