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Feeling so low about it all(11 Posts)
I know you will probably all say this is normal...
I am currently in the final stages of my PhD. The problem is that I feel so incredibly down, like I am a huge failure and I wonder what the point is. I have had anxiety and depression for a long time, but it feels like it is getting harder and harder to manage. I get a tight sensation in my chest and feel tearful at the slightest thing. I have very low self-esteem.
I also find myself comparing myself to others, which I really don't want to do. I see my peers completing/publishing etc and it just reinforces to me how much of a failure I am by comparison. Objectively speaking, I am not doing badly but I cannot focus on any positives, only negatives. If I have any success, I convince myself it was a fluke.
I have taken antidepressants in the past but I don't want to take them again because they cause me to gain weight and feel sluggish. I don't even know what I want from this post- I just thought that maybe someone who has been through the process can reassure me that it will get better.
Writing up a thesis can be one of the most stressful, isolating experiences going. It just is. Also the publication treadmill can be equally pressured.
I used to do a lot of conference papers, for the exposure and the social side of things, which then tended to result in publications (edited volumes, mostly). I found that really helped.
Best of luck
Is there much help and support from your supervisor, OP?
Thank you both. My supervisor is supportive but I don't see her very often as I have a full time lecturing post now. I also don't think she 'gets' my low mood as she says that I am doing well and she cannot understand why I feel like this.
I have done quite a few conferences. I do really enjoy them at the time but afterwards I often feel drained and depressed and as if everyone else is flying through their careers except for me. I go over and analyse my presentation, my conversations etc and then conclude that it was all awful. I really am my own worst enemy...
When reading my original post, I do realise that I need to snap out of it and just accept that it is a difficult time. Easier said than done though...
Thank you for your replies though, they have lightened my mood a little already. Onward and upward.
It sounds like you are quite down, and the stress of the end stage of PhD won't be helping.
Obviously apart from anti-depressants, I would suggest doing all the usual things to lift your mood, which are a bit obvious and boring but in my experience if these are in place, it is half the battle including eating good food regularly (not mars bars instead of food), drinking lots of water, doing some exercise or getting in the fresh air every day, keeping up social contacts, even if it is just phoning your mum or chatting to a friend, going into work and working out of an office or even in a local cafe (as working at home is very depressing IMO).
If all that doesn't lift it, what about speaking to a counsellor, not because there's anything 'wrong' with you, but you do sound like you need some strategies to help lift your mood and see what you are doing right (like you are doing conference presentations, you are mostly finished with your PhD).
Academia can be a lonely business and I'd try and fight this a bit, it sounds like you are still working academically though, which is good news. The end is always very stressful and you do wonder if you will get there- most people do though, so you are achieving something every day (I'm a big writer down of what I've done in a day, even if it's wash up and 500 words!)
The end of a PhD is horrible! But you are clearly doing amazingly if you have a lecturing job already, so keep your head up.
Forgive me if you've tried, but are there other antidepressants that might work better for you? Some people respond badly to one but not another.
Thank you the trees and LRD. Those are some really good tips. I will try to put those into place. I did a course of 6 weeks of counselling through the university. It did lift my mood a little bit, but I don't think it had lasting impact. I might go back to the doctors about different anti-depressants. I caught myself thinking that I was letting myself down by taking them again and then thought 'ffs, I would not be thinking any of this shit if we were talking about antibiotics, so why is mental illness different?'.
Yes, I am pleased that I have a lecturing post. It's permanent and full time. It's at a post-92 university (so again, I keep thinking that it could be somewhere better as I am doing my PhD at an RG institution) but it pays decently, I get a pension and I don't have the insecurity of a short term contract. On paper, I am really not in a bad position. In my head, I am the greatest loser that ever lived.
OK, I am going to make an action plan based on your advice:
* eat well and drink lots of water
* do yoga (my exercise of choice) most days, either in a class or at home and go for a walk every day
* write a short sentence detailing my progress every day
* go to the GP about another referral to CBT and maybe anti-depressant if my mood does not lift in the next couple of weeks
* send off an abstract for an upcoming conference
* work outside home by going to starbucks or the uni library for a change of scenery
Thank you so much everyone. I feel more positive already (although I did wake at 5 am with my mind a whirlpool of negative thoughts about my future).
where also starting a new lectureship is overwhelming. Especially if you have to design teaching materials from scratch, learning to give quick but focused feedback takes time, prep, lecturing, the first year of this is the hardest, and you have coupled it with the last year of PhD which is also the hardest!
So- this would be a stressful situation for anyone. It is not you. This is intrinsically stressful.
That said, your plans sound like good ones. Keep going one step at a time towards getting the PhD finished- and at one point, it will be.
It's permanent and full time. It's at a post-92 university (so again, I keep thinking that it could be somewhere better as I am doing my PhD at an RG institution) but it pays decently, I get a pension and I don't have the insecurity of a short term contract. On paper, I am really not in a bad position.
You are in an amazing position! Seriously, you should be giving yourself a huge amount of credit. There are loads of people who don't get permanent jobs for years after they finish the PhD - and loads who never get them and give up. And some of these people are really brilliant, get Leverhulmes and BA fellowships and so on, and still don't get permanent jobs.
You should feel really proud of yourself.
Exercise! Seriously. At least an hour, if not two, of walking every day, or something more strenuous if you can. Or yoga.
Or get a dog. Again, seriously. A dog will get you out in all weathers.
Or do a dance class, or take up an instrument, or an art class. Something where you engage your brain but differently than in writing your PhD.
And maybe you can do a self-taught version of CBT - read over your first post. How rational are our thoughts? How could you rephrase them?
You say you feel a failure, but are you? Or are you afraid of failure? You compare yourself with others - "Comparison is the thief of joy"
It will be HARD and you will need to be disciplined, but you need to start not letting yourself think such self-indulgent thoughts: train yourself to get out of the habit.
Can you talk to a good friend who knows you well, to develop an alternative internal script? Not a "I'm awesome" cheerleading one - that's just as silly as thinking you're a failure (Rationally, anyone finishing a PhD is patently NOT a failure ) - but a moderate non-self-harming internal script.
I think that sometimes we get into bad mental hygiene habits - it's easy to do, like reaching for crappy food when we're tired. It takes a bit of mental energy and discipline to replace those thoughts with more rational ones.
And if you're clinically depressed, then you may need the chemical help of medication to help you to do this.
Look, for a lot of people, doing this kind of work doesn't come easy - we're hard on ourselves and we have to learn certain kinds of mental discipline. YOu're obviously rational, intelligent, and organised - can you turn those characteristics to helping yourself to not sabotage yourself? And part of that is seeking help from those who can give it: GP, counsellor ...
Thank you so much Windows. Definitely going to look into self-taught CBT and online counselling. Sometimes I think it almost feels easier to wallow in self-pity than to take positive action so I am going to make a concerted effort to improve my mental health.
And LRD I do know that I am in a very lucky position indeed and when I hear about amazing and brilliant people who cannot find permanent posts, I start wondering why I have one (when not amazing or brilliant), so I feel like I need to talk the job down to justify why I got it.
Anyway, the negativity stops here. Thank you all so much. It might seem like you have not done much, but it's actually made a real difference to me at a very low time. I am going to focus on getting through this thing in a mentally healthy way. Thanks again.c