Thursday, September 28, 2006

Dr. Jerk is intimidated by me

Why else would he make such an effort to put me down?

In a recent class, for some reason the topic of global warming came up. Dr. Jerk mentioned that the polar icecaps are melting and in the not so distant future, Manhattan could be in trouble.

"Wouldn't Staten Island sink first?" I asked. The class laughed. Not Dr. Jerk.

"It's an island -- it would be submerged, it wouldn't sink," he snapped.

Awkward pause, then he resumed teaching.

Now, I know he hates being interrupted. He doesn't encourage questions during class. But it was a joke, for cryin' out loud.

It sounded like he just had to prove he's smarter than I am. And why would he feel that need unless he felt intimidated by my challenges? I don't get it. He's a tenured professor who's published numerous research articles. How can a first-year student scare him so badly?

I think I'm going to talk to my faculty adviser. I need to know if my behavior is as incredibly inappropriate as Dr. Jerk seems to think it is, and if there's a chance it could hurt my grades.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

An unmixed blessing

Words can't describe how happy I am for Bina and her new husband, Asher, and how gloriously beautiful their wedding was. It wasn't the most expensive wedding I've ever been to -- in fact, it may have been the least expensive, since I've been to some real Platinum Weddings -- but it was the most purely joyous.

Both Bina and Asher, her husband, are older singles like me, and the youngest siblings in large families. In attendance were their siblings, numerous nieces and nephews -- some of whom are themselves married with kids -- many other relatives, and a plethora of friends. There have been weddings where I was very sad I wasn't the bride, especially when she was 10 or more years younger than I am. But last night was just so wonderful because they each FINALLY found their soul mate, and their families and friends were just so happy. The joy in the room was palpable, and I felt it embrace me. Even today, writing about it, I'm on the verge of the tears of joy I shed in abundance last night.

My knees are killing me, because I could not restrain myself from dancing at least a little bit. I ended up doing the Macarena at one point because I wanted to dance before the kallah and needed something low-impact (although you'd be surprised how well "Yidden" can be modified into a non-bouncy version). Apparently I made an impact, because the chatan's nieces started doing the Macarena with me, and as I was leaving, a total stranger hugged me and said, "You're the life of the party!" (Thank Gd she didn't say "Im yirtzeh HaShem by you...")

Bina looked stunning and radiantly happy. Asher looked a little pale and anxious, at least until he stomped the glass under the chuppah. (Of course, he'd been fasting all day, and since the wedding got a late start, he must have been ravenous.)

As I did at the last wedding I attended, I davened while they were under the chuppah. In addition to asking for -- demanding -- shidduchim for me and several friends, I asked that a friend of mine who recently lost a pregnancy have a healthy baby. Focusing on others' needs is a good distraction from your own.

I also asked to become less judgmental and more forgiving. I think that a lot of my issues stem from feeling unappreciated and cheated -- I'm being ignored/slighted, other people are getting what I want and I'm not. Or people demand more of me, while others get away with doing less. Putting others down is an attempt to make myself feel superior to them: despite how they treat me, I'm better than they are.

This is not making me happy. I need to let go of this rancor and resentment. I think that if I become less critical and more inclined to give others the benefit of the doubt -- to blame them less, and attribute their actions more to situational factors that I might not be aware of -- I will ultimately spend less time in a foul mood, and that's got to help my overall emotional state.

I also think I should deliberately partake more of the selfish joy of giving.

Helping Bina with various tasks in the months and weeks before her wedding filled me with such joy and pleasure. Putting stamps on invitations is not intrinsically fun -- although there is a calming Zen element in the repetitious movements -- but helping her get the invites out in a timely manner? Amazing. Planning her bridal shower, helping her construct day-before and day-of lists of things to do, giving my opinion on everything from the shoes to the veil to the engagement ring (and remember, I have pages and pages of links to all of these items) -- everything I did for her filled me with profound joy, because it made her life easier and better. And that's how I need to approach more aspects of my life. The more I am able to give, the more pleased with myself I can be. I don't need to think of it as being taken advantage of. It is a sign of my strength and my generosity that I can extend myself on behalf of others.

