No reprieve, I am exhausted

I have been fighting this battle for ages, ever since I can remember, with myself and my surroundings. I am exhausted. Depression, anxiety, or just terrible luck; it feels like I’ve managed to get the perfect storm no matter how hard I work to pull myself through.

Between a slew of health issues, constant harassment in a male dominated field, and a strong genetic propensity towards depression, I’m feeling incredibly weighed down and looking for a way out. I feel like all of the bad things manage to find me. I have chronic diseases that leave me in pain on a regular basis, with no viable treatments or remedy from doctors. I’ve managed to become the victim of both domestic abuse (previous) and countless workplace harassments, hell I was even drugged by a superior. (Science hasn’t come as far as we would like to think, on multiple fronts). I work nonstop to achieve my goals and complete my PhD. I constantly fight my mental health, so that I never end up attempting suicide like my mother did. I don’t want to hurt the people around me, I want to make it through everything, but it constantly feels like there’s a new battle to fight. It feels like the universe has it out for me and I can’t escape these bad things. I’m always fighting, and I’m always terrified, and I don’t know how much longer I can endure this. Am I somehow making myself a target?

Hey BadWolf,

Thanks for sharing how you’re feeling. As a fellow science Ph.D. student, I can definitely relate to being exhausted from everything (currently working from home to avoid having a panic attack in lab). As a man in academia, I just want to say how sorry I am for the way you and others have been/are treated. The horror stories I’ve heard are numerous beyond recollection, and it’s just despicable that harassment continues. My scientific career was shaped on many fronts by women scientists: the first research group that really inspired me to go into research (s/o Carolyn Bertozzi), the graduate student that first mentored me, and the postdoc that mentored me after that were all women and incredible, resilient researchers. As such I have so much respect for your perseverance in the face of the sexism you face, and I hope you know how inspiring it is to hear about how you’re fighting through it and how it pushes me to try to change the culture.

I don’t think you’re making yourself a target; it’s not like there’s anything you could be doing to earn the trials you’re facing. Is there any way you can carve out any break for yourself? If you’re able to, maybe try to take a long weekend and step away a bit. I’ve also found it helpful to have friends (for me, from my church) who are not scientists and distract me from all the struggles faced therein. I’m rooting for you and praying for you.

Stay strong,

Thank you for your kind words, they are sincerely appreciated, especially coming from another member of the scientific community.

Also, Bertozzi’s work is badass, did you work for her?! I too have women in my field that I look up to and am inspired by, and have thought about more since reading your comment (Abby Doyle, Melanie Sanford… just to name a few). Thinking about how far some others have made it, and the great advances they are making, certainly helps.

I do also have an outlet and community of friends outside of Science, which helps a ton too. Unfortunately I’m nearing my qualifying exam and have had to spend far more time on school lately and less on things that keep me sane. It’s a delicate balance and I’m hoping to just power through this rough patch.

Again, I really appreciate your comment. Thank you so much!