The inevitable meltdown

We’re half way through the semester and so that of course means it’s time for a mid semester meltdown, right? Well.. check! And since I’m doing a “share the good, bad and ugly” personal challenge for this blog I’m going to give you the story from a very upsetting day, that I would love to pretend didn’t happen, but in fact did, and so should be confronted, thought about and dealt with. Character understanding is character building, right? Plus, it’s kind of funny and I’m sure post-graduate Ellie (touch wood, crossing fingers) would LOVE to reminisce over such a memory and have a little giggle.

It all started on a Thursday morning. Actually, if we’re being completely honest it probably started the night before (or of were really honest it’s been brewing for weeks with episodes of self doubt and worry since arriving back in Norwich). I went to bed feeling quite anxious about the day ahead of me, I knew it was going to be a large day of attempted dissertation sampling and so I was dreading the horrible confronting aspects that it entailed. the next morning I felt incredibly un-rested, but I forced myself up of bed, checked through and handed in another piece of coursework for that day and then headed into lab with a cup of fruit tea in hand and headphones in my ears. soothing music and my “me-time” walk to uni usually puts me in a good mood and my mind at ease, as I can enjoy my usual soothing yet a little bit weird indie chill playlist music I’ve fallen in love with.

At uni I’m pleased to find Steven early in lab too to keep me company whilst we do our dissertations and we enjoy a little chat about the bake off final before getting down to work. I do no more than a couple of root segments on one slide before confusion, questions and self doubt start to stirr in my mind. “Okay” I think, “let’s just move onto another slide and we can return to that one in a bit. “No problem”. I select a slide from cakile edunata to try and when I look down the lens my fears are confirmed about visibility and content yet again. I feel my heart racing again as I start to try and record what I see on an intersection, and start to question what I have been recording as one characteristic.. “One definition is different from another in the literature, have I been mixing them up as I’ve been sampling? Is this thing I’m looking at right now the same as the one I have been ticking off as AM non-septate hyphae with the occasional septate mark that my fellow friend doing a mycorrhizae project in Australia told me it may have, or is it in fact just a sparsely and irregular (but in theory and according to my definition is supposedly regularly septated) septated hyphae that means it’s in fact a completely different type of fungi association (endophytic non AM fungi)? Is this different from previously or is this the same, is this the first time I’ve met this problem, or have I in fact sampled previous characteristics wrong, if what I see here is the same as the other ones I’ve seen, yet now turn out to be different?”. Chaotic questions, which I don’t even know if I fully understand myself fill my head, as usual, and eventually I just have to stop and look up. I can feel my eyes well up from the pure pressure in my own head, from the distressing thoughts of wasting time questioning every detail I see under the lens, and the unavoidable worry that maybe I have a point to these chaotic questions, and what if I am right, and thus doing everything wrong, making it irrelevant to continue anyway. I get an example image up on my computer to have a think, but it isn’t giving me any clarity. If anything it’s just allowing myself to convince myself it’s all wrong, although I still don’t know if it is or not, or what I’m really asking. I get to a point where the tiredness, pressure and thoughts (that have come up time and time again, every time I do microscope work) mix like an emotional cocktail recipe, getting ready to set off a nuclear explosion inside my head. And they do. So I get up, still composed, and silently slip out into the cantine to charge my international calls to call mum. Not long later I finally get contact with her and it doesn’t take long before I feel the crack in my voice and I have to take myself outside, away from people, to let out the inevitable tears. Mum couldn’t do much than just listen to my wail in panic, frustration and disheartened thoughts, but eventually she calmed me down to a level where I could be convinced a meeting with my Advisor would be a good idea.

The rest of the day was a slow blur, of trying to keep myself from thinking about my troubles and welling up in tears. My dear friend Shawnee could tell I was in angst and took me for a walk around the lake to have a good chat and get some fresh air in our lunch break, followed by a nice lunch with yummies from cafe direct (Ziggies now apparently, but I hate that name) and the shop. After my final class I zombied home to the house, crawled into bed and cocooned myself into my blankets. Emily came up on my request and I told her about my day, which of course made the tears start flowing again. She gave me lots of loving support, hugs and a chocolate bar and told me to rest for the rest of the evening. So I did, watching some mock the week with 4 chicken wins and chips take away.

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