PhD fatigue

So, I have written and submitted the first draft. It is a huge achievement because I can see that this really will get done now; I will finish this year. But reaching this milestone has meant working every day, seven days a week (for at least part of each day) for the last month or so at least. Which means I have not really had weekends or evenings to just chill out, and even when I have been chilling I have been unable to get my mind to stop running over ¬†arguments and data and possible conclusions and changes I need to make and clever turns of phrase to add here or there and on and on. And even though the draft is in, it is far from done – the conclusion is not finished because I literally ran out of steam, my brain unable to continue to create coherent sentences or thoughts any more, and there is still a lot of ‘panelbeating’ to do on the thesis before I will feel okay enough about it to sign it away to my examiners. And that makes me feel tired too; the anticipation of more work and more thinking to come.

And I am tired. More tired than I feel I have ever been, particularly in mental terms. I have kids, so I know fatigue well. But that kind of physical and emotional fatigue feels different to this. My brain feels like it has been replaced with woolly stuffing, and I feel kind of fuzzy around the edges, not sharp, not clear. I forget words and I can’t type straight. I think words that come out differently when I type them or write them down, and there are so many typos in everything I am trying to write this week that I need a lot more spellchecker help than usual. My brain feels untrustworthy right now because it forgets even the simplest things, like calling the plumber or why I wrote ‘notes’ on my TO DO list (what notes?) or why I went into the kitchen. This is an odd feeling for me. I’ve always been a writer and a reader and someone who thinks a lot about things (probably too much, some would say) so my brain and I have always been close; I have always trusted it far more than any other part of me, like my heart or my gut. But now, at this point in this PhD journey I find it has gone all fluffy and marshmallowy and I cannot really count on it to remember things or to get things right. It doesn’t feel good.

I am sure this will not be a permanent condition – once the final draft is handed in and I have had a long holiday over Christmas and New Year doing little more stressful than laundry or baking or reading in the hammock, I am sure my brain and body will rest and recover and I will start 2014 with a sharper, clearer brain. But now, in the middle of this, I feel like I will never really completely get rid of this tiredness, this feeling of fuzziness. I was totally unprepared for this. I thought I would feel tired and strung out at the very end, not now when I still need to keep going and thinking and writing. I worry that I don’t have enough in me to finish the revisions really well, and that I will make silly changes and not be able to see these errors before it’s too late and the thing is out of my hands. I hope I will find it in me – I must – but boy, this is one part of the PhD process people are awfully quiet about. Maybe, like pregnancy and childbirth, people can tell you how it was for them, and it could be like that for you or it could be very different. I am putting this out there anyway, because it may be like this for you, or it may be different. Either way, it would have been nice to be a little more prepared. Onwards I go, but maybe a nap first -_- .

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