I have to say, to this day, one of the accomplishments I am most proud of is getting through my first semester of my Master’s program without having a nervous breakdown.
Let me show you what my schedule looked like:
I’ll break that down for you. In graduate school, having two classes a week is considered a full load. I had three: two three-hour-long literature classes Monday, one pedagogy course that met for an hour and a half on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and an introduction to graduate school course that met for an hour and a half on Fridays, and had almost as much homework as any of my other courses. Remember also that in graduate school, your homework for a week is often to read an entire novel and take notes on it: you can expect your homework to take as many hours of your week as the actual class does, or more (usually more, in my experience). And Tuesday/Thursday classes can be especially hard, because you only have one day in between them to do Tuesday night’s homework: and on that day, I worked eight hours in the tutoring center, getting home only at 8PM, plus another two hours on Fridays. NOT ONLY THAT, but I was doing what was essentially student teaching on Tuesdays and Thursday, which meant attending class (3 hrs a week) and holding office hours (4-5 hours a week), and having increasing responsibilities in the class, including grading, assignment creation, and teaching.
I still don’t know how I did it. I remember getting up in the morning, getting breakfast, and working on my homework. Practically every hour I had outside of the classroom or the tutoring center (and even IN the tutoring center when I didn’t have a student), I was working on homework, and would continue to do so until about 8 PM, when my brain would actually give out, and I would call my mother and babble inanities at her. Literally. I used to just sit there and make funny noises until she told me to stop because it was creeping her out.
Remember also that this was only a little over a year after I had started exhibiting an anxiety disorder–and that graduate school is a particularly mentally and emotionally damaging environment, with 64% of arts and humanities grad students suffering from depression. Not only that, but I was taken out of my own rural subculture for the first time and put in an academic, urban, east-coast, liberal subculture, which gave me a deep sense of discomfort, isolation, and even oppression from the other students and the faculty–something I’ll have to post about sometime.
On the whole, I think I handled it extraordinarily well. Part of this is because I had managed to get a grip on my anxiety and had taught myself some really good coping techniques, with the help of Dale Carnegie. In fact, I was very tickled, at the end of my two years at Delaware, when the host of my Bible study group commented that I was the most laid-back grad student she had ever seen.
As a Highly Sensitive Person (my mother used to call me her “histrionic child”) with a diagnosed emotional disorder, in graduate school, with culture shock, I think I did damned well.