How being bluntly honesty about myself is wonderful, painful, beautiful, impressive, & awkward. A #LISMentalHealth Week post

I’m bluntly honest about myself. I’m old enough to feel comfortable being this honest. Maybe that’s the actual reason. Or maybe I’m strong enough to reject/ignore whatever judgements or assumptions others have about me. (Most of the time.) What you think of me has nothing to do with who I really am: a white trash, trailer park kid from Southwest Georgia who somehow ended up okay and has achieved some fantastic things. I’ve already said everything about myself that I INTENSELY hid for so long.

But I don’t know what else to do beside be open. In person and online. I recently told a checkout clerk that something in the grocery store that made me intensely anxious. They stared at me blankly, but it was my honest response to, “How are you doing?”. I’m tired of saying, “Fine.” or “Not bad”. I know these are things we say to one another out of habit, a social norm, and general politeness. But fuck that. Lying about how I’m doing feels weird and dishonest to myself. Anyway, I feel weird enough without a lie.

On the other hand (or something), I don’t really have an interest in radical honesty. But for some reason it’s oddly fascinating to me. Maybe because it feels partially connected to the honesty I value about myself. Others have taken radical honesty on. I’ve seen it shared on YouTube, tweets, websites, and in books. I think being honest about myself is more than enough (much, much more). Maybe everything for me will go down in magnificent flames as a result, or I’ll classically burn out rather than fade away. Or I’ll nap. And then keep going?

I’m okay right now. I’ve pushed myself to the edge and seen what happens after. For some reason that sounds rather arrogant when it is really simply me saying I live with mental illness and somehow still made it this far. I don’t know why this is a redundant thought I put in my blog posts. I wonder if/think it’s because some part of me believes sharing will be to my detriment. I’m waiting for the crash (that may never happen). The “are you sure you can handle this?” and other comments. For someone to call me outright, “a crazy bitch”. You can say that. It’s happen before.

I go to therapy every week. I’ve cried in public in so many places I can’t keep track. Panicked because a server seemed pushy about my sharing food with others (my ED makes this really uncomfortable if not provokes a complete shut down). I’ve had panic attacks on stage. I dissociate sometimes and don’t know how to get my footing back. My society anxiety sets in so quickly at times that I find the easiest way to escape (basically I disappear to home). I’m intensely medicated at the moment. Morning, noon, and night. The side effects are real and frustrating. My psychiatrist wants to get me to my “optimal level” before we start taking away medications. I’ve curious about this optimal level of myself. Is that real?

This is not a lovely, well-organized, and coherently flowing post. Mostly an assemblage of thoughts I’ve had over the past few months all in one place. I share a lot of my mental health concerns and struggles with mental illness, but for the most part I want others to know that what I’m experiencing may not be “normal”, but it’s normal enough that I know other people are going through similar (or dramatically different) struggles. But we keep on.

Poem by Andrea Gibson. Image from Button Poetry

The Traveling Academic: Maintaining (a Reasonable Amount of) Sanity

Recently, I listened to a new episode of one of my favorite podcasts, The Hilarious World of Depression, during which the host and Jeremy Pelletier, a non-profit director and geographer, talked about the impact of travel on mental health, particularly Jeremy’s. … Continue reading

My Winter of “No. You Really Can’t.”

I’ve written in the past about my lifelong struggle with mental illness. Since I posted Parts One and Two last July about my panic attack during this past ALA Annual, I suffered two major bouts of depression – one that I’m still in the process of working through. Writing about these experiences reminds me that while I have really bad lows, I usually manage to crawl my way out of them through medication, therapy, exercise, and sharing.

My current episode of depression began in mid-December when I realized, “Oh. I’ve majorly overextended myself.” I procrastinated, misjudged deadlines, made promises that I thought I could deliver on, and more. I’ve told myself over and over again to back off and slow down. Once this spring semester began, I knew I was in trouble but still thought maybe I could manage. It would be some sort of point for bragging on social media among academics that I see all the time, right? “I’m so busy. I have so much work to do. I’m so committed to my profession.” and on and on.

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I’m Not Sure Why I’m Here: A Panicked Story, Part 1

It’s about a week out from my marathon, back-to-back, cross-country June conference tour of CSCL, ALA Annual 2017, and IDC. I’ve had some time to get sick, rest, run a lot, catch up on e-mail, and talk out my conference experiences with those close to me and an amazing therapist. Conferencing is always challenging; sometimes fun, sometime frustrating, sometimes confusing, sometimes rewarding, etc. But, for me, this two-week conferencing period has been my hardest yet. I’ve attended back-to-back conferences several times before but only two in a row within the same city. Over my two weeks of conferences, I presented four times (two of which were to unfamiliar (non-LIS) audiences), attended multiple committee meetings, tried to finish some deadline-driven writing, attempted data collection, and talked about myself more than I like. Going to conferences to discuss your research, learn about the work of your colleagues, and expand your knowledge of a new or familiar field is exciting. I’m very thankful that I have so many opportunities to travel, meet new people, learn, and share.

But what I really want to focus on is a conference experience where I had an almost paralyzing panic attack that I’m still trying to understand. This happened during the New Members Round Table (NMRT) Orientation Session panel at Annual. A few months before the conference, I received a lovely e-mail asking if I would participate on the panel. Immediately I wondered why would anyone would ask me? Seriously? What did I have to offer? (What you see here is the lingering low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence, and diminished self-worth heightened by my experiences in a doctoral program. But that’s for another post.). Finally, I replied “Yes!” because it sounded fun and a good experience for a panel newbie like me.

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Learning about work-life balance

During April and May I had a mad rush of graduating, then turning right around and teaching a six weeks undergraduate course about social media management. But for the past two months I’ve been trying to do some self-care. In case you … Continue reading

I’m Going to the Gym! Or, Why I Exercise

I get a lot of questions about my exercise habits, but recently it feels like people are slightly more curious. During the past six months, I’ve become more active in long distance running and posting about my training and races … Continue reading