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Reintegration & Recovery >> First Person
Joseph J. Wleklinski
Joseph Wleklinski, a Lilly Reintegration Scholar is a graduate student in Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The following is an abridged version of his Reintegration Scholarship application essay in which Joseph updates us on his progress and shares his hopes for the future.
As a continued Lilly scholar, my education and life in general have been going very well since I submitted my last application one year ago. Since then I have received all A’s, and my confidence has risen to new heights. It seems maybe a bit grandiose, but I have aspirations of doing some kind of work that deeply affects the course of research in my chosen specialty, nuclear engineering. The most important aspect of the above is that I have a drive and that the work I do is enjoyable. As I have coincidentally improved psychiatrically and in my career objectives, I gained a more long-term psychological benefit: happiness.
Academic and professional growth
In the past year, I have moved to more conceptually intensive work. Having begun in quite ordinary engineering in the study of fluid mechanics, I then moved to kinetic theory, which was the forefront of physics in the late nineteenth century, and its application to the flow of rarefied gases. I will be next moving into the application of kinetic theory to nuclear plasma fusion physics for doctoral work, which has its origins in the twentieth century and has ties to astrophysics. I see myself perhaps eventually moving into primordial cosmology, which is today considered new physics and truly has an element of mystique.
While the rest of my education is falling into place, I have begun to consider what I will do professionally. I know that after I land a post-doc I will want a research position, and I will want to devote myself full-time to research. I already have published papers, one of which I solely authored, and I will continue to do this. I intend to look for a research group to join in the future, perhaps in a government laboratory. But I leave much of the future open so that I can always remain hopeful of new things. I continue to seek the best advice, to enjoy myself and to work hard.
Fostering a “connection to others”
I have continued my therapy, and I have learned the importance of each moment in one’s life. For so long my thoughts were tainted and so often I was not myself that I now value my condition and how I spend my time greatly.
The most painful experience of my illness has been the loss of love associated with it. The illness affected my perceptions and warped the love I received from others. But I have grown in my connection to others. While I only reveal I have an illness if necessary, I realize I can be of benefit to others, especially those who have an illness as well, by keeping up relationships with them. Along our way we have been of great benefit to each other in exchanging sometimes very profound thoughts and experiences. To researchers and doctors I also provide my best insights, and I gladly represent the Lilly reintegration effort in academia.
My current state of mind, so much like that I possessed before the illness, yet so much more developed in skills and in profundity, is proof that in some cases the destruction caused by a mental illness can be reversed.
Overcoming the past and looking to the future
With my illness, I was extremely stunted. The difficulty of even the most mundane of tasks was immense. Paranoia was peaking, and my brain was incapable of experiencing much of the subtle feelings necessary for peace of mind, such as the spirituality I have since found. During the most difficult stages of my illness when its full fury flourished, I experienced nonstop bombardment of harsh feelings for days on end. These were times about which nothing was good.
In recovering from this, I have truly learned that love is the most important thing in my life, and for others as well. The difference is that I have seen how this is so from the bottom up and probably have learned a bit more about it. For me, recovering from mental illness has been a process of maturation.