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A real low point

I'm going to try and do more generic 'PhD' updates, just because it might help my sanity at this point, and because I quite like reading other people's so maybe there are people who like mine? (they do say misery loves company)

Also because I'm coming out of a hellish week. This time last week I spent most of the day in tears, and another day later that week. It was directly and indirectly PhD related at once.

Today I sent off a batch of chapters to my one supervisor.  A big part of my stress levels and general unhappy mindset last week, the deadline for this is slightly accelerated from what we'd previously agreed due to one of them leaving to take another job in January. Although this comes with some (mainly logistical and administrative) issues it's actually a blessing because it's really focused the team and me and forced me to submit work faster. Hopefully as well, I'll get detailed feedback too which I can work on over the Christmas 'break'. I'm really happy with what I've submitted, obviously there are things that need work but I think the progress made on it is good and that's all I can really ask for.

Last week, the last few weeks even  I was fully immersed in the PhD, which in itself is a really good thing. I've not felt quite as 'connected' to it in quite some time. And (say it quietly) for a lot of the time I was really enjoying working on it again (don't worry it won't last) but it takes a lot out of you, a hell of a lot of concentration and effort and sheer brain work. I'm not saying it's any harder than lots of other people's working days, but that's not to say it's not hard either. That said, as one friend reminded me last week 'It's supposed to be hard, otherwise everyone would do it' which I think is a fair point. I am allowed to say it's hard work aren't I?

Last week, it's fair to say the strain of getting that done by today was showing. It was as ever accentuated by the demands of life and more specifically jobs. It was always going to be a delicate balancing act, as one friend who has just finished her PhD pointed out, she had to be reminded to eat, never mind managed to juggle two jobs.

I had taken on a job a couple of months back that, at the time, seemed like a great solution to many problems, and possibly something I'd enjoy. Sadly it didn't turn out to be that way, through nobody's fault but just an unfortunate colliding of circumstance. A short while after starting I got the news I was soon to lose a supervisor, and therefore my workload increased. With the increased workload my ability to pick up a slightly complex job that involved remembering a lot of information in a short time was really compromised. I was upset and stressed that I wasn't picking up the job as fast as I'd like, and that I was letting down my employers and myself. When going to work became more stressful than my PhD I knew there was a real problem.

It was difficult because I know a lot of people struggled to understand where I was coming from, or why I was reacting as I did. And yes, a 'normal' person probably wouldn't have reacted like I did. For context reacting like I did involved leaving a shift, running into a friend and promptly bursting into tears, spending the days before going into work feeling sick and worrying so much about the next day I couldn't concentrate, and finally generally feeling like my brain was frozen by panic while in the job.  None of this is normal, none of it is how I'd normally react, but I'm not normal right now, I'm a person in the final stages of her PhD. For a start my brain is full, so full of information, and so tired that nothing is registering. Normally I'm sure I would have settled in and enjoyed that side of the job, normally but not now. As the same friend put it 'It would have been perfect two years ago, it's not now'. The worst thing, the very worst thing is feeling like I've let friends down, and that some friends still don't understand that I didn't mean to let anybody down and that I'm really very sorry I had to.

But I've also gone very much into PhD survival mode. If nothing else this last week has highlighted to me that this is the only priority I can have right now. And if it involves being even poorer for a couple of months that's ok, because I've put so much into this so far to mess it up at this stage now. If it also means being selfish where friends are concerned I have to be a little bit now. I don't want to upset or lose friends but in balancing work and PhD sometimes something has to give. I'm lucky that on the whole I have very understanding friends who I think (hope) will still be around when I come up for air, or even when I emerge, haggared but victorious at the end of this (there is an end right?)

Last week was a low point, and I can only thank those people who were there supporting me and doing the best they could to understand and help (even if they felt they couldn't really do either, by trying they were doing both!) and I apologise to those I upset last week, or who just got fed up of my whining self. I know it's far from the last week like that I'll have, but I think my decision to step away from one job has gone some way to helping prevent some of that happening again. There are tough PhD times ahead, but there is also the end increasingly not too far ahead.

That was a lot more philosophical than I first intended, but I think I shall leave it as is. A meandering waffle on the state of life and my brain.


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