Phd, health issues and stress

posted
05-Oct-18, 10:35
edited a moment later
Avatar for postgradpolscience2018
posted about 2 months ago
Hi all,

So I've decided to voice my fears here because I need some advice. I find it tough to look for it around me, and I don't want people to think that I am looking for pity or that I like to complain and feel sorry for myself.
I've started my Phd this year, and it was all I ever wanted to do. I started tutoring as well, which I really enjoyed, but unfortunately I had to stop giving tutorials, because of my health issues, which makes me really sad.
A couple of weeks back I got some pretty shocking news about my health, which I am finding really tough to digest right now. Although I am young and I didn't expect it, it looks like I am very ill. I am not going to even mention the word, the letter C , the big C, is frightening enough... Now, I am not really in a right place, mentally or physically. All I wanted to do is to start my Phd and 'm feeling very lost at the moment. To preserve my sanity I must go on with my research, however I am really struggling to concentrate these days and to keep up with all my assignments and presentation, not to mention advancing my thesis.
I don't want to take a gap year or to quit my Phd, but equally I feel like I'm letting everyone down. I can't even turn to tell my close ones how I feel, as I am embarrassed by my struggle and my lack of motivation right now.
I guess, I am just shocked about everything, and I feel that nobody can understand my feelings. I feel that my supervisor only cares about my progress about my thesis and not about how I feel. She's not even helpful, and I am wondering if is normal for a supervisor not to make any suggestions about materials, or to give an opinion as to how you should structure your thesis, or any constructive feedback at all????? All I was told was -- you keep on working and come to me if you have any problems. That's how far her support goes,
I also don't really like my colleagues. They are all really self-centred and would never help with any questions. It's just like being in 5th grade again, they are so secretive, and I don't understand why, when we are pursuing complete different topics.
I am also still working a couple of days a week, and I have a child too, so I find everything so intense, and really stressful.
I don't know what to do about my Phd in light of everything that's going on right now. I even feel that I don't like my topic anymore, don't know anymore how I should advance my thesis, where to look for inspiration, I feel unoriginal, I feel lost.
I am sorry for my negative rant, and I don't know what advice I am looking for, I am just really struggling at the moment.
posted
06-Oct-18, 03:20
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 2 months ago
You have said you are not looking for pity so let's try and get a firm grasp on your problem.

Before I offer advice here, I would like to ask two pretty direct questions.

1) Does your supervisor and your colleagues know about your illness?
2) Do you believe the root issue is your illness or your PhD problems or are those two things inseparable?
posted
06-Oct-18, 17:37
edited about 15 seconds later
Avatar for postgradpolscience2018
posted about 2 months ago
Hi,

My supervisor knows about my illness, my colleagues don't know and frankly I don't want them to know..My problems stem from both, the shock of my illness and the fact I feel lost, very unproductive and battling to concentrate.
I am trying my best to keep up with deadlines etc, as I refuse to ask for extensions and to be beaten by my lethargy and lack of focus. I am just struggling to digest it all.
I also feel that perhaps I haven't chosen wisely when I picked my supervisor, as in addition to the lack of communication, she doesn't seem to want to help at all.
All the other lecturers offered their help and support, my supervisor told me' well, just focus on your thesis now'.
Perhaps I'm overreacting these days, feeling confused as to whether this Phd is the right thing to considering everything that's going on right now.
posted
07-Oct-18, 01:43
edited about 1 minute later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 2 months ago
You need to approach this in a few ways.

1) You need to prioritise coming to terms with your illness. To start with you need to stop calling it C and start calling it by its real name. I think this is the primary root of all your other problems. You then need to accept that this illness has consequences for your ability to continue doing things as you have been up to now. You are trying to carry on as though things have not changed. That is going to make things considerably worse for you physically and mentally. There is no way to sugar coat what is happening to you. How you handle this first big task will determine what you do next.

2) You need to stop expecting things from other people. There is no law which says people have to care about you. If your supervisor doesn't care then that's the end of it. If your colleagues don't want to help you, that is also their right. You cannot control people. What you CAN do is control how you allow their behaviour to affect you. You don't really need any of them. Not really.

3) There is no honour in stubbornly refusing to ask for deadline extensions when you are ill. Don't be silly over this. Get the extension you need. You have more pressing issues righht now than worrying about how others view you.

4) You are having to deal with a major illness but you are worried about looking weak and feeling embarassed about struggling? Once you complete step 1 above, I hope you will come to see how crazy it is to be thinking like this and that you will see more clearly where your priorities are.

It is crucial that you have friends or family who can provide the shoulder you need to lean on during what must be a horrendous time for you. You need all the help you can get. Best of luck with this.
posted
07-Oct-18, 06:27
by tru
Avatar for tru
posted about 2 months ago
Hi, postgradpolscience2018,

Sorry to hear that you are unwell.

Regarding your post, in my opinion, you do have a lot on your plate and maybe, you do not have the right supervisors nor the right state of mind to continue this PhD.

Regarding your supervisor, you said that she is not helpful, does not make any suggestions about materials, or to give an opinion as to how you should structure your thesis, or any constructive feedback at all. She sounds like a very hands-off supervisor. Some students thrive in this environment. You on the other hand, it seems, would prefer a more hands on supervisor. There is a clear mismatch of expectations. You may wish to change to another supervisor who more closely match your needs.

