I have an essay to write, and I’m blocked. It’s a month overdue (I did have an extension but that ended on Wednesday) and I need to get it out of the way so I can get on with my research project, but I’m still blocked.

When I’m walking round, or reading research papers, answers come to me but the minute I sit down in front of the keyboard my brain turns to mush. If I spend a long time by the keyboard, tapping in the odd dribble of inspiration, I start to cry. I have discovered I do a little better if I go into the university library or computer clusters, rather than trying to work at home, but still the tears flow if I push it too far.

I think I’m suffering from a mixture of grief, guilt and pressure – grief for Duke the Dales pony, guilt about my family and pressure from myself. I had put off doing stuff with Duke for so long, telling myself that we would have all the time in world once I had finished studying, but now he’s dead so that’s not going to happen. Next the guilt kicks in: I’m doing all this studying and taking time away from my children which I will never get back. This week was half term and I have been telling them to keep quiet, keep out of my way, offloading them onto my friend and my mother so I can try and clear a bit of head space to think and write. My youngest son goes to high school in September; this was probably my last half term with him for having fun. Soon he will be at the point, like his brothers, where time spent with mum is boring and to be avoided at all costs.

And then there’s the pressure. I don’t do well with pressure and expectations. Anyone close (especially family) who imposes any expectations on me more or less sets me up to fail, as I get into such a panic about letting them down that I don’t get the task done. Now, to be fair, doing this MSc was my idea. My dad offered to pay once I had decided to do it, and I am eternally grateful to him. I have learnt so much, especially on Rebecca Lawton’s Risk, Health and Medicine module which has been fab. Even the systematic research review, which had me tearing my hair out in frustration, taught me lots of stuff which I enjoyed learning (at the same time as the hair tearing, somehow).  I’m doing okay, and my grade average is a high merit. But now I’m so tired, and so stalled, I am totally out of inspiration and drive. A voice in my head keeps saying that I shouldn’t be doing this, I should be spending time with my family and the horses. But I want this MSc. I want to do well. I want to prove to myself that I can do it; that all those so-so grades in school were because I didn’t do any revision and not because I’m not quite as intelligent as I would like to think.

I score highly on intelligence tests, so why can’t I get my act together and come up with the academic proof? I just want to put my head down on my keyboard and cry.

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