Will I ever get through it?

posted
17-Mar-11, 18:37
edited about 26 seconds later
by CathS
Avatar for CathS
posted about 9 years ago
Hey everyone,
I'm just looking for a bit of moral support... I'm in the 4th year of my PhD at the moment and am in the middle of writing up, and am finding it really hard to convince myself that I'll ever get there. There just seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.
I was meant to submit last Christmas in order to start a year long post-doc, but the writing always takes me much longer than I think, so I've still not handed it in, even though I'm currently trying to start a new project.
I have two supervisors for the PhD - one is of the opinion that I should just tie up the ends of what I've written now and submit as soon as possible, whereas the other thinks that I should wait and try to perfect the dissertation as much as possible. So at the moment I don't really know what I should be doing. It's becoming harder and harder to convince myself that I will ever get to the end of this dissertation! Maybe I should just quit...
The stress of it all seems to be wrecking my health - I've had bouts of depression since the second year of my PhD and also really regular migraines, which are increasing in frequency again. I'm just not sure how much more of this I can cope with.
Sorry to rant on - I just really need to know that I'm not on my own with this. Surely some other people here have had similar experiences... I'd be really grateful to hear from you.
posted
17-Mar-11, 19:09
edited about 29 seconds later
by Heidy
Avatar for Heidy
posted about 9 years ago
I know the feeling, CathS. Almost there and yet nowhere... But do hang in there, it'll be worth it! Think of the alternative, giving up may give you a lift for a day or two but a year later you may feel very down for not having stuck it out. You may want to take a little break though - watch TV for 30 mins, eat some choccie biscuits and - most importantly - talk to a friend on a regular basis (every 2 or 3 days) reporting the state of your progress to him/her. That should give you some perspective and a means to vent some frustration. Go on - it's the final lap! Heidy :]
posted
17-Mar-11, 19:15
by kev8d
Avatar for kev8d
posted about 9 years ago
Hi Cath,

I feel much the same way as you do. I'm in my fourth year, and I've been struggling with depression and anxiety basically since I started the degree. This year I finally went to a doctor and was prescribed medication. The medication seems to help a little bit — it quiets some of the inner voices that told me I was going to fail, but the thesis still feels like it's a long ways from being finished.

That being said, I'm of the opinion that I've come too far to quit. Others who started at the same time have finished the degree, but I also know of some who have struggled and had to essentially start writing from scratch. As others have said before, the phd seems to be more about stubbornness than brilliance. Of course, if its having physical effects on your health, you should do take steps to protect your health.

With regards to writing up, it's important to remember that there's no platonic 'form' that your thesis must adhere to. There are many acceptable forms that the finished product could take, and no work will ever be perfect.

Also, I know how it feels to not see a light at the end of the tunnel. I have rough versions of all my chapters written, but there's so much to do, it feels like I will never finish filling in gaps and completing revisions. I wonder if there's some way we could chart our progress to see that much of the work really is behind us, and that there really will be a point when everything is, if not perfect, at least acceptable.

Best wishes!
posted
17-Mar-11, 22:08
by CathS
Avatar for CathS
posted about 9 years ago
Thanks so much for the replies! It's really helpful to know that other people are going through similar experiences. I know the PhD is meant to be a challenge, and I didn't go into it thinking it was easy, but I just feel like I'm constantly hitting a brick wall. It's so helpful to be able to share the experience with people who are also doing PhDs - other people tend to look in from outside and can't really know what it's like. I think you're both right though - quitting isn't really an option now, I guess. That would just make me feel like a complete failure. So I guess there's no way to go but onwards... :S
posted
17-Mar-11, 23:52
by pamw
Avatar for pamw
posted about 9 years ago
I'm another one in the same boat. I went part-time towards the end of my funded period so am now just starting my fifth year and want to submit in September/October but I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. I've become very depressed lately, made worse by quite a few job rejections. I too have drafts of most of the thesis but most not to a high enough standard yet. I never seem to be able to get motivated to do any work and then I worry that I haven't done anything, although in the past week I have started to get an interest back and have managed to do a bit of work. It would be good for us all to support each other as we know that we can do it and it would be stupid to give up now.
posted
18-Mar-11, 08:08
by Corinne
Avatar for Corinne
posted about 9 years ago
Well, I am in the group too. I remember that last year in February I used to get up at night with the idea of sending an e-mail to Registry to say that I wanted to quit. I don't really know how another year passed, and I am due to submit by June. I submitted the last complete draft of my thesis (or at least I hope so!) to my supervisor, and I am waiting for feedback. Obviously there is no certainty that the thesis will be considered good enough to be submitted, or that I will pass the viva.

