Hello (again) World!

May 7, 2012

Ha ha! So much for my countdown to submission. I think that was probably a little optimistic what with the all-nighters and the fact that three days before submission my eyes and fingers were bleeding from reading and writing.

But I did submit on time – a statement that would have been less anti-climactic had I made it on the day of submission rather than 10 days later.

But I have only just started to feel that I can look at this computer again, having developed a hatred for it that almost rivals my hatred for Microsoft Word. I think the dislike was mutual as once the last superfluous comma was deleted and the last footnote checked, my laptop went on strike and I have only just been able to coax it into compliance. It might have been something to do with the twenty-gabillion software updates that I hadn’t been able to spare the time to install because that would have meant shutting down the forty or so bazillion tabs open in firefox, one of the (insert improbably large number) applications I had open at any one time. I imagine the poor laptop felt like I have felt for the last ten days – totally burned out.

The whole thing has felt a bit of anti-climax really. This is something I was prepared for. I reckon this is partially down to complete exhaustion followed by the limbo that is waiting for the viva. But also it’s because the last 3.5 years (and especially the last few months) have been so intensely focused on one thing that it takes more than a few days to adjust to the fact that it isn’t there anymore. I still feel guilty when I oversleep at weekends. I still hesistate before committing to arrangements with friends, still prefix the idea of everything I would like to do with the thought ‘When I finish the PhD…’*

Here’s some things I planned to do post-submission:

1) Go to Brighton for a couple of days in the sun (ha ha ha ha SUN!)

2) Binge-drink often and completely (until I feel as though I am vomiting my own eyeballs)

3) Spend time with friends who I have neglected horribly

4) Go on my friend’s hen do

5) Go and see my Grandma who I have also neglected

6) Make some scones

Here are some things I have actually done:

1) Watch rain from the window and wonder if I can make it to the shop for more packets of instant noodles without having to put plastic bags round my feet inside my poor broken boots

2) Sleep (I’m talking marathon sleeps here. I sleep for so long that I wake up severely dehydrated and my fingernails have started growing into the palms of my hands)

3) Not answered emails or texts or making plans with friends or drinking or doing anything remotely social in nature. Just no energy. I went for lunch with my brother and sis-in-law and felt as though I was watching a video of the three of us talking rather than participating in the conversation. Also it was raining and I had bags on my feet and when I got home I was so exhausted I slept for a further 12 hours.

4) Not gone on my friend’s hen do this weekend. It was a glamping (glamerous + camping = fun portmanteau) and although I’m not generally a big fan of the hen do, I think any other weekend I’d have really enjoyed it. But the others would have been out frolicking in the woods drinking champagne and building camp fires and I would have been asleep under a sleeping bag/pile of coats/pile of moss and dead leaves for the entire weekend.

5) Watched all fifteen series of Silent Witness. Bloody good show if you ignore the gaping plot holes and the inability of any of the pathologsts to undertake only activities falling within their job descriptions. Dr Alexander, Dr Cunningham, whilst you’re sniffing the stomach contents of that cadaver could you also negotiate world peace? Oh, and while you’re at it, how about working out how we can have 166% of April’s average rainfall in 10 days and still be in flipping drought? I realise that’s quite a heavy workload but you could always delegate some of that interrogation of suspects or family liaison work to… oh, I don’t know, the police??  By the way, you know you have seen too much Silent Witness if you go for a massage (in order to relax) and imagine that you’re on the slab in the hands of an impossibly attractive and implausibly well-slept pathologist.

6) I did almost make some scones but realised that I didn’t have mixing bowl, couldn’t find the weighing scales and couldn’t be arsed to convert US cups into grams.

The day of the hand-in was also somewhat of a disappointment. I spent several hours vomiting in the morning followed by several hours on a train trying not to vomit into one of the plastic carrier bags I had to take off one foot as a precaution. The cause of the vomiting remains a mystery but no doubt Drs Alexander and Cunningham could work it out in the course of two one hour episodes whilst simultaneously disproving the big bang.

