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  #1  
Old 11-14-06, 12:12 PM
Alchemist Alchemist is offline
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PhD Problems

Sorry this is so long. It is my first post and I feel I have not had anyone else I could say all this to.

I am trying to write up my PhD but having problems writing the thesis. My PhD is a science PhD and the experimental part went OK but not great because I am so disorganised. I have dsylexia and I thought this was the cause of my problems writing but talking to the doctors it looks like I may have ADD. I have written drafts of all my results chapters and my introduction. I just have the conslusion and materials and methods to write drafts for. I have been able to get drafts corrected by people in my lab and friends.

My problem is that I have a very bad relationship with my professor and since I started to hand him bits to read 10 months ago he has given me no corrections. There is always some excuse and I get told to go and do more experiments. He is very angry about how long it takes me to write. I am currently almost a month late on getting a new version of a chapter to him. He sends lots of angry e-mails and leaves many angry messages on my phones. I have not contacted him back. I keep saying I will contact him when I finish the corrections I have given myself on the chapter but this just drifts on. I find I worry to much to work and feel disinterested and distracted from writing when I know it won't get marked.

I have found the set up of my grad school means there is noone I can talk to and plan with. Anybody I even hint my problems to goes straight to my Professor who will come back to me screaming and deny that he is the cause of any of my problems. I think I made a big mistake when I choose the lab I choose to do my PhD. The professor was nice to start with but things have just gradually gone downhill. I have felt trapped in the PhD I am in and unable to change once I started.

Since discovering I might have ADD I felt a massive relief. It explains so many of the problems I have had throughout my life. Most of my colleagues have been very interested and supportive. My supervisor however has not. He says from reading about ADD he does not believe it is a real disorder. That I am just lazy, immature, irresponsible, retarded and that I show him no respect. He says that I am just using ADD as an excuse. Before I told him I was worried this would be the response but other lab members convinced me it would not. I am also recieving the same messages from the member of the grad school who deals with me.

I have a big problem that I will need a reference from my supervisor if I want to carry on in science. He has been threatening to write me a very bad reference for about a year now. I thought this was just something he thought would motivate me. I feel that my course has gone reasonably well and that I have not been a bad student. Anyone I have seen go up against a Professor in my college has always been crushed mercilessly. I feel there is no way I can go and explain the whole situation to the head of department or head of my program because it will end my scientific career and only result in a mild slap on the wrist for the Professor.

I am looking forward to being able to get treatment for ADD and I think this will help me a lot but I can't get treated before my submission deadline comes unless I want to pay money I don't have. I am very interested in the possibility of getting coached and I tried it out with my parents. Unforetunately it didn't take them long to become disappointed with my lack of progress. I also don't tell them the truth of my relationship with my Professor because I don't want to upset them. This has led to me just telling them lies and the coaching falling apart. They also say I am using the ADD as an excuse when nothing could be further from the truth. I have been trying hard to overcome my problems it is just that I told them the problems I have instead of hiding them.

I feel like I can do it but I don't have long. I think the problems with my Professor are not going to be overcome which will cause me big problems but I think my thesis is good enough that I should pass. It should be my Professor who tells me how to make it good enough but this just hasn't been happening.

Thanks for reading. I don't quite know what my point is. If anyone has any advice for me as to how to get things done or just some words of encouragement which I desparately need that would be great. Is there any sort of coaching done on these forums or anywhere else on the web. I feel like someone who won't judge me or make me feel I need to lie to them would be helpful.
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Old 11-14-06, 09:34 PM
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Wow, your prof sounds horrible. And I can't believe your department would allow students to be treated that way. That's ridiculous. I think just about anyone would be having problems in that situation. Is there no one in the department you can talk to about this? Are there other students who feel the same way so that you could complain as a group? At the very least he should be advising you on your thesis.

If not, then all you can do is continue to write and get advice from other students. And what about your committe members? Can't you get corrections from any of them? Try to forget about your prof if you can, since it sounds like your resentment of him is a big reason you're having trouble writing. Just write for yourself. That's who the Ph.D. is for anyways, right? It probably won't be a good thing if your prof won't give you a good recommendation, but maybe you can get recommendations from other members of the faculty there.

