At the end of my tether


Hey all. I know I've been whining a bit recently but I simply can't take any more of my supervisor. After she refused me any more support with my funding council fellowship application, two days ago I decided not to proceed with my application. I simply cannot proceed without some support and she is unwilling to give me any.

I didn't hear back from that email, but today we were on a training day together, with 3 others from the team. I drove my sup and another of the team members there. She was pleasant to me all day then in the car on the way home she really laid into me. She said she was disappointed, ashamed and embarrassed of me for failing to proceed with the application after several people arranged for an early viva just so I would be eligible to apply. I said that I needed more support with it and didn't feel able to complete it, and she just shouted over me, lied about the support she had 'offered' me, and was incredibly nasty and personal. All with a colleague and a friend sitting in the back of the car listening. I repeatedly stated that I wasn't prepared to have an argument about it, especially not when I was driving in rush hour traffic on a dual carriageway I didn't know. The rest of the journey was in silence.

I simply don't know what to do any more. I got home, decided I needed some drink and some valium. A very bad solution I know. I can't stop crying. I just don't understand how it got this bad and I'm worried that she may actually be mentally ill. I know that sounds extreme but her behaviour has become increasingly erratic, and everyone on the team thinks there is something seriously wrong with her. I am trying to be sympathetic but when my own mental health is going down the drain is it getting increasingly hard. I think I'm going to go stay with my family for a few days because I just can't cope any more.

I don't know what on earth I'm expecting anyone to say, I guess I am just looking for support. I'm just 3-4 weeks from hand-in and viva and I'm losing it.

Cheers. KB


That sounds horrible. I don't really know what to say other than I think you did the right thing with the fellowship application under the circumstances.

Though it must have been unpleasant, at least you had witnesses in the car to see how unreasonable she was being. Not that it solves anything but sometimes it's reassuring to have that.

I hope that your time with family refreshes you and gives you some respite from your supervisor.


Love, don't let her put her aggro on to you. She's displacing. It's nothing to do with you. Stay calm, stay focussed. Remain sure. This woman is bonkers, clearly. As are many in our academic field. Just had a similarish toys out of the pram from my ex super. Rise above it. A glass of Pinot Grigio can work wonders, as can a decent night's sleep, and the support of friends. You have my total support.


Hi again Keenbean,
Just replied to your other post and saw this one. I guess I am taking my belated advice back. What if she is indeed mentally unwell and the only thing you can do in this situation is to safeguard your own sanity. And get through the viva. And say good - bye to her. And move on with your life? Don't allow at all costs this situations to lead to a breakdown on the eve of the viva...


KB, I know it's not easy and you're working under difficult circumstances but you'll not have to tolerate this behaviour much longer (you shouldn't have to tolerate it anyway). Get your PhD and get out of there!


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You have all my sympathy. I know what it means to work with people like that. My 2nd sup was my supervisor during my Masters, and going ahead with that person in the supervisory team for my PhD was a huge mistake. I loved my PhD, but that person managed to poison every single move and person around, making things very, very difficult, even now that is in a different university. My approach was to withdraw from the crowd and work as much as possible by myself or with other researchers. Nonetheless it was a difficult journey that is likely to have implication in my future in academia. I am due to have my viva in 3 weeks time, so I am looking forward to moving away from this situation.

We can honestly live without the fantastic "opportunities" that we are offered by people like these. My supervisor sent me (via departmental secretary!) the announcement for a 3-month fellowship 4 days before the deadline. Needless to say: the research topic/ location were not even remotely close to my area (applying would have required a lot of work and support that I was not going to get) and I needed three references from people that couldn't have provided them at such a short notice. Obviously was "very sorry" that I didn't apply.

This is a very typical situation. I would suggest you to be strong but detached. Do not burn the bridges, because you will need references from her, but I would definitely move out of her influence If I were you. The point is that they know very well that they are never going to be accountable for what they do. That's why they behave in this way! Even if their behaviour is openly wrong the department will support them, not us, because they bring funding etc. So, be strong, and think about completing your PhD in the best possible way. Good Luck!


Hi KB, I would take that time with your family for you to have some TLC and a break from this awful situation. Your sups behaviour was completely unacceptable. Focus on your PhD submission and viva. In a way it may be a blessing that everything was moved forward, knowing that in a short time your sup will no longer be able to control or belittle you anymore. It is a shame about the fellowship application but you need to do what workload is acceptable for you. There is little point making yourself ill over this extra workload. Have a chat with your family about it all, they know you best!

Avatar for Eska

Oh KB, what a ********** (fill in your own letters - I just used a word I hate and am trying to phase out of my vocabulary to describe her, out-loud and at some volume...)

It's good that you're about to finish, and that you can stay with your family for support. Just keep you eye on the finish line and then soon you will be free.

There almost certainly is something wrong with your supervisor - whether it's illness or the usual academic toys out of the pram trick. But that is not your concern, it's hers and her employer's. Your job is to get on with your thesis.

And, as someone else has already said, at least you have witnesses - even if the department would almost certainly back her in a dispute.


Hey Keanbean, I'm so sorry to hear that your supervisor is being a complete and utter *****!

I can't give you any better advice than what others have offered already, but as a fellow 'got to get it done this month' student, we WILL get through this, even though life likes to throw big spanners at horrible timings. The joy of being bipolar is that we both have the strength to get through times like this because we've been through a lot worse time than this before! We WILL DO IT!


Hey everyone, thanks so much for your support. I feel a bit better today, but so tired of eveything. I got an email from my sup at midnight last night saying how she thought I should be able to do the fellowship application, and listed a load of support she had 'offered' me which was factually completely incorrect. Basically she's written an untruthful email to me to cover her own back in case I complain, so she can demonstrate how much she had 'tried to help'. Needless to say, I won't be replying. I have 2 more meetings with her and then my viva, so hopefully I will only ever have to converse with her 3 more times. Interestingly I found out today about a position that will be be coming up in a few months on another team in the department (my second sup's team), which sounds v interesting, so even if I don't get any of the jobs I have applied for, I will have a good chance at that one. Also, someone from his team has said that she will offer me support if I would like to apply for funding for my 'fellowship' project to another funding council at a later date. I wouldn't ever consider working with my primary sup ever again after the experiences of late. So I'm gonna keep myself together and push on with things. You are right Pink_Numbers- I've been in worse situations that this before. Thanks so much everyone. KB


KB, Glad you posted as I've been thinking about you. Chin up, go do your stuff and show your sup what you're made of!!!


Hi Keenbean,

sorry to read about your latest troubles with your supervisor, yet also nice to read that there may opportunities in this other department.

I think you have a very good way of coping, by looking at it as just three more meetings with the sup, and that is it! Indeed you have worked hard for several years and have overcome many high hurdles, those small last few ones you will manage as well.

You indicate that your sup may be mentally ill, which is difficult to judge. However, I think that that should not be your concern, I think your first worrry should be to look after your own physical and mental health. As you know that means making sure you sleep enough, to be able to express your emotions, to speak to friends and family, avoid alcohol etc.

Regarding you sup I think you have chosen the right approach by not getting into an argument. Just keep the relationship very business like and dry, just ignore things and walk away when she starts shouting. Use of irony may be helpful too. Remember, you are nearly there, you have done the work and deserve your PhD!:-)