Severe emotional instability and grad school

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CyberShot
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Severe emotional instability and grad school

Postby CyberShot » Mon Feb 07, 2011 2:48 am

So, I'm currently a third year undergrad physics major. I've always had health anxiety issues, since I was a child. However, very recently they've begun to worsen, and I've been going through a lot of depression/paranoia states. I've seen a psychologist and therapist. My therapist said I had OCD, but more geared towards obsessive thoughts. I'm now seeing her regularly and she hopes to cure me using cognitive behavioral therapy.

I'm a hypochondriac, and if you don't know what that means, any awkward bodily sensation I feel, is a good enough reason for me to drive to the ER. I've been to the ER 3 times this past month because I thought I was having a heart attack, stroke, and blood clot on 3 different occasions. Turns out it was just a panic attack. I've also developed this fear of being poisoned, by the government (irrational, I know) so I'm always throwing out perfectly good things like milk and butter. I also have this intense fear of flying because I feel like I'm destined to die if I get on one. I can't even fly to visit my family whom I miss, even though we get free tickets b/c my dad works for an airline. I'm a mess right now, can't stop thinking about death and loved ones.

The way this has been affecting my school is that I'm sometimes afraid to go to class, for fear that I'll have a heart attack and be too far away from the hospital which is by my apartment. Also, and most importantly, one of the classic symptoms of depression is that you no longer get any excitement or have any interest in previously enjoyed hobbies/subjects. Physics for me, was a MAJOR hobby/subject. But now, with my depression lingering, I sometimes feel very depressed even thinking about physics. The real shame is that I know it's not me who's changed, but the disease is controlling me. I want to feel like I have before, and spend countless hours in front of my whiteboard solving challenging and stimulating problems, but I can't due to depression. I also have major problems concentrating, and it takes me longer to understand sentences, a problem I didn't use to have.

This quarter, I've stopped taking physics classes and have switched to computer science, because I can't stand doing physics anymore, and thought computer science is the next practical thing. In fact, I've even fallen a year behind in physics because of this, and received poor grades last quarter, failing classical mechanics. I've also been so exhausted and have no energy to study for any classes, let any motivation to do so. I pretty much just mope around all day.

I guess my real question is, would this be an "excuse" to physics graduate schools for poor undergrad performance? And what can I do to re-ignite my passion?

Please help..feeling so down :(

laser
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Re: Severe emotional instability and grad school

Postby laser » Mon Feb 07, 2011 3:46 am

You should consider medication. There is no shame in it.

If you want to go back to physics, chill out, talk to a therapist who is willing to talk meds, plan on having a five year undergrad experience instead of a four year so you can retake/recover from classical mechanics and bring your grades up, and then consider applying for grad school. Consider also taking a year or two off after graduation to think about whether or not this is what you want to do, and to make sure that your brain chemistry is settled into something more tolerable.

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grae313
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Re: Severe emotional instability and grad school

Postby grae313 » Tue Feb 08, 2011 12:48 am

There's nothing wrong with having some bumps in your transcript, but ultimately there's no substitute for performing well. You'll have to do well in your upper division physics classes and do well in research. There's really no way around it.

I agree with laser, you should at least consider medication.

giga17
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Re: Severe emotional instability and grad school

Postby giga17 » Tue Feb 08, 2011 1:10 am

You should seriously consider getting professional help, such as a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist. I know there is a lot of stigma associated with mental disorders, but it's really no more shameful than getting any other kind of physiological disease. Medication works in some cases, but in most cases a combination of therapy and medication works best, and the best mix can only be determined by those in the mental health profession.

Good luck, and seek comfort in your friends and family, I'm sure they will always be there for you, and that they want to help in any way they can.

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YodaT
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Re: Severe emotional instability and grad school

Postby YodaT » Tue Feb 08, 2011 1:57 am

I agree that getting help is a first priority. Don't be ashamed about walking into that health center to see someone about your condition. I had to do that for 4-5 months for alcoholism and depression/anxiety (an ex-girlfriend of mine once had to see a psychiatrist 2-3 times a week for several months because of what she was going through). I was also given medication that made feel oozy, but I came through. Although, a couple semester have been screwed over (due to an anxiety attack, with an arrhythmia episode that I somehow came out of without a defibrillator, before finals and a heart surgery a few months later) I'm still chugging through.

