Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Watching a Horse Running Down its Last Legs

I hinted at something yesterday I've been meaning to post about. I'm exhausted.

My body just decided to take itself off-line for a couple of weeks after the APA. I tend to get sick more when I'm stressed and sleeping less than when I'm feeling good and getting lots of sleep. No surprises there, it's pretty common. The cold hit me a week before the APA, but I beat it back with a battery of expensive herbal quackery, so I was okay at the conference itself. But about 18 hours after I got back from Baltimore, I dropped like a rat in plague times. For the next two weeks, I couldn't walk up stairs without losing my breath, and running for the bus made me feel like I was going to fucking die.

But physical exhaustion's not even half of it. There's the other kind of tired, the one that comes from working with a singular focus on one thing for months, and then seeing your work produce exactly nothing. It's the kind of tired that eats through your motivation and leaves a gaping, empty hole in its place. It's the kind of tired where you can sleep nine or ten hours a night and still wake up just as tired as when you put your head down the night before.

That's a hard tired to shake.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a history grad student who has been doing the same thing as you this year, I truly feel your pain. My whole damn body aches, I constantly feel weighed down (physically and metaphorically), and I just can't shake it. If misery loves company, know you've got plenty of it - even if its lurking out in the ether.

Joshua said...

Hey PGS, I can relate. My first year on the market, I got no APA interviews. Then I decided that between application rounds, I ought to get the swollen lymph nodes I'd had for six months checked out. Turned out they were the result of my having lymphoma (just a little Hodgkin's, nothing too serious).

Chemo, radiation, and a second kid (um...that last thing is unrelated to the first two) went into the rest of that search. It sucked. Talk about exhausting.

I managed to stumble my way through a second search the next year, and landed a TT job. Now I look back fondly on the year the market nearly killed me (okay, it wasn't the market, it was the cancer, but who's counting?). I discovered that the exhaustion will go away--the landing of a TT job heals all wounds (notice, angry blog commenters, the "all" in that last claim picks out things market related). Chin up, vent a bit, but keep plugging away. Then when you get through it, you'll think, "Eh, it wasn't that bad." You might even come to think that there's some rhyme or reason to the whole process...

Anonymous said...

Since winter break, I have watched every Law and Order (and spin-offs) ever made, all while lying on my sofa with deathly fatigue. No illness, just fatigue. And insomnia. And a growing ulcer. My doctor is horrified -- she had the good sense to suggest I switch professions if I value LIVING. I just may take her up on that. T-shirt stand, here I come!

m.a. program faculty member said...

Bleh. I hear you. And having that sort of reaction (both bodily and psychic) is totally understandable.

Try to tell yourself, though: "Marathon, not sprint. Marathon, not sprint." Not that this will instantly makes things all OK or anything, but still.

Clayton said...

Hang in there.

I've been through it and all I can say is that grad school was the golden years. Post-grad life is much worse. I guess that's short term comfort.

zen philosopher said...

But you *love* philosophy, right??

Remember the proverb: If you do what you love, you'll never have to work a day in your life.

ell ess two said...

I'm exhausted too.

"But you *love* philosophy, right??"

I think this is part of my problem: my love for philosophy has taken a real hit through all of this. Sometimes when I look at philosophy I can't remember why I ever gave a crap about it to begin with.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:22,

"Since winter break, I have watched every Law and Order (and spin-offs) ever made, all while lying on my sofa with deathly fatigue."

Have you been able to find seasons 6-12 of the original Law & Order on dvd somewhere?? They're not netfix-able. I'm guessing they haven't been put out yet. (Meaning I need to invest in some TNT.)

"And a growing ulcer."

What are the symptoms of an ulcer? I'm worried I might have one.

The similarities between us are uncanny. In fact, now I'm starting to worry that you are my future self, writing from two weeks from now. (Relatedly, what stocks should I buy?)

Anonymous said...

Time for a guest post from a Bangladeshi subsistence farmer.

Anonymous said...

FALSE. Your work didn't produce nothing. Next year, when you have your thesis done and hopefully a paper or two submitted for publication, you'll show up to interviews and you'll be practied and seasoned. You'll be surprised at how different being an old hand at it will be. And how much difference it can make.
Also, your blog has made many people in the profession aware for the first time of the really bad problems grad students have. That's a HUGE accomplishment.

So it isn't what you want? Yea, well, speaking from decades beyond yours, you will see later how important in your life these very small things are. You are actually a constructive, thoughtful person. You haven't hit a hole in one, but few do and even then it doesn't always lead to that much.

So keep on going on. You'll get there.

Anonymous said...

Give up all hope. You're doomed.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Joshua --

That's a hell of a war story. Sincere props for making through.

Also, I've been banking on a tt-job healing all wounds, so I'm glad to hear that you think it will.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:58,

TNT and TBS have kept me in Law and Order episodes in spades. I TiVo them just in case I run into a dry spell. I'm not liking the new episodes of regular L&O (SVU is continuing strong). I miss Lennie Briscoe.

Re: the ulcer. Ulcer, gastritis, GERD -- who knows? Gnawing pain in my stomach, severe pain when I eat some foods, milk helps, lying down after eating is like death, I grab my stomach and groan a lot. I think my doctor is more worried about the overall 'package' of symptoms -- and she's right. I awaken with a start from a nightmare at 5 am every morning without exception. That's bad.

Anonymous said...

I'm still a grad student, plugging away at my dissertation. Everyone else seems to be finishing but me! I've took up a particularly violent contact sport in the hope that the physical pain would override my mental anguish. So far I have bruises and several vertebrae out of place, but it hasn't helped my diss-stress (see what I did there?).

Anonymous said...

The symptoms you describe indicate that you are suffering from anxiety and possibly depression as well. You can use medications to help this. However, my opinion is, since this is due to something you have chosen and can choose to get away from (instead of let's say horrible irreversible circumstances such as terrible accidents involving your loved ones), get out of your current situation. Move on to a more lucrative profession that will not cause you such terrible negativity. You can still do philosophy in your spare time if you continue to want to do it, after you regain peace in your life.