Imposter Syndrome

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Wiki describes Imposter Syndrome like this:

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

“Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.”

Impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achievers, but it is said that 70% of us will experience it at some point in our lives, so it is more common than first thought. It is true though that those who are more brilliant tend to suffer from it more extremely.

I can only speak for myself, but imposter syndrome is something I have encountered at every step of my life. In every job I have ever had I have never been able to shake the feeling that they are going to rumble me, and that I will be fired for not being good enough. That one day someone will request a meeting with me and say “You shouldn’t be here.” Every time that I receive praise on how well I am doing I smile awkwardly and try to give them an excuse as to why I “appear” to be doing so well.

When I first started my therapy practice it plagued me more than ever. I was convinced that one day a client would look across at me and say, “Who the hell do you think you are, trying to help me with my problems? You are a liar and you are going to jail for being a fraud!”

That was my honest thought on the subject. I seriously believed that I was going to get into trouble for setting up my business, despite being fully qualified, and achieving high results on all my studies, because I felt like a total fraud. It is a feeling that I still haven’t quite shifted to this day, but one that I manage a lot better.

If we take my therapy practice for an example (I even have trouble typing the words and calling it that because a little voice in the back of my head says “it’s not really though is it? It’s not a real one is it so you can’t call it that.”) I actually found that my attitude was starting to sabotage sessions. It was minute, almost imperceptible little things, but I noticed. My lack of confidence in myself was communicating to certain clients, who I could see starting to shift in sessions, no doubt unconsciously picking up on this and implanting that doubt in their own minds. I realised that if I wasn’t careful and didn’t deal with this issue, I could turn my irrational thought into a truth. I wouldn’t be good enough to do my job, and it wouldn’t be through lack of knowledge or training, or not being able to do the job well, but it would be through letting my own mental processes interfere with the work that I was supposed to be doing. I had to do something about it, but what is there to do?

I began trying to talk to myself and motivate myself before sessions. I began “rehearsing” sessions with a non-existent client. I re-read study materials (that I knew like the back of my hand) and did old exercises from modules. I even sometimes would ask a client to close their eyes to do an exercise because their inability to watch me doing what I was doing helped me relax. I began going to any little course, seminar etc to make myself feel as though I was doing something, reigniting and maintaining my frame of mind. It helped, and little by little I didn’t need to do quite so much to feel more at ease. I still go on courses and to seminars etc as I feel that really helps to keep my mind keyed in to what I am doing and boosts my confidence.

I am really good at what I do, and always have been. It was only my own mind I had to prove that to.

I know that it won’t be the last time I encounter this problem, and I know that I am not the only one who does. I think thoughts like these can rot away at the base of your brain, undermining everything you do and ruining your chance to be happier and perhaps to excel. I know I have been afraid in the past of trying something, of pushing myself, because I thought I would fail because I wasn’t good enough. But through trying different things I have found ways that help me, and if more of us spoke about these things, maybe they wouldn’t knaw away at us, and maybe more people could feel happier.

 

The Unexpected Benefit of Unemployement

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On Monday I started a new job.

It was a relief after spending 7 1/2 weeks unemployed. I still can’t afford to pay the bills that have piled up angrily through my letterbox, but I will soon.

I hadn’t planned on being unemployed, it was sprung upon me last minute, and unfortunately unemployment isn’t something I handle very well.

I spent my first few days in my new  house waking early, getting coffee and sitting at the laptop full of productivity and enthusiasm for job hunting and getting things done that I hadn’t had time for whilst working. 7 days later I was heading out to Berlin and spent six days chilling out, and simply enjoying existing. It was wonderful and I didn’t want to go home. A few days after getting back home I suffered 9 days of excruciating toothache, and I mean bad. It was pain the likes of which I have never felt which reduced me to a whimpering crying wreck. Needless to say that during this time I got absolutely nothing done other than laying on the couch trying to distract myself with Netflix and feeling incredibly sorry for myself. Then I was off to Lollapolooza in Berlin, and despite experiencing some pain the first night and day, I was relatively pain free for the rest of my time there and able to enjoy myself.

Once back home again the crushing reality of the nothingness ahead started to creep in. I applied for jobs, watched Netflix, wandered around aimlessly, all the while refusing to acknowledge the bills that I was powerless to deal with.

