Back-To School Supply List: 10 Reminders for Starting a New Academic Year with a Mental Health Condition


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New folders. New laptop. New dorm room. New landlord.

Whether you’re starting a new school year in middle school, high school, college or graduate school: as routine and predictable as the change can be on paper, it’s almost never that easy in reality.

It can be even more complicated and challenging, though, when you’re facing it with a mental health condition.

And while it’s just as difficult to try to make that aspect of things routine or predictable on paper: nevertheless, here is a handy back-to-school supply list of 10 reminders to keep at hand as a starting point — for students, as a reminder throughout the change process; for parents, as a view into the challenges your child might face to help you better support them; and for teachers and professors, to better understand the needs of your students so you can aid them in growing as learners and as people, and so you can be sensitive to their specific needs in helping them find the best resources to access and chart their most fruitful paths forward.

Way back when, my first counseling professor always spoke about experiences, encounters, practicum work and theories in books in terms of “tools for your toolbox,” things to learn and then pull out as the situation required. In that spirit, I hope these can be something like Post-Its in your backpack: little brightly-colored tidbits that can help to ground you if you struggle, help foster understanding if you love or work with someone who struggles, and ultimately remind you: you’re not alone.

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A Day That Will Live In Brexit-famy


As an American studying in Scotland, the scene plays out like some of the worst nightmares I’ve had about November: fear-mongering, xenophobia, a “return” to a time when things were “right” and “great”—but when “right” meant even less equal, and “great” was characterized by imperialistic ideas of worth and value, by laws legitimizing hate. Separation and terror and divisiveness has won the day, oh dear god—

Wait, no. Different nightmare.

No, the nightmare here is the Brexit vote to leave the EU that eerily trumpets (pun unintended, but apt) the same troubling values that plague my American nightmare, and in so doing, underscores an even darker reality: this is not a scourge that knows national boundaries. This is a global phenomenon, this politicization of hate, hearkening back to the 1980s, 1960s, 1930s, and countless times before—this human project of lessening ourselves by rejecting what can be learned in collaboration, what can be grown in communion: what can be gleaned from the simple act of compassion.

I was in Glasgow the day of the vote, and I found a Post-it left on a public map. It read:


Immigration enriches Scotland + the UK. VOTE REMAIN.

If you know my angle on these sorts of things at all: my process-oriented perspective is in full swing in responding to this state of affairs, and this message was a poignantly concise statement of the truth I hold to. The idea of creative contrast is at the heart of meaning making in such a worldview, and there can be no contrast if we eschew diversity. We cannot be enriched, there is such diminished potential for that broadening of self in isolation that it’s almost made insignificant. It cannot yield novelty.

Moreover, there can be no creativity if we trade compassion and camaraderie for hate. The very concepts we define ourselves by as humans—our capacity to make and create and innovate—are cut at the knees.

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(-ish)(-less)(-ness)(-loathing): The Self/Soul and The Insidiousness of Mass Violence


I remember, over a decade ago, the first time I encountered the Wiccan Rede.

Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill, An it harm none do what ye will

I thought that made sense; felt, somehow, that for all the differences between religions, spiritualities, and worldviews of various natures, that this was the key, the thrust behind the cross-contextual, multinational affirmation of the Golden Rule. Whatever you do, whatever you thrive upon: what does it matter, so long as no one is harmed by it? And if we treat one another with a sense of non-violent aversion to harm, then goodness gracious: we’re bound to cultivate some care in the process.


In the wake Orlando, I read the advice of that Rede with new inflections. I see the gold of that Rule cast, lit by the angle of a different light.

Harming none means none. No one. No harm.

Even to one’s self.

Doing unto others what you would have them do unto you requires that one knows what they’d want, what they might need. So often, in so many contexts and from so many sources, religious and otherwise: we are taught to accept others, receive others—but we struggle even, with this. And do we struggle, in part, because we do not remember that, axiomatically, in order to fulfil the Golden Rule—to do unto others as we would have then do unto us—we must first know for ourselves how we’re meant to be treated; how we feel we deserve to be treated at the very primary point of contact, the initial model of how the self is valued and engaged?

For how else do we learn how to act, how else do we know how we want to be treated, aside from the ways in which we treat ourselves?

We circulate the message of love and goodness and care as the necessary response in times like these. This is necessary, this is honourable, this is human. And yet, to turn those maxims in response to ourselves smacks of narcissism. Indulgence. Something to be earned, or else ashamed of, for availing in the luxury needlessly.


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The Gifford Lectures: A Review of Dyson Freeman’s ‘Infinite In All Directions’



All rights to the following review, shown here in part and in full via link, are held by Templeton Press.

