Battling Imposter Syndrome when you have RSD
This post about battling imposter syndrome and ADHD was first published on Medium.
I have always struggled with my self-esteem and confidence and this has really thwarted my progression at times.
Suffering from bad mental health meant never knowing quite what was wrong as my symptoms seemed so different to the usual ‘popular’ conditions — anxiety, depression, bi-polar etc. I knew I felt depressed at times, but I would also feel elation, mood swings from mania to despair in a matter of minutes. I researched bi-polar disorder and the instantaneous nature of my experience didn’t fit at all. I’ve been to the doctor many times as being unable to identify what was ‘wrong’ with me led to eating disorders and chronic self harming. Doctors would try to prescribe me anti-depressants but I knew deep in my soul that my problem was not chemical. I just *knew* it. I kept these things hidden. I was deeply ashamed. I now see them as coping strategies.
So why am I talking about this now? Well, last year I was diagnosed with ADHD — it has 100% turned my life around. I feel so grounded knowing where my behaviours and feeling like I’m battling imposter syndrome come from. I have a deeper understanding of why I find some things utterly impossible. Like… writing on Medium or even this blog. (I’ve got nothing to say, I’m a fraud, I’m shit at writing, I’ll be found out.)
One of the things that led me to seek a diagnosis was stumbling across the acronym RSD— it stands for Reactive Sensitive Dysphoria.
This WebMD page absolutely pinpoints every one of my thoughts and feelings. To discover what I felt had a name and others felt it too just blew my world apart — in the very best way. People talk of their life changing in an instant and mine truly did. I looked at all the times I thought I’d failed and started to pick out what the truths were.
For example — I was desperate to be a writer — in 2008, I sent a short story off to Women’s Weekly magazine— it was actually a little bit of a saucy tale (a glimpse of things to come perhaps!) but I thought it was good. That is until I got the rejection letter.
I was rejected. I was a joke of a writer, who the hell did I think I was even sending it? What an embarrassment I was. It dented my confidence so badly that I could barely breathe and didn’t send that story anywhere ever again.
So you could say, writing is extremely bad for my mental health. I am high as a kite with the verve and joy of creating when I put fingers to keys, but sending it out and getting rejected just kills me. (Strangely though, i love the editing process… I just know in my soul editing is a gift to your work!)
But as we all know, as hard as writers try NOT to write… we do. And then set ourselves up over and over again for the same self-destruction. It wasn’t until I started writing erotica in 2010 that I started to get acceptances for my work. It seemed that I’m quite good at writing about sex — woop! Yes! I think (and this is another article in itself) I can write well about sex because the one thing in my life that I *always* felt guilt-free about and entitled to, is orgasms. I deserve them, they are amazing.
So, it seems like I was always destined to have some sort of career or certainly life choices that involved sensuality.
I want to take a moment to go back to the title of this piece: Battling Imposter Syndrome when you have RSD — I guess if you aren’t aware you have Reactive Sensitive Dysphoria, you will just feel absolutely wrecked a lot of the time — whether that’s from actual fails or criticisms or perceived fails and criticisms. Most of the time, the criticisms are your perception of what’s happened.
I want to go back to my short story.
It really was a crushing blow to be so brutally thwarted on my very first attempt. I even cringed when I walked past the magazine rack in newsagents, my spine splintering at the flashbacks of shame at thinking I could write.
Fast forward to last year having been diagnosed and on meds. To be fair I only take medication when I need to focus for prolonged periods, I found just having the diagnosis meant I could place where my feelings and thoughts were coming form and cope with them analytically. In short, I show myself empathy now. I literally never thought I’d find this level of peace.
So because being on the meds sometimes means I can organise my office now, I was doing just that when I discovered my old writing folder from all those years ago.
I spotted an envelope with the Woman’s Weekly branding and I brought it out, some of the old feelings beginning to flush through me.
I pulled out the letter of doom and began to read:
Thank you for letting us see THE BIKINI. Unfortunately it is not quite suitable for Woman’s Weekly but do try us again, as we linked your writing style!
I am sorry to disappoint you on this occasion.
With all good wishes, etc. etc. Fiction Editor
When I read this I really think I began a grieving process. I started to think back to all those times where I’d taken constructive advice and encouragement and dismissed it as a hateful attack.
If I’d been given the knowledge that my reactions to things were heightened because of the way my brain works, I’m sure I could have found better coping strategies to work around situations like this.
I thought back to when I left St Andrew’s Uni after only one term. Might things have been different if I’d found support for my ADHD?
Obviously dwelling on the past is not a good thing, but I did need time to come to terms with the what could have beens and all the opportunities missed — due to self-doubt and inner chaos.
Of course, what doesn’t kill us really does lead us to who we are today, and today… I feel good about myself (might be the meds talking 😀 ).
And tomorrow I’m going to try really hard not to feel differently.
Hey thanks for reading! I hope this is ok for Medium readers 😀
if it’s not, please don’t tell me, I’m better but I’m not fekkin cured 😀
Lots and lots of love
Tabitha x x
Please check out René Brooks at Black Girl Lost Keys — it is an incredible site full of personal essays, resources and coping strategies. So worthwhile to take a look if you are experiencing something similar or just have an interest in neurodivergence. This is her article on Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria which really made me feel like I wasn’t alone. Now I have the opposite problem — I’m not unique at all! Just a big old ball of ADHD symptoms 😀
And by the way – yes, I feel very impostery about this too 😀
Here’s a teaser vid!