I'm curious what you mean about not being able to get treated. How will you have more money after you submit your thesis? Do you just mean that you'll be able to have a job then? Can you get meds from a doc in your university's counseling center? My visits are free and I just pay the prescription copay so it's really cheap. I'd borrow whatever I had to in order to get treatment if I was in the middle of writing a Ph.D. thesis. That sounds tough. Hang in there, man.
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Old 11-14-06, 10:38 PM
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An academic ADHD coach or tutor may help you be able to stay on track. Are there any other sympathetic Profs in your Dept that you can get support from?
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Old 11-14-06, 10:52 PM
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Welcome to the Forums, Alchemist!


I'm sorry your professor is giving you such a hard time and so little help. I was more fortuante in my masters program in having a very supportive professor who helped me stay on track and I know what a huge difference that makes. I'm glad you found some answers in your ADD diagnosis as to why things are harder. I hope you can find some support elsewhere in the department and get through with this tough time and on to better things. Hang in there!

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Old 11-15-06, 07:58 AM
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Other students who work for my Professor do feel the same but I am getting it by far the worst. They are very supportive of me but I would not want to put them in a difficult position. I could go to certain people in the department and talk but I don't now how I could do it with out causing a huge row. I worry that I would just end up expending a lot of time and effort fighting my Professor instead of writing and I can't see it getting me anything. I wonder if I should wait until I feel like I have done all I can do without his help and then if the worst comes to the worst I can still just submit without his corrections.

One problem I have is I keep thinking it will all turn out OK. I have kept thinking that he is trying to motivate me with what he says and one day he would be happy and congratulate me on my progress. It hasn't happened and I can't see it happening.

I will get free treatment if I go to a specialist ADD center. The problem is that there is a waiting list. If I pay I can get treated quicker. It is more than I can comfortably afford for a few weeks difference.

The most sympathetic other professor I could talk to who knows my situation is the head of department. I would have to be careful but I do think if I explained my situtation well he could keep things confiedential. The problem is as head of department he will have a duty to confront my Professor. I think I could find coaching at the univeristy's health services. That could be the best thing to try first

Thanks for the support guys. I think you are right about my resentment of my Professor getting in the way of my writing. I need to do this for myself.

It is tough to find out now and not to be able to get the treatment I need right away. I guess a lot of people who find they have ADD as adults find out in crisis times. One positive of the situation is that I did find out. If I had had an easier time I would have just gone through the rest of my life never organised and never getting things done to my satisfaction without knowing why.
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Old 11-18-06, 09:22 PM
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Hey Alchemist. You should look into your university ombudsperson. I go to the University of Victoria in Canada, and if we the ombudsperson in our university is a good way to file a confidential report against your prof. They're usually a group of independant and impartial people who are there to help people in your situation. You should really check it out. I hope things get better for you!

I'm still struggling to get my last year of my BA done
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Old 11-18-06, 10:07 PM
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Alchemist - I'm 20+ years past my PhD and have some first-hand knowledge of ADD, academia, and undiagnosed students (I was one myself, my last student was one). Are you looking for advice? Even if you aren't......

1) Don't talk to your professor. Don't try and have a conversation with him or convince him of anything. Tell him you need to put your head down to write then disappear. Or maybe come in to check mail every few days. Chat up the department admin asst. just enough that (s)he knows you are still around.

2) Finish your draft. It sounds like you are almost there!!!!! The single most important thing for your prof is another graduated student. He probably doesn't want to argue with you either. He only wants a decent dissertation.

3) Don't worry about or think about the fact that you aren't getting comments back from him. Move forward as quickly as possible with whatever you have. Don't even worry about why he is not responding - it probably doesn't have anything to do with you anyway.

4) If he needs anything from you releated to a new proposal etc., stop and give it to him, but don't take much time doing it.

5) Invoke the gods of hyperfocus however you can. Loud music, total silence, weird food. (I won't recommend the technique I used).

6) If the dyslexia means there are issues with the writing find someone you can pay to work with you. Maybe a science writing student from the journalism department. If your prof only has to read for science in the end, not for sentence structure, he'll be happy.