Science writing of nearly every shade is axiomatically time-sensitive; a lecture on the origins of life from a perspective in the natural sciences, from an theorectical physicist such as Freeman Dyson, therefore emerges as ‘dated’ fairly quickly. Thankfully, Dyson takes his title Infinite In All Directions—quoting Emil Wiechert—very much to heart, with the common thread of the book emerging not in its sequential facts, but instead in its consistent and multicontextual bid for diversity, the “chief source of beauty and value, in the natural universe around is, in the governance of human societies, and in the depths of our individual souls” (xiii).

With the most recent 2004 edition offering the author’s own perspective on what has and has not proven obsolete since the original 1988 publication, Dyson is clear as to the thematic thrust of his work, admitting that he has no desire to “revise” the piece to update the science; in functional terms, though, the necessary updates would do nothing to add or detract from the great value of Dyson’s work where it stands to be gleaned from the the philosophical insights he never shirks, and arguably circles back to as a rule.


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SGSAH Blogger-In-Residence: The Doctoral Experience—Making The Most of Your Summer

In currently serving as the Blogger-In-Residence for the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities, I’ve had the unique opportunity to weight-in and reflect upon various aspects of the doctoral experience. Via weekly posts, here are my varied insights into this process known as Earning the PhD.

It’s Scotland, so one might not know we’re approaching the summer months unless they look at a calendar, but indeed: we are! Terms are ending, and that means a suspension of sorts in our normal routines. It’s doubtful that any doctoral researcher truly takes a summer off, but in having a slight reprieve, here are a few points to consider in setting your schedule from June through to September.

Highlight Experience

You know all of those pie-in-the-sky ideas you had for research related (however tangentially) endeavours that fell to the wayside during term because they would have required you to miss X appointment, or Y seminar? Now is the time to see if they’re actually doable. Want to study abroad, but not sacrifice term-time at your home institution? See what’s available for summer. Want to go on a research pilgrimage across one continent or another? Three months is more than enough time to fit that in.

Credit: BBC's Doctor Who; Source:


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Some Blood-Soaked Point: A Review of ‘Tarantino and Theology’

When dealing with a creator as distinctive in style, content, attitude, and execution as Quentin Tarantino, the reactions to both the man and his works (to say nothing of their implications) is usually much like Tarantino’s approach itself: loud, colorful, passionate, divisive, and maybe just a little bit out of left field, for better, and also sometimes for worse. Be it one of these things, all of these things, some of these things, or none of them, Tarantino and Theology brings to the table an anthology of essays leading us up through Tarantino’s second-most-recent feature-length release—Django Unchained—and released in advance of his first-most-recent film, The Hateful Eight.


At large, the collection boasts a vast breadth of focus and style: perhaps in itself reminiscent of the iconic Kill Bill: Vol. 1 scene with the Crazy 88s—a veritable fountain of unending lifeblood spouting from a singular source only to soak from various angles, leaving singular splatter-patterns that still share the same crimson hue (or, in the case of the scene’s monochrome: deeply saturated grey).


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SGSAH Blogger-In-Residence: The Doctoral Experience—Networking

In currently serving as the Blogger-In-Residence for the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities, I’ve had the unique opportunity to weight-in and reflect upon various aspects of the doctoral experience. Via weekly posts, here are my varied insights into this process known as Earning the PhD.


For some people, it’s the greatest thing ever. For others, it’s tantamount to a curse word.


Credit: Paramount/Dreamworks' "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" (Source:

Whether someone reminds you to “be sure to network!” at your next conference, asks if you have business cards ready to hand out to “broaden your network”, or maybe there’s an event in your diary reminding you of a “Networking Opportunity” that exists for the sole purpose of networking: you’ve more likely than not been inundated with the push to make strategic academic and career connections in and around your field of study.

The main issue addressed here regarding this necessary (but not always pleasant) phenomenon is how to find your comfort zone in getting the job done. Because yes, you probably do need to do it, not just for its ends in meeting the “right people” to make the next steps in your research career, but also for the skills that networking does offer you on a broader scale. So, when the concept is often referenced rather monolithically, how do you go about tackling this networking project?

Credit: The History Channel's Ancient Aliens (Source:


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SGSAH Blogger-In-Residence: The Doctoral Experience—How To Say ‘No’; Or: Discerning in the Face of ‘Too Much’ Opportunity

In currently serving as the Blogger-In-Residence for the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities, I’ve had the unique opportunity to weight-in and reflect upon various aspects of the doctoral experience. Via weekly posts, here are my varied insights into this process known as Earning the PhD.


Full disclosure: this is an area of the doctoral process—nay, perhaps the life process—that I am still working on. However, that does place me in a particularly sympathetic mindset regarding the struggle of juggling far more things than is advisable for a human being to juggle (and, as a result, learning deliberately how to set some things down before they fall and break and spill all over the place).

Credit: Marvel Studios' The Avengers/Avengers Assemble (Source:

This juggling process, of course, is also known as, being a doctoral researcher. It’s an unavoidable condition of our work.

