Fear and loathing in Glasvegas – week 31 as a PhD student

PhD Life

If you have read a lot of blogs by PhD students or even mainstream media articles, you will know that mental health issues are a problem.

I am not going to tell you that I have mental health issues because I don’t. However, this week has been the worst, and I have spent all weekend recovering from stress-related illness.

I have been harvesting and sampling all day Monday, Thursday and Friday which is not mentally draining, but it is physically draining. On Tuesday morning at 5:30 I had to catch a seven-hour train to Glasgow, I arrived at 12:30 and immediately had a maths related training course until five o’clock. After the course ended, I went out for dinner and drinks with the other students, which is a large part of the training course.

There are three parts to these training courses that I can distinguish: the training, the socialising and the therapy. The therapy is where the students unload all their grievances on each other. I think it is one of the most critical aspects, and I guess it is very cathartic. I didn’t have any issues this time; I will get them next time.

So, with very little sleep, Wednesday delivered another day of training. It included marketing and social science, which were exciting but not too useful. The course finished at three, and my train was at five.

The train that would get me back home at midnight. I should have flown, but I didn’t think I could get that reimbursed, it turns out I could, and most other people flew. Oh well, at least I learnt something. To kill time, I went to the Glasgow Botanic Gardens that happened to be right next to the hotel. If you’re ever in Glasgow, I definitely recommend it. Here are some beautiful pictures I took.

Just inside the entrance of Glasgow's Botanic Gardens
Just inside the entrance


One of the rooms in Glasgow's Botanic Gardens
One of the rooms in Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens
Purple Pitcher plant
Purple Pitcher plant – do not touch!
Bird of paradise plant
Bird of paradise plant – my favourite plant

I don't remember what this is

 Inside the botanical gardens – can’t remember what this is


I drink this every day

Back on the train, the views are fantastic, but soon it is night time, and all I have is the unread research papers in my ‘to read’ folder. To my surprise, I managed to read quite a few before losing all sense of reality.

I arrive home at midnight.

Thursday, back to harvesting and sampling, I finished at six, walked home, had a small dinner and straight back out to dancing with my partner, get home 10:30 exhausted.

Friday, exhausted, didn’t sleep well, stress and tiredness levels reaching a peak. I get told on Friday afternoon that I cannot use the machine I need on Monday and possibly Tuesday. This essentially pushes me to the worst mental state I have been in for a long time. I think the tiredness had a major influence on my mental state.

After, having done all this work, for the past month at a significant cost to me, and then having been told I can’t continue it this week was my first big failure since starting my PhD. I knew it was coming as everyone has setbacks, and I had been cruising along enjoying myself waiting for an issue to occur. Well it did occur, and now I have to deal with it, I imagine that this will be a relatively small bump in the road, but it feels like it is a lot more important at the moment. Tune in next week to see if it gets worse, or to see If I have dealt with, or simply accepted the issue.

One of the other things that contributed to the low feeling that descended on me on Friday is surely the lack of exercise (1 run and one weight training session) and the different food I was consuming. All this worry and anxiety that has come to me is part of the learning process and what makes a PhD student stand out. Resilience is a major skill worth developing, so I am trying to be systematic about it.

I think I know what you’re thinking dear reader. ‘Poor guy, he has his education paid for him and gets to live a relatively free and privileged life’. Well yes, this is true, I understand it and think the same when I hear others complain. Even being cognisant of this does not help when you feel down and depressed, that is one of the reasons we know we won’t be happy if we won the lottery and never have to work again. This is one of those deeply philosophical ideas that makes one question life.

What is the meaning and what is happiness?

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Published by Louis

Spend less than you earn, Invest the surplus, avoid debt. Eat food, not too much, mostly plants

34 thoughts on “Fear and loathing in Glasvegas – week 31 as a PhD student

  1. Happiness is relative. the sad thing is… when you get older it’s the upsets and cringing embarrassments that keep reminding you of themselves… I have to scrabble to remember the upbeat moments (although, once you begin to make the effort it gets easier). Bookmark the good times in your brain. Make yourself aware of them. Being able to balance the bad times helps you get through them.


    1. Bookmarking the upbeat moments sounds like a good idea. I think that is the premise behind most of social media as far as I can tell — the more image-centric platforms anyway.


  2. exhaustion. lack of sleep, eating the wrong food, lack of exercise all have a big effect on our moods as you know. worrying zaps our creative energy. exercise helps us get out of our heads. i think being a phd candidate is like writing a novel. a long long journey with many challenges along the way.


  3. To quote my favorite musician, “It’s the little things…not expectations that make life worth living”. Stopping to enjoy the botanical garden was a little thing but I’m sure it went a long way to defuse a little bit of your stress. You’re exercise is a little thing in the grand scheme of things. Never forget the little things in life and I think the relative happiness we all search for is hidden there. Or it is for me. 😊


  4. I know I should make a smart comment about happiness and its meaning, BUT I am not that smart AND I am so intrigued by the image of the closed door and the piece of paper that says ” Killer plants.” What’s behind that door???
    Lol so curious to know….
    I do not know much about happiness and how to reach it…but I think that one of the secrets to happiness is to behave like a curious child who wants to open that door at all cost! To me this is happiness!
    Curiousity and the courage to open a door, even if behind that door something could kill me. 🙂


      1. I just posted a photo of red mimosa from the countryside in Greece. Different soils must produce different colors. The mimosa in Virginia is bright pink. The mimosa in Puerto Rico, where I’m from a a lighter cotton candy pink in most places. So cool, in both places they just grow wild along the side of the road.


  5. The meaning of life is to learn love. Love oneself, what you do, and what you give back to humanity as a whole in the process, because that is what brings you happiness.


      1. I dated an epidemiologist. Or, tried too. She was cute and liked to party. I understood her education was important so much that, I walked away. I was talking with a friend about this. Reality television, changed consciousness that there are just all these single doctors and academics, everywhere. The reality, I’ve noticed there are more long term relationships and maybe a nob.


  6. Happiness is temporal. Seek Joy- it is a state of mind which ought to be guarded when we have received of it. I am happy for you that you asked the questions and I hope you find deeper purpose in all that you do as you journey on to find answers to your questions 🙂 I too am in the midst of finding purpose in my life and I just wanna cheer you on 🙂


  7. Resilience, resilience….everyone talks about it but no one really tells you what it means. Mental health problems aren’t just in PhD students, its all over academia as well. Unfortunately, the stress-related illness is only a sample of what we will taste if we decide to embark on full time academic careers.


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