Take the bit in your teeth. Move on. Sounds like you are almost there! Remember - just 'cause your prof is a star in whatever field you are in (chemistry?) doesn't mean he knows anything at all about people, other scientific fields, or ADD. In fact, really good academicians need to be so tightly focused on their subspeciality that they're not much good for other things, especially being humane. (Yes, I have a list of academic superstars who are also wonderful human beings, but I have an even longer list of ones that are jerks).

Don't worry about the recommendation.

Finally: THERE ARE NO FINISHED PIECES OF WRITING - THERE ARE ONLY DEADLINES.

(pm me an email address and I'll send you the motivational cartoons).
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Old 11-21-06, 09:46 AM
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Thanks for the advice. I was feeling a lot of guilt about not being more in contact with my Professor. When I contact him I always leave feeling frustrated and demotivated, it does negatively effect my work so I do need to avoid him despite the fact he wants to see me every day. I am feeling good about finishing the draft I think two weeks should be enough. I think once I finish the draft I will see if he starts to give me comments. If not then I will look into talking to people about the problems I am having. It would be good if I could confidentially make comments to someone.

Hyperfocus is something I keep wondering about. I know exactly what people are talking about I enter that state a lot when I am doing things that aren't writing like experiments, computer analysis and things like computer games. When I write sometimes I can hyperfocus and I am amazed at how much work I can do. I will write 20 pages in a couple of days. I know that when I have done this in the past I would take a cocktail of very strong coffee, painkillers and various herbal teas. I would take that every hour or two. I have found that even with the kick from the coffee and drugs I cannot really write. I am still stuck but then feeling ill and unable to sleep. I am avoiding caffiene and painkillers at the moment because I worry it is unhealthy and some kind of self medication.

I have found one thing that helps me is having a very low expectation of what I will acheive in a day. I have a large to do list that is there more as a reminder so I don't forget to do some things. I have found I can never work if I say I will do these tasks this week then these tasks next week. I work better if I just say I will try to do this number of hours today and what I achieve is what I achieve in those hours. I am fairly strict about the hours. They are a 50 min slot where I sit at the computer and do not do anything that isn't work. I then have a 10 min reward break where I can get a drink, check things on the internet, read or whatever. I then try to start back again with another 50 min of work. If I know I can't work or I'm not ready to start again I give myself an hour break and will eat or do some other house things. I am also giving myself rewards if I achieve 8 hours a day. These are fun things that I want to buy or do but don't need or wouldn't do anway. It is very inefficient compared to what I can do if I am into something but it does let me do a little at a time, it's less stressful and it gets me used to sitting and working instead of getting used to procrastinating and worrying. I don't know if people would consider that a healthy way to work.
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Old 11-21-06, 01:20 PM
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I wish my work habits were as disciplined as yours.
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Old 11-21-06, 08:15 PM
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Well, having said all that it's just the theory of how it works. I only managed one hour today but at least it was something.
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Old 11-21-06, 08:29 PM
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Tough situation, but I admire your determination to stick with the work, despite the difficulties. The caffeine and painkillers certainly could be a form of self medication and your problems with focus all point to the possibility that you simply aren't receiving a level of cognitive stimulation that is adequate for your needs. Taking frequent breaks is a great way to break up a task; sometimes just walking away from the work for awhile may forestall increased feelings of frustration.
It may help to look ahead, to the time when you have completed all the work and have the PhD. That alone may make the journey all worthwhile and keep in mind that you will have more choices available to you in terms of the type of work you do. Hang in there, you have great determination!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Alchemist
Thanks for the advice. I was feeling a lot of guilt about not being more in contact with my Professor. When I contact him I always leave feeling frustrated and demotivated, it does negatively effect my work so I do need to avoid him despite the fact he wants to see me every day. I am feeling good about finishing the draft I think two weeks should be enough. I think once I finish the draft I will see if he starts to give me comments. If not then I will look into talking to people about the problems I am having. It would be good if I could confidentially make comments to someone.

