Just wondered if anyone else is in a similar position. I've suffered with depression for most of my adolescent/adult life. It comes and goes over time, normally highlighted around winter with the dark days and night. It's something I'm aware of and something that I manage within myself - recognising as and when I'm depressed and trying to do activities e.g. exercise to alleviate the depression.
Since I've started my PhD (in October 2009) it's obviously infringed on other aspects of my life - it's not been helped with other commitments (I teach part time as well) but such is life. Unfortunately, I've gotten myself into a bit of a negative cycle - feeling down and depressed infringes on my productivity, which ultimately results in increased levels of depression - doh! I wouldn't for one minute say I'm a 'manic depressive' person...
Basically I'm wondering how other people manage depression whilst undertaking studies. I have signed up to the counselling service at my uni to 'manage it' but I haven't said anything to my supervisors. If anything I'm worried about the stigma attached and, at such an early stage where little tangible work has been produced, that there'll feel I'm unable to complete my studies. It is effected me but losing my place (not least because I'm funded) would highten anxiety and depression further,
Any similar experience/advice appreciated.
I don't suffer from depression but do struggle with anxiety from time to time and I've just gone through a bit of a rough period with it and have struggled to get any work done. My supervisors are aware of it and have been really supportive - don't feel bad about it - what we tend to forget is that everyone has their own issues and struggles with certain things, just we don't always realise it.
To try to be more productive I try to work in different places and not just at home as it gets very isolating if you're by yourself all of the time. I sometimes take some articles or reading to cafes for a couple of hours so I'm out and about, I usually go for a long walk in the middle of the day to get some fresh air and exercise, I try to spend a lot of time with non-academic people as well - other friends, family, voluntary work, a part-time job - anything like that I find really helpful and grounding. My uni counselling service also has workshops about dealing with stress and depression etc, as does the graduate school.
Also, don't worry if you go through a bad patch - you can legitimately suspend your studies if you are ill and you cannot lose your funding (that's through my funding body anyway). It might be worth telling your supervisor just so they are aware and know why you aren't producing as much as you can. They also might be able to offer other advice and support - it is surprising how many postgrad students go through bad patches. It is quite understandable, though, I think, given the pressures present in postgrad life.
Sorry for rambling, hope you feel better soon!
If you do a search on this forum you will find a number of posts on this topic.
In my opinion, PhD study is what I call "Depression-ogenic" (i.e. causes feelings of depression) because it is frustrating, lonely and difficult. Also, PhD study attracts bright, intense sorts of people, and I think these are often the sorts of people prone to depression.
You are doing well to find the sorts of things that work for you, such as exercise and counselling and so on. One of the nuggets of advice that I took from this forum, I would post the link if I could find it, was that if you do suffer from depression and you are going to study for a PhD, to grab whatever support you can find that works for you, be that talking therapy, medication, exercise, reading self-help books, yoga...whatever...I try to see depression as an obstacle but not a barrier and to take active steps not to let it get on top of me.
During my MSc I was struggling quite a lot so I went to the Director of Postgraduate Studies for my department and explained everything. He was not directly involved in my course so was able to give some more practical advice. Regarding the prospect of losing your place and the depression affecting your studies, what he said to me was, that account cannot be taken for difficulties retrospectively. So if I did not achieve the required grade in my MSc assessments, and subsequently told the course director that I had been having difficulties, the grade could not have been altered to account for this, but if I told the course director early, then this could be taken into account in the assessment process. It might be worth finding out whether a similar procedure operates where you are? I didn't have to tell the MSc course director the specific details but I had the support of the GP and was able to say that the GP could submit evidence of extenuating circumstances, if these were needed.
If you don't want to ask your Director of Postgraduate Studies, the councilor might know the procedure where you are?
Good luck with it all, you are definitely not alone!
