Wanting to Belong

Wanting to Belong

This.

Also, the photos are of where I live.

I’m shifting away from my desire to be a neuropsychologist. As I read more about addiction and mental health through my studies, and especially Dennis Cardiff’s amazing blog, I am increasingly drawn to this area of work. There aren’t many visible homeless people in Dunedin (there, I’ll stop being coy, I live in Dunedin NZ, ok? You still don’t know my address, right?) but according to another Otago Uni student they’re out there.

I stopped being scared of ‘crazy’ people in phases, partly chatting with a schizophrenic who would often come into the bookshop where I was on the counter, partly working with a client with a TBI at an activities centre for adults with disabilities (I was a music tutor), and partly getting to know some of the regulars who would pop in to the Hospital Chapel for a cuppa (I was the administrator). Now I’m itching to get back to working with the ‘crazies’, in a more directly useful capacity, but in the mean time I plan to use some of my free time next year (hey, I’m only writing a thesis, right? That’ll be easy compared to doing papers! Yes? Right?) to help out a bit at the local free health clinic. I think they need drivers at the moment.

By the way, please be assured that I do not think of the people I mentioned above, whom I know and chat with, as ‘crazies’. I think of them as people, and I know the things they care about and are interested in, and talk about those things. I use the word affectionately as a convenient way of describing the unconventional folks who are familiar figures walking the streets of Dunedin (my twin brother may be classed as one by the people who don’t know him but recognise him by his beard, hat and bare feet, and who is not at all crazy) and who have become part of the background of my life.

Small things in the middle of big things

I quit working with my Research Proposal introduction half finished today (my supervisor wanted a draft to review over the weekend) and walked out into glorious sunshine and the scent of spring flowers. I came home, played Piggy in the Middle with the kids, did some puzzles in the sun, made poached eggs with fresh garden herbs for tea and had a bath with my daughter, and once she’d got out, with a book. Now I’m settling into one of my more productive writing times of day. Hopefully it’ll actually be productive, but even if it isn’t, I’ve got one paragraph written that I didn’t have this afternoon, and a week more to do the rest of the thing.

This is a more pleasant way to think than ohshitohshitohshit I still have the introduction and methodology background and ethics and method and potential results to write and then there are exams in less than two weeks that i haven’t even started studying for and half the washing is still damp and next week both boys have to be at different places at different times of the day and i have classes and andandandandandwhydontijustgiveupsleeping.

So I’m not thinking like that. I’m listening to this. And as soon as I post this I’ll check Twitter one more time then turn it off and see if I can chip the next few sentences into shape.

I’m getting there, and it feels good to be actually working really really hard and proud of my progress.

Studying for exams. And writing a research proposal.

NOT.

You know that moment in George of the Jungle, where Ursula’s mother says “oh God”?

That’s what my brain said when I went to open YET ANOTHER research methods .pdf. I swear it would have been audible to an outside observer, even though my lips and vocal cords did not move.

Like the time I was talking to someone and watching his lips and my brain suddenly yelled, “God you’re beautiful!” so loudly I was amazed the man I was talking to didn’t hear it. I then blundered away, trying the wrong door to get out, you know the kind of thing.

Anyway.

I am at that moment, like when you’ve been on a long tramp or a long stay in hospital, when you’re about three quarters or more of the way there and the end is almost in sight and you’ve STILL GOT SO FAR TO GO and you STILL have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, or one word after another, or have yet another dinner of reconstituted egg quiche and wobbly pudding and another blood test. 

I’m having bad dreams of conflict with my husband and weird concatenations of the TV I’ve been watching and my studies and the news, although that may have more to do with the warmer Spring weather combined with winter-weight bedding.

I am not tired of psychology, or brains. I’m tired of assessment, of having tasks set for me by others, which have nothing to do with the needs of real people. Writing pages and pages and pages which in the end will only be thrown away. I want to be writing reports which doctors and patients and families will read and which will help them and make their lives a little better, a little more understandable, make sense of the past in the present, give hope for the future.

I want that so bad I can taste it. (Kind of metallic, as my throat tightens and I carefully don’t cry.)

Unfortunately my coping strategies are not all that great. But I’ll come through, I always do. I’ll probably get As. It’s just the getting there that’s a pain in the ass. I may be here a bit more often in the next month, to try and get the conversational writing out of my system so I can settle to the dry academic style where I have to. I do get in minor trouble for being too informal sometimes.

Anyway, I better go, I have to take the cat to the vet and then pick the kids up from school. See you all again the next time a paper makes me scream.

