I know I’ve been delinquent about posting this week. It has been a busy week and one that today made me regret. It was a week full of too many long days and late nights and I slept most of today as a result.
Part of the difficulty of this week was the emotional battles that raged inside me.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m going to be a graduate student instructor (GSI) starting in the fall. This means 20 hours of work per week plus my own classes. But most of all, it means having to constantly deal with other people who probably won’t understand my health situation. The other GSIs and I received an e-mail last week that we needed to decide amongst ourselves the sections we are going to teach.
Simple right? Not even close. It was one of the most stressful situations I’ve experienced in awhile.
I was the second person to e-mail my choices; either two early Thursday or Friday sections. I opted not to teach the Wednesday sections because I only ever have doctors appointments on Wednesdays and there is no way I would be able to conceivably fit that all in, in one day, considering that doctors appointments on the “good” days take at least two hours (by the time I leave home and get back). And I knew that I wouldn’t be able to physically handle teaching two evening sections in a row, either.
I wasn’t trying to use my illnesses as an excuse to get out of things. I was being honest with myself. Why would I commit to doing something that I know I physically can’t handle doing?
Well, these explanations apparently weren’t good enough for my fellow teachers. There were some heated e-mail exchanges that followed. I said that I was willing to teach two late sections, as long as they weren’t back to back, but apparently this wasn’t enough compromise coming from the only person who was willing to make concessions. The one concession I wasn’t willing to make, however, was my health.
In the end it did get worked out, but it was incredibly frustrating. When I sent my choices, I indicated that my reasoning for picking the times I did were for doctors’ appointments and health reasons. I didn’t feel that any of the people I was communicating with needed or deserved any more information than that. And I stand by that decision.
However, it made me realize that now I probably have to explain what has been going on to the professor I’ll be teaching for. I had been contemplating this and hadn’t come to a firm decision on whether or not to have this discussion. But this whole scheduling fiasco made me realize that my having lupus and rheumatoid arthritis is probably something I should disclose.
I don’t necessarily think it’s fair, though. I feel that I wouldn’t necessarily have to disclose to this person if it weren’t for the fact that I’m surrounded by a bunch of graduate students who can see no further than themselves.
I know that sounds harsh, but other experiences this week made me realize that people, in general, are unfeeling and uncaring. People can just be plain mean. I think I’ve always known this, but lately, meanness seems to be out in full force.
On Tuesday, I’m giving my first professional presentation as a graduate student. As I’ve said before, very few people in my department or in my internship program knows what has been going on. And this presentation has the potential to “out” me. The presentation is on chronic illness, stress, and self-esteem and self-efficacy. In the presentation, I explain why studying chronic illness is important, but there is the potential that someone in the audience may ask why it is important to me.
It’s one thing for people to stumble across my blog and find out what’s going on. That is a risk that I am obviously willing to take. But this whole issue of forced disclosure just doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t like being put in the position where, it’s not my intention to disclose, but I am forced to.
A situation like this happened earlier this year, long before I had started blogging or even knew what was wrong with me. I had signed up to do some publicity for a departmental event. After I had finished everything I was supposed to do, I was told that details of the event had changed and everything I had done needed to be redone. I had told the person in charge (a fellow grad student) that I couldn’t do it. I was then told that I would have to e-mail all of the grad students in my year to find someone else to do it. So I had to send an e-mail out explaining that “for health reasons,” I needed someone to take over for me. It’s not like I had gone back on my word and not done something I said I would do. I had done my part.
The thing is, I don’t think that if I came right out and said “I have lupus and rheumatoid arthritis” that it would really make any difference to the situation. In fact, I think it would make things more awkward. Most people aren’t going to understand the significance of those illnesses, especially if they don’t understand the significance of health issues, reasons, etc.
In the teaching situation, no one had any problem offering up their issues and excuses, but no one stopped to consider the significance of mine. This is something that I face continually. I am supposed to care about everyone else’s “stuff” when no one bothers to care about mine.
While everyone else is busy looking out for themselves, it’s time I started doing the same thing for myself…