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What makes you happy?

I love this post!

The things I wake up for in the morning are...

10) Tea!  Hot, cold and even luke warm.
9)  Coffee.  On slow weekend mornings when you're sitting outdoors and the air is crisp.
8)   Sweaty activities, especially when they involve hitting things (balls, not people).
7)   Bright, blinding, beautiful sunshine.
6)   Being in a new place with nothing to do but spend the day walking, talking, eating and exploring.
5)   Blogging (www.phddepression.com). Anonymously pouring your heart out to a bunch of strangers is so liberating.
4)  Small breaks.  A ten minute walk outside in the middle of the workday can be more rewarding a week at the beach.
3)   Getting to know people. Everyone has at least one mind-blowing story to tell if you just ask.
2)  Teaching. You're changing a person's life.
1)  And, through all the episodes of phd depression, the thing that sends me back to school each and every day is that feeling I get when I've done great work and I know that, for today, I lived to my full potential.

Bad relationship with supervisor need reference.

Hi Max,
I do think it would be a bad idea to ask him for a recommendation if you're already aware that he thinks your work is shoddy. Of course we all have people that we work for that we don't get along with, but if he's recommendation comes off any less than glowing, it looks like poor judgement on your part in choosing him to write one for you and/or that you didn't have anyone that could say anything good to write one. On the other hand, if you get a glowing recommendation from other sources (other professors you worked with during your masters) then I think it shouldn't really matter if you didn't get one from your supervisor - it at least couldn't be worse than getting a bad recommendation.

If you really feel like you need a reference from him you could ask to do some extra work with him and try to redeem yourself and then ask for a recommendation once he's seen your real work ethic.

Good luck.


Hey Cat,
I definitely know how you feel.  Like Sue said, we all go through this, but no one talks about it publicly. You need to get your social life back, your friends and freedom can save you in the dark work times.  It may seem like you don't have time for a social life, but the depression of no social life will hurt your work more than the few hours outside. As mentioned before, make a list of small, short term goals - the smaller the better. Each day, assign yourself work that you think should take you just a few hours.  When you've completed it, check it off, praise yourself for completing your day's work and be done. Do this for a few weeks and see if you don't start getting out of your slump.  Eventually, if you're really finishing off all of your work in a few hours then you can consider upping your goals, but don't push it - this is a marathon not a sprint. I'm tracking my own progression through tough times as well as posting tips I figure out along the way on my blog www.phddepression.com if you want to check it out.

Good luck.

Supervision meetings

I think the best mentality to go into a meeting with your supervisor is looking for improvement suggestions. Personally, I find it really hard, and I just want praise, but in reality it would be a disservice to you if your supervisor wasn't giving you constructive criticism about how to improve your work. So go in with the mindset "I'd like to know how to make this better" and see if that helps at all.

Also, it might help to realize that there is one of two reasons that your supervisor is being negative. 1) It's just the way he is, and has nothing to do with you, so you shouldn't let it bother you (easier said than done, but it's worth trying) or 2) Your work needs serious improvement, in which case it's better to get feedback now so that you can get it into publication shape.

Good luck.

dealing with loneliness...

I totally know what you're going through. It's so hard to meet people after college.

Things that have worked for me:

1) Embrace your independence. Just changing your view of the situation can make all the difference. Think of yourself as "free" as opposed to "lonely". For the time being you can do whatever you want without any concern for anyone else. Enjoy all the foods the mr doesn't like. Spend all day lounging in bed on a Saturday if you want - when you're back with friends and family you won't have the luxury of time. Relish in doing everything you want to do now.

2) Pick up a hobby. In the same vein as 1, when you're back with friends and family you will have so many obligations that it will be hard to have any time to enrich yourself. So pick up some hobbies now. Learn how to cook new dishes, read all those books you haven't had time to read before now, or take up a sport. The endorphins of the sport can be a cure for loneliness in themselves!

3) Get a massage, an animal or a plant. Sometimes the body just needs contact with a living thing. It's especially nice to take care of something. I personally can't even keep my plants alive, but it's nice to come home each day and see how they're doing.

4) Get skype or some other free video call service. It's so nice to see the faces of those you love when you're feeling down.

5) Find tv/radio shows, movies or podcasts that you love. When I've been alone and lonely, I've found that just having the sound of nice voices in the background can do a lot. I subscribe to free podcasts that I'll listen to as I'm getting ready in the morning and all evening after I get back. It has the double benefit of teaching me something too!

6) Finally, just keep doing what you're doing to make friends. Make sure you're open minded about the people you meet. Even if someone isn't destined to be your best friend, it's nice to just have people to grab a cup of coffee or go to a movie with.

By the way, last week I wrote on similar topic on my blog: http://www.phddepression.com/2009/08/tip-5-get-social.html

Good luck!

Worried about starting

Although I do think that you should make sure that you're really passionate about your field before you start a PhD in it, the reaction you're having right now just sounds like cold feet. Don't let a fear of the unexplored prevent you from enjoying the journey. Take some time and think about what you loved enough to make you join the program. Has that changed, or was there nothing there to begin with? If that's the case then you should reconsider what you're getting yourself into. If not, then just go out, play some sports, explore the world for a month and stop fretting about something you don't know yet is either good or bad.

