It is truly a big day when a doctoral student passes the viva. It is the final examination of almost a decade’s worth of work (in my instance at least). Everything hangs on how two examiners feel about your work… everything seems to hang on how you answer each and every question not matter how hard (in my case really hard). Still, when they approve your work, and better still say how they liked it, it feels like a huge accomplishment. A vindication. A triumph.

So why am I feeling low?

My supervisor, days after my viva, told me that it was normal for doctoral students to experience a form of depression after submitting their viva. Another PhD colleague vouched for this very thing. I can’t imagine how it makes sense. But neither does my feeling low at this moment.

Somehow I’m filled with feelings of embarrassment, sadness, in-completion and the huge daunting fear of all that lies before. I am overwhelmed.

On one level a PhD feels like an overstatement. Sure it is a big deal… to me. But does that justify the huge celebrations from friends and family all over? I never got these many congratulations even for my wedding! All that attention makes me cringe, and I want to hide.

I also feel a lot of shame. I see the inadequacies of my own work. I see the “hidden faults” that no one else can see (it’s only a matter of time, I think). I feel unworthy… why did I pass, and others (a few) didn’t?

Being overwhelmed about the future is also there. But more specifically, it seems useless/pointless. What will I achieve? Will I truly be significant? I know I will struggle to get my work published… chances are that it will never get accepted for printing. Even so, what else should I be doing? Where truly lies the impact that I want to achieve?

I am exhausted too. I am not motivated to even correct my work. Currently, all I want to do is watch movies. Or day-dream. A busy schedule with many administrative tasks (that my college has assigned to me) doesn’t help. I’m not just busy, but am involved with what seems inane/pointless and the whole PhD seems like a stepping stone… without having worth in itself. I am also getting no time to truly reflect on all this.

Looking back at what I’ve written… perhaps my supervisor is right. I am depressed. :)

He forgot to tell me that this is a phase. So let me pretend that he did say this is just a phase, and let me now wait for this “phase” to pass.

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