Signup date: 21 Aug 2010 at 4:46pm
Last login: 23 Apr 2012 at 8:37am
Post count: 188
======= Date Modified 01 Nov 2011 14:34:16 =======
Interestingly, over the summer I did a huge amount of non-PhD activities and probably got quite a lot of work done. Recently I just feel really tired and drained. I do still follow my interests but I've spent much less time actually doing things. I find it hard to motivate myself, and if I'm completely honest I have a sense of dread about starting anything new right now. I try to spend my weekends doing things just for me, spending time with people I care about and doing the things I enjoy.
I've actually spoken to my supervision team about this in depth. One of my supervisors reminded me that I've set small goals before and failed to achieve them -- I think I was trying to be too prescriptive. What I know is that when I get in this state, maybe all I can achieve in one day is write a few lines of code or a sentence of my literature review, or skim-read a paper and make a few notes in the margin. I suppose depression guidance would say that's enough, but honestly, it wouldn't be enough in the workplace and isn't enough to get a PhD.
I'm not one to think in platitudes, but reading this forum I hear "mountains from molehills" quite frequently. Am I making a big deal over nothing? The more I think about it, the more I can't figure out what's wrong. Except that I'm not doing anything, not achieving anything, and struggling to concentrate. I am certain I don't want to go on anti-depressants! I guess I should go to the gym more often...
Also, I have done things that I should feel confident about, but the thing is, I don't. Apparently I've actually done quite a lot, but I can't see it. My supervisors aren't actually unhappy with the work I've done (although I am), but more the fact that depression and mood swings make me very difficult to work with.
I am actually seeing a counsellor, but so far it has just made me feel more negative and depressed. My supervisor is not insensitive at all and I agree that this may partially be to kick-start me, and maybe partially because of genuine problems with the way I work.
I do not want to quit but I'm wondering if it really is possible to complete a PhD if you have depression? Two more years seems like a long time.
Those people are very driven. They have a certain set of life experiences which drives them. You might look at someone and think they have everything; they might only be doing these things because they are deeply unhappy and feel nothing is ever good enough. Or they might be driven to succeed and make a difference because they feel powerless at the problems in the world. Perhaps they have simply been brought up to believe that unless they do EVERYTHING, they aren't good enough. A lot of this is mindset, and in my experience often either a rather self-important, or completely panic-driven, one.
Don't envy those people; they may be deeply unhappy. If you are really upset by this, try listing all the qualities that you have, which those people you feel inadequate to don't possess. Why do you want what they have? How can you make the most of those qualities you do have? Are there areas you could do realistically improve, in your current set of circumstances? Are you upset because you really want to make a difference, or just because you feel sidelined and lonely on your PhD? Is there something you wanted from your PhD that you feel you're not getting? Look at the reasons why you feel the way you do, and see what the real cause is for this jealousy.
Is it love, or infatuation? It sounds heavily like infatuation.
For a start, by coming on to your supervisor you are putting him in a position where he could lose his job or be disciplined for severe academic misconduct. Many male supervisors try to be kind to their students, and this can be frequently misinterpreted. I am always aghast at the number of female students who seem utterly besotted with their supervisors. Quite frankly it is painful to watch.
There is a power relationship to the PhD process. Your supervisor is in a position of dominance and control, however shy and sweet he may appear. Many academics went through terrible times on their PhDs, with very bad supervision and no support. I think there is a great deal of younger, male (and female) academics who want to connect with their students, be open on a personal level and spend time together outside of a strictly work relationship. Conversely, being a PhD student is vulnerable and lonely, and for some reason it is easy for us to want to be rescued. It is so impossibly easy for so many female students to misinterpret the signals being given by their supervisors.
Even if he did like you in that way, most people would see it as exploitation and would take a very dim view of it. It could lead to a very serious situation with him and his peers -- academia is gossipy and bitchy and rumours spread quickly. It wouldn't be surprising that he would change rapidly and put up strong boundaries.
Please be professional and think about your own, but also your supervisor's career and reputation. You have both worked hard to get to where you are.
I would recommend seeing a counsellor and looking up a lot of articles about sex in the workplace and power dynamics. Being shy is terrible but perhaps you can find other PhD groups near you, to allow you to socialise with other students in the same situation as you.
It depends. If they use Twitter primarily as a media outlet to advertise their research, then I would say it is both positive and perhaps even necessary. But really, if they use it to talk about private or personal things, then I would say it may cause more harm than good, particularly if you aren't that close to them. If you have a very close relationship then it might be okay, but sometimes PhD students can feel quite close to their supervisors in the beginnings of their PhD then feel unsettled later when strong professional boundaries appear (as they have to, whether you want them to or not). I'm not sure if "cool" should really be the main consideration: would you have followed your undergraduate supervisors? If you've worked outside academia, would you have followed your managers?
======= Date Modified 31 Oct 2011 15:13:39 =======
Recently I've had some issues on my PhD which has led my supervisor to question whether I can do a PhD. These issues basically involve depression / anxiety / inability to concentrate and extreme defensiveness. I'm lucky to have a really good supervisor but after some problems in the last week he has asked me to seriously consider whether I am capable of this.
