Wine is quicker than therapy

Sometimes shit hits the fan. Sometimes its emotional. Tonight was sometimes. Sitting in class I felt my anxiety hit its peak, I’d been feeling this…yuckiness this stress and I’d notice as it took a slow chokehold on my life. I noticed as I worried constantly about my day to day processes, do I have my keys? Did I check the mail? Did I close the refrigerator door all the way? And I’d become a bit of a check-er. I had to be sure I was doing it right. Doing it at all. It was tightening and binding and tonight I stopped breathing.

Sitting in class listening to a colleague discuss his dissertation process, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. And being the usual light heart that I am my classmates laughed my behavior off not knowing that internally I was counting. Counting to ten, repeatedly just to steady my breath. I was choking. It, the anxiety, was squeezing me and in this moment I knew two things: 1) that this feeling was mental/emotional 2) that something was really really wrong, and I needed to call attention to it immediately. So I went to find my advisor. Sane right?

I knew she was somewhere in the building so I just hung out for a while til she appeared. And I told her everything. And she listened, in her way. And told me the same thing my work wife said: one day at a time, one step at a time. And while that offered some solace, I couldn’t help but still feel very unresolved. I called my Person.

I told her about the panic attack. I told her everything, as I always do and I told her how foreign this felt because I am just not anxious (at all)…she laughed and agreed, because usually that is her role in our relationship. I told her something was wrong. She asked, innocently enough, why I couldn’t just focus on right now and I told her because I felt like working towards faculty meant I needed to do certain things like publish articles, present at conferences and…in the midst of telling her this I realized here was my anxiety. It was performance anxiety. Since I made this decision to pursue faculty, I’ve felt extremely inadequate. Like I need to do more, be more, like I needed to do things that feel so god-awful to me.

My Person asked if I had to “choose” like officially, if there was some track. I said no, but that the preparation for the admin versus faculty tracks was different. And what I realized in explaining to her was that I’ve been putting immense amounts of pressure on myself lately to be what I think “faculty” is. That, in and of itself is not me. I somehow got sucked into the house of should and was suffocating under the weight of expectation.

She shared her personal opinion that she saw me as more of a practitioner, as an administrator. And maybe I am. I don’t know. There are things about both that I like and enjoy. I think what I want to try to do right now, though, is just be where I am. In my 2nd year doing research and not thinking about what it could/might/should lead to…just the right here right now. That’s what I can handle.

In the moments after I felt extremely grateful for my advisor, and for my work wife, and for my Person. For people in my life that ground me and offer far more clarity than a glass of Pinot. I don’t have to stress about what’s coming. I don’t have to BE 5 years from now, it will come. I just have to be right now, over and over again. And for the first time in many weeks, maybe even months, I felt the noose loosen and I could breathe.


4 thoughts on “Wine is quicker than therapy

  1. Hey there…found your blog through a comment you left on another blog I read, and I was drawn to the “wine is quicker than therapy” title. (What does that say about me? Exactly what you think it says. LOL)

    So, listen…I had MULTIPLE freak outs (like the one you describe) when I was getting my PhD, but my stress was about becoming a researcher. I got into the game to become a professor, to be in the classroom, not to be killing myself over publishing or perishing. The harder my professors pushed, the more I wanted to run in the opposite direction, and then I started feeling like I couldn’t hack it, and like I had maybe made a mistake in thinking I had any business earning a doctorate. The answer, for me anyway, was to really trust in what I wanted, how I felt, what I knew I was good at, and what I knew would make me happy. I kept my head down and continued to do work that I believed in, while keeping my eyes on the prize.

    You are so right…you do not have to be the you 5 years from now right now. You only have to be the you right now right now. DO YOU. I did, and I was blessed to become faculty at an institution that would prioritize teaching, while still leaving time for research (I’m at a comprehensive instead of an R1 institution). My university also allows me to explore other sides of the academic life (administration, student services, etc.)…I never would have expected that part, so there’s no way I could have planned for it! I’m now tenured, and I couldn’t be happier about all of the decisions I made that led me to this place. So HANG IN THERE! KEEP BREATHING! YOU CAN DO IT!

    Dr. F

    1. This was such a refreshing post!!! I think that right now I have resigned not to answer the question. I teach and I do admin and the thing I love about both is building relationships and helping people grow and develop. That is always going to be my priority, and even in research I am constantly asking, “Research for what? What can I DO with these findings?” Thanks so much for your response!

  2. Jess,

    Thanks for writing this. I’m at the end of year 4 of a constant panic attack. Getting married, wanting kids, staring at the blank page I call “my CV,” and thinking about what I thought I wanted to be vs. what I think I’m capable of being has caused me to reach for many a bottle of chardonnay. I’m glad both your advisor, work wife, and your person are available to listen to you. I have been blessed with a supportive group of listeners, as well (and a therapist my student health insurance pays for!)

    You are right to try to focus on the now, and try to be okay in each moment. The later is going to come whether or not you freak out about it now. Much, much easier said than done, but certainly worth working on.

    Be well!
    Jessica B.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s