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  • Writer's pictureAshley Gray

10 Things I Think... Post-Dissertation Depression-Ish

The height of excitement is successfully defending that dissertation. It's an unmatched high. You just did a thing. A major thing. You are 1 of the less than 5% of Americans that hold this degree. And it's a hard reality to accept being "done" with this baby that you have fed, nursed and struggled to cultivate. I had heard a few people talk about how low they felt after defending their doctoral degrees but assumed those were folks who may not be employed or who didn't have projects in the hopper. I was wrong. I have been feeling pretty depressed-ish as of late. "You should be happy" may be the least helpful statement I've ever heard. It implies that folk choose what I refer to as the "fog". To the best of my ability, I'm going to share with you why (I think) I feel this way.


  1. It's the end of a chapter. Grief is real and it doesn't make sense. You're supposed to be happy, right? There are so many folks who couldn't be here because of life transitions and there are others who were supposed to be there no matter what. And sometimes they don't show up.

  2. You're not always done after you defend. Edits still need to be made despite you being exhausted.

  3. You feel like you know have to redefine your purpose. For so long your identity has been tied to your program and now you have to establish new ways to make life meaningful.

  4. COVID robbed me of so much. I didn't get a candidacy ceremony, I didn't get a lot of the pomp and circumstance that I earned.

  5. You hate to be asked "what's next" because truthfully, you may not know. And honestly this question minimizes the moment. You just did something huge (think get married, had a baby, etc.) and the first thing out of someone's mouth is about something else. Let me just sit with this achievement for a minute.

  6. Some folks assume the next degree you need now is the MRS. I've had so many folks imagine the hyphen after my last name more than I had folks imagine the impact and potential of the "Dr" in front.

  7. You get 15 minutes to present arguably the largest research project you'll ever have. It is the fastest and most important 15 minutes of your academic career.

  8. You replay all of your doctoral experience and realize you need to heal. There's some hurt there. And this step is important. Realizing you may need to heal after your doc program is a step a lot of folks don't take. They jump right into faculty or administrative roles and force others to experience the trauma they did in the name of "tradition". I'm good on this. I'm gonna take as much time as needed in order to make sure my students have a healthy doc experience.

  9. Let's revisit grief. Finishing a doc program is like a marriage that didn't end in divorce but somehow your partner is now gone. It changed overnight- literally.

  10. It's a common experience. And it sucks.

  11. Did I mention it's dark by 4pm? Daylight savings, haven't you saved enough time, dammit?!? I'm over it.

  12. And I WILL GET THROUGH THIS.

  13. On a serious note, please check in with yourself after big moments. If you don't feel like yourself- that's ok. Please consider speaking with a therapist and your support circle. I just started therapy last week and will commit to attending regularly. And. I'm about to get a whole ass hobby lol! For real. Something that's just for me.


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