The Scamp Needs Reassurance

I’ve already failed at the 20 things I want to do in 2020. I only managed one post last week instead of two. This puts me in a bad mood. I can’t keep to a simple plan.

Same with the diet right now. I’m terrified of what will happen if I step on a scale right now. I’m frustrated that I cannot resist falling into old bad habits.

I am feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders.

My PhD edits are due in a little over a month. At the moment I only have two chapters that are done. I spent three weeks in California and was able to write four chapters. I have feedback on two waiting for my attention. I have one chapter that needs to be written.

I am running out of time.

Last week I had a meeting with my supervisor about the feedback on my chapters. The feedback was good. It is constructive, it is detailed. It will hopefully get me on track to pass. When I told my supervisor that I was worried that I would not pass the corrections, instead of telling me that I would be okay and that I would pass, she told me that she cannot guarantee that I will pass. She did not want to give me any false promises and it was out of our hands. During the same conversation, she said if I pass the corrections then she has carried me through the PhD and deserves to be the one who hoods me at graduation.

Now, I want to qualify this. While I do feel a little undervalued and very much abandoned by my supervisors, I do love Joan. She has carried me through the process because I have given up. I spent four years being mucked about and because of that I almost failed. They told me the whole time they were not worried about me during the viva and no one expected me to have to rewrite the thesis. She is the only one who is helping me the corrections, the only one who was there on viva day and is really the only one who stood up for me during the process. I want her to be the one to give me my hood. I also know that she doesn’t want to lie to me, especially given what I went through in the viva, so I do appreciate that she is being honest with me.

But let me tell you how my brain works.

It does not work with a lack of reassurance that I will be successful if I make the corrections. It then immediately fixates on the fact that if I mess this up I don’t get the PhD. If I don’t have the PhD, then I am no longer eligible for my job. If I lose the job, I lose the visa. If I lose the visa, I get deported. If I go back to California, I will have no job, massive student loans and nowhere to live.

Then I have the constant barrage of questions about when I graduate when I’ll be done, why haven’t I finished. Not to mention the recrimination of not answering emails fast enough, not responding to things I cannot emotionally handle, and for not driving all over the state of California at Christmas to see people who really haven’t made that much effort to be my friend and support me.

I’ve just about had it. I cannot work without a little reassurance, without a little support, and right now, I am not getting it. I’m not exactly making it easy for people, but I do not want to have to do so much work to be supported. I also don’t want to hear everything is going to be okay, or that I am smart enough or that I know what I need to do. I need a hug. I need someone to take my debit card away so I can’t buy crap food to eat. I need someone to text me just to say hi how are you.

I need people to stop comparing their suffering to mine. I know that eventually, I will be okay and that there are a lot of people who are struggling a lot more than I am with a lot more difficult issues. Logically I know this. But I am tired and my brain does not work logically right now. I will be so happy when this PhD process is over and I can move on.

I saw a tweet the other day about whether or not a PhD was worth it. The woman who write felt like it wasn’t. Now that I have almost completed 2, I am starting to wonder if what she thinks is true.

I felt like I needed to put this out in the world so that I might be able to find the motivation to keep going.

But the next post. That one is going to be writing for fun….if I can remember what fun is.

The Scamp Persists

2018 was not my year. In fact, it was one of the worst years I’ve had in a long time. I stumbled a lot. I had some of my worst lows. I thought about quitting the PhD. I thought about quitting Scotland. I quit on my diet. I quit on some of my friends. I quit making emotionally healthy choices.

There were some days that I felt 2018 quit on me.

Nevertheless, I persisted.

After 25 failed job applications, 2018 did me a solid. I got a full-time job in Scotland. I think it was quite poetic that I got the news while I was in the lift at Napier. I told my supervisor first.

No, that’s not true. I did a happy dance and cried in the lift. Then I told my supervisor.

He actually hugged me! I think I wanted to tell him first because he has been so hard on me and we spent most of 2018 not seeing eye-to-eye on my work.

The best in-person reaction was from my mentor. She is the only reason I got the job. She has given me work, let me publish as lead author and sent me a million and one jobs postings. When I told her, she jumped up and gave me the best mom hug ever. It is exactly what my mom would have done. She also told everyone in the office, including the two women on the hiring committee for the post in the office. Those women refused to even look at my application. I spent a week feeling bad about the fact that the place I worked for the last three years wouldn’t even consider me for my own position. I met the person they did hire on the day I got my acceptance letter….and I have to tell you, I did not engage with the new person at all. Didn’t introduce myself, didn’t make conversation, and did not care one little bit that I was being rude.