Nevertheless, although I’ve not been particularly energetic or euphoric, I am happy, relieved and looking forward to a summer of a normal 9-5 and weekends and evenings where I can do whatever the fuck I want. I intend to enjoy this free time, and this achievement (whatever the outcome of the viva). No doubt I will still write numerous posts about how shit everything is but that’s one of the ways I enjoy myself so whatevs.

Here’s a snap of me on the day my thesis became an actual object that I could hold in my hands. Those of you who have met me in real life will be able to see the ravages of thesis hell on my face (that’s supposed to be a smile and it’s supposed to indicate pleasure but I think it indicates the pain of 3 hours sleep in as many days). Those of you who have not met me in real life will just have to believe me when I say I am not in fact a ninety-year old woman with two black eyes. Image

* of course it might not be finished. It may not even pass. But I am determined to recognise the achievement of having got as far as handing it in. For the moment, it feels finished, if not finished with.

An excerpt

April 19, 2012

As I sit here at my desk, in my study, the desk lamp throws my shadow squarely across the page. This shadow is made up of all the elements of me that I know I am supposed to edit out of this thesis.

The shadow of the PhD student who writes is a twenty-nine year old, white, British woman with one ovary. She has recently been going through a bout of insomnia, is struggling to pay the bills, and is experiencing all of the standard anxieties of a final year doctoral student with a few others thrown in for good measure.

When I sit down at this desk to write my thesis, she is my shadow. But at other times, when I email friends, when I feel guilty about not visiting my ninety-three year old grandmother more often, or when I accidentally spend most of Sunday reading novels in the bath, I am not the shadow cast by a PhD candidate sitting before a laptop and a desk-lamp.

In this chapter, I am letting the shadow write too. I am speaking in both of my voices, because I realise as I read back through the other chapters in this thesis, that the shadow’s voice was never quite silenced anyway. It was she who spent hours reading the blogs of infertile women because it was she who had her ovary removed in Lewisham hospital in 2005. It was she who first read A Room of One’s Own, before the PhD student picked up a copy, and it was she who first thought of the avatar as her own online self-portraiture, an idea that the PhD student took up and ran with.

Woolf may have written about the autobiographical ‘I’ as overshadowing the feminine, but here, in this thesis where as Leigh Gilmore would say, it is ‘not licensed’, it is the autobiographical ‘I’ that is liberating me from the shadows, allowing me to walk back into this thesis that I write.

12 Days to Go!

April 15, 2012

Hello again, Internet.

It’s been a while. But I have a really good excuse. I have never worked so bloody hard in my life. I am exhausted. In twelve days time I will hand in my PhD thesis (ADHD, Microsoft Word, and other complicating factors permitting).

Although it is twelve days till submission, it is only ten days till thesis needs to be at the binders, all polished, formatted, referenced, bibliographied, and pdf’d. I am at work for four of those days.

10 minus 4 = PANIC!

PANIC = immediate urge to write blog post.

This equation can be simplified as 6 days = blog.

Which makes no mathematical sense but nevertheless, I intend to chronicle these last few days so that one day I can read them back and remember the pain and the panic, the abandonment of every other thought and activity (save those required to maintain the most basic standard of hygiene), and the curious floaty feeling that comes from awakening from a four hour sleep unable to determine whether Microsoft Word’s snotty little notifications were dream or reality.

An observation: panic/adrenaline–call it what you will–really focuses the brain. Apart from a relapse of my obsession with growing strawberries and other forms of vegetation unsuitable for attic windowsills, procrastination has been markedly less over the past couple of weeks. There’s prob an explanation along the lines of adrenaline substituting the missing dopamine or some such but if it works then i’m not questioning it. I do have some regrets when I think that if I could have worked at even half this intensity for even half of my PhD registration period then the panic I am experiencing now would be proportionally less. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have approx 250,000 words of facebook status updates, tweets, and blog posts to show for it so, y’know, it’s a net win….

So there we have it. 12 days to go.

Number of words over word limit: 400 (down from 6000 four days ago)

Number of pages: 320

Number of footnotes: 483

Number of spelling and grammatical errors: Too many for Word to continue displaying them, according to one of its snarky messages.

