Help - what do I do?


Hi there, I apologise in advance for a lengthy post that I don't expect you to read and for it being a dark post.

Basically, I'm writing this to request some other viewpoints please; I'm currently in my 4th year, due to submit 1st September, so about 7 weeks away. The kicker is I don't think I can do it, despite other people saying I can - I've still got an intro and revisions to be made to all my chapters, especially one which I'm not sure about how to structure.

I want to get it all done in time for my supervisor to have a look through it, on top of a few quick experiments I need to do (read: should have done properly) and I'm crashing under the weight of it all. I feel like such a fool for having left everything to the last minute and wouldn't be surprised if I failed.

There's part of me which is saying 'Give up now' on a PhD I've realised I don't want anymore and it's looking all the more tempting, given I'm depressed to the point where I've visited the GP and counselling. They still don't stop me from not being focused on writing a thesis and the thoughts of giving this up and 'ending it all' to avoid the shame and embarrassment of letting everyone down and wasting their time and money is creeping in. I don't want to take a suspension, as it'd draw the pain out longer, and I don't think the uni would allow it in my extension but I need a break - but I've already procrastinated so much (thanks to my mental health). The kicker is there's no time...

What do I do? I could sit and flounder, whilst struggling on with this thesis, or waste time seeing if I could get extra time. I just don't know.


Firstly...there is no shame and embarrassment to anyone and this is pobably your depression talking, you need to stop thinking you have let people down. Has the GP prescribed meds, if so are they starting to work, if not have them reviewed. Maybe consider CBT rather than counselling as CBT is more pro-active, changing your thought patterns etc. If you have been diagnosed as clinically depressed I would seek the extension, I wouldn't see that as a waste of time or procrastinating, it will just give you some leway as afterall you don't have to use the extension. If the uni say no, they say no but at lest you've done something active about it.

No one can force you to wrtite, there is only you that can do this. Think back, why did you want to do it, what got you excited about it. Depression might be clouding all this.

If you still feel it's not for you then don't finish it, there's nothing wrong with not finishing it the world won't end, people will move on you will move on, it will be fine. Or, you could just do it :-) A wise, although fictional animated fish once said "just keep swimming, just keep swimming"


Hey Echo.

Sorry to hear things are tough. I finished my PhD a couple of years back now, but my viva was brought forwards very suddenly, giving me just 6 weeks left to submit instead of 12! Long story, but I also had a fellowship application with the same deadline, which had been the reason for my submission and viva to be brought forwards.

You say you think you can't do it- not that you can't. I reckon it's worth a shot. You've got 7 weeks, and maybe 8 or 9 chapters? That's nearly 1 week per chapter, and you can do a lot in one week, especially if lots of it is just editing. Even if it's writing from scratch, you'd still be amazed how much you can get done. I would get your head around what is essential and what is desirable. If one chapter isn't quite perfect, but it's not a disaster, then move on to bigger things and come back to it at the end if you get time. You won't get failed for missing out a paragraph on topic x or dodgy formatting on a couple of tables, a chapter that could have been structured better etc. I wrote my thesis discussion and conclusion from scratch in 2 days, and to be honest, it wasn't amazing, but they're not going to be massively interested in the intro and the waffle in the discussion- they'll really want to know what you've done and what you've found out. For me, passing my PhD was essential, the fellowship application was just desirable, so in the end I chucked it to make sure I got my PhD.

I have bipolar, so I know how crappy depression is. If possible, see if an extension is an option- it's not worth throwing away 4 years of work when you're possibly not thinking as clearly as you might be. At least you would have more time to decide then.

Lots of luck, KB xx


I agree with the posts above, but please don't feel bad about taking an extension/suspension :)
best apply to do it now, ask for 6 months, so you have plenty of time to get things done. Not saying you can't get things done in 7 weeks, but if you need to factor in time to get feedback from your supervisor over the summer break it's not that long. I had a writing up year and an extension year (so 5 years total) - I was working whilst writing up so it took ages! why not go and speak to your supervisor, be honest about how you are feeling and trying and figure out a plan of action good luck :)


Hi echo_85:

I agree with psychresearcher, don't feel bad about taking an extension. I took three-month extension which was so important to me, since I put everything together in those three months. Having an extension turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made for my Phd. Even if it only gives you some breathing space, it is good enough. Health always come first. If you really need it, discuss it with your supervisor. Its fine and you are really close to the end:)

Regarding to your progress, I think it is much better than many people (certainly including me). It is normal to shape the introduction in the end because you know what elements really needs to be covered now. Revisions to chapters wont take that much time but indeed takes more concentration, 7 weeks is doable, but if you feel too stressed about it, its actually very good to have some more time.


