There comes a time in your PhD journey when you just have to put your head down and work your ass off to get the whole thing done. I’m right smack in the middle of that period. Most days all I can think about is how to analyse my data, how to write it up, what figures to create, how to prepare for my viva etc. Sometimes I wake up early in the morning and start working straightaway. Even my dreams seem to revolve around neuroimaging markers and statistical analyses! I described it to my wife as having numbers almost bursting out of my head unless I process them systematically.
Which is why I’m a bit more agitated these days, something unusual for me if you happen to know me. This morning I went to work wearing a Liverpool jersey. Usually there’s no one around especially in the morning on weekends, but today there were a few contractors fixing the electrical wiring in the building. One guy saw me and immediately said “I don’t like the shirt you’re wearing!”
Now, I’m normally a polite person, but I really had to restrain myself from saying “Do I look like I give a f**k what you think? I don’t like your face either!”.
Instead, I simply replied “That’s alright”, and shrugged my shoulders. Don’t like my jersey? Tough, but that’s life for you mate.
I wonder how many people run into mental health issues while doing their PhD. Certainly it looks to me that quite a lot of people in academia are anxious and depressed. One person I know told me that half the people in his Master’s programme have sought help for mental health issues. On the one hand, this is good, the fact that there’s less stigma associated with seeking psychological help. But on the other hand, I can’t help but wonder, what on earth is wrong that half of the cohort find that they NEED psychological support to begin with?
This is where it helps to have accumulated some years of working experience. For me specifically, it helps put things into perspective. Doing a PhD is not a life-or-death thing. Trust me, I’ve been in situations where it’s LITERALLY life or death, for example when you’re performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on someone, or trying to decide whether to pursue more aggressive medical therapy or continue with comfort care only.
I think it’s good that Ramadhan is coming. Hopefully I will be able to find some peace and tranquility during the blessed month, in order to sustain myself as I strive towards the end of my PhD journey.
One of my advisors’ students killed herself during her Ph.D. But, as with everything, this too shall pass and one day you’re a Doctor in Neuroscience. Hopefully it pays better than entomology.