I think I lost count of all the messages I got from fellow students asking for help because they don’t know how to deal or move away from toxic supervisors. I initially wanted to share my own experience only. But I think this wouldn’t have been powerful enough to provide resources, support and motivation. So I decided to ask people to share their own experience publicly or anonymously so that everyone can identify themselves in one of the following cases and act accordingly. I also want to say that I feel incredibly sorry if you are reading this article and you currently going through such a poor mentoring situation yourself. I really hope this can be helpful!
This is a personal post so keep any judgement and unsolicited advice for yourself. Thanks
I have been suffering from eating disorders as far as I remember. I was a chubby kid and people used to tease me a lot because of that. I had low self-esteem and confidence in myself because all the boys were after the cute girls and not after myself. I just accepted that this was the way it was. Family and parents used to tell me “if they don’t see the good in you, they don’t deserve you!”. Fair enough, but when you are 15 that doesn’t serve you well. I lived my whole life thinking that my body was defining me, my value, my worth and what I had to offer to the world.
Then things changed.
It’s been a while since I wrote something for my website and the main reason is that I have many unhealthy relationships. One of these is with work. I am unable to stop and I need the feeling to be constantly busy to feel that I achieve something. I recently started seeing a counsellor to treat my eating disorders and while digging into the reasons why I tend to overeat at times, I realised that eating or cooking is a way to fill the time. I overload myself with work for the same reason, it’s a way to fill the time. So, I decided to take a step back and set my priorities. Last week my priority #1 was my Etsy shop. It was small business week so I decided to run a promotion and put some of my items on sale. I didn’t expect to sell so much so my main focus was going to the post office and creating personalised items during my spare time.
I am seriously uncomfortable talking about the topic of suicide and self-harm. But I was much more uncomfortable when I came across the news that 95 students died by suicide across England and Wales during the academic year 2017/2018. This is a shocking number. To raise awareness about this tragic reality, the University of Nottingham created a memorial to honour the memory of the students who decided to bring their life to an end. The memorial displays 95 pairs of shoes and this is part of the Suicide Awareness Week Programme organised by the Student’s Union at UoN.
Something I am very good at is managing my money. When I was small, my parents didn’t have a stable job and we didn’t have the luxury of buying cakes, Barbies or clothes. Everything was given to us by relatives, richer than us, or the Church. Going to my friends’ house for playing was a good way to eat brioches and drink coke which was rarely bought in my house. Nor that I complain about this, it’s a different experience and definetely taught me how to be concious with my money and work for everything I have. Finances for students, and everyone really, is a tough topic, because many live on student’s loans, have part-time jobs and if they do have a scholarship, it might be just enough to survive (welcome real life).
I have been a student for almost 10 years now, I have little savings, no money for my pension and I am almost 30yo and currently live on a student salary. Like many of us, we decide to do a PhD for passion not definitely with the ambition of becoming rich folks. Many of us suffer from chronic anxiety, tend to burn out easily and have little time to rest and put their wellbeing as a priority. There is always this misconception that self-care is expensive because the idea media and social media portray about self-care is a weekend in fancy and expensive resorts, hotels and spas. In my opinion, self-care is more about the little things that you do every day to feel better about yourself and release all the stress after a long day of work. How did I do that?
I decided to put together this blog article after a post I made an Instagram post talking about my recent struggle to accept my body. I gained a significant amount of weight over the last few months due to my poor mental health and this is badly affecting my mental health, self-esteem and confidence. I have been dealing with eating disorders as far as I remember and I got to be aware of this only recently. Eating is a way for me to ease my depression and to hide from people during social occasions (welcome social anxiety!) Coincidently, this comes close to the Eating Disorders Awareness Week which will run from the 25th of Feb until 3rd of March.
Meditation and mindfulness are buzzwords nowadays. Be in the moment, stay in the moment, be present, wasn’t I present enough before? As far as I remember, I have been suffering from depression. It didn’t start with my PhD. Graduate school made it worst. At the end of my second year, summer 2017, I reached one of my lowest points. I failed my annual review exam, I was breaking up from a difficult and toxic relationship, I had to move out of my old house and move to another lab. The situation was really bad and I was seriously thinking of dropping out of the programme. Despite the anxiety, I was wise enough to reach out to the counselling service at the University and took a break to visit my family in Italy.
Crocheted brain wall decor available to purchase from my Etsy Shop, check here.
Over Christmas, I went back to Italy to see my family. It had the best time ever as I was finally anxious and depression free. Months of therapy, meds and permanent changes towards healthy habits really made the difference. Some negative thoughts are still there but I am doing much better at dealing with it. I took this time to tell my parents, in sciency words, a bit more about the neuroscience of anxiety and depression. I apologise if there is some inconsistency, my background is in chemistry.
Photo: bookmark selfcare can be purchased from my Etsy shop. Click here
A recent lit review shared by @ph_d_epression on Twitter showed that doctoral students suffer from poor work-life balance. Not big news, I guess. This is a serious problem because grad students are supposed to be the new generation of scientists and academics. Building up the bad habit of poor self-care at an early stage will put you in a mindset of success in academia = struggle.
Continue reading “Managing anxiety as a PhD student.”