Studying while Recovering: Learning to be Authentically Me by Lizzie Salter

TW: Suicidal ideation, eating disorder

In 2017 I started my Undergraduate course in BA Geography. Going into it, I had my own perceptions of what a ‘perfect’ student, researcher and scientist looked like. I thought to be successful you needed to have an empowered, independent, and busy personality. The ‘hustle’ movement of glamorising all-nighters and drinking as many energy drinks as you can to give you the anxiety buzz needed for staying awake. I thought my diary needed to be full of study days, extra sessions, and experience in the field. I struggled with all of these because as a recovering anorexic with bipolar disorder and a long history of perfectionism I found it hard to meet both the expectations I put on myself and the reality of university life.

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, but also struggling with being a student with a mental illness. In my third year, March 2020, I hit a rock bottom with that struggle and it nearly ended my life. I was underweight, severely depressed and I had little energy to function without thinking about dissertations, research, and lectures. 

Fast forward to present day: I am a Post Graduate Researcher in Law and Criminology working on research that I believe has changed my perceptions of not only academia but also life in recovery. My aim with this blog is to share some of my coping strategies I have learned along the way with you.

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Eating Disorders and Academia: A Fight for Control by Emily Ennis

TW: This blog discusses eating disorders

Academia has a way of making you feel like it is the only important thing in the world. It makes you expect to treat yourself and others badly because it’s ‘just part of the journey’ from student to tenured professor. Yes, an enriching home life, strong family bonds and living near your place of work are all vital components to mental wellness and personal fulfilment, but are they more important than student essays? Than your first book? Than doing whatever you can to keep your foothold in a notoriously cruel and unfair environment? At some point I answered those questions for myself. Academia had to come first – I was taught that excellence should be the outcome at all costs. 

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