Friday, July 19, 2013
Anxiety on the Tenure Track: What YOU Can Do
Drexel Law Professor Lisa McElroy has an important piece on Slate.com (here) dealing with her struggles with anxiety while on the tenure track. Anxiety while untenured is common, indeed almost unavoidable, but Lisa's essay is about the hidden toll her severe anxiety disorder imposed on her during the already stressful tenure process. She tells her story to help others in her situation have the courage to get the help they need and to start the process of breaking down the stigma attached to mental illness. Another benefit, she notes, is allowing herself to finally be known by those around her, to be who she truly is. Her essay reminds us all that our friends and acquaintances and, yes, colleagues--even those who are tremendously accomplished by all objective measures--are often carrying heavy burdens that we know nothing about. We should do what we can to alleviate their suffering and not let fear prevent us from getting help to alleviate our own.
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"But if the author has a serious anxiety disorder, tenure cannot cure the disorder and is not a solution to the disorder."
It isn't a cure for an anxiety disorder, but most of us living with anxiety know that having a stable work environment, including job security, reduces our anxiety. Many institutions don't help by making the process as opaque as possible (no clear guidelines regarding how many articles are needed or when going up early is permitted). Nor do some state schools help by not offering any mental health coverage on their health insurance under the claim of sovereign immunity.
Posted by: ANON | Jul 23, 2013 10:02:52 AM
I cannot respect this essay. With all respect, it reads like a promotional piece or as narcissistic as some comments on Slate have suggested. If the purpose was to write about how the tenure process promotes anxiety, that would have been fine. But if the author has a serious anxiety disorder, tenure cannot cure the disorder and is not a solution to the disorder.
Posted by: Law Prof | Jul 22, 2013 9:13:09 PM
Lyrissa -- thanks so much for posting this. A powerful and brave essay indeed. As you may already be aware, other law profs who've written with sensitivity and insight about their own mental illness include Elyn Saks at USC, who has chronicled her experiences with schizophrenia in The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness (2007) and James T.R. Jones at U of Louisville, who has written about his struggles with bipolar disorder (see his articles, Walking the Tightrope of Bipolar Disorder: The Secret Life of a Law Professor (2007) and A Hidden Madness (2011)).
Posted by: Tamar Birckhead | Jul 21, 2013 7:10:56 PM