I finally submitted the first complete (edited, with conclusions) draft of my thesis Sunday night. I immediately felt relieved and extremely anxious. I’m happy that it’s going so well, I’m getting very positive feedback and am getting new stuff written quickly, but the thought of finishing up this degree–which will happen in December if everything goes as planned–is frightening. At the end of my undergrad degree, I had a meltdown, and of course, my psych hospitalization happened at the end of my senior year of high school.
Being out of school has not been good for me. I have never succeeded in securing stimulating employment that made me feel like I was changing anything I hated in the world. I worked in menial jobs between the ages of 14 and 27. My research jobs for 2 years in grad school may have been low-wage, but they at least made me understand what it’s like to have a job you really appreciate, want to put effort into, and that makes you think. That’s not to say I don’t love my tea-selling job (I do! I drink all the teas and then get to talk about them!). Really, I’m fine with customer service and a low wage (though I constantly rage about the lack of ethics of some of the companies I’ve worked for), but only when I’m also going to school and have an outlet for my brain stuff. Otherwise everything seems futile and I drink too much and I’m jealous of everyone in school and I generally become kind of a shitty lady. I really believe that the only way I can fully live according to my personal ethics and politics is through academics. I’m not good at organizing, or speaking, or even being noisy at protests. I am good at learning, researching, uncovering certain things that are normally ignored, criticizing, and writing academically. School is a place where I can resist the bad parts of the world.
A new degree will be nice, though. Really hoping this time I will get a chance to use it. Best-case scenario is finding work that feels like school. And pays the bills.
Another worry I’ve been wrestling with is what other people with a history of using psychiatric services would think of my work–particularly people who identify as mental health consumers. It’s not that I think a lot of people will read what I write; I know they won’t. It’s just that specific people in my life, some of whom will likely attend my thesis defense, are not going to agree with the picture that I paint of mental health treatment. I’ve made it clear in my thesis that I know that my perspective is a minority one, but that it does represent some people, but I worry that in preparing for the defense, I may be immobilized by their possible interpretations of my work. I wonder if people will think I am criticizing individual choices about mental health treatment. At the same time, it’s so important to me for people, even those who use and are satisfied with mental health services, to reflect on why and how treatment happens, and how personal experiences connect to broad relations of governance. So I am simultaneously anxious and wanting to yell all I have to say in order to resist “the man”* in my own way, even though I recognize that my voice can travel only so far.
But really, YAY MY THESIS IS SUBMITTED!
*In this case, liberal governmentality.