I knew when I started this process that it would be hard, and last week I had my first official meltdown about my PhD. It wasn’t exactly nice but I’m not too worried about it either: I guess it’s part of the deal.
The main problem was my Imposter Syndrome: a mental health issue many academics have to deal with. Imposter Syndrome makes me believe that I’m not actually good (enough) at something, but the system just hasn’t noticed yet. It doesn’t help that during my studies I hardly had any exams but always had to write papers. Because I was able to choose the paper subjects myself it’s easy to say “I just chose the subjects that were easy for me, I don’t know anything about all the other subjects”. So now when I run into a wall for my PhD, my brain goes “Well that’s it! Now they’ll find out you actually suck! You can’t hide it anymore!” and that’s quite stressful.
Luckily, I have great friends to help me through these times and to face these problems in a constructive way. So to deal with this meltdown we came up with a few solutions:
- I’ll start working from a friend’s house more instead of my own house. That way I’ll be able to keep my work more divided from my private life, and I will feel less pressure to continue working in the evening. It will also help me keep focussed, as I won’t have to deal with my husband having conference calls.
- I’m taking a break from my PhD. For one week, I will not work on anything that is related to my PhD, to let it rest, break the negative spiral and be able to start with a fresh start afterwards.
- I will work on a project that will build my confidence. I had trouble starting the writing part of my PhD, but I also wanted to start working on a paper idea I had. That project is a bit easier and smaller, so in my break week I will work on that project, to build my confidence by doing something where I succeed.
- I will trust my own instincts more. The reason why I found it so hard to start writing my PhD is because I was overwhelmed by all the advice from others on how I should to that. Even though I really like writing and I’m actually quite good at it! When I start working on my PhD again, I will trust on what works for me. Advices are just that, and not something I absolutely have to implement.
My supervisor was really enthusiastic about these measures so it seems like I’m on the right track. Hopefully they’ll work and I’ll be back on schedule in no-time!