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Mental Health – We All Have It

Last week I was sitting in my therapist’s office discussing ways to deal with emotions in a healthy way. Generally, I consider myself a mental wreck (I’m in and out of therapy, take daily medications, and I am way too open about my issues), and it stood out to me how the anger release methods I was discussing with my therapist could probably be applied to my dissertation writing process as well. One of the brilliant tasks she gave me, was to fill up some Tupperware with water and put it in the freezer. Once frozen solid, I had to practice releasing anger by throwing the ice into my bathtub (for a maximum period of 15 seconds) and to then move on to do something else. With a big grin I stood in the bathroom, screaming while throwing the ice. The dog and cat stared at me as if I had finally really lost it, but the pressure release felt great. After throwing them as hard as I could, I left the ice in the tub, and continued writing my chapter. Somehow, I was more productive than I had been the whole day. 

            Mental health affects graduate students disproportionally, with not only our personal life experiences influencing our emotions, but also the stress from deadlines, imposter syndrome, wobbly communications with supervisors, and financial insecurities playing a large role in our daily functioning. A recent study even suggests that one-third of graduate students report symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or depression. What this means, aside from graduate students being tough ass people, is that you are not alone when struggling with mental health. And this is a severely underrecognized and not often enough talked about aspect of mental health. We often discuss our mental health in bubbles, with our therapists, people we are close to, and perhaps when you write a blog – maybe that’s just me though. Yet, by keeping mental health in these small bubbles, we also maintain the stigma to mental health as something negative. 

            To break this cycle, I would like to tell you, that it is okay to struggle with your mental health. To not know how to work on it – no matter how many times people tell you that you should. Even more, you are not alone. If not for anyone else, you at least now know that there is one other graduate student that struggles with it. Queen’s University and Kingston offer a fast range of mental health resources – and I recommend you look them up if you feel like this is something that could be for you. One of the most liberating things for me, however, is accepting that I am and always will be a mental wreck. And while this may mean that it takes me a bit longer to write my dissertation, I could not do it any other way if I wanted to. For now, it is time to make some more Tupperware ice and start on the next chapter. One ice throwing moment at a time. 

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