Having said all that, and considering my situation, I wasn’t depressed, sad, unmotivated, or hopeless. I was confident, strong, unaffected and relaxed. I realised that there was a lot of fat that needed cutting from my life, and began to see clearly all the things I hadn’t had time to contemplate when working. I began listing (I do love a list) and created a Bullet Journal, inspired by many Pinterest boards, and a plan started to form. Once I knew I had got the job, I continued with the planning, examining, listing. I stopped taking the pill as it numbs me completely, despite the fact that I know “un-numbed” I can be unpredictable and wild.

It seems as though I will really enjoy this job, it is different and already I am feeling excited about possibilities.

Combined with my planning for the future, I am feeling very positive and motivated, slightly more whole than usual, and content. The time away from work has given me the space I needed to sort out some much needed mental spring cleaning, so as much as I hate unemployment, it would seem to have its unexpected benefits!

Prickle

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via Daily Prompt: Prickle

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As I stare at the screen, trying to process what I am seeing in front of me, I feel a prickle at the base of my neck. My whole body suddenly stands to attention and i feel the rush of adrenaline in my stomach. My body starts to shake and I feel the energy coursing through it. I feel sick, my breathing ragged.

That feeling doesn’t go away and hours later as I try to sleep I still shake.

The next morning the shaking is reduced but the adrenaline is making my stomach churn. I can’t get rid of the sick feeling, and every time I think about it my stomach flips again. The constant feeling of the prickle on the back of your neck means you can’t relax, you can’t breathe through it.

You can’t un-see it.

The Void Inside

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I have discussed said void before in posts, it is the ever present, ever sucking hole inside of me that I cannot determine. It is the restlessness, the procrastination, the goal that is always planned but not quite begun, the decision that teeters on the edge of my mind, the identity dancing just out of my reach, the achievement mocking me from the corner of the room. It is emptiness, dissatisfaction, waiting, sadness, anxiety and hedonism.

There are a few things that hit it right in the centre. They don’t cause it to disappear, it is still there, but they fill it and numb it. I still feel it, but I feel the fullness of it and there is a release. Those things are:

Being drunk

Having a cigarette

Getting a tattoo

Getting spanked

Orgasms

 

It is a physical feeling of fullness and the release is sweet, but fleeting.

There are however, two things I have encountered in life that have made the void disappear:

Doing a truly spontaneous exciting thing

The excitement of the build up to a first kiss, if it takes weeks or months, even better.

 

These things make the void disappear completely, and for those moments I am whole. I am alive, truly living in the present. I get a similar, if not quite as satisfactory, feeling when looking at something new and being independent on my own on a sunny day.

But how feasible is it to bounce between these things in order to try and feel alive? I have spent my twenties (and latter part of my teenage years) partying, doing these very things in a constant stream, in order to try and feel alive and plug up the inevitable consuming void inside. I cannot carry on like this. My body is starting to show signs of wear and tear form the years of partying, my mind haunted by some of the things I have done.

I read about people who discover meditation and yoga and green juice and fill that hole, but I don’t think that is going to work for me. I have tried it.

I need to find a way of plugging the hole, otherwise, if I carry on like this, it is eventually going to suck me down with it.

 

 

Brain Fog

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via Daily Prompt: Foggy

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We’ve all experienced brain fog.

Normal brain fog is usually the inability to think clearly, make sense of a situation or use any problem solving skills. It’s a frustrating feeling, but there is a worse kind.

Emotional brain fog.

This occurs when you are so overwhelmed you can’t think rationally anymore.

I feel like that recently. There has just been too much, and I have reached my capacity. My brain cascades into numbness, I can feel it falling, shutters closing around me and then there is nothing. No errant thoughts and ponderings wandering across my mind, just the screams of the overwhelmed, the whimpers of the tired. I have very little fight left in me. I don’t know how to recuperate anymore. The words start but trail off a few sentences in.

Even writing this is taking longer than usual.

I need a break from everything, but in this modern life when do we get to take a break? I have to be at work at 9am tomorrow. How much of a break can you get in an evening where you have so many things to do, that can’t wait.

If anyone knows the answer, please give me a hint…

Feeling Vulnerable

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I am wearing a nice dress today (discussed earlier in my post “stop touching my tattoos”), and I look pretty. I felt pretty and I was in a good mood.

Today an older man at work, who is in a very senior position compared to me, coincidentally ended up in the kitchen with me twice and made small talk. I’ve been here three months and today is the first time it’s happened. His office overlooks who enters the kitchen, and, therefore, this is a creepy enough coincidence, but what he did shocked me. He looked at me, blantantly, in the chest, eyes skimmed down to my legs, which were in thick black leggings, and back up to my chest. It was so surreal, in the fact that he wasn’t even trying to hide it. I was stunned and didn’t know quite what to do. I have been checked out plenty of times, catcalled, grabbed, hollered at, but never in such a creepy way. I felt so vulnerable. I just wanted coffee, and yet here I was, feeling nauseous and trying to pull my cardigan over my chest, wishing that he would go away. (Note to self, going to grab a coffee at work is becoming a hazardous and infuriating ordeal – see my mansplaining post).

