Struggling with my phd and feeling lost


Hi everyone

I’m not sure where to begin but I feel so lost and alone. I’m in my third year of my PhD and I have just finished working on my second paper (my thesis will consist of three), which I was hoping to submit to a journal. As I was in the process of checking my code for the analysis I did, I realised I made a big mistake. Having corrected for it my results are now all non-significant. As ridiculous as this sounds, I haven’t been able to stop crying since, I am overwhelmed and scared of how my supervisor will react and so disappointed that after having spent a year and a half on this piece of work it means nothing.

On top of this I struggle with an anxiety disorder and since I began my PhD three years ago, I have lost almost all my friends. I am studying away from home and with the stress I struggled to keep in contact. I have no self-worth and I feel like I have nobody. I have been trying to be proactive and seek counseling, but my university only provided 3 free sessions and unfortunately, I cannot afford help otherwise. Plus with the current pandemic, things aren’t getting easier financially.

I am not posting for pity, but I don’t know what to do. I feel like a failure academically, socially and I don’t where else to go. I can feel myself deteriorating mentally and physically by the day.


Hi Maemae

Sorry to hear about your current situation and how you've been feeling.

Regarding the error - I know it must feel terrible right now, but the main thing is that you now have the correct results that really reflect what is going on with the data. That is more important than it being significant. I've made errors before and fixed them too, and it does make you feel pretty rubbish. But as I say, the main thing is that you found it and fixed it (and before publishing it in a journal). Your supervisor might have more empathy than you expect.

Regarding the anxiety - could you make a simple list of things you can do that will help you cope during this time? Maybe calling an old friend or family member, watching a good movie, that kind of thing. I know that really small things can help. And just living for one moment at a time is also helpful - maybe write that down on a postik note as a reminder for when your mind starts racing here there and everywhere. Could that help, or are there some other strategies you've used before and found to be helpful?

I hope it helps to read this. You're not a failure academically or socially. You'll get your PhD done and move on to the next thing in life having that under your belt. Happy to correspond if you want someone to talk to.

Take care


Hi maemae93,

I am very sorry to hear about your current situation. First, i wanted to tell you that as Tudor_Queen pointed it out is that you fixed the error, instead of submitting a paper with error to journal or presenting it at conference, you were fortunate to be able trace the error and at least you pursued an interesting question for sometime, and you grew as a researcher. I know it must feel like end of the world because you had been working on this for so long and all of that seems like it was for nothing. BUT hear me out, my supervisor often tells me that if I have an idea and I try it out and get no result, you can still include it as a PhD chapter. It does not make you any less of a researcher. I bet there are so many researchers who have had similar if not the same experience, and remember PhD is your place to learn and be able to fix this mistakes! I am 100% sure you will succeed as a great researcher because it sounds like you were very devoted to this research. That is the quality that matters! You have already come this far! Don't be disappointed in yourself, take some time for yourself and cheer yourself! I don't know where you are, but I am sending good vibes along your way :)

I am telling all of this because I am also a very anxious person who gets upset and very stressed by small things, so I can imagine the anxiety that you are feeling. We are a PhD community, and we stand together!


Hi maemae93

I can totally relate to how you are feeling and I can guarantee you, you won't always feel this way.

It took me close to 2 years to figure out that I was actually struggling with depression and anxiety, and that I wasn't just a total waste of life. Once I figured this out and admitted to myself that I wasn't ok, (and went to my lovely GP), I felt a huge weight off my shoulders and have been able to progress my thesis since. I can't believe how long I suffered with feeling like a loser, feeling like I was totally winging this whole PhD thing, feeling like a total failure, feeling so negative and worried ALL OF THE TIME!

I have been taking medication since September last year and I have been doing other things to try and fix my brain and my attitude to things and it did involve taking 6 months away from my PhD, my thesis and anything else related to that and working on myself for a while. I'm not suggesting that you need medication but don't be against it (as I was for so long). How you feel is massively important to how you work and what you achieve and trust me when I say, you are not worthless and you are not alone!!

Mistakes happen in a PhD, Christ I'd be worried if they didn't. Don't dwell on it though, explain to your supervisor what has happened and if you feel able to, explain how you feel and what support you need.

Reach out and make new friends, join a class (when they're re-open), honestly, don't suffer in silence and stop that voice in your head from telling you negative things. She's a bitch!!