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Emotions taking me over...

Hi all,

Over the last two weeks I have been through a whole range of emotions. From fear, doubt, anxiety, a pseudo feeling of calm, back to more anxiety, stress, having a breakdown, more stress and finally happiness. Let me put this all into perspective...

As you may know I am doing a PhD, and as part of that I have to complete a viva, which is an exam where you are judged on your work and have to defend the decisions you have made. I knew that the date was approaching and decided two weeks before to start preparation. I went through all my work and found that I had a lot to catch up on, re-read and memorise. It was overwhelming to say the least. I started by making a presentation of my work and when doing this I realised that I had lost the fundamental principles of my work. I needed to revise and revise hard. Thats when the stress started to kick in. I was fine for a few days but as the date approached I was getting even more stressed. I couldn't shake the feeling that I would enter the room and immediately be put under a spotlight and interrogated for my work and decisions. It also dawned further on me that my background in health sciences was not going to help me with the engineering PhD I was doing. So I got scared that the examiners would see me a fraud and immediately give me a hard time for it. I had done my work, been through all the stages but felt I didn't really understand it all.

I asked my supervisor for a meeting to have a mock viva. To go through questions and help me to form answers. This was going to help me put things into perspective and clear the haze I was feeling about my work. He agreed and set a date for the meeting 4 days before my actual viva. This is closer than I wanted but I took what I could get. The day arrived for my mock, but he didn't ask me any questions! It was only an hour meeting, typical viva's are around 2-4 hours, and he just went through my presentation. When I asked about questions, he tried to re-assure me that I knew my work and I would be fine. But this offered no comfort, I was more scared than normal.

I cam home that night and sent him an email that I was scared and really wanted to go through questions. Thats when the stress and anxiety got too much for me and I broke down! Literally bawling my eyes out, unable to breathe and tears streaming down my face. My parents had never seen me this scared for an exam before. They sat me down and calmed me down as much as they could. I feel bad for making them scared, but it was too overwhelming. Even though my friends who have been through this before told me that it would be fine, I was still scared to my core.

Thankfully I had a meeting the following day and this helped me a lot. We went through questions and I clarified a lot of things I was mis-interpreting of my work. My friend V also helped me, and for that I could never thank him enough. I felt really good, but still scared. The next two days were just me flipping from being scared to being ok, then being scared again. I tried to revise as hard as I could and tried to remember as much as I could.

The morning of the viva came. I was still anxious, as you normally are for an exam. But this was the most important exam in my life. I tried to stay calm, ironed my shirt and put on my suit. I calmly went into university and arrived 3 hours early for the exam (I wasn't taking any chances!). I walked into my office and felt calm as people were offering me good wishes. At this point I was tired of the anxiety and just wanted to let go. The exam time came. I got into the room and said hello to my examiners. I knew the internal examiner, we are friends, but that means nothing when it comes to critical analysis of your work. The external examiner seemed nice but appearances can be deceiving. I started my presentation, and luckily the first slide was about myself, so  I cracked a joke and immediately my mood changed. I was dynamic, passionate about my work and came alive. The feelings of despair, anxiety and everything disappeared. The external examiner loved my health sciences background and couldn't stop asking me questions about it! I was answering all the questions, and actually being harsher on my work than they were. It was a wonderful experience. I passed!

For the rest of the evening I was elated! Finally after all this work and all these years I had passed and proven myself. Im still feeling the high today, my exam was yesterday. Honestly I can't describe this feeling, its so good! I feel like I can do anything! I fell like I have more confidence! I want this feeling to be with me forever! I will keep it up as much as possible. It has given me the confidence to be myself, and feel like I need to tell my sister who I am. This will definitely happen in the next two weeks as I still ride this feeling of achievement.

Also its the best birthday present ever as my birthday is coming up. I've upgraded myself! now lets upgrade the rest of my life!

Here's to the new confident me,

Dr A ;)

x

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