Tag Archives: thesis

Defense gifts, shock therapy research, and end of school emotions


Well, that’s it. Thesis is over. All that’s left of this degree is some annoying paperwork. The defense itself was overwhelming, and it was over so quickly. I got great feedback, and enthusiasm and support for my work. I have just a couple of typos to fix before final submission, and I have to finish writing an abstract. I am just getting over the high of being done and having people really engaged with my work–that felt amazing! It seems that people are interested in criticisms of shock therapy when you can show real evidence of some not-so-pleasant truths. And evidence of connections between  shock, gender, and liberal governance is there in first-hand accounts. It’s really fascinating, and to be able to tell people about that to some extent, and get their responses made me so appreciative of the opportunities grad school has given me. I don’t want it to end, but I know everything I’ve learned will continue to inspire me to keep searching and writing.

On top of having the best thesis committee EVER (this is not an exaggeration), I was fortunate to have a number of amazing friends also come to support me at the defense, and my parents. It is a great feeling to be able to share with them what I’ve been doing for the past couple of years as they helped keep my spirits up.

I have to show off awesome thesis gifts. My partner surprised me with an orchid, and my parents brought me a beautiful antique writing desk from my Mom’s side of the family (it’s what the gifts are sitting on!) I’m planning on using this desk for creative writing specifically; it will be a computer-free space.

Defense gifts!

Defense gifts!

Now time to get a job…


24 hours until my thesis defense…


It’s 24 hours from now. Wow. I’m already missing school. The presentation is supposed to be 25 minutes–I couldn’t believe how many findings that meant I had to cut–and my last 2 practices were 37 and 28 minutes. If I can keep it around 28, I’ll be fine.

I’m so distracted, though, since my parents are on their way and I’m excited to see them plus I’m very nervous plus I NEED to clean if they’re coming here plus this:

Fyodor thinks practice is unnecessary.

Fyodor thinks practice is unnecessary.

I am so very close to being done. EEEK!


Troubling thoughts from the “grandfather” of electroconvulsive therapy


The demographic features of the complainants are interesting. In the published reports and malpractice actions, the plaintiffs are well-educated women, often nurses, with histories of prolonged depressive illness marked by somatic features and suicidal episodes. ECT was the last resort, reluctantly advised and administered, that resulted in relief of depression, physical complaints, and suicide risk. The loss of personal memories is a new focus of illness that is described in painful terms, making return to work impossible. Remarkably, however, the plaintiffs function extremely well in new roles as critics of psychiatry.

-Max Fink, the “Grandfather” of American ECT

This is the quote that inspired me to look specifically at the doctor-patient relationships in first-hand accounts of shock therapy. It comes from an “Perspective” article (most of what Fink has written in the past couple of decades seem to be his opinion; he rarely makes the effort to even give the appearance of scientific evidence anymore). I’m sharing it since I’m getting so close to my thesis defense and I’m procrastinating again, plus we don’t hear a lot about shock (and certainly not criticisms of shock doctors). It’s interesting that in this quote he mentions the gender of the complainants, when he completely ignores gender differentials elsewhere in his writing. Women have consistently made up 70% of patients treated with shock (usually prescribed by male doctors), but Fink tries to bury this. It’s only when he’s positioning them as hysterical that he mentions they are women…

Max Fink seems like a cartoon character… or a politician. He frames ECT doctors as benevolent figures who are victims of increasing regulations into their practice when they just want to help! He gets away with constantly dismissing claims of negative side effects of ECT by former patients by saying they benefit from making these claims, eg:

We can ignore the few former patients who make a career in the antipsychiatry movement. Their complaints have been answered by sober assessments that find no evidence for brain damage in ECT.

Fink never acknowledges how much HE benefits from the perpetuation of electroshock. He’s built his legacy on this practice! He’s developed a film that was sold with shock machines (just one of many examples)!

There’s lots more where this came from, and I’ll probably write more about what Fink has said and done soon, I’ve been waiting to have my thesis done first. I’m excited to continue researching Max Fink, because I’m sure I will find so much that can be useful in criticisms of shock therapy.


Fink, M. (2007). Complaints of loss of personal memories after electroconvulsive therapy:  Evidence of a somatoform disorder?  Psychosomatics, 48,4, 290-293. doi: 10.1176/appi.psy.48.4.290

Fink, M. (2002). Move On!. The Journal of Ect, 18, 1, 11.

Some random distractions from writing my thesis defense


Writing my defense has been… ugh. Presentations, ugh. Not going well, to say the least. I’m sure it will all come together, but as of now I’ve ripped up and deleted so many notes. I really hoped to have a draft together by the end of the night, but I’m not sure it will happen. I’m steeping an excellent green tea blend from my favorite local tea shop as I write this. It has yerba mate, licorice root, lemon grass, ginger and peppermint, and it tastes great and usually makes me very alert, so here’s hoping it works this time! 

