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I've been trying to complete my PhD for nine years now.  Most days I have a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think about work and pretty strong anxiety when I go into work.  Consequently, I often go missing from the lab for weeks at a time.  I am aware this is avoidance but I'm not quite sure what to do about it.  I have been diagnosed with major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and attention deficit disorder inattentive type (though I have my doubts about the last one).  I have been hospitalized, have tried electroconvulsive therapy, am on three different medications, am in regular group and individual therapy, have tried two rounds of day treatment, and have a wonderful support system both at home (family, friends, fiancee) and at work (extremely patient thesis adviser).  I don't seem to be getting better and I am beginning to wonder if all of these diagnoses are just convenient excuses and I'm really just lazy.  I sit at home all day and either surf the web or sleep (in excess of 12 hours a day).  I feel terrible about myself, find myself to be a burden and wonder if I'll ever amount to anything or if I will just continue to waste my life away.  I am beginning to feel like giving up again.  I am not sure what to do.  Thanks for listening.

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Well that is part of depression, the self blaming, thinking you're not trying hard enough. I suggest try putting a positive spin on your thoughts, sit down each evening and think about how you can change a negative thought into a positive, such as "I'm lazy because I don't do enough" try "I'm taking steps necessary to feel better and be more productive and liking it". I have to sit there for a little while to go it because I've got a negative outlook too but I do believe that it helps if you stick to it.

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I, too, am neck deep in the academic world.  So I just wanted to point out how so much of the culture of hard-core academia plays into entrenching invalidating messages from others and our worst beliefs about ourselves.

Of course there are so many other complicated contributors to feeling like hell and feeling guilty about it.  But I just wanted to validate the fact that it seems you're in a tough life situation that is a major struggle for virtually everyone who wades into it.  So no matter what, there are factors at play that are certainly not your fault.  That's not to say that things are hopeless or impossible, but that you didn't create those problems and are not at fault for the fact that they suck.

Edited by CirclesOfConfusion

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You are not lazy. That is depression lying to you. You just need to find the right treatment for your depression and anxiety. Anxiety and dread of going in to work can fuel depression and it becomes a vicious cycle. Look at the cocktail in my signature. That is what it takes to give me some semblance of stability, otherwise I'd still be very depressed. It took a while and some damn good doctors to help me come up with this cocktail. You will find your magic cocktail too.

Your story sounds similar to mine. I broke down in the middle of my graduate program and couldn't get myself to do anything even on the days I went in to work. It was hard and exhausting facing the people even though they were incredibly supportive of me. I cannot say anything bad about them. I just felt like I couldn't do it. But I did do it. I went on to finish It can be done, even with depression. Just don't give up. Don't let depression win and destroy your dreams.

Can you take an academic leave of absence? You need some time to work on yourself and maybe step away from your program for a while. Also, what worked for me (once I was finished with classes) was to go home in the evenings and forget about everything. Immerse myself in music or whatever I was interested in besides my major field. You don't have to feel guilty for spending time for yourself. Take advantage of the performing arts at your university and go to performances and go to concerts. Heck, even go to sports events. There is a lot to do at a university that can get you out and about so that you don't isolate yourself. 

Good luck and congratulations in getting this far. Take care of yourself.

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Thank you so much for your kind, thoughtful and helpful replies.  I will talk more with my Pdoc and try to reframe some of my negative thoughts.  I will look into a leave of absence and will try to find outlets/people to balance the gloom of graduate school.  Thank you again for all of the wonderful replies.

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