When I first started graduate school, I immediately started having panic attacks. It was clearly not ideal timing, but something about taking classes and teaching (since my en route Ph.D. program “allowed” us to teach our own composition classes at the same time we were taking classes) gave me both the space and the elevated stress level to suddenly act out against my life-long horror of Sunday nights.
I had the space, since unlike the 9-5 jobs I had for the years between undergraduate and graduate school teaching 2 composition classes and taking 2-3 graduate classes gave me more “free” time. And you can guess why, as a new instructor, I had the elevated stress levels. I loved teaching immediately (almost more, to be honest, than my graduate seminars), and I felt fairly confident in my graduate program, but the stress of living in utter poverty in addition to the change in career probably were beyond the stress of any other transitional period in my life.
So, like any good New Yorker I found myself a therapist (one with a Ph.D., thank you very much) and he proceded to bore me with the usual Freudian blah blah blah about my life (I had no trouble applying such an analysis to literary characters, but hearing it applied to my own life made me dismiss psychoanalytic literary criticism quite quickly–perhaps too quickly, but that’s for another posting).
He did make two comments (in addition to explaining how to get bumped to first class on airlines–though his advice on that aged quickly as the airline industry changed) that I never forgot (and it’s been 20 years):
1. He said that because of my struggles with my childhood (blah blah) I would probably not be able to finish the Ph.D. program (well, I did, in record time–though, admittedly, I’m not quite sure how much of that was reverse psychology); and
2. He said that although panic attacks on Sunday nights are not uncommon for many people, perhaps I have panic attacks on Sunday nights because that’s when I was sent to the “babysitter” for the week (long story).
Well, that was an observation worthy of his $80.00 an hour though I still stopped seeing him soon afterwards.
My panic attacks eventually subsided though Sunday nights are still a bit fraught with emotion (despite knowing both the obvious and the personal reasons for feeling stressed on Sunday nights). Tonight, I’m almost done grading final papers (admittedly, I could be done if I weren’t typing this, but I did need a break), and although I should be thrilled that I’m almost done grading and finishing up fall term, I’m feeling relentlessly stressed. I have no where I need to be tomorrow, and actually few appointments at all this week, allowing me to at least begin to clean up my office and prep for winter term. But those emotions are still there and just typing them out is very useful (and you don’t need that Ph.D. in psychology to understand why). It’s also cold (frigid, actually) and snowy today, no sun and basically the start of what promises to be a long winter. And yes, I’m sure it’s just having the space of not teaching that reminds me, that yes, seasonal affective disorder on top of a personal history of Sunday night blues have ganged up to make you feel lousy right now.
Or at least I did until I typed all of that out;-)