A blog advocating autism through my own personal experiences and insights.

Posts tagged ‘GraduateSchool’

The Road to Success

It’s now one month into my second term of graduate school and so far everything sounds really promising. I’m getting great marks on all my assignments with a lot less stress than last term, I’m getting in some writing, learning how to relax, and best of all my social life is increasing little by little.

How is everything working out so well? Well, again, it has to do with pain and the misery I felt last time when everything seemed to be working against me. I think I’ve really transferred that pain and misery to my advantage, which is why everything is working out. For example, in my last post, I pointed out that the aftermath in last term included an increased feeling of sexual frustration because the work last term really sucked any chance of a social life right out of me. I’d like to share some of the strategies I’ve used to get everything back on track.

Two of these actually came from a psychologist I saw because of the stress I’d endured last term. He asked me what really contributed to the misery and I told him that because the work had completely overwhelmed me, other areas of my life that I thought were important, for example writing and a social life, weren’t really pursued at. What he suggested I do then if I really wanted to pursue them was to build a schedule. Also, because my math, writing, and a social life were very diverse interests, he also suggested that I try limiting the time I spend on each one to make none of them overwhelmed the others. For example, I decided that I would spend a maximum of two hours on my writing per day (which includes my novel and this blog I’m writing now). So far that suggestion has worked out nicely. Putting such a limit on it has helped me keep its importance in perspective. Mind you, I certainly couldn’t live without it given that my passion for it is so high and I’ll certainly see about finding even more time for it in the future, but for now when I’m still young trying to adjust to everything around me at most two hours per day is certainly sufficient.

As a result of my scheduling my time, I’ve become more productive. Mind you, I rarely stick with the schedule down to the half-hour time slots within it (unlike a lot of autistics who I know would be very uncomfortable about not doing so), but it keeps everything in my life in check.

The other thing that the psychologist suggested is a relaxation CD suggested one that would probably help me Feeling Deep by Eli Bay. I got it off amazon and am now getting into a regular routine of playing it. It works so nicely. It really made me help me cool down. I sit or lay down and imagine things happening with my body that are making it relax.

And finally the social life. It’s getting better bit by bit. I asked a fellow math student to hang out at the grad house, which we did last week, as well as go play pool with a few other grad students. And I now have plans to have supper at the grad house with another math student tomorrow. I even joined a dating website as another avenue for talking to girls. And I’ve talked to a few on there. And all because I took action.

What can I say? It’s been one heck of a crazy year. I certainly hope it keeps up!

Freedom

Well, it’s been almost two months since my last posting. Sorry for not keeping up, but there was a good reason for it. It’s actually a continuation of what I described in my last posting, that is the difficulty I’ve had in adapting to the high demands of graduate school in pure math at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario. I hope everyone had or is having a great holiday so Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays (whatever your celebrate) and an early Happy New Year. I’m certainly looking forward to it and I hope you are too.

As I said in my last post, I’ve had difficulty adjusting to grad school. That was early November. A lot has conspired since then, but the basic story is that the demands just got so big that I found that I couldn’t follow the conventional plan for their graduate students anymore. No, I haven’t dropped out. I’ve just made adjustments. Like making accomodations for my autism (without accommodating myself too much, of course!). Anyway, here’s the story.

I continued finding the course work for my masters incredibly difficult to complete. I raised the number of hours I worked on to try to not get behind so much. Instead of working 50 hours/week (although I ended up putting in a lot of extra hours because of the difficulty of the assignments), I bumped it up to 60 hours/week. This worked fine for about a week or two, but nearing the end of classes, I still found this not enough. I raised it high still to 70 hours. When classes were over, however, I knew something had to change. The last math assignment I was given was extraordinarily tough and what eventually happened was that I pulled an all-nighter working in an empty classroom with another student on it. While I still got it done in time (to the best of my ability), I knew something had to change. I actually felt that my joy in math was being sucked out of me.

At the end of classes, I ended up talking with a bunch of people, including the admins of the pure math dept. as well as the graduate officer. We decided that a full load of three math courses was too much for me and so in the winter term I could take only two math courses and still maintain my standing, as well as extend my masters into next fall. I also got my functional analysis exam moved until the first week of January so I wouldn’t have to concentrate so much on the few days right before the holidays.

Then the unthinkable happened. I blew my algebraic number theory exam. I had 59/60 in the course going into the exam and the exam was worth 40%, but I really blanked out on it and couldn’t answer any of the questions. I spent a lot of time preparing for the exam so it wasn’t because of lack of preparation so much as stress and high levels of anxiety that I’ve been experiencing all semester because of the workload. Thankfully, I’ve got some medicine to help with it and am planning on seeing a psychotherapist when I get back to waterloo.

I talked to Dad a lot about my problems and we agreed that there was a bit of a knowledge gap between what acadia taught me and what waterloo expects me to know. I didn’t mention this in my previous post, but I found I had to catch up on a lot of material as well, material that I was supposed to know in order to take the courses I was taking. And let me tell you. Playing catch-up isn’t fun. It’s stressful (although I’m an easily stressed out person) and tiring. It caused me to fall behind. I got uncomfortable at learning material at such an unnaturally hurried pace. And the suggestions that I got from professors of reading further textbooks and sitting in on undergraduate courses WHILE trying to stay on top of the graduate courses were of little use. I love math, but I do actually like having time of actually appreciating what I’m learning and that only happens if I can take my time with it. So after calling the pure math dept. we found what looked like a good solution. I would be put into a probationary period in my masters so that I could focus on taking a couple of undergrad courses in the winter and then a couple more in the spring with a TA in both terms. Of course, I’ve had to suspend my scholarship, but at this point, it really doesn’t matter to me. The plan is to resume everything next fall with it. And as well as the couple of undergrad courses they’re letting me take this winter, they also let me try a graduate course on top of it (the course is on logic and is one of the lower-level grad courses so I’m hoping it doesn’t cause me too much trouble not to mention I love logic!)

So what has all this come too? Right before coming home I was getting some textbooks to help with my studying for my functional analysis exam when I had an epiphany. I had never gotten closer to rock-bottom with math than this term. I failed miserably on both the one test and the one exam I had and the work was tougher that what I had ever experienced before. And one thing in particular that it has helped me with is getting rid of my perfectionism. Instead of worrying that wouldn’t get A+’s in my math courses like I did at Acadia, my worry turned to whether or not I would even get my degree. I cast aside my obsession with achieving top marks because I was past caring about them.

It also enabled me to look at myself in a more realistic way. I’m human and am prone to making mistakes in all areas of my live. Not just some areas, but all, including math. Not being the top math student anymore meant I had nothing to hide myself behind. My difficulty with math this term exposed my weaker self. I had nothing to hold onto to show how great I was. And hey if I’m allowed to be imperfect with math, then I must be allowed to be imperfect in all ways in my life. So overall, my first term in grad school didn’t just get rid of academic perfectionism, but I think it helped with my overall perfectionism in my life. I know myself a lot better as a result and am not going to pretend to be anything more than who I really am. I can easily make more free time for myself instead of simply letting math take over. I can accommodate what I’m truly interested in (while still pulling down descent marks in my courses!), such as writing fiction (a passion that has really grown).

I truly feel I was set free.