Number of times I’ve left the flat this weekend: 0

Number of pregnancy dreams where the foetus I have incubated for 3.5 years finally makes an appearance and turns out to be a stuffed animal/old trainer/dead strawberry plant/other kind of damp squib: 8






Especially today…

December 26, 2011

I love your delicate way…(the chill in my veins)…

November 23, 2011

Good day to you, Internet.

Today is the penultimate day of my current contract at work.  I then have nearly two weeks to make some significant progress on the PhD, undistracted (HA!), before I return to the same place (but a different department) in order to begin a new contract. In honour of my last day in this office, tomorrow I am going to make a concerted effort to arrive on time less than an hour late. I am making this promise here and now, in writing. Because, clearly, if I tell the Internet something that makes it true.

I am so fed up of having to call in to work at 9.05 and explain, in my sleep-hoarse voice that I have overslept (again), and then make a promise to be in by 9.30 even though I know that it takes at least 30mins to get ready and at least 20 minutes to actually make it from my flat to my place of employment. Add at least 15 minutes to account for ADHD, and it is clear to anyone with only a rudimentary grasp of mathematics, that it will be AT LEAST 10am before I make it to work, overheated, overstressed, and dangerously under-caffeinated. Why do I do this??! Why is being late for work once not enough? Why engineer the situation so that I am compounding the original lateness, by further tardiness so that I have to feel humiliated by my own inadequacies not just once but twice?

The thing is, they’re kind of used to it here. It’s not that the chronic lateness goes unnoticed but it’s tolerated. It helps that I seem to have accidentally cultivated this image of myself as a sort of lovable scatter-brain.  I think it might be an ADHD survival strategy that enables one to get through life being a bit crap but without incurring the same penalties as other people might. I think I’ve inherited it from my father who is anything but lazy but whose working days were a scramble of missed meetings, forgotten deadlines, and lost paperwork. Strangely, he was always well-liked despite these short-comings, and I am fairly sure that he retained the affection of his colleagues by the same means as I do now: 1) Apologise profusely, even when things aren’t your fault. 2) Be more cross at yourself than your colleague is – this results in their irritation metamorphosing into sympathy before your very eyes. 3)  Seem a little bit helpless. Instead of wanting to kick you in the face, they want to help you.  4) Cultivate an attitude of self-deprecation which encourages others to laugh affectionately at your difficulties and roll their eyes with a smile instead of a final written warning.

As I write the above, I realise that this sounds very manipulative and a little exploitative, as though I purposely deploy these tactics of defence. This is absolutely not the case. It is a defence mechanism in the same way that a squid releases ink in response to attack. It’s the ADHD equivalent. In the face of attack by completely normal, everyday challenges, it’s me rolling myself up into a little ball with my arms wrapped protectively over my head, shrieking ‘I’m not very good at this, it shouldn’t be this difficult, but rather than you take my shortcomings too seriously, I’d rather you just took me less seriously. I am therefore prepared to relinquish some of my pride and dignity in return for your forgiveness and tolerance’.  I don’t want to be seen like this. I would quite like to feel that people took me seriously. I would quite like to feel that people looked at me and thought, ‘there goes a capable twenty-something woman who is going places’ rather than ‘ Awww, how typical – Rose has fucked up again, bless her. How *does* she make it through each day without close supervision?’  Sometimes I feel like I am a joke of my own devising.

But when I move departments, I would really like to try to minimize the extent to which my crapness is immediately obvious to my colleagues. I want to start a clean sheet, a new leaf, and other paper-related metaphors for a fresh start. And this brings me to the thing that I was actually going to blog about today but which might need to wait until tomorrow now because I am running out of working hours in which to do some actual, y’know, work etc: Namely, I have decided that coming off the Ritalin was probs the worst decision I never actually made (I lost my repeat prescription and was too embarrassed to admit to it.  And as an(other) aside, by the way, the staff at the GP surgery are definitely not as susceptible to the whole lovable scatterbrain thing as my employers seemingly are). So that whole post is now going to have to wait until tomorrow. Tomorrow, when hopefully I will be able to report that my punctuality has (at least temporarily) improved.

Until then, Internet, I bid thee farewell.