I know what it feels like to lose all that passion. I always found comfort in my passion for my artwork, but I just couldn't do it for 2.5 years due to my condition(s). Things will settle eventually, you'll get it all back (I certainly did after winning a few art contests :D ). Perhaps you'll come back strong, too!

Most likely the admissions committee will look over your records (and after you state in your SOP your reasons for a couple poor semesters) I'm sure they'll consider the semesters you've done your best, which will hopefully be your upper-level courses. Plus, if you have a good research background they'll be willing to compromise and make exceptions to your bumpy record. It's ok, I'm counting on them to do the same for me. If they don't, then screw them for not understanding :wink:

CyberShot
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Re: Severe emotional instability and grad school

Postby CyberShot » Tue Feb 08, 2011 2:38 am

giga17 wrote:You should seriously consider getting professional help, such as a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist. I know there is a lot of stigma associated with mental disorders, but it's really no more shameful than getting any other kind of physiological disease. Medication works in some cases, but in most cases a combination of therapy and medication works best, and the best mix can only be determined by those in the mental health profession.

Good luck, and seek comfort in your friends and family, I'm sure they will always be there for you, and that they want to help in any way they can.


Do the meds really work that well? My psychiatrist recommended me taking them, but I'm afraid it just won't help me at all. I also get anxious about taking them because I feel like it would induce more panic attacks because of the side effects.

Right now, my future in physics is looking bleak, and I really feel like depression and all these obsessive thoughts is to blame. Things didn't use to be this way, just about 6 months ago my world start turning upside down and I started feeling very, strange/hard to explain emotions. I feel like if I tried to explain to someone my situation and what I'm feeling inside for hours on end, it still wouldn't be enough.

YodaT wrote:I agree that getting help is a first priority. Don't be ashamed about walking into that health center to see someone about your condition. I had to do that for 4-5 months for alcoholism and depression/anxiety (an ex-girlfriend of mine once had to see a psychiatrist 2-3 times a week for several months because of what she was going through). I was also given medication that made feel oozy, but I came through. Although, a couple semester have been screwed over (due to an anxiety attack, with an arrhythmia episode that I somehow came out of without a defibrillator, before finals and a heart surgery a few months later) I'm still chugging through.

I know what it feels like to lose all that passion. I always found comfort in my passion for my artwork, but I just couldn't do it for 2.5 years due to my condition(s). Things will settle eventually, you'll get it all back (I certainly did after winning a few art contests :D ). Perhaps you'll come back strong, too!

Most likely the admissions committee will look over your records (and after you state in your SOP your reasons for a couple poor semesters) I'm sure they'll consider the semesters you've done your best, which will hopefully be your upper-level courses. Plus, if you have a good research background they'll be willing to compromise and make exceptions to your bumpy record. It's ok, I'm counting on them to do the same for me. If they don't, then screw them for not understanding :wink:


I'm so afraid that I've finally lost my passion for physics. It's always been so comforting to think that I'll be meddling with time travel, black holes, parallel universes. But all that just isn't there for me anymore. This is also why I felt the need to change to computer science major from physics. Cooking up algorithms to solve complex problems was the next best thing for me after physics, so now I've taken that up. Is this how you felt as well? Did things really get better for you? Do you think that I should give it time and go back to physics? I feel like I'm making a rash decision and letting my disease speak for me, and not waiting to see how things pan out. Also, I would have to stay for a 5th year now, because I've messed things up with classes. Is it still worth it?

