Hi everybody. I used to post here in my early twenties, some fifteen+ years ago.
Is anybody here in graduate school, going for the PhD or working in academia?
My breakdown happened when I was in college when I was twenty. I was an honors college student, and it was really hard on my self image to not be able to complete a degree. Afterwards I tried to work but my symptoms made it impossible. I got diagnosed, and a doctor told me I probably wouldn’t ever work and gave me disability paperwork. Receiving 400 dollars a month and living with my parents, it seemed like I’d never be able to go back to school. But in my thirties my then-partner encouraged me to go to community college. Grants were available, and I could essentially go for free. I did very well, transferred to the nearest university, graduated there with honors, and completed my master’s there. Now I’m going for my PhD, in my third year of my program.
School hasn’t been easy. I don’t have good social skills, and I rarely ever speak. I completed my undergraduate degree without having said a word to anybody that wasn’t mandatory. My positive symptoms are generally well-managed, although voices come and go in intensity, particularly when I’m under stress.
But now I find myself in a role I could’ve never anticipated being in. I’m teaching a class at my university. It’s the most demanding thing I’ve ever done, for so many reasons. I feel like I’ve never had a consistent identity, have always felt unreal and alien, a bunch of fragments, not something solid. Nothing that I did or said really mattered, even to me, because it wasn’t really real. But now I have to be a person, have to occupy space, be consistent, responsible. And it requires language, something I’ve always been fascinating with, but which my relation to has always been difficult, having such problems in articulating myself, in producing any speech at all, in feeling that I’m being coherent. And it requires socialization, which is something that for a decade of my life I didn’t do at all. The teaching part of my workload is just one component, and I do find it rewarding, because I’m developing skills in things I thought were impossible for me, but it often requires absolutely all of my energy in terms of both preparation and recovering, that I’m finding it very difficult to work as intensely on my research as I have in the past, which is stressful and disconcerting.
I’m just wondering if there’s anybody out there in a similar situation. I feel like I’ve achieved so much that a decade ago would’ve been inconceivable to me. But there a lot of specific pressures to being in a PhD program, or to be doing work in which speech, communication, and facing a public take center stage for someone with schizophrenia. It’d be great to connect and talk about it, strategies and techniques, coping mechanisms, or maybe just a bit of perspective.