Graduate Game Plan: Stress & Depression
From the title of the post, it's easy to spot my state of mind these days. An excerpt from an e-mail I sent today to my supervisor follows:
I don't know if this is normal for a PhD, but I am constantly in doubt of whether everything I am trying to do is valid at all, or indeed if I am even fit to finish a PhD because of my constant uncertainty about my research. All the time it just feels like I am making up stuff that are just a puny recast of work already done by others. At the end of the day, my inability to do anything other than "replay" my fears in my head over and over are depressing me a lot. It seems that everyday I spend hours just trying to convince myself that my whole PhD is worth something.
I did not want to sound too dramatic, but that was exactly how I felt earlier today, and my supervisor (he's not in London today) called me some minutes afterwards to see what was happening (gotta respect him for his attentiveness to his students).
After a very constructive discussion, I now feel somewhat reasured about the direction of my research. Emotionally, I feel like a mixture of shame and hope, because looking back it seems like I've been a bit of a crybaby. In my defense, I understand that I am as human as anybody else, and I do not live in a vacuum, so having people around me is important to feel energized to do work, especially of the lonely type usually done in post-grad research.
It seems that the second year is the most emotionally challenging of any PhD (or so Mike tells me), and the link above appears to confirm this. If you look on the web for "graduate depression", you will find loads of sites that describe the way I feel. At least I am not alone...
If this had happened a few years ago, I would probably be contemplating suicide, but life had a special way of humbling me, and taught me to get rid of my illusions of overachievement. It seems to me now, that whenever I do things without too much pretension, I get the most significant results.