My experience with imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome has been talked about quite a lot over the last year. Having learnt about it, and listened to many others talk about their experiences through it via YouTube I thought it was about time that I discuss my experience with imposter syndrome.

Impostor Syndrome is characterized by the conviction that you don’t deserve your success. It is the feeling that you’re not as intelligent, creative or talented as other people seem to believe you are. It is the suspicion that your achievements are down to luck, good timing or just being in the right place at the right time. And it is accompanied by the fear that, one day, you’ll be exposed as a fraud.

I definitely relate to this. I have incredibly low self esteem and when things go right, I feel as though a mistake has been made. I feel like it was just luck, good timing or that it was in reality something incredibly easy and any idiot could have done it. I am not good at seeing my own achievements as a success and I’m scared that one day everyone will realise how useless I really am, or that they already know that. Understandably, this can make life incredibly difficult to deal with.

In some cases imposter syndrome can be debilitating. Although it’s not a formal clinical diagnosis.

Personally, if I get good grades I think they’re wrong. If I win academic awards I think a mistake has been made. If I get a job, I question whether I’m really good enough and whether the employer has made a mistake.

I check my final year grades every single day because I still can’t believe it’s true…

For my first two years at university imposter syndrome really effected me. Not to the point that it was debilitating but enough to be something weighing my mental state down. I got into my admittedly not great uni (In terms of league tables but I couldn’t imagine having gone anywhere else) with BBB at A level and a further BC at AS. With a couple of resits thrown into that mix too. The offer I received was ABB. Yes I know I was only one grade off but I just had that feeling that I didn’t deserve to be there, that everyone else had it all together and was so much better than me. This was especially true when compounded by low grades in my first year. (I got 2:2s in all my coursework).

I still felt the same in second year, even though my grades had improved. Like I just wasn’t enough. Like everyone else was so much better than me.

It’s difficult, it’s reality.

To my understanding many people go to through this, so people do understand. It is also possible to overcome.

If anyone else reading this feels the same or similar then please comment! And any tips for overcoming imposter syndrome would be much appreciated.

2021 GOALS

I always like goal setting at the beginning of each year so here are my goals for 2021

  1. Get a distinction in my masters
  2. Film one second a day
  3. Start Ballet (Okay COVID will have to calm for this because I don’t really have space in my bedroom but I can do what I can!)
  4. Learn keyboard and continue writing a musical about ME/CFS (This will be a goal for the 2nd part of the year because LPC life but i definitely want to get it done even if it never sees the light of day!
  5. Climb v3/4 regularly again (COVID dependent but I’m sure we can make it happen!)
  6. Continue challenging myself on overhangs and roofs
  7. Become a better advocate for my health
  8. Be nicer to my family even when they’re not nice to me and saying things I really don’t agree with
  9. Get a job or find another income stream post masters
  10. Reach 250 followers on this blog
  11. Do physio daily (the back needs fixing)
  12. Eat healthier
  13. Keep up with and improve commercial awareness
  14. Climb outdoors (I do have a trip planned to hoping it goes ahead!)
  15. Get my splits back
  16. Take up every opportunity and stop hiding behind the fear of rejection
  17. Continue reading/listening to audio-books for pleasure
  18. Less procrastination and more engaged study time.

What are your goals in 2021!

The big 2020 reflection post

Okay 2020 has been chaotic for everyone and a very weird year so this post will be a reflection of that.

2020 started as a relatively normal year. For me, on the one hand, I was loving life, having found climbing again and really progressing well. On the other hand, starting to become unhappy in my job. I have recently accepted that I probably have autism and ADHD (but can’t afford a diagnosis) so the environment and tasks weren’t right for me. Combining that with my physical symptoms and some toxic team members, including my line manager, I was getting increasingly unhappy.

I can’t count how many mental breakdowns working for said government department caused me, and they just got more intense the longer I was in the job. The nights I was terrified of failing probation, of being fired and then never being employable again. The false nice conversations and clear ableism. Me being terrified and unable to fight for the support I needed. The gaslighting and other things that I don’t really feel comfortable talking about right now.

Working that job has definitely taken a huge toll on my confidence. The presenteeism pressure, combined with self-medicating my feelings through climbing on injury after injury whilst having an ME flare and then probably getting COVID caused the worst ME flares of my life. Fortunately, I’m doing a lot better now.

