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Disability Narratives

Stella has had to move to take up post-doc positions since completing her PhD. In that time she has experienced depression and anxiety. Stella has found several ways to help manage the isolation and anxiety caused by post-doc uncertainty and from moving job-to-job.

Image representing StellaBackground

at the time of the interview – 2016

Stella is a post-doc researcher in the humanities.

Ethnic Background/ Nationality: White British.

Extended biography

at the time of the interview - 2016

After completing her PhD Stella moved to take up a post-doctoral position at another institution. That post lasted approximately a year, before she got a writing fellowship at Oxford. This was followed by a research assistant position that lasted for 18 months. Stella will be starting a three year fellowship in January 2017.

Stella first experienced depression during her PhD. She visited her GP and, after she completed a simple test, he diagnosed 'mild depression' and prescribed medication. Stella initially declined the medication however, her condition became worse and she began medication. Stella said the medication helped and, along with the counselling service she attended, she was able to find a way through the initial problems she was having.

Moving to Oxford presented a number of difficulties for Stella, which she felt were common to many post-docs forced to move from job-to-job. Arriving in a new city she struggled to find reasonable accommodation and was not supported by college, faculty or university to find something temporary. Stella's working environment was also problematic, as her office space was frequently cold, dark and uncomfortable. Her work was also somewhat 'monotonous'. Stella said she might not see or speak to anyone at work all day and would return to an empty bedsit. Stella said that while these factors were all 'fixable', over time they 'ground her down'.

Stella complained to her department and college about the working environment. She said it was very difficult to do this as the self-doubts associated with depression meant she did not feel her complaint would be seen as valid or valued. However, she was pleased to see that their response recognised that there was a problem. She has since learnt that little has changed and that other post-docs and DPhil students in that original work space are still experiencing the same negative "working environment".

I think a lot people, and my manager, probably knew that I wasn't very happy. But probably not the extent of it.

When Stella was experiencing the worst of her depression she said she was still able to get in to work most days. However, once there she said she found it very difficult to remain focused and do a good job. Stella felt that most people would not see her on a bad day and so might be surprised to find out that she is being treated for depression. Stella said that this was one reason why she did not tell people about her depression, as she was worried people would not believe her.

Stella was reluctant to tell her line manager of the difficulties she was having. Stella was not sure what else her manager could do, as many of the problems she experienced were outside of the workplace. Stella said she had to email as her manager was not always physically around and it was their main form of communication.

Stella said that she has found various ways to feel less isolated. She meets with other post-docs socially to share issues related to post-doc life. She also said she has joined a sports team and an arts group. Stella has also started using a social networking app to meet people and through this has made some good friends.

Although things have improved for Stella, the depression and anxiety remains. Her working environment is physically better, but the separation of college and faculty, and the type of fellowship she holds means her position at college is still precarious.

Biography at the time of the interview - 2016