Thank you all for your replies - I really was surprised and touched by how supportive everyone's been, even with the decision to walk away - even though it'd be a shame, it's not the end of the world. I appreciate the advice, though it's not an easy decision (and that's not including the fact my mind's a blank some days). I'll have a think about it and talk it over with my supervisor/director of graduate studies.

Once again, thank you :)


Thought I would just clarify the decision is to either take a break, carry on and maybe what would happen if I walked away.


I've had a bit of time to reflect on the PhD and come to the conclusion that I may have started one for the wrong reasons. Starting one just because I didn't have anything better to do and doing it to make others proud (oh dear)... But I've always pushed myself to get results that others would be happy with, but I think I lost myself on the way, despite getting to know academia (and deciding the loneliness and competitiveness isn't for me).

I apologise for rambling and whining, as ultimately I only have myself to shoulder the responsibility and blame for not completing/messing up a PhD that I have no drive to finish for myself, so I'm not sure even an extension/suspension for medical reasons would help - if anything, it'd sound like a cop-out and ducking responsibility. But I'll try to ask for one.

Not eating properly and lost weight, sleeping or being happy in life aren't helping. But I should finish else completion statistics show another failure, there's an incomplete record of how to carry on the research and just generally bad feelings all round.

The blame of wasting everyone's time, money resources that could have gone to someone more productive, the ostracisation of my close academic friends and the humiliation of not finishing, leaving a black mark on my supportive supervisor's record (who really doesn't deserve that) are worries too much to bear.

But the one thing stopping me from doing something stupid is reading Sadsabrina's posts and reminded my parents would rather have me than me with a PhD but no longer here. But would they want a son who didn't finish a degree, despite them saying 'just do your best'?


Oh Echo, this is so the depression talking, it's absoultely classic, and I don't meant the bit about not wanting to finish your PhD (although that might be part of it) I mean the eating/sleeping issues, need to please, not wanting to disappoint. You have nothing to prove to anyone. You need something to alter the way you feel about yourself as I bet how you feel about you is a million miles away from what family and friends feel about you as a person. I really urge you to go back to your GP, review your meds and see what other therapies are on offer. In the mean time don't make rash decisions whilst depressed. Get the extension/suspension/holiday for a while (they should grant one on the grounds of clinical depression as you're covered by the Equality Act). Make the final decision with a clearer mind. If that clearer mind says don't finish the PhD that's fine but you may find that you do still want it, hence don't decide now!!!!


I'm completely and utterly in agreement wowzers here. Your words are those of someone who is not well at the moment.

Get yourself back to the Doctors ASAP and have a medication review. Perhaps print off the comments you've written here and show them to the Doctor? And then I strongly advise you to look into getting an extension, not just so you have longer to finish so that you can take a few weeks off. I really think you need a few weeks of GUILT FREE time off. Don't make big decisions when you feel like this.

You've reached this far, so you CAN finish it. You are clearly bright and capable or you wouldn't have got this far through. But it seems that your mind is unwell at the moment, and that's clouding your ability to feel hope. There is hope, you're sooooo close to the end. You're just under the weight of the big black depression cloud at the moment. Take time away, regroup, get well and then come back to it if you still want to.


Thanks for your replies, I've taken them on board - I went back to the GP and am now on sertraline/Zoloft (wasn't on anything before) so hopefully it'll help with the low moods and severe depression. I've also sat down with my supervisor who (bless her) has suggested a temporary withdrawal on medical grounds, so hopefully will have a meeting with the DGS (gulp) to see if it's possible. I honestly don't know if I'll finish the PhD (but at least I'll write it up for others to follow) but we'll see.

Thank you to wowzers, IntoTheSpiral, vivicov, Keenbean and psychresearcher for being so supportive, I really was expecting someone to say 'Pull your socks up' and 'Grit your teeth' (as has happened in real life) and was so surprised at the thoughtfulness of you.


I hope the meds work for you :-) Be kind to yourself x

Avatar for lemonjuice

Hi echo,

I'm not sure if you still read the forum (you haven't logged in for a while), but I was wondering how you're doing and if you're feeling better? It's been more than a year now so I hope you're okay and have made the decision that's right for you :)