Highs and lows


Does anyone else feel like they're on an emotional rollercoaster at all? At the moment I seem to go from being over the moon when I get a paper published or something, to being in the depths of despair when I get a shedload of negative feedback to plough through, and back up again when my boyf does something really sweet and thoughtful or I see a new photo of my amazing little nephews. I know I'm bipolar, but I don't even think it's that....I just feel so sensitive to the smallest things at the moment. One tiny little thing can reduce me to tears or make my day. I'm not normally this prone to this type of thing unless I'm ill! Best, KB


Hi Keenbean, it was really like that for me as well (and I'm a bloke!) - I'm so glad this forum is anonymous. I think a PhD really is an emotional roller coaster at times. I remember the highs of presenting at conferences, getting my papers accepted and receiving praise from my supervisors. But I also remember the all of the lows, which I'm quite embarrassed to think about (this forum really, really helped me with those). It's strange in a way, because as protracted as it seems now, it ends so quickly, you get through your viva and then you feel sort of numb. So, there's really nothing different about how you're feel at the moment and I think most people on this forum go through the same thing.


You're not alone and this forum is a great outlet ot air your feelings. It also shows the importance of having support thoughout your phd as it does put you through the mill a bit. The need to switch off and relax every now and then is a improtant way of coping.



My emotions swinge wildly from thinking 'yes I can' to 'I'm going to found out as a fraud any day now'. Just lately it's the latter, not the former! I am soooo looking forward to finishing that I am terrified that I won't, if that's not a total contradiction.

I find the tacit pressure the hardest to deal with and can't stand questions relating to how many words I've written (hubs :-s) to 'how long are you at it now?' (annoying aunties et al) to 'what sort of job will you get out of it?' (pretty much everyone else!). I was at a party recently with loads of old work colleagues. The 'MC' for the night was also a former work colleague. At the speech bit he went around the room: 'there's John who's playing golf everyday now', 'there's Mike who runs his own company' ... 'there's Ady who's going to be a Doctor this summer' :$. I was so mortified that I nearly started crying!!

You and many others on here have published papers and I feel humbled in comparison. I have two (sort of) pubs pending but nothing else. I have been part of a compulsory Graduate Education programme and so concentrated on getting the necessary credits in two years and hopefully finishing this PhD in the three years of my funding. Each module was worth 5 credits and I had to get 60. The PhD still passes or fails on the thesis alone but to be allowed submit, you have to get the credits.

Am feeling very sorry for myself lately :-(


I also agree with the ups and downs and yesterday certainly had quite a few for me.

I went from being totally confused on how to process my data in the correct way to then figuring it out and being pleased with myself. Then I realised I had made mistakes in my code and had to start again which put me in a bad mood until I saw an email from a place where I did an internship last summer saying that they are submitting a paper partly based on some of the work that I did and they are offering me 3rd author. I'm really happy about this as I'm only in my first year and I thought they had forgotten about me. Then my data processing went wrong again so I was grumpy again. I'm dealing with some complex data sets and only need to extract certain sections of data and it is a complicated process. Finally at the end of the day my boyfriend walked me home from the train station and kind of restored balance.

Today is a day off though as I think I deserve it. Perhaps you should try and take a day of KB to unwind a little bit as you said you don't normally feel like this unless you're ill so perhaps you are a little run down.


I think that the whole PhD journey is a rollercoaster of events and emotions, but this is not an area that people really talk about, particularly when accepting a studentship.  The endurance and perseverance of a PhD student is half the battle. I can remember 6 years ago embarking on this journey with the 'yeah, I can do this attitude' but not really realising the implications of that acceptance.  The first year was me floundering in the deep dark sea at night not knowing what needed to be done or when. There was lots of ideas spiralling out of my head of exciting experiments but no real idea of how to set-up the methodology to realise just a fraction of these, lol.  A transition period occurs and suddenly the methodology is in place and you feel, elatedly, that something constructive is happening. But then there are ups and downs of findings and failures in data. Finally, more elation of gaining the data turns to trepidation of this massive mountain of thesis to climb.  Certainly not a small hurdle and one I felt that perhaps I couldn't achieve. But hey, another transition phase means slowly building blocks of thesis are accomplished followed by the writer appearing from within.  Jubilation at a first draft! A masterpiece I felt, only to be criticised, dismantled and rearranged.  A definite low point of having to accept the flaws in my Nobel peace prize offering, and yet another transition to the person who, although wrote it, will dissect it. Tumbling along with edited version after version to finally a euphoric moment of submission!  But now I realise that I am to undergo yet another role in my journey of critically appraising my own work for the viva. Yes there is acknowledgement that there are contributions and originality in this work, but also it is 'amateurish'.  New work can stem from this work which I can see clearly now, but that would be a new PhD. So in essence the journey has taken me through a very up and down rollercoaster, from which I hope to gain my prize, but not without a few more dips and dives I am sure. 

Avatar for sneaks

When I started my PhD i had a lot of people in the department, who were 2-3 years ahead, telling me "its such a journey" and "it will take you at least 4 years" - tbh I wish they'd not said this. I reckon if I didn't have the expectation of it being such a slog (they really laid it on thick), then I probably would be finished now.


Quote From ady:

My emotions swinge wildly from thinking 'yes I can' to 'I'm going to found out as a fraud any day now'.  Just lately it's the latter, not the former! I am soooo looking forward to finishing that I am terrified that I won't, if that's not a total contradiction. 

