Deep down in the PhD blues

I was trying to explain to someone today the feeling of impossibility that surrounds finishing this PhD.

It’s the feeling that no matter how much work I do, it will never be enough to check off all the boxes.  It’s the feeling that there will never be enough time—except it’s not that, exactly.  Everybody imagines that I must have so little time, as a parent, and that’s totally true, but time isn’t the limiting factor when it comes to research.  The limiting factor is my ability to cope.

I can’t pull an all-nighter writing when I don’t know what to write.  I can’t push hard for a week, because that will just leave me with another infinite pile of work inviting an infinite cycle of things I don’t want to do.

Grad school taught me not to set goals.  I lost the ability to achieve self-imposed deadlines.  My department’s deadlines have always been nonsense, unreal, the sort of thing to which people pay lip service but privately ignore.

I’ve seen the master plan with its step-by-step checklist fall apart too many times.  I don’t know which direction to think.  I don’t believe I can do it.  And that’s a hard place to be.

Sorry folks—my mind hasn’t been on a happy level of late.  Trying to cope.  Trying to face the fear.

3 thoughts on “Deep down in the PhD blues

  1. I do hope you find a way soon. I don’t know what else to say except that I believe in you. You have held on for so long, just a little bit longer. Day by day. Vague ramble by vague ramble, incoherent thoughts scattered across the page will be brought into line.
    Write something. It doesn’t have to make sense. It just has to be written.
    (This advice comes to you courtesy of a dissertation written mostly while suffering the lethargy of an underactive thyroid. I am not saying it won’t be hard because it definitely will.)

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  2. I’m right there with you. Been butting heads with my advisor all semester, who happens to be my instructor for two of my courses as well. The thought of dropping out may have crossed my mind 100x in the past week and I’m only a first year.

    Good luck to you.


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