Of course, I recognize a streak of narcissism in this: I was the primary organizer of her bridal shower and her to-do lists because I'm the BEST organizer; the successful shower and the accomplishment of everything on the lists proved that. I helped her pick the perfect bridal shoes because I know the most about bridal shoes. But I think that I have to work with my limitations, and try to turn them into strengths.

Last night, when I told Asher what a beautiful wedding it was, he said, "We couldn't have done it without you." Most of me realizes this wasn't strictly true, but it was still a jolt of joy to hear it.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Reconciliation of sorts

This year, instead of going to my parents for Rosh Hashana I stayed in the city with Bina. It was days before her wedding, so I organized meals for us as a sort of shabbos kallah.

On the first night, we were walking to our dinner hosts when we passed a young boy on Amsterdam Avenue -- 10, maybe 12 -- walking on crutches because he was missing part of his leg.

I wouldn't have given it much thought, but a few minutes later we saw a young girl on West End Avenue with her family. At first I thought she was married and wearing a big floppy hat to cover her hair. Then I saw she had no hair.

I said to Bina, "I think Gd is trying to send me a message. I had a pretty lousy childhood, but I never lost a leg and I never had cancer."

It really started me thinking about putting my life and my rotten luck -- illness, injuries, dating exhaustion, bad business and job experiences -- into perspective.

Then we passed the West Side kollel. I'd never davened there before, but my friend wanted to try it. Turned out that our host that evening, who has a beautiful tenor voice, was leading davening.

The liturgy for the High Holy Days is haunting and evocative. It's meant to inspire repentance, and for me, it really did. Because listening to him chant the prayers, I thought, "I want to come home." And I wept. It was like the I.L. Peretz story "Yom Kippur in Hell" -- minus the sarcastic endnote.

It's going to take more than a moment of clarity to help me mend my shattered soul, but I am on my way. The rest of the holiday was truly blessed, and I felt more at peace with myself than I have in a long time.

I have decided to concentrate not on what I get but on what I give. I have been privileged to organize Bina's bridal shower and help her with many other things related to her wedding. She recently said to me, "I hope that this year you get as much as you give, because you give so much." I appreciate that, but I'm going to try not to focus on that, though, and just try to give as much as I can.

The community mental health programming is starting to come together; that's something exciting and challenging that I can help create for people who really need it. I'll keep you updated, constant readers.

On the first night of Rosh Hashana, a dear friend of mine, Mrs. Mermelstein, lost her mother. I had wanted her to comfort me about my injured knees, but given her loss I couldn't impose on her. Yesterday I paid a shiva call. I couldn't think of anything to do or say, so I brought her and her family some really spectacular fresh raspberries that I'd bought. I thought that something healthy and special would make her feel cared for.

Walking to her apartment, I let myself fantasize that she would be struck by the beauty of the berries and feel comforted by my concerns for her well-being, but I honestly didn't think that in her grief she'd really take much notice of them.

Well, she did. She and her whole family were honestly delighted -- far beyond anything I could have imagined. The berries were a huge hit, and I was so glad to really be menachem avel.

So whether it's a small thing or a big thing, I'm going to try to do more for others. Volunteering is known to have positive effects on depression. I'm going to keep that in mind, and try to give back more than I receive.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, September 22, 2006

Rosh Hashana thoughts

I should be studying -- I have hundreds of pages to read and outline -- but I'm still shaking with anger. Why? Because I went out to run some errands, picked up a few groceries, and then couldn't get the elevator to come to the lobby. I pushed the button a number of times, banged on the door, nothing. So I climbed up four flights (on my bad knees). On my floor I found the super's girlfriend mopping; she had the elevator stopped, open, on the floor.

I was furious and snapped at her that I needed the elevator; she just said, "This is how we always do it when we clean." I was so angry that I had trouble getting my keys into the lock, even dropped them a few times, before opening the door.