And now I'm thinking... what if I CAN'T? I get all the help in the world for the "personal" problems I have. But, although I'm far from being the only PhD student in my department who has struggled with these issues, I feel as if mine are overwhelming me and I'm moving at a snails' pace to others around me. This is just making me more depressed, and it's getting to the point where I think I need to see the doctor.
I'm only at the start of my second year and I don't want to waste the work I've done. I really like my project. Not only that but I basically have nowhere else to go if I drop out. Quitting has never been on the cards but my sup has mentioned it three or four times in the last week. Today I can't help but wonder if I really can make it? What if I'm really not strong enough?
I have had strongly ambivalent feelings towards my PhD. I love the work, but I get swamped with stress and anxiety which sometimes makes concentration impossible. However, deep down I know this is nobody else's fault but my own, and I'm working on it. I think because my stress was so obviously linked to my own life, it was pretty easy for me to see how my own attitudes were affecting my happiness at Uni. When I started to see managing stress and emotion as an ACTUAL part of doing a PhD, ie not something separate / unfair that was unique to me, I calmed down a lot. Now I just feel a bit sad at reading PhD grumbles about how unfair things are. Learning to deal with some level of unfairness -- managing busy supervisors, overcoming a sense of inferiority, dealing with procrastination, learning to overcome the overwhelming hurt and confusion that comes with realising you're ultimately responsible for yourself and your own work even if you don't reeeally want to be -- is PART of doing a PhD. It's as much a part of it as learning to manage a 3000+ article EndNote library and figuring out a question and feeling sick when you stumble on a paper that already did what you were intending to do (ten years ago, and better). There's more chaos and confusion in a PhD compared to 'real' jobs. I felt utterly gutted from my first week when I realised that my actual skill level was far, far lower than I'd believed it to be. The whole of my first year was spent consumed by panic and guilt and inferiority and feeling somehow as if I'd lied or tricked my way into my PhD (I really hadn't). I really feel as if I wasted everything in that first year through feeling bad about myself.
But overcoming that is PART of the PhD. It has to be, since so many other people go through the same thing. I think if supervisors were able to be more honest about it from the start... I'd like to see "Learning to Manage Own Emotional State," as part of a training needs assessment. I firmly believe this is where the bitterness and bitchiness of academia gets introduced. So learning to deal with that now, whilst I have time, is as much a part of the process as anything else. Since I figured that out I've started to love my PhD. I wouldn't want to wish it were perfect and problem-free, that's just going to set myself up for disappointment. I think that's how we all start, isn't it? "Others may be disappointed and lost, but MY PhD is going to be different to all of that..."
As far as socialisation goes, I think I get on well with everyone in my office. I certainly like them all, and we go out sometimes. I've also made some very good friends with other PhD students at different universities, friendships I really value. It's more comparable to a work environment than being an undergrad, but there's nothing wrong with that. It would be nice to go out more, I think, but that's as much about me as other people.
Thanks to both of you!
Well, I am somewhere in the middle. I try to be ridiculously organised, using MyTomatoes and breaking everything down into small chunks. But I find that so time consuming and end up procrastinating the really big bits. If I have, say, 3 large projects -- a lit review, some data to analyse and a methodology to sort out -- I find it impossible to break them down into tasks I can actually do to progress on all three at a time. Then I find myself sinking further into anxiety and depression.
With my depression I try really hard to take care of myself. This usually means actually making a real breakfast, and taking lunch to work. I try to go for walks at the weekend and see friends. Walking is good because I think of "vit. D from sunlight, chemicals from exercise" etc. I try to relax in the evenings and do non-PhD work, usually doing something creative whilst listening to music. I'm much happier if I can keep my flat tidy because it looks nice (but then I start to think I should be making lists for all the ways to beat the depression stuff, arrrghh!), and I see a counsellor for those times when the anxiety really starts to get too much. With daylight hours dwindling rapidly and living in a city that is never quite dark, I'm thinking of buying a lightbox. I sleep with a blindfold to ensure my body produces enough melatonin as I sleep. This definitely, absolutely, 100% helps me get a better night's sleep, and good sleep is so fundamental to feeling good. The joys of having a biology degree means I get a bit detached about taking care of myself!
I get really down about the things I'm supposed to be doing. I'm sensitive to perceived criticism and competition. I'm working on it with my counsellor, but sometimes it gets really hard not to lose myself into the depths of imposter syndrome and get nothing done. But I definitely don't give myself credit for the things I do get done. In fact if I'm in a productive phase my supervisor doesn't even seem notice that I've had a bad patch. He's much more likely to notice poorer quality work if I'm visibly anxious or stressed...
Zinar7 -- have you tried adjusting your working days? Sometimes I work Tues-Sat or Sun-Thurs, or even just work all weekend and take a few days off midweek. I'm lucky that my research is flexible that way. I find that, at certain times, I am amazingly productive at the weekend and towards the end of the week. Maybe shifting your working patterns by a day might help you get over that "9am Monday" feeling? I also try varying the times I come in and leave, although I've started varying it too much and getting lazy. I need to go back to getting up at 6am every day!!
