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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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: http://giphy.com/gifs/doctor-who-david-tennant-2GI3yBQc0zu2A

 

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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.

Networking.

Credit: Paramount/Dreamworks' "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" (Source: http://honorsprogram.gwublogs.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/10/networking-meme.jpeg)

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:https://memegenerator.net/instance/45063163)

 

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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: http://cdn.makeagif.com/media/5-11-2015/8k7dOr.gif)

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: https://em.wattpad.com/e13949de9c906452b68803f620fd509acca9e2f6/687474703a2f2f69313036382e70686f746f6275636b65742e636f6d2f616c62756d732f753435392f456d79617765736f6d6570616e74732f69726f6e2d6d616e5f35676966706167657370656564636574443878644a48312d355f7a707362353661343231362e676966?s=fit&h=360&w=360&q=80)

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-//38.media.tumblr.com/23ef8a0620c2890727c066a5d7e5061e/tumblr_inline_nc5mvicypg1rcmaq0)

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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: 24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mbrauuIMFs1rno750o1_500)

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: giphy.com/gifs/game-of-thrones-got-impostor-syndrome-xTiTnFYfWaCICGDvsk)

 

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SGSAH Blogger-In-Residence: The Doctoral Experience—Work/Life Balance

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.

We’ve tackled study/life balance, but what about the great many of us who want to take an internship? Are expected or desire to tutor? Want to continue to build skills outside of academe proper? What about those among us who take a paying job of any sort, for whatever reason, that is unrelated (or tangentially related) but in any case lies beyond the scope of writing a dissertation or thesis?

In other words: what of the work/study-life balance?

Declare a No-Judgment Zone

 

Credit: New Line Cinema's 'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring'

Before anything else: do not, at any point, feel as if you are required to justify, explain, or apologise for the reasons you choose to work. Likewise, don’t fall into the trap of considering yourself wiser, or more competent/capable than those of your peers who do not hold a position of some sort beyond their programme. Whether it’s because you want professional experience, would very much like to pay for groceries, or because it’s actually quite nice to do a certain amount of work and know you’ll get a certain amount of compensation in a certain amount of time for said work—particularly when you’re in the throes of doctoral research, where the rewards are largely long-term and monetary compensation tends to be fairly scarce: no matter the reason, you’re choosing to work where some of your colleagues may choose not to, and that’s neither good nor bad—simply a difference.

 

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SGSAH Blogger-In-Residence: The Doctoral Experience—Study/Life Balance

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.

 

When you’ve got enough books in your flat to stack them up and make a nice sofa, it becomes a little bit difficult to separate where your academic programme ends, and your “life”—whatever that means—begins. In many ways, by the point we reach our doctoral programmes, we’ve grown to equate the two as a matter of course, but such a status quo is a perfect recipe for fatigue, burnout, and general negative feeling. Why not avoid as much of that as we can? Here are a few things to consider when sizing up your sense of study-life balance.

Consider Location

For some scholars, being in the middle of action is energizing; the library being just a short jaunt from where you rest your head is the best of all conveniences, a veritable paradise for the life of the mind. For others however, it’s just the opposite: never leaving the office, never having any contrast in experience, and setting oneself up for burn-out, and fast.

The solution? Find your happy place. And here, I’m referencing ‘place’ in the literal, tangible sense.

Credit: Disney's "Finding Nemo"

 

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The War on What, Exactly: “Christmas”, Starbucks, Doctor Who, and Ombre-Is-The-New-Red

 

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Credit: Patheos.com

Every early-November, a lovely woman I used to work with would come in to the office, hands cupped joyously—reverently almost—around a tall vanilla latte in a bright red container, serene smile on her face as she breathed in the warm, sweet scent and sighed: “It’s like Christmas in a cup.”

So when I saw Starbucks Red Cups trending on social media these past few days, I was first struck with a sense of happy nostalgia, remembering that soft kind of joy—remembering the actual physical Starbucks that lived just off the Square, just close enough to the office that a trip there, back, and with a 5-7 person line in front of you could be made while on a lunch break without missing time; remembering the man who, weather permitting, played an old piano on the corner of the street, dressed to the nines and drawing applause; remembering the kindness of my supervisor, when we walked that way, who always bought her friends who lived outside a deliciously sticky and indulgent canelé from a local bakery, to the widest and most joyous of smiles, the other-end of the spectrum from my colleague and her Christmas-in-a-cup, and yet: perhaps not.

Perhaps not so opposite.

Because apparently, Starbucks Red Cups haven’t been trending because they’re an admittedly-consumerist symbol of a season of traditional warmth and light and giving and a kind of sacred appreciation of the world around you (because in the US, at least, Red Cups come out before Thanksgiving, which is also a winter holiday, and is also a part of the season I’m referencing). No: as it happens, Starbuck Red Cups are trending as a talking point because they’re not“Christmas-y Enough”; in fact, they represent a war on Christmas! Because they lack the previous, clearly religious iconography of past years (that’s sarcasm, for the record), and thus represent an outright assault on the Christian faith and its values.

Thankfully, I got in on this debacle (it’s a miracle, what moving to another country can do for one’s perspective) late enough in the game that other people have done most of the hard work of pointing out just how misguided this entire scenario really is—from the fact that it’s just not a rationally sound argument, to the larger societal question of what Christmas means from a religious perspective, or even a secular one—so I don’t have to waste time here with thatendeavor.

