I was diagnosed with clinical depression and general anxiety disorder in 2008, though if I had been brave enough to seek help, I would have been diagnosed a lot sooner. While I am on medication that helps me a lot, it is not a cure and every day is different. Some days, I can clean, do laundry, write, revise, grade, and lesson plan. Other days, getting out of bed and moving to the couch is the most I can accomplish.
As a PhD candidate, I have limited funding and limited time to finish my dissertation. I know that I want to defend in a year. I want to defend in a year, but when moving to the couch is all I can accomplish then no writing gets done. It’s not easy, and I know I still have it a lot easier than many other people.
A friend of mine who is also a PhD candidate and suffers from severe depression posted this article by Katie Rose Guest Pryal on having to work when your brain won’t cooperate. She describes the struggle of not just having to write, but also being a parent and a wife, and how mental illness can slow things down and make you think that everything is terrible.
Perhaps the stigma of mental illness, particularly depression, has lessened while more people publish on the realities of dealing with it, but what can you do when you are on a time crunch and you literally cannot do the things you are supposed to? Is there room in academia for people like me and my friend who may not be able to work as quickly as our healthier peers?