Monday, 7 January 2013

Once more unto the breach, dear friends

First of all, please let me wish you a happy new year!  I hope you've had a lovely holiday and that 2013 brings you many good things.  As you can see, I am now back to work and currently ensconced in my office.  I thought it high time for another post...

The last time I wrote, I was sufferring from my affectionately named 'PhD Apocalypse'.  My mental state had started to improve a little, but I still had a long way to go.  Now I am, officially, on the other side, I wanted to talk a little about how I found my way back.  It was a long road!

This might be a bit too airy fairy for some of you (believe, I surprised myself with this thinking - airy fairy I am not) but I really felt I was out of balance.  The whole thing had thrown me completely out of kilter and I needed to spend some time righting things.  I spent a lot of 'quiet' time over the holidays.  Winter holidays are usually a really big, busy family time for us, but this year we spent it quietly, just the two of us.  I spent a lot of days just reading or sewing.  The latter in particular I find very helpful when I'm stressed, because you have to focus on counting stitches and pay attention to the pattern, so there isn't time to think about other things.

Doing this for a while made me start to feel better.  I was still very tired (I think this was partly emotional, but also because here in Scotland at the darkest point in winter the sun's only up for about five hours), and I slept a lot.  My days didn't really have a routine so they sometimes blurred into one another.  Usually I find this unsettling but it seemed to help.

In the middle of last week, I noticed a change.  I hadn't been thinking about uni - on purpose or by accident I couldn't tell you - but I started to feel the urge to gear myself up and prepare for going back.  I spring cleaned the house.  I bought supplies.  (Read: colouring pencils).  I just started generally clearing things and tidying up.  There seemed a definite "It's time to put your house in order so it's done before things get busy" emphasis to my actions, even though it seemed like this motivation had come from somewhere else.

In the end, I turned up back to uni without really having thought about it.  Before Christmas, I was prepared for a real big ordeal when it was time to come back and I actively dreaded it.  But really, it's been fine.  In some ways, it feels like I've never been away.  (Though that's maybe just a bit sad).

I know I face a storm of busyness in the days to come, but I'm facing it with a calm head now.  I feel prepared and ready for it.  Most importantly, I feel like I've restored that balance.  I've pulled myself back a bit and reminded myself there is more to life than my PhD.  I think it helps that I've now also given myself a deadline.  When you have "a few years" to do a PhD, it's easy to be complacent, to put things off until tomorrow.  I only get paid until August 2014, but that's not quite enough motivation.  However, the Boy and I have (just about) booked our wedding date (we will be booking on the 2nd of Feb).  We're getting married early November 2014.  I must have my PhD finished and handed in before then because I don't want it hanging over my head on our wedding day.  

The combination of taking time out, refocusing and giving myself a definite time frame seems to help.  I'm almost eager for the busy rush of 2013, in which I hope to complete all my testing - so that I can finish on time.  

I do feel like I've overcome something monumental, even though objectively I realise it shouldn't have mattered that much.  Regardless, I've learned a lot from it.  I do believe this is the turning point.  I feel like I'm coming round the bend to the home straight now. 

The race is on.


  1. Lovely blog post Katy. So pleased you are feeling more positive. This PhD road certainly is a rocky one (I should know!). I have blogged about similar issues too ( Lots of folks on #phdchat have been through such problems and challenges - reading about how they got through really helps as many of them are at the submission stage now! I completely agree that taking time out in such a situation can do wonders (it did for me too!).

    Glad to see you back and good luck! (with the wedding plans too :))

  2. Thanks Emma! And thank you for sharing your blog! I'm amazed you're doing a PhD on top of full-time work so I take my hat off to you! I'm really loving the #phdchat on Twitter too; lovely place to go for support when everything's feeling rubbish :)