Welcome To The Bitchery

The Two Worst Years of My Life - Grad School

Limit to Groupthink, please.

I'm currently finishing up my Master's degree in a Bio Science and it's taking me longer than I wanted it to. Longer than my boss wanted it to, as she reminds me every so often, even as I try to avoid her.

You see, I started off all bright-eyed and eager to learn and now...well, I no longer am. In fact, I've lost all confidence in my abilities and my anxiety is really fucking with me.


I guess I should start with some background about my life. I come from a family that I've always had to "prop up" in a manner of speaking. From the time I was 10, when my youngest brother was born, I would help out at the family store. I'd come home from school and stay there for the rest of the day. I knew this wasn't typical, but I wanted to help. This feeling became even stronger as we found out that my youngest brother would need brain surgery to take care of the violent seizures that he'd been having since birth. Doctors had initially ignored my mom's pleas that something wasn't normal—that it was more than just gas. It was only after this surgery that he could begin to do things that other kids could, things like sitting up on his own.

It's kind of funny that, while we didn't feel "rich", we weren't poor. There wasn't a lack of anything and there was no debt. This changed when my dad sold our store to some guy, without consulting us, for far less than it was worth. That marked the beginning of our financial hardship that would culminate in bankruptcy and eviction as I was preparing for finals during the 2nd year of undergrad.

During undergrad, I had made the decision to get away from them all. I had to, for my own sanity. Sure, I had to work a lot harder than the others at school, trying to balance work and school. I tried to work as much as possible, knowing I couldn't rely on my family for anything. In fact, they had borrowed money from me in first year. I remember hanging out with my best friend, as they asked to borrow $1000 from me. I collapsed in tears.

So, I worked my ass off and got into graduate school in the same field. I thought I had proven something, beaten the odds. That I would somehow have an okay life from that point forward. This was the most optimistic I'd been about anything.


This mood lasted for a few months into grad school. I had no qualms about staying late, coming in on weekends to do work. As long as I felt it would be worth it.

My boss had a reputation for being scary and causing mental breakdowns. I only found this out after starting work there. I began my work with a post-doc who introduced me to new techniques and guidance. She thought I relied too much on him, and she wasn't completely wrong. But she seemed to take offense to everything I did. There was one email that she sent to me after I had emailed my committee members about setting a meeting time. My offense that I had used the phrase," In a previous email, I asked you guys about your availabilities..." Her gripe was with my use of "you guys." I started having really bad panic attacks around the time of my first meeting, which also coincided with the due date for a grant proposal final for a class I was taking.


This was the scariest thing to ever happen to me, where I just kept on going over all the terrible things that would happen because of me or because of my failure. Since then, I've had a few more issues with her, including her pushing aside all the positive feedback other profs gave me after my departmental seminar, making me cry for an entire day (another post-doc described a conversation where she was "reprimanded" for answering one of my questions), and just other things that have basically made me freeze up in terror.

So now, I've taken a long time to finish things because all contact with her terrifies me. I got to bed, thinking of all the shitiness of my life. She has pretty much refused to read my stuff and I acknowledge a lot of it is my fault. I wish I were faster. I wish I could believe in my abilities again.


I'm kind of hating everything right now. Help.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter