Healthy by graduate school standards

I’ve been in a strange position where people have repeatedly described me as calm, handling things well, good with stress. Not ways I am typically described.

I’m in the midst of some objectively bad circumstances. What makes this situation unusual is that other people are going through it with me. I’m so used to the majority of my suffering coming from mental illness. That’s an isolating struggles. It is bizarre to have a struggle that with social support embedded in it.

People around me in this mess are experiencing their first run ins with clinically significant anxiety and depression. I’m in strange situation where years of dealing with internal stressors that felt worst; somehow have me coping more effectively in the face of an actual objective undeniably shitty situation. I guess of coping with buckets of anxiety and depression that were disproportionate to the situation got me some benefit for handling my present difficulties. I’m still secretly cutting of course, but that is my baseline level of functioning.

Don’t get me wrong. I am miserable. But within normal range and at most adjustment disorder miserable. Not trying to find the fastest way to kill myself miserable.

I’m so aware of my past propensity to quickly escalate to suicide attempts that even being many steps removed I panicked asked my psychiatrist for seroquel prn just in case I need to knock myself out to keep myself safe. I’ve lost some major protective factors in my life. I’m in this strange place of having built so much insight into what makes me suicidal, that losing protective factors makes me anxious even if I am not having suicidal ideation.

But I’m not suicidal. I’m grieving in a way. Not from death, but due to an unexpected and uncontrollable major life change.

When I first started graduate school I viewed the negative comments and despair represented in phd comics as something of hyperbole. I’m deep enough in that that comic is my truth now. I started of thinking grad school was just a matter of systematically plugging way at things and that I would make it through. Now I’m treading water and have a vague idea of where land is. I am working towards finding land but I don’t know if it is the right way or if I will make it. I think I will, but these doubts about finishing are new. I didn’t view failing to get the phd as a possible risk before.

Somehow I have landed in a space where my misery is within the realm of normative graduate school emotions.  I find myself wondering if I still meet criteria for GAD at times. Then I’ll be ambushed by something stressful and decide yep, still there.  But at least in how I am outwardly presenting to others somehow it appears I have my shit together. I guess years of mental health difficulties have actually boosted my coping skills. At least making me look normal compared to a bunch of neurotic graduate students undergoing a major stressor.