UPDATE: I wrote this post almost one year ago (now October 2016), I kept it private because I was afraid of the consequences of this post. But, not anymore. I know by making this post public is not going to make me feel much better either, but it might help you. Yes, you who are actually having problems or you who know somebody who has problems. More stories need to be shared, more lessons need to be learnt. Now, here is the original post…
Today, a record was made. It was the second time that my supervisor asked me to rewrite a single paper draft, more or less from scratch. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with him mostly. My draft was not good at all and there has never been a history of my paper drafts being no-good-at-all. This is my all-time worst, even my supervisor said that it was not like my writing at all. Later, he asked.. “Are you okay?”
Before I tell you what my response to my supervisor was, I just wanna give you a little background. I have been having psychological problems for a long time (as everybody does), but everything became so much more intense when I started my PhD. I have been warned about the PhD problems long before I started mine. I have read about them everywhere too. The amount of stress that PhD might cause, the suicidal thoughts, the catastrophic failure, etc etc. But you know what, I have been an all-star student as I beautifully bragged here (PS: being an all-star student might be the source of my problems too). So, I thought that I could get through it unscathed and surely people were exaggerating. Man, was I wrong..
For me, there is this weird sense of pressure that PhD gives. That ridiculous amount of competition that you bear on your shoulders. That you have to do stuff as quickly as possible, otherwise people will do it faster and better than you. Just in that snap decision when you want to do your PhD, the world suddenly turns against you. Maybe just me, well at least that’s how I feel. Somehow, my mind got out of control. I started having this crippling anxiety eating me up inside, which leads to many things. I started developing an impostor disorder and also (what I feel like) depression. That suicidal tendency that I had had in the closet, started coming out like nobody’s business and getting stronger by the minute.
Last year, I tried to talk to a therapist. It was a bit tricky since she was in Indonesia and I was in France. The scheduling was hard and having therapy sessions via Skype was not the most efficient. Despite all that, I actually felt better discussing my problems with her. However, the scheduling became so annoying that I stopped seeing her. Sure, there was still ups and downs afterwards, but nothing unmanageable. Except for the last few months..
For some unknown reasons, the last few months have been really difficult for me. I have been having panic attacks more frequently. The suicidal thoughts I am having start scaring me. Life has been bleak and dark. But I am trying to get out of this. I am putting all my efforts to keep living, carrying out my daily life as a normal human being, hidden under the bubbles and laughter.
“To tell you the truth, I have been having some problems..” And with that sentence, I told my supervisor about what I have been struggling with. Not in detail, just the big picture. His response was very kind and warm, but too many things are replaying in my head that I couldn’t really focus on what he was saying.
Instantly after telling that to my supervisor, I felt like a little burden on my shoulders has been lifted off. Yet later, I became afraid that he would think I was faking it (negativity is also in the list of my problems). I was also afraid that it would destroy the whole dynamic of our working environment. Honestly, I don’t know what is going to happen now. Oh whatever. I should start accepting that what he (or anybody for that matter) thinks about me is out of my control. And I think this is why people who have similar problems tend to keep it a secret, because they are afraid of what people might think of them. But, they should not feel this way! More stories need to be shared and more lessons need to be learnt.
To be honest, I am not sure why I wrote this. I have been wanting to write this for a long time, but I was afraid that I would be writing it for the wrong reasons. I did not want to write this because I wanted attention, because I knew I wouldn’t get attention anyway, I would just get pity out of this. And I did not want this to be a cry for help either. Now, after telling my supervisor, I found out that it is okay. It is okay to be imperfect, to be broken. I guess I wanted to write this to share with people, to tell them that life is difficult, life is confusing, even for the people you least expect it to be. Some people don’t understand you, and there might be only a few who do. That is normal, but remember you are not alone. Hold on to those few. Also, start letting people in anyway for life is too cold and dark to get through by yourself.
Letting people know about your problems does not make you weak. There should be no shame in admitting your flaws. And there is no humiliation in taking some time to deal with things in your life.
More importantly, you should take pride in having that sheer willingness to show up and go on another day despite of your debilitating problems. You’ve made it through yesterday, surely you can take another day. After all, tomorrow is just the future’s yesterday!
PS: Watch this beautiful short about suicide. I hope it helps!