The Start of my PhD: Take 2

The week before my return date I was a nervous wreck.

I thought to myself: “I need to get psychologically and physically prepared”, so I made myself a first-week plan as well as a plan for the subsequent 3 months. However, when I revisited this, I realised, as per usual, I was extremely optimistic and my first week could have easily been a months work. Thursday evening of the week before quickly arrived, and I received a phone call from my supervisor setting a meeting for Monday. This call really lifted me and I was very excited.

Unfortunately, this feeling didn’t last very long, and by Sunday I became very nervous again. As always, my Mum knew exactly what to say to calm me down. She told me nothing is in my control tomorrow and the only thing I can do is go in with a positive mind, so I did. This was important, as I really dislike not being in control of my life, but for me finding the courage to let go of the things that I cannot change has been a massive achievement.

Monday16th of November 2015: the day that I have been waiting for, for what seemed like an eternity. I woke up at 6am for a 10.30am meeting, which is the earliest time I have seen in a very long while. The commute was different from usual; road layouts had changed and I feared I did not know the way despite travelling to Kingston for over 4 years. The mind games had truly kicked in. After an hour drive came the task of finding a parking space, at which point I was so fatigued i did not know how I was going to get through the day.

As I entered the University I was feeling extremely overwhelmed. A lot had changed since I was last here in the summer (just 4 months ago). There was a new shop in reception, the canteen had been refurbished and there was a lot of new faces. I walked into my supervisor’s office and it was the first time in a long while that I thought things are going to be ok, especially after a good cup of tea.

I know a lot of PhD students have problems with their supervisor. Some may have reduced contact with their supervisor or at the other end of the scale, have an overbearing supervisor. I have been so lucky to have a supervisor like mine, he has been so understanding and at no point did I feel pressurised to return. I have just felt supported throughout a very hard time.

During this meeting my second supervisor and Lab Manger were present and it was agreed that I should have a phased return to work. It was decided that I would start back with a two-day week and, to my surprise, I would not start any lab work until January. That was my first-week lab plan and my monthly plans down the drain…

So what was the plan? I would produce a review paper to ease me back into to the scientific field with a publication aim date for the end of December. I was devastated to not be able to go in the lab but realised, this was the best option for my recovery and I could focus on something and get myself ready for January.

I would like to thank everyone for their support and cooperation, especially my supervisor and lab manager. I always set myself high expectations but sometimes, the reality is that I am not ready. I suppose I better get writing…


Lucky Cullen

Kingston University