Trying to be Superwoman by Hannah Roberts

When I was eight years old, I begged my Mum and Dad for a science kit for my birthday, shortly followed by a telescope and all the ‘how my body works’ books. After career day, I came home and announced, “I’m going to be a doctor.” I didn’t have the vocab back them for “making a difference – helping others.” There was also a status attached to wanting to be a doctor and naturally my parents reaffirmed my decision.

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Bullying Can Come From Any Direction but So Can Support by Anonymous

TW: Bullying, suicide 

There is a narrative in academia that administrative (admin) and academic staff are two different camps/classes, with a ‘them vs us’ attitude across the sector. 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. 

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Learning to Accept Your Own Mental Illness by Lucy Arkinstall

For as long as I can remember I have always been a worrier; however, when I left the family home in the summer of 2012 to go to university, I do not think anybody (including myself) realised quite how difficult it would be. 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 and eventually convinced me to reach out for help from the University Wellbeing Service.

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Surviving Isolation as a Grad Student by Nancy Yuan

It’s 5am, the sky still shrouded by darkness. I feel the cool, crisp air and smell the damp earth beneath my feet. A few cars pass by underneath the overpass. A block ahead, glowing in perpetual wakefulness, the building where I work stands calmly. I always trust its light to guide me through the last stretch of an otherwise dimly lit walk. Still, I carry pepper spray in hand. It’s unwise to assume that every shadow is harmless at this hour. 

I reach the building and put on a hand sewn mask that Ma had made for me. Ma and Ba live several states and two time zones away. It’s already past dawn there, and Ma must be preparing breakfast. I press the handicap door opener to avoid touching the door handle, walk into a spotless foyer littered with colorful ergonomic chairs. My shoes echo through the silent halls. Motion sensor lights pave the way to the elevators. I scan my badge to the fourth floor. Time to start another day working alone

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Mental Health and Irritable Bowel Syndrome by Aniqa Khaliq

I’ve been working in Higher Education as a lecturer for 13 years now, and have thoroughly enjoyed every part of my journey from class teacher, to senior lecturer and senior fellow of the HEA. My love of mathematics, and researching the effectiveness of how mathematics was being taught in secondary schools, made me question how much of an impact I could make as a classroom teacher or as a Head of Department, and so when the opportunity arose I decided to move into teacher education and training. 

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 (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs/). 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.

Nine months after the move abroad, I managed to return home, and thankfully had started working again as a university lecturer so found some solace in that. However, trying to keep my marriage from falling apart, and being in denial about the situation I had ended up in, took its toll on my health and my symptoms worsened. Foods had started to became triggers too, and I decided it was time to consult with my GP and find out what was going on, who immediately referred me to a specialist as my quality of life had deteriorated significantly.

As time went on I learnt what my trigger foods were, and managed to reduce the frequency of my IBS-D symptoms, I had separated and subsequently divorced by then too, and I finally felt in control of myself and my life again.

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Rediscovering Your Worth after Quitting Your PhD by Sophia Upshaw

Graduate school orientation feels like you’re a freshman (first year student) all over again. You look to both sides, gathered in an auditorium, realizing that you all are collectively about to embark on a particularly challenging journey: obtaining your Ph.D. You sign forms to receive tuition waivers and your monthly stipend, scramble to interview with faculty members and settle within a lab, and fight to reserve your spot in the most intriguing lecture courses. With fresh eyes, you view your graduate education as an opportunity to extend beyond the bounds of what’s already been published. 

With a bachelor’s degree in an engineering discipline I wasn’t quite fond of, and a few years of research experience on my belt, I hadn’t even considered pursuing a career in industry. Academia seemed to be the most obvious path to extend my learning capacity and switch to a new and intriguing field.

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The Gremlin and the Superpower: How OCD has Shaped my Academic Journey by Simon Fox

 It wasn’t until a friend died that I suddenly realised time was precious. Through the grief, a transformative experience occurred within me. In my mid-thirties, I flung myself back into education at undergraduate level to pursue a new career in healthcare. I relished every opportunity and for the first time in my life, I felt that I had direction. More than that, I had a purpose

However, I was acutely aware that there was still something missing. I knew that deep within me, there was a piece of the jigsaw in my psyche that didn’t quite make sense. The more I looked for it, the more it would hide, like trying to remember a dream when you wake. There were vivid flashes, but it quickly slipped away. That was until my undergraduate final examinations. 

If you had asked me then, I would have said everything was fine. My grades were great, I had made friends on my course, and yes, that purpose in life that had been missing before was now burning brightly. That was when things began to happen that I couldn’t explain. There were missed instructions for assignments, despite my diligent attention. Conversations began to play on a constant loop in my mind. I would show up for seminars early and I couldn’t understand why no one else was quite as eager as me. Yet, I was going to the gym more than ever and I was on the verge of an exciting new career. How could anything be wrong with me?

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Coping with a Chronic illness during a PhD by Lieselot Nguyen

I am 2 years and 11 months into my 4-year PhD. I was once told that a PhD could feel like running an obstacle course of a marathon distance, but I could say the same of figuring out and managing a chronic illness. It turns out I have had to do both in parallel. I had been experiencing health issues for 3 years before the symptoms worsened during the 2nd year of my PhD. This still impacts my life and ability to work today. In this post I will explain how I have tackled the challenges brought about by my health issues in relation to my studies. 

Image credit: @PhDCartoon
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A Thesis with a Side of Depression by Isabel Rojas-Ferrer

We all know the running grad student gag: anxious, depressed, poor. We’ve seen the episode of ‘The Simpsons’ where Bart imitates a grad student. The thing about stereotypes is that they sometimes highlight very important truths. In fact, graduate students are 6x more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression when compared to the general population, resulting in what has been labelled a ‘mental health crisis’ within the academic community. Not only do many graduate students suffer from anxiety and depression, but they have to write a thesis during this highly pressurized time, and survive the ‘publish-or-perish’ culture in academia in order to graduate. Many graduate students surpass the writer’s block associated with anxiety and depression and become successful and thrive in academia, but sadly, some do not.

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. 

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Voices of Academia Podcast Launch!

We are excited to announced that Voices of Academia has just launched a podcast! 

Listen to this episode directly at the link below, or click through to find the link to your preferred listening platform. 

Episode 1: Why an Academic Mental Health Podcast?

TW: Suicidal ideation

Summary:

In the first episode, the Voices of Academia concept and the team are introduced.

Academics Dr. Marissa Kate Edwards, Dr. Zoe Ayres, and Emily King (PhD loading) open up about why academic mental health advocacy is important to them and why it’s necessary. They also share some of their own wellness suggestions and how you can get involved with the blog or podcast.

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