Taking Time

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 1st 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.

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4 thoughts on “Taking Time

  1. That must have been a really tough decision, Kathleen, but it sounds like it is for the best. I get your “inability to slow down” or to take it easy, and I understand your reluctance to take time to get better. I’m similarly stubborn (and I hope that you don’t take offence to that) and, as such, tend to pile things on my plate when I haven’t even finished my first helping yet.

    Anyway, good for you, dude, and best wishes for you in these next six months. Maybe you can do NaNoWriMo, if you’re missing writing and are cool to be writing in November. We look forward to hearing about your progress and adventures.

    1. Thanks, Christina, for your support. It was indeed a very, very hard decision, but it was a long time coming. I’m feeling really optimistic and relieved going into my leave. (And of course I don’t take offence! I consider my stubbornness a badge of honour. An occasionally damaging one, but whatevs.)

      I’ll definitely do NaNoWriMo this year!! What a great idea.

  2. Hi Kathleen,

    Taking all your other blog entries into consideration, this decision did not come easy, but I’m glad you decided on this.

    The way I see it, is that it’s not you giving up, but rather NOT giving up, and putting yourself FIRST and making sure you’re 100%. I think one’s effort in mental and physical health is the greatest investment as well as smartest decision one can make. After all, spoken by a true philosopher (my six year old self, as told to me by my dad), “I’m the most important person in the world!! If I’m not around, how can I take care/love of you, dad?”

    Also, on a personal note, I vow to take care of myself, not for me, but for H and myself. So we can live happy, fulfilling and memorable lives, so it’s not really what you do for yourselfe, but also for those who love you in your life, and those who love you back.

    And on that note, love and miss you 🙂
    Stephanie

    1. Hey Steph! You’re totally right… I’m so, so glad that I made this decision. When I’m feeling particularly negative, Andrew reminds me that my brain makes me who I am and that if I owe it to everyone I care about (and who cares about me in return) to make sure that I live the longest, most fulfilling life possible.

      Love and miss you too! (Let’s Facetime soon!)

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