This blog is part of a special issue, released for World Mental Health Day. At Voices of Academia (VOA) we strive to make sure your voice and experience is heard. Dealing with loss is complex and an additional strain on our mental health during the academic process. The blog was recorded as part of a conversation between our guest, Jemima Thompson and Marissa Edwards (one of the VoA team) earlier this year. This is the second part of the interview.
Part 4: Identity and the Value of Past Experience
M: And you said also that you felt anxiety and imposter syndrome. Do you think that’s a result of what you went through with your husband? Or do you think that’s more just the PhD environment?
J: I think it’s six of one, half dozen of the other. I think again you have that feeling of, “I really am the imposter. Everyone else’s imposter syndrome isn’t real but mine is” and it’s that weird cognitive dissonance, isn’t it? Like, “I know that it’s a syndrome and that’s more a perception, not a real thing so I’m not really an imposter but I definitely am.“
M: Yes, absolutely.
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This blog is part of a special issue, released for World Mental Health Day. At Voices of Academia (VOA) we strive to make sure your voice and experience is heard. Dealing with loss is complex and an additional strain on our mental health during the academic process. The blog was recorded as part of a conversation between our guest, Jemima Thompson and Marissa Edwards (one of the VoA team) earlier this year. The blog is in two parts, and there is a link to the second part at the end of this post.
From Jemima: Since this interview was recorded in April, I sadly lost my father to COVID-19 the following month. In light of this devastating turn of events I wish to dedicate this interview to him and his memory, and to all of those who have experienced the loss of a loved one during one of the most challenging times in living memory.
Part 1: The Start of the Journey
Jemima (J): I’ll start in the beginning and how I ended up in academia because I think that’s an important part of the story for me. So, I’m 32 now. I came to academia quite late. It wasn’t like I went from 18 went through the Bachelors, the Masters, and a lot of people have taken that route where they’ve just stayed in academia the whole time. I’ve been in and out and done all kinds of weird stuff.
The reason that I ended up where I am now is partly because of what happened previously in my life. My PhD is in medical education looking specifically at doctor-patient communications and patient-centred care. The thing that made me feel that this is so important and why I want to do this was that my husband had multiple sclerosis. He was diagnosed when he was about 24 and he died about five years ago. During that journey and all of those hospital appointments, I learnt about all of the multidisciplinary stuff that’s going on and the complex, complicated connections between healthcare professionals and the community and hospitals and even inpatients/outpatients.
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“What language do you dream in?” is in all honesty a really cute question that I sometimes get asked when one of my friends wonders what it is like being bilingual. I do not really remember the language of my dreams, but I do certainly know which language I learn in.
In this blog, I wanted to discuss one particular aspect that, in my opinion, is sometimes overlooked in the conversation of mental health, inclusion, and accessibility in academia: language. 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.
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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. As a result of this lack of self-confidence I also lacked assertiveness personally and professionally. A lack of assertiveness is not often associated with men, but we do experience it. I still struggle with a lack of self-confidence but having finally acknowledged it I am now actively working to fix it.
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