Given the last few months of feverish, 2000-word-a-day thesis-writing, I was expecting some sort of dramatic, devastating crash after handing in last week; something involving, I imagined, sleeping for several days straight and/or losing myself in long bouts of leisure-reading and Rock Band–playing. What has actually happened, though, is completely different — and a lot worse.
For a start, the come-down wasn’t nearly as abrupt as I’d expected: the thesis itself was “submittable” a day or two before the deadline, so the home stretch was slightly less frantic than it might have been otherwise; and then, after I handed in last Tuesday, I still had a week of fellowship application–writing to do, plus the inevitable frenzy of Thanksgiving. All the stress, therefore, ended in more of a gradual trailing-off than a precipitous drop, and didn’t really hit me with its full force until Sunday.
And then, rather than hours of deep, grateful rest, I started sleeping worse, plagued by headaches and long, vivid dreams, filled with people and events from the last few months — as if my brain, after focusing on thesis-writing for so long, was finally dredging through a cluttered backlog of unprocessed thoughts.
So that’s been bad enough; what’s really been bugging me, though, is that if my brain seems to working overtime at night, it has checked out completely during the day. I can’t concentrate on anything, can’t read a newspaper article from start to finish, and find myself constantly struggling for the right word, and losing my train of thought mid-sentence, and unable to write even the simplest of parallel constructions. Even this blog entry is like pulling teeth.
In short, it really does feel like a come-down — like the numerous sugar crashes and caffeine withdrawals I’ve had over the years, only two days long now and counting — and I wonder, given the well-documented effects of chemicals on focus, what sort of crazy endorphins my brain has been flooding itself with over the last few weeks to get me through the semester. Even more worrying: is the way I feel now — this sluggish, stumbling, grogginess — the way I always used to feel? Will I get used to it again once I’m through the cold-turkey phase? Do I want to get used to it? (I mean, yeah, it’s nice not to feel so stressed out, and I’m sure my blood pressure has dropped significantly in the last week, but I think I’d rather be able to blog without feeling like I’m reading Derrida.) Does intensive writing beget focus, rather than the other way around?
Anyway. If anybody else has ever had a similar experience, please let me know so that I can stop worrying. In the meantime, I’m going to go stare vacantly at the wall.