Check out my web site:

My Photo


« Focused Freewriting | Main | Why No "Quotation" Marks? »


Academic Coach

I wanted to add a sample of email responses I've gotten to my newsletter:

Wrote one grad student:

"What your client described (experience, emotions, etc.) - I can really relate to all of that.
"Through my professor at Tulane, I was connected to a professor at (X University,) who has taken me in for this semester so that I can finish my dissertation. Yes, I am one of the most fortunate students from New Orleans.
"As for my personal loss, my apartment was also on the ground floor, and my neighborhood had about 7.5 ft. of water. I am assuming most of that went into my house. I have resigned to the fact that most of what I left in my apartment will need to be disposed. As you said - they are (were) my link to the past, and that makes the loss very painful."

A new faculty member wrote that my newsletter applied to a different loss: the death of her mother. She wrote:

"Almost two months ago, my mom died, just a couple of days after I filed my dissertation. (She was hospitalized less than 24 hours after I got my final signature.) Right after the funeral, I had to drive from (State X to State X across the country,) to start my first tenure-track job. Being here, I often feel fine, even happy. And then something will remind me, and I'll want to cry or scream or just stay home and sit in the bathtub all day. (My friend says that the tub must remind me of the womb, because I always go there when I need comfort....) I feel really disconcerted when it hits me so hard out of nowhere. So I really appreciate the reminder that it is okay to feel however I feel.
"I also appreciated the reminder that routines can be helpful and healthy."

Thank you, newsletter readers. It means so much to me when I get this kind of feedback about my efforts to help.


Thank you so much for this post--all of your advice seems to me sound and reasonable, but I know that I have failed to do so many of these basic things during crises. I seem so prone to falling off of any kind of schedule, going without food and sleep, losing touch with my support structure, beating myself up in various ways at times when I should be doing the opposite.

I'm going to bookmark this post and make a note to myself to come back and read it again next time I start to fall apart.

You should get some kind of award for being such a Very Useful Blogger.

What Now?

Excellent and helpful and reassuring post; thanks so much. I like Scrivener's idea; you definitely deserve the VUB award!


This is a great post that people need to read. One of the things that touches me about your post is that what you say does not only apply to tragedies and disasters such as Katrina or a parent's death.

What happens when you get burnt out and depressed because you've worked too hard, allowed your work to swallow you whole?

What happens when you drive yourself to the edge of madness worrying about tenure or getting a job?

Realizing that we are not the sum of our professional achievements is so hard. But our emotional health depends on being able to separate our value as people from our value as professionals.

This post is a great reminder to all of us, even those of us who are not facing tremendous crises, to do our best to be more reasonable with ourselves.


What a helpful and learned post!


Reading this was very comforting, and a good reminder to me that I need to analyze the causes of my depression rather than try to soldier through it in a funk of disappointment with myself (and gaining weight every step of the way!) This summer my mind and mood did a complete 180 after I spent almost a month with my parents on my way home (driving cross-country) from a wonderful poetry workshop. We have never had the healthiest relationship, but they are getting elderly, and I was proud of myself for re-entering the dragon's lair with compassion in mind, as it were; and I was resting on my laurels, in a sense, and seemed almost to have accomplished a couple of things that genuinely pleased my father for once, which was nice. There was a bit of a gaping hole in the house where my prodigal, habitually vanishing younger brother normally would be; and unfortunately, Mom is really losing it, with the result that a lifetime of weird semi-passive aggression flowered during my visit into full-on, really bizarre passive aggression, much of it seemingly aimed at making sure I never had one-on-one time with Dad, so the visit was a distress and a disappointment as well as a reminder that my parents are entering the stage of serious old age. We all lived in Louisiana for many years, although none of us do now--I was born there, and spent time as an undergraduate in New Orleans before moving out of state--and soon after I finally left my parents' place and arrived back home and began to return to my life after almost three months away, tragedy struck New Orleans, and to my surprise and embarrassment I was completely bowled over by the city's devastation. I felt complete survivor's guilt, guilt for having abandoned my home to its self-destructiveness, and although my boyfriend and I had donated to the Red Cross, I was swathed in a sense of helplessness. As bizarre as it sounds, I had the overwhelming sense that I ought never to have left New Orleans and certainly should be there to do something about what was happening, that there are different kinds of family and if there are larger families, I was part of this one. So, although some time has gone by, reading the Katrina post reminded me to be understanding of myself and my own internal weather, rather than succumb to the endless rain of at times completely irrational (yes!) guilt or to the kind of grieving process whose sources are so ambiguous as to make it difficult to limit. Who knows what evolutionary purpose guilt and depression serve, but I definitely don't plan on having them reprogram my hippocampus, not if I can help it. This post reminded me to acknowledge that I deserve and may even have a responsibility to keep attempting to thrive, even or especially in the face of all the senselessness in the world; maybe I really have given enough of myself. So...thanks, Coach.

The comments to this entry are closed.