this is how denial works.

This is how denial works:

Begin your Ph.D. wide-eyed and completely open to the world at the age of 28. Immediately fall victim to overworking and obsessively studying and writing because you were awarded a full-ride and you are having so much fun and are so academically engaged, you can’t imagine doing it any other way. Begin presenting at conferences all over the country, meeting amazing people, and doing amazing research. Start teaching, consulting, and diving head-first into large research projects because you can’t help yourself. Don’t give up your social life in the process. Continue to go out with your friends every night of the week after class, take trips, travel to see your family, volunteer for your neighborhood board and committees, join the local farmers market board, meet more people and make more friends. Spend time with all of them between classes, work, and more work. Buy a very old historic house. Live in it while it’s being renovated. Breathe in lots of plaster dust. Clean obsessively to keep up with the dust. Continue your creative life by designing, making, and selling multiple collections a year, even though you have no time or energy to make them all that interesting. Get a lot of publicity about the not so interesting collections. Use that momentum and publicity to keep producing more collections.

Repeat for 3 years.

During these 3 years, begin to realize you’re getting sick. All the time. Everything you eat goes in your mouth and either back up or out the other end within 24 hours. Everything. Get told by university doctors that this is a common graduate student illness: IBS. Get told to reduce stress, eat more, sleep more, relax. Ignore the illness. Keep doing all of the above. Begin to develop anxiety about school. About the house renovations. About your ability to keep up, to produce, to get things done. About your marriage. About your friendships. About your lack of time. About wasting time. About the fact that you can’t eat anything without feeling sick, slow, achey, nauseous, or shaky. Develop the ability to have panic attacks by walking down certain halls at school. By sitting alone in your studio for too long. By driving to the grocery store and realizing you’re too scared to eat.

Wake up one morning and realize you’re a full-blown digestive mess. Have panic attacks for 3 days. Be lucky that you have an amazing sister and friends who stage an intervention about your anxiety and digestive issues. Continue to do nothing about it for 2 days. Wake up again panicked. Get in your car and drive to your parents an hour away. Say very little and cry a lot for 3 days. Get digestively sick all weekend. Get angry at yourself for ignoring the problem. Get scared you have major issues, like Crohn’s disease or intestinal cancer. Let your mother hold you, rock you, feed you, lay in her lap, draw long hot baths for you, talk you into counseling. Drive home and repeat with your amazing husband, who does the same. Call a therapist. Make multiple doctors’ appointments. Begin therapy. Get told by doctors that the stomachaches are just anxiety-induced and nothing more. Go through the holidays so sick that you spend most of it laying on the couch, gripping your stomach, sipping ginger tea, and trying to avoid Christmas cookies full of butter. Drop 8 pounds because you’re hardly eating. Hardly drinking. Hardly functioning.

Repeat for 4 weeks.

Begin 2010: the most difficult year of your life.

Decide in 2011 you don’t want to live in denial anymore. Start a blog. Start writing about 2010. Hope it keeps you from repeating the same cycle. Hope this is how denial stops working.



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