This is one of the pleasures of doing a PhD. And you will get little sympathy outside academia, as people who didn't do it do not understand the presssure you are going through.

Nonetheless, I am have come a long way since last year. As my thesis heavily relies on original archival documents, I didn't have a proper overview of what I was going to achieve at the end of the project when I started to write. But at a certain point I realised that I couldn't continue to work on individual chapters for ever and I decided to put all chapters together. Reading the whole thing was empowering. I felt a real sense of achievement, although much work was still to be done. I managed to work much faster after that, and I also managed to spot problems that were not evident when working on single parts.

There are still times when I feel frustrated and anxiety takes over, but I am also much more confident that I have done my best whatever the result.

C.
(mince)
posted
03-Apr-11, 16:27
Avatar for Pineapple29
posted about 9 years ago
Hi CathS.

I just wanted to let you know that you're definitely not alone. I'm in the same boat.

I'm actually in the middle of drafting an email to my supervisors just searching for some sort of support and guidance from them on coping with this latest set back- in my case a viva cancellation 12 days before the viva date. It's clear from my email that I want to quit. I can't bring myself to send it- so I'm leaving it in my draft folder for now and I'll revisit it after I've calmed down a bit. My external cancelled it because he thought my thesis was too long and refused to mark it. He received my thesis in October, so he's had plenty of time to refuse it! There's also the question of why my university accepted it as it's clear it's over the word limit!

I started this PhD in 2006, so I'm in my fifth year. I'm looking at going into a sixth year depending on whether they find a replacement, and also depending on viva outcomes- which is a terrifying and depressing thought. I've probably destroyed my reputation at my university :$ Also, anyone who looks at my CV will also see that it's taken me such a long time to finish this PhD (or MPhil) so it will probably leave a question mark on my academic record.

I'm finding it incredibly difficult at the moment. I have no idea how long it will take to find a replacement external examiner. I'm also seriously doubting whether I'll pass this viva. I think given the amount of work I've put into my thesis, my supervisors and I think it's worthy of a doctorate, but only after massive and extensive corrections. Although they also said there is a possibility of an MPhil if I'm not clear on my research aims which is making things even harder! I also found out today that someone who started their PhD a year after me recently passed their viva with very minimal corrections. I know PhDs are completely different and it's unhelpful to draw comparisons across PhDs- it's just adding salt into my wounds, although I'm delighted my friend passed!

I'm also experiencing loads of unhappy depressive thoughts and I'm thinking about getting some professional help. I'm not doing myself any favours! In order to lift my mood and encourage more positive thoughts,  I'm looking for a job, voluntary work and also attending the gym regularly to encourage some healthy and happy hormones etc etc. I also need to remind myself that I've come along way and I'm so very close to finishing- even though the finishing line keeps disappearing from view.

You're not alone Cath x
posted
03-Apr-11, 21:35
edited about 21 seconds later
by olivia
Avatar for olivia
posted about 9 years ago
Hang in there, Pineapple! You are so close to the finish line--and whether or not in view, it is there. Your university must surely have regulations which require the time frame within which the viva is to be held. Seek some impartial advise and assistance if need be ( if you have not already) from the student union.

