Rock bottom


Feel like a complete and utter loser.
Am about to enter 5th year (full time - though I now have a full time job as well).
Applying for extension to funding body deadline on grounds of depression.
Just bumped into my potential external off to do someone else's viva.

Avatar for DrCorinne


You are definitely not a loser! Dealing with a full-time job and a PhD is very demanding, and getting over-tired and depressed is not surprising.

I know more than a few people in my department who didn't complete within the 4 years, and didn't have a job, a family or health problems. So, do not be harsh with yourself.

It is normal and very important that you focus on getting your thesis finished, because you deserve to see your work recognised. But, believe me, in the end taking an extra year is not important. What is important is to complete your PhD successfully.

One of my colleagues finished her PhD within the 3 years (to my defence I can say that she didn't have a baby in the middle of it!), and she had the same external as me. I finished a year later, and luckily successfully. She is still applying for jobs since then, so getting rotten to complete within the allocated time didn't pay off (unfortunately).

So, do focus on your writing up. Take some time to rest properly first, and then give yourself some short-term deadlines to achieve.

You are only a loser if you leave now.


Hey Florence, really sorry to hear you feel so low. Working full time and doing a PhD is no joke, so if you need another year, so be it. Different strokes for different folks and there are all sorts of completion lengths. At the end of it all it's the completed thesis that matters. I can imagine how demorialising it must have been to see your potential external off to do another person's viva but it will be you one of these days and who knows who will be looking wishfully at you.

Hope you're feeling better soon


+ 1 to the other posters. A FT and a PhD is no small feat - you are a legend for having gotten this far. Try to be nice to yourself and remember just how much you have accomplished (yes, you have accomplished LOADS). Your time will come .. soon.

Quote From DrCorinne:

She is still applying for jobs since then, so getting rotten to complete within the allocated time didn't pay off (unfortunately).

DrC - I must have missed something in your post as I don't follow the 'rotten' thing? Can you clarify? Did this person do something awful in order to finish on time? :-(

Avatar for DrCorinne

Hi Shanshuprophecy,

I apologize if my expressions come across as akward - English is not my first language. What I meant is that this person was pushed to the limit by her supervisor in order to finish on time, and she did. But the whole thing was clearly too much for her, and she is now suffering from a nasty illness (I would prefer not to detail what it is for privacy matters), which in my view is the consequence of all the stress she had to go through. As I said, she is still without a proper job, and this clearly does not help.

So, what I learnt from this story is that we should learn to listen to our body and soul and we should not push ourselves over what we know is our limit. Your health is much more important than anything else.


Hi Florence,

I just wanted to say I can completely relate to your post.

I'm about to start my fifth year.... (which is a very depressing thought!), but I'm slowly working my thesis corrections following a relatively successful viva (at least in terms of the state of my submitted PhD).

It's really difficult to not draw comparisons with other PhD students who started the same time or later (something I'm trying not to do at the moment!).

After a rather depressing failed attempt at finding work, rather than remaining within research, I'm currently retraining to become a practitioner psychologist....and managed to land a long term paid position as a psychologist in training.

Anyway, just wanted to say you're not alone and hang in there. Over the last year or so, I felt something similar ie a 'a complete and utter loser' but after taking a few steps back, I've come to see that I have actually achieved something to be proud of and there are good things about what I've worked towards over the last few years. I've also learnt lots about myself etc and really matured and grown professionally. Concentrating on the strengths and challenging my negative thoughts with something more positive (aka the good old CBTing it) seems to help me through my dark days.

Feel free to PM if you want to vent etc.....take it easy x


Quote From DrCorinne:

So, what I learnt from this story is that we should learn to listen to our body and soul and we should not push ourselves over what we know is our limit. Your health is much more important than anything else.

I totally agree. I also think that (unlike the UG degree for many) the PhD is a very personal journey with a very personal trajectory. I don't think comparing your (our) completion times or status is helpful as we all have such different paths. Be kind to yourself & remember how far you HAVE come already.
Good luck


Hey Florence, to persevere with something whilst you're going through such a hard time shows how much you are definitely not a loser! Whilst I got through my PhD okay I had to drop out of my undergrad degree 3 times due to depression (bipolar), and it is so tough to try to deal with that feeling whilst also doing your best to concentrate on getting things done. So don't worry if you need an extra year- in the long run it really doesn't matter. The main thing is getting there in the end, and getting there in one piece. Look after yourself and don't give yourself a hard time- I have a lot of admiration for people who complete PhDs anyway, but even more for those who complete in such difficult circumstances. Best, KB


