Tag Archives: stress

More travels

This last week I was back in Sheffield for work, starting the interviews for the research project I’m working on. I stayed with lovely people from the Ship (including holly who used to blog here) and their two furry owners. As well as the interviews (which on the whole I thought went really well) I also managed to meet up with another shippie, Jengie, which was great, visit some of the gardens and galleries around the city centre, and make contact with an old school friend who now lives and works in Sheffield and, bizarrely, is the lead research governance person for my project! I may be going back there in a few weeks, so hopefully we will be able to meet up then, timetables permitting.

I ate a couple of times at a hippyish vegan cafe in the centre, which featured these clocks which really made me laugh:

Yorkshire timezones

As mentioned, holly and JonoT are owned by a couple of furry brothers, Charlie and George. I was freaked out before I even met them as every photo I have ever seen of them has them with laser eyes, both staring in the same direction and convincing me I was going to have to don a tinfoil helmet every time I went indoors. They actually weren’t that bad most of the time, although on my final evening I did have an audience while I was eating my tea which was a bit disconcerting:

Charlie says "You will give me all your dinner now"

The final interview was on Thursday evening, I had toyed with the idea of returning home straight after it but hadn’t because I had worked out I would get home at some stupid small hour of Friday morning so it wasn’t very practical. Which turned out to be a good decision given the rain/floods further north on Thursday afternoon/evening which meant that train travel anywhere up north was chaos, I was following several people’s torturous journeys home on facebook and very glad that I wasn’t having to go through that. On Friday morning when I did leave it was still bonkers, but at least it was daytime, and although I had to change a few times and it did take hours and hours and I wasn’t well which didn’t help, the train staff were all cheerful despite all the bonkersness that they must have been dealing with, and I am really happy to get home at last, though I struggled to stay awake till 8pm after a very long day.

Today the most exciting thing has been to buy some new pants (it must be an age thing, but I really like that satisfying feeling of knowing I’m going to be wearing nice new pants :D), and watch a gaggle of birds fighting on our bird feeder. And trying to ignore the length of the grass, which will bury the bird feeder from underneath if it’s not cut soon.

Run up to the viva

Quite a few people will have heard elsewhere that I had my PhD viva yesterday, hence the blog silence for a few days (why yes, I did pass with minor corrections, thank you for asking!). I will post separately about the viva, and will also post pictures (I have been faithfully still snapping away for Project365), but while I’ve not been posting I did creep in to record what happened in the week leading up to the viva, so here it is. Warning: the first day is rambling drama queenery.

[Started on 9th March] I’m posting this as a draft, to be published once my viva is over. I don’t want to broadcast the viva details to all and sundry in advance in case it all goes horribly wrong, but mainly because I don’t think I can handle the constant “how is it going?” “how is it going now?” “are you nervous?” etc. Not that I’m not massively grateful for everyone’s interest and support, I couldn’t have got this far without it, but now I’m so near the time for V-Day I’m a bit oversensitive and up myself about it.

Anyway. Tomorrow I have one week to go. Which I think makes today V-8.

V-8. Just today and tomorrow left at work before I take the week off to prepare. The last couple of days I’ve been feeling quite emotional. I’ve been thinking back over the more than 5 years since I started this, and am sad that because of the funding situation where I had to do all that teaching, and then having to go back to work after 4 years, I feel like apart from the months when I was doing my fieldwork, my PhD was always on the back burner, there were always other things I had to prioritise. Some things were good (getting married for a start!), but I always resented the teaching and marking and the massive amounts of time and energy it seemed to take out of me, meaning that I felt like I was always giving my thesis (and HD) the leftover energy. That’s been even more the case since going into health visiting again, and although it got a bit better with me going down from 5 to 4 days a week, the PhD did still get the dregs of energy after all the rest of it was used up, and I felt like I threw it in rather than submitted it properly. Even since it’s been submitted, what with my two jobs and all I’ve barely looked at it since (although I have thought about it a *lot*, and also dreamed about it a few times as well, rather traumatically!). But now I’ve got the week off coming, the intention was always that for this week, nothing comes between me and the thesis and, unlike most of the rest of the whole process, for this week the thesis is the absolute priority. I don’t think I could walk into the viva and get through it if I didn’t feel I had given it at least that.

