Overview of Em89

Recent Posts

First week...should I quit?

Hey, depression is a serious thing. I'm sorry you are suffering. It's always best to start a PhD with good mental health, but struggling is not always a barrier. It's OK to feel a bit lost and a bit unsure at the beginning, most people do. I think I spent the first month of my PhD staring at a laptop wondering what on earth I was supposed to do. It's also hard to go from directed learning to suddenly directing your own learning.
Maybe have a chat with your supervisor? You could look at some training opportunities such as lit review courses to get you in to the swing of things.
Your university should have mental health facilities for you to use, try entering counselling or CBT before you make this decision, its always best to make life decisions when you are sure they are not directed by mental health.
There's absolutely no shame in deciding a PhD is not for you, or it's not the right time to embark on one, sometimes just knowing that gives yu a sense of control.
Do take your time, remember you are worth more than a PhD, you are a whole person with many wonderful qualities

I want to quit my PhD. Advice and Reassurance.

Hey, it's OK to walk away. It's your life and if it's causing you too much grief, it's OK to make that decision.

Just make sure it is the right decision, not a reaction to stress. Sleep on it, take a week to think it through and then decide.

Would you want to perhaps go for an MPhil? Or take an extended break in learning?

If this in genuinely what you want, then go for it. A PhD is not worth your mental health collapsing

Deadline Anxiety, Time Management and Imposter Syndrome

Hi R. So form what you've said it seems more like the restructuring and re-organisation seems overwhelming, especially when you've already put in so much work. it can sometimes feel a little soul destroying at times. It is completely normal to feel like this when we receive feedback of this nature. It's not some serious glaring errors that induce those stress feelings that make you panic correct, it's not a solid direction of changes to just follow.
Take it one section at a time, that really helps.
Also, thinking about your situation, perhaps rather than deadlines to meet you could have approximate deadlines, so give a deadline period of 2 weeks - the earliest you submit would be 28th September and the latest you would submit is October 12th. Then you can set yourself a target of 28th, but you have a buffer to work with if it's too much. That should help appease the perfectionist side of you.
I also found that taking chunks off work didn't help (i.e. I once took 3 months), but taking an afternoon off or giving myself a 'mental health' day worked much better. Control and ownership are really important to our mental health. So for example if I was having a bad day I would just say to myself 'today is a difficult day and I'm making the decision to not work, but to rest and focus on my wellbeing'. Another tip my dad (of all people, who doesn't really get mental health) taught me was to set your emotions time limits, so he taught me to say to myself 'I feel really upset about this, I'm going to let myself feel that upset for the next hour, then I'm drawing a line under it and moving on'. It helped me. As a psychologist it kind of goes against everything I would normally believe in (letting emotions come and go as they wish) but as a perfectionist who often feels out of control, it helped me.
Keep going, you are doing great

Viva prep / thesis-phobia

Quote From rewt:
Hi em89,

I am very sorry to hear what is happening. I know you were frustrated about your viva delay and to find that it is around the same time as your court hearing must be soul destroying. However, your children must be priority and I think you are doing the right thing focusing on them. I can't possibly fathom the stress you must be under with everything but bouncing between different things is not an efficient use of your time. If you want to reread your thesis, you need to commit to a realistic plan to do it in manageable chunks without worrying about everything else. Once you start reading it and "get in the zone" it will become easier, so don't feel bad about spending an hour reading as you are being more efficient. Do you have any family or friends who can help free up some time or could you delay the viva 2 weeks? Maybe say you have coronavirus? If not the viva will go better than you think, we are our own worst critics sometimes. Most reviewers or examiners do not pick up half the mistakes we see ourselves and in practice if you say something with confidence most people will believe you. Also, if you are expecting major rewrites, admit it at the start of the viva. If you say that something needs changed examiners are likely to agree and not be harsher than what you suggested.

I don't know what else to say except goodluck!

Thanks Rewt - breaking it down into chunks is really helping, and actually taking my mind off other stressors. I also had an email from my internal reminding me not to worry or stress over my viva as hopefully it would be a positive experience. She's been a fantastic, and honest, internal throughout so that brought some sense of relief. Thanks again

Dealing with Supervisor Feedback and anxiety

Hello. I found this a really difficult barrier to overcome. Negative feedback is in fact positive feedback, it gives us the ability to change directions and build on our ultimate goals. If you search this forum you'll find examples of students who didn't receive this feedback getting to submission point and having real difficulties having wasted time on work that doesn't fulfill the criteria they have to meet. With any job, and any work, you are never going to get everything right, and particularly in research. Research is an iterative process, no-one has the perfect hypothesis, methodology and study design form the word go, it takes time, mistakes and rethinking until the study is ready. Perhaps this helps you to re-frame how you see this feedback; rather than a criticism, it is simply a redirection towards getting it right.
For anxiety, I used to ask my supervisors to delay feedback until i felt ready to receive it. This was due to other stressful events ongoing in my life meaning that I did not ave the capacity to read feedback as intended, and instead it destroyed my self-esteem. Taking back control of when I read the feedback actually helped more than delaying it. I felt like my PhD was a collaboration again and that me and my supervisors were colleagues working towards the same goal - getting me my PhD.
Of course all I've said you probably already know, and logic doesn't always feature in our emotions. it is OK to take a few days to re-group and recover your ego (which I do not mean harshly, we all have one and they bruise easily!). Then start working again and now that each re-direction is a massive step forwards towards your goal, not a step back.

