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Being in it.

I think it's fair to say I've had better weeks.

Actually for once the PhD itself isn't the issue. Yes if I think about it too hard I could panic or spiral into a 'it's never going to be finished or good enough' type mindset. But generally if I'm plodding along with it, then it's ok, until I realise how little time I have to plod on with it.

It's the demands of everything else that is the problem. Not even the things themselves so much as the strange effect everything has when you're 'in the thick of it.' and that clawing feeling that so few people understand.

It was like a revelation last week when someone said to me (ok let's be honest my crying self) "Yes but everyone else isn't doing a PhD at the same time" if I wasn't already crying I'd have cried with happiness that someone got it and vocalised it. That someone both said it and was willing to use it as a reason to excuse me, not even excuse maybe just explain me, how I am, how I react what I'm feeling was such a revelation. Because unless you're in it, usually you can't understand. People dismiss it as just a long essay or like a Master's dissertation (I swear the next time anyone says 'oh yeah when I was writing my Masters dissertation' and compares it to my PhD I swear I will punch them in the nose) or I swear sometimes that it's like writing a novel in your spare time or something.

And part of me can't blame them. It is difficult to understand. It looks like I don't do much. I sit at my desk, 8, 10, 12 hours a day  (and I consider those days I'm 'lucky' to have the time) I'm not writing long pieces of work anymore. I'm editing, which is like a long painful dental procedure (pulling teeth) and is more mentally exhausting than anything else. On the plus side, I find it easier to 'leave' the editing at the end of the day and switch off than any other part of the process so far. So while I have the standard level of guilt that I'm not working on it, I don't actually think about the 'it' when I'm away from the page.

That isn't to say it doesn't affect the rest of my life. My head feels full, physically full, because while I'm not thinking about it I still have to store the information somewhere. To use a computer metaphor I used early in the process I've 'downloaded' all I can into the PhD on paper but I have all this back up information on my 'hard drive' (spell check changed that to inflammation which may be a better adjective actually) And that's exhausting.

I think that's the key at the moment, my brain is at once overloaded and exhausted. People under-estimate the physical impact this has, my body is tired because my brain is. I'm quite good (read quite obsessive) about exercise and maintaining that to keep my body and mind functioning, but even I am failing there now. I've been ill off and on for weeks, which I know is at least partly stress related (an unknown allergic reaction is unrelated but certainly didn't help that element).

In all this I can bounce out and put a face on it for a while, for a social engagement or meeting or shift at work. But there's only so much I can do. As a natural introvert all that is exhausting generally, and when the 'hard drive' is crashing and taking all the 'software' with it (is this metaphor going too far now?) that all becomes more difficult.

And it's hard for people, because unless you're in it, it's so hard to get your head around. I feel like I'm being a brat, being over sensitive, over dramatic, over everything when confronted with 'normal' people. And I probably do look that way to them, I'd probably look that way to me. But in the PhD land in my head that's how the world looks. (and in my case PhD land is also coloured by introverted, dyslexic dyspraxic brain as well which is a right old party I can tell you) And its not all bad, I'm getting real satisfaction from the work and the quiet progress it's making. Its when the outside world and all those confused faces of people not in it start looking in then I realise I'm like a strange creature in a zoo, my behaviour strange and confusing to onlookers.

Aparently this stage of the PhD also makes you mix metaphors horribly too, so I'll stop now.


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