I felt quite tearful at work today. This week I had a student nurse start; usually I really like having students, and this girl is really nice, but I’m finding that my usual thinking time, either at my desk or in the car between visits, where I’m reflecting on work, just isn’t there as I want her to make the most of the learning so am doing lots of teaching on the job. So I feel like I’m not thinking about work as deeply as I should, so I’m making silly mistakes like forgetting to bring my diary to clinic, or forgetting to phone people or write such-and-such in the notes, and that is stressing me out, never mind with the viva looming as well. And then my colleagues (who are lovely) keep asking me about the viva, because they care and they want me to do well and want me to be OK, and I feel so mean getting fed up of explaining all about the process *again* (I wish I had a £ for every time I have explained that submission doesn’t mean it’s all over, and then that once I’ve had the viva that doesn’t mean it’s all over, as I’ll have corrections etc – it’s really exhausting!). And then they are also talking about their own holidays, and I am feeling so resentful that apart from long weekends here and there, pretty much the only stretches of decent annual leave I’ve had this whole leave year have both been taken up with the thesis, and whilst they’re in the sun by the pool reading their books and drinking cocktails (which sounds like my idea of heaven right now!) I’m going to be in the library slogging my guts out *again*, and I just wish they’d talk about something else, but I can’t say that because it’s not their fault I’ve made these choices. But I am tired of it all and can’t wait for the week off anyway, I won’t be giving work a second thought while I’m off.

And then I get home, and in the evening find an email from the department saying that one of my colleagues passed her viva today with minor corrections only – that’s always such a good thing, O and I started at the same time here and she’s done so well, I’m so happy for her and am smiling as I then notice some more emails headed “Re: Viva Date”. And then I discover that there is potentially industrial action happening next week – on V-day, obviously – which, if it goes ahead, would leave me without a chairperson or internal examiner. Various emails are exchanged between the various parties with suggested other dates, and I just can’t believe it. Next week is off so I can prepare and think about nothing but the thesis right up to and including V-day, I haven’t got any more annual leave, and now there are suggested other days later in the month and no thought about how I have to arrange days off with my colleagues to make sure we have cover etc. So I send them an email pointing this out (hope it wasn’t too petulant – I was certainly feeling petulant) and then I have a big cry because it’s all just too much. They don’t know when they’ll know the outcome so think we should work towards it still happening on V-Day, and then if they don’t know by Monday (ie V-3) they’ll decide then to change the date. I’m feeling utterly disempowered, everyone is making decisions without me it seems, and the very week that I was putting my thesis first and it might be for nothing. This is really horrible. How am I supposed to do my planned preparation over the weekend, with all the adrenaline and psyched-up-ness of knowing the viva is only a few days away, when I don’t know that any more? But I can’t not prepare as planned as I haven’t got any other bloody time to do it. It is technically possible I could rearrange my week off, but as I won’t know till Monday what’s happening I’ll still have to take that day off anyway, which means if it’s arranged for a couple of weeks’ time I won’t be able to take the full week off before it that I always wanted and felt I needed. And even if I can rearrange the time off, that means I’ll have next week with no work arranged and my student all set up with activities elsewhere, and then I’ll have another week where I have to rearrange cover. I’m just beside myself. Not happy at all.

*And* I need to complete a job application this evening for a job down south (as HD has a job interview in a couple of days down south so that’s on my mind as well). I don’t think that’s going to happen in this mood – I think I’d better go to bed and do it early tomorrow morning before work when my head’s clearer. Great.