Fact is, though: we spend a great deal of our time fretting about a hypothetical lack of opportunities that may or may not come our way, or worrying over pending applications for funding or training or travel or research—and all of this, at least partially, is rooted in an anxiety over the idea of what we won’t have.

In reality, however, we often (possibly more so than not) find ourselves facing just the opposite problem: a veritable glut of opportunities. This conference (whether you’re presenting or otherwise), that training module, some panel you might serve on, or internship you might elect to take, or a travel bursary you might make use of for research or language that might then involve a direct-flight-connection to another event, resulting in your flat in Scotland sitting empty for months at a time and then—

You see what I mean?

Regardless of whether this is a portrait of your life stroke-for-stroke, or an exaggeration of what is still a conflict of interests (in a very literal sense) in your daily life, such a state of affairs is often characterised as the “best” problem to have. Yet it is still a problem that needs solving: in the face of many excellent, how do you know which to take and which to pass up? How do you say ‘no’ when everything sounds like a great idea in one respect or another?

Again: I’m still working through this one myself, but I can offer some pointers based on the insights I’ve come to across my own grappling with this particular issue.


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SGSAH Blogger-In-Residence: The Doctoral Experience—Transferrable Skills

In currently serving as the Blogger-In-Residence for the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities, I’ve had the unique opportunity to weight-in and reflect upon various aspects of the doctoral experience. Via weekly posts, here are my varied insights into this process known as Earning the PhD.

It’s something of a buzzword; the new “synergy”: Transferrable Skills. We’re meant to identify them, and cultivate them, and position them just so on a CV or present them definitively in an interview—but what are they, really? What does the term mean, what does it entail and encompass: what are these ever-so-valuable Transferrable Skills, save for just one more thing we’re meant to accumulate before earning our qualifications and moving on to the job market, on top of so many other things?

Credit: Marvel's The Avengers/Avengers Assemble (Source:

The answer is that transferable skills can be found just about anywhere, if you keep a wary eye for them, and they don’t really require more effort, most of the time; just a new perspective. With that small shift at the core, we can break down the bulk of Transferrable Skills into quick and easy steps that will help you maximise every skill-driven experience you undertake as a doctoral researcher (including, perhaps, a few you didn’t even expect would qualify!) in order to showcase the many areas of both study and practice, within and beyond your specific field, in which you shine.

(Credit: Xena: Warrior Princess; Source: https-//

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SGSAH Blogger-In-Residence: The Doctoral Experience—Imposter Syndrome

In currently serving as the Blogger-In-Residence for the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities, I’ve had the unique opportunity to weight-in and reflect upon various aspects of the doctoral experience. Via weekly posts, here are my varied insights into this process known as Earning the PhD.

It’s likely you’ve heard about it—in passing, in a lecture, in a TED Talk. It’s even more likely that you’ve experienced it, whether or not you knew what to call it: that nagging feeling that you’re not really equipped to be where you are, doing what you’re doing; that you haven’t quite earned it like other people, that you’ve likely just waltzed your way in unnoticed, allowed to skirt the edges by chance and luck without begin caught out as the fraud that you really are. Maybe you were assigned a book for class and only skimmed it, where your course mates have the margins marked with notes, and you take this as tangible proof of your status as less than deserving of your place. Perhaps you’re offered an opportunity to speak at a conference with tenured professors and experienced professionals whilst you’re simply a doctoral researcher, and you’re absolutely convinced that they must have made some egregious error in the selection and acceptance process, or perhaps you’re just the token doctoral researcher to secretly criticize, only there to make the real researchers look good. Or, maybe the name of a particular scholar gets tossed about in a lecture, someone everyone seems to know and you’ve never heard of, and you’re reduced to the shameful search on the library catalogue for titles like Guide for the Perplexed, proving yet again that you’re just not up to snuff, that you’re masquerading as a real scholar, that someone along the line was just horribly mistaken at precisely the wrong moment, and in reality, you’re not able to hack it.

US Vice President Joseph Biden (Source:

This desperately unpleasant spiral of questioning and self-doubt is most frequently referred to as Imposter Syndrome. The good news is: it’s not a disorder in the sense that something wrong, or even that it’s all that uncommon—quite the contrary in fact, it is seen in countless high-achieving individuals across numerous cultures, both male and female, throughout the age and career spectrum.

The not-so-good news is: because it’s not a disorder? There’s no tried-and-true treatment. You can’t take a tablet and go about your day, confident that your pesky Imposter Syndrome will be taken care of in the meantime. So, in lieu of a quick fix, here are a few things to keep in mind in trying to manage the relatively repulsive phenomenon known as Imposter Syndrome, and in so managing, hopefully doing your best to come to terms with the lies it tries very hard to make you believe.

HBO's Game of Thrones (Source:


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