Best of luck

Deadline Anxiety, Time Management and Imposter Syndrome

Hello, I developed severe anxiety during my second year. Deadlines were non-existent in my department, but I struggled with submitting work, because I was frightened of the feedback.
Every person in the world has their own 'emotional bucket'. Whatever causes upset or fear add's water to that bucket. When we suffer anxiety the bucket is already full, so the smallest thing can make us overflow. For me, getting anything less that perfect feedback would have made me overflow. In the end I came to an agreement where I would submit the work, but I would request the feedback whenever I felt I had the capacity in my bucket to handle it. It's also worth noting that the more I avoided handing in work because of this fear, the harder it became to hand in work.
You could try setting aside time around your deadlines to take care of your mental health. many people will simply say that if you mental health isn't great, a PhD will only make it worse. whilst this is true to an extent, there are ways to support someone through this journey who does find their mental health to be difficult.
For me, kickboxing is what keeps my anxiety at bay, it's a physical release, it's disciplined (I, too, am a perfectionist!) and it makes me feel stronger. Others find meditation, yoga, dance, singing to help. If you can identify what helps you, try to plan activities in the weeks coming up to your deadline.
Also try to work out why you fear deadlines - if it's the feedback, try what I did. Just having control of when that feedback lands in your emails reduces that anxiety.
Finally, if you feel your mental health is not getting better, or you find yourself really slipping, you may need to request a further break. You need to put aside what your supervisors may think or how it may appear and focus on the key thing, which is your health. There's no point to a PhD if it irreversibly damages you in the process.
Best of luck

PhD Funding

Always apply, you are 100% not going to get funding if you don't apply, applying gives you a chance! Many people will have suffered during the pandemic, and almost every academic I work with has stated their productivity has diminished. Make your cover letter really strong, highlight what has gone 'wrong' but don't dwell on it, and highlight how you overcome it. For instance if I had to write about my job performance it would be this:
'During the pandemic I experienced some anxiety with working in a very different way, initially this impacted my performance. However I have learnt so many new ways of working now, and new strategies that should I face sudden disruptions to work and life I am now well prepared, as evidenced by my ability to bring the research project up to date'
So you may have secured a merit instead of a distinction, but you still achieved a merit despite everything going on - you didn't give up, your grade didn't slip to a pass. Think about how much stronger you are as a person because you did your masters during a global pandemic, think about all the new strategies you've learnt, how you've found ways to overcome barriers. Turn this awful year into your biggest strength!
If you don't successfully get funding this time, try and get some research assistant work and try again next year. Remember it's not a race, it's a journey.
Best of luck

Viva prep / thesis-phobia

So, I submitted my thesis and was obsessed with prepping for my viva. Had to stop prepping and calm down as I didn't even have a date and due to current situations it was delayed.

Now I have a date, Oct 6th. I can't even think about it, I can't bare to pick up my thesis.

I have to go through family court again, very bad memories, and I'm representing myself
I haven't seen my dad since January because of Covid
I'm struggling to recruit smokers/vapers for the study I'm currently working on
I'm having to work from home with no childcare around school hours because of Covid
I have court related stuff on Oct 9th
In reality, my children are far more important than my viva

I need some help/wisdom/guidance/virtual kick up the you-know-what

I've come too far to fail now, I know I'm looking at major re-writes (minor at best, but that's wishful thinking) because I didn't have a supervisor read my thesis (no-ones fault, they didn't have time, I was running out of time - it's complete but I suspect in need of major changes).

Picking up my thesis feel like such a mammoth task right now. I start to do it and 10 mins later I'm reading up on family law.

Any advice is really appreciated
Thank you

2nd Year PhD, Still haven't finalised a topic! need help

Post it notes! Seriously I had a whole wall filled with them, write a bit of knowledge on them, stick them up, rearrange them (theories/methods etc) and then ask questions of the all knowing wall

2nd Year PhD, Still haven't finalised a topic! need help


I'm guessing you kind of already have your topic, you've just not refined it? Even if what you have right now is broad, you still have your topic, you just have to pick out what is most important to your area. From all you reading is there nay crucial gaps? Anything that should be explored further? Any theory you think needs further study?
Start broad - what do you know about your area. What particularly interests you within that area? Then drill it down to what you don't know.
Another good way I used was to look at all the knowledge you have and ask it questions, you'll soon finalise your topic that way
Good luck

The horrible wait for the Viva, humorous musings

This doesn't need any answers, unless it's sympathy, as I'm aware I am wallowing in privileged self pity right now, but if I rant one more time to my partner about this I think she might make me sleep outside.