V-7 What a difference a day makes. The job application is sent off (posted and online, so no excuses not to consider me!), and I managed to speak to my supervisor who told me that they have rearranged the viva for next week after all, just the day before originally planned, so I don’t need to rearrange everything at work. This is good – less time to prepare, which isn’t so good, but also less time to panic, which is a very good thing indeed! I think they were also relieved that I’d started my email acknowledging that they were all in a difficult position, rather than just having a go at them (there is some form in the dept for viva date cockups), so I’m hoping that that will at least favourably dispose them towards me. I did say to her “you know what I’m like, can you imagine what a drama queen I was being last night?”, to which she laughed and said “yes”. Oops! Anyway. So now this is V-6 rather than V-7.

V-5 I need to finish my last few OU essays for marking and prepare a tutorial for tomorrow (at which I am not sure any students are actually going to come. Great. I’ll take the thesis with me and spend the 2 hours reading it if no students turn up). If I can get that all out of the way today then I can spend the rest of the time only doing the thesis. I’ve decided to go offline from today to help with that – I can’t afford to be distracted. Although today there is the news of the terrible earthquake in Japan, so I want to keep looking online to make sure people (especially marmot, in Hawaii) is safe from the tsunami.

V-3 I woke up to a discussion of the week’s news and review of the Sunday papers on the radio. One of the items discussed relates to work and makes me annoyed, but annoyingly I didn’t hear which paper it came from. HD listens again later so I know where it’s from and who wrote it. Unfortunately it’s from a paper with a paywall, so I can’t read it online (well I suppose I could, but I don’t really want to pay a billionaire any money, especially for an article that will annoy me!). I guess I’m in thesis/research mode, as apart from feeling annoyed I also think “I could maybe write an article about that”. Thesis-wise, I went into the university library instead of church, as I’m finding I’m getting really sleepy in the afternoon, and if the bed is there I just go for a snooze and then find myself waking up 2 hours later, which isn’t very conducive to revision! I chose to sit in my subject area at the library – usually I go to the top floor because it’s light and airy and has good views, but everyone else usually has the same idea. Thanks to belonging to an obscure department, that bit of the library is empty. I think I’m hoping that being surrounded by books of scholarship in my area I’ll get brainier and more knowledgeable by osmosis. I read through the first half of my thesis – actually it’s not that bad at all (apart from the typos, the shame of it!). Have quite a few “did I really write that? That sounds quite impressive” moments.

V-2. More stuff on the radio this morning about yesterday’s annoying article, which is picked up in a couple of other papers. Use my brain today and actually think to buy them rather than leaving it to online chance. Before going out though I had to phone work, as last night I remembered a couple of things I’d forgotten to do which couldn’t wait till I got back. Hopefully now I can stop thinking about work altogether!

I went back to the library, same floor, and read the second half of the thesis. It’s all OK I think, though chapter 6 isn’t quite as good as the rest (I think I knew that anyway). I also managed to find the time to catch up with a couple of friends in my lunch break. Everyone seems very confident I’ll do OK, and I mostly feel OK about it myself. Am a bit annoyed with myself though that I’ve found a few places where I quote sources (and reference them) but then didn’t put them in the bibliography, so I’ll have to dig them out at some point. Hopefully if I can present the examiners with a list of typos and things I’ve noticed there will be a shorter corrections list.

Wonder how I ever did my first degree – I did regular all-nighters and they didn’t seem to bother me at all. These days I get to 6pm and am no good for anything, I just want to sleep.

And I’m really missing the internet! Might have a sneaky look at some blogs now ….. not much brain power left for tonight …..

V-1 Back to the library, read most recent book chapter by external examiner (very useful – it’s musings on methodology and her research used very similar methodology to me). Pop into the department, everyone is very lovely and supportive. Plan last minute answers to potential questions. I’m sure I ought to be in more of a flap than this.

Things to do tonight: find shoes, make sure outfit fits, type up list of typos (which runs to 6 PAGES, can you imagine my mortification?), go to friends’ place for cake (v.important job, that), probably lots of other things too but I can’t remember. That’ll do for now.

Later on V-1 – Shoes found (HD had tidied them away in one of his periodic tidying frenzies). Trousers don’t fit though, so I’m going to have to resort to the cheap shiny work trousers which I can at least do up. Pass the cake.

