Thursday, 24 July 2014

Don't Wait, Get Help Now: A Year in Review

Rather than posting a picture of my weaponized adorableness as a child for Throwback Thursday, I thought in light of a recent editorial I got to do for First Person Scholar, it might be useful to take stock of the last year. It's been roughly a year since I finished my dissertation prospectus, fell entirely off the academic (and blogging) wagon, and eventually clawed my way back to productivity. In part, this post is a celebration of the personal and professional difference a year made for me.

Continuing to deal with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder made this year tough and while I made really important strides, it necessitated a break from my professional and volunteer work this summer. Sadly, the 'official' break came after several months of stalled productivity, but even admitting I needed time off helped enough that said hiatus was remarkably shorter than I expected. My mental health might be the best it has ever been and while there's still progress to make, I am genuinely optimistic about the trajectory of my life for the first time in a long time. I may not be able to leave my house every day yet, but the yet is here heavily emphasized.

My professional life this year feels remarkably shaped by my involvement in First Person Scholar. Though I also backed off slightly from that area of my work for a short period, it's one of the parts of my professional life that's always engaging and energizing. I have to thank the editorial board and other attached folks there from the depths of my pixellated heart container for being amazing, inspiring and understanding.

Since joining the staff in August 2013, I've been involved in the behind the scenes editorial work of FPS and I've put out short publications starting with a commentary on interpellation in Journey in September, one on charmed circles of sexuality in Mass Effect in November, an essay on spectacular mortality in January, an interview with Christine Love in May, a two-part interview with Merritt Kopas in June and most recently the editorial in July that is in some ways the much more professional version of this blog post.

For many reasons, contributing to FPS was easy because it was part of a team effort, frequently operating on a quick turnaround, and yielded positive responses (and Tweets). And sometimes it was the only thing I felt I could get done. Attending to other projects was harder because it was often done solo with an eye on the long-term and rather hounded by my own negativity. But I also had the pleasure of presenting as part of a panel on death in video games at the May 2014 Canadian Games Studies Association Conference. I also successfully applied to the 2014 DiGRA Conference and I am really excited to go this August. (I ordered business cards! Ask me for one if you need a small rectangular thing to write on!) I've made some really exciting connections with other scholars and these connections fundamentally changed how I view my working process.

And if all goes well, in a week I'll be handing in a draft of my first chapter of my dissertation to my supervisor. Basically, this one chapter took a year to produce and I am hoping like hell that the others can be produced in much shorter order because I'm entering my fourth year in my PhD program and I am dead-set on completing it.

In some ways, the stops and starts of my productivity this year are an endorsement of actively taking time (and time off, if necessary) to deal with health problems while in graduate school, rather than floundering. I wasted some of my time and my supervisor's time this year. If I had faced my need for comprehensive treatment earlier, I may have saved a lot of effort and distress. In light of that, I strongly recommend that anyone facing mounting health or personal problems while trying to finish graduate work do their best (within the financial and chronological limits they have to deal with, which can be substantial) to get help. It might feel embarassing or like a show of weakness or just straight-up impossible to take time or time off to seek help, but I can't recommend it enough.

Also, don't blog too much when you have a chapter due in a week.

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