Diary of a Grad School Dropout

I’ve been pretty into mental health for a long time. In high school, I somehow managed to make every class project about psychology, regardless of the topic it was meant to be. History? I’ll learn about Freud and the founding of psychoanalysis. Chemistry? Did you know that chemicals are used in neuroimaging? That’s totally chemistry, right? I even came up with some rather embarrassing psych experiments that a few friends and I conducted at the local mall, just for fun.

I went on to do my Bachelor in psychology, taking as many psych courses as the Registrar’s Office would allow, and completely loving it. I was ready to spend my life learning about psychology. I was going to be a professor. I was going to study and learn and teach this topic I loved. So I went to grad school. And I hated it.

I didn’t hate the content. I loved almost every class (sorry, multivariate statistics), I loved reading and learning and thinking about how strange and flawed and fascinating people are. But the publish or perish, “let’s all experiment on first year psych students because it’s convenient” approach just didn’t work for me. It was competitive. It felt uncomfortably self-serving to do all the things that you need to do to make it in academia. It felt like the entire field (although my perspective was very heavily influenced by a single psychology department) lacked integrity. So part way through my PhD, I left.

Have I regretted it? Not once. As soon as I wrapped my head around the idea that I could just quit, it was one of the easiest decisions I ever made. But four years on, I’ve realized that I really miss learning about mental health. It’s a field I’ve been drawn to for almost 20 years, and when I left grad school, I got a job in an unrelated field, got other hobbies, started hanging out with more people who weren’t fellow psych enthusiasts, and it became a much, much smaller part of my life.

I’m hoping this blog will be a place for me start exploring mental health again. I’ll likely review some books and articles, talk about related news and events, share some musings on my own experiences of social anxiety, body shame, and depression, and voice some very decided opinions on workplace mental health, academia, and the current state of mental healthcare in Canada. My perspective is well illustrated by the title of the blog. It’s a phrase I’ve (mostly) learned to embrace in my own struggles with body shame and social anxiety, and it suggests an approach to mental health centered on self-compassion. Imperfection is underrated. Welcome to my imperfect blog.

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