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I'm a 4th (soon to be 4.5) year Ph.D student in Experimental Psychology who recently started an internship this week. This internship only admitted 10% of applicants. I am also one of the half in my cohort who did not have a pre existing connection and just applied blind in this case. I am also the only one who did their undergrad at a "no name state college," while everyone else did theirs at a public Ivy, hidden Ivy, or new Ivy.

My PI told me I stood out because of my previous experience teaching Research Methods and that I also landed a visiting full time instructor position while I was still in the midst of my Ph.D (not like I had much choice because my funding ran out and because I had service requirements for my fellowship, which this position fulfilled in addition to solid pay for a Ph.D candidate). I used previous materials from my Ph.D institution at this small liberal arts college with permission from my advisor. I readapted some materials, but I don't think my experience is as in depth as he would like in this case.

I also have a slew of clinical conditions (ASD, ADHD-I, dysgraphia, and 3rd percentile processing speed) as well that already made my work as a Ph.D student that much more stressful and led me to cutting back on research to the point that I've done the bare minimum at all stages of my education.

Everyone is just seemingly going through content and everything else so fast and understanding it. Meetings also go through every single point lightning quick, even to the point my boss admitted himself that the morning meeting (for example) is extremely cognitively demanding. Me, on the other hand, I try to allocate my resources accordingly and only pay attention when the information pertains to me in some way. I volunteer where I can, but I am also hesitant a lot of the time because I am consistently afraid of messing up the hard stuff. In fact, I don't feel like I've done any hard stuff at all with the exception of an exam he repurposed and assigned to groups in this case. I legitimately have no idea what the instructions were from the meeting or what we're supposed to do by the time we need to turn it in on Thursday at 11:59 PM.

I've felt on edge every single day of my internship, afraid, and scared to death. Every day, we have to put our fingers up on a scale of 1-5 (sometimes 1-10) about how we truly feel. I put up a 4 (on the 5 scale) or 8 (on the 10 scale), but in reality I'm a 1-2 out of 5 or a 3-4 out of 10. I also need to rate how busy I was out of 10 and I always feel like a 5-6 because the tasks I'm required to do I have a tendency to do much faster than my PI (for this internship) expects of me in this case.

My current boss has no indication that I am doing this at all. I realize this news will "drop the hammer," but I don't feel like I have another choice at all. My current Ph.D advisor though... that conversation will be rough. How can I mitigate the inevitable damage from either of these conversations?

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    You have a lot of self-doubt. Enjoy the internship. Learn some new things. Recharge in preparation for finishing your PhD.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented 2 days ago
  • @JonCuster It's true I do have a lot of self-doubt. However, given how bad this academic year has gone for me after my visiting instructor position (and course evals consistently telling me I'm the worst person in a teaching position they've ever had) went and I am going to have to teach to people and eventually present... I think leaving this internship will give me that chance to recharge. As I'm typing this I'm legitimately on the verge of tears.
    – zzmondo1
    Commented 2 days ago
  • Well, frankly, you do what you have to do then. I’m sorry for your situation.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented yesterday
  • @JonCuster I couldn't edit this in but I'm legitimately becoming scared of the work too. The level of coordination, information being thrown at me... it's overstimulating honesty. I've NEVER been expected to do as far as much work as I've done for this internship. This level of responsibility is one I was not prepared for at all.
    – zzmondo1
    Commented yesterday
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    Also consider that, given you are in psychology, their staff could very well be quite interested in what you bring to bear based on your neurodivergence, and perhaps very willing to help you help them understand and benefit from you.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented yesterday

2 Answers 2

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It would not greatly surprise me if the others saying they're 8/10 also, in realty, are 4/10. Talk to your mentor. They've been there before, with themselves and with their students.

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  • I doubt they're any lower, honestly. The folks who are interested in clinical in particular are constantly asking questions, nodding along, and are "always on" throughout the day. I get comparisons aren't exactly healthy, but if that's the base standard expected of me then committing to it is going to be far too much for me.
    – zzmondo1
    Commented yesterday
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    @zzmondo1 Then let's focus on the second sentence of my answer above :-) Commented yesterday
  • I might have that chance tomorrow in a meeting with my PI but I'm not sure yet.
    – zzmondo1
    Commented 14 hours ago
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Maybe you could show them some materials that explain your clinical conditions. Some of those are not very well known. In fact there are probably quite a lot of people who are completely ignorant of all of them. See if you can find something concise on the internet.

You could also look for some material that gives general information about neurodivergence (if that is the right word) and why workplaces should be understanding of these conditions and make accommodations for them, so that the people can work and contribute successfully.

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