The best medicine

Nervous Systems Plasticity-induced boredom and screaming heebie-jeebies is much alleviated by conversations like this:

[1:58:07 p.m.] Anna : Think I’ll suggest morphine, not heroin, since there’s a lot more research about it
[1:58:27 p.m.] Anna : or heron. No-one’s done research into the effect of herons on the mouse nervous system
[1:58:39 p.m.] Anna : i mis-typed it to begin with, you see
[1:58:51 p.m.] Sam : Excellent! It must be done!
[1:58:56 p.m.] Anna : i don’t think herons would be very good for them
[1:59:02 p.m. | Edited 1:59:07 p.m.] Sam : The hidden dangers of snort[h]ing heron!
[1:59:06 p.m.] Anna : they eat fish, mice aren’t very different
[1:59:16 p.m.] Anna : SNORTHING!!!!
[1:59:22 p.m.] Anna : HAHAHAHAHAAAAA
[1:59:35 p.m.] Anna : that’s when you try to snort something but you have a blocked nose and it just goes all down your shirt
[1:59:57 p.m.] Anna : <giggling aloud in the silent lab trying not to disturb other student>
[2:00:18 p.m.] Anna : Imagine having heron all down your shirt
[2:00:25 p.m.] Anna : <crying with silent laughter>
[2:00:36 p.m.] Anna : my tummy hurts now
[2:01:05 p.m.] Sam : 😀 My job here is done
[2:01:09 p.m.] Anna : Awesome
[2:01:15 p.m.] Sam : <flies off to rescue some other poor soul>

Getting the cogs grinding

I woke up this morning at 6.30, thinking about my assignment, so I got up, grabbed my laptop and did an hour’s work on it.  This has never happened before.

You may notice the effect of my current glut of assignments on my punctuation: double spaces after full stops were requested so now I’m doing them everywhere.  I correct myself on Twitter but otherwise, meh.  Whatever.  It looks right when your paragraph is double spaced, somehow. Otherwise, it kind of gives the impression that you’re hyperventilating.  TOO…MUCH…BREATH……

I’m writing a blog post now because I am at the point in my Annotated Bibliography where I have a conclusion to write, probably looking at about five pages, and I have an outline with stuff to hang on it and my mind is blanking out.  This may be because it is 3.30 pm and I have already spent three hours writing, one and a half hours in class (I bailed before the student presentations) and at least half an hour wrestling with Word and EndNote.  I’m hoping that blogging will unstick the old word machine and get that vocabulary flowing juicily.

How does WordPress’s editor think “unstick” is not a word?  Bizarre.

You may also notice the odd sentence written in the passive voice.  I do my best to avoid it, but it’s hard in academia.  I swear some articles I’ve read were written entirely in the passive voice.  Which makes me want to turn on the ‘read aloud’ function on Adobe Reader because they just sound like a robot wrote them, and it seems appropriate that they should be read in a mechanical emotionless voice.

This is one of the things I like about interpretative phenomenological analysis, which is the style of qualitative research I am planning for my own thesis.  You actually get to hear real people speak.  I will record my conversations with my participants, and my data will be the transcripts of those conversations.  I will use quotes instead of graphs.  I will let the people I’m studying speak for themselves.  I can’t wait.

But in the meantime there are conclusions to write based on summaries of articles and the stuff I’m meant to have learnt in class about levels of intervention and public health perspectives and what-not.  And then there’s the research proposal for next week, for a topic I only vaguely understand.  I’ve never designed or run a lab experiment in my life.  This may be ridiculous.  

I’m quite good at faking it, though.  Wish me luck.

Trucking on

I have two pages written. Six more, plus abstract to go. By Friday morning. I have all of tomorrow, if I wag class, which I plan to do, and the rest of this evening.

I’m exhausted.

Can I afford to stop? I don’t know. Can I afford not to stop? Probably.

See you on the other side.

Deep brain stimulation

It’s another week like that one in first semester – I have four assignments due within the space of nine days. The first was last week, on Wednesday afternoon. I gave a presentation on my thesis, which I have barely begun. The thesis preparation paper is worth twice as much as each of my other four papers, and this presentation was worth 20% of the paper. It was three minutes long, I had two slides, and I bloody* nailed it.

I am totally entering the three-minute-thesis competition next year. I’m really good at and enjoy public speaking. That makes me rare.

I managed to swot up all the last four drugs lectures yesterday for tomorrow’s test, including required readings, and I’ve watched the DVD that everyone else got to watch one evening but I couldn’t because I had the soccer practice drop-off to do so I borrowed it off the lecturer and watched it in the weekend.

That sentence needs rewriting.

Now I’m (well, not now, but most of this afternoon) working on my presentation for Wednesday, which is on deep brain stimulation for various conditions. Would you have electrodes planted in your brain to improve your memory? If it were guaranteed safe and painless? How about to cure depression? It’s a fascinating and slightly weird field. This is probably the first time I’ve found studying for this Nervous Systems Plasticity paper anything approaching enjoyable. Sad but true.

And then there’s the essay due on Friday. So I need to get the presentation out of the way today or tomorrow at the latest… The essay is on Internet support groups so it’s kind of fun but I have to be careful not to be too personal, as we have a different lecturer from the super-reflexive-qualitative G who taught us first semester. The new one is equally nice but much more ordinary-science-y. I like G. I’m an Arts student at heart… the MSc is just to look more impressive if I decide I do want to continue with neuropsych. I’m not 100% sure about that at the moment.

Although, being a kiwi, I must be 100% pure … something. Any ideas?

*Pardon my French.**

**Reply if you get the reference.