Finding Self-Acceptance: Autism Spectrum Disorder and a PhD by Daisy Shearer

I’ve been an anxious person for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until late high school that I started to develop depression, and I was not formally assessed for my mental illnesses until the penultimate year of my MPhys degree. Armed with a diagnosis of Generalised Anxiety Disorder as well as Major Depressive Disorder (which are often comorbid), I was put on anti-depressants (which I still take to this day) as well as starting therapy. Both of these treatments have helped me somewhat, but I continue to have a lot of trouble just navigating life without getting overwhelmed and still struggle to understand the social world around me at times. 

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The Perpetual “Problem” Child by Amy Andes

For me, graduate school was supposed to be the next exciting life step after receiving my undergraduate degree, yet I could never have prepared myself for the mental fatigue and instability I would endure and continue to endure.

Since my doctoral degree began back in 2017, I have always felt like a “problem child”, whether that be in my lab, in my committee, or in my department. I typically point a finger at my imposter syndrome for making me feel this way; however, some people’s words and actions during my journey have merited considerable attention as to why I feel emotionally depleted.

What I mean by “problem child” is that I feel I cause inconveniences, errors, and unnecessary work for others simply by existing. You might also experience this, and I give a big virtual hug to whoever does. Likely, imposter syndrome is to blame. If you are unfamiliar with this term, people with imposter syndrome experience feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt continually, even in the face of evidence to the contrary.  In my experience, this happens regardless of whether I really know what I’m doing, or even when I achieve awards and recognition for my work. Several examples come to mind of times I have felt like an “imposter” in food science.

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The Pain of Pursuing a PhD as a Young-Old Adult by Elizabeth Harris

I’ve always known I wanted to help people, to understand their “whys” in an effort to better understand them. So, naturally a career in psychology was the perfect fit. Yet I had no desire to become a psychologist and wasn’t aware of any other available avenues to realising my goal until I found neuropsychology and neuroscience; since then, I’ve never looked back. Except I didn’t happen upon this career path until I was in my thirties. I didn’t find the career that fit without going through a number of jobs that didn’t fit. So, here I am starting a PhD in my mid-thirties. Inevitably asking myself if I made the right decision. Sceptically asking myself if I’m capable of completing a PhD. And constantly asking myself if pursuing a PhD at this point in my life is even worth it.

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Return of the Mummy: The trials and triumphs of a life post-maternity leave by Jennifer Z. Paxton

There are frequent conversations focused on the impact that having children can have on a woman’s career progression, especially in academia. That is not what this blog post is about. On the other hand, there is also much positive discussion claiming that women can ‘have it all’ and that children should not, and are not, a barrier to women ‘making it’ in their career. This is also not what this blog post is about. Instead, this post is about me and my own personal battles with motherhood, my career and my own sometimes destructive mind. Some of this may be applicable to others and some of it may not, but I hope at the very least that it helps to open the doors of communication for anyone who ever felt like I did and to let them know that things can, and do, get better.

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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?

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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.

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When Panic Attacks by Karen Tang

“I’m dying.” “Why can’t I breathe?” “What is happening to me?”

These are the thoughts that were running through my head as I gasped for oxygen. It happened so fast, it was a blur. One moment I had been actively listening to my client telling me about their issues and then when I had asked what brought them here, their answer, “Oh, I don’t want to be here.” sent my body into overdrive. It hit like a ton of bricks. My hands were shaking and clammy, my heart rate was racing, tears flowed uncontrollably, and my vision blurred. It was so, so hard to breathe, as if I had an elephant sitting on my chest. And it was almost twice as humiliating as we were in the middle of our role-playing clinical interviews class, where I was the therapist and one of my cohort was the patient, with our professor watching from the next room. I was playing the role of the therapist, that means I’m supposed to be in control, right? But I wasn’t. Not even close.

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