Well, I’m pleased to announce that we emerged from Christmas relatively unscathed.
Of course, Hubster received a Nerf gun from his Secret Santa, then promptly shot my sister in the eye which resulted in a Christmas Eve trip to the doctor. Although this was vaguely traditional. Christmas isn’t Christmas in our household if someone doesn’t end up in the Emergency Room. Master D announced to the table in a rather stern manner that “we don’t eat poo’s, only dinners” (not particularly complimentary of my food, I felt). Mum decided to back her computer up which somehow resulted the kind of chaos only my family can achieve; deep and meaningful discussions on the best method of backing up, accusations of “nephelious” content, and despair when the back up was predicted to take 67 days. And no one seemed to appreciate my helpful renditions of “Back that Thang Up” by Juvenile.
But all in all, it was a good Christmas. I didn’t poison myself. For that matter, I didn’t poison anyone else. No one poisoned me. To get to the point, no vomiting or morphine based drugs were required. And I only had one panic attack. Unscathed.
Now I have to face the fact that in under two weeks I am going back to university. My emotional response to this is variable, but almost always resides sonewhere on a five point scale ranging from “Slightly Dubious” to “Holy Crap”
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE what I do. I love writing. I love researching. I’m passionate about reducing mental illness stigma. I sure as hell want to earn my title of “doctor”. I’ve worked damn hard to get to the point I am at.
But I’m scared.
You see, I started my PhD last year. I was given a scholarship that only nine others were offered. I was told my by supervisors and other academic staff that I was talented and could go far in the industry. I was invited to present at the national conference in my first six months which is HUGE.
And then I got sick, spent five months in hospital, and had to take the rest of the year off. I had to bow out of the conference (although my talk was still presented by my supervisor). While I was having ECT I couldn’t even remember what my thesis was on. Now I have to go back into the office. Say “hi” to all the people I haven’t seen for a year. And somehow pick up where I left of. It is incredibly daunting.
And on top of undertaking a full-time PhD, which is, I’m assuming, challenging at the best of times. I have to do it in half the time due to difficulties in childcare arrangements. I currently have three days a week to achieve what my colleagues do in five or six. This is not even including research assistant work and/or teaching. I also have to factor in, not one, but two chronic illnesses. I also have a three year old. Just to save time here: “yes”I have thought about going part time, “no” it is not possible without forfeiting my scholarship and putting my family into a inferior financial position.
The thing is, I keep worrying. I had terrible side effects from ECT. What if my mind won’t work the way it used to? What if I get sick again? What if I let everyone down? And here is the big one: What if I am unable to achieve what I have wanted to do since I was about 12 years old?
I did, in a particularly rebellious moment, decide to pack in the PhD and become a Fudge Master instead. I like making fudge. People like eating it. And It may or may not be an uncracked industry. I decided my business would be called “MotherFudger” and I would sell my stash at the local markets. Unfortunately my dream was cut short when I realised there was already a “MotherFudger” out there (well, many actually. But we won’t go into that). I also worked out that even if I ripped off the buying community with overpriced product, my fudge profit margin would probably still put me under the poverty line. So that idea, in short, was “fudged” from the get go.
So with Plan B knocked off the list, it is back to Plan A. I’ve thought about and how I will handle it, and all that does is make me incredibly stressed. So I’ve come up with three basic PhD rules:
1) Take each day at a time and don’t put too much pressure on yourself
2) No degree is more important than your physical and mental health
3) No degree is more important than your son and family
I also came up with a reminder:
Do your best, but if it doesn’t work out you are not a failure. You can always go back to the degree in the future.