Wednesday, 20 December 2017

A year to never repeat

For long term readers of my blog (thanks and apologies to you all at the same time), you know that I seldom talk about personal feelings linked to work, besides a post on the stress of finding jobs. And stress linked to the job is what I am going to talk about in this post. Academia has a mental health crisis that often goes undiscussed and overlooked (a study on it here). This post won't be me preaching how to manage it (read on and you'll see why). It is a discussion about why I am ready for my year to be over.

Work has been crazy. There is no better way to say it. I have enjoyed academia, particularly the flexible working hours and doing what I love. However, the part of the project I have been doing has meant that the hours are less flexible and have been long for months on end. Added to that is a lack of holidays. I haven't really been able to take a break of anything more than a 3 day weekend since February because doing so means stuff doesn't get done, and major deadlines are approaching. Add to that additional academic things like completing papers and work from previous projects, and the never ending search for a permanent position (I got awfully close to one) has meant that I am drained.

And it is noticeable. Not as much at work, where I hope the quality of my work hasn't decreased, but I have grumbled a lot about needing a break. I am still getting things done on the long hours, but I have not had a functional personal life since the end of July. I remember having a conversation with my boss early this year where I discussed trying to get a better work life balance (I was pretty exhausted by work at the end of last year too). Clearly I failed, and I am aware of what it has done to me. To friends and family who I have not seen much of I am sorry, but I am overwhelmed. When I get home after a day of work (or across weekends), I just want to be alone and shut down/relax. Chances are I am already feeling like awful and feeling like I am letting you down further that I really really don't want to be going out (I don't like people seeing me down, and it takes a lot of effort to hide). Relaxing doesn't come easily and I often have a drink to take the edge off. Sometimes it is many. This is particularly true after some of the things I have done at work which haven't been the most pleasant. I don't sleep properly anymore, the joyous combination of crappy sleep at night and just exhaustion/naps on the weekend. The lowest I got was the two nights in a row I actually cried myself to sleep (thankfully only those two).

I am not calling out for help and I think I am getting through the lowest bit, particularly now the workload lightens into the Christmas break. I got all of my side of things caught up and completed last week and I will get the better part of 10 days off with only some work to get done. I also hope people do not judge me for it (writing this has been hard and a worry that publishing it will affect my career). I am merely hoping to bring awareness and general conversation as no-one knows quite how low I have been. I have always encouraged friends with their issues to talk to others and I have not practised what I preached and have been the stereotypical academic suffering mental health issues.

In the New Year, I already have things I am looking forward to such as 2 trips away early in the year (ok, both work related, but a conference and a dig are different and far more enjoyable than the current workload). I will also be making sure that I actually get home at a reasonable hour and get out and do more things (even if it's exercise which has mostly been dropped, and is usually the first thing that goes when it gets busy). A request for anyone who reads this though, please don't look at me or treat me particularly differently. If you see me working long hours many days in a row again and drifting away, just encourage me to join in things (preferably ones that aren't always drinking), and accept (without kicking up a fuss) that sometimes I do just want to go home and do nothing.

I will be back blogging normally in the New Year (probably about the conference), and work will resume. Hopefully you all will have stuck around!

1 comment:

  1. Sorry to hear you are feeling this way, but it sounds inevitable given how busy you have been! It's refreshing to see this honest account in the open, and I appreciate that must have been difficult. It's something I failed to address (at times to myself even) in my time in academia and I do regret that. Enjoy the break, keep talking about openly this and I hope you make some progress with the work-life balance - small steps lead to big changes :)