Culture Shock by Tahira Anwar

On 16 December 2019, I defended my PhD thesis in a public examination at the University of Helsinki. At that point I had been studying for my PhD for ten long, torturous years. After successfully defending my doctoral thesis, I felt nothing. I was totally numb. The year leading to my defense was the hardest I had ever been through in my whole PhD. Due to the long journey and additional challenges, including harassment that I faced on campus that same year (which I will not go into detail on here), I was struggling with anxiety, PTSD and a depressive episode. I was taking medication while also dealing with poor physical health and insomnia. Just a few months before my defense, I was feeling so bad that I wanted to quit everything. Everything was indifferent and insignificant for me; this big accomplishment, being the first PhD holder in our family, meant absolutely nothing. I just wanted to leave that ugly place and the toxic people I had been surrounded by for so long.

Read More »

Fighting Uncertainty: Lessons Learned from Lockdown by Maddy Bleasdale

“You should leave Germany as soon as possible– words I never imagined I’d hear in the final few weeks of my PhD. Yet, I soon found myself packing my life into boxes and boarding a flight to the UK. 

The coronavirus pandemic has caused mass disruption. For me, it brought my PhD journey in Germany to an abrupt end – there was no obligatory thesis “hand-in photo” or celebratory drinks with my colleagues and friends. But while the coronavirus has introduced a high degree of uncertainty into all of our lives, for many academics uncertainty is the norm. 

But what is behind this uncertainty? 

Read More »

Today is a Bad Day by Kelly Jowett

Ostensibly it would not seem to be so: the sun is shining, I have a safe and lovely home, a supportive partner, and I love my work. Everything is fine—but I am not.

I am sitting in the garden, trying to compress the rising panic, breathing slow and deep to ebb away the tears building behind my eyes, and the tightening of my throat. Earlier today I got up, did my yoga, had a healthy breakfast, chatted to my partner, then got a tea and sat down to work. But as I scrolled through my emails, for no apparent reason my anxiety kicked in. Every small request or notification was somehow more pressure than I could bear.

So, I stopped. I shut down my laptop and walked away. I told my partner how I felt and came outside. And then I sat here in the garden thinking, I had to communicate this to you all: it’s okay to stop, it’s okay to put yourself first.

Read More »

The Impact of Mental Illness on Friendship by Adriana Bankston

Last year, I experienced mental illness for the first time due to a series of life events. At first, I didn’t know what was going on or how to label it. Individual psychotherapy helped me identify that I was likely experiencing depression and anxiety. I spoke with a psychiatrist to confirm the diagnosis and obtained the right medication. The diagnosis itself was at first terrifying to hear. But after living with untreated mental illness for several months, I was comforted by finally knowing what was wrong, because I could now properly address it. My subsequent Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sessions focused specifically on tackling depression and anxiety, which have been extraordinarily helpful. In my case, identifying the problem at hand, followed by undergoing targeted therapy and taking medication to address it, has proven to be a successful overall approach to tackling it.

Read More »