Hyperfocus is something I keep wondering about. I know exactly what people are talking about I enter that state a lot when I am doing things that aren't writing like experiments, computer analysis and things like computer games. When I write sometimes I can hyperfocus and I am amazed at how much work I can do. I will write 20 pages in a couple of days. I know that when I have done this in the past I would take a cocktail of very strong coffee, painkillers and various herbal teas. I would take that every hour or two. I have found that even with the kick from the coffee and drugs I cannot really write. I am still stuck but then feeling ill and unable to sleep. I am avoiding caffiene and painkillers at the moment because I worry it is unhealthy and some kind of self medication.

I have found one thing that helps me is having a very low expectation of what I will acheive in a day. I have a large to do list that is there more as a reminder so I don't forget to do some things. I have found I can never work if I say I will do these tasks this week then these tasks next week. I work better if I just say I will try to do this number of hours today and what I achieve is what I achieve in those hours. I am fairly strict about the hours. They are a 50 min slot where I sit at the computer and do not do anything that isn't work. I then have a 10 min reward break where I can get a drink, check things on the internet, read or whatever. I then try to start back again with another 50 min of work. If I know I can't work or I'm not ready to start again I give myself an hour break and will eat or do some other house things. I am also giving myself rewards if I achieve 8 hours a day. These are fun things that I want to buy or do but don't need or wouldn't do anway. It is very inefficient compared to what I can do if I am into something but it does let me do a little at a time, it's less stressful and it gets me used to sitting and working instead of getting used to procrastinating and worrying. I don't know if people would consider that a healthy way to work.
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Old 11-21-06, 10:27 PM
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Since you can't get in immediately with a counselor, perhaps this book would be helpful. They recommend doing it with your counselor, but I've been working through it on my own and things are improving. It's a cognitive behavioral client workbook called Mastering Your Adult ADHD -- good practical, easy to implement suggestions on organizing, prioritizing, etc. It's written by a team from Harvard Medical School and has research backing up it's effectiveness. It's written by Safren, Sprich, et al.

Be sure and take regular exercise breaks in your writing. That really helps reset the brain and improves focus.

Take care,
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Old 11-22-06, 06:05 AM
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I think I am finding things easier as come towards the end of the PhD. It has seemed a long way off for a long time but it does feel like it is coming. I am finding I am feeling more positive about work as well. I was thinking I might just ditch science but now I feel like I do enjoy it and I think with treatment I could be more compotent and able to do it as a career. I feel my experience has just been a one off and I doubt I will have another boss like that. One thing that has kept coming back to me is that two people I knew quite well told me I should think twice about working for him before I started. There were many more saying I should go for it but in future I think I need to be aware that if anyone hints caution there is a good reason behind it. It was only when I started having problems that stories of what had happened to previous people got told.

I'll order a copy of that book. I have wanted to get Answers to Distraction as well. I found Driven to Distraction and Out of the Fog very good but they did not have much advice on things to improve work.

Excercise is a big problem for me. I know it helps but I put it off and put it off. I keep saying I will go to the gym tomorrow and so I haven't been in a couple of months. I read somewhere that I should shedule it a couple of times a week and never make excuses not to go. With winter it is hard to just go jogging.
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Old 11-22-06, 02:29 PM
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For many people, even most people (ADDers and nonADDers), finishing a PhD is challenging, exhausting, draining. This is NOT the time to be making decisions about the future. This is the time to FINISH. You're in the final sprint!

As you move forward you will have more and more autonomy, and the "boss" issues will recede. Remember your past when you are boss!

Also science is a really good match for an ADDer because science is all about figuring things out, putting the puzzle together, always moving on to new things, and being creative and clever. The hard thing is that you have to finish up projects. There are places in the world of science that are better and places that are worse for ADDers. After 30 years on the inside I have some opinions. I'd be happy to share them..... once you turn in a complete draft (;-}).

What's the title of your dissertation, btw?
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Old 05-04-07, 03:12 PM
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I passed.

The examiners were very positive about my thesis. They thought I had done a lot of work. Not many corrections. I think I have just been unlucky with the problems I had multiplying together. I think a new and carefully selected boss should enable me to have a better experience next time.

Thanks for your advice it was very helpful.
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