I’ve yet to tell many professors about my anxiety disorder, though it might in some ways make my life easier. It’s just a personal thing, and I’ve gotten flack from family and friends who I’ve discussed this with in the past. The consensus seems to be that life-especially when you’re a mother and graduate student-is supposed to be difficult and drive you crazy, and that if it’s not then you’re not working hard enough.
This article doesn’t really take into account that many students come to grad school with anxiety and depression issues already, but I think it’s more important that at this point we just expect grad students to have those issues. I say I have GAD and depression, and the answer is generally something along the lines of “welcome to the club.” I can talk medication with most students I know, because we’ve almost all been medicated or are medicated.
Some of this, I think, is a general public attitude toward people with anxiety and depression issues. To those who haven’t suffered from anything like it, or who have been able to use alternatives to medication successfully, it seems like whining. It’s difficult to see, and much like ADHD, these things are often misdiagnosed and over-medicated, which leads to a belief that it’s not real.
I don’t mean to suggest that everyone holds these views about depression/anxiety or will not be understanding. I’ve actually encountered far less understanding from people outside the program who know about my depression and anxiety than the few faculty members and other students I’ve shared it with. I think this is an overall cultural stigma that carries over into academia.
I’m having a very, very hard time studying for comps, as the last few years have been full of changes and circumstances that have left me exhausted. I’ve lost a grandmother and a cousin who was also a friend, and I’ve moved to a new city. I could’ve stayed in Waynesboro a year or two longer, but I underestimated the effect moving would have–and either way I was commuting upwards of an hour to classes while raising the Little Jedi and studying.
I’m very nervous about taking another exam. I failed my quals exam the first time I took them, and I have a snowball of anxiety every time I think about taking comps. Unstructured time is also difficult for me, as it’s another chance to think about all the worries, and I spend more of my studying time than I should just worrying. It’s difficult for me to explain all of that to a faculty member who I know has a lot going on as well, knowing also that while my circumstances might not be ideal, there are worse to be in. Anxiety also makes me rather intimidated in front of some of these folks. Sometimes I mean to say all of these things and just can’t get them out.
I should probably come cleaner about that with my committee, but it’s a double bind–some of it of my own making–between sounding like a whiner and/or procrasinator and being realistic about what I can accomplish.