Dr. O’s crisis in confidence

A physician-scientist, mother, and friend who I respect greatly is one of the people reading my K grant, and we went through her edits yesterday. Everything started off well enough: the first half of the grant had only minor comments. As we got into the meat of the proposal, however, it got a little rough. This normally would have been fine, but I suddenly found myself so scatterbrained that I couldn’t even answer simple questions about the proposed studies. I knew the answers, but couldn’t formulate them. I actually had to read through my own grant at times to remember what I was proposing. I remember trying very hard to not get frustrated, as I knew that would just make the situation worse, for her and for me. When we finished going through the edits, however, I felt worn-out and completely incompetent.

Last night I had a series of dreams that left me feeling even worse. Each one of them centered around work, and the point of each was that I was a disappointment at my job. It felt like a sort of “get off your high horse” series of beatings – like I even knew where my high horse was. I woke up this morning with my confidence completely swept away.

This isn’t me. I generally have plenty confidence in my abilities…healthy confidence, with the normal strikes of arrogance and humility mixed in from time to time. I’m also very organized, with my science brain fairly well put together. But lately I haven’t felt like myself at all, and the last 24 hours has been a sort of breaking point. I can deal with being a bit of a scatterbrain, but this whole lack of confidence thing is scaring the shit out of me.

Again, I’m trying to stay calm and remind myself that the sweet little parasite growing inside of me is stealing oxygen from my brain, causing some of my forgetfulness and disorganization. And dreams during pregnancy usually convey concerns about being pregnant, or (*gulp*) motherhood. So the nightmares were likely indicative of my fears about being a mommy. While I know these fears are normal, though, I don’t know how to handle them stealing confidence away from other aspects of my life. I guess it’s just a reminder that even strong, confident, do-it-all women can’t keep all the facets of our lives completely separate.

In the meantime, I’m trying to grow accustomed to this new person I see in the mirror. I don’t really recognize her – physically, mentally, or emotionally. And I haven’t really decided if I like her or not. She seems nice enough, but she also comes across as a bit weak. How will she deal with the invited talk she’s giving at next month’s conference? Or job interviews that will hopefully come up this coming year? For now I’m reserving judgment, and hoping she’ll adjust to her life over the next few months. Or maybe I’ll get the old girl back after the baby comes. I guess we’ll see…

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6 thoughts on “Dr. O’s crisis in confidence

  1. Hey lady, hang in there–you will probably not feel the same for a long, long time. But THAT IS OKAY and you will come to terms with it and find coping strategies. Your hormones are wacking you out and will for a long while to come, and you need to become comfortable with cutting yourself some slack. Find out your balance, what you need to focus (extra prep time, more note taking, enough to eat, enough water to drink, fewer things to do at a time)–whatever works. You will survive with your skills and awesomeness intact if you figure out how to rest and prepare in between times you need to pull it out. You can do it!!!

  2. I am right there with you on feeling as though I can't formulate what I really want to say, or having to look at my notes about something even though I really know things inside-out. “They” never really tell you this about pregnancy – and that it lasts for more than just the first few weeks.

    I have definitely noticed a difference in my priorities, values, and what I put up with. For example, on the highway I now get really upset if I see someone driving like a total jerk. Before that would bother me, but I would forget about it. But, now I obsess over it for a while, asking myself why someone would drive like that and put people in danger just so they can get somewhere 5 minutes earlier.

    Anyway, it's amazing what that little being in our bellies can do to us! Hang in there – you're doing awesome, and you will get back your confidence!

  3. Or, think positively. Maybe its just a hormonal phase and will pass in a week. I was wildly productive while pregnant and never felt pregger head. I also refused to waddle and did not.

  4. Arlenna is right. Don't worry- you'll be fine.

    Pregnancy is a big adjustment. Then motherhood is a HUGE adjustment (or at least it was for me). I am not the same person I was before I had kids. I took me a little while to find my new equilibrium, but now I am even more confident and efficient than I was before.

    There is a book, probably a little out of date now, that summarizes the research on what motherhood actually does to our brains. It is called The Mommy Brain, and I found it to be very reassuring.

  5. Thanks for helping through my meltdown, guys – and for the books suggestion, Cloud. Y'all are all awesome!!

    I've been doing better the past few days (eating a lot more :), and I've found some coping mechanisms to deal with the “pregger head” and stress. Above all, I'm really working on not being so hard on myself…the Type A personality needs to take a timeout.

    Anon – I happen to find pregnant waddling extremely cute…I plan to waddle away from now until Bun shows up!

  6. Pingback: Postpartum depression – how did I know? « The Tightrope

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