I just got off a call with my university counsellor and I am feeling somewhat optimistic. A rarity for me. Let me explain why.
Ever since the beginning of 'learning' or perhaps a better more applicable word would be 'working' in my so far relatively short time on the earth, a sense of doom and dread has encompassed my dealings with work on a non-stop basis. I have not been able to escape an extreme sense of resistance when sitting down and 'working' on my studies. I'm a very curious person and can work on other parts of myself and other tasks with no friction and I can be greatly successful at those, and yet even though I am greatly successful on paper academically, I have reached a boiling point of doom at which I have a fork in the road. If I continue on the path I am now, brute forcing myself through work every single minute of every single day without much regard to my mental wellbeing, because I think I am just being a 'baby' and should get on with it, I would probably get through this next project and perhaps the next, and maybe perhaps a couple down the line I would find myself just about graduating from my PhD. It would be incredibly shaky and my fundamental knowledge is so lacking, that it would be chaos, a disaster. Perhaps it would take 6 months of corrections, perhaps it would not be correctable. It would make the last 2 years of my PhD moot, let alone my studies before that.
But, there is another fork in the road. One which requires, in my opinion, way too many bureaucratic hurdles here in the UK and let alone at my famously bureaucratic university. Three months off in the new year. January to the end of March. Even typing it out seems too good to be true. Time to think about the purpose of my work, the academic process, the scientific method, the things I would read and do and learn. The space to think about the ever impending sense of dread I possess with my work since the beginning of my university career (a point I will come onto in a later post!). Space. I feel such relief thinking about the concept of being able to have some space. I have not had any space in my academics since I began at university at the age of 18, nearing a decade ago. I had no space in my choice of subject and really my choice of university beforehand, and I have no space in my PhD now. Space. A word that sounds almost too good to be true, even the clickity-clack of my keyboard sounds joyous when I type the word 'Space'.
To gain access to the space, I will have to apply for a medical intermission and label myself as 'mentally struggling'. It seems odd that I would have resistance to this, as it is very clear to everyone (and myself, most bafflingly) that I am indeed and always have mentally struggled when it comes to my work. It would allow me to claim three months of my funding as sick leave and not have that disappear to the wind. It would allow me to think and really develop my ways of thinking which I feel at this moment, in my maturation, would really be crucial; I am developing ways of thinking that were not open to me even just a year ago. I think three months to think and to do and to breathe would be worth many many years at my current 'brute-force' progress rate.
Well, I guess it is decided then. I will indeed apply for a medical intermission. It's very interesting how writing or talking (though yet to be decided which is more effective for me) can really sort things out. Journalling, of course, is very trendy at the moment with the self-help types, but naturally something with such use will always be trendy with those who value such things in their own personal journey. The next few steps are relatively daunting, I will email my supervisor, and some support staff at my university to get the ball rolling. I will do that right now, and come back to writing a vague plan to my intermission. I am much more productive with even a bit of planning (of course, I understand that applying the label of productivity is perhaps not the best word for a break for mental wellbeing but I will take it for now as I do not have a better term for it).