One stressful dead week, with finals looming + one edition of To the Best of Our Knowledge + acute sleep deprivation + weird symptoms=hypochondria!!! I really don’t want to deal with the doctor, but probably should while I have health insurance. Or, I’ll sleep if off and put it out of my mind until the next perfect storm.
The end of the semester cannot come soon enough as far as I am concerned. Of course, in the next little over a week, I’ve got lots to do, mostly difficult papers to write, that will require actual mental prowess, reading difficult articles, pulling quotes, making connections–being smart. Fortunately the weather is supposed to stay condicive to this work, meaning it will stay in the cool 50s, maybe dipping into the 40s, with rain likely, so there will be fewer temptations to go jogging on the Chipman trail, or plants seeds of plants in pony packs that I will just end up buying later. Ok, back at it. Meetings, papers, you know.
If all goes well, this will be my last semester of coursework. Ever. My classes have been great this semester. The readings? Fascinating. The trouble is that I’ve hit a wall. There have been so many set backs: trip to Georgia, terrible in-bed-for-two-weeks cold/bronchial thing, and visiting my parents in Oregon. They’ve all been incredibly distracting. It’s been really hard to get my head back in to the game. I have about a month left and so much to do in that time. The trouble is that the sun is shining, we’re having a beautiful warm spring day, and I can’t do school like this. I need (another) nap.
Imagine your life without caffeine. Scary, huh? That has been my life since early last fall. I had to quit all forms of caffeine, my beloved coffee, green tea, and soda. The reason is that my heart started palpitating every night, starting last fall. I also developed strange muscle twitches and shakes–just from a cup of green tea. It scared me. I would be in bed, holding the phone in my hand, hoping that if my heart stopped, I would have enough time to dial 911 and hope for the best. Why wasn’t I married yet? Why didn’t I have someone to take care of me in these kinds of situations?! Ha! Of course those thoughts were always gone in the morning.
So, I stopped drinking caffeine all together. Cold turkey. I continued to have heart palpitations and muscle twitches, but they decreased in frequency and intensity. Around the same time, my doctor referred me to a cardiologist, an appointment that was 6 weeks out. After quitting the caffeine, about two weeks before the appointment, I canceled it.
I should also mention that I suspect that this heart thing is also connected to anxiety. Now, this program is nowhere nearly as stressful or hostile or weird as my Master’s degree. In fact, this hasn’t been any of those things. But the reality is that the pressure of getting a PhD is intense. The workload is intense. I have no time to develop friendships, relationships, or past friendships. In fact, I withdraw from those because they all add to the pressure and the feeling that I don’t have time for one. more. thing. I feel like I’m letting people down when I don’t go to visit. When I don’t pick up the phone. When I don’t let them visit me. (And yes, that has happened with dear friends.) So, I withdraw. It’s not a great quality of life, obviously, but it’s only for two more years. And I really don’t think it’s a habit I can’t break because when I was working as an adjunct (very busy), I made more time for life outside of academia. I really did. And it was good.
So, back to the drinks. I have had caffeinated green tea twice since I quit in the fall–always in group situations where drinking only water was the the most awkward thing imaginable. Last night was one of those nights. I felt fine. I had a nice night out. I drank and ate other noncaffeinated things as well. I got home late and got ready for bed, but suddenly? I had all this energy. I finished grading all of my papers. I did some reading. My mind was so sharp! It reminded me of the good old days of drinking caffeine. This always makes me sad because writing and green tea go hand in hand for me. I have such pleasant memories, and I hate to give it up. What if I never write again?! Imagine getting a PhD without caffeine. Imagine writing a story without caffeine. That is going to have to be my life. And I am sad to give up this bitch lover, you can count on that.
The good news is that, in all honesty, if I practice yoga and get at least 15 minutes of cardio on top of that, I have all of the energy and clarity I need to write, read, and do the work I need to accomplish to get through this program. This winter was evidence. I was exercising and had tons of energy and actually stayed ahead of my homework and reading. Still, I get to feel sorry for myself now and then that I don’t get to enjoy that simple pleasure and the way it makes my mind work so well. That is all.