V-Day! Feeling OK, I start the morning by printing out my list of typos and checking a couple of references, then it’s off to the Cathedral for Morning Prayer, as I wanted to start the day calm and centred (it worked). Then off to the library to reread some of the thesis – concentrating on the Introduction, Conclusion and 2 lit review chapters. Realise around 11 o’clock that there’s only just over 2 hours to go. Feel sick. Have lunch, sit in uni chapel and say a little prayer. Then to the department …….. [to be continued]

Guilt

Today I went into uni rather than work (this has been planned for a while, using up some annual leave). I had a good chat with a fellow PhD writer-upper, who reminded me (this was a rehash of a regular conversation we had, but I’d not seen her for a few months) how the PhD process seems to be as infused with guilt as any religion. However much work you do, you’re convinced you haven’t done enough. However much work you do, everyone else seems to have done more. However interesting and original your research is, it’s contrived and unoriginal compared with everyone else. “Good enough” is never good enough. No wonder it’s stressful.

In other, utterly unrelated news, after only a few days off the chocolate and alcohol I have so many zits I look horrific! If you see someone driving round Glasgow tomorrow with a paper bag over their head, you’ll know who it is.

This week I shall mostly be …

* marking OU essays, and
* writing a thesis chapter, and
* working full time, while
* trying not to cough up any more of my lungs (a fine image for a professional health promoter, no?).

No wonder I’m knackered.

But, excitingly, today HD and I booked our first proper holiday since our honeymoon almost 2 years ago. We are off adventuring in February, I can’t wait!

Balance

I’m a week and a half into my new job, and I’m terrified about getting behind on my thesis. I’m not sure how to make more time for it – my concern is really that I can’t give it much quality time. Even though my hours at work are pretty good and I’m home at a reasonably early time, I’m finding I do need a bit of “vegging out time” in order to wind down and get any of the emotion from the day out of my system (and dealing with people in their raw, everyday lives is very emotional, I’d forgotten just how much). I had planned on coming home and doing an hour or so thesis work before cooking/eating, but I’m struggling a bit with that. Partly because of the need to veg out for a bit first, and partly because I’m being really really good at not eating between meals or snacking on junk while I’m at work, but this means that I come home really really hungry so I’m having to cook earlier than I had planned. And once I’ve eaten, the last thing I want to do is fire up the old brain cells. I’m not really sure how to balance these demands on my time and on my brain and on my emotions.

I’m also missing the intellectual stimulation of university. Today as I drove around I spotted the spire of the university’s main building in the distance, and felt a little twinge of, well, not sadness exactly, but just a feeling of missing out a bit. The distance has been good for me, it (along with my current job) has given me a lot of clarity about where I think I want to go with life and career (such as it is/will be – I’ll never be the ultra-ambitious type). But I feel like I’m losing my touch very quickly, and that’s a bit scary. I have a couple of small things to do (an abstract for a conference talk I’m giving next summer, and updating my biographical details for the book anthology I’ll hopefully be part of) as well as my current thesis chapter, and they both feel like the intellectual equivalent of climbing Mount Everest (especially the abstract – you’d think after all the talks I’ve given I’d be fine with writing a mere 200 words, but they’re nearly as hard to write as the full paper!). I think I’m going to give them a go now, and then dig out someone else’s thesis (in a sort-of-similar vein to mine) to remind myself what I’m aspiring to. (I know that last sentence has terrible grammar, but I’m tired).

Good day, bad day

Good: my thesis extension was granted, with no conditions. Hooray!

