Canary’s Call

A tangle-twister’s joints twist through 360 degrees, so it will wind round and roumd and round on itself without breaking; then back again. I have one in my handbag: the paint long since worn off, I twist and twist and twist when I am agitated. The effect is like twisting crochet wool into knots, but without needing to carry wool and hook around with me. It gives a non-harmful focus to agitation.

To stress. I feel so stressed at the moment. There is too much to do. I have an entire newsletter to edit in one day next week, classes to teach, essays and assignments to mark by the hundred, research to get through. And a lot of admin. type stuff, too. My to-do list is long. When I’m at work, I am mostly teaching, in contact-time, leaving little time in “day-time” for much else.

I have a teaching review meeting. The student evaluations – mostly positive, “S — is an amazing tutor”, some nonchalant, a couple who clearly detest my teaching. The reviewer says that I seem to have gotten more and more tired and stressed as the term has progressed. I say that I do feel tired – that day in particular – because I do five hours of contact time, back-to-back. And she says that she will speak to the Head of Department about balancing that, to make it more manageable.


I agitate. The HoD emails me. I stress that it is not the workload that is difficult, but its arrangement. I agitate more. I’ve done it. I might not have declared insanity, but I might as well have done. Nobody wants a weak academic in the Department. As soon as the last workplace found out, they vault-faced – there was no further  job for me. Last thing in the week, we meet with him. It is okay even though I shake as I talk. He doesn’t know how I was timetabled for a five-hour stint of upfront teaching – will re-arrange – and it’s OK to say it’s not OK.

I stress again how happy I am to be in that job. How many opportunities  there have been; how friendly everyone is – that our  research was in the newspaper this week. I say that I feel stress easily because I want to give my  best to the students- I’m a bit like a canary in a coalmine.

But we don’t want the canary to keel over

This workplace seems OK with helping me  find a balance in my workload. I still daren’t disclose mental illness  directly to them. I am still scared of the effect disclosing stress will have had. It’s not the HoD’s choice that I commute that far to work. And love the way that I have found others to work with on my research – I love the friendly, engaged students. I couldn’t bear it if the job was taken away from me.

But I have asked for support, and found it- found that it is willingly given – that my teaching is liked – and people want to enable me to perform well. I have found that asking for help is OK. I have a meeting this week with a Support Advisor at the university, about what I should disclose to the Department, so I can get to mental health appointments. It might all be OK after all. I should trust more that it will all be OK.




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One Response to Canary’s Call

  1. So glad that there is positive support. And so glad that the back to back teaching can be rearranged.

    You’re in my thoughts and prayers – especially for your meeting with the support adviser.



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