Diary of a Postgrad Student – Stand Down

Wow, didn’t expect the first few weeks of Uni to be such an emotional rollercoaster!

Anyway, we are officially off Red Alert. The rollercoaster has returned to the holding area. I don’t have a supervisor and the deadline has passed BUT I have had a meeting with someone about my dissertation. Yay! That’s all I wanted. To talk it through and feel there was some hope of doing what I set out to do. There totally is. I have some work and research to do, but that is doable and interesting. I am now once more pumped up and excited about what might be possible. It may not be the same supervisor that I work with – she has a pretty packed out schedule – but at least I will have something suitable to take to someone who does have the capacity.

I don’t know what you do when you feel you can’t cope, but I have a pretty simple strategy. I relentlessly focus on the present. When everything feels like it is spiralling out of my control, I focus moment by moment on what I can control. I put the washing on. I read a book. I play a game on the Xbox. I write a blog! Writing takes it out of my head and into a wider space that allows it to become diluted, rather than keeping it in my head where it becomes concentrated. Thinking about something which is outside of my control is like adding petrol to a fire. It keeps fuelling the feeling. Looking away, focussing on something else, is like putting a wet blanket over the fire. The feeling is dampened. So when I have something that feels totally out of my control, I look away. I write it down so I don’t need to keep it in my head, then I focus on something else. Moment by moment. This means that I can go from a state like “despair” to Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) within a relatively short time – sometimes within as little as 24 hours.

And this is where I feel lucky:

  • Firstly my family and friends know me. They know I will find a way through stuff. They don’t add fuel to the fire either. But they also don’t ignore it. They just remind me that they believe in me, and know I will work it out (I still struggle to understand why people have so much faith in me, but I’m sure I’ll get there one day!).
  • Secondly, when I write, people listen. On Facebook, in a blog, or elsewhere, people listen and act. Loads of people in Dundee Uni listened and acted. I smiled to see the sign on the door in the Scrymegour building saying “This is the 2nd floor”.
  • I know enough about people to know we have our own perceptions of things. I know that the way I see things isn’t the truth – it’s just my way of seeing things. I also know I have a tendency to think everyone else has there sh** together and it’s just me that is screwed up and useless. I know enough to know that it’s just a lie my head is telling me. We are all screwed up. We are all struggling in different ways with different things. So I’m glad I have the outlet of this blog to spew out what’s going on in my head because maybe you’re having similar problems and can realise that you’re not alone – it’s not about you.

There is a phrase I often use with my clients: “The road to success has many parking spaces”. It helps to remember that sometimes we are just in a parking space.

So back to the business of day to day life.

I’m already finding my attitude to research is changing. When someone says “research shows…” I want the link  to go and look it up. Before I just used to accept what they said. In class the other day we did a group exercise where we took a paper, extracted key points and did a 5 minute presentation. This wasn’t daunting and I felt I was able to contribute as equally as the other members of my group. So there is a shift in both attitude and skills, in a relatively short time.

I am enjoying working on the group presentation that’s due next week. I am actually enjoying the class work and beginning to look forward to what I will learn and how I will be able to apply that to assignments (yes you read that right, I am looking forward to my assignments). I love learning. I can’t help it. I love applying that learning to what I already know. I started reading Robert M. Sapolsky’s book “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” (best title ever!) and already learnt something about the development of the pre-frontal cortex that I can use with clients.

I’m also fully engaged in my practicum. In fact it looks like I will be able to see the stuff I’m doing through from start to finish which is going to be great experience for me. As this about priming and sentence structure I am also learning loads about English grammar. That’s something I wasn’t expecting.

Although this isn’t related to Dundee Uni, I also learnt that the 90’s game Lemmings came from Dundee. I loved that game, and when I was at Uni the first time round in the 90’s, I did a wicked impression of a blocker Lemming. So imagine how excited I was to notice this statue across from the Uni, on the way back to my car.

So hopefully we’ll be able to get a few more “I’m getting there” posts in before my next wobble!

Written by:

Hi, my name is Dawn Walton and I am a 44 year old therapist that lives in the Dundee area. I'm originally from Anglesey in North Wales, but I've lived here for 17 years. My first degree was in Computing at UMIST in Manchester. Now I'm studying a Masters in Psychological Research Methods with the aim of going on to do a Phd.

I love Starbucks and Pokemon Go. So they are likely to feature in my posts quite often!

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