If you’ve ever asked a Ph. D student how their project is going, I think the vast majority will give you a nervous laugh and mention how it’s ‘alright’. Except, just under the surface, they might also be having a meltdown.
I wholeheartedly agree that Ph. Ds are hard. You’re at the bottom of the lab food chain as a student, you work long hours for very little money (hopefully you have a fee offset, a scholarship/stipend and such), and sometimes end up with no social life… It can be very isolating, and the constant anxiety and stress just chips away at your sanity. I’ve written what’s been quite a popular post on ‘Things I wish I knew before I started my Ph. D’, which essentially has mental health as the most important thing to nurture. There are also numerous, perhaps more legitimate articles, discussing negative impacts to mental health during your doctorate.
FYI my resting heart rate went down by 16 beats per minute when I was on leave, and promptly went back up again when I was back in the lab. 😅 #Stress
So, I do think we should be allowed to talk about it, process it, and band together in the knowledge that we’re not alone. Venting, when done right, is healthy.
But I feel like I need to mention that, when I post these things, it’s never meant as a ‘my life is so much harder than yours’ type thing. It’s not a competition. Life is hard, in general! I voluntarily went in to do a Ph. D because I wanted to do it… but at the same time, it’s nice to be able to admit that it can get tough sometimes. I guess this is the other thing that can get you while you’re in academia. Guilt. Makes you feel like you can’t speak up.
So I hope none of us sound smug or condescending when we admit we’re struggling sometimes. If anything, I hope it just encourages people to keep an eye on each other and look after one another. ‘Cause that’s what good humans do.
End of PSA