#Dispatches From the Frontlines series crowdsources questions to get a broad indication of how our readers are coping with various challenges. The question this week: How’s your mental health? Have you found anything that helps? Is it impacting your work/career planning? Trigger warning: mention of suicide. This is hard reading.
We will continue with this question for one more week because of the quantity of responses.
New question for after that: How has your thinking about your career changed over the course of the 2020-2021 academic year? Respond here.
It feels like i have a old Nokia battery. Takes all night to charge and runs out of energy by 11am. I have started running long distance with my wife. This has kept me together. (Lecturer STEM)
I can manage one task per day. Planning long term is useless because there are too many variables at play. But lots of long term projects are supposed to get done…lots of guilt, doom scrolling, anxiety, and hiding from reality. (Tenured/admin, STEM)
My mental health is a complete DUMPSTER FIRE. It’s so bad that I feel like I don’t even have a grasp on checking in on my own self anymore…does that even make sense? I’m just numb and feel emotionless…like I’m not even here. I’m too overwhelmed to even see my therapist anymore, though I do see my psychiatrist regularly and am on a healthy dose of meds. My kids are the only things that keep me going. (asst Prof, Soc Sci)
Not good. I was self medicating with wine but my body feels badly when I do. I have completely submerged myself in my work which works until I completely collapse from exhaustion. I sleep a full day, and then start again. Not a great pattern (Asst Prof, STEM)
I have had 3 family members die (not covid-related but still awful) and two hospitalized for covid. Just being with family and not hanging out with anyone or seeing friends is getting pretty lonely. I’ve been feeling much more depressed recently but totally avoiding it by reading fiction and playing games on my phone. (Asst Prof, SS)
My mental health is at about a strong medium level right now. I can easily recall when it has been at a lower level, as well as when it has been at a higher level. So this is ok. However. I am finding it is starting to feel taxing heading towards the holidays. My birthday is next month, my family (and my daughters family) lives two hours away, and we are not able to visit. I keep remarking how the ironic thing is that my work is my “normal” right now keeping me steady, because usually it’s the little chaotic portal in the middle of my life, but has become my anchor to feel some form of normalcy as of late. I find routine is key, and that my routines are not necessarily planned, more defaulted out of new habits being formed and maintained. But in a good way. For example, I know use my lunch break at work to walk, because while we were working from home, I became accustomed to being able to go for a walk every day. I have changed my habits so that most of my shopping items are delivered via Amazon, and I don’t miss the public at the moment as it isn’t the same as it was when it was safe to be with public, so everything is just new and different, even 8 months in. I find I’d likely have a more positive relationship with social media now, as I do find it a wonderful lifeline and communicative support tool. I find that my optimism has gone up, but that’s likely because the pressure is felt more from everything surrounding every aspect of life. I am hoping that my mental health is maintained at this level, I know that I wasn’t doing so well early on in the spring while adjusting, but then summer came and where we live I was able to be in the backcountry alone with my kid and all was well most days. I am framing my mind around a safe and happy holiday at home for Christmas time where I won’t feel like I need to be running around to get stuff done, but I will also be trying to establish new mindsets towards having to be connected in new and different ways to my mother who is struggling with her health at this time, as well as my own grieving process to life as we ebb and flow. I don’t know if this answer the question, but answering it was a really positive exercise for me, so thank you! (Social Worker, Humanities)
Not good. I’m trying to finish a MA and while the end is within grasp, I can’t seem to push through to work anymore at all. Everything is hard and nothing seems like it matters because the world is such a mess and academia is so exclusionary, regardless of my efforts. I don’t know what’s next. The only thing that sometimes helps me is baking. It gives me a way to be creative and share some love with others, even if it’s just leaving cupcakes on someone’s porch for their birthday since we can’t celebrate together inside. (Grad Student, Hum)
Something that helps: Repair Shop on Netflix. I have no idea why this show is not more popular but it is soothing and lovely. Think of it as a mix of Antiques Roadshow meets This Old House. I wish I had a better fix for the stress, but I think it’s important to take the small joys where we find them. (Asst Prof SS)
My mental health is okay. I am thankful to be well-resourced (a great job with excellent insurance) with a fantastic support system. As someone who has clinical depression and anxiety, it is oddly refreshing to feel anxious about things a lot of people feel anxious about [COVID, politics, murder hornets and hurricanes] instead of things I normally fret about [where grapes fall on the glycemic index, why I bought them instead of apples, whether I locked the door each of the 5 times I got out of the car to check, etc.] but honestly I am ready for 2020 to be a thing of the past. (Non-Ac PhD Public Health()
