Can you fail your PhD in the first month?

I met with my supervisors a week ago. I hate meeting with them. (not actually seeing them, they are lovely people) Every time I get depressed and want to go into a tiny little mouse hole. It is always the same. ‘What is your main research question? Theoretically driven from a developmental science perspective’*. It seems like that should be easy enough. I have had so many meeting where I have had suggestions, but I always seem to miss. The question not being big enough or not being relevant enough or.. I am not even really sure, I just don’t seem to get it. And it makes me feel so crappy.

I know that I am good at what I do. I have worked on my research for 3 years prior to the start of my PhD and it seems to impress the right people when I present it at conferences. But still I am stuck at the elementary question – ‘Why do it?’. ‘Why not just do it the way we are already doing it?’, ‘Will it make any impact at all?’. It always seem like I end up at ‘We have this piece of technology which I think can really help with this paradigm so I want to do that’ but not really ‘This paradigm is super important in order to solve developmental questions based on these theories’. I don’t know. This should be the good part of the PhD. The one where you read and think about things, but I hate it. I really don’t think I am good at this at all.

On top of feeling incredibly down about my inability to think like a researcher, I have gotten nothing done at all since meeting with them. Not just because it stresses me out, but because time seems to have flown by. Travelling in to central London see doctors or doing physio tires me out. Or even worse, travelling in to do a 3 hour lecture sitting in the same uncomfortable chair for a lecture which is extremely irrelevant to me, but which I have to attend because it is arranged by the people who pay me. An hour in, 3 hours of sitting uncomfortably, doing small talk with people whose name I don’t remember and then an hour home. After this I am completely drained of energy. And yet I have only really ‘worked’ on my PhD for 3 hours and none of that includes stuff which actually matters and creates some kind of progress.

Yesterday was like that. I did the lecture and a few errands on my way home. I tried eating some lunch when I eventually got home, but at that point I was so tired and in pain that I just wanted to lie down. So I slept for 2 hours until my partner got home with a happy meal. Even this I didn’t really eat that much of. I went back to bed to read a bit and get ready for sleep. It got later than usual and I needed painkillers in order to actually be able to sleep… I hate having to take them. I know that they will work wonders once I take them and I will feel so much better and actually be able to get some work done or get a good night sleep. So why do I try and avoid taking them? Is it just because I am always a bit in pain so I know it will eventually go away on its own? Or worse, do I on some level ‘enjoy’ being in pain and use it as an excuse to do nothing? I really hope not. I hope it is just because I ‘know’ lots of painkillers are bad for you in the long run.

I need to sort myself out. But I don’t know how. There is too much stuff and even thinking about where to start seems overwhelming. Like I need to run a marathon, but really I have only just learned to walk. I have so much work to do and I get nothing done.

Even now. I should be working on a grant application and yet I am writing this blog post. But at least I am doing something somewhat productive, even if it not on my PhD. I am not just stuck playing a stupid game on my phone or binging some show on Netflix. Is that a trick I am playing on myself? It writing this just as bad as watching Netflix? I don’t know. I suppose I think this helps in some way. Get my thoughts sorted and written down. And then let them go by putting them out into the world. I hope it will help. I am sick of feeling like I am failing.

 

* FYI, I work in developmental psychology, so primarily with babies trying to figure out things about social cognition

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2 thoughts on “Can you fail your PhD in the first month?

  1. I managed to go in cycles. Some weeks I pulled ridiculous twelve hours days – and some weeks I did literally nothing I swear. ADHD feast or famine. I got through it, and formally undiagnosed (but for anxiety/depression). If you legitimately manage to do three hours daily, you’ll probably be a lot less stressed and further aheas than I ever was at an equivalent point. I defended. So, you’ll probably be okay :-p

    Liked by 1 person

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