I could have written Ady's post myself! And indeed I can recognise myself in all the other posts as well.
I should feel elated, because my sup seems very happy with my final draft, but I just keep finding holes and things that don't work. I think that it is more a battle of endurance rather than anything else, particularly the writing up period. I think that it is pretty normal. I thought I would feel a great sense of achievement at this point - although the viva is yet to come - but in reality I am just tired and am looking forward to moving on with my life.


Good, it's not just me then! Sometimes when I get like this I wonder if it is a bipolar thing going on, because when you've had it for a while it's easy to lose the distinction between what is completely normal and what might be an early warning sign! Today hasn't been too bad, I'm just struggling in writing up my results papers and wishing I had a bit more support from my supervisor at this stage, but she's so busy and I'll get my head bitten off if I ask for more help! There are other things going on as well- I'm so stressed about what is going to happen after my PhD now I have my boyf to think about too, and the counsellor I have seen for 7 years is retiring and I'm getting myself upset about that because she's been fab and I've got so used to seeing her every week. Anyway, I'm going home this weekend to see my mates, my little nephews who always make me smile, for mothers day meal and for a day trip over to Ireland to visit my grandad...so at least that will give me something else to think about for a few days! Hope everyone else has got something nice planned too because it sounds like we're a right up and down lot. Thanks for your input everyone, it's so nice to have some reassurance! Best, KB


Hi all, what can I say... one and half years into my Phd and its nothing like I expected to be at this stage. I expected to be much further forward, however I feel I have gone backwards. In the past I have just managed this by working harder and longer, but this does not seem to work on the PhD. I still feel a million miles away from any conferences/journals. My supervisor seems so relaxed about it all, but I cant understand why?

What I am trying to do now is when I feel myself spiralling down say... STOP!!!! is it really worth it? Even if I put in 110% will I be better off than I am now and what will I jeopardise by doing so? The idea of taking a day off (or even more) I would agree with. Maybe go away somewhere for a few days (without bringing work with you ;-))

Hope that helps.


Hello everyone,

I must say, it is kind of comforting to know that there are more people having the same experience! Thank you for sharing everyone. I can totally identify with Ady and Corinne; one day I feel like I have finally found what I am meant to do, the other I fear everyone around me will find out I am no good at this... this is not helped by the fact that I work within a larger research project where I have a colleague at the same stage of her PhD who never seems to doubt anything she does or says, nor does she ever show any signs of doubt regarding her own abilities or the feasibilty of her project. Although I don't think that's healthy either, I must admit I'm jealous of that kind of happy-go-lucky people.

Maybe a helpful tale on how NOT to deal with it and what does work for me: Last autumn I had a complete nervous breakdown when I was trying to juggle teaching a full course which I had entirely redeveloped, writing a draft chapter, preparing a conference paper and preparing for a three month research stay abroad, while both an aunt and uncle of mine had just been diagnosed with cancer. After three sleepless nights (try putting things into perspective then :-( ) I ended up with palpitations at my GP's who prescribed me three sleeping pills and a week of work. I was terrified to break the news of throwing a sickie to my supervisor, but he actually responded very understanding and even covered my class for that week! I took a lot of walks in the park and did a lot of thinking that week - some of it with the help of a little book called 'Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Dummies', which really helped my putting things back in perspective and regulating negative though mostly irrational thoughts - a bit like Phdmecheng's STOP but a bit more sophisticated :-)

The book actually has a number of useful exercises in it, liking writing down negative thoughts, seeking factual proof for them (often very hard) and writing down positive counterproof in another column. Another one I liked was writing all your positive characteristics and qualities -not just work related ones- on stickies and putting them on the wall over your computer (admittedly it would be weird to do this in the office, but at home it's fine) - it sounds childish but it can be a helpful reminder of the fact that you're overall an OK person, defined by more than the PhD. This last point is something I also try to live up to since my breakdown by actually restricting research and teaching to 40 hours a week (which is also in my contract), talking a lot to people who are not in academia, devoting free time to things which have absolutely nothing to do with my research, like volunteering, travelling and cooking. Doing sports (I run) also helps, it reminds you that you also have a body, not just brains.

I still have my low moments, still can drive myself nuts, but I can deal with it better now and know it's just temporary (i.e. by looking at my list of irrationalist thoughts or putting up the stickies again, or just by the occasional day of). Being passionate about your research is a good thing, being obsessed is not healthy!


A lot of very helpful, honest posts here - seems like we're all tying ourselves up into knots. Good to know it's not just me!

I'm in Vivien Leigh mode today as in "tomorrow is another day". Let's hope it's the day when I crack the code to writing this PhD:-(


Thanks Awen, I can really relate to you about remember that you are much more than a PhD... that is just one part... I also strongly recommend doing charity work, exercises etc (all in moderation of course :-))

The thing I found is that I not only now question my ability of my research but on the subject area as a whole. Does anyone else experience this?


I try also to remember what a research consultant once told me.. she said "Would I do a PhD again... No way... Am I glad I did a PhD... absolutely". :-) keeping smiling. And keep yourselves well fed (sprout)(turkey) (I just wanted an excuse to use these icons.


question my ability ... my research ... my topic ... juggling the guilt of studying vs parenthood - the whole darn kit and caboodle (sprout)(mince)(turkey), my turn ;-)