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midwestphysics
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Re: Severe emotional instability and grad school

Postby midwestphysics » Tue Feb 08, 2011 3:15 am

CyberShot wrote:I'm so afraid that I've finally lost my passion for physics. It's always been so comforting to think that I'll be meddling with time travel, black holes, parallel universes. But all that just isn't there for me anymore. This is also why I felt the need to change to computer science major from physics. Cooking up algorithms to solve complex problems was the next best thing for me after physics, so now I've taken that up. Is this how you felt as well? Did things really get better for you? Do you think that I should give it time and go back to physics? I feel like I'm making a rash decision and letting my disease speak for me, and not waiting to see how things pan out. Also, I would have to stay for a 5th year now, because I've messed things up with classes. Is it still worth it?


I think the reason you might have lost interest is because the physics you imagined before you started is not what physics really is, but instead a completely different beast. We've all been through that to some degree, but the transition is where physicists are created. I think everybody romanticizes physics; the problem is that they each romanticize it for different reasons but don't convey that so that they seem the same. The armchair physicist you see on TV, or the books you read at Boarders, or even the early textbooks, they all give you only the skin and leave off the meat. The way that they convey things are strange. In the context they create things are simple, clean, logical, and completely a lie. That's the bad side of the romantic view of physics, the good side is the one where people are captivated even by the ugly equations, the uncertainties, the assumptions, all because simply getting closer to understanding something is an unequaled rush. Real physicists live even for the mistakes, because you learn whether something is right or wrong. I might be way off, and others might disagree with me, but someone who really wants to be a physicists; someone who is not going to stop, is the kind of person who loves the ugliness of math and the physical world. Those people love it because they see it as a challenge and something to learn from, they love to dig something beautiful out of all that chaos and confusion. So, if you want to know whether you should go back into physics, ask yourself if you’re that kind of person. Do you like feeling uncertain and confused most of the time? Are you comfortable in that position, do you thrive in it? Mostly, are you willing to deal with years and years of ugly math and physics with only a hope of finding something beautiful? If you are welcome back, if you’re not there is no shame in that. Just find what makes you happy, and I know that’s easier said than done.

CyberShot
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Re: Severe emotional instability and grad school

Postby CyberShot » Tue Feb 08, 2011 3:52 am

midwestphysics wrote:
CyberShot wrote:I'm so afraid that I've finally lost my passion for physics. It's always been so comforting to think that I'll be meddling with time travel, black holes, parallel universes. But all that just isn't there for me anymore. This is also why I felt the need to change to computer science major from physics. Cooking up algorithms to solve complex problems was the next best thing for me after physics, so now I've taken that up. Is this how you felt as well? Did things really get better for you? Do you think that I should give it time and go back to physics? I feel like I'm making a rash decision and letting my disease speak for me, and not waiting to see how things pan out. Also, I would have to stay for a 5th year now, because I've messed things up with classes. Is it still worth it?


I think the reason you might have lost interest is because the physics you imagined before you started is not what physics really is, but instead a completely different beast. We've all been through that to some degree, but the transition is where physicists are created. I think everybody romanticizes physics; the problem is that they each romanticize it for different reasons but don't convey that so that they seem the same. The armchair physicist you see on TV, or the books you read at Boarders, or even the early textbooks, they all give you only the skin and leave off the meat. The way that they convey things are strange. In the context they create things are simple, clean, logical, and completely a lie. That's the bad side of the romantic view of physics, the good side is the one where people are captivated even by the ugly equations, the uncertainties, the assumptions, all because simply getting closer to understanding something is an unequaled rush. Real physicists live even for the mistakes, because you learn whether something is right or wrong. I might be way off, and others might disagree with me, but someone who really wants to be a physicists; someone who is not going to stop, is the kind of person who loves the ugliness of math and the physical world. Those people love it because they see it as a challenge and something to learn from, they love to dig something beautiful out of all that chaos and confusion. So, if you want to know whether you should go back into physics, ask yourself if you’re that kind of person. Do you like feeling uncertain and confused most of the time? Are you comfortable in that position, do you thrive in it? Mostly, are you willing to deal with years and years of ugly math and physics with only a hope of finding something beautiful? If you are welcome back, if you’re not there is no shame in that. Just find what makes you happy, and I know that’s easier said than done.


