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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1 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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