I have spent three miserable years in that office. People who work there still have no idea what I do or how far along I am in the process. Not too long ago, one of them introduced themselves to me thinking I was new. I have been taken off projects, removed from the staff page, been moved to a closet, had my desk taken from me, and have my every move tracked for ‘audit purposes’.

Nevertheless, I persisted.

I am very very very behind on my thesis. I don’t care. I’m very very very behind on work for one of my jobs. I don’t care. It is not the way I want to start the new year. I’ve scheduled a meeting with my favourite supervisor to get the kick in the ass I need to get everything finished in time. I want to start 2019 on the right foot by putting Napier behind me. It saved my life by getting me out of California after CSUF, but that is just about the only good thing I can say.

So, in an effort to make up for a rotten year, and to live up to the promise of this year, I will persist.

The Scamp Suffers a Setback

I would just like to take this time to apologise to the people in Tollcross at 4 pm this afternoon. I know I offended a lot of British sensibilities when I got off the number 10 bus and went straight into the arms of one of my best friends and sobbed like a baby.

For a good five minutes.

I’m sorry for the people on the number 10 bus who saw me using my jacket to mop up the snot.

I’m sorry for the people on the number 16 bus who didn’t get to sit down during rush hour because I was a drunk mess sobbing on my way home.

I am, however, not sorry for my emotions, or the fact that when I am upset I have no control over them.

For the last three years, I have been busting my ass to finish a four-year project. I have dealt with changes in my job role, setback and delays with my writing, and the constant niggling fear that I was not going to be able to complete my work before my funding runs out. 6 months ago I was told that I was on track to submit by July. I’ve been working toward that deadline.

Today I was told that it is almost impossible for me to meet that deadline.

So I did what any mature person does: I cried like a baby.

The last four months have been really tough on me. I’ve been juggling multiple jobs, sending out loads of job applications and suffering from stress-induced writer’s block.  I have not seen my family in over a year because I had to prioritise finishing my thesis, and have not had a break since New Years. I’m burned out. I have zero fucks to give and now it turns out that is going to cost me graduating on time.

This means that in two months I will lose my primary source of income and have to figure out how to pay my course fees and all of my bills. To say I am in a panic is an understatement. To say that my struggle with anxiety and depression is making it worse is like saying the sky is blue…just so painfully obvious it doesn’t need to be said.

Last week the dean of our department basically told the staff to strive to be average. I heard this from people who were actually at the meeting (I wasn’t allowed to attend, because let’s be honest, I have never been a part of the office). At the time I sided with my supervisor who was raging. Why should anyone strive to be average? Who wants to be mediocre?

Right at this moment, I understand being okay with just being average. I would love it if my thesis was just average, just passable. At this point, I just want it to be good enough for me to get my degree, rather than the best work I am capable of producing. I understand that mindset right now.

The positive in all of this is that I am surrounded by people who are very supportive of me. One of my supervisors hugged me and let me cry whilst telling me that I can still prove my main supervisor wrong and that it is okay for me to feel this way. My mom paid off a large part of student loan for me so that I could save the money I was going to use for my bills next year. My wombmate sent me photos of my babies that she knows make me happy so I had something else to focus on.

One of my best friends here pretended that he missed the bus when I text him and hugged me until I stopped crying and then filled me with rum and chips while helping me look at the situation objectively and make a plan of attack that would allow me to move forward. My llama offered to burn down the place and promised to keep me on my writing schedule so that I could kick ass and prove everyone wrong.

Now I am drunk, which never happens, full of pizza and self-loathing, and reminding myself that a setback just means that I am going to feel that much more accomplished when I finish.

Right now though I am going to cry a little more and watch cute baby animal videos on Youtube. Tomorrow when I am hungover and remorseful I will get myself back into my research and try to get myself back on track.

 

 

The Scamp and Mental Health Awareness Week

As social media gears up to celebrate mental health awareness week (14-20th of May) in the UK, I am gearing up for the onslaught of cliche inspirational posts that make me want to bang my head against the wall. This year the focus of the week is on stress and whether or not we are coping well.

