Sunday, March 30, 2008

Breakdown, meltdown, cracking up...

I had my first real stress induced breakdown of my graduate career this afternoon.  I made it through the first two terms without being reduced to a puddle of tears, but no more.  Yes, it is completely girlie to cry when you are stressed, but I am a girl - so bite me!

Since I first started school I've been working on my thesis proposal, and now that I'm facing my first grad-committee meeting (this thursday) I've been working even harder on perfecting it. Writing for long hours of the day and giving the transformations of the draft to my professor for editing (with the hopes of sending the proposal to committee members tomorrow morning.) Normally I love getting a draft back with lots of good comments and changes, I firmly believe that editing is what make writing great.  But today I received my latest draft by email with a suite of comments, and as I scrolled through them I realized it would take many hours to make these changes, many more hours than I would have to work on it tomorrow morning.  

Slowly the realization sunk in, I had to go back to work.  Normally this wouldn't bother me much, I work most days, but I had planned on spending today with my husband, going rock climbing and brewing a batch of beer.  I felt crushed, and I knew just how disappointed he would be and I lost it.  I started packing up my bag and the hot tears started rolling, frustration burned through me.  My husband didn't know how to help but offered lots of heartfelt but unhelpful advice, like refusing to make the changes and such.  Nice idea, but that just isn't how it works.  There should be a support group for spouses of graduate students.  I'm sure he was even more frustrated than I felt, being unable to do anything to help me.

Having now experienced this little meltdown, and subsequent mini-breakdowns this afternoon at my desk, I realize it was just another inevitable part of the graduate school process.  I should just be glad it didn't happen during my committee meeting.  

I'm reminded of stories one of my best friends tells me about her fellow vet-school students having breakdowns in the middle of lecture yelling at the professor and storming out.  I was shocked the first time she told me such a story and I wondered if they treated the students any different after suck a breakdown.  Her response was simply no, we all breakdown eventually and it's usually public and humiliating so we're all really supportive when it happens to a fellow vet-student.  

Totally unbelievable.  

Professional school (in her case) and graduate school (in my case) is so overwhelming at times that it is totally acceptable to have a disruptive public breakdown.  How does that make our social dynamics any different than a pre-school class?

It sounds absurd, I know, but I can't help but feel there is a little truth in it.

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