I recently discontinued my PhD after wasting 6.5 years on it, walking away with nothing to show for it. Throughout my entire PhD, I had issues with getting programmers to work on the system I needed for my data collection (it took 4.5-5 years to get a working system; keep in mind that when I started my PhD back in 2013 I was told by my supervisor that it would be "well and truly ready" by the time I needed it the following year). On top of that, the faculty moved me out of my office with no notice and fumbled around organising me a replacement testing room, which meant I had to cancel the test sessions I'd organised, and when I went to reschedule them, there was an interpreter shortage, so I couldn't book one of those for more than a month (I booked some earlier but instead of telling me they couldn't fulfill the booking, they just waited until I called the day before to confirm it was going ahead).
By the time I finished my data collection, I was going to have like three months to do the data analysis AND write up the rest of my thesis, which wasn't possible anyway, but because my mental health was shot to hell and then I had to deal with my own health issues as well as running around after family members, I had no choice but to discontinue. I had asked for support for several years as I expressed concern that the system delays would mean I wouldn't get my PhD finished, but I was always brushed off with "It won't come to that" or "Just keep working at it". Except when it became clear that it HAD come to that and I asked for help or advice, I was told "You'll just have to discontinue."
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Sorry for the rant, but I'm just so angry and upset and bitter that after putting so much time and effort into my PhD, I didn't get it because of other people not doing what they were supposed to do, and the utter lack of support makes it worse.
Has anyone else discontinued a PhD after investing a lot of time into it? How do you manage the feelings of being directionless and a failure? I only discontinued 2 weeks ago so it's still pretty raw and my mental health is still in tatters. I feel like I should be trying to do something but I don't have any energy.
Hi DarkDragon. I am very sorry to hear your story. I had a similar experience with 5 years work in a PhD exiting with nothing. I felt disappointment and shame. It is bad. No one can argue about it. What I would like to tell you how I coped with this and moved on (of course I still feel the pain).
First it did not help me to take all the blame on the supervisor and project. I had "enough" time to say no and it was obvious that things are not going in the right direction. You should accept that you share the responsibility of what happened along with others. This will make you feel better.
Secondly, prepare yourself for jobs interview. Talk positively in interviews about your PhD experience. Companies do not care that much about actually "awarding" the degree. They care more about what do you know and how can you fit with them.
Next, which is related to the last point, try to find a "good" job as soon as possible. Once you find a job then trying to excel in it, the PhD story will be a past. It will be a bad memory of course. But when you move on, it feels much better. It is like after breakup. You feel bad but you do not feel that bad when you are with another partner :)
Last but not least, although not getting a PhD is not the end of the world, do not fall in the trap of undermining the value of the PhD. PhD is still the highest academic degree. People who were awarded a PhD did original research and contribution. It is unfortunate that we could not do it, but accpeting this fact is a sign of strength.
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