I’ve toyed on and off with the idea of taking a medical leave of absence from my program for a while now, but the prospect’s always made me uncomfortable. If I’m honest with myself (and with the entire Internet), I’ve always felt that it would represent a personal failure of sorts, though this judgement is completely limited to my own actions; I’m fully supportive of other people taking care of their physical and mental health, but, as I’ve realized more and more as of late, I have an entirely different set of standards for myself.
It became abundantly clear a month or so ago, however, that my hand’s been forced. Though I’m so so close, the assumption that I can finish my thesis while having several seizures a week and “recovering” from a really stubborn concussion (and without further damaging my health) is likely a delusion. A recent visit to my family doctor was confirmation of what I already knew. When I mentioned that I was considering the leave, she congratulated me and quickly started filling out the necessary medical certificate.
In truth, the manner in which I’ve dealt with this concussion has scared me a little. My complete inability to slow down, to stop myself from working, to listen to what doctors and family and friends have told me to do, certainly isn’t evidence that I have my priorities straight. I shouldn’t be reading, yet I’ve been doing dissertation-related research. I shouldn’t be writing, yet I’ve been translating a novel from Italian to English (and been writing here periodically, but we’ll ignore that). Indeed, internal pressure to prove that I can continue to be academically productive even when confronted with serious medical issues has proved too great, and not just in this situation. The only way I’ll be able to be easy on myself is to temporarily remove the obligations and demands that come with a PhD.
So I’ll be officially off from May 1 until the end of December. I’m not totally sure how I’ll fill my time, which is, for me, the scariest aspect of this move. True to my nature, I’ve compiled a list of major projects to complete over the next eight months, even if Andrew tells me that the break is supposed to be, you know, a break, a valuable opportunity to focus on my health. We’ll see what happens, but one thing’s for sure: y’all can expect a massive influx of blog entries.