Not great, a close friend killed himself a few weeks ago (he was a tenured academic at a dif university from my own). Zoom-teaching is exhausting, and although many students are appreciative, a large % of them are incredibly demanding. To make things yet worse, the university couldn’t care less about us faculty and keeps demanding we learn new methods and software most of which is meant for teaching high school or for business. We’re teaching remotely but students were promised by my univ. administration ‘some’ F2F (my dept said no to F2F from June but students felt betrayed because of mixed messages and some are v. angry and make public demands for tuition remission, including in class discussions, which always makes things an extra party). Lockdown means that students have nothing to do but write emails to their instructors and the office staff. They don’t even seem to skype or phone each other (much less read the syllabus) so 3we have -5x as many emails as pre-Covid and 3x as many office hours as in the past. Exhausted, no summer break, no fall break, feeling demoralized, haven’t exercised in 2 months though i was doing really well before that. The worst is that when students having a really hard time, I feel like I can’t do anything to help–either materially or morally: I have students with no computer, no internet connection (dialing into class from a phone), and are struggling to stay afloat because family members have lost jobs or are ill. And Research? who can do research when teaching is taking 60-70 hours a week? (Tenured Prof, Hum)
My mental health is so variable it is practically a diagnosis in the variability. Last week I cried, this week I have hope. Mentoring has been the best thing to feed hope. And sleep. And appropriate medical care, which has been harder to get than it should be, for chronic conditions. (Connection: uncontrolled chronic conditions are bad for mental health; if possible to manage physical health, better for physical and mental health.) (NTT Part time/Non-ac Part time)
Bad! I’m a grad student who is writing up and I’ve made basically no progress this semester because it just seems really pointless. Most other grad students I know are in the same spot, which actually makes me isolate more because the only people I know are grad students and when we chat it’s just a big job-market and existential dread spiral, which does not help and makes me feel worse. I’m lucky to have a GREAT advisor who encourages us to celebrate if we get ANYTHING done, so long as we’re doing a little bit each day. Also, I have a laboratory job which is very much just a job— being able to show up and do a series of fairly mindless tasks is my favorite part of the week nowadays (Grad student, SS)
My mental health is ok. I’ve struggled for years with anxiety and depression, so that’s nothing new. This year would have been incredibly tough if I had not gotten more politically active. I volunteered to start a county wide chapter, so that made me feel obligated to be involved. It ended up feeling really good. I recently interviewed for a full time position where I adjunct, but did not get it. This has been more upsetting than anything. I’ve stopped following Republicans on Facebook and avoid the petty talk, but I at least feel like my field is supportive of progressive values. I’ve been very careful of leaving the house and always wear masks. I’ve been cut off from visiting my elderly parents for several months, but we video chat, etc. We normally host Thanksgiving, but have cancelled it, so I’m actually less stressed about it. I’ve had my three year old at home by myself while I try to work and holds virtual class, which has been somewhat stressful, but I don’t really have another option. My mother in law had been watching her in our home, but she tested positive for COVID-19, so we were all quarantined. Now we are not allowing anyone else in our home. (Adjunct, SS)
Exhausted. Anxiety comes in waves just under the surface until something comes up that causes it to crash over me (even simple things like a small tech issue). (NTT SS)
Identified having a MRSA infection and undegoing tx has provided a great boon to my energy levels and everthing else. So for me there was a biological diagnoses that needed to happen. I have seen COVID-19 and the current political climate as overwhelming existential threats. For now, reframing COVID-19 as not going away anytime soon, allows me to view the experience as time for woodsheding myself and my life course. I also think, for me working towards a better housing situation ie more space/better place, will help the shelter in place more “enjoyable” Thanks for asking. Be Smart, Be Safe. (Grad Student, STEM)
Covid-19 exacerbates everthing. I am not ok: I am tired of the possibility of illness; tired of how my precarious employment makes it harder for me to acquire the tools to make work slightly easier; grateful for a job yet tired of being overworked and underpaid with no healthcare–thus so frightened to get sick and the Covid-19 threat looms. (NTT Hum)
My mental health is declining. I’m struggling to get anything done, but all I do is work (I’m an Associate Director). I’m grateful to work from home, but my work/life balance is nonexistent. My research is stagnant, and the pressure to comp is nauseating. I have no idea how I’m going to get through, but some how I always do. (Grad student, Hum)
My mental health could be doing better. I’m currently a 2 on a scale of 0-5. Struggling to commit to coping skills or focus on anything. Honestly, your post about waking up, working a couple hours, crashing, then scrolling for hours sounds accurate…just add in a few hours of staring at the on but paused tv, and we are the same person. (MFA, K-12 teacher, STEM)
I am exhausted. The news of vaccines were a brief glimmer of hope and then I thought about life post-pandemic and panicked. I have no idea how I will readjust. How can I ever feel safe on a plane? Without a mask? At a restaurant? At work? I have found taking walks to the pond near my house helps. It is comforting to see nature continues on, not disturbed by what we are going through. Career-wise, things are really good and I feel guilty about that. My partner is dealing with hiring freezes in industry, so while they are currently employed, they are having trouble pursuing the career they want. (Government, SS)