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News: Talk about how to cope with chronic illness, disability, and other health issues in the academic workplace.
 
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Author Topic: Chronic Illness and Academia  (Read 535724 times)
hegemony
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« Reply #15 on: April 28, 2008, 12:38:33 PM »

lenniel, I'm so sorry to hear about your illness.  It sounds as if you are doing an amazing job.
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Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight.
poiuy
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« Reply #16 on: April 28, 2008, 12:49:19 PM »

I, too, am very sorry to hear about your situation lenniel.  You are an inspiration to others the way you're handling it...

And the others too.  The way people are coping with their symptoms, pain, sleep schedules, meds, etc. appears pretty heroic.....

Poiuy
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elsie
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« Reply #17 on: April 28, 2008, 12:56:58 PM »

My philosophy is "You live the life you've got with the body you've got." I keep reminding myself of this whenever I get down.
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"People assume that time is a strict progression from cause to effect. But actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff." - the Doctor
lenniel
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« Reply #18 on: April 28, 2008, 1:20:34 PM »

Thanks all - I think we are all pretty amazing, really!  Most people seem to just give up, and I figure this isn't a dress rehearsal (well, I hope not.  I've flubbed my lines an awful lot) so why not give it one's best? Judging from the posts and comments here, I am not alone in this, and that is great comfort.

I tend to hide my symptoms, mostly because it is such a pain to explain everything, so I find humor is the best tonic.  I can't take myself seriously, and when I do, I know it is time to re-evaluate.

All of the tips here for organizing around dis-abilities and illness are very helpful - I am glad this thread was started!  I know there are a lot of people coping with these issues and it is important that we work to find ways to help one another.  Just because we have physical issues doesn't mean we can't contribute in a meaningful way.  Plus, our students need good role models.  I have a number of students with serious diseases, one probably terminal, and they inspire me every day with their energy and verve. 
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"Be drinkable. Your choice is fish."
- Henry Rollins
hegemony
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« Reply #19 on: April 28, 2008, 4:08:36 PM »

This thread is coming at a perfect time, because my illness has flared up again this week.  Last week I had a dental emergency for which I spent two days in the dentist's office (one trying to fix the problem, one trying to fix the fix).  So I had to cancel class one day.  Now this week I feel like I've been run over by a truck -- could be the same old thing, or could be the same old thing aggravated by the sleep I lost because of the dental pain last week.  Anyway, canceling class again fills me with dread.  Of course there are the dozens of confused and panicky e-mails about what to do with assignments.  But there's also the problem of explaining myself to the secretaries, who have to be involved so they can explain to panicky students et al.  "Last week I had dental problems [they know this already], but this week I'm just plain sick."  It sounds so much like Malingering 101.  Plus the complications seem to multiply geometrically if you cancel more than one day of classes.  I really need to make it to class.  But I fell like heck.  And I've got four and a half hours of teaching tomorrow, back to back...
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Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight.
elsie
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« Reply #20 on: April 28, 2008, 5:33:35 PM »

Work with your chair or whomever does the scheduling for your classes. Don't sign up to teach back to back if you have a chronic illness, esp. a fatiguing one. Insist on some downtime between. I'm lucky in that I've got a great chair who takes things like that into consideration.
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"People assume that time is a strict progression from cause to effect. But actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff." - the Doctor
hegemony
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« Reply #21 on: April 28, 2008, 9:14:32 PM »

Well, it was a choice of teaching the classes back-to-back, or one at 8:30-10:00, the second at 12:00-1:30, and the third at 4:00-5:30.  I thought that would be even worse. 

I'm getting off topic; anyway, the major point is, there's a huge pressure to perform as well as well people, especially for those of us whose illness is not short-term.  I can see the need from the employer's point of view.  I just wish it weren't so hard.
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Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight.
elsie
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« Reply #22 on: April 28, 2008, 9:58:08 PM »

Yes, that would have been worse. My worst days are the ones where I'm on campus from early in the morning to 6:30 in the evening.

With regard to the pressure to perform, before I got tenure, I looked around at other people in the department, and I realized that their productivity was affected by things in their lives too: kids, elder care, their own health issues, long distance relationships, and so on. So maybe I struggled with my health, but at least I wasn't taking care of someone else's. I would have liked to have been more productive before tenure, but that was as much a function of the administrative side of my job not getting the same release time that people previously had as it had to do with my health.
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"People assume that time is a strict progression from cause to effect. But actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff." - the Doctor
msparticularity
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Assistant Professor cum bricoleur


« Reply #23 on: April 29, 2008, 2:18:30 AM »

I turned out to have the most difficulty when I teach a mix of night and morning classes, because I'm teaching until 8 or 10 p.m., then have to be back at 9:30 the next morning. Killer! I just have late afternoon/evening classes next year in my new position, which will be much easier on me.