My problem is that I'm not yet fully convinced that there exist ugly things in physics; that it's possible that scientists have been overlooking or not been thinking creatively enough for underlying theories or hidden variables; that things haven't been seen in true light, from the correct angle. I keep pushing myself on, motivating myself, telling myself that nature really is beautiful and predictable. That, if not, there's really nothing to live for or no reason to feel like there's any connection between what makes us human and the universe. That's it, shows over folks! If things are not that way then I'd honestly rather not pursue physics. It just brings me too much pain. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm not sure if it's worthwhile to wait and see if things truly are ugly, or save myself future pain and frustration and just stick to computer science.

I find myself, somewhat ironically, in a position similar to Einstein regarding nature and ugliness.

"I find the idea quite intolerable that an electron exposed to radiation should choose of its own free will, not only its moment to jump off, but also its direction. In that case, I would rather be a cobbler, or even an employee in a gaming house, than a physicist.”

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midwestphysics
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Re: Severe emotional instability and grad school

Postby midwestphysics » Tue Feb 08, 2011 6:16 am

CyberShot wrote:My problem is that I'm not yet fully convinced that there exist ugly things in physics; that it's possible that scientists have been overlooking or not been thinking creatively enough for underlying theories or hidden variables; that things haven't been seen in true light, from the correct angle. I keep pushing myself on, motivating myself, telling myself that nature really is beautiful and predictable. That, if not, there's really nothing to live for or no reason to feel like there's any connection between what makes us human and the universe. That's it, shows over folks! If things are not that way then I'd honestly rather not pursue physics. It just brings me too much pain. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm not sure if it's worthwhile to wait and see if things truly are ugly, or save myself future pain and frustration and just stick to computer science.

I find myself, somewhat ironically, in a position similar to Einstein regarding nature and ugliness.

"I find the idea quite intolerable that an electron exposed to radiation should choose of its own free will, not only its moment to jump off, but also its direction. In that case, I would rather be a cobbler, or even an employee in a gaming house, than a physicist.”


Well, I’m not the smartest person in the world; I can easily venture to say as well that I’m not the smartest physicist on this forum, probably not by a long shot either. However, given the brilliant people that have come before me; and those that are working now, well the fact that even they have difficulties is actually comforting. It proves that things get ugly, and that we can’t see the facts and the mathematical relations hidden around us. Why would you want to become a physicist if things were that easy? I can tell you that if everything was nice and neat, if it were possible to simplify the universe into commonly understandable terms, then that would truly make me not want to be a physicist. Things would be boring, if it were only a matter of plugging and chugging then where is the adventure? I find beauty in connecting things, complex things that seem so opposed to one another and yet somehow they have to connect. Sure, broken down to fundamentals things appear simple, but even then they’re not. In the very first physics classes we’re told about charge, about mass, about gravity, simple enough ideas it would seem, but ask any physicist what is charge? We can describe its effects, things that carry it, where to find it, but what it is exactly is really a mystery and that is awesome. Nature is beautiful, and it is predictable, but it is far from simple or intuitive given where we stand. If it were either then our questions about the universe would be easily answered. That’s the issue, the universe is understandable, but as humans it is not neat because we view it from a very narrow perspective and no matter how hard we try many things will always be difficult for us to grasp. Things are ugly, but only because of our nature, the universe obviously has no issues operating as it does which bodes well for our pursuit.

What kept me always motivated was a quote by my favorite professor. He always said to me that if you find something counterintuitive more often than not it is your intuition that is wrong. What I loved so much about that was that it meant being a living human wasn’t enough; you couldn’t just look and see the truth. You needed to bleed, sweat, and cry your way through so much difficulty to find the truth, you needed to change your thinking and challenge your comfort zone. But when you did, when you found the truth, wow is it worth it. That’s the real beauty of publishing original work. For a moment you’ve found something that nobody has ever known and/or proven, and you’re able to share that knowledge with everyone around you. As for Einstein, he may have said that, I’m not familiar with the quote. Still, he was obviously lying. If he wasn’t he would have quit a long time before. To echo those words though, I find many things in physics strange and abrasive to my thinking. However, that just makes me want to change, to understand things, to better myself. In trying to understand the world better I may find another answer or conclude that the one I was looking at was right. In either case, I’ve expanded my knowledge, bettered myself, and feel satisfaction that my life has not been wasted. We live and we die, that’s a fact, why not do something interesting in-between. If you feel that you will live a full life and die happy being a physicists then be one, if you feel the same about computer science then do that, or art, or history. Any path that fulfills you I suggest you fight to travel it, because everything else is just waiting to die.

