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On another topic completely...
I'm extremely amused by the answers to my moaning poll. There is a strong correlation between the people who have chronic illnesses thinking I don't moan very much, and the healthy people thinking I moan all the time ;) Oh, sure, some healthy people think I don't moan very much, but they're all the ones who have close friends with long-term illness, so presumably they've acquired some empathy from them. Or maybe I just moan less than their other friends with similar problems ;)
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polyfrog From: polyfrog Date: 27th February 2003 21:18 (UTC) (Link)
I don't have any close friends with long term illness. I myself do not have any long term illness.
mhw From: mhw Date: 28th February 2003 01:44 (UTC) (Link)
Um, perhaps it's just that we (of the chronic illnesses) and our friends don't think of what we do as "moaning" - rather just a necessary periodic dump of negative feelings - and so don't characterise your feeling-dumps as "moans". If you'd asked "How often do I express non-positive feelings about my illnesses?" I think you'd have got a different distribution. Because - at least it seems this way to me - you rarely "moan" about anything else - and actually it's those posts where you do that concern me. Not that I don't care about your not being well, more that I understand posts about it as part of the process, if that makes sense.
nmg From: nmg Date: 28th February 2003 06:45 (UTC) (Link)

I was one of the (currently healthy) people who was in the 'moan all the time' camp, so I should offer some explanation for my vote.

The chronic health posts, while sometimes TMI, are not what I'd consider moaning, or to be slightly more precise, unjustified moaning. Even if the sheer scope of your health issues may baffle those of us who have been lucky enough to get away with as little as a period of depression requiring a year and a half of medication (thankfully not in the last five years), you are still ill and are entitled to more than a little justifiable moaning.

In the last three months, however, there have been two episodes of unjustifiable moaning that have irritated me to the point of sitting on my hands in order to stop myself from lambasting you (probably partly unfairly, I should add). The most recent was the McDonald's rant (it's not much of a boycott if you eat there when you feel hungry, and moaning about the bad food you received - which probably matched your expectations - seems more than a little pointless).

The previous was the issue of your PhD. I managed to finish mine, though I'm not sure how. I know several other people who either have not finished, or who are on their way to not finishing. Most of these seem to be down to either a loss of interest in the subject, or a general lack of motivation. You, on the other hand, have good medical circumstances for receiving assistance (certainly more substantial than anyone else I know)...yet you didn't apply until what seems to have been the very last moment, despite (and this is the crux of my annoyance) having applied for assistance from the college disabilities officer for your first degree.

In short, while there may be a lot of moaning posts in your journal, the majority of those are okay-justified-chronic-health-moaning. My vote was possibly overly harsh, and I apologise for that, but there was no way to distinguish between the two types of moaning.

baratron From: baratron Date: 28th February 2003 11:26 (UTC) (Link)

With regard to the McDonalds thing, yes fine, whatever. The point of my moaning was more "I thought I was being unfair on them, but no, it really is that bad".

With regard to the college disabilities officer - um, getting annoyed at me is the last thing I need. I last spoke to her in 1995. She made all the necessary arrangements with my department, and after that, I didn't need to speak to her again, because everything was on record and they just followed the same procedures each time. When I started the PhD, I changed departments - from chemistry, to physics.

Now, (1) In that time, I forgot that such a thing as a college disabilities officer existed, (2) I was extremely depressed, and pretty much non-functional. I don't know if you've ever been depressed, but if not, let me tell you, one of the main symptoms is complete and utter loss of self-esteem. You feel like a failure for having "let yourself get into that state". You feel like a failure for not getting better, and I was certainly feeling like a failure for not actually managing to kill myself. I saw the problems I was having with my PhD as yet another sign of my weakness and uselessness, rather than as a symptom of depression, and no one managed to correct me on this. (3), which I think is the most important point: when I told my supervisor, head of group and group secretary about my problems, not one of them reminded me that there was a college disabilities officer. I was told to go to the physics department counsellor, but he was never in his office any time I was actually in college, and never replied to any of my emails. Also, none of them said to me "if you're really that bad, you should get a medical letter sent in and we can write to the research council about it". They said "maybe you should take a break", with no other details, but I saw that as yet another sign of my "failure" so didn't want to do that.

