It’s my second week of a part-time PhD and I am exhausted. Words are insufficient to describe how tired my body and mind feel. However I am amazed at the services available to make doctoral study available to people who have a range of difficulties. I had an hour meeting with the assistive technology support in the library. I walked away from the appointment with a range of software to help my vision, a bendy keyboard and the strangest ‘mouse’ I have ever seen:
The device below the keyboard is the ‘mouse’! It uses a slider bar to move the cursor which you can press to click, a trackball to scroll and buttons that you press once for: copy, paste and double click. I never knew these types of hardware existed! Perfect!
Since developing MS life feels and looks different. I would not be able to engage with my studies if I did not adjust things to cater for these changes. It sounds like it has been easy getting to this stage but it hasn’t. I’ve been through a whole range of different emotions: anger, denial, depression, and at times acceptance. Sometimes I flitter through these stages all on one day but the important thing that I remind myself is that acceptance is there somewhere – even if it is small some days. With the help of the assistive software and hardware I feel more confident in my abilities and can see myself coping with the doctoral study.
Day 1 of my PhD and things have not gone to plan…Firstly my supervisor told me on Sunday that they have to attend an emergency eye appointment and therefore cancel our meeting. I’m more concerned about my supervisors eyeball than the cancelled meeting, so I was happy rearranging things and attending my first day anyway. My bag was packed, outfit chosen, documents organised…but I found out at 7.30am that the university closed today due to random pre-spring snowfall. Day 1 is spent working from home and all those first day nerves will have to be recycled.
I am starting my PhD in my comfort zone. I have spent the past 3 years working mainly from home on a range of psychology research projects. I am used to sitting at my desk, staring out the window wondering what I’m doing with my life, and making minor amendments to the organisation of my post-it notes. Everything is the same but everything feels different. Today I begin doctoral study, what? What does that even mean? What do I do? Can I do it? I have to keep telling myself to pipe down. These anxious queries are not helping but they are very common in the world of academia. I don’t think it is helpful to try and ignore them, perhaps acknowledge them and then let them go. It’s like the mindfulness river analogy of noticing leaves (thoughts) and letting them drift onwards. In this situation I keep having logs of inadequacy drifting along the river…I can either:
1) stop each one of them, examine them and ruminate. Before I know it the river will be blocked and overflow OR
2) I can notice the wretched logs and let them be on their merry way
Option 2 is the healthier plan but it’s easier said than done. It is worth a try.