Grad School is everything and nothing that I expected

2 September 2016

The first two weeks of grad school are finally complete. And thankfully now we’ve got a 3-day weekend. It’s much welcomed.

Things they do not tell you, or at least do not stress enough so you actually believe it: this is the most exhausted you will ever be in your life until you raise kids or go for a PhD. For real, guys, I am so tired. Part of it is that my glasses prescription is old and I am very due for an eye check up (something that I hope happens this weekend). Getting that updated should help. There are just constant readings. I’m only in 3 classes (one is only 1-credit, so it barely counts), and I just have so many pages of readings to do all the time. And you have to keep up. You hear often “this is grad school…” as their level of expectations for you. Lord do they mean it.

Yet to counter that, you’re a grad student. You likely wouldn’t have gotten in if you weren’t academically competent enough to keep up. (I say likely because I do have a bias right now that I’m not going to get into.) But getting through articles and books and being like, this makes sense — it just feels amazing. Yeah, imposter syndrome settles in for a lot. You wonder when someone is going to call you out for not knowing enough, but the thing is, we all feel that way and hell, we’re still just students. (And frankly the professors even feel that way.)

So while my classes are kicking my butt simply because I need to make some adjustments in my time management to keep up with my homework… I love it. I really really enjoy classes, even if neither of them are in my focus area. Having an office on campus is great. I love the faculty here — they are amazingly supportive and just fun people. Our current department chair, who is a woman who scared the poop out of me previously, is actually a really funny person and getting to see her joke in class is great. I feel incredibly lucky to be pursuing something I love and enjoy.

However. Unfortunately… There was an incident that happened this week. Due to it I no longer feel safe. I had a panic attack the morning after, and was trapped in a bathroom for a while until a friend could calm me down. I really can’t say much about what happened — mainly because I’m still processing it, but also because it is going through the appropriate channels in the university for mediation. My department is working with me as best they can. I am in counseling now. And I have a good support network of friends. I am physically unharmed in any way — ok, minus the fact that I have to make myself eat (and 90% of the time when I do eat it’s junk/candy). But emotionally I’m kind of a wreck. As much as I shouldn’t have had to experience this, it is ok for me to be not ok given the situation.

So while I was on such a high for these first two weeks, things are pretty rough for me right now. I want my life back. Or rather, I want my academic life back. I want to say I’m hopeful. But I’m still extremely nervous regarding the situation. I might talk to my psychiatrist about going on anti-anxiety medication if next week doesn’t improve. I’m just trying to do what I can for self-care and hoping the university side of it moves quickly. The very last thing I want is for this to taint my grad school experience, or harm it in any way. (Which it’s starting to; I’ve missed 8 hours of work and two courses.)

If I could take the last 52 hours away, I would be telling you that grad school is the best thing in my life. And in many ways it still is. Yet… Like I said, it’s really hard for me right now. Hopefully we’ll meet with the Title IX coordinator soon and handle this swiftly. Some changes are happening in the department, but still a long way to go until I feel safe again. Right now I’m going to focus on myself, not care if I had AirHeads for lunch, and distract myself as best I can this weekend so I can maybe have the strength to go to my classes next week.

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