At Breaking Point: Burnout and its Consequences Post-PhD by Marissa Edwards

As I leaned against the wall of my apartment, tears running down my face, one thought kept circling around and around in my head: “This shouldn’t be happening.”

Indeed, from all outside appearances, my life was pretty good.  I had completed my PhD with no major difficulties, I had a supportive family and a wonderful circle of friends, I had no major health problems, I had a job that I loved and knew I was a strong candidate for a tenure-track position in the near future, and had no significant financial difficulties. I was incredibly privileged and still recognize how lucky I was. So why was I crying so hard, and why couldn’t I leave my apartment?

Read More »

The Words We Say by Julia Maristany

“What language do you dream in?” is in all honesty a really cute question that I sometimes get asked when one of my friends wonders what it is like being bilingual. I do not really remember the language of my dreams, but I do certainly know which language I learn in.  

In this blog, I wanted to discuss one particular aspect that, in my opinion, is sometimes overlooked in the conversation of mental health, inclusion, and accessibility in academia: language. I want to talk about how the linguistic monopoly that English has in academia affects the mental wellbeing of a large part of the student body. From feelings of isolation from your community, to increased exhaustion from studying and working all day in a language that it is not your own, language has a silent but strong effect on the daily life of many students.

Read More »

The Second-Year Slump by Lea Martin

In October of my second year of my PhD program I found myself waiting in an exam room at the student health center wondering if I was being melodramatic about how terrible everything felt. I was, objectively, a successful second year psychology graduate student. I had proposed my Masters, taught an undergraduate lab, and secured funding for the next three years via a supplemental grant, but I had never in my life felt worse about myself or my future. I had lost any motivation to work in the area I was studying or academia in general and wanted to quit nearly every day. I struggled to communicate my needs with my advisor, who was so enthusiastic about his work that he didn’t seem to notice my struggling. I was increasingly having trouble getting out of bed because of the dread I felt about what my day held – even on weekends. I had started avoiding my roommates, whom I loved, and instead I was spending hours not really watching TV on my laptop alone. I had started going home every day and getting into bed and hoping I’d fall asleep until my alarm went off the next day.

Read More »

Navigating Caregiving, Grief and Living Bereavement in Academia by Ryan Linn Brown

Imagine only breathing through a straw. Now imagine only breathing through a straw while running up stadium stairs – that’s what it’s like to breathe with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a progressive inflammatory disease of the airway that causes shortness of breath. My dad was diagnosed with COPD in 1998 when I was 4 years old and my brother had just been born. My dad’s parents often smoked in the car with the windows up, filling his childhood with secondhand smoke. He started smoking cigarettes when he was 15 and had tried to quit for decades before smoking his last cigarette in August 1996. In 2005, he got bad pneumonia for the first time, which lasted half the year and stopped him from ever being able to exercise again. I was just 11.

My path to graduate school and science began with my dad. We both loved reading, learning, and trying to understand the world. We often spent our time together coming up with grand theories of the world while watching the birds. Our shared love of learning fuels me to this day, even in the most intimidating moments of graduate school.

Read More »

The Power of Peer-to-Peer Coaching by Stefano Zucca

In the run up to my postdoc, I was aware that studies into PhD students’ mental health were appearing frequently, but I felt that not enough was being done to promote the discussion in academia. This pushed me to start researching the topic myself, collecting different information, and led me to present on “The PhD students’ mental health crisis” to my institute.  It was the reception to this talk that made me realise how much researchers seek a place where they can share and discuss daily common issues they are facing in academia – my journey as a mental health advocate had begun.

Read More »

Why so shocked? I’m Neurodiverse, not Unintelligent by Linda Corcoran

You did really good on that test, didn’t you?’. A voice of surprise, shock, perhaps even disbelief coming from a university lecturer who is aware that I have a learning disability. I’d like to say that it was an isolated incident in my life, but it’s something I’ve become accustomed to, especially since I was diagnosed with dyslexia, ADHD, and autistic-like traits in my late teenage years, the latter of which has currently come under review once again by my mental health team. I’ve been told by many people that I should be grateful that I was never ‘officially’ diagnosed with autism – an ableist point of view I wish people would retire.

Read More »

Confronting the Culture of Overwork: Less is More by Brittany Uhlorn

We’ve created a culture of overwork in academia.

It’s expected that techs, professors and graduate students eat, sleep and breathe their work. Slept more than four hours last night? You could have been replying to emails. Took an hour lunch break? Chug down an energy drink while you analyze data and eat a bag of chips on the way to class instead. Only worked 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. today? Don’t expect to get tenure any time soon. This dangerous and pervasive narrative, fuelled by a combination of impostor syndrome and the “publish or perish” mentality, causes many academics to feel compelled to spend every waking hour reading the literature, refining lectures and perfecting their ideas so that they can keep their careers afloat.

Read More »

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 »