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drastic loss of confidence (academic)

(6 Posts)
rhetorician Fri 15-Jul-11 20:51:33

not sure if this is the right place for this really; I've always been a high flyer blah blah, but the last few years I've really started to struggle with my job. I find it hard to stay motivated, have lost interest in my research (can't see the point of it, can't settle to it) and frequently feel overwhelmed to the point of inertia with the multiple tasks that my job involves. I am now fairly senior and spend a good bit of time (irony!) mentoring younger colleagues and find myself feeling wistful about their focus and drive and belief that there is a point to it all. My own mentors have gradually retired or moved on, and I guess I just feel very unsupported.

We have one DD aged 2.5 and another due in November (I am not pregnant, my partner is) and this has certainly made things harder, and I feel increasingly fraudulent and as if I am just going through the motions. I feel I don't know anything any more and that I have nothing to say.

Sorry - this is very moany and self-indulgent (I know it's a great job and I am very lucky - I just don't feel I deserve it any more), but I wonder if anyone else has felt like this, and if so, what you did about it.

MovingAndScared Fri 15-Jul-11 21:03:15

just a thought but does your instituation do sabaticals?

rhetorician Fri 15-Jul-11 21:09:37

movingandscared - only really with a salary cut, which we can't afford as I am the main (and currently only) earner. I did have leave about 4 years back after a long period of high level administration - I think it was at this point that I started to feel depressed about my research and to lose direction.

I have a book contract and will have leave in the first semester of 2012. I've just totally lost direction and confidence and can't think how to get back on track. I'm sure it all looks ok on paper (other than the non-production of the book) - I've kept publications coming, but feel no pride in them.

dontrunwithscissors Sat 16-Jul-11 17:06:32

I wonder if you're a bit depressed? I know that's a common answer to all 'problems', but what you say about losing your enjoyment in your research sounds exactly like me a few years ago. I kept blaming myself for just not working hard enough. Once the depression was under control, my research started getting back on track. However, it was the very last thing to start to get better. At the points when I've felt my mood slipping, my ability to write disappears again. It's blooming frustrating, but I'm learning that the only thing I can do is take some time away, get some sleep and wait for me to get up and running again. In spite of these blips, I'm so much more productive than I have been for years. I'm actually spending about 1/5 of the time on my research than I was, but I'm actually writing that whole time, rather than staring at my computer.

Otherwise, it sounds like you're burnt out. Can you take a break ? Start working in a different place for a change of scenery? Obviously this is field-specific, but I'm in the Humanities. When I get fed up of sitting in my office and working all day, I head out to a local Costa coffee for a change of scenery and just be around people. In addition, I try to get some exercise. I've also learnt that I'm most productive when I'm working on a couple of projects (eg finishing off revisions to a book manuscript, working on an article and planning the beginnings of a new project.) I'm possibly telling you everything you already know. blush I just thought it was worth a mention!

rhetorician Sat 16-Jul-11 20:03:30

dontrun - I think you are probably right. I did a couple of those online self-assessments and came out on all of them as 'moderately depressed'. There are lots of things at work, but I might take a trip to the doc as it really might help. I waste a lot of time, and get endlessly distracted (not helped by my 2 year old!).

In the humanities too, and things not helped by the relentless, endless negativity about what we do (I'm not in the UK). I run regularly which does help a bit.

Thanks for your reply - it was actually very useful!

dontrunwithscissors Mon 18-Jul-11 13:38:32

I found that having a second child - after we'd got past the initial sleepless nights etc - actually helped me at work. I think it forced me to a bit tougher, to keep work at work and home at home. The final piece of the jigsaw, however, was getting the depression under control. I didn't realise how much not being able to write was not because I am useless, but becasue I was depressed. I'm still amazed that I can sit down and just write. I didn't realise how much of my sense of identity was wrapped up in my work, and especially writing. It used to give me such a buzz to write something, but I only felt guilt and sadness when I tried (and failed) to write. That made me feel ten times worse as I felt I had lost a part of me. Anyway, best of luck with everything.

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