I can already tell you that I am not coping well. Anyone who has ever undertaken a PhD will tell you that the end of the write-up is no picnic.

I saw a post the other day that said, “You are not your mental illness”.  Maybe you aren’t your mental illness, but I am very much mine….and I don’t think I am alone in that thought.

I am sad more than I am happy. I struggle with crippling self-doubt. I find it hard to leave my flat for days at a time because I am worried about the what people see when they look at me. I’m anxious about my future and often find sleep elusive. I cry out of frustration when I can’t do things well the first time. I constantly feel like the universe is shitting on my head while a little black rain cloud follows me around. I am extremely hard on myself and the people around me, and they often bare the brunt of my moods and feelings.

But, just as I am my illness, I am part of my treatment. I take my medication every day. I see my therapist every two weeks. I do yoga and practice mindfulness to slow down the negative thoughts and racing heartbeat. I wear bright colours and crazy prints so that people focus on my clothes and not my face. I work hard

I watch a lot of baby animal videos.

I’m one of the lucky ones though. I can afford to get my meds, afford to get help and have a really great support system.

Today is American Mother’s Day, and I called my biggest supporter to wish her a good day. I haven’t seen her in 6 months, and haven’t even really been able to Facetime with her in the last couple of weeks. She still checks in every day, tells me it is going to be okay and reminds me that there is a lot of good that comes from working hard and occasionally asking for help.

She also funds some of my adventures.

So, for mental health awareness week, I am going to embrace my mental health challenges and continue to work towards learning how to keep my depression and anxiety from running my life. It is a process. Last week was a really great week for me. Everything went my way and was smooth sailing. The two weeks before that were stressful and draining. It’s a balance that I am still learning to navigate. I don’t often get it right, but I have a therapist and a clear plan of action to help manage the bad days.

 

If you are struggling in the UK, here is a helpful site to get help:

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/your-mental-health/getting-help

If you are struggling in the US, you can find help here:

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/finding-help

The Scamp and the Writing Challnege: Week 51

Week 51. I’m not sure how that happened. It seems like just yesterday I was headed to the Amber Rose to meet four women that found themselves like me, in want of low key options for the new year, and a chance to meet some new girls. I was feeling depressed, had just returned from Budapest, and my therapist suggested that a good cure for my loneliness would be to go out and meet some new people, expand my social circle and realise that I didn’t need to dwell on the failure of a shitty relationship.

Turned out, it was a really great idea. Even though I went back to the shitty relationship in hopes that a clean start and compromise would make it better, I did keep and maintain a friendship with the new year’s ladies. We have the best group chat, travel together, have epic nights out, and they are some of my favourite people.

But, as usual, I digress. The challenge for this week is to discuss something that I know well: a source of anxiety.

It is fair to say that it would probably be easier for me to write about things that don’t give me anxiety (which at this moment are baby animal videos and chocolate). The challenge is to not only discuss the source of anxiety, but also the ways in which I am (or trying to) manage it.

I have a feeling this will be the most words I have put on a page in a really long time. The current source of my anxiety is words.  The words I am not writing for my blog. The words I am not writing for my thesis. The words being said to me by friends, family, and co-workers. The words being said to me by strangers. The words that I am not saying to anyone…even myself. All of those words are floating around in my head and driving me crazy. I constantly have music on, podcast, the TV, all of it just to drown out the words in my head.

Most of those words are telling me that I am not good enough. That I am not working hard enough to complete my PhD on time or find a fulltime time job. That my ideas for feedback and assessment practices don’t have merit, and that I am not a strong enough to make good decisions for myself. The voices are constantly telling me something bad is waiting to happen the moment I get too comfortable.

Some days I think it is probably terrifying for anyone to be around me, and that they would be even more freaked out if they saw what was in my head.

Now the part that is not so easy: how I am working through the anxiety. As I mentioned above, I keep myself surrounded by noise. I’m sure the ringing in my ears and my future self who can’t really hear are not thrilled by this, but it has been working so far so I might hold on to it for a little bit longer. I have also made sure that I have kept up with my therapy. Those sessions have helped me become more self-aware, and even though I sometimes hate that I understand what I am doing and why it has gone a long way to help me curb a lot of the negative thoughts. I do a lot of writing out of scenarios, and a lot of thinking about what those voices are saying, and whether or not they are based in reality, or if they are part of my dark and twisty. More often than not, that helps talk me off the ledge.

