With everyone talking about mental health these days, I thought I would pen down my experience on the subject. Being a PhD research scholar, I have had my fair share of these demons. I have been a good student throughout my life and was accepted to an elite engineering school as a PhD candidate. My experiences so far- scholastic and others-have been way beyond my imagination.

It took me a while to realize that the life of a research student is anything but normal. There are no strict timelines to follow and you are solely responsible for your actions. Deadlines are drawn in the sand, and you push through each invisible end line. It’s a herculean task to keep yourself motivated, and some days you just don’t feel like getting up from the bed.

And there are those episodes of fear. Every once in a while, an unknown fear lodges itself into the back of my throat. I hear about other’s panic attacks on a daily basis. Sometimes, the worst news reaches me-suicides on the campus. Then I wonder, “Could this be happening to me?!” “Nah, I’m invincible”, I console myself. “You are solely responsible for your feelings. It’s all because of your actions or inactions” – I say to myself. Then the fear goes as it came and I am all good.

Four years on campus have taught me many things. But the most important life lesson I have learned is to keep your close ones closer. Call them, talk to them. Go out, have a good laugh. Build a support system. And this realization, even though very apparent, did not come magically to me. It was a learning curve, and I am blessed to have a huge support system in my family and friends.

For me, COVID-19 has come as a blessing in disguise. My experiments have been on a standstill for six months now. I constantly worry about my work, or lack thereof; then again, it has given me time to recoup. And then, there are the neighbourhood aunties, who lament about yours truly, and that too a girl, studying for too long. I smile and tell them, “It’s COVID, aunty….what to do?!”

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