The Fear

It’s nighttime. It’s here again. That hard, swirling knot in my chest, tying itself up and up again in endless ways, and me along with it.

The panic, the fear, the guilt. Panic of so much to do. Fearing it won’t, it can’t get done. The guilt at not having done more already.

It hurts, almost. I retreat into my head, trapped in an endless cycle of fear, forceful calm, then hopelessness. My heart is beating fast.

How do you stop it? What makes it go away? I’ve felt it before, many times, but I can’t remember just how and why it ends. I’ve a terrible feeling it’s just… Giving in. Stopping caring so much. How many times can I give in a little and let go, stop worrying, and still produce worthwhile work? How many times can this happen before I give up?

Reading this over in the cold light of day, it seems so dramatic. It’s just a PhD, just a thesis, just one document. How can it cause this much grief? Those who haven’t been through a PhD or similar may not understand – hell, even I don’t really understand. And those who are tough and organised and smart and confident (do these people even exist?) may not relate, either.

It’s subsided now. I feel almost silly for having felt that way, having written those words. Sort of ashamed.

But it’ll come back. And with deadlines looming, I know it’ll get worse before it gets better. I know I can hold on until the end. Push through, get it done. But will ‘it’ be enough? I guess only time will tell.

Also see: Taming Monsters & Fears of Failure 


5 thoughts on “The Fear

  1. Everyone feels this way at some point, not always about their thesis but sooner or later we all get midnight anxiety. No matter who you and how ‘motivated’ you are there are always spanners in the work that lead to 1am panic.

    When I was younger (and mostly stressed about exam results) I remember waking up my not very impressed Dad. His wise words of wisdom were “Okay, right. Can you do anything now, that would be in any way productive? No you can’t, it’s 1 am, go back to bed”

    So when I get like this I try my best to just keep telling myself that there is flip all I can do at 1am, getting up and writing or working is only going to make it worse so go back to sleep. It almost never works but at least it gives me something else to think about thought the cold sweats.

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