======= Date Modified 20 Oct 2011 22:04:53 =======
Dear Florence,

You're not a loser. I am in the same boat. I'm still seeing counselling. My looming deadline in December is the absolute latest extension the university will give me. I'm also in my 5th year and I had to quit work about 4 months ago, which is when I hit rock bottom. Yesterday, I read through my whole thesis from cover to cover and I'm totally shattered because I realise how bad it is, even though I've been working on it every day for 4 months. It feels like I've taken 1 step forward and 2 steps back. It's hard and everyday I struggle with wanting to quit. But then I think, if I do quit what will happen? Well, I'd still have my friends and they wouldn't think any different of me. Neither will my family or my cat. And I don't have a job. So, I might as well just keep going. I read these forums whenever I'm feeling down. And the general gist of them is to keep at it.


Avatar for DrCorinne

Hello Alan1612,

I am really sorry that, like Florence, you feel so low. It's easy to end up in a spiral of depressive thoughts when you work by yourself for a long time. A lot of other factors, such as poor supervision, lack of structure or support etc., can influence our perception and attitude.
But we can work to change this. Getting counselling is a very good thing to do. You read your thesis as whole, coherent piece of work, which is an excellent idea. You have seen were the "holes" are, and if you stop panicking for a moment, I am sure that you can also see how to fix those problems. You still have time to do it.

I won't bore you with my personal story, because I surely annoyed everyone else to death with it already, but I thought about withdrawing from my studies many times. In the end, if I had done so, I would have wasted four years of work to no avail. So I thought that if I stayed on board, in the worse case scenario I might have finished with a lower degree (e.g. MPhil), which - however disappointing - still is a higher degree.

Luckily this was not the case and I am going to graduate with my PhD shortly. It was a long journey, sometimes exciting, sometimes very hard, but it worth the effort.

If you sit down and list all the good things that you have done/ achieved in the course of your PhD, I am sure that you will find renewed energy to move forward. I am sure it will be a long list (and for Florence, if you are a funded student, this must mean something!).

You are both very, very close to completion, you cannot miss the finishing line!!!



Thanks Dr Corrinne. Yesterday I just started crying my eyes out. And now my eyes are puffy and I look like I've been punched. Sometimes it can get very overwhelming and I start thinking horrible thoughts about failing, wasting years of my life on the thesis etc etc. But you're right. We just have to stick with it and trust everyone else who has gone through. So, thanks for your advice.



Hello Florence,

I hope you are feeling more positive today. I don't say much on this forum but today I feel like you did in your original post. There's rock bottom, 50 feet of crap, then me (sorry to quote bad TV at you). I have just started my fourth year and have given up a full time job in order to finish my phd (I had to get one after a messy divorce last year) and my father died at the beginning of the year. Life has a knack of getting in the way! Now, it seems, my supervisor has turned on me. I have been doing everything he said for the last 6 months, only to be told it is all wrong. Things he said were good in previous drafts are now being called into question. I feel like I am teetering on the edge of failure. I thought I was within sight of the finish line, but it appears I am alot further away than I thought. My point is, you are not alone even though it feels like it. I too have watched colleagues who started after me graduate. My resolve to keep going keeps getting shaken, but it hasn't deserted me yet and I hope yours hasn't either. There is one good thing about being at rock bottom; the only way is up . You can do it. And hopefully, so can I. Clare x


Hi Florence....
I can completely sympathise with you... I'm in a similar (albeit different situation) with you...

I am in my 4th year of a PT PhD in UK. At the same time, I am working FT in the country of my origin. So, I am doing a PhD in English, while my native language is not English. My "real" job has nothing to do with my PhD and it needs a lot of research itself. So, I am doing two researches and I publish (or want to publish) on both areas.
Adding to all of these, although my university deadline is in 3 more years (7 total), as I am getting some financial support from my employer (a very small amount of money), I have a deadline from there in one year...So, I have to have my thesis ready in 5 years total, otherwise I will have to pay them back all the money that I got these years (and I don't have it).
Finally, I (an the rest of the people in my country) suffer from huge financial difficulties, meaning that I don't have the "luxury" to waste money on anything else than the absolutely necessary...It needs a lot of energy to decide what the absolutely necessary things are (after paying rent, loans and bills every month, I end up with 50 euros for everything else)....

I believe I can do it, because I am very subborn and because I want to do it!
I think that if you put your mind to it, then you can also do it! What if somen people finish before you do? At the end of the day, the result (pass) is what counts!!!!

I wish you all the best!