On a positive note, I made a painting that I’m really happy with. I have this thing where I can’t paint anything good while I’m in school, so I always get super happy with the first halfway decent one.IMG_0436

Also, I’ve been writing fiction! And dreaming about the world I’ve been imagining, which is pretty weird. 

And finally, here’s Fyodor being cute and distracting:

Yawn face

Yawn face

I hope everyone has an excellent week!

The light at the end of the thesis: Taking a break


Unemployment does scare the shit out of me. Right now, however, since I worked some 80 hour weeks at the cruise ship job in September and October and rarely buy anything beyond bills, I am voluntarily taking (and enjoying) the month off to work on my thesis defense and get some much-needed restful times. I originally planned for this month off with the understanding I would be using it for major thesis revisions, but since I’m done writing now, I am using it for other creative endeavours (while still spending lots of time and energy planning the defense, of course). I haven’t started freaking out about money (yet)! Hopefully I can find a good job during this break, but if not I have tons of retail/ food service experience so I should be able to find something to keep me going come December…

I’m not sure why I feel it necessary to justify my time off. But I really do, so there it is. How weird is it that I actually get anxiety worrying that people won’t think that I’m working hard? It’s the same sort of anxiety I had when I got my research job–like it’s not fair that I got it when so many people have shitty jobs. Not believing in a meritocracy somehow makes it tough to accept when good work-related things happen.

BUT I really am enjoying it. Time off is fantastic. I wake up slowly, hang out in onesie pajamas while I drink tea and read. And I’m not only reading heavy academic articles; right now I’m reading Capote’s In Cold Blood and really enjoying the descriptions of people from the 1950s. I make good food. I learned how to make lentil samosas using wonton wrappers and they are brilliant! I do errands at a leisurely pace. I continue to drink tea. I have time for school-related meetings. I have time to hang out with friends. I can play with the cats all day in my lovely apartment. I have started regular free-writing sessions hoping that I can shift to writing some fiction that reflects my views of the world.

Since I won’t have much money for Xmas gifts, I’ve taken up a cross-stitch as a hobby and am making personalized (feminist!) gifts while I watch horror movies and psychological thrillers that no one else would be interested in watching with me. Here’s an example, for a friend who likes Emma Goldman a whole lot:

2013-11-13 20.41.20

Feminist cross-stitch success!

I plan on using my sewing machine more, too, and I want to get the paints out tonight or tomorrow. Yay crafting! I’m totally rusty (I haven’t cross-stitched since maybe grade 3), but I think I can make some decent gifts.

Time off: it’s a good thing.


It’s done! I feel like I just kicked a shitty psychiatrist.


Just kidding, I would never resort to actual violence. But I do feel accomplished because


That’s right! All I have left is the defense, which is scheduled for one month from today (December 5th). Then I’m done my Master’s. But as of right now, I’m basically done all the writing! Soon I will be in existential crisis mode, wondering what I should do next since the one thing I’ve been working toward for years is complete, but the way I feel right at this moment is pretty great. I criticized shock therapy in a way that I never have before. What a delight!

I’m going to share the title, because I haven’t talked about my thesis findings on here, and I want to give some idea what it’s about, but please keep in mind that I am absolutely THE WORST at writing titles. It’s too bad, because I think I’m a pretty decent academic writer, but you’d never know from my crappy titles… Anyway, it’s called “Multiple truths and contested identities: Power, gender, and practices of governance in first-hand accounts of shock therapy”. I know, but the other options were worse. My brain just doesn’t work for title-writing, but at least it’s a pretty brief overview of what I did.

Annnnddd I bought wine to celebrate. Woooot!


Finding hope in the strangest places: Face-holes and a review of the DSM-5.


I hope I’m not speaking too soon, but the second half of today has got me thinking (hoping!) that I might be coming out of my month+-long funk*! I still have a sinus infection, which makes me grumpy, but I feel lighter today and I actually have been slowly progressing through the edits I have to do. A couple of small but notable happenings that have made me feel so hopeful:

1) I went to the mouth doctor today (forgive my lack of knowledge of medical terms) for my bi-annual monitoring of a hole in my jaw (I don’t know the proper term for this “condition” either. All I know is it’s rare but no big deal as long as it remains benign). Anyway, the doctor said that since my biopsy, the hole appears to be filling in with bone (apparently a good sign- yay!) This is good, but the part that amused me and brightened my day is this: yesterday a woman told me not to get any more holes in my face. She was referring to my eyebrow ring, which is a spike I’ve had for about 10 years, and I forget it is there because it is just a part of me. But I love it. She immediately admitted that it was none of her business–it’s true people, it’s not appropriate to comment on what strangers do with their bodies; bodies are not public property, and usually comments like this come from specific understandings of how bodies are supposed to look according to gender norms–and I agreed that it wasn’t her business and abruptly ended the conversation. But as of today, I know that I technically have less hole in my face than I did last year! I wish I could tell her that.

