A Pandemic, Psychosis and a PhD Thesis Submission

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So, I fell off the blogging bandwagon and I feel like I’ve failed. I must admit: writing this post for you now – it feels tough, though I hope you take kindly to my honesty. In the space of one week, the UK entered it’s second wave of the COVID pandemic and I entered into mental health crisis care; amidst this chaos, I somehow managed to submit my PhD thesis but I count not stretch to maintaining my blog too.

I started blogging seriously in mid-August (making September my first full month as a blogger). I was initially emboldened by my early (unexpected) success, but upon reaching October I started struggling. I didn’t struggle to come up with content ideas, nor did I really struggling to write; I suppose what I struggled with was overwhelm. Earlier in the month I outlined my blogging goals for October (which I obviously haven’t met). I’m hoping to carry those goals forward into November, and hopefully with your support I’ll try to pick up next month where I left off last.

The truth is, whilst I’d carefully planned my blogging schedule around the submission of my PhD thesis (I handed in on 21st October!), I hadn’t accounted for a flare up of my Bipolar (II) Disorder. I’m not really ready to share the ins and outs of what’s happened in my mind over the last few weeks, but I’m working up to that (so please do subscribe to my blog if you want to hear more about my experience in the future). Admittedly, there is a lot that I cant remember; I was plied with medication and clinical appointments. I ended up being admitted too the psychiatric hospital only days before I was due to hand in my PhD thesis.

Like I said, I’m not quite ready to go into details about my crisis care admission yet, but I guess the diagnosis of ‘psychotic depression’ says all I need to at this point. Life got pretty weird, I got pretty sad. I couldn’t really tell what was real; honestly I’m still recovering from that and it will take me some time, but whilst I do have a grip on reality again I am still admittedly in a period of low mood. Some of you might have noticed me Tweeting less, or positing less on Instagram, but that’s just because my confidence has taken a knock and my mind is a little elsewhere. I’m safe and I’m getting better, I promise.

Getting my PhD done and handed in was hard, but it was even harder thanks to my Bipolar and harder again because I went through this experience alone (thanks, pandemic). Like many PhD students, I live and study far away from my family (around 4 hours away on the train), and whilst I do have local friends I didn’t have anyone I was [emotionally] close enough to lean on – besides I didn’t want to be a burden at this already stressful time. With amazing help from my NHS mental health support, I managed to realise my psychosis and from there I could slowly start to re-build my frame of reference. In the meantime, whilst going through this alone was hard, I had the time to commit to slowly, very slowly, finish off the final points of my PhD thesis. When I’m feeling a little stronger, I’ll write about how I managed to actually keep working on my PhD whilst recovering from my psychotic break, please follow my blog for updates as I post on this.

I’d say I managed to get through this experience with a lot of wisdom about my condition (this has happened before – the psychosis I mean, not the PhD hand in). I was extremely lucky to recognize that what I was experiencing was only partially real, impermanent, and that my PhD qualifications could soon be something I hold forever. This is only a small insight into the last few weeks of my life, but I hope that through sharing my story, bit by bit, I might be able to help others who are struggling with mental health, academic life, or high-pressure jobs in science and tech.

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