PhD and PTSD from prior experiences.

20-Aug-19, 23:34
edited about 13 seconds later
Avatar for noUserName
posted about 6 months ago
Hi all,

Two years prior to my PhD starting date I had a traumatic event which has triggered a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

During my MSc, one of my classmates chose to end his life. I was the last person to have had contact with him before he did it. That was very hard for me. I blamed myself many times as that night we went out with other colleagues and I was too lazy to text him to come with us. That could have saved his life as he would be having a hangover. Though now I am convinced this would have delayed things and in the end nothing would have changed. This second traumatic event added to my first one and made the PTSD more complex and intense.

I eventually managed to go through my MSc with the PTSD. It was one of the hardest things I have achieved in my life. During my MSc I undertook a treatment specific for PTSD. The treatment helps me to deal with the symptoms (dissociation, flashbacks, etc.). I started my PhD right after my MSc.

During my PhD, I had to face a third traumatic situation, similar to the first one. But I did manage to overcome my demons during the most dramatic moments of the second traumatic situation. This third experience happened prior to the second anniversary of my first event. Because I did not have strong PTSD symptoms I thought I had gone past my PTSD.

However, on the second anniversary of the first traumatic event I started having flashbacks again. This corresponded to the period where I should complete some formalities for the PhD.

My supervisors are aware of parts of the story (I chose not to disclose everything). But I did hear from one of them that "life happens" and that I should get on with it. I wish it was that easy. It is not. I did not choose to have those 3 experiences and I did not choose to develop a PTSD.

Did anybody else here go through a similar situation? How did you manage?
22-Aug-19, 09:55
edited about 2 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 6 months ago
People react differently to stimuli like those you have mentioned.
Some move on quickly and others can't seem to get past it.

Really, the only advice we can give is that you seek help from a trained professional.
We mean well on here but I'm pretty sure none of us are experts in mental health so we are limited in the advice we can give.
22-Aug-19, 11:46
Avatar for noUserName
posted about 6 months ago
Of course, seeking professional help for the PTSD-related things is essential.

What I meant by my question was how did you manage your PhD with that situation? Do you disclose it to your supervisors? Do you disclose when there are symptoms coming back?

I have the feeling that this can be perceived as me being "lazy" or making up excuses.
26-Aug-19, 21:38
edited about 22 seconds later
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 6 months ago
Supervisors can react very differently to mental health issues. They can either be really supportive and give you the space/time needed or tell you to "man up" like they did. I think it depends partially on their own PhD experience and they mimic what they had to endure. So you really need to judge your supervisors for yourself and get a feel for how they did.

Though I do think that you should see the university therapist or equivalent and make some formal notes on the university system that you did it. That can give you some insurance for bad supervisor reactions or extensions.


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