We're a little crazy, about science!

The transition to summer

Well it’s official, my grades are in. Okay not “official” exactly, but they posted to the class website and I passed, obviously. In hindsight it’s funny because I was constantly worried about how well I would do in the class, especially with this project being worth so much, but I managed to get 100% in the class, so there’s that. Now I am statistics and it bends to my will! That would be a super power for sure, even though the class was a pain, I’m glad I took it. Now I make the slow transition to summer. It’s slow because it doesn’t happen all at once, but I’m excited.

If you’re new around here, I’m a disabled veteran and third year PhD candidate studying neuroengineering. My work aims to figure out how the spinal cord communicates with the brain and how that communication changes after spinal cord injury. I have two PI’s who I affectionately refer to as my main-PI and Co-PI. Main-PI is my school PI, while Co-PI is my PI in the hospital where most of my research takes place. This is my daily blog about life on the PhD track. I’ve been doing this for about two years now and I’ll probably be doing it until the end. I’m in year three and hope to graduate in year five so about half way done. I talk about mental health, PTSD, depression, anxiety, things like that since I deal with all of it. I talk about how I cope with all the trauma, even though the PhD route can make even the people with the strongest mental health have breakdowns, I talk about how I manage to make sure I put myself first. Today is probably one of those posts.

The end of this term was definitely the most difficult I’ve ever had. There was a lot crammed into the window of about a week and to make matters worse, I only had roughly a week to get it all done. I don’t think I’ve ever been more productive in my life. But somehow I managed to get it all done. It wasn’t perfect, but everything that mattered got done as best as I could manage and everything else got SOMETHING done. Unfortunately for me, I had worked myself sick.

Over the course of the effort I managed to develop severe eye irritation, just in my right eye. Probably from staring at a screen for ours on end without a break… oops. I also somehow ended up with an ear infection or at least something going on. My headaches/migraines got worse and for those unaware I’m already on medications to help deal with those. And to top it off once it was all finished I felt like I had been backed over by a bus. Once the adrenaline had worn off I could barely stay awake and I’m still struggling from all this and it’s been three days. So yeah, hopefully wont be doing that again for awhile.

The nice thing is now that I’m transitioning to summer things will slow down slightly. I won’t have so much extraneous stuff to focus on. Now that I’m finished with class I can take a proper break and get some of my hobby stuff done that I enjoy doing (namely finish my woodworking project from way back at the beginning of the year (here). I learned a long time ago that hobbies are important. I schedule daily time for me to read (yes, even this last horrible week) because if I don’t schedule it, then it won’t happen. It’s literally on my to-do list which I have. The to-do list is something I’ve been using for years now and it really helps.

It’s a slow transition though, things need to be tied up. Data (like yesterday) still needs to be processed. I have not one, but two conferences. One in roughly a week and the other next month. The one this next week is one I will certainly need to prepare for. Then I have my journal paper that needs editing (more on that here). Still things feel different, I don’t feel so rushed to get things done and I don’t have so much going on, mostly because I’m done with class.

No matter what you do in life, you can’t push yourself that hard all the time. It’s like weight lifting, if you do it daily you won’t get anywhere and could very well end up hurting yourself because you need time to recover. Summer for me is a good time to recover for a longer period than I would normally get during the term. I’ve got a lot of stuff lined up to do just for me, and it’s probably the biggest secret I can pass on to anyone planning on doing (or is currently doing) their PhD.

No one is going to tell you to take a break, you need to prioritize yourself before prioritizing other things. Good luck to everyone out there taking the journey and congratulations on surviving another term.


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