 I pulled my cardigan over my chest awkwardly and felt so ashamed of myself for not doing something, saying something, but I already feel like an outcast, and I need my job. If I was to say something, I knew that it would become a massive issue, and that I would be frowned upon for “making a massive deal out of nothing” when I can just put up with it and ignore him. But that’s not how it should be. That is never how it should be. And in that moment I felt completely stripped of all power. I wanted to snap at him, call him out on his behaviour, but I didn’t. And isn’t that just all shades of wrong there, summed up in a nice nutshell.

Be Unapologetic!

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Be Unapologetic!

I haven’t written for so long, and I recently came across some articles I had written years ago that floored me. I couldn’t believe how eloquent I sounded. They were professional sounding articles, and I could scarcely believe that I had written them. One of them, a scientific report, was gibberish to me! I had a vague idea of what I was talking about, and I remembered doing the article, but a lot of it went over my head. I remember that it didn’t take long to write, and as I sat there reading, I was filled with a sense of longing. I enjoy writing so much, there is something wonderful to me about the keys tapping away, keeping in time with my thoughts, or the pages of a  notebook getting filled, marked and wrinkled.

So I decided to create this blog. This blog is not a professional space, I have a (neglected) blog for professional work, this is just for me. To write about what I want, to write nonsense sometimes, but to let the fingers roam free as the thoughts come pouring out.

So I have mentioned to a few people that I have started a new blog, and that I am looking forward to getting back into writing again. I sent the link to a few people and asked for input on colours, layout etc.

What came back to me was all very positive and nice, but one thing kept reoccurring – “Don’t get too personal will you?” “Make it sound a bit more professional”.

Whilst I get where my loved ones are coming from, I don’t want this to be a professional blog. In fact, quite the opposite. I WANT this blog to display my flaws, dodgy grammar, typos, undesirables, emotions and imperfections.

I have a professional blog, where I double check my work, make sure it sounds right and perhaps go through two or three drafts before it gets posted.

This I want to be an out-pouring of words. A stream of consciousness. I have ideas that I would like to implement, I quite fancy interviewing some people, I quite fancy doing a few weekly fun things, but these things are 1) For me, and 2) For everyone else.

I am bound and constricted by society, to be something I am not. In my work I have to talk a certain way, behave a certain way, that does not come naturally to me. I have to remove my piercings, cover up all of my tattoos, and hide the shaved part of my head, by wearing my hair over it. I cannot dress how I want, but instead have trawled through charity shops looking for boring work clothes that won’t make me happy, but that I have to spend money on anyway. I cannot be myself around these people, there is a constant message of “Your natural appearance and being is offensive to us, please disguise it”. Now it might not sound like much to some of you, but I assure you it is exhausting.

I have found myself, in so many roles, not just work related, being bound by limitations that I have not imposed, and I find I rarely have a chance to just be me. Having a mental health issue, I spend a lot of the time trying to downplay, or cover this, which is exhausting.

So this blog is just for me. And hopefully for other people to read and enjoy too. All the flaws, mess, beauty, complication, complexity and wondrousness that makes me, me.

Social Awkwardness

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Ever put your foot in your mouth big time?

Ever lie awake at night thinking about the times you put your foot in your mouth big time?

Ever lie awake at night wondering why you don’t learn your bloody lesson and keep your mouth shut?

It is hard enough living with anxiety, social awkwardness, undiagnosed “but we all know full well what it is” mental health issues, without making things worse by saying the wrong things at the wrong time.

Sometimes I don’t know I’ve said them, which makes me feel weird. To me something might be perfectly logical, and make sense, but others react with “*GASP* I can’t believe you said that” or even worse still when they just gasp and say my name incredulously. That just makes me feel bad! I wish people would point out the exact thing that was inappropriate and tell me why so I can avoid making similar mistakes.

Recent example – my new boss (I started this job in January) is pregnant. She announced this recently via email. I congratulated her via email,  “congratulations :)”, and left it at that. She then, later that day, came back to the office I was working in. After a while I realised that it was probably the done thing to mention it again. So I went into her office and said “So, having a baby! Wow. Was it a happy accident or were you planning it?”

