Despite this blog’s uncertain prognosis last month, I’ve decided to stick with it, at least for a little bit. My recent silence has not sprung from a lack of desire to blog, but a lack of energy. There is so much going on in my work life right now — teaching, job applications, supervising a Master’s student, a whole bunch of collaborations in various stages, some academic ethics nonsense going down, and so forth.
Most days, I can only work a few hours, if that, before I am utterly and completely wiped out. And if I push myself beyond my (highly stochastic and thus often difficult to predict) limits? It takes me days to recover. Fatigue, real fatigue, is not something you can push through. I couldn’t work harder if I tried — and trying often ends up with me in so much pain that I have trouble breathing.
Yes, my body’s new trick of “you’re in a lot of pain, let’s hyperventilate, that seems like an excellent idea!” seems to be here to stay. I was thinking that yoga might help with that, until a friend pointed out that yoga involved moving your head a lot (if I tilt my head back, I get extremely dizzy), and I keep meaning to look into meditation, but, well, that takes energy, and I’m so unbelievably swamped with work that adding anything new seems too overwhelming at this point.
I find it difficult to balance the academic and non-academic demands on my life when my energy is this low, and when my thesis deadline is looming its ugly head. Eating right and exercising are both really, really important — but if I can only accomplish one thing this afternoon, should that really be making a pot of vegetable soup or doing a bunch of sit-ups? Seeing my therapist each week is non-negotiable (unless I literally can’t get out of the flat, which happens sometimes), but there’s a lot more work that I could put into my mental health that I don’t seem to have the energy for. Similarly, putting time and effort into my relationship with my girlfriend is absolutely non-negotiable, though this is my first real, serious relationship, and we haven’t yet figured out what the stage between “deciding that we’re doing this for realsies” and “shacking up” should look like. (I don’t think there’s an answer to this question, to be fair, but this relationship is one that I want to make work.)
But family? As in my biological family, my parents, with whom I have a very complicated relationship, who require huge amounts of time and energy? I don’t want my relationship with my family to worsen, particularly given the likelihood that I’m going to need their help as my health declines — but dealing with my family was difficult even when I was healthy, and I don’t think I’d have the ability to solve any of these problems even if I were to suspend all sciencing.
And friendship, acquaintanceship, other forms of social interaction? If my institute is going to the pub after work, should I go with them, or should I stay in the office and try to get on top of the many, many things I have to do that other people are waiting on? Or should I go home, because if I rest tonight, I’m more likely to function tomorrow? Being a final-year postgraduate means that most of my friends have left. And since I too am almost certainly going to be leaving within the next, say, eight months, to what extent should I be trying to make new friends? If someone isn’t responding to my emails or Facebook messages, to what extent should I follow up, because I know what it’s like to drop off the face of the earth and having others still reach out to you is really important? Or do I cut my losses, only put my energy into people who can reciprocate? (Nobody can reciprocate all the time.) (And it’s not like I can afford to be picky.)
Anyway, this is where I’m at, at least for the moment. If you want actual science content, um, I don’t know, go read Terry McGlynn’s thoughts on networking or the amazing discussion on Scientist Sees Squirrel about getting students to show up to class, or something.