Science, Mental Health, and Me

Hi Everyone!

My name is Erica and I am a postdoctoral scientist at the John Innes Centre looking at how starch is made in crops. Before this I was researching the use of plant medicinal compounds and the affects on human skin for my PhD.

This blog is dedicated to 2 seemingly separate areas- Science and mental health.

Me and Science

I am, and always have been a massive lover of all things science. When I started my PhD I had the opportunity to learn about a brand new area of Biology- Plant science. I am now a absolute plant geek, and I am on a mission to showcase Plant science- which has been for sometime a neglected area of biology.

I also want to break down some of the barriers surrounding science, and show you what scientists actually get up to! As part of this I have started a new section called ‘meet the scientist’ where I interview other Scientists to show what we actually get up to! If you would like to be featured please contact me!!

My Mental Health Story:

During the second year of my PhD (2015) I was diagnosed with Anxiety and depression. I had suffered from anxiety since my teenage years, but always ignored it and tried to not think about. Although (looking back) it had effected several areas of my life- but I was normally able to plough on with my life anyway. This changed in the second year of my PhD when it all came to a head- I stopped trusting myself in the lab. I started double checking, triple checking everything. I would panic about data whilst trying to get to sleep. Doing a slight mistake in a experiment would lead to me having a panic attack. And worst of all, I started to not enjoy science anymore.

I had to take a few weeks off work, and have some counselling, and start medication to balance me out. Over time I started to get better again, and decided I wanted to let people know what I was going through- why I sometimes just couldn’t face a social activity, or would have a panic attack in the middle of an experiment. As I started talking more openly I began to notice something. I, for sure, was not the only one with anxiety and depression- just no one else talked about it. Many people even said they assumed that it was all part of the PhD… that it was normal, to be expected.

Mental Wellbeing isn’t talked about enough in the world of science- and I want to change that.

In the Mental health section of this blog I share my experiences of mental health challenges and some of the techniques I have picked up for coping with anxiety.