on being a chronically ill graduate student

October 27, 2010

It seems odd to me that I have yet to formally tackle the topic of being a chronically ill graduate student.  Inasmuch as my blog is about anything, this is what it’s about, but so far it’s only popped up if you follow me regularly and can piece together all the gripings that aren’t about weather or broken lab equipment or politics or, well, all the other things that I blog about.

So, I’m going to remedy this situation, and you’re going to get a series about what it’s like to be a chronically ill graduate student.  A few recent events have made me reflect upon my time here as a whole, and it’s given me a little bit of perspective that I’m itching to share, hopefully to save others from some of the same trouble I’ve been through.  I also have a notebook full of half-written blog posts that I work on while on the bus, and I’m hoping that some of those will see the light of day if I’m organized about this.

Logistically speaking, I will be tagging all the posts in this series as “chronically chronicling,” so you can find them.

For readers who find this series through google or other means, and don’t want to wade through my blog to figure out who I am, here’s a quick introduction for these purposes, so you know where I’m coming from.  I’m a physics student, working on a very research-focused degree.  In terms of chronic illness, I’m actually fairly healthy at first glance, but I have that nasty brand of immune system that both fails to fight off common viruses in a timely fashion, and then overreacts to things that mean me no harm (ie, I have poor immunity and severe asthma and allergies).  Winter is not my friend, and neither is spring.  I had the misfortune to get a minor head injury a year into my program, and since have suffered from migraines, though those have been improving.  Tied up in all of this, mental health is almost always an issue for any graduate student, so we’ll throw that in the mix too.  I don’t claim to be speaking for anyone but myself, but I think that my experience can be helpful to others facing similar issues.

I’m planning to cover some topics already, but I’d love input from readers about what to cover.  Here’s what I’m thinking so far:

  • dealing with an advisor (and choosing the right one)
  • getting through your core classes
  • relationships with coworkers and all the other non-advisor people you may occasionally have to let down
  • does graduate school make you sick?
  • does graduate school make you crazy?
  • unexpected setbacks

Please do weigh in in the comments if you have things you want me to talk about that I’ve missed.  Also, don’t expect these to come flying hot off the presses every day; it’ll probably be a much more gradual series, and don’t be surprised if it’s interrupted by plenty of more inane posts.

I’ll be excited if this gets anywhere near the traffic that my post about the evil horse statue does.  One day I’ll grow up into a real blog…maybe.



  1. I’m really interested in the advisor question. What do you wish you’d asked your advisor before you signed on?

    • I’ll try to hit that topic first…maybe later this week, early next?

  2. I swear this forthcoming advisor post is 2/3 written in my bus notebook (and is actually 2 posts now), and will appear before the end of the week if all goes well. This is the problem with doing most of my blogging on the bus, when I don’t actually have internet (or even computer) access.

  3. […] the damage, I’m not letting myself clean up and post my advisor-related post for my series on being a chronically ill graduate student, even though I am dying to, and I am also not letting myself do justice to explaining why I’m […]

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