how to deal with office mates when they talk about my deprived research topic?


I am a 3rd-year phd student and sharing the office with my coworker and a student of my former advisor.
Today i felt a serious anxiety attack when they and one more new student of my former advisor were talking about their research topic which was previously mine but from which i was excluded. i wondered how they could do knowing that i am emotional to that specific topic.
last year i got that project. However, my advisor didn't know well and the postdoc who led it hasn't come to our country. Moreover, they were lost in the middle and left me with nothing - even a reference. Instead, he slightly scoffed at me saying he was not working on it. i looked for a guide from the postdoc but she was a few weeks off for marriage and didn't help me. i tried a few directions but the advisor dismissed me without even trying. I was his first student and there was no one in the lab to discuss with. 4 months passed with no result. The advisor always treated me bad by comparing me to other students and insulting me which induced my insomnia for more than a year. When the professor told me that i haven't shown him any result showing i can do something, i decided to leave the lab with MS. Then he excluded me from the project didn't allow me to review it. But afterwards they set a direction and his two new students followed it. The advisor didn't pass my MS and i changed the supervisor to current pf.
i hoped they can't publish. i envied them having colleagues to discuss with and nice guides from advisor and postdoc - papers, discussion, etc. Insomnia rebooted again these days and i'm worried that the bad lucks will follow me in every step in the future, too. How can i deal with such a conversation and a reminder of hard times? i know they are kind but can't stand it as anxiety attack is so heavy.

Avatar for Pjlu

Ollie, what you are writing about can be pretty difficult to go through, even when people do not intend to upset you or cause you grief. The people doing it may be oblivious to how you feel and quite genuinely just discussing their study not knowing that for you their conversation triggers feelings of anxiety and perhaps shame?

However, I think from your post, that even though you have been taken off this project, you have been given another one that may be more suited to your present context? Is that the case?

I know it doesn't feel this way but actually people can have bad luck or difficult times for no reason at all-it isn't always personal, but can just reflect the circumstances or the people who are around at the time. I'm really glad you have a new project and supervisor. The advisor should not be insulting you for any reason and this behaviour is clearly unprofessional and a form of bullying. It is no wonder you feel sad about it and anxious.

I have 3 pieces of advice which might help...

If you can see a counsellor or trusted mentor who can talk through the issues and listen to you with empathy, then this might help you reframe this situation and move on. It might also help you manage the negative feelings that you currently experience and give you strategies to cope with any bullying.

You have a new project, supervisor and a fresh start. Try not to look back too much but focus on your new study and let that be your way out of this current situation.

People have short memories and are mainly focused on themselves and their own lives. Don't worry too much about what others think and please don't blame yourself. Look at what you have learned from the previous issue, and then take this fresh perspective to help you focus on your future and your new project. Be kind to yourself and make sure you don't neglect your health. Do things that you enjoy as well as work and study.


Thank you for the advice, Pjlu. Really, your advice helped me keep sane last night. It will also be very helpful later when i encounter the same situation and especially 1st one is practical step later when i and others whoerver start the academic courses. Fortunately my current advisor allowed me to leave with MS only but also gave me current project. He never bad treats me but very generous and helpful. I hope anyone in my past situation consider any sort of change, as it can break one’s mental and physical health.