Systems, systems…

October 24, 2011

Ok, recently I noticed that everybody has a system. My mum, for example, has systems that enable her to not lose her car keys and find them several days later in the toe of one of my dad’s boots.**

My ex, J, had lots of systems.  These were incredibly intricately devised, compulsively maintained and … electronic. Therefore, I have not EVER seen any proof of the existence of these systems. I just believe in them because he said they existed (in fairness, the evidence speaks for itself. Before we split up and he moved out last October, their was a force of order and calm within the flat. Since then, there has been a rapid entropic slide towards the chaos which reigns currently.).

I don’t know where people get their systems from. I don’t know how they identify where a particular system might be adopted, and then proceed with adoption of said system, and then suddenly become organised and tidy and stop losing things. I just don’t get it.  It’s not so much that people manage to devise these systems themselves (although that is indeed a thing of wonder), but it’s a) that they STICK to the systems and 2)  (and this one is just mindblowingly incomprehensible to your average ADHD-er) They seem to do it without any fuss: nobody has to suggest it, there isn’t some big plan drawn up, the implementation of which somehow never seems to happen. Amazing.

So.  I have decided to get me some systems. Obviously I’m going to be realistic about this and start small.  If I manage to both implement and maintain the following small changes to my routines then I reckon in about a months time I can add some more.

1) Aim: Keep the keys to my flat hanging up on back of the door.

Objective: No more lost keys.

2) Aim: Post-it on the front door to remind me to unplug hair straighteners.

Objective: To get through a whole day at work without the  ‘Oh Shitting Fuck, have I left the straighteners on?’ panic.

3) Aim: Ditto Oven

Objective: Ditto Oven.

4) Aim: Before going to bed, check phone for unanswered texts or facebook messages from friends and family.

Objective: Not to be a shit friend/daughter/sibling any more. Or at least a little less shit.

Anyway, these may seem like tiny things but if successful in my mission to implements these checks, it will make my life a little less stressful. I figure there are some things that are unavoidably stressful. Keys, straighteners, ovens and text messages just shouldn’t be.

I’ll let you know how I get on.  In the meantime, I found this piece of paper folded into my bra one morning fairly recently (yes, I’d slept in my clothes). i have no idea how it got there. I think I may eventually need a system to prevent this kind of thing from happening but so far, the only idea i can come up with is to give up the drink and I fear that neither myself, or the local pub are ready for this momentous change anytime soon.

**Unless this system is foiled by my dad in which case, yep you got it, keys in the boot. Hi, Mum!

Funny how one day can make so much difference to my mood. Yesterday, I sat here, at my nice warm desk with the mid-morning sun shining in through the window and I felt happy and positive.

Today I sit in exactly the same place, complete with sunshine and coffee, and I feel like crap. Here are some reasons for this rapid deterioration:

1) High Hopes – not worth it.

Yesterday I wrote that I was feeling very positive about the PhD, and looking forward to spending the day really getting into it and making some progress on this last chapter. I really thought so too, which just goes to prove (even at 28) how little I actually know myself, and just how much I have the ability to deceive myself. Of course, despite my high hopes, I proceeded to piss away the day like a drunk pissing her money down the pub toilet (oh wait, I did that too – spot the other reason I’m cross at myself). I can tell you exactly why this happened. A simple household job needed to be completed, and i didn’t know how long it would take so I wanted to do it before settling down to work. But this simple household job was very boring, and I wasn’t entirely sure how to go about it. So from 11.30am until 3pm I drank coffee, tweeted some people, and must have done some other things I suppose but I’m now really having difficulty accounting for what I actually did for three and a half hours.

Anyway, I finally got round to said household job about 3.15pm. It took 20 minutes. 20 fucking minutes that’s all! Except by the time I’d got round to it, it had actually taken twenty fucking minutes plus the three and a half hours I’d already wasted trying to motivate myself. By which time I had half an hour before I had to leave to go to a lecture. Outcome – no PhD words written. Fail.

But the lecture went on until 7pm so I still had several hours after that of which I could make good and productive use, right? Nope! By that time, I was so full of self-loathing and recriminations that I went to the pub instead. Just to make sure that I would really really fucking hate myself by the time I woke up this morning.

