I am currently into my first semester into my PhD program and at this point I am just at a loss. At universities like mine, we can enroll into PhD programs after graduating with a Bachelors and bypass obtaining of Masters first. The advice that I got from several seniors and professors were that the content will just be more advanced than the Bachelors program, apart from the >10 hours of research per day. I was used to looking at screens for 14-18 hours at a stretch so I thought I would be fine going into it.
My motivation for going into PhD was to research on what I liked, which was cryptography and cybersecurity, and to hopefully have something of impact to society. The other reason was to dream of wearing the gown in 4 years.
Now I am into my eighth week and I have 3 coursework projects, 3 research projects, 2 courses that I have to teach. I feel that I do not have enough time to do any work and I do not even have the mood or motivation to do any work nowadays. I know that most of the time people will just tell each other to walk around and breathe in some air, but I feel that the method of reliving myself has long expired.
I hate to say this but I am quite stubborn at times with my decision and think that I will be able to persevere through, as I did during my undergraduate years but I believe that I cannot hold on to this any longer. Other friends of mine who also enrolled into PhD (albeit different courses in the same university) have told me that I look more mentally drained than usual during our lunches. My parents also are quite sad at the sight of me staring into screens the whole day not knowing what I'm supposed to do next. Passing on family outings have also taken a toll on me since I do regret not spending enough time with them during the final year of my undergraduate study and do not want it to be commonplace. I have seriously been contemplating this thought of withdrawal for about 2 weeks now and recently teared up while bringing this topic up with my mum. I feel that my mental state has been shattered and cannot see anything ahead.
I've talked with my family and they will support my decision if I do withdraw from the program. I am currently on scholarship so my estimated cost will be upwards of $10k that I will have to pay back to the university. My parents don't mind this and encourage me to borrow from the bank in the meantime while I work full-time.
My workplace I would say is far from ideal but in my country, in our local university, I don't really feel home at all. Our lab has a capacity of 100+ people but 95% of our office are non-locals and you can imagine where most of them are from, I don't want to speculate things about them here. My professor is somewhat decent but he has close to 60 PhD students under him in my office alone, and it becomes very difficult to talk about issues like this. My professor wants me to be in the lab every weekday but I don't see myself doing any constructive work. In fact, I am more tired at my desk than if I work from home. Hence, you could infer that I suffer in silence in the lab.
The constant stress and worry from all these factors is weighing me down and I think that I am starting to have a recurrence of panic attacks again from the time before I started my undergraduate studies. I have just made an appointment to see the councilor but I'm really afraid for myself and to bring this up to my professor. I would really appreciate some advice from the community on how to approach this and move on.