Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Another update...

This got kind of long. I wanted to delete most of it. Cut out a lot of the personal, pare it down to the "Hey, I'm still here, I'm hoping to read a few fun books this month, I wish I was better at keeping myself on a schedule" stuff...

But I kept it all.

tl;dr - been feeling pretty stressed out and lost lately. Challenging myself to make a few small changes in June, we'll see if any of it sticks. I wish I knew how to be happy with the day-to-day elements of life...

The end of the semester was rough. It was easy to focus and be productive before the "Disney" trip - there was a conference in April that I presented at, and it was held at Disney World. With that concrete date it was easy to set goals and get work done. Not only having a set date to works towards, but it was also something to look forward to. Something different from the day-to-day, and a way to reward myself with some playtime in the parks for getting so much done.

But now that trip is over and it has been really hard getting back into things. Not because the trip was a disruption, but because I feel like I have nothing to look forward to now. Nothing to tell myself, "Well, life is exhausting and stressful, but at least this trip/event is coming up soon! There's more to life than working and taking care of the dogs and repairing the house!"

Instead I'm just back to the constant, boring, daily routine of wake up, take care of the dogs, get some work done, watch TV, go to bed, repeat, repeat, repeat. The last two years I had SDCC in July to plan for and look forward to. And while it was a distraction at times, it was something that helped keep me going. Since we're not going to SDCC this year, I don't have that.

My anxiety and depression have been flaring up a lot lately. I'm cutting my caffeine intake, because I noticed days when I drink coffee tend to be worse than others (though I've had at least 1 cup per day for the past few years, so I don't know why this is starting now...) and I'm trying to get back into a running schedule (or any schedule) to get some of those exercise endorphins. I feel like I am operating in a constant state of stress that is higher than normal... like there is a knot inside me getting tighter and tighter.

I know some of it has to do with the end of the semester. I was just so busy with teaching and my own research that I didn't have time to dwell on things that make me feel low and feed that monster. And now that the semester is over I am having trouble keeping a schedule and keeping busy - though I have plenty of work that should be keeping me busy.

I was hoping to go into the field with my advisor, to work on his site for a couple of weeks. I'm telling myself he didn't have the funding for another grad student, but honestly I have no idea why I ended up excluded from the trip and by the time I realized I wasn't going, it was too late to change things so I didn't ask. Maybe he forgot about me being interested. Maybe it really was a funding issue. Maybe he thought I'd be better off staying here and using this time to work on my own research. That and another professor suggesting (demanding) I cut half my project out of my dissertation (yay, so many hours wasted!) have really been messing with me. Why am I even doing this anymore? I hate that question, because I don't know the answer and I feel like I'm too close to the finish line to just say "eff it" and leave.

I'm also having trouble balancing work and home. I want to let the dogs play and have plenty of stimulation, but I can't work at home because of how they demand my attention. I feel guilty leaving Ripley in her crate for a few hours while I go to my office, especially since I am so exhausted when I am home that I feel like I don't give them the attention they need.

I often catch myself wishing I was single and living alone, so I could bury myself in my work and just finish it all that much sooner. Not exactly a healthy approach to grad life, but it would eliminate a lot of the guilt that comes with having a home and dogs to look after, and the nagging belief that The Boyfriend won't take care of things in favor of playing video games.

I've decided to use June - 30 days - to try to make a few changes and get myself on a schedule. Then at the end of the month I'll hopefully be able to look back and see what worked, what didn't, and if I'm "happier" as a result. (not necessarily happier... but maybe better able to deal with the day-to-day and keep chugging on?)

It's mostly small goals, focused on continuing good habits that might have fallen by the wayside due to schedule changes or other "life" disruptions (like bad weather, new puppies, etc). Get back into the habit of using my planner to record not only my to-do list, but what I got done and how long I worked. Get back on target with dieting - I managed to keep off the weight I already lost, if I could just get on track then I'd be back to my pre-PhD weight by the end of summer. Join a writing group composed of other grad students, for feedback as well as accountability. Make time to be social again (I haven't played D&D regularly since December).

I wish I had more free* time to read novels and comics. My TBR pile is huge! I'm challenging myself to read three books this month - to catch myself when I'm just sitting on the couch, refreshing Reddit or Twitter, and swap my phone for a book. The books I've chosen are A Darker Shade of Magic, Star Wars Aftermath, and Star Wars Bloodline.

* "free" as in time spent reading for pleasure without feeling guilty that I should be doing something else

Nothing too drastic, really. Nothing that I haven't done before, to some extent. I'm not entirely surprised these feelings of depression and needing change are coming around now... not only because the semester is over, but because Memorial Day has personal significance, tied up in a lot of regret. My life would be very, very different right now if I had been stronger then, but I really need to stop focusing so much on "should haves" and instead focus on what I need to do now.

I'm hoping to post more on this blog in the future. About fun things, like board games and movies and books. Maybe something about the conference/Disney trip. Until I can work that into a schedule, I'll try to comment more on other blogs - I've been enjoying them during my lunch breaks and I'm looking forward to everyone posting about this year's conventions!


  1. I'm so sorry to hear you've been going through a rough patch, but I think your positive outlook is going to help you. Small steps are the way to go, and absolutely give yourself time for YOU. I totally get the guilt of feeling like you need to do all these things and that other people/pets are dependent on you, but there's also a lot to be said for "me" time. I struggle with this SO MUCH myself. I always feel like I have to do things when I should really just say no. I also feel like the summer months are when I start to get the most restless.

    In any case, please let me know how you like A Darker Shade of Magic if you manage to read it this month! I really enjoyed it but Book 2 really made me fall in love with the series. :)


    1. *hugs* Thanks - self care is so important, and always the first thing to go when I'm stressed. Reading this past week has been really helpful, actually - and I finished A Darker Shade of Magic last weekend! I'll send you a note!

      Hope you're having a great trip!

  2. I sympathize; I just finished writing my Master's thesis, and while that's no dissertation, I know the level of exhaustion and the difficulty of focusing on other parts of your life, and the guilt built-in from having a family to neglect while you focus on researching, analyzing, and writing.

    I want you to know that you aren't alone, and that feeling these things isn't wrong, or a problem you should just be able to stop. The depression and anxiety is very likely rooted in the work you're facing; but if it doesn't subside, and it continues to impair your motivation, it's okay to seek help and/or talk to a doctor. I have been inspired by your costuming and celebration of geek culture, and hope you find your way, and want to offer you support and sympathy.

    1. Thank you for your kind note. Congratulations on finishing your Master's thesis - that's a great accomplishment!