Dear fellow PhD sufferers, help. I feel like crying. I lie in bed and sometimes I cry for no reason. Tears just fall from my eyes and then I fall asleep.

I just came back from seeing a professional counsellor / psychologist, but she didn't give me any new insight. So I left feeling marginalised. I suppose you can call it that seeing that we are the minority. The crazy few that think that this is a wonderful journey.

I think my biggest problem is that I'm doing a PhD because I want to prove to myself that I can do it. Don't get me wrong, I love my research, I enjoy it. But it doesn't mean that it's not hard. I'm constantly anxious that I'm going to let people down, my supervisors, my partner, my family, my friends. Not just letting them down, but embarrassing myself along the way. Maybe I can't do it after all! Which makes me feel worse because I want to prove to myself that I can do it. There is some history there - lets just say it has something to do with the education system I was brought up in, which pigeon holed me and casts late bloomers aside.

Anyway, the stress of being a PhD, I'm not sure what exactly the stress is, except that it's everywhere right now. The stress of my partner being away (he has been working in another state because the job was a good opportunity on many levels), and having to deal with my housemates (lets just say I have one that is a fruit loop and another that is the devil).

I know my 'issues' sound so lame. But I can't see through it. The PhD has consumed my being and I wake up hating everyone, angry, frustrated and yet at the same time nothing. Absolutely nothing.

It's ironic that I help council people around me including other PhDs, but when it comes to myself, nothing. I can't even take heed of what I know is useful and constructive advice.



Morning! I'm sorry you feel so low. And you're right, it's easy to help others & almost impossible to apply to yourself what you know will help them. You're up horribly early - do I take it this is disturbing your sleep?
Do you have a chance to take some proper time away from the research? I know it's simpler for me to write that than it is for you to achieve, but it sounds like you need to be good to yourself and put the PhD out of the way for a bit.
That's probably not very helpful but I just wanted to say hello at this time of the morning & say you're not alone.
Mog :-)

Avatar for DrCorinne

Hello Dr_Wannabe. I think that yours is a crisis of self-confidence. Also, people around you think that you are very strong and rely on you for support, and forget that you as anyone you may need support in return.

As far as the self-confidence aspect is concerned you can start to build it up now. Try to read your post as if it was by someone else. Surely you can see how far this Dr_Wannabe has come in spite of the odds. We acquire confidence also through the appreciation that people have for what we do, so mix with other people, take part in seminars and conferences, present your work, exchange ideas. You will see that your self-confidence will increase very quickly. It is very easy to lose perspective of your situation when you are by yourself all the time.

Second point. This PhD is for you, and you only. While I understand that you don't want to disappoint your family, this is your life, and if you feel that the PhD is not what you want to do, well...the world will continue to spin also without it, and surely people who genuinely love you won't mind if you are Dr or not.

Also, when you feel low go outside for a walk. It sounds silly, but believe me, it's not. You will feel much better afterwards.

If the PhD is what you really want for yourself, then you will manage to do it - everyone have crisis of some kind in the course of their PhDs. It is a long project, and only in an ideal world things go smoothly from start to finish.

But as I said, you don't need of a PhD to be considered worthy or "clever". There are so many things that you can do, and where you can make the difference, without putting yourself under extra pressure.

I am not sure that I was helpful, but you have al my sympathy.


I think these are all great suggestions. It helps to understand that these cycles of elation-frustration-depression are not unusual among doctoral students, and I particularly like the suggestion of stepping back and reading your post as though it were someone else who wrote it. It may help if you look at the PhD as an experience rather than as a goal. What I mean is it's an opportunity to learn a lot about yourself - your work style, your strengths, your fears - and develop skills that will help you in future challenges.

There's an experimental "documentary in progress" called Failure Club, which I find sort of inspiring. It's about a group of people who each set a ridiculously high goal that must be accomplished within one year. By confronting the possibiliy of failure, they overcome the fear of failure. (to find it, google "failure club yahoo" )

Your PhD is certainly an attainable goal, but it could be you're projecting too much of your identity onto this one life accomplishment, as well as stressing over what others will think of you. In reality, your friends and family probably admire you just for trying.


Thank you guys for your encouragement. It's really nice to hear from other people and get a different perspective on things. Reading the post as someone else was indeed insightful.

I guess it's a constant struggle, so why not enjoy the process. I've never thought of it this way. Thank you for showing me a different way of thinking.