Saturday, November 15, 2008

That Was Kind of Tough

Hair missed a long-overdue cut. Routine shopping trips to buy replacement clothes and toiletries were put off or never happened. Visits to the gym were missed or squeezed into ineffectual half hours between lectures. Numerous invitations to concerts, movies and dinner had to be turned down with an anti-social mumble about "assignment due in on Wednesday". Food preparation was haphazard: regular overloads on fish and chips or Chinese were balanced by the odd day when I subsisted mainly on weetbix and milk.

Perhaps most worringly, ideas for blog posts appeared and were considered, and then were quietly shelved.

The past eight months I've been doing three-quarters of the papers part of a Master of Development Studies, as well as working four days a week in a fairly demanding job in the bureaucracy. It's one of the harder things I've done. That might make it sound like I've had a remarkably easy life, but I'm referring more to stretching my mental limits than to any physical or emotional hardship.

I kind of feel like my brain has been under a heat-lamp for the past several months, and as it has cooled has shrunk and wrinkled, like sensitive fabric in a tumble dryer. For the first week or so after handing in my last assignment I could hardly develop a coherent thought, let alone write it down. I sat down to compose simple emails to friends or family then got up after starting blankly at the screen for ten minutes. When I was studying, sleep was disturbed; within a moment of waking for any reason, my consciousness immediately resumed worrying away at the problematic paragraph that had been abandoned the night before. After the end of term, although I was dog weary, I still couldn't sleep properly either, as my mind tried stubbornly to latch on to some alternative source of stress.

My flatmate Noam says this is normal and that he spent a couple of months in this state after finishing his PhD. I'm hoping that my intellectual capacities, such as they are, will return after a bit of rest and what what we are seeing here is not an early descent into senility. After all, I still need to do a thesis.


Cecilia said...

Ah, I'm not the only one this happens to...

First of all, congrats on both finishing AND working. It is so, so hard to study and work at the same time.

I experienced a similar phenomenon after studying for the bar for two months (not that lawschool was exactly a cake walk either...) By the time I took the bar, my vocabulary had dwindled to only basic words that I needed to get through the day (apart from legal terminology obviously). I was (and to some degree, still am) incapable of reading any novels because I kept seeing legal issues and applicable doctrines everywhere and then having to reread pages because I was worried that I'd missed a major issue which could change the whole analysis. I could handle reading magazine articles but only if they weren't too long. I found myself telling my boyfriend that I didn't want to watch any movies or tv shows that were too "issue intensive" or had "complicated fact patterns."

Fortunately it does pass with some weeks or months of mental rest. And then you get to do it all over again.

Susan said...

Well, obviously I am not as stressed as either of you, but it's all similar. Definitely not sleeping well still and the problem paragraph staying there all night and dominating even my exercise in the pool or round the block. Seem to have swapped the study for the same sort of thing at work but at least I get paid for it. Thoughts are firming that I have to enrol in the Masters programme (yes, it will be my third) even if only to get access to the university journals for another 2-3 years. Some people think I am mad...