Reflections on finishing my PhD

Unlike my usual self, I’ve been lost for words lately. Many of my posts about my PhD experience have been word vomits – chucking all my strong feelings at the page and just letting it all out in the hopes that it begins to make sense to me, and that I can calm myself in the process. Writing here has been a vital safety valve, both for the virtues of the process itself and the support you my readers have given me.

The thing is, at the moment, life is pretty cushty. I’m settled in with Squisher, our house looks like a proper grown-up house, we get to chill out in each others’ company of an evening and at weekends. My PhD is finally, completely, utterly finished. My corrections have been accepted and I will be graduating on the 22nd July which is only a few weeks away. Soon, very soon, I will never have to interact with my wretched supervisor again. Once I have his reference, and have handed my lab boooks and laptop back to the lab, I am done. With him and with it.

The approaching freedom is so close I can taste it.

Yes, there is the small matter of the job hunt for a role in medical communications, but both of the applications I put in last week have had positive responses, one for a writing test (it’s for a medical writer position) and the other for an initial phone interview (it’s an account executive role). Considering how long I have spent looking at job descriptions thinking I couldn’t possibly match up, I have had two immediate responses saying “yes, we are interested in you”. This means my CV is doing its job! Hurrah!

So, if I put in applications for the other six jobs I have open in my browser, I’m in with a serious chance of having my first real paying job within a month or so. I may even end up in a position where I can CHOOSE which job to take! Which is seriously exciting business. 😀

Setting out on a sunny path

Setting out on a sunny path – Fordwich, Kent

I’ve just been thinking, maybe I should write some sort of post recapping my PhD experience and reflect on how far I’ve come.

I mean, I’ve MADE IT. I’ve SURVIVED.

And there were points where I seriously didn’t think that would be possible. Like, I lost track of the number of times I was talked out of quitting the PhD. I lost track of the number of people who told me I’d regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t finish my PhD. And so, here I am. At the end of it all (barring those papers we need to write, my collaborators and I).

There should be a joyous celebration but I feel ambivalent about it. I think my graduation will however be a giant FUCK YOU to my male supervisor. If he shows up, I may stab him. It’s also a fuck you to my brain, which has made things so many times harder, what with the depression and anxiety as a response to chronic stress and an abusive/neglectful work environment.

Like, I get where my brain was coming from. Shit was legitimately awful but having depression be my go-to response is/was far from helpful. And I know now I will have to be on guard against it for the rest of my life. You don’t get to have my family genetics and history and not remain watchful. You just don’t.

I do feel so much better than I did. I can do things during the day. I don’t want to cry all the time! I can cope and do what I meant to do, regardless of feeling a bit anxious about whatever it is. My side effects from citalopram have calmed the fuck down (helps that I’m down to 20 mg every other day). It won’t be long, maybe another month or so, until I can come off it completely. And if it starts to get bad after I’ve weaned myself off, I will not hesistate to go back on it.

Having done a bit of a rejig of my blog categories yesterday, and re-reading old posts, I’m left wanting to bash my head against the table for not seeing it sooner, and getting medical help ealier for the shit I was going through. Yes, the on and off counselling I had helped a lot but combined with anti-depressants, I could have been so much better and more able to deal with the PhD crap. I could have enjoyed my time slightly more, and I might have had the wherewithall to properly consider and implement a change of PhD and project, or at the very least, of supervisor.

Yes, my PhD “worked” and I discovered new and exciting things about JAK-STAT and NF-kappaB signalling in response to inflammatory cytokines and the cross-talk between them, but it could have been so much more with adequate supervison under a person I actually trusted to have my back and understand me. I know I’m a bit wierd as an individual. One look at my choice of friends will tell you that (if you think you’re the normal one in your group of wierdo friends, think again!). I know I’m hard to get to know and that I only open up to certain people but I’m also still human. And I like to think I’m worth the effort. And really, it’s not too much to ask that if your preferred supervision style patently isn’t working, to maybe change things up a bit and get some advice.

Anyway, thinking about this is making me angry. What’s done is done, and in this instance there is no recourse to justice. Which makes me angrier still, so there you go. I don’t handle anger well – it scares me. Just knowing it’s how I feel right now is a win. It bugs the crap out of me that there’s not more I can do. That there’s precious little I can do to stop anyone else going through something similar, un- or under-supported by their university. My blog’s so small that few will see it that need it, while anything formal through the university will have repercussions for me that I’m not willing to shoulder.

Basically, it sucks. It has sucked, and will continue to suck, and will suck for others who find themselves in similar situations in the future.

Which is a rather negative note to end on, especially as it started out so well. I have come a long, long way since I started this blog over two years ago. When I started it, I didn’t know it would become a record of my experiences that I value as much I do. I have made it, I am still here, so I’m going to celebrate that regardless of everything else.