I’ve had a sabbatical from here of late. Well without checking, since August.

I’ve been hard at work, sometimes. Once I did feel a little guilty when my monthly bursary came in, “What would the taxpayer think if they knew I wasn’t productive for even 50% of the past month, let alone a week?” then I realised it’s me who’s made a significant sacrifice.

Saying that, I’ve definitely felt a lull in motivation over the past eight or so months, which one couldn’t combat in the real world by refusing to cogitate or even do mundane tasks in it. Whilst working towards my MPhil to PhD transfer, of course- doubting my own critical thought or even self-worth. Lets get it right, I’ve been depressed. Trouble was I didn’t realise I was depressed until I’d been depressed for a significant portion of the time spent. Despite me knowing the signs. I guess I wasn’t spending long enough with anyone (or the right people) in order for them to ask (wallflower side affect?) “What’s up?” but fortunately Christmas came around and it was only then, when taking a week off from working, or trying; that my brain farted out to myself. “You’re depressed!”

Identifying a cause is simple, I’m doing a PhD; I gave up a hell of a lot of money combined with not being in an environment where I am told-off for doing wrong or even congratulated for doing right, regularly if ever. On top of that two people who had started their PhD’s at the same time as me called it a day. That  left me questioning my own intentions. “Have I made the right choice?”. Plus many other factors. It wasn’t until a few ‘things’ happened that I managed to kill the chicken of depression.

The chicken of depression - gary larson
An old fave.

Quite personal ‘things’, so I will be vague about them. A close friend found out during my-period-of-realisation they had cancer, and since many a family member has turned out to have cancer. Having already lost two family members since starting my PhD to cancer, it’s been frankly awful and the result of that is naturally pondering mortality itself. At the same time over recent months a friend who I had probably spent the previous six months trying to coach out of a depression, with little success through their unwillingness to change: claims to have cirrhosis of the liver but carries on drinking! It led to me not realising my own depression through, worry for them. Finally, I realised to make the leaps I want to make to get ahead in academia require me to let this PhD process/system try to break me.

I’m fortunate enough to have friends who have PhD’s, in rare circumstances and in rarer circumstances are assistant (We don’t have any of those in my school, which baffles me!) professors or professors. Additionally I have friends who started on PhD programmes outside of my uni at the same time as me and my neighbour, (Probably much to our own detriment- moves home in a a few weeks.) is also doing a PhD. So I probably have a larger circle than most in the same position as me to identify with. In that if I’m going to have a mid-PhD crisis, I’ll get through it harder and faster. Much like how I treat the flu; plenty of Dequacaine and psuedoephidrine!

However I don’t treat depression with the same pharmacological treatment. As mental diseases, are that; they are not going to be cured. Ever. Regardless of what pills you pop. In my mind it’s as life changing a dependency as any addiction. And I rule it out. I find it’s better to deal with it in a counselling session than a medicated one. In short depression is getting worse for me and maybe it’s the PhD or maybe it’s the inevitability of a disease getting worse with age but compounded from all the above real things, I had the  internal monologue. “I have to relearn how to deal with my disease.”

Relearning quite honestly is accepting you feel like a fart. An insignificant fart. Who has just spent the past year and a half working towards an idea that’s supposedly novel. But coming up with many ideas that aren’t. Whilst ignoring you’re the type of person to play your skills down or achievements down. Essentially, and it’s not easy, being the kind of personality to be susceptible to depression the simple answers to it are a dichotomy of a) “Deal with it. Adapt.” or b) Take time off and get some pharms.

Considering, when I started I aimed to be published in six months, (Almost achieved by the way- I apologise it’s a shoddy paper; not the opinion of the conference chair I might add!) and graduate within two and a half years I had to accept eventually after a year, that’s unlikely. Time off for ‘illness’ doesn’t compute to me. That, coupled together with an eagerness to prove and test my own value, as one would do in a workplace, I’ve realised others aren’t as interested! Even if they directly affect my own progression. I’ve not only got to deal with my depressive personality now but the pace of academia vs the real world. For me, pulling a sickie is moot when need be I can take half the month off from going to the office and no one bat…

…at this point having re-motivated myself, I have presented my MPhil to PhD transfer, (Four or five months late because not depression, actual academic pace and school culture.) to the head of research for amendments before it even gets submitted. In order to catch up with my blog sabbatical  and half month sabbaticals from my office I am planning a sequester. I’ve been doing so since October- coincidently when I suspect the depression kicked in. I should be on it now, if I had stuck to my guns but I have a symposium presentation in the middle of this month, (That I’ve not finished!) so I am delaying it. But the important part is knowing I will sequester. (edit: I guess if my supervisors are reading this, apologies for not bringing it up earlier.)

I’ve found a private apartment, at less than £500 quid for the month. I know maybe a handful of people where I plan to go. I don’t yet know if I will tell them where I am as my primary purpose is to avoid a trend I notice on campus on a Friday. Undergrads turn up through the day, with holdalls on wheels. Prepared for the journey home to mummy and and daddy (probably) and final year PhD students turn up at around four in the early evening.Prepared to lock themselves in for the weekend. In my final year, like now I still want the undergraduate good time mentality and not the stressed, doubtful and over-encumbered mentality of the PhD student!

So please fingers crossed, that the amendments that the head of research might suggest aren’t major! And I transfer with godspeed!

And also, if you’re bothered and would like to keep in contact when I sequester (Don’t worry fellow schoolies you will know when and where in advance!) please drop me a line.

Until next time reader, big things are afoot!

Better regards,

Mark ‘brainfart-bean’ Sabino (o:


Update: edits made; clean up. Etc. Yep I published before saving! It was accident!

Update2: of the friend I mentioned who got cancer around christmas. They had an operation in the new year and have recovered (o:

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