Fail fail fail fail fail

Actually, I’m not going to give any further reasons why I feel crap this morning because that one up there ^ is the biggie. I am just hoping that writing this out, typing violently with angry fingers of self-recrimination, will be enough to prevent me from doing the same thing again today. Frankly, it has to be. Because this work is due in on Monday night and I have a friend staying from tomorrow morning until Sunday evening and then I’m working all day on Monday. So I have today. That’s it. And as my alcoholism will, as sure as eggs is eggs, drive me into the pub by 5pm, the diagnosis of the situation is clear:

1) Stop fucking about.
2) Get a move on.

Upon which note, dear Internet, I will conclude my lecture of self-hatred, and hope that today I do not fall foul of the demon procrastination and end up, at 1.30 a.m. tonight, a sad empty shell of a woman, dressed in the tatters of my self-worth and vomiting the last alcohol soaked dregs of the day’s potential into the toilet bowl.

Internet….wish me luck!

Dear J…

January 18, 2010

This weekend was your 30th birthday. It was also 7 years ago this weekend that I first met you. You had invited my housemate to you your birthday party and she had dragged me along despite the fact that I hadn’t slept for two nights owing to an essay deadline. I had made the deadline (just) but was unable to sleep, and just had to sit it out until the caffeine of about 40 coffees had begun to leave my system. They say you meet people when you least expect to.

I was intrigued that you were vegan. It was something I had thought about and dismissed as not being feasible. It was the first time but certainly not the last that you showed me that anything is possible with a little bit of determination. I didn’t speak to you much that night but I remember thinking you were unlike anybody I had met before. You were standing by the stove stirring several different curries, calmly stepping over your friends as they wrestled, naked but for a pair of shorts and a smattering of tattoos, on the floor. You were quiet. I would have been tempted to say shy, but that wasn’t quite it. You spoke when you had something to say, something worthwhile to contribute, but your voice was gentle. This was especially noticeable in comparison with some of the others in that room whose conversation always dominated. I felt their voices like bindweed, reaching out and strangling mine. You were also very thin, I noticed. Since adolescence my boyfriends have been skinny. I think it’s less that I find skinny attractive, and more that I tend to find bigger builds too masculine. You had very dark hair  (though not quite as much as you have now) and dark brown eyes, the colour of chocolate, and they melted when you smiled. I learned from other people that you were in your third year of a music degree and that you played in two bands. You didn’t talk much about yourself.

A week or so later my housemates and I had a house party. You and your friends came round. They were teasing you about your obsessive compulsive tendencies. Somebody opened a computer and pointed to various parts inside it. “What does this bit do, J?” they would ask. And you would reply as if reciting a textbook from memory. I couldn’t work out whether you were unaware of the joke or just pretending that you were. Later that evening, I showed you round the house. I showed you my bedroom which I had just finished painting and was very proud of.

Because I was so proud of it and had only just finished it, it was very neat and tidy. I can see how this first impression of me might have been more than a little misleading. I had furnished it with old fashioned furniture from the local antique/junk shop, and I had a big old armchair in one corner where I was writing a children’s story about mice. You asked about the room and the writing. We sat and talked and I found that I liked talking to you. You were interesting and interested. There was no trace of ego but you were firm and confident in your beliefs. Occasionally we sat in silence, thinking about something one of us had said. Each silence that settled between us made the loose thread beginning to tie us together grow tighter. It was in one of these silences that one of the others came to fetch us back downstairs. You and the boys left shortly afterwards. I stood in the hall and watched you go. I remember thinking that if you looked back as you left, I would know then that this was a beginning. And standing there, framed by the doorway and the winter night, you did.

We’ve had a lovely weekend. On Friday night we went out for drinks with friends and then on Saturday we braved the rain and indulged your love of the city by visiting the Tower of London. Afterwards we went to the Rootmaster bus just off Brick Lane and had a dinner so delicious that it should probably be illegal.

A totally vegan restaurant on the top of an old routemaster. It really doesn’t get much better.

Happy Birthday, J, I love you x x x

Entirely Off-Topic…

January 13, 2010

One for the cat-lovers:

Is your cat plotting to kill you?

Audrey says, ‘Mwah ha ha ha ha’