Hi Rebel! I have suffered from bipolar disorder for about the last 10 years, although the depression has always been more severe than the mania for me. It has played havoc with my life- I dropped out of uni three times in my undergrad years, had lots of long-term hospital admissions, and no end of drug treatments and electroconvulsive therapy. Depression is a nightmare, and it is also very hard for people who have never expereinced depression to understand what it is like- I have often had to deal with people who think that depression is just about 'feeling a bit down'. However, over the last 4 years I have been much better. I got a first in my BSc, a distinction in my MSc, and won a scholarship to fund my PhD- I am now in second year. Learning how to deal with depression is hard work and a bit trial and error. It sounds like you are doing a lot of the right things. Our uni counselling service is fantastic- I have been seeing them for 6 years and credit them with my progress through university. So definitely stick with that one. It isn't for everyone but it can be a really good source of support for a lot of people. Exercise is also great- I exercise almost every day of the week- but be careful that you choose something fun so it doesn't become a chore. I also found that something non-competitive is a good idea, it makes me feel even worse if I perform badly at something! Since I broke my foot 5 weeks ago (and thus can't exercise) I have had to go on extra medication for my mood, which just goes to show how important exercise is for keeping your mood healthy. As for supervisors- I have been extremely honest with mine, and they have been nothing but supportive. They cannot be understanding if they don't know what is happening, and I sat down and had a very frank discussion with my supervisor near the beginning of my PhD, so she knows what to do if I become ill- how to help and what I can or can't manage when I'm not well. The only thing she asked of me was that I kept her up to date if things started to go downhill so that she knew what was happening and could respond accordingly. So I think it's really important to try to be honest with your supervisor, or at least speak to your chairperson or someone at the university so that they are aware that you might have difficulties from time to time. I have been pleasantly surprised at how understanding people have been, and have never regretted telling my supervisors (and other colleagues) about my illness. I guess the other thing is to see your doctor if you are really struggling. Even if you don't want to take medication they might be able to refer you to someone else for help, perhaps a CPN or something for support. Try not to stress too much about your work and tackle your mood first- and if you are really struggling to get your work done, maybe get on with the boring but straightforward things first- literature searching, photocopying, writing reference lists etc. At least that way you can see that something is getting done! Hope you start feeling better soon. You will get through it and do your PhD. I have even found that my own experiences of mental ill health have been extremely valuable in working with my research participants, so you might even be able to find some positive in all this at another time. Best wishes, take care. KB
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Anxiety and stress all remains in the mind which have a negative thoughts and lack of self confidence...
I'm not trying to wound you..
Anxiety and stress do come in every one's life..
But you have to fight it back!!
Have a cheerful day!!
I think if you take any 10 people randomly off the streets and analyze their behavior from a Psychological Perspective then only 2-3 will pass all their normality tests. We can see Aggression everywhere even in universities. I once observed personally how violent a top professor got when he found one of the undergrads drinking mineral water after a lab session and he was even not in any way near any equipment. We all have limitations but keeping us safe from the compulsive disorders of the others should be the first priority. It is only you who know what is the reason of your problem deep down into your own mind. Most of the depressive behavior has some physical reasoning behind it. Solve that if possible and your are off the hook.
with unhealthy lifestyle attitudes and behaviors are at a higher risk for depression. They have unhealthy eating habits and sleep patterns, lack of exercise and abuse alcohol and drugs. Some studies show that even 10 percent of college students have been diagnosed with depression. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among the students. Most universities and colleges provide the student support services designed to help students cope with these challenges. Use this forum
Hi Rebel. Sorry to learn that you are feeling low. I honestly believe that a lot of depression is because we give ourselvews such a hard time by thinking ..why aren't I more happy, there must be something wrong with me? when in reality, life is light and shade and we are better to aim for being content. And secondly your feelings are a completely natural physiological response to your current lifestyle. You are probably exhausted. Have you considered the following:
A holiday (a hospital consultant once told me to take a few days break at least every 6 weeks, something to do with body engergy cycles?)
Drs check up e.g iron, thyroid etc and discussed any medication? I'm not a great lover of meds but hey can help in the right circumstances.
Vitamin B12 and fish oils
A light box.
You are right about the stigma, a lot will depend on your supervisors point of view so you don't necessarily need to tell them, unless you are confident they will be supportive, however, I would def declare with your Uni's Disability Support Officer, because they can offer lots of practical advice etc, particulrly if you find in the future you do need sick leave or to submit exceptional circumstances.
Modern life certainly has a lot to answer for! Don't beat yourself up :-)
I have also been depressed! For the whole of 2012 -- when I started my MSc, my grandmother died. Then during PhD, my favourite teacher died (2010), then my other teacher died (of whom I have known since I was a child) (2011), then my mother died suddenly (also 2011)----then my funding ended as well (2011), it sounds like an endless stream of sad stories--
but my phd hadn't finished at that time-- I struggled with no income as well.
However I was fortunate that my supervisor understood my circumstances and my boyfriend supported me (food, money etc.). I think I was struggling more with the thought of not having my own income.
Back at uni I told my supervisor that I was depressed -- and at the verge of a nervous breakdown -- but I did try my best to look after myself, I made work progress schedules which my supervisor checked to see if they were feasible -- then I limited my work -- I made little goals (instead of big ones) when working on my thesis -- one section at a time, one chapter, one topic. Otherwise I would get overwhelmed by the whole thing and sink into greater depression.
Most of 2012 I struggled with my depression--today I can say that I have overcome it. I finished my thesis in less than a year.
You can as well. Find a way that works for you. Don't give up.
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