Lockdown happened. Other than with my health the two months I wasn’t working were blissful. I don’t normally like having nothing to do, but I really learnt that it is okay to rest and to do things we enjoy.

I’ve struggled with moving back in with an incredibly ableist family and having the walls and my health decide to both stop me climbing has been frustrating. Just as I’ve started to get well enough they’ve closed again and again.

I’m spending Christmas in tier 4 which is basically lockdown.

Not that 2020 has been all bad. Nor has it been the worst year of my life. I got to compete before COVID, I did a few virtual internships and have been to a whole host of law events. I’ve reached subscriber/follower goals on here and on youtube, despite not really doing youtube anymore and not having been as active of a blogger as I’d like since starting the LPC. I climbed a v5 (I can’t climb that anymore but I did it, which I really wanted climbing wise in 2020). I think I have also reached my book goal of 30 books over the course of the year. We definitely won’t be having time for that in 2021! I did well in my mocks and got 90% in my first real assessment.

It may have been a dark year at times but there definitely was some light.

Lets talk disability classification in para sports

The IFSC (international federation for sport climbing) has recently stated they are moving to IPC classifications from 2021.

This separates athletes into the following 10 eligible impairments:

  • Impaired Muscle Power – Athletes with Impaired Muscle Power have a Health Condition that either reduces or eliminates their ability to voluntarily contract their muscles in order to move or to generate force. Examples of eligible impairments are paraplegia, a spinal cord injury, post – polio syndrome and spina bifida
  • Impaired Passive Range of Movement – Athletes with Impaired Passive Range of Movement have a restriction or a lack of passive movement in one or more joints. This may result from contracture resulting from chronic joint immobilisation or trauma 
  • Limb Deficiency – Athletes with Limb Deficiency have total or partial absence of bones or joints as a consequence oftrauma (for example traumatic amputation), illness (for example amputation due to bone cancer) or congenital limb deficiency (for example dysmelia).
  • Leg Length Difference – Athletes with Leg Length Difference have a difference in the length of their legs as a result of a disturbance of limb growth, or as a result of trauma.
  • Short Stature – Examples of an Underlying Health Condition that may lead to Short Stature include achondroplasia, growth hormone dysfunction, and osteogenesis imperfecta. 
  • Hypertonia – Athletes with Hypertonia have an increase in muscle tension and a reduced ability of a muscle to stretch caused by damage to the central nervous system. This may be as a result of Cerebral Palsy, a Traumatic Brain Injury or a stroke.
  • Ataxia – Athletes with Ataxia have uncoordinated movements caused by damage to the central nervous system. This may be caused by the conditions/events listed in hypertonia or by MS.
  • Athetosis – Athletes with Athetosis have continual slow involuntary movements. The examples listed by IPC here are Cerebral Palsy, a traumatic brain injury and stroke.
  • Vision impairment – reduced or no vision caused by damage to the optic nerves or optical pathways or visual cortex of the brain.
  • Intellectual impairment – Athletes with an Intellectual Impairment have a restriction in intellectual functioning and adaptive behaviour in which affects conceptual, social and practical adaptive skills required for everyday life. This Impairment must be present before the age of 18. 

It then goes to list a number of categories of health conditions that are not underlying health conditions. These are as follows:

  1. Conditions that primarily cause pain (fibromyalgia, CRPS, Myofascial pain syndrome)
  2. Conditions that primarily cause fatigue (ME/CFS)
  3. Primarily cause hypermobility or hypotonia (EDS)
  4. Primarily psychological or psychosomatic in nature (Conversion disorders or PTSD)

So what are the problems with this?

a) Using the same basic criteria for a range of sports excludes people who can’t run due to pain/fatigue/joint instability can and has excluded people from wheelchair basketbal, tennis and other sports that rely on either being able to run or use a wheelchair.

b) It’s completely misunderstanding ME/CFS. Take me for example. I have reduced sensation in my legs, feet and left hand often. But unless I get scans and lumber punctures to see if it’s something brain/cci related and they come back with something I’d probably be excluded from para-sports purely because the IPC thinks my condition is primarily fatigue when fatigue is the tip of the iceberg. It’s unbearable pressure in the base of my skull, dizziness, difficulty with positional changes, reduced sensation, extreme muscle weakness and reduced power in my legs and I’ve always had poor proprioception and co-ordination. Although this isn’t an issue for me right now. I’m not well enough to compete in any sport and do my very intense masters course it would be nice to have the option and it hurts that yet another organisation is failing to properly understand ME/CFS.