In addition to that, I have been trying to really get back to doing yoga regularly and practising mindfulness. The other day I did a yoga class that really helped me with a way I can make a change from the dark and twisty to the more light-hearted and grateful. Justin, one of the founders of Outlaw Yoga in Colorado created a space to practice gratitude by composing a challenging class and reminding us that we need to change our thought process from ‘got to’ to ‘get to’. In relation to the class, I get to try to hold a difficult pose, I don’t have to. I get to smile and be happy about not stopping when the sequence challenged me because I could have just turned it off and sat down on the couch to watch TV. The way I am going to try and apply this to my everyday life is stop saying that I have to work on the lit review, but that I am lucky because I get to work on it and try and make a contribution to the field. I don’t have to be lonely and in the dark and twisty because I get to see a therapist to help me through it, I get to go to events that allow me to meet new people, and eventually, I will get to a place emotionally where I am a little less stressed and anxious.

That’s not to say that I am successful at this just yet, but the great thing is, I get to keep practising and learning until my default habit is to think in terms of gratitude rather than negativity and self-doubt.

The Scamp and the Writing Project: Week 15

The challenge for this week is all about making lists. It is written that I can be as serious or as funny as I want about the subject of said list, but I had to make a list.

I was going to list the reasons why I like naps, but then I spent Tuesday waiting for FedEx and binge watching 13 Reasons Why, and decided that maybe my list should be a little more meaningful.

For those of you who have not seen the Netflix show, mini spoiler alert, it is about a girl who records the 13 reasons why she committed suicide. It is really well done, but very very very hard to watch. I don’t want to give too many spoilers, but one of the things that I really related to in Hannah’s struggle was the victim blaming. When all of that crazy stuff happened at CSUF, I was the one who ended up looking like the bad guy. I was the one that felt like I had done something wrong, and was the one forced to apologise to the people who hurt me. I was forced to listen to people label me a problem and accuse me of having no integrity. These people  told me I had created the situation, and I should apologise for the way things turned out. One of my really good friends told me that I had no right to feel attacked or discriminated against because of the colour of my skin, and that considering everything, it was best to just move on from the experience. People who were my friends froze me out, took sides, and eventually rendered me obsolete. Only one of them ever checked on me, and even then, I sometimes wonder if it was just for the gossip. I spent almost a year thinking the whole thing was my fault, and thinking that not only was my entire career over, but that I was going to become a racist because of it. That was the worst part, thinking that I was going to become the hateful monster that they all thought I was.

So in honour of the way that TV show triggered me, I thought I would make a list of 13 reasons why I am learning to be happy and love myself.

I had an amazing therapist who believed me. Not having insurance, I had to turn to other methods to get help. When I had run out of sessions at the uni, I went to the Brea Family Resource Center. For $10 a week, I could see a licenced therapist to help me work through my depression. I was really dark and twisty while I was at CSUF. I used to cry to class and on the way home from class. When it all ended, I spent most of my time in bed, didn’t talk to anyone, didn’t go out, and barely got dressed to go to work. My mother used to pretend she needed me to do things for her so I would have to put clothes on and leave the house. The BFRC saved my life. I’m not sure if they realise it, but that Thursday appointment was sometimes the only reason I made it through the week. Laurie, the therapist I saw, never made me feel crazy about what I described in the programme, never told me I was wrong when I cried about how depressed I was, and reminded me time and again that as long as I worked hard to make sense of, and heal from what happened, I would not bare any permanent scars, or become a racist. She worked really hard to help me separate the people who hurt me from what I knew to be true of most people. She got me through some really really dark days, and she was one of my biggest cheerleaders when I got the position in Edinburgh.

My family. They hugged me every time I came home crying, teased me to lighten the mood, and never questioned my telling of events. They took phone calls, called the evil women bitches, and sat in meetings with me so I didn’t have to face anything alone. They offered support, love, and a chance to feel normal…or as normal as you can when you are majorly depressed and feel like a giant failure.

Sour gummy worms. This needs no explanation. They make everything better.

My cat. He gave unconditional love. He didn’t care what I did or didn’t do as long as he got plenty of snuggles and got to sleep on my bed every night.

