I have major writer's block compounded by panic, anxiety, plummeting self-worth and a whole host of problems, but I have to deliver this talk in two weeks. Snowflakey details within. Please help.
posted by starcrust to health & fitness (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Postdoc in social sciences/humanities. I don't know what's wrong with me. For some months now I've been slowly slipping into a fog of confusion, apathy, head paralysis and anxiety, I can't seem to do anything - I can't write, nothing makes sense on the page to me, I read and nothing goes in, I can't seem to remember things or make mental connections, I can't face email, I can barely get out of bed in the mornings, I'm absolutely plagued by my sense of utter worthlessness and a gripping panic that I'm wasting my valuable university appointment, and I am frequently visited by absurdly detailed fantasies of running away, jumping off a building and other acts of self-harm. I'm socially functional and interact with people sometimes, and am lucky to have a few very wonderful and supportive friends - but mostly feel like I'm acting a part most of the time - I'm sure I do it well enough that no one but a few people know how much turmoil is behind the relatively put-together exterior. But every morning when I wake up, a gigantic cloud made of all this stuff immediately descends on me, I feel like I'm basically being pressed into my bed, and everything that I have to deal with roils around in my head - it's hard to describe this, it's like the sound of static you get when there's no reception on the radio, or maybe the roar of ocean waves in your ear - but much less calming, and made of a whole load of confused thoughts, and occasionally it seems to physically hurt my head.
Background: I was dealing with anxiety a little like this earlier this year, but manage to push through it and get through to the summer, which I unfortunately also spent working on research because I felt like I couldn't really take a break - I'm already behind on all my goals. Now I feel like I'm running on empty. I'm in a postdoc program which by all counts should be a fantastic opportunity, and it's killing me that I'm handling it so poorly. It's also a program full of expectations, some of which are almost as high as my own expectations of myself.
I have to write a talk to be given in a couple of weeks. This talk is incredibly important to me, it will be in front of a lot of important professors and scholars in my field. I can't get out of this, and I have to give it. It should be on parts of my dissertation, which since completing I now think is worthless and I don't understand how I got this PhD. I've pretty much totally lost confidence in my topic and research. I've been trying for the last month to write this talk, and now I have two more weeks, and am basically nowhere. I am completely and utterly freaking out, which as you can guess is not helping me to write it. I feel like I can't find an argument to use in the talk, I keep spinning and skim-reading or going through my immense amounts of notes instead of writing, and the talk has no outline and is full of everything and nothing at the same time. I can't believe how hard it's been for me to just this, I've given talks and conference papers before. Meanwhile all these important professors are telling me how much they're looking forward to my talk. It will be the first one I give on my work as a whole to an audience at this university, and I know it's billed as informal and friendly, but given that I can barely hold a few thoughts together in my head, the very prospect of talking about this work is utterly paralyzing. I'm absolutely dreading the Q&A, and ideally I want to prepare for that too. I feel so utterly alone in my struggle, I feel like no one really understands the enormous extent to which I am not dealing with my life well at all: I feel that I have hardly read anything and barely know anything, but everyone seems to think I am amazing and have great scholarly potential and am a fantastic writer, and the amount of fraudulence I feel each day is just unbelievable.
So I guess what I need is suggestions of how you write in circumstances like this - has anyone been blocked up this severely and managed to pull through it? How can I find the will to write and prepare this talk? I feel like I do everything I can - I try to eat well, I try and do pomodoros (which sometimes turn into 25 minutes of staring at my screen), I run and try to think calm, I step away from my desk when I can't think anymore (though that's no longer useful, since I just spent three days trying to get away from the paper, sat back down today and absolutely couldn't produce anything). I really need help. I keep telling myself to snap out of it and then get angry and frustrated that I can't seem to. I need to get through the next couple of weeks and produce something, and then I'm going to take a little time off to try and get my head straight again (if it ever will) - but I really just need some coping strategies or even just some encouragement right now.