The Backstory: on starting my new job last autumn, I took a deep breath and declared my mental health disability. Mild to moderate depression, plus not sleeping. The great thing about m-to-m is that I function apparently normally for weeks, months, years even … before finding myself with something sharp in my arm and / or a firm conviction that I should not exist. The great thing about not sleeping is – ah just kidding, there is no nice about not sleeping. Even proper sleep after not sleep makes me feel like I have the flu and look like an extra from the living dead.
Side note: lots of people have m-to-m and sleep problems, and maybe more of us should declare it. I’ve certainly found it makes a change from the elaborate subterfuge formerly practised in order to pretend that everything was FINE all the time, and devoting all my spare energy and time off to concealing its effects on my work. [NB managers need help with how to respond to declarations of mentalist disability. Another time.]
The actual point: sleep problems and depression love academics. People whose job it is to think too much. Who are achievement oriented. No fixed working hours. Fuzzy line between work and leisure. Constant feeling of guilt for (a) working to much and (b) not working enough. And so, as part of my ongoing experiment in being out and a bit mental, I present one of my newly discovered Systems for Staying Less Crazy (in academia). The PINK CHIP system, tada!
It all started when somebody left a jar of tiddly winks round my house (artists – they do that, they are so wacky). Every time I work on a weekend, or a day of booked leave, or a public holiday, I take a pink chip out of the jar and put it on top of the stereo speaker (next to the elephants of course – elephants are well known to prefer pink).
As the pink chips start to mount up, I talk sternly to myself about taking an afternoon off. Or even, gosh, a whole day. Each pink chip counts as a GUILT FREE day off. No email no reading of teaching texts no writing of proposals nuffink. Proper day off means chip goes back in jar.
There are 8 pink chips. After that, we get into RED CHIPS which means danger. It is definitely time to book off some leave and to actually leave it all alone, which is what ‘leave’ means, duh.
There are some rules to the system which is currently in beta (I don’t know what this means but doesn’t it sound robust). There is also a FAQ (furry and queer. oops wrong blog).
Q. What if I only work a little bit on Saturday? How many hours of weekend work exactly will trigger a pink chip?
A. Haven’t you internalised the work ethic thoroughly. Any work on a weekend is Weekend Work, of course. To the elephant farm with your pink chip. You could also bring in a sub-chip system. Blue, for instance is unassigned. Two blues make a pink? Go crazy. No no I didn’t mean that. We shall suspend the casual use of mental health insults.
Rule 1. Avoid the RED CHIP zone.
Rule 2. Once you have entered the RED CHIP zone, any kind of mentalist behaviour is OK. Crying, raving, extreme irritation, feelings of murder in meetings. Sleeping pills are also very OK in the red chip zone (but keep a note of the frequency and amount – hey, you could use yellow chips for that). You also have to write a plan for getting out of the red zone, and have it signed by all of your imaginary friends.
Rule 3. If all the pink chips are in the jar, that’s great! Congratulations, you are a normal person (what?) But you can still have a Guilt Free Day Off. Just decide that green is minus pink. You get it.
OK so to the games shop with you all for your tiddly winks. Any more Qs and interesting rules send them to the comments. Ta.