For the past few weeks, it has not been an easy sail. 15 February marked the beginning of my PhD journey.
I got started with a hopeful heart. After taking a break from study since my Masters graduation, I considered myself well-rested to start this PhD journey that definitely requires one’s mental strength. Despite the fact that I have been on medication to keep my schizophrenia dormant, I cannot suppress the “crazy” urge in my heart to pursue a research direction to do with mental health. A big chunk of my life throughout this while is just about constant struggles with schizophrenia, irritable bowel syndrome, crying…I feel like…If not this, what else that might spark my interest? I can hardly think of any.
A few days before my Research Methodology intensive class, I injured myself again. It was most likely due to a trigger which had popped up again. PhD might be just an aggravating factor. For the past few weeks, I have been vomiting from time to time. It happened sometimes in various restrooms of different places. Most of the time, my purge was just a little. Only for a few times, I had a great amount of purge after heavy intake of food. It usually worsened when I didn’t sleep enough. During those moments, I had the tendency to crave for a list of food that I would like to eat. I guess stress was the culprit. Diarrhea and constipation had caused me some discomfort as well. There were a few nights when I didn’t sleep well after skipping my anti-psychotics just to get things done. Then, I ended up taking two pills in order to fall asleep and recover. In those mentally exhausting and physically straining days, I hardly did any physical workout or met any friends to catch up. For each day, I literally worked from the morning till the night before I went to bed. There were times when I felt too tired to even just pick up my phone call.
It has been expected that there will be challenges along this journey. However, I wasn’t quite well prepared on how to strike a balance between work, study and personal life. The good news is that I am learning that right now. Things have started to improve. I guess it was just a transition period for me due to the fact that I had butterflies in my stomach at the beginning of this new chapter in life.
I would say that for now, I am kind of getting used to my PhD life while working full-time. I have started to pick up my physical workout plan since last week. And I have been making sure that I take my pill on time everyday. Besides, I also make it compulsory to sleep enough everyday as my anti-psychotics makes me feel sleepy.
On the brighter side, I actually have good PhD supervisors. Due to certain research issues, I have to be frank with them about my mental condition. They have been very professional, instead of starting to counsel me right away or stopping me to do research pertaining to depression. I guess, they just want to let me know that they see me as a normal human being and schizophrenia should not be the reason to not embark on this journey.
The first supervisor is very critical when it comes to the quality of my work. However, he can be caring at times. Once, he reminded me that his role is to be my intellectual sparring partner and I should take his comments as a critique of ideas and not personal attacks. Together with his other supervisees, we are going to have monthly book club meet-ups. We are just done with the first meet-up. It was awesome in the sense that I feel very recharged after the meet-up. We came together to discuss our recent read, get inspired and learn from feedback without feeling being judged. Of course, we had lots of laughter too.
And, my co-supervisor is so kind to borrow me her former student’s work for reference. There are some helpful contact details in the reference work. She is actually a counsellor. And since the beginning, she has been very caring by reminding me again and again that…during data collection, it is not just about protecting the participants’ mental health, but also the researcher’s. She insisted that I call her by name and just drop the Dr. title. Her friendliness makes me feel comfortable relating to her.
Sometimes, it’s difficult in life but people who are there for you make it easier or at least more bearable. I am lucky to have met these people, including my Research Methodology classmates. Doing research is a lonely journey and I’m glad to have these people whom I can turn to in overcoming challenges and problems.
Life is like looking for a well-formed seashell among so many ill-shaped seashells on the seashore while rummaging in layers and layers of sand. You have to look closely to find the nice-looking seashell buried in heaps and heaps of sand and dust. It is normally not easily seen but if you never give up looking for it high and low, you will certainly find it hidden in an unexpected place. With its shining ray of hope, it is not difficult to be recognize. Let’s learn to look for the good thing hidden in every life imperfection. No matter what life project you are working on, you are bound to meet challenges and problems. You just need to learn how to buckle up for the sea storms, roll with the sea waves, and come onto the shore as a better sailor.
Do you have a similar struggle in life?
Some helpful contact details for the mental health warriors:
Online forum: http://depression-understood.org/forum/viewforum.php?f=6&sid=a90aa4711e2a56027c0eda30d4ade785
Suicide prevention lines: https://www.befrienders.org/
Thank you:) Stay safe!