I'm suspending for 6 months and terrified. Can anyone share some experiences?

04-Oct-15, 03:24
edited about 15 seconds later
by 8556732
Avatar for 8556732
posted about 5 years ago

My old post here details a bit about my depression:
Well I've decided to suspend until May 2016. I am making good progress with my treatment, but have realised i need to take some 'me' time and get things back on track.

So my question is directed at anyone who suspended; what did you do in that period?
04-Oct-15, 14:47
edited about 22 seconds later
Avatar for BilboBaggins
posted about 5 years ago
I took a 5 month medical break / suspension in the middle of my second go at a PhD. It was that or I would walk away, again. I was struggling too much to deal with my progressive neurological illness, and needed a break. It was a slight fankle (Scots word - ok, hassle) to arrange, because my funding body (AHRC) would only approve a break on medical grounds. But there was no problem at all getting approval given my diagnosis, and my supervisor supported me in my choice to take this break.

I did *nothing* PhD related for the 5 months, and had a proper break. I looked after myself as much as possible, and viewed it as a chance to recharge my batteries completely. After the break I returned, refreshed and recharged, and successfully completed the PhD.

It sounds as though you need a total break too. Don't waste the 6 months by doing PhD things.

Good luck!
06-Oct-15, 16:49
edited about 25 seconds later
Avatar for glowworm
posted about 5 years ago
Hi. I've never suspended my study, but I just wanted to say that I think it's a very courageous thing to do. Admitting that you're struggling and making the time and headspace to deal with it takes a lot of strength. I hope things go well for you. Good luck!
06-Oct-15, 21:07
edited about 17 seconds later
Avatar for IntoTheSpiral
posted about 5 years ago

I commented on your last post, because I took a leave of absence to deal with some mental health issues. I think you've made a sensible decision, and importantly it actually shows you're on the way to getting better - you have taken the decision to prioritise your health and look after yourself - people with depression who are at the depths really struggle to recognise that it's okay to put their own needs first.

So, well done on making the decision to take a break :-)

I continued to work during my break (but not on research), but the big thing I did was engage with my therapy properly, go to the gym and get some exercise, read books for pleasure and just figure out what it meant to be me again. The most important thing for me was making sure that every day, I left the flat - and not just for work. Every day had to involve something outside of my flat that wasn't my job. Some days it was just therapy, others it was a trip to the supermarket, but each day I did something. And, at least once a week I met up with friends for lunch, coffee or a drink (though I was off alcohol at the time).

It took a while before I was able to sit in a coffee shop on a Wednesday afternoon without feeling guilty that I wasn't working on my PhD. But getting to that position was really important for me.

Good luck. I'm sure you've made the right decision. I'm now less than 3 months away from submission and working full time as a lecturer. It's tough, but I can see now that the work I did when I was ill actually had a lot more merit than I thought. Working at getting well is a full time job in itself to be honest.

Be kind to yourself. Always.
09-Oct-15, 13:44
edited about 1 minute later
by Gwen86
Avatar for Gwen86
posted about 5 years ago
I also suspended for three months to deal with my depression. Without a doubt, I would have dropped out of the PhD if I hadn't done that. During suspension, I focused mainly on therapy, as well as getting my sleep, exercise and diet habits back on track. After suspension, I got back to research, got a job as a lecturer while I was writing up the thesis, and have just received word that I have passed the PhD.

It's not that everything became easy once I had improved my mental health - I still had difficulty writing, had major corrections to do because of submitting a rushed thesis, and had a few bad days when it was hard to work. But the difference it made was to my resilience. I became much better at getting through a bad day and trying again the next day, and I was much less paralysed with fear and anxiety. Mental resilience is a really important thing when you are doing a project as long-term, draining and isolating as a PhD. Taking some time to work on that is the best thing you can do in order to succeed in the end.
09-Oct-15, 18:35
by Saint
Avatar for Saint
posted about 5 years ago
Everyone deals with it in his/her own way due to different circumstances, so I think you shouldn't be concerned about what others did. Do it in your own way. Find yourself again.

Good luck with your recovery. As mentioned, it takes great courage to actually admit the problem and do something about it. Surely there'll be derisive eyes upon you. Friends that start to drift away, family members starting to look down on you with sarcastic remarks, etc. That's real life. Good for you if people around you are understanding, which would make it a little easier. But hey, even if they aren't, this is about you, not them. So what I'm saying here is that you should prioritize yourself now and make a full recovery.

Perhaps during the break, you'll find a calling you can call your own. It happens in a very strange way. Life will only get better from that point. There'll be paperwork and financial problems that entail, but you'll get through it somehow once you've sorted yourself out. That's the most important part.

I hope I'm making sense. ( ._.)
10-Oct-15, 18:05
Avatar for windowsill
posted about 5 years ago
8556732, you're right to go for a very long suspension to sort yourself out, that's certainly a good thing to give yourself plenty of time. and if you don't do it you might end up like me and you'd have to attach extra time towards the end, so it sounds like you made the right decision.

the others made some very valid points.

mine is a perspective from someone who didn't take a break. it's been suggested to me but i didn't do it because i wanted to get the phd out of the way (it was fairly late in the phd). but my health didn't improve and at the end of the day i had to apply for an extension (was granted) on medical grounds and i have the same delay as if i had taken a suspension. i am not sure what is better, for the extension allows me a less stressful, healthier pace of work. and i am not sure a suspension would have been able to help with recovery as i always felt the pressure of the phd anyway.... however, if it had happened earlier in the phd a suspension would probably have been better....

all the best to everyone.


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