I'm a dissertating graduate student who, due to a whole host of factors over the course of a few years, has basically forgotten how to work. I spend days upon days at home, sometimes doing things and sometimes just hanging out, but the things I do are rarely dissertation-related (or they could be broadly work related, but aren't note-taking or actually writing the thing). As a result I have no dissertation progress to speak of, very limited levels of committee support remaining, and a bleak outlook. I used to be a real go-getter. Please help me get my head and ass wired together.
Since I'm posting this anonymously (just because I don't want this linked to my profile - I'm concerned about posting anything relating to professional problems on the internet), I'll try to give as many details as possible in the hopes that I don't need to follow up. It is entirely possible that you could just skip this entire extended explanation, though, and give me a whack upside the head instead based on my above-the-fold question.
I'm a single female, living alone in an urban area in the United States. I'm years into my social science dissertation and have just run out of funding. Before I started dissertating I had earned a BA and MA in my field and completed three years of very successful coursework, fieldwork, and exams in my program. My department was pleased with me. I, too, was pleased with me. I proposed a dissertation on a topic that really interested me but was a risk - it requires me to bring a new perspective to a very old and dusty topic with entrenched scholars who don't react kindly to outsiders. No one on my faculty is a part of this subfield, nor did I have any direct connections to people within this subfield when I started. My vision was that my committee would help me figure out introductions, guide me in learning how to make useful connections, and generally mentor me as a fledgling scholar. Instead, I got no guidance at all - my supervisor and I didn't even meet about my work for two years. I admit this was not in my own best interest and I should have been more circumspect and assertive at the time, but I was freaking out about this huge project I'd taken on and that I had no clue how to approach, so I avoided dealing with it. In the past year any meeting I've had with my supervisor has been... less than helpful. Her suggestions often aren't very useful, she has limited knowledge of my subject area so she can't help me with specific issues, and she thinks now that because I've been unproductive for so long, the only avenue for her is to be hard on me - the opposite of what I need, but that's not been a fact I've been able to convince her of. I have considered switching supervisor but I don't believe I have another option that would be assuredly positive enough to allow for the politics involved in this kind of change. My other committee members are distant and I don't really understand what I can and cannot use them for, as I've never had the opportunity to learn the politics of a dissertation committee. My second reader, who I've always had a very good relationship with, all of a sudden expressed extreme distress at my lack of progress in a way that makes me think I can no longer go to him. So I feel I am still completely on my own. All in all, though, I feel I should be able to handle this - I am far from the first, last, or only grad student to not have their ideal supervisor, and I'm capable of figuring out most of what I need to as I dissertate, if I could just *do* that and dissertate.
Compounding all of this is that I am dealing with a chronic health condition that predates my dissertation. I am tired all of the time, and I generally cannot focus on the level of detail and analysis that dissertation work requires. I've been to a series of doctors who have come to no conclusions. One specialist wants me to go to a sleep clinic to evaluate if my brain waves do/don't do something during sleep that prevents me from fully recharging, but I don't have much hope that this is the answer when everything else has lead to naught. This same doctor put me on a two-month course of an SSRI earlier this year. I felt a little bit different but overall not much - I felt a little weird (kind of buzzy?) and a bit more productive & proactive, which I attribute to the extra serotonin, but I still didn't have any more energy. If I had to describe it, if my problem is a 6.5 on a scale of 1-10, the SSRI made the problem a 6. While I will cop to feeling depressed, it is because I feel like I've lost control of my life, which is something that postdates the constant fatigue and is a direct result of it, not the other way around. When the fatigue first hit things were great, I felt positive and happy, and I was working hard but not too hard - then one day I felt like I needed a nap all day long and that's been my baseline ever since, regardless of diet, environment, life circumstances, and medication status. I suddenly had 30% of my old energy, and in the succeeding 4 years, everything in my life has suffered because of it.
Even if I am only at 30%, though, I can still do 30% of work, which right now would be an increase from about zero, but with all of the crap that's gone on in the past few years and the fact that my dissertation has never really properly started, I am stuck in ennui and am not sure what to do. When I have a deadline I put off work until it is the very, very, very last minute and then I work to completion, but not efficiently and with a LOT of internal whinging. I think the past few years of not working have basically spoiled me - I'm now used to just hanging out, so of course doing hard work sucks. I cannot tell if I just need motivation or a clear, step-by-step plan to get into the habit of working again, or what, but I am really stuck and hope MeFi can help me figure this out.
I should add that I don't have a great workspace. I no longer feel I can go to my department cubicle without feeling extreme shame. Home is wonderful but full of distractions. There is a nearby library I may start going to, but so far I haven't gotten off my ass to go there.
For what it is worth, I know a lot of my current situation has to do with feeling bad about my life, and I am dealing with that directly. I do a lot of journaling and meditating to assess what is going on in my head and heart, so please know that is an ongoing, and very positive process. I am also reading things along the lines of 99u.com, lifehacker, and Die Empty.
Please know my diet is clean, but also that no dietary change has ever lead to any difference in feeling, so please no attributions to gluten, vel. sim. I've also moved twice and lived in different countries since this happened, so it's not mold, allergies, etc etc. There is no indication I have any sleep disorder such as sleep apnea. My doctors and I have ruled out several different types of cancer. Etc etc etc. At this stage I think I am past trying to figure out the physical problem and need to just deal with managing it, but how to do this isn't clear to me.
In sum, please help me figure out how to pull myself back up by my bootstraps. I have to support myself and instead I'm watching my entire career crumble. I do, in fact, love what I do, but I've lost the plot and need to find it again, ASAP.