Bad: after yesterday’s close encounter of the 8-legged kind (discussed at great length on my facebook profile – basically I got up, was having a wee, turned my head and saw an ENORMOUS spider in the sink), today there was one (similar size) in my office. That’s never happened before. I was just about to leave to go home anyway, and it scuttled across the floor, so I have left it there and will have to brace myself to dare to open the door on Monday morning (where no doubt it will have either extensively reproduced and there’ll be a million of them in there, or it will have covered everything in a webby cocoon. Or with any luck will have found its way into somebody else’s office). The reason I was about to leave, earlier than usual, was another evil headache. I’m getting fed up of this now. I’m seriously thinking about buying an eye patch, as it’s nearly always (like, 95% of the time) on the same side of my head, just over and all round my left eye) and if I close the eye it’s so much more bearable, but keeping one eye open and one eye closed takes surprisingly large amounts of concentration, I’ve discovered. And then my friend sent me a photo by text, and it has completely buggered up my phone, so I now can’t send or receive texts or access my inbox, as it keeps going straight to the MMS template box instead expecting me to send pictures, AND I keep getting messages saying the memory is full, even though I’ve deleted tons of things as it’s far too complicated anyway and I just want another crappy Nokia half-brick as they do all I want and more and I know where I am with them. Needless to say I had a little cry at the bus-stop, it all just got a bit much 🙁

But – we have a shipmeet tomorrow (four of us have had birthdays ending in -0 this year, making a total of 150, so we are celebrating our 150th which has a nice pleasing ring to it – we won’t discuss who is the most ancient of this select band) (*weep*) so it will be fab to see people again. And hopefully the horse pills will have knocked the headache on the head (pun unintended) by then.

HD starts his new temp job on Monday. So is leaving here on Sunday, and we’ll be weekends-only for a while. Having very mixed feelings about that – happy he’ll have work, happy he’ll have money, happy he won’t have to deal with the Jobseekers’ Allowance lot for a while. Unhappy he’ll be a 5 hour drive away and only here for a couple of days a week, mildly unhappy that I’ll have to do a lot more cooking (!), unhappy that I’ll have to deal with any other 8 legged intruders by myself, but mostly unhappy that he’ll not be here. Sigh – just desperately wanting a decent employer (anywhere) to notice just what an asset he’d be and give him a full-time permanent job so we can settle at last (and I can have a good excuse to not be a health visitor for any longer than I have to – not that I am any closer to knowing when I start, never mind when I can stop!).

More frustrations

So now NVivo is on my laptop, but it keeps closing of its own accord before I can start working with it. I think there must be something in my laptop settings, as I’m having no problems with it at work, and never did on the laptop either before until I recently had to reinstall Windows. I could just leave it all for work, but the whole point of having it here was so that I could be productive but not have to be chained to my desk. Grrrrrr. And bah for that matter.

I can’t be doing with this. Sorry for the whinge, but I’m really cheesed off. [please don’t anyone point out that HD is techie, that wouldn’t be helpful right now, as I don’t want to treat him like my own personal tech support, plus it’s software he doesn’t know so I can’t just take him for granted that he’ll fix it] I just want to do a bit of not-particularly-demanding work, so I can do the demanding stuff in my office during the day, but it’s just not happening. V. fed up right now.

Dreams

The other night I dreamt that I was so desperate to finish my chapter that I started to copy and paste large chunks of Tractor Girl’s blog and prayed fervently that my supervisors wouldn’t notice.

I think I need to get this chapter out of my system and start something different 🙂

In other news, HD has a job interview tomorrow morning, here in the city. It’s not a great job, but it will do. All prayers, candles, good vibes, etc appreciated.

The Exorcist

Some friends already know this, but anyway: a bit of a laptop disaster over the weekend when, just as I was about to get down to a bit of work on Saturday morning, my laptop decided to open lots of windows. LOTS of windows. As fast as I closed them more seemed to be appearing, it was like it was possessed. Fortunately I have my own personal exorcist, but even Mr Techie HD said “Ooh, I’ve never seen that happen before”, which is a bit concerning. Nothing has been lost (as far as I can tell) and most important things (thesis, photos) are copied elsewhere, but we are looking at copying over what we can to another machine and then restoring factory settings and hopefully the evilz will have gone by then. If not then we will take it to someone who knows what they’re doing – HD could take it to bits, but as he himself said, when he does that he usually finds bits left over when he’s put it back together again. So yesterday involved copious handwriting of the CCD (current chapter of doom) and no playing on the internet which was a pain but funnily enough I got loads done (strange, that). I haven’t finished the chapter, but my supervisors were fine with me typing up what I’ve done so far and sending that to them today so we have something to talk about in supervision, and I’ll go back to the chapter next week. For the rest of this week I shall mostly be editing my (hopeful, if they are happy with my changes) book chapter as the deadline for that is next Monday.