And I agree, Elsie, that everyone has something they're trying to balance with their working life. In my case, I fortunately managed to raise my daughter before I became ill; I truly don't think I could survive now with a younger child!
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"Once admit that the sole verifiable or fruitful object of knowledge is the particular set of changes that generate the object of study...and no intelligible question can be asked about what, by assumption, lies outside." John Dewey

"Be particular." Jill Conner Browne
gourmetless
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« Reply #24 on: April 29, 2008, 9:21:38 AM »

I, too, appreciate the timing of this thread and the many, many suggestions from people dealing with similar issues.  Thanks all of you for offering suggestions and time-tried solutions.

I, too, have many days when students do organized activities or group work in class.  In part, this is just par for  the course in my discipline.  But it also helps keep the class flowing.  Sometimes, when lecturing, I can too easily lose my place or forget an important point.  PowerPoint is terrific, as well.  In heavy lecture classes I use it to keep me focused.

One of the things I really try to do, both at work and at home, is prioritize.  Not everything is equally important, and sometimes little things can be let go for the greater gain.  I don't give myself heartache when I can't do everything I want.  Realistic planning is essential.  I combine trips out and about, both on campus and off.  I make sure I have lunch with me, rather than having to either leave campus or walk to another building to get it.  I carry things to my car, office, or apartment as I make other trips.  So what if my trunk is a little junky? So what if the laundry gets to the laundry room and sits for a few days until I can get to it? Better than trying to do too much at one time.
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lenniel
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« Reply #25 on: April 29, 2008, 9:07:39 PM »

It is so important to get a schedule that works well, and I think everyone is different.  I tend to stack things up, but then don't get enough down time in between, yet when I spread it all out, I get even more tired!  Frustrating, and we are often at the mercy of departmental scheduling so have little chance.

Prioritizing even the small things helps, as does having snacks - great point!  If I forget to eat, I am even crabbier than usual, and it is amazing how a little water and fruit can go a long way. Or a cookie.

I am so sorry, hegemony, that you have been ill on top of everything else.  It does not sound like malingering in the least, and no one should even think such a thing.  The students always panic at the end of the year and they just need to learn to wait.  I remember so well when there was no online grading or even scanning for large exams - we just had to wait for the prof, and that was a good thing.  Patience is a virtue...  I have found, though, that if they know, even generally, that you have been ill, they are really understanding.  Students - and colleagues - tend to forget we can also get sick, have bad days, blow up the car, etc.; especially if we are always so reliable.

As I have dealt with my issues and those of others, I have learned that people who are ill or face some disability tend to overcompensate by being over-reliable. I know I do this, and have to remind myself not to overdo it. 
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"Be drinkable. Your choice is fish."
- Henry Rollins
bigsky
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« Reply #26 on: April 30, 2008, 3:43:32 PM »

Type I diabetic here. I manage it well but realize that eventually I may/will develop some complications. The thought of my kids always helps to keep me on track. I will start the pump shortly so my "invisible" illness will become more visible.

I actually do tell my students. On the first day of one particular class (120+) I talk to them a little about genetically engineered organisms and ask them if they know anyone that is diabetic as insulin is produced by an engineered microorganism. Usually over half raise their hands and then I tell them that now everyone knows a diabetic since I am one. I have had students come up to me later in the class to tell me the same thing.
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simone1
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« Reply #27 on: May 03, 2008, 9:23:20 PM »

Hello and best wishes to everyone struggling with this. One point that seems embedded in some posts is the intersection with choices about parenting. My spouse and I have chosen not to have children, in large part due to chronic illnesses. We are determined to take as good care of ourselves and each other as possible, so as not to burden our family. This has meant, for us, not taking on the task of parenting. We don't feel we have the energy children would deserve from us and we are also afraid of future financial crises caused by illness. This continues to be a fraught decision as we get older and further away from reversing our choice. So I pay a lot of attention to the debates surrounding the variously described childless and child-free in academia. It is so often discussed as a matter of preference--I sometimes feel like saying, "We don't have the resources you do! We don't have the healthy bodies you do! It doesn't mean we want to kill and eat your children!" And I don't know where I'd be if I didn't have my dog to "parent" in the absence of children.

Thanks for listening, end of rant. ;)
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lenniel
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« Reply #28 on: May 03, 2008, 9:31:55 PM »

Hi Simone1,

It sounds like you have made a tough choice and a brave one.  I chose to live childfree though I love kids for much the same reason, but also I did suspect I would eventually eat my young.  Being a teacher is a great way to get the parenting out if you can't have your own.  Critters are also an excellent substitute - I have 4 cats and volunteer at shelters when I have time.

I hope everyone is staying healthy as we wind down the semester!
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"Be drinkable. Your choice is fish."
- Henry Rollins
elsie
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« Reply #29 on: May 03, 2008, 9:45:29 PM »

I crashed today.

I've been feeling rundown the past few days. I haven't been sleeping well, tending to wake up around 4 am and unable to get back to sleep. During the hooding ceremony this morning, I started feeling downright ill. In the hallway afterwards, I needed some air. I ended up heading straight for the car, came home, and slept most of the rest of the day.
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"People assume that time is a strict progression from cause to effect. But actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff." - the Doctor
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