It’s been a while.
I missed you,
And I haven’t been okay.
I started grad school this fall. I knew what I was getting myself into. I knew that it was going to be stressful, busy, disappointing, and intimidating. However, I had no idea the psychological toll it would have on me. From the first week in, I have been experiencing extreme highs and lows in my psyche. Lately, the lows have become much more frequent, and it’s slowly destroying me.
At first, the stress came from having to join a group. That was all anyone could think about the first few months. Rumors were spread that there were too many students accepted this year and not everyone would get into a group. I spent the first three months agonizing over this. I felt inadequate. My research experience in undergrad was nowhere near as extensive as other people’s. I had no publications, my projects were largely unsuccessful, and my PI was a lecturer, not a tenured professor. I felt I wasn’t as smart as everyone else. They knew more about biology and more about the current research going on. I had recurring nightmares, I chronically clenched my teeth so hard I had headaches, and there was always a tightness in my chest.
I was also struggling with teaching. I taught two general chemistry classes, and I continuously felt lost and unqualified. I had to be an expert at things I hadn’t used or even looked at in years, and my students expected me to know everything off the top of my head. I felt vulnerable around them, like they had found me out and wouldn’t trust me. I felt that they were always looking for weaknesses, and every day felt like I was just narrowly dodging bullets and skirting by. Every day I worried that I would accidentally tell them something wrong and it would either lower their grades or cause them to complain and get me fired.
After I joined a group, I thought the stress would lessen a little bit, but it only intensified. I had to start doing research on my own with a project I knew little about in a lab that was entirely new. I was lost, and I didn’t even know how to get the resources I needed to get started. I still feel lost and like I’m not producing enough. Most of what I do doesn’t work, and it seems like everyone else is being successful and productive and independent, and I’m just quietly sitting at my computer hyperventilating. I feel like I’m in over my head, like I slipped through the cracks or pulled wool over people’s eyes to get myself in here and now I’m being found out. Most of all, I’m terrified.
While a lot of the arrows are from grad school, a lot are also from myself. I’ve been slowly destroying myself from the inside out (and the outside in). I’ve been internalizing my stress in unhealthy ways. I’ve been drinking too much coffee—enough that I shake, get tunnel vision, and hyperventilate more frequently. I go through cycles of starving myself and then binge eating to painful limits. I sometimes take ibuprofen just for the feeling of lightness it gives me. I’ve been shying away from relationships with people close to me. I’ve been drinking repeatedly to a point of blacking out. I get into heated arguments with people over little things. Everything I do in my life outside of research, I take way too far. I have more regrets each week than positive memories, and it’s just become the normal thing.
So that’s me right now, a deer lying in the woods struck with arrows (not to be dramatic or anything).