Hi! I’m “sita” who realized I can’t do my best anymore．
In this article, I would like to talk about my depression in graduate school of science in Japan, which led me to give up trying so hard for everything. As you know from my broken English, I’m Japanese.
When I got depressed in graduate school, I wanted to think “There must be a lot of bad graduate students just like me also in other university in Japan.” and “It’s normal to get depressed in graduate school. it’s not my fault.” Sometimes I searched for a personal blog that seemed to be written by a depressed master student.
However, I couldn’t find any exhausted graduate students who were similar to me in many aspects, and I always wanted to leave my struggling past for very similar people. So, I’d write about it now when I’ve finished my thesis and my graduation is confirmed. (I don’t know this blog will get that much traffic.)
About Japanese graduated school
Before I will talk about it, I want you know about circumstance of Japanese graduated school or university. In japan, most university students get only bachelor degree or master degree. There are a few people trying to get Ph.D. This is because scholarship is not provided enough for university students. In addition, Master degree people can sometimes get same or higher income than Ph.D. in Japan. So, even if you have ability of getting Ph.D., you should start working just after get master degree in Japan. This is the low risk economical choice.
(The story is changed but many Japanese researchers are pessimistic about the future of Japanese science and technology)
Next, about master thesis. It is often said in Japan that “Entering university is easier but graduating is much harder in other country. In contrast, entering is harder but graduating is easier in Japan.” And I also thought so when I did my defense for master thesis. However, of course, your thesis need to meet the minimum requirements as master thesis. In Summary, getting Master degree is easier but not easy in Japan.
Active master degree researcher me before depressed
In graduate school, I belonged to the same laboratory that I had been in bachelor fourth year of undergraduate school. It was a very active laboratory, with many journal papers written every year, many international students, and all master students presenting at least once at an international conference.
Therefore, I was also working incredibly hard as shown below before I became depressed.
- I took all the classes required for graduation in the first semester of my master degree, except for process related to my master thesis.
- Although I was not good at English, I wrote a paper for an international journal in June of my first year, and also presented it at an international conference in July.
- I have never skipped my monthly progress reports and presented everything in English.
- Until May, I had completed a collaborative research project that OB had not done for a little.
- I selected new measurement equipment to conduct new research I proposed.
- I hurriedly prepared new results in two weeks after the international conference in order to apply for the domestic conference to be held in winter.
If you are a master student with low motivation, you well understand how busy this is. Especially, I had been bad at English at that time. (Also now? lol)
However, my body and mind had been changed suddenly.
It started on an extremely hot day (which is a day with a temperature of more than 35°C in Japan) in late August 2019. I didn’t feel hot even though I was supposed to be walking in the strong sun light.
A lot of strange sweat was pouring from my head, and it was getting harder and harder to hear. Finally, I realized that I was walking with shedding tears.
However, with a mysterious sense of mission, I went to the campus and washed my face in the restroom, and rested in the university library. After resting and becoming calm, I finally realized how abnormal I was and left the campus without doing anything that day.
Then, I became a depressed lazy students.
The irregular status of me at that depressed period
- I was too lazy to go to the university, so I often got off the train and escaped to a manga cafe.
- I felt everything became bothersome, even my favorite video games became troublesome.
- I often wanted crying for no reason at all. (But I couldn’t actually cry even once after the extremely hot day. Maybe I’m not good at crying.)
- I reduced my part-time job, but I’ve been spending too much money on manga cafe and coffee. I was running out of money.
- I was running out of money, I can’t feel everything fun, and I became worse texter. So, I spent most of my time looking at the ocean on the beach.
- I couldn’t sleep at night and couldn’t wake up in the morning because I always used my smartphone at home.
- Even when I went to the lab, I lost concentration and stopped working within 15 minutes. I always said, “I’m not motivated, so I will change places,” and I just went walking around or went home early.
- I often said, “I’m in the process of improving my experimental method, and today is just a trial experiment. It is not necessary to do all conditions.” And, even if the experiment is halfway done, I will go home early.
- Despite I went home early, I often appeared at the university in the afternoon.
- I was so afraid of my professor, so I exaggerated my progress and schedule in my progress reports, which made everyone think that my research was going well.
- I was unnecessarily proud and couldn’t send SOS to the collogues around me.
- Even if I had fun, it would not have satisfied me. I feel nothing but a sense of guilt “I hadn’t have no progress about research also today…”, and I couldn’t be refreshed.
Despite the above situations, I have no trouble about job hunting because I’m good at exaggerated my progress. By the way, Japanese master students do job hunting before graduate. Japanese companies ask master students just after their graduating. This culture also disappointed many Japanese researchers. Anyway, my job hunting was finished nicely.
However, I had no coherent results and did not feel like I could write my master’s thesis because I always finished my experiments halfway. This made me even more self-loathing, and my depression accelerated.
Ironically, COVID-19 helped me from depression once
Then a turning point came for me. Due to a coronavirus epidemic, access to the university was restricted from April 2020, and experiments could no longer be conducted. Let me summarize the situation at that time.
- My job hunting was finished soon before March 2020
- I had no nice result. So I can’t write another journal paper at that time
- No experiment could be conducted due to restrict for entering the campus. Simulation is very difficult and little reliable in my research field.
- Part-time job was also restricted
As you know, I can do nothing but reading some paper from the April.
I feel “It’s not my fault that I can’t do my experiments,” “What fear me is only progress reports,” from the bottom of my heart. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to spend my days enjoying games and anime without feeling guilty with completely forgetting about my research.
Of course, my master thesis was strongly disturbed by COVID-19. But ironically COVID-19 gave me a true holidays. In addition, I get new hobby cleaning room and muscle training. The hobbies make me active and happy.
However, I got depressed again after that due to hard work for master thesis. lol
What I think now or what I want you to know
- After all, graduate school of science is a unique environment. I think it is normal to get depressed. The people who are fine are abnormal, extremely talented, or extremely lucky for better or worse.
- I think especially those who are not good at asking help become depressed. It is true that there are a lot of people with bad personalities. But also many people in the world will want to help you if they find you depressed. When you feel a little better, ask around for help.
- Limit your perfectionism to doing what you love. If the quality of your research presentation or documentation is poor, a truly talented person will not think that you are not thinking clearly enough, but he/she will understand that you are not good at managing your time and energy.
- People’s minds can be broken suddenly. The more motivated you are, the more you should seriously think about resting. Adequate vacation will help you maximize your performance in the long run.
That’s all. Sorry for long and unorganized sentences and my crazy English.
You do not need to be strong, but just live and seize your happiness!