After the laptop possession incident, we ran away to eastern Scotland (there be dragons) on Saturday for Derf’s manse-warming barbecue. I am now suffering an acute case of house-envy (especially garden-envy).

In other news, I’m wondering if my office window is near a wasps’ nest. Have had to eject several today (although I suppose I could have just ejected one particularly persistent and stupid one several times, as once I got cross and killed it rather than help it fly away I haven’t been bothered by any others).

Online applications and other minor irritants

I do apologise that this blog is a bit whingey – I guess I’m just going through a phase where there’s quite a lot to whinge about!

Today I completed another online job application form. I did one a few weeks ago (for the job I didn’t get shortlisted for) which I found very frustrating, especially the education section where every last O’level ended up having to be picked from a drop-down menu, and it felt like it would have been quicker to sit all of the exams again. Maybe that’s why I was so peeved at not being shortlisted, having spent what felt like hours of my life ploughing through the form. Anyway. Today’s is for a temp job, 6 months full-time but with the potential to be part-time possibly, for a place that’s sort of part of the uni and sort of separate (without giving too much away). It’s a job that I’d really enjoy – doing research, in my broad area of interest, but mainly doing the fun bits of research without the hassle of applying for funding and all that, so it would be a good thing to do whilst finishing my writing up, and would be good experience of working in a field that is related to what I do but isn’t area studies (which I’m finding is a bit restricting when I’m looking for non-area studies work) which will be good for future more senior/serious applications. But the FORM! Argh! Again it was the education bit that particularly wound me up. Rather than have a page for each educational establishment, it was a page for each qualification. Which is fine for a place where I got a degree, but for my school, where I got 3 A’levels and 9 O’levels it would have been so much better to have only had to put the name of the school, place, and dates of starting and leaving once, and then just added each individual exam result. Instead I had to fill out all of those details 12 times, I was getting a bit sweary by the end of it I can tell you. And then as if that wasn’t bad enough, the degrees were part of a drop-down menu, and although they had “undergraduate degree” as a category, they didn’t have “masters degree”, but did have MA and MBA. So, my Masters is an MSc, and I ended up putting it under “other” (which looks really great, not) – if I’d been applying in England I might have put MA, but here in Scotland where undergraduate degrees are 4 years not 3, you get awarded an MA as an undergraduate degree so if I’d put MA they might think I meant an undergraduate rather than a postgraduate qualification. And having whinged about the O’levels, they didn’t have O’level as a category so I had to put “GCSE” and I made sure that I wrote “O’level” in the description because I was being pedantic. This is so not good for my blood pressure!

Yesterday I encountered further frustrations, first in the form of the Benefits Office, who wrote to me randomly over the weekend (having told HD already that he probably wasn’t entitled to this particular benefit) to ask me for a load of information I’d already given them over a month ago. The guy I was talking to agreed that the letter wasn’t clear and asked me to clarify the income stuff. I started talking about my PhD stipend, he asked for more detail and I started saying “Well, it’s £X per month” and he said “No, I mean, what actually is a stipend?” Argh! And especially as we’ve been told we’re probably not entitled anyway, why don’t they just go away and be numpties to someone else?!

As well as that, I also had to deal with the university payroll office, who had got a decimal point in the wrong place and paid me for 15 hours of tutoring instead of the 1.5 hours I had claimed, meaning that I now owe them nearly £200. Argh!

It’s not all bad though. HD has an interview down south at the end of the week, and another one at the beginning of next week, and in between we are going to see friends for the weekend and have a walk around some nice countryside. So maybe the end of all the numptiness will be round the next corner (how many times have I thought that this year?!).