This is a tough question because the answer is going to vary from person to person and how I differentiate might be different from how you need to or someone else does. I can’t tell you to quit grad school or tell you to hang in there definitively—not that you were asking—because I don’t have all the information and that would be irresponsible of me.
You sound like you’re at an emotional crossroads and it doesn’t feel great, so of course that’s going to lead to some personal re-evaluation. Grad school might not be for you OR grad school might be for you and something else is going on in your life that’s sucking the marrow out of the experience. If you don’t know what it is exactly, you might be misidentifying the problem. I can’t and wouldn’t diagnose you but you don’t sound happy—so which came first grad school or the sadness? If you liked grad school up until recently, the answer to that question might surprise you.
When it comes to decisions this significant, I would suggest talking to someone—whether that’s family, friends or a professional—to get to the root of why you feel this way. There could be a lot of reasons behind it and you want to make sure you’ve got a handle on what they are before you act. Don’t deny yourself any kind of helping hand. Sometimes when things are overwhelming and you’re very sad, the natural inclination is to think in BOLD MOVES! And then we find out we needed less drastic intervention than we initially believed.
There are always going to be some things we just have to grit our teeth and get through. Jillian Michaels always says during her workouts (I love that woman, what can I say), “This is uncomfortable, but you’re not going to die.” I like to remember that when I’m in the thick of work or responsibilities I might not be enjoying—and might even be HATING—but have to follow-through on because I’m an adult. Everyone has to do things they don’t want to do. That’s life.
There’s a difference between an unpleasant and doable situation and a situation that has become so intolerable it leaves you depressed, has you disengaging from the world and is making you genuinely unhappy. You’ve expressed a level of unhappiness that’s concerning. Whether or not you leave school or stay, I think you should reach out to someone or someones, if at all possible. Discuss your options with the school, talk to your parents, talk to friends, never be afraid to consult with a professional if that is at all possible for you. Also think less in terms of ‘quitting’ and ‘giving up’ and think more in terms of committing to your happiness, and your mental and emotional well-being. You are not okay right now, but you deserve to be so start taking steps toward that and see where they lead you. But one step at a time, and not alone if possible.
It’s tough, I know. Hang in there. Hugs.