No motivation to complete PhD

I think that's a great idea and I'm glad you've made the decision to take care of yourself. Don't worry about taking time away from the PhD program. In fact, the advice I hear most often when people don't like their program is to take a leave of absence (which is usually granted for health reasons, so in this case it could be your mental health) and see how you feel after a year. Maybe this is the perfect opportunity for that.

Good luck.

No motivation to complete PhD

As you can guess by my name I've been going through a similar situation. There are a lot of us out there that feel overwhelmed and overworked, stressed and unstable, but if this extends past passing feelings of desperation about your PhD (what I am calling PhD Depression) and into continual feelings of desperation about things in your "real life" then you must get help. There is nothing more important than that right now. No one will see your medical records and, anyway, most of the western world is in therapy too. We pretend it's a bad word still, but really everyone is doing it.

Do it now while you have the great and probably cheap or free mental health resources provided by your school. Only once you've taken care of the most important thing a PhD student has (their brain), can you start to think of how to fix this situation.

When you're ready for that, I listed different resources that your school might provide in my blog
( http://www.phddepression.com/2009/08/tip-3-get-professional-help.html )

Finally, keep talking to us. It's lonely when it feels like no one is going through what you are. But we are.

Good luck.

supervisor disappeared

Unfortunately there seems to be two schools of thought with supervisors. Some are looking over your shoulder, asking and demanding to death. Others believe they're there if you need them, but you should be responsible for almost everything on your own. It sounds like you have the second kind. My advice would be to try to email him with a clear list of what you need from him. Don't be demanding but just say

Hello ___,

I hope you're having a nice summer.

I am doing X right now and I was hoping that you could Y.

I also need a Z but am not sure about A and would like your opinion.

blah blah

Thank you for your help.


Most supervisors that I have worked with seem to respond well to direction because they often are so busy that they easily forget what they should be doing. Unless he's totally lost his mind, your supervisor wants you do well because it's a reflection on him and his job. So any way that you can politely steer him towards helping you should be appreciated. If not, then find whomever it is that usually picks up his slack and helps his students graduate because there must be someone there behind the scenes doing it if he really doesn't care.

Good luck.

Considering quitting...

I definitely agree with what everyone else here has said. I wouldn't necessarily say this to anyone else asking if they should quit (I actually just wrote a blogpost on my own decision to stay that will be put up soon at www.phddepression.com - it's funny how the threads on this site always seem to correspond to exactly what's on my mind), but get out now.

If you already know, so early into the program, that you dislike research and don't want to be in academia after this then you're "lucky". A lot of people (myself included) don't realize/accept that fact until they've invested a lot of time and emotion into a program. In that case, for people with not much further to go, I'd generally say to just try to stick it out. But it is going to be a really long 4+ years for you.

I disagree that you have to quit immediately though. Yes there may be other people who could fill your position, but it's already almost September so I doubt that it would happen this semester anyway. If you stay, you'll have to start working overtime. Don't slack on your research work, you owe it to your supervisor to do good work while you're there, but every night when you go home spend a few hours pulling yourself together and applying for whatever it is you want to do next. It's not sneaky to do this, no one expects a person to quit anything without having the next thing lined up. Just make sure to give your supervisor some advanced notice when it's time for you to leave and offer to (within reason) finish out any project that you'd be leaving in the lurch.

Good luck.

Tips List

Quote From Sue2604:

It doesn't have to be either/or - you can have a relationship and still do a PhD! If you want to get married, get married!

I second this! And third it and fourth it!!!

This is exactly what I wrote about yesterday in my blog! Even if it often feels like the only way to get through your PhD is by isolating yourself alone in a room, I really think that's the quickest way to insanity!

In my department, almost all of the professors are married. Coincidence? Or were they the few who were able to find the appropriate work-life balance that could sustain them through the rough academic patches without distracting them?

Just do it! Get married AND get your PhD!

Tips List

Hi all!  Just joined the forum, this is the first thread I've read and I think it's a really great list. I definitely agree with starting the lit review asap (even before you begin), not just for productivity reasons but to make sure you know what you're really getting into.  I loved the undergrad version of my field, and my specialty sounded really interesting in theory, but I've gone through lots of periods of questioning whether I made the right decision when it turned out that behind the scenes my work can be less than enthralling at times. So that brings me to my tip:

It is definitely important to do all the right things in terms of research (keep a notebook, write every day, ask questions, etc) & I wish I would have had the list of those tips when I started because I think they would have helped me get out of the gate faster.  But I think that no matter what you do (others can correct me if I'm wrong, but the evidence of attrition rates suggest to me that I'm not) there will come a time when you feel lost and hopeless and in the midst of a PhD Depression. I can't tell you what decision to make there, but I can tell you to take care of your mind, body and soul in those times.  Don't forget that there's life outside of Grad school, don't forget about the relationships that exist outside of it, or the things you used to do before you got sucked into the vortex. There's a lot of pressure and suggestion that you should do nothing but work, and it does require hard work, but you have to be the number one advocate for your own mental well being.  Finally, even though most people don't talk about it, remember that everyone goes through this.

As you might guess I've recently been in a real slump - approaching the end, but not sure if I can make the last mile. I've been writing about this final journey and my struggles to the finish line in a blog I started a few months ago http://www.phddepression.com/2009/07/phd-depression.html if anyone is interested in checking it out.

By the way, happy to report I think I'm slowly pulling out of it, as many have before me :-)