Hello, world. I am tired and stressed.

So, yesterday my brain decided to up and power down. Shut off. “Brain says no.”

I’m used to dealing with cog fog, but that usually goes away with rest, whereas this is really something else.

In the past month, my life has been, (1) some sort of who-knows-what causing eight straight days of vomiting, followed immediately by (2) a horrifically painful shoulder/neck injury. I had to take one day off work for (1) and five days off for (2).

Then my parents invited themselves to my city for two weeks. I probably shouldn’t bitch about my parents too much, but the short version is that my relationship with them is not great. I live on a different continent for a reason. Having them visit meant that I had to take three hours out of my workday, each and every night, as well as both weekends off, to ‘spend time with them.’ For someone with serious fatigue issues, this was grueling. This past Monday my body gave me a big, fat NO, and I was forced to spend the day in bed in real, serious pain; I’m still feeling pretty sick. I’m also clearly coming down with my mother’s cold. (Which isn’t really her fault except my parents have horrendously terrible hygiene, so I’m a bit touchy when it comes to them being ill.)

Also, my former PhD supervisor is back to making known his displeasure at me. I won’t bitch about him, either, because it’s not outside the realm of possibility that someone will figure out who I am IRL, but suffice to say that there’s been some tremendously bad behavior on his part that keeps ending up being my problem. And, to be clear, there’s been some bad behavior on my part as well — I’m ill and I can’t make deadlines and when I get stressed I tend to vanish and these are not good qualities to have in a junior colleague. But he and I are fighting about at least 5 different things, all of which could have been solved by him not being a jackass, and it just sucks.

I’m not making enough progress on the research that is currently paying my salary, and my current supervisor is (gently and nicely) unhappy with that. I also missed some crucial deadlines recently due to illness, which made her life much more difficult, and she’s super-stressed-out both personally and professionally and deserves to have employees who make her life easier, not harder.

I’m going to some big conferences this summer and that traveling is going to suck. I’m maybe moving to a different country this autumn? But that’s still unclear? And that uncertainty sucks.

Most of my current problems would be solvable, were it not for chronic illness. If I weren’t ill, I could put in a few late nights, catch up on all of these things, stop people from being (rightly) mad at me. I could have been the model PhD student, rather than the PhD student who always disappears, so that when I reported my former supervisor for some of his bad behavior, others would have been more willing to intervene. I wouldn’t have to worry about the health effects of international travel. I wouldn’t be so stressed about jobs and visas. (I legitimately do not know what I’m going to do if I lose access to socialized medicine.) Me cutting off all contact with my parents could be a viable option when they don’t respect my boundaries, rather than me having to face the reality that I’ll someday soon need their financial help.

At the moment I’m a bad employee. I get it. If I can only accomplish half of a normal academic’s workload, then it doesn’t matter that I’m well-qualified and that I’m extremely good at my job. Life sucks for a lot of people; the fact that I have a PhD doesn’t make my situation any different.

There’s really no point to this post. I”m just whining.

You’re right, I haven’t responded to your email yet.

And, yeah, okay, some of the reason might have to do with poor time management or me purposefully avoiding you or not caring or something.

But.

Last week I spent eight straight days throwing up, and I haven’t the faintest idea why. (Welcome to chronic illness: unless it’s going to kill you, you stop caring why something happens.)

This week I am dealing with nerve pain so bad that I am crying. The pain medication that I have to take in order for “crying” not to be “screaming” makes me incredibly nauseated and very foggy.

Students get my first priority. If I’ve made a commitment to a student, I’m going to do my damndest to follow through or to find someone else to step in. The fact that some don’t understand this says more about them, and about the state of academia, than me.

The job that pays my bills gets my second priority. Even if it didn’t, my supervisor is an amazing person and therefore she is top on my “try not to disappoint” list.

Doctors appointments, a phrase which for me includes therapy, are non-negotiable. I’ve totally edited thesis chapters from hospital beds, and if it’s for something routine I’ll try to do Science via my phone from whatever medical establishment I’ve landed myself in this time, but for the most part if I’m currently dealing with doctors, I’m not dealing with you.

My medication is also non-negotiable. Once I take my evening meds, I won’t be able to Do Science for the next 11 hours. I am alive solely because of these meds.

I’ve been told that I’m not sufficiently motivated, that I’m “not ambitious,” that I should just work harder. That’s like trying to tell gravity that it shouldn’t apply. No matter how awesome I once was, everyone has limits. Everyone has a breaking point. The fact that chronic illness broke me — but, by the by, my shitty childhood didn’t — is not a statement about me but instead a statement about my illness.

I’m still a fantastic academic. I’m a world-class researcher, a great writer, an award-winning speaker, a caring and effective teacher. If I can’t fit the life of an academic into my physical limitations, then so be it.

But yelling at me for not being at your beck and call, for not dropping everything and immediately solving your problem just because you say I should? Yelling at me is not going to get you anywhere. Yeah, I don’t always instantly answer email. By all means, follow up; I’m an incredibly organized person, but, hey, maybe I did miss your email, it could happen. (More likely, you forgot to send it, but let’s not get into that…)

But you’re never going to be scarier than my illness. You’re never going to motivate me more than a 10/10 on the pain scale. And if you have some compassion? Then maybe when I’m feeling a bit better I’ll be more willing to work on your project rather than on the dozens of other things I could/should be doing right now.