It’s been a good week I think. I got some stuff done, and since the last post I’ve had people really responding to it in amazing ways. Old friends have been in touch, I have a new thesis writing partner in crime, and one friend has gotten me writing lists every day. If my blog posts are a cry for help, then that cry has been pretty well received indeed. Thanks to everyone who is reaching out.
Every week has ups and downs, I have days where I don’t get anything done or I back out of something, but these days aren’t the defining points that make up the experience of being me. Ups and downs are normal, so normal in fact that it probably isn’t worth dwelling on them. I am a firm believer that there is no situation or problem too big that you cannot figure a way out of it, but some things aren’t worth exerting enormous energy into. If I feel shit one morning, it is far simpler and far more efficient for me to just get up and go, than it is to try and convince myself that things are ok, nothing is scary and that I must tiptoe around oncoming guilt if I hide away for the day. I can’t always force myself to push through it, but when I can, my mind can quickly move on to other things I have to do that day. I could sit and ruminate on every little thing, but like everything else in life, I have to pick and choose what to think about. Some things just are not worth the time or effort. Time I spend thinking about the PhD and things I need to do for it, that is time well spent, at a certain point enough energy gets spent on a problem and a solution is created. That is a dependable model, as my supervisor said recently “I have never known you to shy away from hard work” – and he’s right, I don’t. When it comes down to all this it isn’t really a fear of not doing well enough at my PhD, because objectively I would say I am skilled enough to finish it (I got this far), my supervisors have never doubted me, so what else is there? It’s the general feelings of doubt and worthlessness, these creep in to anything. If I am playing a game, I will believe myself to be crap and that I am letting my teammates down. If I am shopping then I will believe myself to be making poor choices. No area is off limits to the overarching feelings of doubt and worthlessness.
A friend who I made through a game has been checking in with me every day and telling me about the things she does to plan her week, and I am really into the idea. She is going to send me one of her planners too. I desperately need any kind of structure, so making lists of tasks and deciding a little bit ahead of time when I will do them is the way to do it. It doesn’t seem like it would work, when you hear the words, but I often find myself so paralyzed by the idea of having multiple things on my plate at once, that I can often keep putting them off. If I structure things a bit, then I know in advance what is to come, and I don’t need to fear the unknown, effectively.
I went to a book club get together on Friday night. I almost did not. I baked brownies to take along, and if i’m being modest, they were fucking great, they went down a storm. I almost didn’t go for the same reason I don’t or almost don’t go to other things. It’s that “micro-decision” as I see it, you can be ruminating about something for a long time, but until you actually decide, the rumination is pointless. The time it takes to make the decision is comparitively small compared to the time spent deciding. I often make the micro-decision to not go to things shortly before things happen. However, I said this to my friend (who is also my thesis writing buddy now) and she gave me a pep talk and encouraged me to go. I am glad she did, and that I went. With these things I can only ever see the immediate reward of self-soothing and hiding away; I have to trust that the social experience will be worth it after the fact, and it rarely isn’t worth it.
A friend that I and a few others have been worried about has distanced herself further than she previously had. She stopped speaking to any of us a few months back and none of us could reach her, but she finally left a group chat and unfriended us all. It’s unfortunate and slightly worrying, because a few of us suspected she might be being abused by her husband, and three of us suspected this independently of one another. There is nothing that we can do for her now, if indeed she is in some kind of trouble. It just doesn’t seem likely that someone is doing so well with recovering from an eating disorder, that they totally distance themselves from friends and fellow sufferers… But we can’t know now. Hopefully everything is ok with her. If she really is just in search of a fresh start, then I can respect that. A fresh start per se, involves a lot of changes to one’s life, and usually is not embarked upon half-heartedly.
I did some teaching this morning. I had the usual nerves beforehand, some mild anxious sweating during, but a positive conclusion in the end. I talked to my co-demonstrator about what he is doing for the rest of the day. He and I are in very similar positions, both late stage PhDs, both jaded, both still with plenty to do including experiments and writing the thesis. I thought to myself what I have to do, and how my friend has been getting me to write lists, and in that instant I wrote my list for the day and everything seemed easier. Right now I am finishing this post because the class finished early and I am going to have lunch. I have planned lunch, I have given myself time in the day to eat and to relax. After lunch I have my work planned out. Instead of just eating something and guiltily wondering when I should start work, I can eat in peace and I know when I will start work, and what it will be. Cautiously, I am building some structure into things.