Our annual general meeting for our condo corporation was this evening and afterwards, since it was a pretty toasty and humid evening, a friend an I decided to go to DQ for a treat before heading home.
Whenever we go out, we have the best conversations, ranging from totally banal topics (such as dipping French fries in your ice cream – which is great, btw, especially if the fries are salted) to various state-of-the-world topics (we have yet to solve world hunger and world peace, though, I regret to admit). Those are my favourite types of conversations – we giggle and we think. This evening was no different and I came away edified, as usual, and even with a new term in my vocabulary: imposter syndrome.
If you’d like to go into more detail on it, you can read up on it here.
Essentially, per Wikipedia, it refers to:
…high-achieving individuals 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.
Now, I don’t think that I truly suffer from this, but parts of what it is definitely resonated with me, particularly right now.
Almost three weeks ago I had a medical emergency that required immediate treatment and I have been off work since then. (Nothing life-threatening…)
Having to take this much time off work (about three and a half weeks by the time I go back next Tuesday) has definitely thrown me for a loop, particularly because I had only been on the team just over two months at the time it happened. I can’t help feeling that everyone now thinks I’m unreliable and a terrible member of the team. I’ve left them in the lurch and that is what is foremost in their minds, especially since I haven’t been on the team long enough for them to have developed any real sense of any of my positive traits.
I should add at this point that I have had recurring issues with anxiety and depression, at varying levels, throughout my adult life (and likely before). So when I say those are the things I’ve been thinking and feeling as a result of being off, I don’t just mean that I feel kind of badly and guilty about it. I mean it’s really been playing havoc with my anxiety in a very disruptive, life-impacting kind of way.
Despite the “logical” side of my brain telling me, “You had to take this time off. It couldn’t be postponed and you didn’t have a choice” and “Nobody thinks you’re a horrible person for doing this,” my anxiety found fertile soil to flourish, so I’ve been dealing with that, as well.
If you’ve ever struggled with anxiety, you likely know it feeds quite well on itself when left unchecked. In my experience, one negative thought leads to another negative thought, which supports the first one and leads to others – kind of like a creeping vine. Similar to imposter syndrome, anxiety takes little to no notice of facts or reality. In full swing, in fact, otherwise completely unrealistic thoughts seem absolutely real and plausible, which, I suppose, is where they get their power.
Somewhere in the past week or so, I read a post by Wil Wheaton where he talks quite frankly about the panic attacks he was suffering through at the time. I was impressed by his openness and honesty in sharing his experience.
I don’t know Wil Wheaton outside of Star Trek and The Big Bang Theory, but somehow reading about his experience (which lead me to some of his other posts on the mental health issues he deals with) made me feel better. Not just because he’s a famous person – but because he’s, well, a person and he seems to be functioning fairly well in his life.
I am also quite fortunate to have a few friends who struggle with anxiety and/or depression. It’s easy to find people who are OK with hearing about your physical ailment (you break a bone, you need a surgery, etc.), but having people with whom you can talk about mental health issues is truly a treasure!
There’s something…liberating… when you can see, in someone else, parts of yourself that you think are “less-than” and even “crazy” – someone who you’d never dream of putting those labels on, even though you’re more than willing to put them on yourself. It’s amazing what happens when you are able to normalize it somewhat – it’s not a weird, freakish, abnormal thing and I’m not a weird, freakish, abnormal person for having it, either. It doesn’t totally make it better, but it definitely helps.
I guess this post is my bit in trying to do the same – to maybe normalize it just a bit more. Of course, my reach is a touch smaller than Wil Wheaton’s (my 45 to his however-many-thousands 😉 ), but every little bit helps, right?
So… Hello. My name is Lucy and I have anxiety and depression.
May 31, 2018 at 1:07 am
Hello, lovely Lucy! There is something so real and refreshing about your openness and vulnerability in sharing some of your struggles. It takes a lot of courage and I am so proud of you. I’m sorry that you have had a bit of a difficult time in dealing with your time off. I know that you will come back and make a positive impact and impression on those you work with. You are so competent and caring and those things will shine through in quick time. Love you and am so grateful for your example and friendship.
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May 31, 2018 at 9:53 am
Thanks, my sweet friend!! xo
May 31, 2018 at 7:51 am
A beautiful and insightful post Lucy.
It is hard when you have to stay home and not feel productive at work because there is time in the mind for all these things to be even more present. I have heard it called imposter syndrome. And also “I achieve, therefore I am worthy”. Which is a distortion of one’s eternal worth and both a cause and byproduct of anxiety.
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May 31, 2018 at 9:55 am
Yes, the whole thing becomes quite cyclical – all around the mental mulberry bush, as it were!
June 2, 2018 at 9:56 am
I like to remind myself, that not being productive IS productive. Taking time to heal is WAY more important than that document/meeting/spreadsheet at work that isn’t getting done. If you put those things on a scale, they aren’t even close!
June 2, 2018 at 4:45 pm
Absolutely! The logical part of my brain always knows that and if that part was always dominant, all would be tickety boo. Sometimes, though, the other side gets the upper hand and that’s when it gets rough. The trick is to catch it before the negative thought becomes dominant. 🙂
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