I’ve been distinctly absent from the ‘blogosphere’ over the last few months. It has been an interesting ride.
So I went back to the PhD and within the first six months you have to complete what they call your “Confirmation of Candidature” (or CoC as we PhD’s call it. Hubster, being the mature adult he is thought our term CoC was hilarious. It all started when I accidentally sent him an email meant for my supervisor where the first sentence was: “I’m concerned that my CoC is too long. Can you please give it a look and see what you think”.)
Anyway. I didn’t realise the CoC it was such a big thing (heh.) until I would tell people in the office what I was doing and they would be all “Eeeee” with a strangled look on their faces, before regailing me with some kind of horror story from their own CoC. Then they would try and save it by saying “Oh, I’m sure you’ll be fine though.” Kind of like the last weeks of your pregnancy where everyone around you seems to have had a near death experience during labour.
So what is a CoC?. This is basically where you complete a long literature review and research proposal on your topic. Mine is a few thousand words off my Honours thesis. And it is pure blood, sweat and tears. Literally. I gave myself a paper cut on the damn thing.
So after writing the document you then to do a big presentation to the research board, all the faculty and grad students within the school attend as well. You yabber on about your topic and then everyone asks questions. There are three outcomes of this. You get through and are now officially a PhD Candidate. You get kicked out of the PhD program. Or you are asked to make some changes and once they are done you get through.
So basically I have been working full pelt on this stuff. Hubster and I were basically a tag team. I worked weekends for extra time. It was hard not spending time with my family, especially after I was away so much last year in hospital. I felt I was being pulled apart in different directions (the way, I’m sure many parents feel). It has not been easy.
Firstly, I had six months to complete this milestone. Problem is I completed three months. Got sick. Ended up in hospital forever. Had ECT. Returned in January to realise that because of my short term memory problems associated with the ETC…I HAD FORGOTTEN IT ALL!
So I basically had to start again. Reread all these notes and diagrams I had made and try to make sense of it all. I now, basically, had 3 months to complete this task.
But of course, I have a three year old. I have very limited childcare. I was trying to achieve in three days a week, what other people achieve in five. Which is why I gave up and started working weekends, grabbing any extra time I could.
Then of course, I have two chronic illnesses that like to make themselves known occasionally. I have had flare ups. I am under the care of four different hospitals and have appointments with each. More time down the drain.
All in all it was a bit of disaster, and at times I felt like everything that could possibly prevent me from doing this PhD was happening. Maybe it was a sign? Maybe I should just give it up.
But one of my greatest assets and sometimes biggest downfalls, is that I am incredibly stubborn. I persist until the bitter end. I ignore people who tell me that is ok to give up. This can be a good thing, or a very bad thing.
So I continued. I worked my arse off. I took on board every ounce of feedback from my supervisors. I wrote a document I was damn proud of. I spent ages designing my presentation and then practicing it over and over again (alarming fellow grads who walked into the office to find me talking to myself). Then the day before my presentation, I stopped myself. I had done enough. There is nothing more I can do.
On the morning of the presentation Hubster very kindly made me breakfast and took Master D to daycare. On the way out he waved and called out “Don’t CoC it up!” Then I went….and I did it.
I stood up in front of all these academics that I greatly respect. The entire school. The research board. And I told them why I think we need to address mental illness stigma in the community. I talked about the complicated theoretical backing behind my design. I told them how I wanted to achieve change. And, it really surprised me, but I loved doing it.
And I got some awesome feedback. My study design was “fascinating”, and “well thought out”. There were a few questions, but nothing major, and certainly nothing intimidating.
After I returned to my desk and found email upon email from people congratulating me which was so sweet. After the presentation the board have a big meeting to determine whether I am able to continue with my PhD (until you have achieved this milestone you are probationary). This process can take up to a week. I have heard it taking up to a month.
Within ten minutes I got a phone call saying that I was through (informally). A few minor budget adjustments and then I’m set to go.
I don’t often say this, but I am really proud of myself. After everything that has happened…I went back. I achieved what I wanted to do. I stuck with it. And from what everyone has been telling me…I did damn well.
My supervisor told me that a lot of people would have given up in my circumstances. And no one would have blamed them.
But I didn’t give up.
I did it!
This whole thing has been a confidence booster. And not just on the academic side.
I have proved to myself that I can fall down hard… and pick myself up again.
A year ago I was hooked up to a urinary catheter, in a psych ward, under involuntary status, pushing around an IV pole. I was completely dependant, psychologically and physically. I couldn’t even pee on my own.
A year on and I have learned to manage both of my illnesses. I get up every morning. I sleep every night. I earn an income. I achieved a major body of work. Hell, I can even pee by myself.
I did it. I came back. I have rebuilt my life.
And I didn’t CoC it up 🙂