Self-inflicted illness (not alcohol related) – week 59

PhD Life

I have missed a week for the first time in my blogging career. I missed week fifty-nine. Although, since I have been ahead of the game by three months, no one will ever notice.

The reason I did not write anything last week was that I was sick. I had a fever for about a week, and to top it off I have a blocked ear. Because I don’t have a normal job, I couldn’t have any days off and had to go in and keep my experiments running. Although, I did manage to watch the entirety of series 7 of Game of Thrones in my downtime.


This was my first illness of 2018, and I am pretty sure I did it to myself. Basically, I was culturing some bacteria in the lab and was quite careless of how I disposed of them It was either that, or I caught it from a colleague.

Another reason as to why I could not take time off was that I had to give a talk to the entire department about my research.

One of the ways I deal with nerves for presentations is to over prepare. Where most of my colleagues would spend maybe a few hours preparing for a presentation, I spent a couple of days. In the end, when I gave the speech, to maybe 100 or so people, I wasn’t that nervous, because I was well prepared.

Normally I like to practice my talks until I know exactly what I am going to say, but this time I decided to practice it only a couple of times. Mainly, because I was ill and it was roughly thirty-minutes long, but also because it is not an efficient use of your time to rehearse talks until you can do it word-for-word each time. Perhaps if you have a ten-minute speech or less it is worth it, but anything longer I think it is best to just partially wing it.

Interestingly the size of the audience didn’t affect me, it was of a size where it was large enough to fill my vision. The audience just blended into one and I couldn’t really tell who was who, so I was kind of detached from them, it was a strange experience. I wonder if others out there have had this? I would have thought my nerves would have scaled with the size of the audience, but this did not seem to be the case.

I think I am going to allow myself two-weeks off at Christmas, one week of doing absolutely nothing and one week of working from home. Hopefully, it will renew my enthusiasm for the project as it has been fleeting for the last couple of months.

If you view certain phenomena in life as a graph, as I do, I am currently on a downward trend. This isn’t a problem, we expect ups and downs. It only becomes a problem when the new lower level of whatever phenomena becomes the new normal. I sometimes wonder this when I am ill, have I got better, or have I just accepted a new lower standard of living.

Of course, it is absurd, and I am sure 99% of the time the answer is, I have got better. But there is always that bit of doubt. Otherwise, as we age, we should surely get more and more unhappy due to the accumulation of illness that It is all downhill from the age of twenty. This does not seem to be the case.

Author: Louis

Spend less than you earn, Invest the surplus, avoid debt. Eat food, not too much, mostly plants

10 thoughts on “Self-inflicted illness (not alcohol related) – week 59”

  1. Don’t worry – I’m in my fifties and I don’t get any more ill than I did when I was a Ph.D. student (I almost certainly eat better and exercise more regularly and don’t drink as much, so that helps, though I suspect I have good genes too). I think it’s also the case that you don’t have nearly as many things to think about now as you will when you’re older (do you feel patronised yet?) I know it was true for me. I remember thinking, ‘Christ, is it only Tuesday?. Now I think, ‘How the hell is it Friday already?’ But well done on your talk. I think the most important thing – and I learned it as I went along – is to engage with your audience, which you can only do if you’re not eye-deep in your text all the time. But you seem to know that already – there are many lecturers out there who never do!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Louis, There are some real gems for those who freak out if they have to speak to a crowd, class, co-workers, etc. To my mind, preparation is everything. “success occurs when opportunity meets preparation.” Be prepared,. be successful. Good post.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Sometimes pollen reactions produces similar symptoms. Might want to check the pollen count, especially if a similar “infection” happens about the same time each year.

    (I remember the first time I heard it. I became rather irritable. But, in hindsight, the person making the suggestion was correct.)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. While I do believe there is such a thing as “over-preparing” when getting ready for a talk, it doesn’t sound like that’s what you did. Instead, you prepared in a way that makes *you* the most comfortable. And that is the right way to do it, in my mind. When I was working I would prepare for talks the same way: for several days. I never memorized my talks, but always wanted to know the points I needed to make, and think about different ways to make them. This would help me be less stressed and way more prepared than many co-workers. Good for you.

    Liked by 2 people

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