Viva anxiety / traumatic journey (TW mental health) - help needed


Bit of a story, but start of my PhD I was a star. Excelled perfectly well. Then I was the victim of a horrific crime, I ended up leaving my home with nothing but my children and our passports and starting again. I had to take on work, attend court dates and deal with the trauma of everything, my work suffered, my Uni had very little support and it felt like everyone gave up on me. My second year review went badly, I was put on a referral and marked on every contact as under performing. No support from my Uni - although my supervisors were (and are) lovely people - their support was great.
I pretty much got the impression no-one expected me to submit, but I have. I did 3 independent studies, I wrote it all up. My supervisors checked individual chapters, but due to unforeseen circumstances none of them were able to read the entire thesis and I was advised to submit as it was (2 months before I was due to submit).
I've never had a mock viva, I've never really spoken about a Viva apart from agreeing to an external examiner. My supervisor is now back form leave and has had to arrange an independent chair as it's a virtual Viva due to COVID. She sent me a really lovely email telling me not to panic and that it was normal to feel anxious.
Thing is no-one has said to me, not even once, if it's a good thesis, or a bad thesis. No ones said they'll think I'll pass, or fail.
I'm dyslexic, but couldn't afford the proof reading costs, so despite grammarly pro, I suspect I'll have loads of typo's.
I know they have an independent chair assigned, but I've heard nothing about dates.
I'm an absolute wreck, I can't sleep, my hearts racing, I feel on the verge of a panic attack and can't breathe. Any advice?



Sorry to hear about the crisis that happened in your life. When is your viva? Is there time to have a mock viva online? I didn't have a mock viva, and many people don't - so it isn't a must. It just depends on whether you personally would find it helpful. Re no comments on passing or failing... Normally supervisors don't let people go to viva if they don't believe they will pass. It sounds like your thesis is sound - if it has 3 studies that your supervisors have reviewed. I can understand the sense of anxiety knowing that no one has reviewed the thesis as a whole. But really as long as the nuts and bolts are in place, it should be fine. The worst case scenario would be to fail and have to downgrade to an MPhil. But that is quite unlikely - simply because it happens very rarely. Passing with corrections is the most common - whether those are minor or major corrections.

Do you have any strategies in place for dealing with the anxious feelings and thoughts? This is probably the most effective thing you can do right now - as once you feel less of a wreck, everything will seem brighter and more manageable.


Avatar for EV

Hi Em89

Congratulation and really well done on submitting in such circumstances! I wouldn't worry unduly but that's easier said than done, I know!

I fit helps at all, I didn't have anyone review my entire thesis. I had a great supervisor during my last couple of years who I periodically met with and discussed my thesis but she only actually read one or two chapters in their entirety, although she provided great input to the rest. I passed with minor corrections. There were quite a number of typos but these are easily corrected.

Incidentally, I didn't do a mock viva either. I just read my thesis so that I knew it inside out and mentally prepared some of the "typical" questions. I also thought about questions that I really didn't want to be asked and prepared some responses to those to give me some confidence. I understand the nerves as I had dreaded the viva from the first day of my PhD. I was very anxious on the day but once the viva started the adrenaline kicked in and I just got on with things.

I found it comforting to read the success stories of other so I hope this helps a little. From reading your post, there is nothing that would give me cause for concern from an outsider's perspective. Although there are never any guarantees of course. Best of luck and keep us updated!



Thank you for your reply. I don't have a Viva date, I submitted early July and was told they had found a chair last week but no communication on dates yet. Part of me knows this is entirely normal, the other part is thinking 'have I accidentally plagiarized my thesis without realizing?' or 'Are they holding back on dates because they are currently speaking with the PGR lead about how to fail me?'

For me, the fact they didn't seem to think I would submit was a real driving force, I'm stubborn so it was a kind of 'I'll submit this thesis even if it takes my last working neuron'.

I also don't understand the etiquette very well, like can I email them for an update? Should I be chasing them for a date? Should I contact anyone in particular?


Those thoughts are normal! :) Emailing the supervisor to check in and get an update is fine too. And if you really want a practice viva then they might be able to help you with that too.