c)Expressly excluding EDS (unless the athlete also has an eligible impairment + EDS) is wrong. Yes it fluctuates and athletes with EDS may need regular evaluations and some wouldn’t even fall within para categories if they were amended but EDS impairs ability to perform in a variety of ways. Our hyper-mobile joints means it takes more power to do what a non hyper-mobile person can, we often have issues with fatigue, brain fog and positional changes. We can have poor proprioception and get frequently injured.

d) It’s not considering everything else that can impair ability to perform that comes with a “Non-eligible” underlying health condition. The fatigue, brain fog, inability to concentrate, the pain, slow healing, dizzyness. These are all real issues and I know they can be hard to quanitify but nevertheless there should be an option for those who fall outside the 10 categories that doesn’t make the competition unfair for people within the 10 categories.

e) For an organisation that preaches accessibility and inclusivity in sports it just doesn’t feel right to have this list of non eligible impairments.

f) People who have worked for years to get to where they are, are now being exlcuded from competing. Their career ending prematurely due to some critieria.

So? What should change? I understand the need for strict measurable criteria to ensure the competition is fair for everyone. Especially in sports where it comes down to a tenth of a second or point. It’s definitely hard to find the balance. But I think there is a way to include everyone whose disability impacts their sport and wants to compete and is able to get to the required standard.

I think different sports should be able to have different criteria and still be able to make a bid to be a Paralympic sport if not already one. Honestly, all wheelchair sports should be accessible to anyone who can’t do the able bodied equivalent because they can’t run or stand for a long period of time. It may mean playing around with the categories to ensure it’s fair but the pay off is accessibility for all. Secondly, we need diverse teams making these decisions. We need people with a range of disabilities and from a range of ethnic, gender and socio-economic backgrounds in the room. This will mean any blindspots will be pointed out and considered, hopefully leading to less unfair exclusion. Assessors also need to have proper education about lesser known impairments that athletes may present with. To ensure a full, fair and non biased evalation.

As a climber. I really want all aspects of the sport to be accessible to all. Yes I may be climbing like a beginner right now because I’ve been so sick this year and I still love climbing regardless of my grade and limited ability. But I also enjoyed competing when I was younger and in the beginning part of this year. If our disability impacts our sport we should have the option for both. Regardless of the underlying health condition.

Bisexual or Just a Lesbian – Questioning Sexuality

I don’t normally post about sexuality and LGBTQ+ issues but here we are. Please correct me if I get anything wrong.

I’ve known I wasn’t straight for a while. I think I knew that’s what it was when I was 13. I was attracted to men. I had a boyfriend but I was also hella attracted to women.

Honestly, I would marry certain female fictional characters if I could.

But I’m also attracted to real women.

I’ve never had a relationship with women because when I got sick I simply didn’t have the energy for one.

But I crave that relationship.

Over time I’ve learnt that I’m not really attracted to men sexually, but I still remain attracted to men romantically.

But women, I’m attracted to sexually. If I watch porn to masterbate it’ll be same sex female porn.

On that note if anyone can recommend good porn for females! As i feel a lot of Lesbian porn is made from the male gaze and quite frankly I don’t want anything to do with a lot of it.

So am I just a lesbian? Or does only being romantically attracted to men count as being bi?

I feel like being bisexual there is a lot of bi-erasure, a lot of pressure to just be gay.

I’ve had it so many times – oh your just a lesbian.

And that in itself creates a lot of self doubt over our identities.

It leaves you questioning. Who am I?

And to an extend that can make it hard for us to engage with the LGBTQ+ community. For bisexuals this community can often be the worst for us in terms of stigma, hate and bi erasure.

So who am I? People place so much importance of labels in society.

My take. It doesn’t matter. We shouldn’t eat ourselves up over our questioning. We should learn to be proud in the identity, the label that we feel most comfortable with. Even if we don’t match the stereotapes.

It’s okay to question. Questioning is natural and I believe that sexuality is fluid, it can change to some extent over time – especially for those of us who are bisexual. At times we may be more attracted to women or men and vise versa.

It’s okay. It’s okay to be you to be bisexual and proud and it’s okay to not know.

