Anxiety Won’t Even Let Me Come Up With a Title: The Struggle

Photo:  AdobeStock

Photo: AdobeStock


It is now the middle of the semester, and I am struggling. But not with my class work. And I wouldn’t even say I am fully struggling. It is more like being on a hamster wheel of anxiety, and some days I step off because I realize I ain’t going a damn place. Yet, the next day I get right back on.


It is application season for me, and I am battling with Imposter Syndrome. I am struggling with justifying in my depressed and anxious mind that I am worthy of even submitting my materials for these programs. (It may even be the fact that I gotta pay to basically sell myself to these institutions, but that’s for another day). The funny thing is, deep down I know I am “worthy” of not only applying but also attending these places. But somehow, my hands can’t seem to write or type my statement of purpose or even order my transcripts.


I know that I cannot be the only one, and I wish that gave me solace. However, it doesn’t. It actually makes me think: “Are we all crazy for putting ourselves through this?”


I have written on my blog that it really isn’t about the fear of failure, but the fear of success. I am afraid that when I do get in to a doctoral program that I am going to have to operate at a new level—a level that I am not sure that I am ready for. And that is the imposter syndrome sneaking in. I was speaking with a PhD student at a program that I was applying for and they told me: “Don’t look at it as if you would be lucky to get in. Look at it as if the school would be lucky to have you!” And those words hit me a like a sucker punch to my stomach; I was offended and seen at the same time.


I am not saying that it changed my whole perspective. However, it helped a little bit. I have been now trying to practice gratitude with myself during this process (shoutout to Dr. Dawna Ballard from University of Texas @ Austin). And that gratitude comes in the form of being cognizant of the things I have already accomplished, and not being so hard on myself about things that I literally have no control over.


In this graduate school race, I feel like there is a constant need to be better than the person next to you. To try to have the longest CV and the most experience. It seems like a constant chase of immediate accomplishments when we really know that nothing in this grad life is immediate—they say life is a marathon not a sprint. Either way, I am outta shape.


I wish this post had some pretty little bow at the end telling you it will all be okay and you will end up where you need to be. However, that is not how this one ends. Not because that isn’t true, but because I would be lying if I said I have fully accepted that concept. My depression is real and so is my anxiety but I am just taking it one day at a time. I am taking in one grateful moment as they come, and writing them down.


About the Author

Joy Woods is a Master's Student at the University of Iowa who studies the sociology of sports and health communication within the education system. When she is not busy completing work for class she enjoys writing for her blog, running with her dog, and hunting down guests for her podcast.

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