I Deserve This by Max
11 Feb 2020 2:50 PM
Content Warning: This post briefly discusses depression, suicide ideation, and planning.
In some respects, I am used to talking about my struggles as a first gen student, as a person of color, as a trans person, and as a poor kid. They are identities that are important to my story, but I often find myself watering down the impact of these identities on my emotional wellbeing. I want to be seen as strong and sure of myself, but the reality is I struggle with the same imposter syndrome, self-doubt, and depression that so many of us struggle with, and just like so many others I found myself sabotaging everything I did. Every success I had was by the skin of my teeth since I was caught between wanting to do better and believing I didn’t deserve better.
Why on earth did I think I was going to break the cycle of trauma, poverty, and addiction that plagued the rest of my family? I genuinely felt I had no right to do so. I had convinced myself that if I loved my family and my community, then I should be happy where I was. I didn’t have the right to ask for more. No one in my family had ever made me feel like this, they had their struggles, but they were so encouraging and loving. Somehow, I had convinced myself that I had even tricked my family into to thinking I was worthy of good things, and I couldn’t forgive myself for that. I continued to do this at every discovery of a new part of my identity. I always thought “great, as if all this wasn’t enough, why do I always do this? I should know better by now to be this selfish. What is wrong with me?”
By the time I got to Iowa State, I was downright paranoid.
What if people found out I was too poor to be here?
What if people found out that I was first gen and decided I should stay uneducated?
I’m Mexican and white but what if people didn’t believe me, and I was isolated from the only part of myself I felt comfortable with?
God forbid someone find out I was trans, because I hadn’t come out to even my closest friends at that point. I was convinced that someone would find out SOMETHING that would exile me from opportunity that was not easily given to people like me.
On good days I recognized that this way of thinking made no sense, and it was doing me a lot of harm, but I felt so out of control. I just wanted a “normal” life, but I felt like I had been denied that and somehow it was my fault. On bad days it felt like the intense self-hatred was just a giant pool of hot black tar that I would eventually drown in.
After my first year here, I got put on summer option, which is when a student has failed to be above a 2.0 for multiple semesters and so the summer is their last chance before being put on academic dismissal. I had messed up big time, but all I could think was, “well I deserve this. I never should have been here in the first place.” I was convinced that I would fail the summer, but I was so desperate for the opportunity to prove myself. It was the hardest summer of my life, because while I was making sure that I didn’t miss a single assignment, I was also planning suicide. It is incredibly surreal to think about that summer now and see that a dangerous combination of imposter syndrome and depression had become a sort of life or death situation for me. When I managed a 3.0 that summer semester it was like I fully realized what was going on, and that something had to change.
Fast forward almost 2 years later, and a lot of therapy, I’m in a much better place. However, I was able to identify a lot of things that contributed to my struggles with imposter syndrome and depression, and it’s given me a lot of insight.
I don’t see many people like me in Iowa, and I often wonder if I would have struggled so much if I was in my home state of New Mexico, but I haven’t been back since I was 14. When I first came to Iowa State, I was surrounded by people who could not relate to me in the slightest. Thankfully after a couple of years I have a wide circle of friends who are people of color, queer people, and first-generation students to rely on. I am incredibly thankful to have found a community, but so many of us feel jaded and underrepresented at the university and in society.
In multicultural student circles, imposter syndrome is something that is brought up often, but I have rarely gone into detail about just how dangerous it has been for me. I wasn’t sure whether I should talk about it when the Hype asked me to write something. I wanted to talk about my success as a multicultural student, but I don’t want to contribute to an idea that all my problems were solved once I got to college. I don’t necessarily like always talking about how hard things have been in my past, but I want to be open and honest about how I got to where I am.
I have realized that the world is a harsh place, and I am reminded of that with everything going on at ISU, but no one will ever take away my identity from me. The self-reflection that I was forced to do from my earliest days has given me a certainty that I would no trade for the world. It has always been hard for me to have pride in who I am, but here I am, and that’s what matters.