I had a something similiar feeling when I was trying to get my thesis submitted...it just felt like obstacles kept coming up that would prevent physically turning it in. ( I often felt like the poster of the penguin who says Oh....blank it...I am going home...). My oddyssey to turning in the thesis was met by a malfunctioning printer, a copy centre ( for which I paid dearly and to which I had turned in desperation to submit a sufficient number of copies for binding..) that messed up the copy job and then made me pay again to get it done right ( I should have fought them but by this point I utterly had no will left to fight about it...)...can you imagine the nearly sobbing relief of getting the soft bound copies back in proper shape to turn in?

OH, and I was told that the only place to get soft bound copies done was like 200 miles from the university! What! I found out in fact they could be bound on campus--but...why that information was not widely made available to PhD students and we were directed to some place 200 miles away....etc....

When I finally submitted, there was no sense of euphoria, relief, happiness or sadness--just numb and weary after all the drama of trying to get the physical pages together in the right format to submit. I thought I might never get it turned in, and trust me there were plenty of moments along that final episode where I just wanted to say forget it (or other words beginning with F). :p

Hang in there. The end will come. Rattle some cages around your university, stomp your foot, and insist they get a viva scheduled for you on a date certain with an external that will not wishy washy out after making the commitment. :-s
posted
03-Apr-11, 21:43
by olivia
Avatar for olivia
posted about 9 years ago
Apologies for double post--otherwise it would just get way too long! But I used to find some musical inspiration and energy again in listening to a very loud version of Jimi Hendrix "All Along the Watchtower". I am convinced the secret meaning of his lyrics is about trying to get a PhD completed...

:p

The song that begins

"There must be some kind of way out of here
Said the joker to the thief
There's too much confusion
I can't get no relief"

can only be about trying to finish a PhD!

and it ends though with the viva being held. That surely is what these lyrics mean

"Two riders were approaching
And the wind began to howl - Hey!"

Because the two riders must certainly be the internal and the external examiner showing up to conduct the viva. And the wind that is starting to howl must certainly symbolise the start of a viva!!





:p
posted
04-Apr-11, 19:51
edited about 25 seconds later
Avatar for AlexandraK
posted about 9 years ago
Hi everyone - I am so in the same boat. I started my PhD in January 2007 so am now in my 5th Year. I have submitted a complete draft to my supervisors and am awaiting their response. My confidence is at zero so I am convinced that they won't like it and I'll have to do several drafts before I can print and submit. I am so fed up and really identify with everyone else. Cath - I appreciate the difficulty you have with your two supervisors having different opinions on what you should do. I also have two supervisors and have similar difficulties and I feel that I can't make a decision just now because I think that whatever I decide it will turn out to be wrong. I think I feel this way because I think that decing to do the PhD was maybe a wrong decision because here I am so many years later less confident, more stressed and financially struggling. Maybe one day I'll look back at this experience and feel that it was worth it but not just now. Like Pam I've also had tons of job rejections - I'm not qualified for any academic jobs because I have no publications - nothing even in the pipeline. And non-academic jobs are not interested because I am too old or over-qualified. I feel for everyone here and am pulling for you all to finish just so that we can all move on with our lives!
posted
04-Apr-11, 23:43
edited about 20 seconds later
by teek
Avatar for teek
posted about 9 years ago
Hi all

Not a lot to say except, yep, I too am floating around in this rusty boat. Managed to be ahead of schedule most of the way through, then had a bit of a breakdown (not all phd-related) in year 3 and been struggling to get the albatross off my neck ever since. My registration runs out in a couple of months so it's do-or-die (academically speaking). I've realised that one of the reasons I don't want to do it is because I can't bear the thought of the viva and having it judged. The idea of having someone deem it inadequate after so much toil is unthinkable. Still, I just have to find the time and face the demons, I guess (eep!).
posted
05-Apr-11, 09:48
edited about 14 seconds later
Avatar for WanderingSage
posted about 9 years ago
Not 100% in your shoes, but darn close. There is a light in the distant part of the tunnel. However, it is either the end of the tunnel or a train coming at me at high speed. Eh, one of the two, but either way, it will be over sooner than I expect.