That’s what I’m telling myself anyway.

My chronic illness is a monster

My chronic illness is a monster
It makes me less than
It makes me make mistakes
It makes me look lazy
Like I don’t care
Like I’m stupid

The pressure in my head so intense
The fog so thick
You say things that are incorrect
Communication incoherent
The fog so thick

You see words on the screen
The fog is so thick
You can’t read them
The words swirl around you
You can’t comprehend

The fog so thick
Fatigue so severe
Head pounding

You produce substandard work
Not because you don’t care
Not because your lazy
But because your sick.

Lockdown 2.0

Here we are again. The UK has entered a 4 week lockdown *touch wood*. Non essential shops are closed, restaurants, cafe’s, climbing walls.

Just as I was getting well enough to climb regularly again.

No I’m not impressed.

But it’s not the be all and end all. The schools are still open so I’m not stuck with my family all day every day, with no escape other than an “essential shop” or a walk that I don’t really have time or spoons for. I’m still finding walking quite difficult!

But seriously it’s given be a chance to work on my conditioning so I’m not constantly injured when the walls open again and hopefully I’ll be a better climber.

I can count on 2 hands the amount of times I’ve been climbing since lockdown 1.0, and lockdown 1.0 was characterised by a v sick han, collapsing multiple times a day just from walking around my old flat. Once I started feeling better and being able to stay on my feet I still wasn’t a well han. If I did climb I felt very unsafe. I often lost feeling in my legs and feet, being on the wall wasn’t an exception to this. Weak, dizzy, lots of pressure in the base of my skull. Like my whole body was about to shut down on me, and I felt like that a lot of time.

So as you can imagine I’m very deconditioned and don’t trust my legs. A chance to condition. When I can’t go anywhere else is actually quite helpful! I also might dedicate some time to baking and some ever so essential shops for supplies!

How is everyone in the UK feeling right now about 2.0? How is everyone else doing?

Let’s talk anxiety and online school

I know for some people online school is a lot easier for their anxiety. No physically having to go in. Interact with the real world. See people. But there are some parts of online school that I find even more anxiety provoking and people just don’t understand why so in the name of awareness raising I thought I’d share.

Discussion Boards

I don’t know why but posting on a discussion board stresses me out. Being able to do it is only a recent thing. I know it’s irrational so don’t go telling me that or to just get over it. The problem with having really low self esteem when you have those discussion boards where you can’t see answers until you comment. You may wonder why:

  • What if I’m wrong?
  • What if it looks like I haven’t tried?
  • What if it’s too much/too little?
  • What if I get negative responses?
  • What if people decide they don’t like me/I’m worthless/stupid because of what I post?

The virtual group task

Do we all hate these?

Especially when we all have our own commitments and some of us may be abroad so how the fuck are we supposed to make it work if we don’t have much mutually convenient time.

So why does this make me anxious. For me it’s the starting. It’s when no one reaches out to the group. No one takes the lead but you are too anxious to do so. Again pretty irrational. You may wonder why.

  • What if they think I’m a swot/nerd?
  • What if they think I have no life?
  • What if they think I’m being too pushy?
  • What if I don’t word it right?

It feels me with dread, it paralyses me and it makes me feel physically sick. I hope I’ll get more confident as the year goes on but right now that’s how it is.

How do you feel about online school and how has it affected your anxiety?

The difference between my mitochondria and yours

I have ME. When I say I have less energy than you I mean it at a cellular level.

My Mitochondria, that it the power house of the cell doesn’t do what yours does. It doesn’t produce energy the same way yours does.

You can get up, exercise for 2 hours, have a shower, work for a full day, some chores, walk the dog, read a book for fun all in one day,

That level of activity is something I dream about. To be able to sustain that without crashing and burning.

I lay on the floor to do some pilates based exercises and it drains me. So much so that getting off the floor is a struggle, if not impossible. My legs simply won’t.

You easily walk up the stairs. I walk slowly, clinging on to the banister. My legs feel weak and won’t move any faster even if I tried. Or I crawl. My legs not doing the stairs at all.

You can empty the dishwasher or hang the laundry quickly and without having to lie down after.

You go to bed and you wake up in the morning, maybe a bit groggy but you have a coffee and you can get on with the day.

