My concern is that I completely lost interest in science over the past few months, however, I am still towards the end of my first year of my PhD studies. I will offer some background:
I have always been a straight-A student, studying my field of current research (let's call it X) from the very young age of 12 years old very passionately. This interest won me honorable mentions in International Olympiads on X as a high-school student. During these years, for many reasons, I faced a lot of disappointment, but thinking that X was the only field I felt comfortable in and well-equiped for, I decided to study it in college, because it was late to start over. Even if I didn't do so there was no other field I would have the energy to start over with. During these years I transformed from a straight-A student to a very good one, but I never treated my subjects with real interest. I'd just found the way to get good grades by memorizing methodologies etc. Then I got into an MSc where from a very good student I transformed into a barely-passing-courses one, but fortunately a nice thesis gave me a place in a very nice PhD program.
It took me a long time to realize I am no longer a student and that being praised is not part of the PhD experience and that costs me, because I don't have the validation to give me the energy to continue. Moreover, it's my fourth month of being quarantined and forced to work from home in light of COVID-19 in another country without my partner, my family or any friends, but what brings me down with regard to my PhD are questions like:
- How much asking for scientific help is too much during a PhD? e.g. at what point during debugging is it reasonable within a PhD to resort to my advisor for help before them claiming I am not independent enough?
- How can I handle my emotions towards other collaborators or my advisor sometimes acting as if they are disappointed?
- Why no matter how hard I work and how good or fast I get results, I never seem to get even one single word of validation?
- Why no matter how hard I work and how good or fast I get results the publication of my first paper seems to be postponed more and more?
Of course, in one way or another, all the above have to do with validation and in ideal circumstances, one does not need validation to move forward, as it is not something that normally comes when you are an independent researcher. But given all the above and the fact that I am in denial about wanting to do science, I wonder if I am in the right place. Recently my advisor suggested that I slow down because I show symptoms of burn-out, but I am wondering if I want to continue with my PhD in general as over the past months I have been feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated and this does not seem to go away. I communicate with my advisor openly enough, but no matter how much we discuss I feel trapped in an unproductive and distressing situation. And the saddest of all is that I feel drained of energy, I carry a constant brain fog (since starting college) and have no willingness whatsoever to ask scientific questions in general.
P.S.: To the question "What would you rather do if you weren't doing a PhD?", I would say "Nothing seems interesting to me".
Any help would be much appreciated.