When I started my first year on the tenure track, I did so knowing that it would be challenging. Not only would I have the tenure process to worry about, but I also began teaching more than I ever had during my graduate school training. On top of these challenges, I live with a chronic autoimmune disease which can be unpredictable and flares under new and stressful conditions. It was a perfect storm and I knew that my health would suffer if I didn’t make it a priority.
Today I submitted grades for all of my writing classes, and I want to briefly reflect on what worked as I tried to take care of myself this year.
- Health Insurance! As I have mentioned in the past, benefits for full time faculty at CCs can be substantially better than other types of schools due to a strong union presence. This was the first time I had access to all the medical help I could want, and I took advantage. From taking care of my Vitamin D deficiency to getting referred to a dietician, this benefit was immensely helpful.
- I had a health coach. In the past couple of years, I have noticed an increase in the availability of life coaching, career coaching, or other kinds of guidance beyond a therapist/patient relationship. A friend of mine was beginning a coaching career and allowed me to work with her for a discounted rate as she earned her license. We talked on the phone twice a month about my goals and values alongside her speciality in mindfulness and meditation. These conversations became an opportunity for me to re-center my health as work demands constantly drew my focus.
- My chronic illness buddy. My very good friend suffers from an autoimmune disease similar to my own and we are working to create structure and support for each other even though we live far away. When doctors do not take our pain seriously, we take each other’s pain seriously. We have a Google Doc with updates on our health, procedures, and doctor visits as well as resources such as recipes and articles in the news.
- Rituals for Selfcare. From Adeline Koh’s line of Sabbatical Beauty to Rebecca Schuman’s 10-step Korean Skin Care Routine, to Sarah Ahmed’s Selfcare as Warfare this has been the year of academic women taking care of ourselves. My personal rituals include epsom salt baths with Ylang Ylang and lavender essential oils, watching The Americans while eating chocolate, and sleeping 9-10 hours per night.
What rituals, practices, and support networks do you turn to when health issues flare up?
“I need a wife.” In a meeting last week, my female colleague says this to me. “I need a wife.” She is a divorced mom of two sharing parenting responsibilities amicably but not equitably with her ex. She sent her son off on a camping trip with school and he returned to his dad’s house with a suitcase full of dirty laundry. Even though her son stayed with Dad for a few days, the laundry ended up coming home to Mom still caked with grime, still stuffed in a suitcase. My colleague is understandably perturbed by this and she has to make a choice. Does she spend her time and emotional energy doing the laundry, feeling pissed off? Or does she spend her time and emotional energy explaining to her former partner what 50% of the parenting responsibilities actually means? Either way the burden of care is hers. When she says she needs a wife, I can relate. What would it be like to have someone at home with a lifetime of socialization on how to perform the labor of care? For the academic women all around me, this is the dream.
Long-time readers may know that I’ve struggled with health problems in the last couple of years, mostly related to a self-destructive uterus. It’s mostly controlled now, and I’m no longer debilitated by pain or anemia.
But three separate times in the last two years, before my condition was effectively treated, I’ve had to take opiates for the pain.
I was recently looking at some photographs taken of me from one of those times, and I was struck by how different I looked. I looked…this may come as s surprise, but I think I looked beautiful. Relaxed. Happy. I was smiling the way a young child smiles, unselfconsciously.
And I knew, instantly, that it was the drugs. Continue reading
It’s the holidays, which means making the lighting-fast gear shift from last semester’s grading to next January’s grant deadlines, all while navigating the ups and downs of the holiday season. For me, it’s been more downs than ups (family drama, and distance always sucks). I’m feeling the weight of anxiety and depression pretty heavily this season, and a series of rejections hasn’t helped. I’ve had a really hefty travel schedule, too. I still haven’t replaced the social safety net I had in graduate school, and I’m feeling pretty isolated. For better or worse, I’m not feeling very resilient right now.
And yet that’s exactly what I need to feel, to bolster myself for a new semester (two new courses to prep!), and three NSF deadlines in January, and manuscripts to write, and students who need me to be a rock through their yough times, too. Plus, given the long turnaround times of papers and grants, I’m already thinking about next year’s review even though I just turned in this year’s (it was really positive, but I hear the Year 3 reviews are brutal in comparison).
Anyone who knows me well knows that I don’t like to wallow; I try to give myself space to feel what I’m feeling, and then I shift gears, make plans and work on moving on. So, how does an occasionally depressed-and-grumpy academic get by? Continue reading
The holidays can be a great time to show your appreciation for the academic in your life. The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s has always been one of my absolute favorites– the celebrations, the festive atmosphere, gatherings with friends and loved ones, decorations, the first snow, delicious food and seasonal cocktails (I happen to love eggnog and spiced rum). For academics, however, it’s also a particularly stressful time. As a grad student, I had course and grading obligations, plus financial stress often meant I could’t travel, or couldn’t afford gifts. As a faculty, November marked the beginning of my major grant-writing season, and moving across the country for my job means my partner and I are celebrating without our closest friends and loved ones. While the holidays are a time for much-needed restoration for everyone, they’re also a great opportunity to give your favorite academic a little love and support.
If you’re celebrating a gift-giving ritual this season and you’ve got a stressed-out, overworked academic on your list, fear not! Tenure, She Wrote is here to help with your gift-giving needs. I asked our blogging team what they’d love to unwrap this year. Continue reading