Wednesday, November 15, 2006
My medico friend told me about "third-year-itis"- a disease all third-year med students contract- when they start imagining that they're afflicted with every possible disease in the book..:)..I think I have the grad-school equivalent: sixth-year-itis. And it's quite different actually. The symptoms include feeling totally bored and demotivated by one's own work. Consequently, productivity dips to an all-time low, and all previous tricks learnt over the past five years of pulling oneself out of the slump don't work. The patient drags her feet at work, taking 3 hours to do what usually takes an hour. Getaways, distractions, scaring herself by suddenly yelling when she wasn't expecting it don't help. :-) The symptoms are exacerbated when expected results are not obtained, and all plans, back-ups, and their back-ups are falling flat on their face; either because the experiments don't work or because the results are the exact opposite of what one expected. A year ago, the same student would have taken these as a challenge and fought back to nail the blasted experiments; make them work and show them who's the boss. But a patient of sixth-year-itis is unable to mount such a defense. Instead, she resorts to wallowing in self-despair and boredom. Compounding environmental factors include mind-numbing distractions that the patient has newly discovered and takes safe recluse in; to avoid tackling the real issues. The patient seems to have resigned to her fate; the all-too-real fears of soon-to-run-out-funding and the more important need to get out of this 6 year-deep ditch are not perceived as threats strong enough to shake the patient out of her inertia. If left untreated for too long, the patient descends into a permanent state of inactivity and non-productivity. One fine day, it's her turn to present at lab-meeting and she finds she has no data worth showing. If this shake is not enough to jolt her back to reality, the patient runs the risk of relapsing into 6th-year-itis, and progressing into 7th-year-itis. That is a condition almost untreatable, and the patient should be made aware of that.