I wake up in the morning, paralytically exhausted. Once I can move I’ll get up, have a coffee and a rest then try and get on with my day, fighting the need to nap for at least a couple of hours. My day is spaced out with intermittent rests and ice on the back of my head.

If you overdo it you feel quite tired so you take it easy and rest and you feel okay again.

I overdo it and my balance gets worse, I go into pre-syncope every time I stand up and may collapse just from trying to get to my own bathroom. My migraines get worse. My vision may get worse. My stomach may decide to stop digesting food. My legs, hands, feet and even face may go numb. My temperature regulation is worse than usual and my throat feels like like it’s being torn apart by razor blades. My light and noise sensitivity gets worse.

My body doesn’t produce energy in the same way yours does and it’s function is dependent on careful pacing, which is often better luck than judgement.

Let’s Talk: Discriminatory Job Adverts

Okay, this one has been coming for a while because subtly discriminative job adverts are an issue of mine and sometimes less subtly.

Why?

Because finding a job with a disability is hard enough and in the UK the Equality Act 2010 is meant to prevent disability discrimination in the workplace – from the application stage.

I’m not going to get into a debate about whether it does this well enough or not but I am going to discuss some of the parts of job adverts I’ve seen that are somewhat discriminatory.

  • We are looking for a high energy individual – My condition causes fatigue but it doesn’t mean I can’t do the job well.
  • Must be able to drive – If the job doesn’t require significant travel and is in a place accessible by public transport why do I need to be able to drive? There are many reasons why someone with a disability wouldn’t be able drive and this exempts you from the job even if driving isn’t necessary to perform the job well.
  • Must be able to lift X amount – If it’s an office role requiring mainly desk based work it would usually be a reasonable adjustment to delegate the lifting part of the role to another member of the team
  • Must be physically fit – unless it’s a role that actually requires this I think this one is self-explanatory
  • Good health record
  • Physically and mentally healthy
  • Flexible – flexible in what sense? How flexible? This may also be discriminatory to women who often have more childcare needs than men. Yes we may be flexible but only within certain parameters.

We need to work with employers to ensure these phrases don’t crop up in job advertisements, recruiters and disabled candidates are aware of the range of adjustments that may be considered reasonable and that recruiter are open to recruiting disabled candidates and understand that we can be valuable members of the workforce.

I hope that when the next generation start applying for jobs they won’t face these barriers.

Lets Talk Migraines

I know Migraine awareness week was last week but lets face it every week should be awareness week so I thought the untimely post would still be a worthwhile one.

The classical migraine is an aura (usually some sort of visual disturbance) followed by a throbbing headache in one side of the head or the other (sometimes both) combined with nausea, vomiting and dizzyness. However migraines are a lot more dense and complex than this.

Personally I get a range of different types of migraines and symptoms from migraines/that end up causing migraines. Sometimes I get an aura which is either those spots of lights in your eye or a loss of peripheral or blurring of the entire vision in my left eye.

My migraines either come from neck issues and pressure at the base of the skull, over-exerting, not wearing my blue light glasses enough or hormones.

The hormonal ones are the most painful but normally they are just that. An agonising pain in the butt (or should I say head). These ones make me want to cut my head off. These migraines also come with the extreme light and sound sensitivity that often comes from migraines, along with that distracting at best and debilitating at worst nausea.

My day to day migraine however is a lot worse more varied irritatingly day to day and is often worse on days where the pressure in the back of my head is worse. If I am unable to manage that pressure before I get a migraine with ice, or laying flat on my back with my orthopedic pillow at regular intervals then it will often get worse and cause a migraine or bring on a worse one.

I get your regular nausea and vertigo like dizziness, but also some of my numbness and tingling may be attributed to migraines. Light sensitivity is a bitch, especially as I don’t have sunglasses that I’m confident in and it’s going into autumn and winter in the UK where people don’t wear sunglasses. I find I’m much more sensitive to sunlight than relatively small amounts of artificial light. There have been days/weeks/months where I haven’t been able to open my bedroom curtains fully. I struggle to watch movies on a screen without night mode on and without blue light glasses! Especially if it has lots of flashing, action or loud noises.

I’ll be fatigued but the symptoms will make sleeping almost impossible.

The symptoms cause unbelievably thick brain fog making every bit of cognitive function so much harder, if not impossible.

It’s not just a headache.

What’s your experience of migraines?