I am terrified of writing this text. I am terrified, because I intend to publish it on the website I created as an aid in applying for PhD programmes and there is an absolute taboo in letting potential employers know about my mental illness.
I feel quite comfortable in academia. The people I have met so far were open minded and understanding whenever I opened up about my issues. But I only did so after I got to know them and thought I had proven myself enough for my admission not to taint their view of me. I am lucky in a way, because I always saw myself as ‘high-functioning’, which made it very easy for me to hide that I was in pain. It didn’t matter that I had cried all morning, under the shower and the entire 20 minute bicycle commute to uni, because once I had arrived I started work with dry eyes and an expression that could easily pass for focus.
After living with depression for a few years I noticed that I actually felt better about it after I opened up to people about it. That is not a brilliant breakthrough, intellectually I knew that sharing and in general talking about personal struggles had been shown to alleviate symptoms, but the thought alone filled me with shame and the dread that calling my illness by its name would make it real. Up until the point of naming the beast, I could always delude myself that it was all in my head and that, if I just tried hard enough, I could think it away. I still sometimes believe that.
And still, with every new position I start I spend energy on concealment. It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with me not trusting others, but rather with me having internalised the stigma surrounding depression. Every time I start a new phase in my life, every time I move to a new place, there is a slight hope I will simply leave this dirty little secret of mine behind. Maybe I was just tired and lazy and a new challenge will prove to be the motivator I had needed all along. Of course, depression catches up with me and the disappointment every time it does is immeasurable. I have to face it again.
When I finally told my current supervisor and PI about my struggle at the time they were kind and not at all judgmental. They told me to take my time to heal and make sure that I get the help I needed. So far, I haven’t had any bad experiences when it comes to opening up to people I work with within academia. And yet, I fear it.
And so I know that I will go back to the default of hiding and pretending that this isn’t part of my life. This is the reason for me to overcome the part that is scared right now, telling me not to publish this post. I want to break my own pattern by connecting this part of me directly to the website I use to apply for jobs with. It is unlikely I will be completely healed anytime soon, but I cannot allow this to stand in the way of my career. I am normalising the conversation surrounding my mental health.


1 thought on “Normalisation”

  1. I have just read your post and I think it and you are amazing. So brave .I have shared it with my friends. Go girl! Another trailblazer 😀😘


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