bfollinprm
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Re: Severe emotional instability and grad school

Postby bfollinprm » Tue Feb 08, 2011 7:45 am

CyberShot wrote:My problem is that I'm not yet fully convinced that there exist ugly things in physics; that it's possible that scientists have been overlooking or not been thinking creatively enough for underlying theories or hidden variables; that things haven't been seen in true light, from the correct angle. I keep pushing myself on, motivating myself, telling myself that nature really is beautiful and predictable. That, if not, there's really nothing to live for or no reason to feel like there's any connection between what makes us human and the universe. That's it, shows over folks! If things are not that way then I'd honestly rather not pursue physics. It just brings me too much pain. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm not sure if it's worthwhile to wait and see if things truly are ugly, or save myself future pain and frustration and just stick to computer science.

I find myself, somewhat ironically, in a position similar to Einstein regarding nature and ugliness.

"I find the idea quite intolerable that an electron exposed to radiation should choose of its own free will, not only its moment to jump off, but also its direction. In that case, I would rather be a cobbler, or even an employee in a gaming house, than a physicist.”


If you are having this crisis, I'd do comp sci. It's far easier to get a job, it pays better, and it's cleaner which seems important to you. If you go into comp. sci theory you'd also be surprised how much comp. sci. can tell you about the human experience.

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grae313
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Re: Severe emotional instability and grad school

Postby grae313 » Tue Feb 08, 2011 12:15 pm

CyberShot wrote:I keep pushing myself on, motivating myself, telling myself that nature really is beautiful and predictable.
You sound like Einstein on his deathbed.
CyberShot wrote:That, if not, there's really nothing to live for or no reason to feel like there's any connection between what makes us human and the universe.
FALSE. Oh my god... so false.

The universe is beautiful, but not predictable. Why do you think there can be no beauty in an unpredictable universe? If you knew exactly how you would live, every choice you would ever make, and how the universe would die, you would prefer that to the beauty of free will? What does that have to do with connections between us and the universe? We are all bound together by our shared humanity and the fact that we all yearn for meaning, purpose, and truth.

CyberShot wrote:I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm not sure if it's worthwhile to wait and see if things truly are ugly, or save myself future pain and frustration and just stick to computer science.

Again, you seem to cling to your ideals and ignore the advice people are giving you. There is beauty in a chaotic universe and there are still simple truth to cull from it. Even more, there is beauty in knowing just how much you actually can know. Your last thread ended when people pointed out that your habit of not listening to people or being willing to accept things all make for a bad physicist. If you can't overcome that, stay in CS.

CyberShot wrote:Do the meds really work that well? My psychiatrist recommended me taking them, but I'm afraid it just won't help me at all. I also get anxious about taking them because I feel like it would induce more panic attacks because of the side effects.

That's why we said "try" them. Just give them a try and if you don't like it, you can stop. The potential upside you're missing out on here obliterates the potential downside. This is your life you're talking about. I'm also reminded of a story my dad once told me. His mother suffered from depression and anxiety, and her seven children suffered as well if you get my drift. At one point a therapist put her on medication, but a few months later she stopped taking it. Everyone was upset and asked her why she stopped and she said it was because she didn't really notice a difference. What she didn't realize and what no one could convince her of was that everyone else noticed a world of a difference.

axiomofchoice
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Re: Severe emotional instability and grad school

Postby axiomofchoice » Tue Feb 08, 2011 2:00 pm

CyberShot, you are verging on being a troll, here (viewtopic.php?f=10&t=3743&p=32547) and at the PhysicsForums (e.g. http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=469029). I would have much more sympathy for you if you can prove yourself to be more mature and willing to listen to others' opinions. After all, why are you posting on the forum if all you want is more opportunities to rant your own silly convictions?

