Climbing back out
I have raised this subject before: the imposter syndrome . A few years have passed since that column, and the little voice is still in my head. In fact, to be honest, in recent years it's only been getting louder. Then, about six weeks ago, enough was enough. It had to stop. This was a mental hurdle I found it really difficult to overcome, but I managed it: I registered with the TUD student psychologist. And, apparently I'm not alone.
Having registered, I received an automatic message that the waiting time to see the psychologist was ten weeks. That's pretty long when your own feeling is that you've finally sunk so low that you can only admit to yourself that there is no way you're getting out of this hole on your own. Eventually the waiting time ‘wasn't so bad’ and this week, after six weeks of waiting, I can go along for an intake interview.
The first step towards really wiping out that voice in my head has been taken. No more dome-laden thoughts, no more seeing everything in black-and-white. I am capable, I really am.
As a rule, when we talk about psychological disorders and burnouts I tend to have rather mixed feelings. One the one hand, they seem to be widely socially accepted, and perhaps at times elevated to being standard. After all, stress and being extremely busy are often positively associated with characteristics such as being career-oriented and social and successful.
On the other hand, fortunately, they are not accepted as ‘normal’. I'm prompted to say this by the amount of attention being paid to this kind of thing, at universities and elsewhere. In both Eindhoven and Delft lectures and workshops are regularly given with the intention of preventing burnouts and depression. And judging by my waiting time to see the student psychologist in Delft I can't say any of this seems over the top or unnecessary. I'm willing to bet the situation in Eindhoven isn't much different.
It is a good thing that universities are providing help for their students and employees struggling with psychological problems. But the question remains how this problem can be further resolved. Perhaps by investing in, for example, more psychologists so that help can be offered more quickly, or are there other areas we should be investing in to tackle the root of the problem?
I don't know. The only thing I know at this point is this: if you too have felt like this for a lengthy period, please know that there are people who can help you. They can give you the footholds to climb out of this well of darkness. Even so, you will have to do the work yourself, at your own pace, and only when you yourself are ready.
Afterword, Cursor editorial team: At TU/e too help is offered in various ways. You'll find an overview here on this website.