Three weeks ago, I had the great fortune of attending the Reclaiming Stem West conference at University of California, Irvine. The conference was targeted towards developing science communication skills for underrepresented minorities in STEM.
One of the biggest joys for me at this conference was simply meeting more genderqueer folks in STEM. Especially meeting people who use they/them pronouns as well as she/her or he/him. And I got complemented on my newly acquired pronoun pin complete with an adorable sleeping rat. The Reclaiming STEM conference reminded me of a more intimate version of the annual Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in the Sciences (SACNAS) conference. I highly recommend both conferences! Reclaiming STEM has no registration fee and has a West and East coast conference. SACNAS has a hefty reservation fee and requires a hotel or other accommodations, but they have student travel awards that cover air fare and hotel.
Aside from bolstering my sense of belonging, the piece I’m still reflecting on is advice from a summary of the book Rebel Talent: Why it Pays to Break the Rules at Work and in Life. The takeaway being that when you break the rules, you need to do it deliberately and with clear intention. I realized this was a lesson I had already partially internalized.
In November of last year, I shared on facebook that I was starting anti-anxiety meds. Certainly not a typical way to handle such a personal decision especially one that might be rife with stigma in some people’s eyes. Even my therapist was a little surprised when I told her that I shared that information so publicly. But at the end of my post I included:
“I’m sharing this [because]… I think it’s really important to normalize talking about mental health. So if you are looking for someone you can feel comfortable talking to about your own process of tending to your mental health – hello! Especially if you’ve never tried therapy or anything before to actively tend to it, please, please, please know you can talk to me about it.”
Thus I hope in sharing my own journey through grad school with general anxiety disorder helps create an environment where students can access mental health resources and care without stigma.