Which means what I can do, here, is start to ask the real question at the foundation of this debacle. Which is: why are we so keen to see conflict everywhere? What is our war really on?

I could get technical and cite Girard, talk about mimetic desire and rivalry and violence and the need to scapegoat something in order to re-establish a status quo—but what I’m going to do instead is cite the BBC television show,Doctor Who, which summed my point up with impeccable pop-culture eloquence this past weekend:

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The Slow Steps of Progress: Health(care), Love(#wins), and Hate (Beyond a Flag)

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Random fact: I was born in South Carolina.

My family isn’t from there. I don’t remember being there before we moved. I’ve visited maybe a handful of times since, but when I need a copy of my birth certificate, or a form asks me for my Place of Birth, or someone wants me to justify why I say y’all, it comes up.

So on that horrifying Wednesday, in the face of the massacre in Charleston—on the days to follow, with the burning of houses of worship: the sickness, the sadness I felt at the news was as raw as it would have been coming from anywhere, but when South Carolina emerged multiple times as the site of such loss and violence and hate, it was visceral in the way that only places you know—even if just in passing—can be. I may only carry that place in small memories and a line on my passport, more often than not, but it felt immediately closer; more concrete.

I remember the first time I understood what the Confederate flag meant when I saw it flying in South Carolina, apparently equal to the American flag, rather than just as a decal on a pickup truck: I remember feeling confusion. Indignation. A sense of wrongness that only grew as time went by.

With the state center stage as the setting for these recent atrocities, I was taken back to those first sights of that flag. When the conversation arose as to whether it should be taken down, my opinion on the matter had been solidified when I was a child. But in hearing the reactions of those who were against the removal of the symbol, I spoke to my parents, asking them to recall what it was like to live there with the flag.

In comparison with the televised rhetoric, what they did not echo was:

It’s not about hate.

What they did echo:

It’s about heritage. It’s about history.

My own perspective—one that I feel that too many of the prevailing dialogues and commentaries gloss over—I found could reside in the unspoken discrepancy between what the defenders of the “Stars and Bars” stated in the media, and what my family resonated with in their nostalgia for another time and place.

Because the argument for the heritage, or the history, of the flag and its symbolism should not be brushed aside. Such arguments are not inconsequential, nor are they entirely invalid. The Confederate flag is a symbol of both heritage and history.

And what must be more largely and readily recognized in that fact is that the history, and the heritage, that it represents, is one of hate. Whether it’s the Civil War, or Civil Rights: one way or another, the idea that the flag is representative of a cultural inheritance does not excuse it from the implications and orientations of that inheritance. Heritage and history are by no means mutually exclusive with hate. Not when the heritage—as heritage so often can be—is a heritage of hate. Not when the history—as it invariably is at one point, or at many—is a history of hate.

And to gloss over the complexity of that intermingling—to either neglect to mention it at all, or neglect to engage it to the extent it warrants in the popular media—is, in my opinion, a failure.

Because North or South: America is one nation. A country in the singular.

And the history of this country doesn’t stop at the Mason-Dixon line. It is everywhere. It is everyone’s.

The history of this country is for all of us to bear.

The history of this country informs every breath we take in the now.

And if hate colors that heritage, that history—wherever it does, however it does; if hate is a part of the legacy that each of us shares by virtue of living here, of being here in the wake of others who happened upon violence and chose to engender hate? We cannot sweep that hate under the rug. We cannot pretend we are immune to its influence. We cannot place blame on the perpetrators without recognizing what the perpetration itself has left behind, how it has influenced us by way of its very occurrence and has been perpetuated—knowingly or unknowingly—into the present. We cannot hide from it, or think it dead to our experience, our actions, our livelihoods. We cannot pretend it’s not there, or that it’s distant and inconsequential, that it does not live in the very bones of our society, of our interrelational world.

Instead: if we ever truly wish to grow beyond that hate—not its memory nor its scars, but its influence in the now—we have to choose acknowledgement. We have to choose recognition. We have to choose not to be blind. We have to own and embody the idea that we cannot continue to trod the well-worn paths, to perpetuate that same hate because it is effortless, because it feels familiar, because complacency makes it easy to say that it doesn’t concern us personally, that is isn’t our fight, that there’s nothing to be done to change the way things are.

Because the fact is: people just like us built up the foundation of “the way things are”; and we, here and now, are making the choices—moment by moment, one by one—whether or not we’ll maintain the status quo, or make it different. Make it better, or worse. And in an intersubjective global community, everything concerns us personally. Every fight that affects one affects all. Whiteheadians go so far as to call the perpetuation of sameness, of “the way things are,” an evil of stagnation.

And the status quo, the easy sameness, is an evil, if the status quo is hate. When pain and destruction, dehumanization and violence follow from it.

Still: we make excuses. Some of them are defensible; others less so. We cite burnout. We cite hopelessness. We cite frustration, or apathy, or the overwhelming futility of our efforts when they seem to bear no fruit. ‘What can we do,’ we ask. To quote The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: ‘What can men (or women, either or neither or both, a single person or a million or somewhere in between) do against such reckless hate?’

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