Posdoc blues: Feel depressed and down but can't fathom why.(7 Posts)
I finished my PhD last year and after a short period working in a non-academic job, I've managed to secure a 12 month research assistant job with an academic I really like and is well regarded.
On paper I should be pleased, but I just feel very down and devoid of energy, lonely isolated and like I'm teetering on the edge of collapse and I've only just started the job. (About 7 weeks in.)
I'm living in a different city to my employing institution and the PI so being isolated isn't helping much. I don't have an office so don't have any network around me.
The fact I can work from home is both a curse and a blessing. I've suffered from depression in the past and it feels like I'm teetering on the edge, but in the past there's been an obvious trigger that's sent me spiralling down. This time there's no obvious cause and I should be happy positive and motivated, but I feel none of these things. I don't understand why, I've worked so long and wanted it so much that I almost feel like I'm betraying or sabotaging myself.
I also worry that if I seek treatment for depression again or tell anyone it will look like a reoccurring pattern and evidence of my flakiness, inability to cope under pressure and unsuitability for this type of work and will imperil both this job and future employment.
I realise no one as a magic bullet, but I needed to tell someone this and wondered if anyone has been through anything similar?
I often feel like this when I have finished writing a book. It takes me by surprise every time. It passes and I feel energised and curious again. My field isn't academic,though.
I think it's very common to feel flat after you've achieved a huge goal, and all that time alone at home, very unstructured, probably isn't helping.
I think I'd try to structure your day so you work 9-5 as if it were an office job. Or find out which time of day you work best and try to do most of your intellectual work then- so for me, it's between about 8 am and 2pm, and I find if I haven't achieved most of the hard thinking work then, then it's all over for the day, in that I can't start writing at 3pm, only fiddling round with admin, possibly editing.
I'd also swing into action with all the things that help you prevent depression for you- again these are personal, but might include eating and drinking regularly (as on your own at home, it's easy to let mealtimes drift), a bit of exercise if it doesn't seem too ghastly, seeing the dr, mindfulness or whatever.
Is there any way you can go out of your home to do some work, so go to a library, to the uni, to a coffee shop, just to break up the endless days. I find if I am out and about it sometimes motivates me to get work done quicker so I can go home again, although I do work from home a lot now- but it may get you over a hump.
Finally, you must be bored socially, I like chatting with colleagues, can you go in once a week, every two weeks to touch base with your PI and other colleagues, or attend departmental seminars?
Not sure if any of this will help!
OP is reminding me of all the reasons why I hate working at home.
Do you need to work at home, is that the only way you can have this job?
I used to go out to my local public library, which helped. Or do you have a local Uni whose library you might be able to become a member of?
Thanks for the advice everyone. The problem is that I am in one place, the PI is in another and the university somewhere else. Compounded by the fact I don't live in the place where I did my PhD so don't have any affiliation to them. I'm a library member at the nearest university to my house. Although I feel trapped in a downward spiral. Feel bad, don't go out, feel worse, don't want to see anyone and repeat.
The thing is, the PI won't necessarily want someone working alongside her on a daily basis. Being independent is partly what a lot of people are looking for in a post-doc.
If you are a library member of a local uni, I would go there to add some structure to it all- perhaps twice a week. Also, keep your PI informed about what you are doing so there's a lot of touching base/conversation so you don't feel you are going off course or losing momentum.
It is a hard situation, but I do think in general academia is about being on your own a lot and motivating yourself, my work has periods like this, sometimes months or even a year, so that's part of it. I would just accept you don't feel very motivated right now, and plod on with the work, and you may find it all lifts up again as these things tend to go in cycles. And seek medical help if you think you are slipping back into depression for sure, as you might need a bit of help just to get back on track again.
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