This has been the most difficult semester of my life. And even that is an understatement. Never have I felt so imbalanced, so absent from or unsure of myself. Never have I relied so heavily on professional help or really any sort of help. But I had to, and it turned out to be the very best thing for me.
Tuesday I had my dissertation proposal defense. For those of you unfamiliar with the process, it is where you defend the “what, why and how” of your dissertation research. In my experience the proposal defense is often more taxing than the final defense for the purpose of truly interrogating rationale around your study before you do all the heavy lifting. So it’s really meant to be helpful, but it is nerve wrecking.
My proposal defense was a beast. My topic is complex and my methods are emergent and non-linear. My committee was tough on me. I warned everyone before I started that I was overwhelmed and a little scared and might cry. I did cry, twice. My chair assured me that was okay. After the defense part was over and I got the news that I passed with no revisions, which is as it sounds…I can put the proposal to rest…I sat with my committee. They shared with me their thoughts on my presentation and my work and I expressed my gratitude for them. The entire day was overwhelming in the best way.
In recognizing my survival of my defense and just this semester in general, I can definitely say I am a strong and tenacious woman. I was so grateful my committee supports me in the way that they do, and even though they were tough on me I really do understand that they knew I could and would rise to the occasion.
Yesterday was Work Wife’s (WW) defense. She did brilliantly and I was so incredibly proud of her, as always. We had a joint celebration and at one point it hit her that we had gotten through it. This semester, twenty weeks of reading writing and editing all for about thirty pages and a twenty (or thirty-two) minute presentation. The feeling of relief is indescribable. Even though there is so much work yet to be done, we got this far and it’s the first real deep breath we can take.
I’ve decided, along with both my doctors and my committee, that I am taking a six week break where I will not write a single thing related to my dissertation. That time is meant to focus on my mental health and healing. The closer I moved to my proposal defense, the more anxious I became until I was taking my “in case of emergency” anxiety pill everyday. Sometimes twice a day. I promised my psychiatrist it would only be until the defense. He urged me to take a break from everything about two weeks ago. This was our compromise.
This weekend, I’m off to Jamaica for a while and I just want to be present. I want to work on me and get better and heal and maybe the best way to begin that is simply by being in a beautiful place. I’m giving myself that and it’s funny, I do so before I truly knew how much I would need it. God is truly not so mysterious when you think about it.
I just feel better today than I’ve felt in months. While I’m not at total peace and the anxiety is still there, it has dulled to a manageable purr.
I made it.
I didn’t know if I would. It took taking it one day at a time sometimes one hour at a time. There were days I cried all day. There were days I didn’t want to leave bed. There were days I felt like a fraud or a failure. But none of that is right now. I’m standing in the sunshine right now and I’m not holding on to the storm I just came out of.