This is a long overdue post, so I am just gonna go ahead and get it over with. I am now a part time student. When I say “now”, I mean it’s only been recently (or it feels that way), but it has been back tracked from October. I got the switch in December, but for the record, I have been part time since October. In hindsight, it was a great decision, and at the time it really looked like the only solution.
Back in November, and as I have explained in this blog before, I was sick. I was sick and I don’t know why, and some blood tests and stomach ultrasounds later, even the doctors don’t know why I was sick. As usual, they attributed my sickness to excessive nerves and stress. Since it’s rather difficult to prove otherwise, I was left with no choice but to believe what the doctors were saying. I had really bad stomach cramps, like I’ve never had before. They all started after I had been at the AngloCatalan Conference in Manchester in November. My partner thinks it’s something I ate which took three weeks to process. I think I prefer that explanation to having “a possible ulcer”, “potential IBS”, or “stress-related stomach disorders”. Whatever it was, it left me defenceless. I am a productive bean, and I can handle many spinning plates, and certainly I do many, many things in life. But being sick, not being able to predict if I’d be able to go to work or even get out of bed, left me totally knocked out. I had to quit a game halfway through it, I had to cancel many days of work and of basketball officiating, and I had to take a real break.
With so much time in my hands, my mind wandered. Trying to find a cause for my state was a priority. At that point I realised that my body was telling me to slow down or stop completely. I entertained the thought of switching to part time, but I wasn’t too sure about it. When the days off sick and the cancellations kept accumulating, I realised that it could not be another way. I usually work around 25 hours in hospitality per week. Even in my most organised weeks, I cannot dedicate more than 20 hours to my PhD. That is really the definition of part time. And trying to pretend that I could carry on being a full time was just lying to myself. Having the physical time to do things slowly, and the allowance, was key to get back on track.
When I got sick, I was halfway through writing my Chapter 2. I really didn’t know where I was going with it, so I think it just helped the stress. I was two months away from it. I decided not to get back to it in December because it made no sense. After the switch was completed, I decided to give myself and my body some holidays. I went home for Christmas. My stomach felt healthy again. In January, I went back to writing Chapter 2, and I finished it. Last month I corrected Chapter 1 and I just finished the review of Chapter 2. Supervisors were happy and acknowledged the fact that my academic English is getting better. The switch to part time then did wonders to me.
Speaking to your supervisors and letting them know how things are going is the key, really. There is no point in pretending everything is okay when you really are sick. And the worst thing you can do in that sort of situation is ignore your body and keep going, because then you will get truly sick. When I first told my supervisors about wanting to switch to part time, they were very positive about it – knowing that I am a particularly self-driven person, they did not fear that going part time would make me go ‘lazy’ about things. And it has worked out really well.
Sometimes, having the time to mentally breathe is all you need.