Your whole vision of the universe (and physics) being "beautiful" is utterly false and unacceptable to any self-respecting physicists, and your fixated obsession on yourself being the only one that is right (and everyone else is wrong) is going to hurt you much more in grad school admission than your health problems. Fix your attitude first.

As for your question, I'm sure any adviser would be wary to take on anyone who is emotionally unstable. The whole adviser/advisee relationship is fragile enough without the tolls of mental health problems. You would have to prove yourself emotionally and academically stable enough before grad school would stop seeing you as a burden.

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quizivex
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Re: Severe emotional instability and grad school

Postby quizivex » Tue Feb 08, 2011 7:38 pm

CyberShot wrote:I guess my real question is, would this be an "excuse" to physics graduate schools for poor undergrad performance?
Excuse/Explanation? Sure. Will it translate to bonus points and help you? No way.

Committees might give consideration to things such as cancer, pregnancy or having to work a full time night shift job to pay for undergrad tuition because they know the student's ability is likely higher than what appears on paper. The difference between those hardships and yours is that those are presumably in the past and should no longer undermine the student. Unless you insist you had full recovery, there's no reason for them to think you'll be any more productive in grad school than you were in undergrad.

Furthermore, mental instability is scarier than bad luck. They won't want to introduce a potential problem into the department. They don't want to have to worry if the depressed, unstable student is going to be a nuisance to his peers or someday lose it and set the building on fire. I wish you the best of luck. I'd recommend putting school/career on hold for now and trying everything possible to resolve your problems first.
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HappyQuark
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Re: Severe emotional instability and grad school

Postby HappyQuark » Tue Feb 08, 2011 11:28 pm

quizivex wrote:
CyberShot wrote:I guess my real question is, would this be an "excuse" to physics graduate schools for poor undergrad performance?
Excuse/Explanation? Sure. Will it translate to bonus points and help you? No way.

Committees might give consideration to things such as cancer, pregnancy or having to work a full time night shift job to pay for undergrad tuition because they know the student's ability is likely higher than what appears on paper. The difference between those hardships and yours is that those are presumably in the past and should no longer undermine the student. Unless you insist you had full recovery, there's no reason for them to think you'll be any more productive in grad school than you were in undergrad.

Furthermore, mental instability is scarier than bad luck. They won't want to introduce a potential problem into the department. They don't want to have to worry if the depressed, unstable student is going to be a nuisance to his peers or someday lose it and set the building on fire. I wish you the best of luck. I'd recommend putting school/career on hold for now and trying everything possible to resolve your problems first.
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And I said, I don't care if they lay me off either, because I told, I told Bill that if they move my desk one more time, then, then I'm, I'm quitting, I'm going to quit. And, and I told Don too, because they've moved my desk four times already this year, and I used to be over by the window, and I could see the squirrels, and they were married, but then, they switched from the Swingline to the Boston stapler, but I kept my Swingline stapler because it didn't bind up as much, and I kept the staples for the Swingline stapler and it's not okay because if they take my stapler then I'll set the building on fire...

SSM
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Re: Severe emotional instability and grad school

Postby SSM » Wed Feb 09, 2011 3:35 pm


pqortic
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Re: Severe emotional instability and grad school

Postby pqortic » Sat Feb 12, 2011 2:44 pm

Your brain is so hardwired over some believes and you don't seem to give them up easily. your argument about physics and nature is just waste of time and helps you to digress from studying. I would suggest that you take a year off and stop everything and resolve this psycho. problem that you have about everything. it's obvious that there is something wrong with your perceptive about your life and people around you. you need to give up some of your believes and truly trust someone who can walk you through this. it's much better if you spend one year or whatever amount of time it takes to cure yourself and correct your mindset and then decide to carry on doing physics or comp. sci. rather than living years after years with the problem and struggling with basic things.




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