The wait for my Viva is crippling me. I submitted 2 months ago, I have no idea when my viva will be. I'm aware my internal is super busy (we work in the same department) so I can't really complain. I'm aware that with us all trying to learn how to teach in this new COVID world is going to take priority, I suspect my external is facing the same difficulties, so I can't complain. But my gosh it is crippling me. I check my emails so many times a day, I wake up at night with nightmares.

Given my tendencies to chronically over think things, here is a list of all the irrational nightmares I've had about this upcoming moment of doom, I share in the hopes that they make at least one person smile, or I find out I'm no the only person to have these random dreams.

1) I wake up and suddenly realise that my viva date went to my junk mail and my viva is in 20 minutes. In my panic I forget to put clothes on and turn my camera on to realise I am sitting stark naked in front of my examiners online

2) I go in with my thesis only to realise that my actual subject was Harry Potter, not smoking cessation, and I have to try and lie and relate my work to Harry Potter

3) I forget how to speak and somehow have learnt Russian and try to communicate via Russian (note, I do not speak Russian)

4) My dog turns out to be my external examiner and can speak (and is very critical)

5) I unwittingly have plagarised my entire thesis despite my work being the first of it's kind

6) My examiner is Voldemort (I need to not watch HP before bed, evidently)

7) I find out mid viva I was meant to send cheese to my examiners as a thank you, I fail due to this cheese error

8) I realise I sent my children's home-schooling work instead of my thesis, and then have to roll with it to not fail my Viva (I did check as soon as woke up after this dream, luckily I did not submit their work but my own)

9) My examiners ask me to walk a tight rope from my University building to prove I deserve the PhD

I hope I get a date soon because otherwise I may fall in to the pits of insanity, re-reading this list I feel I am partly there

Inferiority complex from friends and family

Quote From Mackem_Beefy:
May I ask if the other family member did their degree as a mature student or part-time while working? Did you?

I will concede that doing a degree part-time is much harder work when the student has other commitments. But holding it against you or saying you get it handed to you on a plate because you "tick a box" is a horrible thing to say.

Likewise, I was first in the family to go to University with concerns only being raised (as I explained) when I left a job to take up a PhD.


Hello. The other family member did the degree full time, as well as being a mother but as part of a family unit (she is two years younger than me), I did mine full time whilst working and a single parent. The other family member is lovely and see's that we both had different journey's - neither was harder or easier because those experiences are relative to our own circumstances. I suspect it was the Aunts (the person drawing the comparisons) way of justifying her treatment towards me and not her cousins wife (big family celebrations were held for the cousins wife's graduation). The inference was that because I was a single mother and gay, I therefor ticked a diversity quota that meant my achievements were handed to me as some form of positive discrimination.
I get you on the 'leaving the job', my father was horrified when he found out I'd given up my career to follow my original path!

Unsure about progression

Hello. I'm sorry you've had a tough time. I think I'd take a bit of time to work on yourself before applying again. Maybe counselling would help, or CBT to overcome those feelings you have. Obviously you already know that a PhD is a breeding ground for destroying your confidence and self belief, so it might be worth investing your energy in building a solid sense of self before applying to do a PhD again. One small, but strangely effective, thing I do is I look at myself int he mirror every night and I give myself 5 compliments. Some days it's simply 'you actually got out of bed and you managed to smile at yourself' others it's 'you absolutely smashed that recruitment expectation' but both are just as effective

PhD with a CFA level 3, distinction in masters and a 2:2 in undergraduate.


My University required a 1st class degree but I got a 2:1, I did however get a MSc distinction. I contact the supervisors of the funded post offered and arranged a chat with them. I explained during my degree I had given birth and had cancer, but in reality they weren't that bothered by my grade as my distinction at MSc showed I had the necessary skills.
I would contact them and explain that you have this distinction at MSc level, that you received a grade far lower than expected at degree level due to mitigating factors, however you have since learnt how to overcome barriers and work at your usual level

Inferiority complex from friends and family

Yeah I get this. I was the first in my family to get GCSE's, and education isn't really valued in my family. I stood out and not in a good way, if I said anything relating to my BSc I was told to stop showing off. Even when I posted my graduation photo's an aunt chastised me and told me I should do my Uni work for me, not for anyone else so why did I have to rub everyone's face in it like I was better. I stopped talking about anything to do with my studies, then another family member did a degree and I was constantly told it was more of an achievement than me getting a funded PhD because I'm a 'smart a*se' so it's easy, and that as a single parent who's gay I obviously get everything handed to me because I tick a box.

I had a lot of counselling to deal with my toxic family, and I learnt that it was all down to their own insecurity; me doing well wasn't something to celebrate or be proud of for them, but a personal insult. I now do not see many of my family except for large events, and sometimes they ask how my work is going ('so you're not even a Doctor yet? Was it really worth it?') and I just reply 'It's going really well, but we both know you're not interested in it and that's fine'.

On the flip side, dealing with people who dismiss everything I say came in really useful during the PhD process!