To my boss’s credit, she smiled and said a bit of both, but apparently this was not the right thing to say. I had mentioned it in passing to someone, who started peeing themselves laughing, and said “I can’t believe you said that, that’s hilarious”. Confused, I smiled and said “Mmm”, wondering what was so hilarious about it. So I told a few other people what I had said, and got the same reaction from all of them, although not all of them peed themselves laughing.

Now, what was wrong with what I said? It was a valid question. Only 55% of pregnancies in the UK are planned. I myself was an accident. Two other of my 3 siblings were accident, so that means out of the four of us, only one was planned. So I thought it was perfectly valid to ask that. Obviously not! If any of you can explain the gentler side of human interaction beyond the “she’s going to be excited to have a baby, you can’t ask her that”, please feel free to do so in the comments.

Other times, I know pretty much as soon as it has come out of my mouth that it wasn’t a good thing, and that it is now going to make things awkward.

A few minutes ago, one of the partners of the firm came up to me at my desk, and asked me about a mutual acquaintance of ours. I put my foot in it massively, and now am convinced that he thinks I am some sort of idiot, and is going to stop all his attempts at small talk with me, (which I would be secretly grateful for!).

Write me off as socially useless, and chuck me in the bin, I am so done!

There is a reason I live alone with a cat, and share my weekends with my equally socially awkward O.H. We can be as awkward as we want in our own home.

Anxiety and Panic Attacks

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I have suffered from Panic Attacks since I was 15, and I was an anxious kid before that. My first Panic Attack was terrifying, I thought I was dying. I got rushed to the hospital, where they dismissed me because I told them that, at the time, I sometimes smoked pot. My Panic Attack had nothing to do with the pot that I sometimes smoked, but in less than 30 seconds I was out of the room and on my arse outside the hospital, still feeling like I was dying, but crying on top of everything else. I only smoked pot for a year or so, before quitting, but the Panic Attacks remained. I discovered that they ran in my family, and that family members were referred to as “suffering with their nerves”. Then one day I had a biggie, that made my first one look like a mere wobble. It was horrible, I didn’t know what to do, or what was happening.

Since that day, I have spent a significant portion of my life investigating, studying and researching Panic Attacks. I was determined to find a way to stop them, cure them or at least manage them. They have come and go throughout my life, currently, I haven’t had one in what must be a couple of years, which feels amazing, and speaking about them now is like trying to remember a nightmare once you’ve been awake for 30 minutes.

There have been times in my life, however, where I haven’t been able to sit on my couch at home and just be, because everyday is just one long prolonged Panic Attack, and after months of this, you are so exhausted that you end up at the out of hours doctors at the hospital at 2am, going out of your mind, pacing, willing time to stop, wishing you could go to sleep, but at the same time not wanting to miss a second of anything because you can barely trust your own senses and you have to be on high alert.

After one such trip to the hospital at 2am I was in the cab on my way home, having been turned away again for having “nothing wrong with me”, and I was suddenly done. I couldn’t take another person telling me there was nothing wrong, when my brain was lit up like a Christmas tree, and every day was an agonising, terrifying 24hours of misery and madness, when I was sobbing on the phone to the Samaritans outside a church somewhere, because I couldn’t be at home and I had nowhere to go. When I realised that I had been sat outside that church for hours, not moving, and wasn’t sure what time it was, or what I was even doing there. You can’t tell me that there’s “nothing wrong”. People who have nothing wrong with them, don’t often act like that.

So that night I went home and, as I always did, threw the sleeping pill they insisted I take with me in the bin, and sat on the internet for the rest of the night. I googled my fingers to the bone, determined to find someone out there who knew what was happening to me, or who could relate. I found a man from The Netherlands, who had had similar experiences to me. He too had had a moment where he realised that no-one was listening to him, and if he wanted to get anywhere, he was going to have to do it himself.

He taught me about the fight or flight response, how what my brain was doing was perfectly natural, just a bit misguided. He taught me how to handle things better, how to prevent one, once it had started happening, and how to regain control of my life.

And now, sitting here, they are like a distant nightmare. I know I will have one again, and I know there is no cure, but I am so glad that I found people on the internet, who knew what I was going through. They saved me and did more for me than any medical professional had even tried to do. I don’t want be negative about the doctors, but not one of them ever listened to me. They would look at my vital signs, conclude that I was fine, and send me on my way, their job being done.

I urge anyone, whoever experiences something that they are getting no help with, to find an online community. In the 21st century, finding solace in online members is as common as having physical people in your corner, but you just might find a bit more understanding.