Being angry with me for being in such a mental state that I forgot about possible routes of assistance seems like the entirely wrong end. By all means be angry with the people supposedly responsible for my academic progress and pastoral care, who entirely failed to help.
nmg From: nmg Date: 1st March 2003 16:17 (UTC) (Link)
  1. Yes, McDonalds is bad. My issue was with your self-described boycott; if you're going to break a self-imposed rule of abstinence whenever you feel hungry, don't call it a boycott.
  2. Yes, I have had a period of depression that required medication, as I believed I had made clear in my previous comment. Consequently, the state of mind you describe is entirely familiar to me.
  3. If, as you say, no-one offered you the straightforward advice that a recognised leave of absence from your studies on medical grounds would require a medical certificate, not your supervisor, your head of group, your group secretary, your departmental counsellor/advisor, your doctor, your family, your close friends or your partners, then I shall withdraw my previous comment.
baratron From: baratron Date: 1st March 2003 16:59 (UTC) (Link)

[previous comment deleted - I missed an html tag].

What you say in (3) is something of a twist of my words. I was told that I could take a break from my studies (yes, with a medical certificate), but was given the impression that this would be like expulsion - the college would have to "allow" me back some time later, at their discretion. And I was explicitly told that if I did that, I'd be on my own, and would have to find my own way of supporting myself - I wouldn't be allowed to continue with demonstrating, for instance - and I was NOT told that I could receive half my usual grant for x number of months while sick. I was given the impression that writing to the research council was a tremendous amount of hassle for the entire department, and it would be much better if I could just struggle on by myself - not that a simple doctor's letter plus a simple letter from my supervisor (an hour of everyone's time, all told) would be enough.

If I had been reminded at any point that there was a competent College Disabilities Officer, I would have gone to her, and she would have told me this was all a load of bullshit and sorted it out in about a week. But I think no one in my research group even knew there was one until I remembered about her myself and wrote to her, and she then contacted them. This is pretty poor, imo: the Disabilities Officer at IC is not a student representative - she is a senior member of the central College staff, and has the authority to wander down to the Registry or the Rector and shout at them. Thus, research supervisors, and certainly Heads of Groups should know of her existence. The other thing was I was thinking of my depression at that time as a temporary problem that would go away if only I got the right treatment, not as something I'd have intermittently for life, so it did not occur to me that a Disabilities Officer would be able to help with that in the same way she could help with my permanent physical problems. Now, the IC web site explicitly mentions that she is there for temporary as well as permanent problems, but I don't think it did back in 2000, or I would have found out then when I was going through the welfare section, trying to figure out what the hell to do.

Obviously we are having a problem understanding each other, because re your point (2) - in your earlier post, you said I managed to finish mine, though I'm not sure how. That does not convey to me that you have had clinical depression, only that you have had (non- specified) problems. Just about everyone who does a research postgraduate course will have problems of some sort during it - emotional or financial or academic - or all three - and (situational) depression is common. But even given that, not everyone who gets depressed over their studies is clinically depressed - the difference being all the extra stuff that goes along with clinical depression, like poor memory, and inability to concentrate and focus, even when you want to be doing the work. And it was that side of it I didn't know if you would understand.
nmg From: nmg Date: 2nd March 2003 01:19 (UTC) (Link)
[...] in your earlier post, you said I managed to finish mine, though I'm not sure how. That does not convey to me that you have had clinical depression, only that you have had (non- specified) problems.

I had no mental health problems during the course of my PhD. The sentence you draw attention to was an attempt as self-deprecating humour. The period of clinical depression which I spoke of happened some years earlier (1995-1996) and did not coincide with my PhD studies, which began in late 1997.

baratron From: baratron Date: 1st March 2003 17:11 (UTC) (Link)

Also, re (1), I think you missed the self-deprecating irony of my original post. It was meant very much in a "God, I'm so stupid!" sense. If I have gone out of my way to avoid a particular establishment for 2 entire years, that is not breaking a self-imposed rule of abstinence "whenever I feel hungry": I did it once when I was starving and exhausted - the point of my post being what a mistake that was, and I should boil my head in oil for it, except I didn't need to because I'd already received my punishment in the form of the "food".

Okay, "starving" is an overstatement - I wasn't in danger of dying if I didn't eat, I was just extremely and uncomfortably hungry - but "exhausted" is literally true. I was so tired that I couldn't easily walk outside the station, and so emotionally exhausted that I couldn't bear to sit in a restaurant by myself (there are a number of quite good cheap places within 10 minutes of the station, but none of them do takeaway). I'm so tired when I do anything like go to work that I come home and collapse - on a good day, in front of the computer, and on a bad day, in the bed (though I can't sleep because of the pain). I had forgotten in the past few years when my medical stuff has been mainly mental just how bad the pain and tiredness is when it wants to get going, and didn't have any suitable coping strategies in place on that particular occasion. I meant my post to be blackly humorous, not whiny, and I'm sorry that you saw it that way. I suspect if you spent more time with me in real life, you would know my speech patterns which come out in my livejournal, and realise how I meant it - nonetheless, your response is useful to me on the basis that I do have close friends that I interact with only online.
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