Mumbler, I really hear you too. I always feel much better when I've actually done something. I also tend to think, "What was I stressing about? It was fine!" But then I forget that by the next time..........
About a month into my second year now, I'm getting extremely worried about my progress. I go through periods of 2-3 weeks at a time when I am amazingly productive, then I tend to stall and get anxious and depressed. My supervisor is away a lot and I hate to admit it, but I find that I'm far less productive when he's not around. I have a tendency towards depression which I deal with outside University, and I work very hard on managing this. But sometimes I just feel drawn out and exhausted, I can't get anything done. I often doubt the validity of my work and don't know where I'm going. I try to present alternative methodologies to my sup but I don't communicate what I mean very well. I get randomly anxious about making mistakes then I can't concentrate at all. I go through patches of being very productive and producing work that I think is quite good. Right now is a low patch but I have deadlines looming, so I'm getting a bit worried again. This anxiety can completely overtake me at times -- does anyone have any ideas for getting over myself and working consistently?
A year in, and I'm finding the emotional side of a PhD just as difficult as the intellectual side. For me, I'm a very open and emotional person whereas most academics in my department are very closed and quiet. I am starting to learn to deal with my personal circumstances quietly and without letting them affect my work. To start with this was hell -- I felt rejected and hurt and thought I was going mad. But I kept reminding myself that learning to separate my emotional self from my academic one was a skill that could only benefit me in the future. I don't want to become a heartless academic but it's very good training to learn to not let my emotional state affect my work. I keep reminding myself that my PhD is just a job I'm here to do; if I see it as anything more than that, then I will get really upset every time something goes wrong (and in my first year I've had some absolutely enormous setbacks and emotional crashes). I can't guarantee I won't get depressed further on in the process, but seeing this as emotional as well as intellectual training is helping me get through. By that I mean finding ways to not let the daily dramas of University politics, output pressure or frequent feelings of worthlessness / stupidity actually overtake me. It's all just a job, these are the things that happen in the job I've chosen. I never want to be in a position where I come to hate and resent my PhD, no matter how hard it gets. With two years left I've no idea how I'm going to feel in the future, but I reckon I'll have an equivalent doctorate in managing my emotions when I finally come to hand in that thesis!
I feel EXACTLY the same. I could have written that word for word. I'm also nine months in too (nine months and four days!) and I feel so behind. I kept telling people I felt behind, and they kept telling me it was normal, until a few months ago when my supervisor said, "actually, you're behind." I felt like screaming! Almost everyone with a PhD keeps telling me that it's normal but I don't feel that it is. There are other students who started later than me who are doing so much more. One of my colleagues started writing a paper by this point! I feel like I've wasted all of my first year even though I do have data, I don't even have a question, and I just feel like I'm falling through the cracks. I tend to panic a lot though, and I shouldn't be comparing myself to others because no doubt I have strengths that I just can't see. I really wish I'd done more work and reading too, but I panic so much when I sit down to do it (and am struggling with annoying technology grumbles which make my work pretty difficult). Seems that even the ones who say "this is normal" seem to have been at a much higher level than where I am... but all I can say is that I guess it IS normal to not know what you're doing nine months in. Do you have a research question? Can you talk to your supervisor to set some smart goals to keep you moving forward?
This is at least making me feel slightly better... Olivia what an awful story! How completely unprofessional. Unfortunately I've heard of a few leading academics in my field who have reduced students to tears. I'm not sure if it's because they feed off the power or because they're just messed up in the head (I'm always afraid of ending up that way myself). Annabd I'm sorry you feel like that, it's very similar to how I feel. I obsess over 'mistakes' which aren't really mistakes, but the worst thing is that whilst I'm obsessing over minutiae I'm actually creating much larger problems for myself. I have an impossible benchmark in my brain and always know exactly what I wish I could have achieved, but when reality gets in the way I get incredibly defensive and really mad at myself for not being good enough which keeps coming across in the wrong way. Unfortunately for me I have no 'front' to rely on -- everyone can see exactly how I feel about myself. At times it has really eroded the confidence that my research group has in me. I can 'make up' for this in some ways but overall it doesn't rebuild anyone's trust in me. I can have crushly low self-confidence and doubt my ability to do basic things. Even though there are times I've spotted issues with other peoples' work I still have absolutely no faith in my own. I expect someone to jump up and say, "my paper doesn't say that!" or "XXXX et al have already done this work two years ago, with completely different conclusions and a more robust methodology. Your work is pointless and you're a terrible scientist -- what are you doing here?!"
In fact, any criticism at all I tend to take as meaning something along those lines. If someone asks me to explain my results I might think that they're asking because they think it's rubbish or because I clearly haven't thought it through. Of course they might just be asking me to explain my results. I think some form of counselling is a good idea. Even my department has suggested it.
Olivia I really like those retorts but I don't think I'd have the confidence to pull them off. I'd probably just blush and mispronounce epistimology... I like the idea of asking someone for the reference of their rant, though. "Thats a very interesting point, professor X. Do you have a reference for that? I don't remember coming across it in your 2009 paper..."
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