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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: PTSD  (Read 9194 times)
irons_her_socks
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Posts: 52


« on: March 21, 2012, 7:03:32 PM »

Been lurking around here for a few months and finally decided to post about this.  I'm posting here because I feel the discussion of mental health is often really good in this part of the forum.  Also please forgive any errors I have a learning disability which causes me to make a lot of them.

Any way here's the deal.  I'm an undergrad who really values education.  I love school and I tend to do very well academically.  For me good relationships with professors are important. So when I faced a traumatic event and had to withdraw from school for the sake of my mental health I had a really hard time accepting leaving.  In fact I had such a hard time that I stayed in one class even though I knew it was probably a bad idea.  I really, really, liked the professor, and she seemed really invested in me.  I would go to her office hours frequently with questions or for additional feed back on my writing.  She encouraged me to consider graduate school in my field, and frequently expressed how much she enjoyed having me in her class.

Well it came to the end of the semester when big projects were due, and it seemed like my PTSD was just getting worse.  I was sleeping less and less.  My anxiety and hyper-alterness were through the roof.  And worst of all I couldn't concentrate enough to think through  abstract ideas.  So I told my professor that I thought it was best for me to apply to withdraw.  She seemed really disappointed and encouraged me to take an incomplete.  I said Ok, because I couldn't handle disappointing her, and I wasn't really able to accept my own condition at that point.  Well, the deadline for the incomplete came and I was still in really bad shape.  So I told her that I didn't think I could finish the work she said Ok.

It has been over a year since this all happened.  I have come back to school and am doing well.  I've built other good relationships with faculty and have good grades once again.  The bad grade that I got as a result of the above event had been fixed by retaking the credits I needed, and my health is considerably better (although I still struggle from time to time).

But I am disappointed because whenever I run into the professor from the above story. She never seems to want to talk to me.  She avoids eye contact and looks kind of sacred or worried (not sure which).  This isn't really like her.  She is usually very talkative.  I really feel sad about this because I just want her to know that I'm doing well.  I also feel terrible about not finishing the work for her class.  I don't know if there is anything that I can do about the situation. I really hate feeling like the trauma ruined what could have been a really good mentorship.

Maybe I should just try to let go of it, but I really do wonder how she feels.  How would you feel if you were in her position?  Why do you think she might not be interested in talking to me?  Is there anything I can do to change the situation or should I just try to walk away?  Has anyone else ever lost a mentorship that they valued a lot?  How did you deal with it?

Any advice or thoughts would be much appreciated.

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hegemony
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« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2012, 7:28:06 PM »

The fact is that professors have more students than they can build strong mentoring relationships with.  When a student is no longer in my class, I don't really have the free space to continue to mentor that student.  It sounds to me as though your professor may be giving you signals that say, "I wish you well, but I don't have the space to continue the close help I was giving you on a previous occasion."  And you should respect that.  She is setting boundaries.  Some people who have been through tough experiences, as you have, give off vibes of wanting more time and attention from certain people, and I would say that's a good possibility here, even if you feel those vibes are reasonable.  But your professor is no longer available, and that's also reasonable.  Just let it go.  If you were to push it, I suspect she would become even more distant, trying to reinforce that she has other priorities -- her current students.
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Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight.
irons_her_socks
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Posts: 52


« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2012, 7:35:48 PM »

Thanks hegemony for putting things is perspective.  What you say makes me feel like things aren't so personal. And you are probably right that there are a lot of things I feel I need at the moment (I'm working on that in therapy).  I think you are right leaving her alone is a good idea.  I really just want to do whatever it is that she would want.
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itried
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Posts: 459


« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2012, 9:21:11 AM »

irons_her_socks, I'm so glad to hear you're doing better now after taking some time away to heal. You sound grounded and mindful of your needs; I hope you continue to take such good care of yourself.

I agree with hegemony. It's difficult for students to see the demands on professors; many students, colleagues, and administrators demand a lot... at every turn, someone wants something from us. This is very fulfilling, but it does mean we need to set our boundaries and be focused on the semester- or project-at-hand. I suggest trying to not take this personally, as you conclude in response to hegemony's post.

I wonder if you might feel comfortable writing the professor a brief, friendly e-mail or hand-written card telling her how much her mentorship and support meant to you then, and that you're doing well now. You could frame the e-mail as an update and expression of your sincere gratitude, without making her feel she needs to follow up or give you something in return. We professors always like hearing from students we've touched; it really means a lot to us. Doing this might help you get some closure on the relationship, and might open up the lines of communication without the professor feeling beholden to you.

« Last Edit: April 02, 2012, 9:22:03 AM by itried » Logged
saucygrad
Give me my PhD! After all, I'm a
Senior member
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Posts: 419

somewhere between crap and mediocrity


« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2012, 5:15:45 PM »

Hugs to you, irons_her_socks.  I'm a grad student who's long dealt with PTSD and major depression, so I know where you're coming from.  I think it's wonderful that you're back in school and succeeding.

Chime on itried's suggestion of writing a (brief) note to your prof to let her know you appreciate what she's done for you and that your life is going better.  I recently met with a professor that I had to take an incomplete from awhile back (for the same reasons-- it was resolved and turned into an A, so good things can happen!), and although she had seemed kind of distant in the past, I found that she was actually quite amiable once we had taken the time to meet.  She was enthusiastic about my research and told me to let her know if I needed anything in the way of letters or whatnot.  Personal anecdote aside, you should know that there is hope-- you may not remain close to this prof, which is okay, but she may become an ally of yours in one way or another.  Plus, as itried said, you might get closure-- probably the best thing for you in this situation.

PS-- if you ever want to talk about your experiences in school and PTSD more, feel free to PM me.  Welcome to the fora.
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Seize the giant starfish of being and eat it with your bare hands.  Or something.
irons_her_socks
Junior member
**
Posts: 52


« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2012, 12:17:56 AM »

Wow I thought this tread had died.  I'm glad I came back.  Guess this form is just really slow moving sometimes.  Any way thanks for the suggestion about the note.  I don't think I can take it though.  Doing something like that can just get me kind of obsessive and preoccupied because I don't deal well with non-responsiveness due to abandonment issues and abuse I suffered as a child.  At any rate I think just posting here and reading other peoples comments has really helped.

saucygrad thanks for the offer.  I just might take you up on the PM after I'm done surviving finals.  I do have questions about pursuing my education further and PTSD. 
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