Well I finally handed in a draft of a chapter of my thesis I have been working on for a while. Most of the Easter weekend was spent on it. Late nights, missed lunches, tears and headaches. So you’d think I’d be happy right, feel a little weight off, feel accomplished? True it was much later than I had wanted to submit it (about a month), true it doesn’t have a discussion yet (waiting to check the content is ok as have changed this chapter a couple times now) and true I did leave out an aspect of the data analysis as I was just sick of it. So it’s not as good as it could be. But something with the supervisors to get feedback and comments on is better than nothing right? I can now prioritise getting in and getting some of my final lab work done, I can prioritise making the slides for and practising a talk I have to give last week, I can move on to my other big results chapter. All good things right? I even learnt how to use a statistical programme that I have been struggling with for the last 3 years. Also good right? I should be feeling pretty darn motivated and happy, shouldn’t I?
But I’m not. I read a couple chapters of my current book last night as a reward (hadn’t done any non-thesis reading for a while) and went to bed feeling as I should. I woke up empty. Like someone had left the tap running overnight and everything within me, that made me me, was gone. I managed to get out of bed for the postman as my husband was in a meeting. I stayed up for about 30 minutes before I returned to bed. I didn’t even sleep just lay and stared at the walls. I’m not even sure I was doing much thinking. I tried again, got out of bed, had a shower and dressed, had breakfast and tea and decided to work on my talk and maybe start on that other results chapter from home rather than go in and do lab work. I got as far as opening powerpoint and checking work emails. Then I realised I had been staring at the walls again for who knows how long. I returned to bed, maybe a nap would reset my brain. Sounds silly but sometimes that does work. I read someone on here saying that they ‘woke up on the wrong side of the bed’ referring to a bad day. And it’s true, I never know how I will be when I wake up. Regardless of the events preceding me falling asleep I can wake up on top of the world or at the bottom of a deep dark pit.
I slept for about 6 hours. I woke up no better. I couldn’t motivate myself into the garden. I managed to clear away dinner from last night and eat some lunch. I wrote the title of my talk. I made tea. Our housemate came home and started on dinner. I did the washing up and tried my best not to cry. Everyone has gone to bed now. I’ve written the text for most of my slides, not even looked at the chapter.
I want to say that I am trying, trying so damn hard to keep it together but it feels empty. If I was trying I would be doing better wouldn’t I? My therapist says I place unrealistic goals on myself and am overly critical when I don’t reach them. I don’t think getting up and staying up and maybe doing some work is unrealistic though. My CBT at the moment is all about challenging my thoughts. So here goes. Current thoughts, feelings associated, rational way of looking at it and how I feel about it now
I’m lazy, stupid and useless. I hardly do anything in the house. I can’t seem to do this PhD. Better off if I wasn’t here wasting people’s time and taking up resources. I can’t even motivate myself to do the things I like. I am taking no pleasure from food or TV or games. I’m just watching the days of my life slip away. What is the point?
Throat is tight, feels like my chest cavity is caving in, whole body feels heavy, eyes burning, want to run, want to be small, cover myself with soil or blanket or water. Want to throw up.
You are depressed, looks like quite severely as you have lost pleasure in even eating. It is going to be harder to do things. You are still doing things in the house just not as much. You cooked dinner the other night, came up with ideas for dinner tonight. You are still taking basic care of yourself. You are still plodding at the PhD, not at the pace you would like but you are doing something with it every day. You have not resorted to harmful coping strategies. Those are all accomplishments. You can be very intelligent at times but the depression affects your concentration. When that is bad you will struggle to do tasks that you can normally do. If you try at the right time you will be able to do well with the PhD. People love you and rely on you. If they do not think you are a waste of their time or resources you cannot override them and say that you are. You are capable of many things when you are not depressed, you manage to maintain a fair amount even when depressed. Be proud of your achievements, however small, and be kind to yourself. This will pass and you make progress again. If the thesis isn’t submitted in June/July then you can’t have the external examiner you were hoping for. Another can be found. If you are still struggling come October then you may be able to negotiate with the university for extra time. If it really cannot be done then you drop out. It is not worth ruining yourself over. You are currently stressed, which is affecting the stomach acid, causing the nausea, anxious which covers most of the physical symptoms and depressed which covers the mental apathy. Take time, be kind, get back on track.
How I feel after looking at it rationally:
A little better about timings of PhD but still like I am letting people down around me, like I’m failing. I feel that if I was really trying I would be able to do it all. So if I’m not doing it all I can’t be trying my hardest. I guess I can go round in circles with the thought challenging. I can challenge the thoughts until I am blue in the face but until I can believe those challenges more than I believe the thoughts I’m stuck. Intellectually I know the challenges are right, but it doesn’t stop the thoughts from telling me that they are just excuses and platitudes designed to make me feel better about myself when the truth is there is nothing at all to feel good about.
I have an appointment with the GP next week and with my therapist this week. I just want to be productive again. Hell even if it’s not with the thesis I could be knitting, brewing, spinning, sewing or gardening. I could even be doing laundry, cleaning and cooking but I’ve no desire for any of things I usually find joy and self worth in. Horseriding tomorrow night, fingers crossed that can help me shake this mood a little. Another day at home tomorrow to finish talk and start on chapter then work Thursday and Friday with supervisor meeting last thing Fri. There is still time to bring this week around. Maybe tomorrow I’ll wake up on the right side of bed.
I leave you with a gif that describes me today perfectly.