I wonder, though, if part of the problem might also be that our institutions have absorbed some of the widespread rhetoric about the immateriality of digital labor. We’ve come to think that stuff that you do on a computer can be done anywhere, anytime — and thus everywhere, all the time, with no particular material requirements.
Miriam Posner, Money and Time
I wonder about this myself, having spent the better part of a year trying to get a digital repository up and running at MPOW, staffed with… not enough (technical, dedicated) staff.
(Y)et the most gratifying release for me, the most pleasurable way I have to flee the confines of my own skin, is still, after all these years, to escape into a world where I don’t have to think about race and desire and the messy ways they interact — my own personal recovery room, filled with a blinding light.
My dudes, I understand this might not bother you like it bothers me. But I’m just not particularly worried about you, to be honest. The world’s already designed for you. I’m reserving all the fucks I have left to give for those who are harmed and excluded and alienated by the zillion little insults the world — including our freaking web interfaces — throws at them, over and over again.
Many, many thanks to everyone who contributed blog posts in support of #LISMentalHealth Week. I know it isn’t easy to disclose mental illness or to talk openly about our mental health struggles, so I don’t take your participation lightly. The week was successful because of your contributions, and though you may never know it, you’ve helped so many people by being willing to come forward.
So if burnout is a response to an absence of meaning, meaning-making seems like the solution. I was asked recently to give three! top! tips! for new librarians (always this field with the top tips!), and that was my first one: find something inside the field that matters, and then do your best to set your watch by it. Mine could do with a little rewinding right now. How about yours?
To those who aren’t depressed, you should know that people manifest depression in many different ways. Not everyone fits the stereotype of the weepy zombie who can’t get out of bed. Depression can look like anger, insecurity, numbness, overcompensation, extreme sadness, etc. We all cope (or try to cope) with it in our own ways.
I am an atheist, but there is one thing that I read almost daily as though it were doctrine, and that is Desiderata. I have a very old framed copy of it that I inherited from my Aunt Jane. She obtained it on one of her adventures through North Africa in the ’60s. It’s hung in my hall and I read it while I brush my teeth. While I find solace in most of it, there are some passages that help me in my professional life, and I share these now for #lismentalhealth week.
We get way high on what we do in libraries, and libraries are way cool, but ten people being annoyed because I forgot to change a font colour is not the town mob that my anxiety is making it out to be. Sometimes, when I’m stressed out over a new project and feel like a fraud or whatever, I like to sit and imagine a world where no one did my job. Things would be worse, granted, but… the world would keep going. My university would keep going. My library would keep going. And that’s ultimately super friggin freeing. Because the worst case scenario is that someone does nothing, and even then nobody’s going to die or truly suffer for it. And even at my super depressed-est, even I have to acknowledge that I can totally do better than a non-existent person doing nothing.
It’s been a rough morning. My joints are especially painful today, and every mucous membrane in my body is desert-dry. I haven’t slept enough, so that on top of the fatigue has me feeling more dull-witted and slower than usual. When the elevator arrives, I step in and gently lean against the rear wall for support.
One of my colleagues gets on at the next floor. After exchanging pleasantries, he looks at me and says “I hope you don’t mind me saying, but I notice you change your hair every day.” He went on to describe my hair, how sometimes it’s curly1, and sometimes it’s longer. “Well, you have to keep things interesting!” I answer, sounding more jovial than I actually felt. “You’re very large, and your hair takes up space!” He laughs. The doors open on our floor, and we go our separate ways.
Just a quick note to let you know that the Twitter chat for LIS Mental Health Week has been scheduled. We’ll gather on Monday, 18 January, 2016 at 4:00pm PST. You can participate or follow the chat by using the #LISMentalHealth hashtag.
I know disclosure around mental health issues can be tricky, but because I want as many people to participate as possible, I’ve created a form that accepts anonymous questions. If there’s a question you’d like Kelly or I to ask during the chat on your behalf, use the form below.