What recovering from a PhD defense is like

yeah, still recovering

Posted by Breaking Thirty on August 23, 2019

I defended my PhD on April 24th. It’s August now. Four months have passed and I’m still here talking about it. Or better, I’m still recovering and talking about my recovery. During the two months prior my defence, I was dreaming about all the time and freedom I would have had afterwards. I wanted to go back doing research, read a lot of books, resume my early-morning walks with the upcoming summer, improve my German. Then, on weekends, my plan was to visit some German cities I hadn’t been to yet (Hamburg, Dresden, Freiburg) as well as extra-batch few blog posts for Breaking Thirty. Also, I wanted to start a new meditation practice. I wanted to give up the visualisation part that I used to succeed at my defense (go here to know how) and, instead, start meditating for the Higher Good. (Yes, meditations for the world’s peace do exist!)


Well… NONE of that happened! From the very first day after defending, it was clear that I didn’t have the energy and will power to do anything. If before defending I was miserable because my entire life was gravitating around a single goal, afterwards I was miserable because my focus was scattered and I didn’t know where to put my attention to. Yeah, I know, First World problems lead to First World misery. But still, misery. Here’s a recap of the my First World misery status. And, because I have OCD, I organised the misery in areas, with bullet points for each area ;)



  1. Nutella detox. As I wrote in a previous blog post, I fed myself with bread and Nutella at dinner for pretty much the entire month of April. My entire body felt intoxicated by the heavy sugar intake and the palm oil. Even my hips were overloaded, as if I just came back from holidays in Italy. It was definitely time to detox and the first thing I did was… one last Nutella binge! Just for the sake of emptying the jar and preventing myself from binging again.

  2. Hair loss. During the two weeks prior my defense, I would shower, look at the amount of hair left on the brush, blow dry it while holding my tears, get dressed and go to my office pretending nothing happened. I’ve been taking a pill for my hair every.single.morning since then. Still, surprise surprise, it hasn’t grown back.

  3. Boobs size. A friend of mine told me that there is an herb called fenugreek, which regulates blood sugar and whose side effect is the enlargement of your breast size. Holy smokes, there’s still hope! I started taking two pills of fenugreek (again) every.single.morning, together with the hair pill. Because I’m a scientist, I planned to measure the size of my breast before and after three months of taking the pill. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the tape the morning when I started the experiment. Never mind, I told myself, the results will be so visible that I don’t need to keep track of anything! Still, I needed a trusted judge to tel me whether they increased or not. Three months later, I asked my mum if she could notice any difference in that area. She couldn’t tell. So I asked her if they looked “happier” and she said maybe. Great, having maybe-happier-boobs is still better than having just boobs!



  1. Wake-up time. I couldn’t (and still can’t) wake up at the blissful time of 6:15am. Nor I couldn’t (and still can’t) wake up at the less-blissful-but-still-decent time of 6:45am. Nor at the average-people time of 7:15am. Nor at the jobless-people time of 8:00am. I was (and still am) waking up at the shameful time of 8:20am.

  2. 4-minute workout. I proudly did it every single day… except when I was in Italy to visit my parents in July (that’s when I asked my mum about my boobs). Somehow, I can never keep up with my healthy routine when I’m at home.

  3. Lemon water plus pills of any kind. Checked and checked, even in Italy!

    Lemon water

  4. 15-minute meditation for the World’s happiness. Substituted with 15 minutes of Gilmore Girls. Sorry World, but, as my friend Cortney McDermott says, I can’t support you if I can’t sustain myself. Let’s pass for now and let me come back to you when I’ll be fully recovered.


  1. Hamburg. Are you kidding me? Too far away!

  2. Dresden. Ahahahahah, seriously, traveling?

  3. Freiburg. Where the hell do you want to go if you can’t even wake up on time to catch a train?


  1. Research. If you call resubmitting a paper twice and supporting a PhD student doing her research… Then yes, I did research. Another (big) achievement at work was to do correctly for the first time the billing form to have a trip refunded. After four and a half years of trials and fails, I had finally nailed the German paper work!

  2. Books. For the first month and a half of my recovery I was too busy watching Gilmore Girls. That’s a lot of episodes to watch and I really didn’t have time to read. Once this was over, I bought four self-help books and a novel for my summer readings. One self-help book is still left to read (the one about personal finances), but the end of the summer is still far away. (You don’t know how relieved I feel that I technically still have until September 21st to read this last book!)


  3. Breaking Thirty. I don’t need to explain anything. You know I’ve lost momentum and I don’t manage to publish as regularly as I used to be. But I promise you, I will go back on track and publish two blog posts per month again.

  4. Improving my German. I did take my German B2 examination, but I screwed up with the grammar. Too many darum, dafür, deshalb, daran… If you know what I mean. If you don’t, then it’s both of us. But still, having this goal in mind made me learn more vocabulary and improve my written skills. The results will be in eight weeks, I’ll keep you posted.


Did I forgive myself for this huge downtime? Mmmmh… Maybe. It was a big downtime afterall, so how was I supposed to even work on self-compassion? ;)

Quote Cortney

Now I would love to hear from you. Have you ever worked toward an important deadline excited for what you could do afterwards? And did you manage to stick to your plan or did the deadline leave you tired as balls? Let me know in the comments below and if you’d like to read about all the other ways I screw up stuff (so that you can feel better about yourself) please subscribe to the Breaking Thirty Newsletter.

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