Jesus Christ I’m depressed. Maybe a transient funk… that may be more apt. And what do I have to be depressed about? A nigh submission to JACs and JOC as first author should make anyone happy, right? I’m also foreseeing 3 papers in the next 8 months where I’m somewhere in the middle of the authorship list. How can someone standing on that be depressed?
It’s quite easy, actually. Publications celebrate some degree of accomplishment, but they don’t tell the whole story. They do a poor job at expressing the hours and devotion that go into research, but they’re supposed to be a self reinforcing reward, like money or something. We all know money doesn’t buy happiness, so by that logic papers shouldn’t either.
I’ve been aware of the various statistics on depression in graduate school:
Perhaps such figures help explain the recent finding that “depression and other forms of mental distress” were a serious problem in a study of more than 3,100 graduate students at the University of California at Berkeley. According to the study: “Nearly half of all survey respondents (45 percent) reported an emotional or stress-related problem that significantly impacted their academic performance or well-being.” Another 67 percent reported feeling hopeless at times, 95 percent felt overwhelmed in graduate school, and 54 percent said they had felt so “depressed that it was difficult to function.” About 10 percent had seriously considered suicide, and one in 200 had actually attempted suicide in the last year.
And they find:
The Berkeley study cites dysfunctional relationships with faculty advisers, significant family responsibilities, financial difficulties, isolation from campus life and student resources, and an inability to recognize the symptoms of a psychological problem as possible reasons for graduate students’ declining mental health
Sounds about right. Though I’m not at an institution that would be heartbroken if its people didn’t opt to go into academia, so telling my adviser that I wanted to become a sous chef in San Fransisco probably wouldn’t bug him at all (well, maybe a little). That part of the article isn’t so relevant. But even in the relaxed halls here, I find little comfort and a foreboding sense of isolation, which (contrary to my expectations) has only gotten worse as everyone else becomes more focused on their research… which seems to be precipitating similar feelings in them.
I think people chalk this sort of shit up to just the ‘graduate experience.’ A right of passage of sorts where, it’s alright to feel this way, just don’t 1. talk about it 2. dwell on it 3. talk about it may bare mention twice…
Whatever. I see the light at the end of the tunnel now. My project is finally a means to an end and not the academic spinning wheels that I find a lot of people stuck in.
Then there’s the question of what to do after I’m done…