I wrote a long post the other day about how shite Jitsu was the other week. It was long and rambling (what a surprise!) and most of it wouldn’t have made any sense to non-jitsu people. The long and the short of it is that my brain wasn’t in gear at all at the session last week and I couldn’t do anything right, even the things I’m usually good at. My brain felt fuzzy and mushy and my body just wasn’t co-operating. Everything that sometimes hurts a bit, hurt a lot and I left the mat less than half way through the two hour session to go and
cry sob in the loos. I didn’t get back on the mat that night and at the pub after I think I said all of two words. Needless to say, I left earlier than usual.
The worst part is that the grading is in less than two weeks time and I am just not ready for it. I should be resigned to missing gradings by now but it stings. The guys I started with are two grades ahead of me now because I’ve only been able to grade at nine month intervals instead of the usual three due to sickness and injury. It’s all the more frustrating because back in June I was so nearly ready to grade, and I was sure I would be able to by Christmas. It was the one thing seemingly within my control but apparently my body has other ideas so now it’s become yet another thing that is slipping through my fingers.
When I wrote the original post the other night I wasn’t even sure why I felt so out of sorts nor why I’ve lost ground rather than gained it but in talking it over with Gawain, it’s become glaringly obvious that it is yet another symptom of how run down I am. I hadn’t even really noticed but my sex drive has suffered similarly. We used to have sex practically every time we saw each other but lately I’ve been all about the snuggles and going to sleep. Poor darling smush thought I was going off him. I’m not, I’ve just not even had the desire to play with myself.
What I have noticed is that I’ve been spending a lot of time on the verge of tears. Scope crashed? Go and cry in a dark room. Western blot failed? Cry in the stairwell. Cells infected again? Cry in Tissue Culture. Frustrating phone call with my ISP? Cry in the stock room. Get slightly injured on the Jitsu mat? Try not to burst into tears in front of a roomful of twenty guys.
I asked myself the far more important question of “Why do I feel so sad?” and I didn’t really have an answer a five days ago.
I said to myself that all I know is that I feel sad. It just feels shit; the tears aren’t far below the surface. I said that I don’t even know what to say about the whole thing. I’ve made my rant. I’ve talked about how shite my supervisor is at actually supervising his students. I’ve talked about the unrealistic expectations regarding the amount of work I should be able to do between now and Christmas. I’ve said how much of an effort it is to drag myself in of a morning and how hard it is to settle down to work once I get there. What else is there to say except that it really, really sucks? That it’s sucked for months, nay, years?
Every time my family or friends ask “how are you?”, I feel like they’re expecting something of me. Like they’re expecting me to feel slightly better already, when I really don’t. And no one ever wants the answer to that question to be “ pretty rubbish, actually, same as yesterday”. That’s too honest for polite conversation. And if we’re doing honest, all that’s going to happen is that I’m going to end up crying down the phone when they are too far away to give me a real hug.
Thinking about it today on the train back up North yesterday, however, I finally had some ideas. My main realisation was that I’ve been spinning my wheels in a rut, going over and over the same old complaints. So much of my anger and upset stems from the complete and utter mismatch between my expectations of Mr Supervisor and the reality of his behaviour, primarily with regards to what I think the supervisory relationship should be like.
The majority of the advice I’ve received has been to work around him, like the infamous Missing Stair (TW rape culture), and to let go of all my reasonable expectations.
I assumed the supervisory relationship would be a two-way street but it has been anything but. Anything I want or need, I have to chase down, and even then the response to my requests (for support, for supervision, for understanding) may still be No, or worse, empty promises and agreements that go unfulfilled. It is so unjust and I am so powerless to do anything about it. I can’t bring half my criticisms up with Mr Big Shot because they are about how he does things, and there is no way he will take them anything but personally. The things I need that might just help me complete the PhD which I have asked for in the past were never delivered on because he “doesn’t like to spoon-feed students”. He’s got zero interest in altering his supervision “style” to meet the needs of his students so if the thing you need can’t be bought with cold, hard cash, you’re out of luck.
I’ve been trying to think about what Captain Awkward would suggest but I’m not getting very far yet. My only thought is that I have to let go of the non-existent supervisory relationship and my expectations regarding it. I have to figure out how to do this on my own or at least with minimal, uncommitted “help”, without destroying myself and my health in the process. I’m going to have to “use the resources and people available to me” but again, that will likely be a one-way chase on my part, which is already so exhausting. I have to get through this knowing that no-one else with any university-ordained responsibility for me really cares whether or not I succeed. I mean, my friends and family all want me to do well but those with an actual stake in the outcome couldn’t care less about me, beyond how it affects their ability to take on new students. If I fail, Mr Big Shot Supervisor will have had four students on the trot who failed to complete on time and at that point the Research Councils will start paying attention and could impose sanctions. Great, but that helps me how exactly? Likewise with the idea of raising a formal complaint. It would feel fantastic to air my grievances and have them properly heard but it would likely destroy what little functionality our relationship still holds.
Meanwhile, the other set of problems relates to the overwhelming, paralysing panic of climbing Thesis Mountain, because, dear lord, starting a task that mammoth is hard! The classic advice of ‘work out and write down precisely everything that has to be done and figure out a timetable’ doesn’t help when listing everything reminds you just how big the task is, thus triggering panic and resulting in a bout of severe procrastination. Hurrah!
Anyway, stopping now. More thoughts later.