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Hello blog. I’ve missed you. I shut you down for a few reasons. Stubbornness. Neuroticism. Confusion. A weird desire to prove to myself how strong I am because I don’t need a blog, I don’t need to talk, I don’t need to tell anyone anything. I don’t want to be boxed up and labelled, I don’t want to be watched.

Everything in that paragraph still stands. But what I have lost over the last few weeks is perspective. Possibly the biggest reason I have kept blogging over the years is because it helps me to get things out in writing and this is the place I feel most comfortable. I’ve tried new blogs but they don’t last. 😉 Feels like I’m cheating on Narky. I’ve tried writing in notebooks but they get chucked in the bin. And if I just stop altogether, as I have done recently, all my thoughts stay locked up inside my head. I start to write and then tell myself off for being weak, but tonight I’ve decided to creep back, at least temporarily.

Work is stressful, too stressful. I’m incredibly nervous all the time. I have so much to do and it’s such a responsible job, I’m terrified all the time that I’m going to fuck it up, that I may have already fucked it up and I don’t know about it because my memory is so terrible. I have lists and colour codes and notes to myself and filing systems and I’m still just teetering on a knife edge. I go through my lists over and over again, back through my email archives, constantly trying to remember everything I have to do, every question I’ve been asked, every problem that needs to be fixed. I’ve been out of the office for two days and my inbox is overflowing. This is scary, it’s really, really scary. I’m a grown up now, or at least I’m in a grown up job and trying to pretend I belong here.

Oh, and I got my degree yesterday. I was bricking it and trying to pretend I wasn’t. I spend a lot of my time pretending. Might as well be honest here at least. I have brutally high expectations of myself. I wanted a distinction and I didn’t get it. I have had some really bloody good grades throughout the MA and I wanted that from the dissertation too. So did my supervisor – he told me that the dissertation is the pinnacle of the MA and I should be getting a better grade than any I’ve had before. Well, I got 8% less than my best grade.

Let me be clear. I got a good grade. I got a solid, relatively high merit. That is a grade to be proud of. And lots of people hate people like me – I get a good grade and I’m unhappy with it. Whatever. It’s not really true, you know. I am so proud of myself just for doing that MA. Islamic Studies, mostly working in ancient Arabic. I’ve just completed an exceptionally difficult degree. I pushed and pushed and pushed. I was ill during a lot of it. I was off work for part of it, only narrowly avoiding hospital. I’ve been on a lot of different drugs, which have fucked with my cognitive abilities. Apart from my first year when I spent a couple of months in and out of my psychiatrist’s office, I’ve worked full time alongside studying. I’ve given up almost all of my holiday allowance from work. This summer I allowed myself to go camping with hubby for four days but worked on the dissertation every morning. That’s it. I gave my time, energy and heart to this degree. It was absolutely worth it. I love studying.

For so long I have placed my identity in academia. I’m a bumbling idiot. I drop things, talk too loudly, talk too fast, swear too much, spend almost all my time with my foot in my mouth. But studying, I can do that. I can be good at that. If I had got a distinction for the dissertation maybe I could have used that as some sort of warm fire to shield me when I next put my foot in my mouth. Weird logic, but there you go.

My hubby and family are very proud of me. 🙂 My colleagues and friends are very proud of me. It’s good to know that other people do not hold me to the same expectations I hold myself to. But isn’t it daft that one negative comment can decimate you no matter how many positive ones you get? One of my bosses was a bit cruel today. He’s an academic and made it clear in a very backhanded way that a merit doesn’t mean very much to him. It is hard to convince myself that I have every right to feel proud of what I’ve accomplished, when now I have an image in my head of a bored academic reading my PhD proposal, sighing as he accepts me because there’s nothing wrong with my application or my grades but knowing that my research is perfectly forgettable and he’s only really thinking about my tuition fees. Images are powerful, the images we hold of ourselves, the images constantly playing around our heads, internal recordings, narrating our lives unbidden.

That’s why I’m blogging tonight. The little girl who was scared of everything has been following me around for weeks pointing out all the things to be afraid of. It’s doing my nut in, to be honest. I’m wound up, stressed and anxious. I’ve also been coming off the Lamotrigine. I told only hubby about it, and last weekend one other friend. Nobody else knows (until now, of course). I’ve cut down to a quarter of the dose I was on. I think I’m doing well. I’m not having mood swings, I’m just having me swings. I am me and I don’t need medication to help with that. I need to know, I need to not pop a pill every day and tell myself that I’ve done my bit, I need to not look at myself and see a diagnosis. Now is as good a time as any. What I see now is not a diagnosis, it’s a termperamental scaredy cat who snarls sometimes.

I’m going to end this post on something really lovely. I attended an event at a different university today, which involved nearly six hours travelling. During the morning’s travel I saw an email from mean boss which cut into whatever fragile pride I was feeling, I came on my period unexpectedly, had to throw my knickers away (aren’t you glad you read this now?), I sat through a day with awful period pain, managed not to cry, then saw an angry email from someone complaining because I haven’t done exactly what he wants, copying in a bunch of other people, I developed chest pain from acute anxiety and that lasted a few hours, noted down lots of development ideas for my job, talked to people I don’t know and finally came home to realise I have over 50 unread emails to deal with tomorrow, most of which are about things that have gone wrong.

Where’s the lovely bit?

An old friend of my mum’s, someone who has known me since I was a little baby, who knew me when I was scared of everything and was worried I wouldn’t be able to cope with school, today proudly told an academic friend of hers that I just got my degree with merit. Her friend said I must go for my PhD. I completely burst into tears. People who have known me since I was wee are telling their friends about me because they’re so proud of me. And not all academics are disparaging. So I feel bigger, straighter tonight. I’ve done well. Scaredy cat girl can fuck off and sit in a corner facing the wall for a while because I have now got two degrees and if I can scrape enough money together I will do another one and become Dr Narky McNark. So there. 😛

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