The beach. I used to go sit at the beach a lot to watch the waves and calm down. There is nothing better than sitting with your toes in the sand and a sea breeze tickling your face.

My friends. I have some really good friends from California that stuck by me, and friends that I made while living in Scotland who used to send care packages and have Skype dates with me to remind me that I’m not alone. I still have group chats, constant texts and the occasional care package to remind me that they love me. I can’t wait for more of them to be able to have the chance to come visit.

My passport. While I was trying to heal, I used my passport to see the world and  feed my wanderlulst.

Edinburgh. This city saved my life. I fell in love with it the first time I moved here, and being given the chance to move back at just the right time has made all the difference. I know that everyday isn’t perfect here, but I feel at home here, so dealing with the bad days is easier.

My Edinburgh friends. The people I already knew when I moved, and the people I made friends with since the PhD started have made a huge difference in my life. I have made more friends in the last couple of months than I had in years. It is nice to have people to share a meal with, to play music with, have a drink and a laugh with, and to talk to when I am feeling insecure, sad, or angry. I love them a lot, and while I don’t always talk to them about the dark and twisty, they seem to like me and are willing to support me just the way I am…..even when I am being unreasonable.

My current therapist. She is expensive, but worth it. She has really helped me build my self-confidence and find ways to not only manage my anxiety and work through my depression, but she is helping me break my habit of the dark and twisty and slowly getting me to become more of a glass half full kinda girl

Yoga. Enough said.

My blog. I can get the crazy thoughts out of my head and onto the page. It is nice to get the words out of my brain, but it is also nice to feel like I am sharing a bit of me with the world. I don’t normally do that face-to-face with people, but it is pretty easy for me to do from behind my computer screen. I have met some lovely people through my blog, and it is nice to know that there are people out there that share my love for writing and travel, who struggle with depression and anxiety, and are generally interested in what I have to say.

Last, but not least, the knowledge that no matter what happens, I will be okay. I’ve managed to make it this far, so I think my chances of being successful are pretty damn good.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 7 and 8

Week 7: Dig through your couch cushions, your purse, or the floor of your car and look at the year printed on the first coin you find. What were you doing that year?

I got the year 2015. Hmmmm. Two years ago at this time I was in Boston with one of my favorite Scotland girls. We were there during one of the worst snow storms of that year, and we had an amazing trip. She was very supportive with all that was going on at CSUF, and she left our hostel room so that I could interview with my now supervisors. She kept telling me I had nothing to be nervous about, that I would be great during the interview, and then she took me out to celebrate on our last day in Beantown.

2015 was the year my life changed. It sucked. Parts of it were really hard, and really made me question everything that I was doing with my life. My depression was really bad, and there were a few days that were a struggle. I was able to see a really good therapist at the local community centre, and I know that she had a major hand in helping me get healthy.  My 28th birthday changed all of that. I jumped out of an airplane and got a job in Scotland.

2015 was the year the wombmate got pregnant, and tomorrow we will celebrate my muffin’s 1st birthday. I was lucky enough to get to be there for the birth and his first few days in the big bad world. In three days we will be reunited for mischief and mayhem.

Week 8: When was the first time you really felt like a grown up (if ever)?

I like to joke that I am not really an adult yet, but I am sure I am. I’m not really sure about the first time, but the day I bought my Ford Escape was definitely a day that qualifies as an adult day for me. When my cute little Civic was totaled, I had a rental car until I got the insurance money. When I took the rental car back to the dealership, my brother-in-law and I decided to wander around a bit. A man came out to help us, and when he started talking to my bro-in-law, and when I saw Estelle, I knew I wanted her. Through the process he talked to my bro-in-law like he was in charge, but I asked to see the engine, talked about the oil changes and maintenance, and any previous accidents. Eventually he figures out that I am in charge, and although he talks to me the way a dad would talk to his daughter, he was nice. I usually let my dad handle these things, but after a quick call to him to see how low I could go on the price, I went in and negotiated everything on my own. Again, they talked to my bro-in-law first, and since that made me a little mad, I just held fast to the price I was willing to pay and then I drove home in a car that served me well for a year, and is now in the care of a good family friend.

While it seems like a silly thing to make me feel like an adult, when my dad said I did alright when he saw the car for the first time, I knew I was golden. Next year when I pay off the first of my student loans will really make me feel like an adult.

I am now getting ready for the long trip to California and the last few days of my 20s.