When I started my PhD everything was wonderful. I liked the lab, my supervisor and the topic... However, after a while things weren't that great anymore and for a number of reasons I developed severe depression. I tried to continue my PhD part-time for a rather long period of time, but in the end I didn't manage anymore and I was admitted into hospital for a couple of weeks (got discharged a couple of weeks ago, and am doing relatively ok now with support from the day hospital + medicines + therapy).
I try not to worry to much about my PhD in the middle of this, but the fact is that I am in a very difficult and stressful situation so it is difficult not to think about it.
Right now I am on intermission from my studies until the beginning of next year. While this is absolutely necessary for my mental health, it also means that I will not receive any money until then and so will have to live on a very tight budget (luckily I had some savings for other purposes so am living off them).
I'm not from the UK, but from another EU country. Goingback to live with my parents is not an option, as it would lead to social isolation in a time when I need friends and activities the most.
I haven't got a clue about what's going to happen. I'll manage somehow until winter, but what if I am not well enough by then to take on full-time PhD studies again? Of course, I could go part-time, but then I would have to work 50% elsewhere in order to survive which is likely to be even more stressful.
I'm also worried about if I will be able to carry out lab experiments, as I've had plenty of suicidal thoughts throughout my illness, and obviously a lab full of nasty chemicals is not the ideal place to try and stay away from those thoughts.
What if I have to quit? Will I be able to stay in the UK at all? Again, I know I should focus on getting better right now, but these thoughts keep spinning in my head, and I would just really, really like it if somebody had any comments.
From your post, it sounds like returning to the PhD, in the near future, might not be the best option in terms of your long-term mental health. However, if you're funded, it might be worth finding out what's the longest period that you can take a suspension from studies before losing the funding.
In the meantime, would you consider taking a, relatively, unstressful job (e.g. working in a shop)that would provide you with some money to keep you afloat and would also be less isolating than the PhD experience? Knowing that you can always return to the PhD at a later date might give you the space to enjoy the work - knowing that it won't be forever - and also help to pay your rent.
"as I've had plenty of suicidal thoughts throughout my illness, and obviously a lab full of nasty chemicals is not the ideal place to try and stay away from those thoughts."
I think this quote shows that it is time for you to quit your PhD. Now and completely. Nobody on this forum can help or give advice when things are so bad that you develop suicidal thoughts. I think it's obvious that the phD is not doing you any good.
This happened to me. It may seem unthinkable to actually leave your PhD but I would defeinitely keep that as an option - intermitting may not be enough. I hope you are getting professional help with this. You need to take time to work out what the triggers are that produce such terrible stress that you have these thoughts. That is your priority - everything else can wait. I am doing another PhD now - both funded (left first one after a year and a complete break down). You have much more time than you think - get peace of mind first.
hey zingo, i was, and kind of still am, in the same position as you. I have been on academic leave since August 2006, after suffering from severe depression and anxiety which led to a complete breakdown. I started my phd in october 2004.
My suspension of studies ends in august but i have written to the uni telling them i'm coming back to give it one more shot- of course i am still plagued with doubts, with the 'what if it happens again?'
but i'm giving it a go....a few months ago when i was still really ill i got a job in a bookshop to get my mind off it and also for the money...it has helped tremendously and i suggest you consider also taking on a stress free job at the moment and build up your confidence again- it will keep you mentally and financially afloat.
I received cognitive behavioural therapy to try and change my thinking...have you received similar support?
from experience, the only advice i can give you is to focus on the small things like a part time job. Trust me, constantly thinking 'i need to get better quickly so i can go back to my phd and fix things' will only make things worse...as i have found. When i first took leave in 2006, i just kept on saying to my therapist 'hurry up and fix me so i can go back to my phd', that was the one thing consuming my mind....with the result that i have had extend what was a six month suspension int two years...had i not thought like that and
focused on just getting better, i maybe would have been well enough to return sooner....so the main point is don't get caught up in that vicious cycle. You are on a break right now, so treat it like one (which means NOT reading any phd material, like i tried to do). Just get yourself better, if finances are a problem get a job in a shop or something and generally just take it slow.
As for that fear of whether you will fall ill again if you go back to your phd, that is a fear i too live with everyday and it is a
difficult one- i have started studying again, i do find it daunting, overwhelming and forget things easily but i've only just started again so i accept that i'm rusty...but one thing i do notice is that when i actually get on with the studying i'm fine, my anxiety is not so bad, and i find that when i do start to really freak out and get depressed i am able to convince myself it is a 'moment' that will pass...and it does. If you receive the necessary help and support you too will find it easier i think- like i said cognitive therapy is effective in treating depression.
Hey Zingo, take care of yourself. If you have enough money to take it easy for a while, maybe work part - time you could do that. I've spent alot of time working on myself and healing from a childhood trauma which had effected my adult lfe. I feel so much better equiped for the high pressure PhD life as a result. Don't worry about the PhD you have a much more imprtant project to deal with. Take care, and I am confident you will get there, you've done really well to come this far.
jouri,I find your comment quite selfish and hurtful. This forum is for PhD students, as PhD students we support each other. I myself, have gotten a lot of help from this forum because other fellow students share their experiences. You can simply bypass certain topics, if you don't understand what people are going through SHUT UP!!!
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