I do have some words from a man much wiser than myself for you. He finished his PhD a while back and helps out with some PhD training and sometimes just listening to (university wide) students gripe and despair. 'The PhD is never finished, it is simply abandoned at it's least damaging point.' Abandoning here being the pursuit of the perfect thesis, not the PhD process.

Smile and keep working at it.
posted
05-Apr-11, 15:50
Avatar for cplusplusgirl
posted about 9 years ago
so glad I found this thread. (coming to the end of my fourth year and trying to put a thesis together - roughly half way atm, need to be finished by end of April *GULP* )

I have so much done, and so much to do :-(. I just don't want this albatross hanging around my neck ANY more. I want rid one way or the other.

I really really love this:
"The PhD is never finished, it is simply abandoned at it's least damaging point"

posted
05-Apr-11, 15:51
edited about 16 seconds later
Avatar for Pineapple29
posted about 9 years ago
======= Date Modified 05 Apr 2011 15:56:15 =======
Quote From AlexandraK:

My confidence is at zero so I am convinced that they won't like it and I'll have to do several drafts before I can print and submit. I am so fed up and really identify with everyone else........ I also have two supervisors and have similar difficulties and I feel that I can't make a decision just now because I think that whatever I decide it will turn out to be wrong. I think I feel this way because I think that decing to do the PhD was maybe a wrong decision because here I am so many years later less confident, more stressed and financially struggling. Maybe one day I'll look back at this experience and feel that it was worth it but not just now. Like Pam I've also had tons of job rejections - I'm not qualified for any academic jobs because I have no publications - nothing even in the pipeline. And non-academic jobs are not interested because I am too old or over-qualified. I feel for everyone here and am pulling for you all to finish just so that we can all move on with our lives!


Hi AlexandraK. Snap!! This is EXACTLY how I'm feeling and experiencing right now :( Although I'm waiting for a second viva date due to a cancelled viva date (due to an overly long thesis, even though I submitted in October!) and I've got a few publications under my belt (unrelated to my PhD). Considering my PhD journey over the last 5 odd years, I'm fully expecting problems during the viva and a dreaded fail (which will probably finish me off!).

Anyway, I've spent today applying for research assistant posts and assistant psychology positions. I've already received feedback from some stating that I'm overly qualified for 'junior' research assistant posts. So I'm feeling pretty rubbish now! Funny- my ipod library just switched to Russian Roulette by Rhianna- very apt!

I'm sure you will all get there in the end :)(sprout). But, I really can't see the finishing line or any light at the end of the tunnel- although it has to be there somewhere ......(up) Note to self, I must stay positive!!!!!
posted
06-Apr-11, 22:37
Avatar for AlexandraK
posted about 9 years ago
Hi Pineapple....I really feel for you! I've been following your experience with interest and really sympathise. My thesis was a bit too long but when I sent the first complete draft to my supervisors they sent it back to me even before they read it to say cut 5000 - 6000 words from the main body. I managed to do that ok - so that cut it down to just under 100,000 words in the main thesis (and around 108,000 including all the appendices, biblio etc.). I'm still waiting on their feedback for the rearranged complete draft and can only hope that they don't want too many changes as I am worried that I'll end up writing more and then having to remove more and more words. I really hope that something gets sorted out soon for you and you get some support while you make the changes that you need. There is no doubt that you deserve your PhD and you have done all the work - it's just a case now of jumping through all the right hoops to make it happen. But I really understand your feelings at the moment. Sometimes I feel so trapped - I've come so far that it is now too difficult just to walk away. On the other hand I really just want my life back and the millstone that is my thesis off my back! Anyway, I hope that you get a new external supervisor soon and your supervisors start giving you lots of good advice and support. In the meantime here are a couple of sprouts - (sprout)(sprout)they may not taste great but they're full of vitamins and iron to boost your immune system to get you to feel positive about the changes you need to make to your thesis! ;-)(up) Thumbs up and good luck!

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