​Juggling Disability, Mental Illness, Postgrad Studies, and Trump’s America from Abroad

I’m used to balancing a lot of moving parts in life. I was a stereotypical overachiever during my undergrad and I sometimes wonder how I managed it all. When I started my M.A., I decided from the beginning I would scale (slightly) back on extracurricular activities not only to give myself more time to focus on my research and studies, but also to try and give myself a break from constantly moving from one responsibility to another.
In the wake of Trump’s election and inauguration, that scaling back has felt both superfluous and necessary. After having time to process the results, part of me has been eager to get out and fight harder than I’ve ever fought before, ready to use every second of free time organising and protesting. Part of me has wanted to do nothing more than curl up in a ball and cry. Turns out I need to find a way to engage in both extremes in order to cope with what now feels like an overwhelmingly full plate.
As expected, postgrad has proved to be more challenging than undergrad. Not necessarily in terms of workload (thanks Bucknell for kicking my ass for the past four years, preparing me to tackle just about anything), but managing my auditory learning disability has proven to be a whole new ballgame. Throughout my education, I’ve learned to rely heavily on lip reading in addition to training myself to focus solely on the individual talking. As a result, keeping up in the classroom has become a non-issue. As it turns out, British accents are much more difficult for me to follow simply because that wasn't my norm for the first 22 years of life. The frustration that comes with trying to follow a lecture or classroom discussion has proven to be anxiety inducing.
And that leads me to mental health. Depression runs in my family and I also have PTSD, which for me manifests primarily through generalised anxiety as well as anxiety attacks. It’s loads of fun. The heightened anxiety from feeling like I’m constantly falling behind in class has taken a toll on my mental health. During the fall term, I managed pretty well. I found my groove and support system, which allowed me to thrive despite the obstacles I was dealing with. This term, however, I can already tell is going to be a real challenge simply because of the crumbling state of the U.S and how seeing a probable rapist as “Leader” of the “Free” World is influencing my mental health. And being over 4,000 miles away makes me feel helpless for making a difference, which doesn't help the matter.

It feels like I'm moving through molasses most mornings, and getting out of bed sometimes feels like a feat. On days when I wake up having not being able to sleep the night before because of anxiety, I have to decide
So here’s my list of 10 tactics for how I’m going to (attempt to) manage what is likely to be one of the hardest terms of my life.

  1. Find or create things to look forward to (such as spending a year backpacking)
  2. Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise – including myself
  3. Healthy body, healthy mind
  4. Trust my support system
  5. Communicate to those who can help when I need it (i.e. professors, managers at work, etc.)
  6. Watch at least one funny cat/dog/baby/etc. video a day
  7. Spend time with friends and loved ones
  8. Give myself room for failure and forgiveness
  9. Engage in self-preservation when needed
  10. Get involved in fighting for justice when I'm able

Certainly this isn't exhaustive, and it's not going to make my disability, mental illness, the challenges of postgrad, or Trump go away (if only any one individual had that power). But I believe that focusing on the little things I can control will help me manage the things I can't control. So bring it on fucked up world, I'm ready to fight.