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Staying sane in a PhD? Or fighting a PhD?

I found this article yesterday in the Guardian about 'Staying Sane' during a PhD

http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2014/mar/20/phd-research-mental-health-tips

My general thoughts on the article were as follows 'Well that's common sense, and I think I've stayed relatively sane' followed by anger that the one thing I do to stay sane is write about it, however I'm no longer allowed to publicly share much of my feelings/journey on the PhD in detail. Which actually was key to my staying sane (fear not it's been stored up to be written about at some point)

Then I thought about it some more, and the day (week, month) had been so spectacularly bad, I thought this instead: every time you think it's the worse it could get, it gets worse. And when do you actually stop fighting?

Because that's how I feel right now, I have not once ounce of fight left in me. I realised this when I got a parking ticket on campus yesterday. Despite being angry (I have a permit, I'm waiting for a new one as I changed my car, I'd also 'paid and displayed') and yes I was a bit rude to the warden who refused to listen and answer my questions about appealing (since I am registered in the permit system) But I got home and just thought 'I don't have the energy for one more fight' so despite not having the money really, I'll just pay the fine.

Then I thought about it some more, and the day (week, month) had been so spectacularly bad, I thought this instead: every time you think it's the worse it could get, it gets worse. And when do you actually stop fighting?

Because that's how I feel right now, I have not once ounce of fight left in me. I realised this when I got a parking ticket on campus yesterday. Despite being angry (I have a permit, I'm waiting for a new one as I changed my car, I'd also 'paid and displayed') and yes I was a bit rude to the warden who refused to listen and answer my questions about appealing (since I am registered in the permit system) But I got home and just thought 'I don't have the energy for one more fight' so despite not having the money really, I'll just pay the fine.

Now I'm a fighter, often to my detriment. I will fight to have the last word in an argument and I will go miles out of my way to prove a point. All the makings in fact of a good academic, ironically then the PhD beats such drive out of us, well it has out of me.

Maybe to give myself some credit I am just worn down. In the last month I've got a full time job and lost a full time job. In the process I've also lost a couple of friends. The kind of friends, probably I'm much better off without but still. I'ts also soured my relationship with theatre in the area. I've taken a step back separated myself from that world. Mainly because I've just had enough. In time that will get better but for now I've sold tickets to a show I was going to because I just can't face stepping in the door (well that and honestly I can't stand the show really)

It also adds the dimension of worry about not having an income. My Mum offered to help me out a bit so I can concentrate for a few more months and get it done. But it's been 'a few more months' for nearly a year now. Every time the goal posts move and there's only so many more 'a few more months' I have in me. In fact I think I might have already reached my limit.

I got an old job back, supporting students with disabilities (a job I love) but yesterday found out I'd be working on one of the courses I used to teach. I know it's shallow and petty and I should just have some perspective that it's not a reflection on me, it's pure coincidence, and in fact that it's no difference to supporting students in any other lecture. But I'm not a big enough person to do that.

On top of this, someone who started with me passed their mock viva yesterday. Which makes two people who started with me almost complete and one who started after me too. As much as everyone takes different amounts of time, I just can't pin point where I went wrong. If I knew I'd messed up majorly along the way and had to fix that I'd understand, it still wouldn't be ok but at least I'd have something to focus on. As it stands I feel like all along I was doing ok, I was checking off boxes or milestones and I thought it was all on tack. I was wrong but I don't know where it all went so wrong.

There's been so much focus on my dyslexia for the last few months to that I'm feeling affected by it more than I ever have. I usually barely give it a second thought. Speaking to a colleague in Student Support yesterday they sympathised that usually I'd know how to get on with life/work just dealing with it but with so much attention on it I feel ten times more affected. Like someone pointing out a limp and then feeling it's more obvious. So it becomes another obstacle.

So right now I feel beaten down, exhausted by both life and PhD. I have no fight left for life around the PhD, because I'm asking myself really how many more times can I get back up again? how many more jobs and friendships lost as a result of it? how many more months of struggling by financially, in finding time for things, in just trying to plod on. And then the PhD itself. I'm exhausted, I can't face any longer because I don't know what to do with it anymore. It currently looks like an amorphous grey mass when I think about it. I think momentarily that yes it's almost done and I can fix whatever's wrong. But then I get the feeling it's not fixable, it's never been fixable or do-able but I don't also know when it got so broken. So I'm stuck with the grey mass.

Part of me knows I'll keep plodding on because I have no choice and that ultimately  hopefully it will end. But it's not so much about staying sane as the Guardian article suggests it's more about how you keep going. I can keep myself happy and sane day by day. What I can't seem to do any more is find the fight to keep fighting.




Note: All of the above is in reference to my own personal journey. Any reference to the University is in passing for context. None of this is intended to reflect the University's part in this, simply my personal, emotional reflection on the current situation.

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