On your health and state of mind, I think that this should come first. You can always undertake your PhD later and concentrate on healing for now. There is nothing wrong with taking a gap year. You are not letting anyone down. We are not robots after all. Having seen first hand the side effects of C treatments, I think it is understandable that you feel lethargic and unable to focus. Please share with you family and friends as you need all the support you can get.

Would you consider taking some time off to think about what you would like to do with this PhD? Perhaps you may wish to take a gap year or perhaps terminate it for now/change supervisor since you have problems with your current supervisor?
posted
07-Oct-18, 16:27
edited about 16 seconds later
Avatar for postgradpolscience2018
posted about 2 months ago
Dear Pm133,



Thank you of for your message. You've been very helpful and I appreciate you honesty.

[quote]Quote From pm133:
You need to approach this in a few ways.

"1) You need to prioritise coming to terms with your illness. To start with you need to stop calling it C and start calling it by its real name. I think this is the primary root of all your other problems. You then need to accept that this illness has consequences for your ability to continue doing things as you have been up to now. You are trying to carry on as though things have not changed. That is going to make things considerably worse for you physically and mentally. There is no way to sugar coat what is happening to you. How you handle this first big task will determine what you do next."

Thanks for being so straight forward, you are right, there is noway to sugar coat what is happening to me. The sooner I face it, and accept what is going on with me, the better. I appreciate your honesty, and perhaps that's why I've chosen to voice my thoughts on a forum, as supposed to talking to the people around me. They won't be honest, and actually try to make me see what's happening and where I'm at, but instead they'll just feel sorry for me. I don't need pity, all I need is some advice that will also act as an wake up call. And your message had that effect on me, and thank you for that.
posted
07-Oct-18, 16:33
edited about 19 seconds later
Avatar for postgradpolscience2018
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From tru:

Would you consider taking some time off to think about what you would like to do with this PhD? Perhaps you may wish to take a gap year or perhaps terminate it for now/change supervisor since you have problems with your current supervisor?


Dear tru,

At this juncture, I don't know what I will do next. I guess, I'll have some time to think in the next couple of weeks as I'll be in an out of hospital for few days, and I will be taking a week off. I am sorry to hear that you've been facing the effects of cancer first hand, are you ok now? I hope you've recovered and that everything is going ok for you now?
Thank you for your thoughtful advice, maybe I should actually consider in changing my supervisor, although pm133 is right in one regard:I cannot force people to help when they don't want to.
She's the only expert in our school in the particular filed I've chosen, and will be very difficult (I believe) to change my supervisor under these circumstances.
I will give it some thought, it's still early days, and hopefully things will improve perhaps in the next month of so.If they won't then I will have to do something about it.

Best wishes.
posted
07-Oct-18, 22:10
edited about 24 seconds later
by monkiaa
Avatar for monkiaa
posted about 2 months ago
My heart with you! All I can advice you to be strong! I have been diagnosed with disease from four years and there are risks that could transform to something dangerous! However, I went for PhD and although hard work and proving something, forced to quit as I have been in toxic place and I am still have the hope and stamina although all the hardships I face in my life. The first advice no matters the odds and adversity, I totally understand your situation and how do you feel, however try to pray a lot, you feel relief and you will not need any one, you will feel strong!
posted
07-Oct-18, 22:12
by monkiaa
Avatar for monkiaa
posted about 2 months ago
Wishing for you all the best from my heart and I wish every thing is going well very soon!
posted
08-Oct-18, 11:00
Avatar for postgradpolscience2018
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From monkiaa:
Wishing for you all the best from my heart and I wish every thing is going well very soon!


Dear Monkiaa,

Thank you for your kind words, wishing you just the same, strength and health...
I hope you're better now, please follow your own advice, and stay strong as well..

Best wishes xx
posted
08-Oct-18, 22:57
by tru
Avatar for tru
posted about 2 months ago


Dear tru,

At this juncture, I don't know what I will do next. I guess, I'll have some time to think in the next couple of weeks as I'll be in an out of hospital for few days, and I will be taking a week off. I am sorry to hear that you've been facing the effects of cancer first hand, are you ok now? I hope you've recovered and that everything is going ok for you now?
Thank you for your thoughtful advice, maybe I should actually consider in changing my supervisor, although pm133 is right in one regard:I cannot force people to help when they don't want to.
She's the only expert in our school in the particular filed I've chosen, and will be very difficult (I believe) to change my supervisor under these circumstances.
I will give it some thought, it's still early days, and hopefully things will improve perhaps in the next month of so.If they won't then I will have to do something about it.

Best wishes.



Oh, sorry for the misunderstanding. I am well but a very very close loved one is undergoing chemo atm and watching first hand has been difficult. We as a family have been giving as much support as we can.

Yes, take some time to think what you want to do. A good supervisor makes it a lot easier to have a successful PhD so do take this factor into consideration when thinking. You can read up as well about all the other bad cases of supervisors here in this forum to see if yours is any way as bad or worse or if you even want to put up with it. Take care...

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