Saturday, May 14, 2011

Impostor Syndrome Dies Again

For those of you who are new to thinking about grad school and those who are in grad school, you may or may not have heard of impostor syndrome.  Impostor Syndrome (IS) is something that likes to rear its ugly head in the back of your mind and makes you doubt yourself.  All year I have been facing it.  What if I don't pass my classes?  What if this is the end of the line for me?  What if I really just suck at research?  What if my students always hate me and I am a lousy lecturer?

This year it led me to not want to make any big plans until the year was over.  Something could always happen.  And if it could happen this year, it did.  The year started off with an epic battle with the financial aid office over money they owed me.  While they held my stipend, I barely had money to EAT.  It came to a head when I was sitting in the DGS's office in tears because it was supposed to get below 30 and I needed to buy a coat because the postal service lost the one my mother had sent me from my hometown.  I had no money to buy a freaking coat.

Then, I was diagnosed with BiPolar Depression II.  It runs in my family, but it is not something I ever wanted to deal with.  I'd had OCD and depression for at least 4 years, but new symptoms appeared.  On top of everything else that was happening in my life, now I could not sleep thanks to hypomania.  I kept saying that I would just have to go home.  I would fail out.  Many of my cohort members jumped ship and it led to low morale.  I was just really depressed and happy to see the light of Christmas break.  I made it that far, I told myself it couldn't get worse.

My meds were figuring themselves out by the time that I managed to get to a place where I felt good again.  I was doing well in my classes, I was happy.  Then, one Sunday I woke up in an INCREDIBLE amount of pain.  My good friend and college N drove me to the ER and I had emergency surgery to remove what was supposed to be an infected appendix.  It was something else that also could have killed me, so I was thankful that it happened, but hello $3000.00 emergency bill.

Despite all of that, I did well.  Even this week, I was awfully concerned about my progress.  Submitting a Plan of Study and organizing a committee meeting made it real.  It was frightening, but I did it.  I survived.  Imposter no more, I am okay.  I don't suck at research and may even have a dissertation topic already.  I may be going back to Europe to do research.  I thrived, despite all the terrible stuff that shafted me this year.  I thrived.


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