2) A Laurie Penny tweet provided me with this amazing read from The New Inquiry online journal. It is a book review of the DSM-5 written as if it is a dystopian novel. I love it. I assume so often that no one understands where I’m coming from in my criticisms of psychiatry and dominant understandings of mental illness, and then I see something like this and I get more motivated and feel like I have legitimate things to say.

These are 2 little things that don’t mean much in the grand scheme of things but have significantly improved my mood in the midst of a bunch of shit. Thank you, universe. I needed those.

*Thank you so much to members of the blog community who have been so supportive of my downer rambling in the last few posts. I’m sure there will be more, but hopefully not for awhile. You folks are awesome.

It’s hard to write about upsetting stuff when you’re deeply sad.


This weekend was supposed to be the weekend where I finished my thesis edits. Instead, I stayed in bed super sick and sad. I know that to some extent I’ve made myself sick working long hours at a job that will just pay my bills. I have learned from this (temporary) job that I don’t know how I’m going to go back to long-term employment at a job that makes me feel like a hypocrite constantly, and I know for sure that I’m not great at working with customers who are almost exclusively loaded (in terms of money). There is an expectation for me to perform in a certain way that I am not being paid enough for (or sufficiently rewarded through alternate means, but customer service rarely allows that). I’m constantly reminded that (a lot of) the people who have the most in this world don’t give a fuck about the rest of us.

The news is consistently depressing, of course, but is it just me, or does it seem somehow worse lately? Also, yes, I’m thinking about it too much but wow there is a lot of pain and struggle being covered up, explained away, or justified. My favorite professor says that she takes media breaks twice a year or else she ends up in a ball of sobbing mess, and I’m basically at that point often lately, reduced to tears by what I read and see and think.

Another little something that I’ve been thinking about pretty constantly is how I will ever get anyone to understand me when I can’t get people in my family to understand me (black sheep blues waaaahhh). My family is really supportive and lovely, but many times I’ll try to talk to them about something that is really important and they’ll avoid or just not put any effort into thinking about it at all. Why am I spending so much time and energy trying to think about things and make them better and then people I care about don’t give a fuck. (This does not apply to my friends, who are really my chosen family and very like-minded. So I am very fortunate, for sure.) I think I’m getting burned out but I can’t stop thinking about everything and I can’t stop writing about stuff that is really hurting me but I CAN’T WRITE MY THESIS which is the only area that I believe I know enough about to actually offer something new. New ideas, which will likely be ignored, but they are something and new ideas are fucking important.

Ok. I’m going to try to write now. I have to finish. I have to do this well, and not disappoint myself.

Self-doubt, codependency, and other fun topics.


I’m at a point where I’m finding it extremely hard to be alone without having overwhelming anxiety or sadness. This is a familiar pattern for me. I worry about my family and friends, about my thesis, about money, the world, basically everything. I’m freaking out a bit.

I’m kind of a co-dependent person. This probably sounds unhealthy to most people, but since I don’t really buy into the value we place on individualism, I rarely beat myself up over it. Plus, my mutual dependence with others does not seem to be based on manipulation or coercion, so I don’t think that the traditional understanding of codependency is exactly fitting, but it’s the closest term that I can think of right now. I have relationships in my life that I definitely need, and I require too much from some people. For example, since I started my job a month ago, my partner and I have been on opposite schedules  a lot of the time. At first, I was enjoying having the house and the cat friendship to myself, but now that I feel really stressed out, I avoid getting any research or writing done when he’s not around. I just obsess over all these things that I can’t change and how everything is impossible.

Another aspect of the pattern is that at the same time as the need for particular people grows, I begin to avoid other people who are not part of that select group. I can’t be alone, but I don’t want to be with most people. The main reason for this is, I think, that at this time of whatever this is, where my stomach always feels like it’s eating itself and I always seem on the verge of tears, I CONSTANTLY stick my foot in my mouth. I say something and it’s gibberish or it somehow sounds the complete opposite of what I mean. Being an extremely awkward, self-conscious person at the best of times, further lack of confidence in my own voice sets me into a cycle where I say something that I don’t mean, try to fix it, go home and fixate on it, and need to tell someone about it or I will go crazy but then I can’t remember what I was trying to say in the first place and I start to think that most things I say are wrong. Self-doubt. It’s a hell of a thing,


I’ll be up again soon. Just needed to get this out.

Wherein I discuss the submission of a full thesis draft (!) and subsequent anxieties.


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.


*In this case, liberal governmentality.