Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Post-Decision Anxiety

Whew, sorry to be quiet lately. Weird life phase right now. As you all know I've been grappling with this grad school decision. I finally made it official last weekend: I'll be doing the program here at Current University. My mind went through so many sea changes over the past few weeks; first I was sure I'd stay here, then got really excited by New University and convinced myself I'd go there, then slooowwwwly settled back on Current U. I sort of eased myself into it - told my mom first, then my advisor, then New U professors, then New U program head, then another Current U professor I'm close with here, then Current U program head, then my friends and everyone else.

I'd been agonizing for so long and had been so genuinely unsure of where I'd end up that I had expected to PANIC after making it official, and somehow discover I'd chosen "wrong." Instead I just felt kind of settled but sad, if that makes sense. I know it was the right decision academically, and would set me up better professionally in 4-5 years when I head out on the job market. And personally it was the safer, less risky option. But there were pros and cons about each, obviously, and I truly loved my two would-be advisors at New U. So I was sad about giving up those relationships. But I love my advisor at Current U, he's doing lots of crazy exciting stuff and I know he cares about me and has my back no matter what. So, it was right. And it feels more right as time passes, which seems like a good indicator.

Anyway, I had about three weeks of total agony—constant butterflies in my stomach, feeling absolutely sick over this decision—during which ED stuff and other typical Kaylee Issues were near non-existent. I was fully snowed under with big life questions and had no energy or brain space for dumb minute garbage like "was that a large apple or a medium apple?" or "how many walnuts in an ounce, again??" Then as soon as the decision was over and done with, I got hit with anxiety hard. Not necessarily ED stuff, just random germaphobia (washing my hands 30 times a day) and hypochondria ("do I feel an eye infection coming on???") and other ridiculous OCD shit that spikes when I'm being totally insane and irrational.

I am working really hard on staying in the moment and being mindful of the fact that I just went through one of the most personally stressful periods of my life and of course that has fucked with my brain and my thoughts and emotions. And not getting irrationally freaked out about teeny stuff that is not important. I keep trying to remind myself that exciting stuff is happening for me! In so many ways, things are really falling into place. I got recognized at a school event yesterday, won an award for a poster, and have gotten so much wonderful feedback from people about PhD stuff and my research etc. Hard to reconcile that image of myself with the one who freaks out—literally, shaking with panic—alone in my apartment at the thought of a skin rash or an eye infection or a toothache.

Not sure if any of this makes sense. I am about 80 percent fine. But the anxiety definitely has a hold on me.


  1. Yay for you for making a decision! I feel like every major life shit has that post-event/decision blues. it's well documented in marathon runners, at least. It's a weird thing-- not like you want to be thinking about all of this stuff all the time, but it's a little lonely to have that all of a sudden gone from your brain. I think the ED et al rush in to fill the gap. It's why I've almost always got way more on my plate (so to speak...) than is necessary or recommended for people who are not me.

    One of these years I'll get sane enough to sit quietly with moments where my brain isn't chockfull of lots of urgent things, but for now, the safer option seems to be constantly moving forward-- but in the interim, trying to be as actively immersed in my school etc seems to temper the crazy brain.

    Congrats on the award & recognition-- you've worked so freaking hard!

    1. yeah I actually have developed a pattern over the past year or two of totally falling apart emotionally during transitions - tends to be end of semesters when I shift from going a million miles a minute to having long lazy empty days. It's like after holding it together for 3-4 months, all the built up stress and neuroticism etc bubbles to the surface. I too am not yet okay just sitting with myself. I need projects, goals, purpose, etc or I go nuts and lose my mind. Great for productivity during the school year, but a recipe for breakdowns between semesters.

  2. If it makes you feel any better, I was also a WRECK during the decision period for both my MS and PhD programs. Like, a hot mess. And it can be hard to just switch that off once the decision is made. But you gave it a ton of thought and made a really wise choice. Also, any chance you'll run into those New U. profs you liked out in the big professional world in the future? The door may not be closed on working with them in some capacity at some point, right? A PhD is hard/risky in so many ways that I think you were really smart in knowing a good thing when you see it and not wanting to give it up. Everybody puts their best foot forward during recruiting weeks, but you've already seen the "real life" version at Current U., and if that works for you that's fantastic! Congrats again.

    1. This is sort of horrible of me, but it DOES make me feel better to hear that it wasn't just me who was a total disaster for this process... it felt like my whole life hinged on this one moment at age 24. And that was sort of true in a way, but only now being on the other side can I see things more clearly, and realize the stuff that really matters. I am really happy with my choice and it feels more solid and right as time goes by, so I'd say that's a good sign. thanks!