Clearly I've got a lot of anger in me right now, or I wouldn't have overreacted like that. Mainly because of the knee injury, but also because I'm fat (with no way to exercise), I'm lonely (with no real prospects of finding someone), and all my classmates seem to have either long-distance boyfriends or live-in boyfriends.

When I disclosed about my knee injury, a friend of mine in my class suggested prayer, which she has always found helpful. I said, "Right now, I feel like Gd hates me."

And I do. I know that's a terrible attitude to have, especially this time of year, when we're supposed to be reconciling with Gd. But I can't this year. I've got too much anger, bitterness, and resentment. I don't feel like I need to atone for my sins, such as they are. I feel like I need an answer for why I keep going out of my way for people and yet my needs are ignored. Or why everyone around me gets what they want without even trying, and I never do no matter how hard I try.

Of course, that's too blanket a statement. I do have good friends who go out of their way for me. But I'm so sick of being alone and having to worry about paying rent/tuition/other expenses, getting health insurance (and dealing with all the stupid bureaucratic crap they throw at you to prevent you from getting the coverage they're obligated to give you), doing my taxes, and so many other things that most of my married friends (and siblings, and cousins) don't ever have to worry about. I hate to admit it, but I want someone to take care of me. And there's no knight on the horizon riding in to rescue me.

Not to mention the fact that going without sex, closeness, tenderness, is killing me inside.

Another friend of mine suggested I read the Book of Job to gain some perspective. I know I need to work on my envy of others who have what I want. It's just so hard. I feel like Tantalus, the man in Greek mythology who had been privileged to eat and drink with the gods but then committed a heinous crime -- there are differing versions of his crime -- and was punished in the afterlife. He was immersed in a lake, but when he bent down to drink, the water receded. Luscious fruit hung above him, but if he reached for it, wind blew it out of his reach. (His name is the etymological root for the word "tantalize.")

That's how I feel, living here on the West Side. I see everyone else get engaged, get married, get pregnant. And it's all just out of my reach.

This year I've been wishing people joy, serenity, and fulfillment, because that's what I want. I hope some of them find that kind of happiness and peace. I just no longer believe I ever will.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Knee update

I met with the orthopedic surgeon, and he prescribed physical therapy, rather than surgery. For now, at least. I'm not optimistic that it will help -- he initially assumed that the injury was fairly recent, when it's almost 2 months old -- but I'll try it for 2 weeks, and if it doesn't help, he'll send me for MRIs.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Even experts need help sometimes

Angela Hoy, who edits WritersWeekly, the highest-circulation freelance writing ezine in the world, is a talented writer and Olympic-class worrier. Each issue, which includes job postings and advice for freelance writers, also features an update from Angela's life called "From the Home Office." On Sept. 20, the topic was anxiety:

I'm a high anxiety type of person and nothing makes me more anxious than something that is beyond my control -- namely health issues.

Two weeks ago, I was literally freaking out. I can't think of a more accurate term. I was too upset to write about it then, but I can write about it now.

Basically, Angela had convinced herself that she had oral cancer, and went through an extremely stressful three weeks:

Of course, after [the dentist] said the word "malignancy", I was a basket case. My stomach reacted instantly to the stress (I spent the next two days in the bathroom and lost eight lbs.) I was mired in worry, couldn't sleep, and tried to bury myself in my work just so I wouldn't have to think about my mouth. My imagination took off and, by the time the entire event had unfolded in my mind, Richard was raising all our children on his own and the children were all crying endless tears because Mommy had left them. It was terrible!!

[My husband] bought me flowers the next day but I couldn't even look at them because, each time I did, I remembered that I might have cancer. After two days of hell, I decided I was NOT going to wait two weeks. I made an appointment to see our family practitioner that Friday. If he thought it was anything other than a bad burn, I'd have him send me immediately for a biopsy. I thought if I just knew one way or the other, I'd stop panicking.

Fortunately, the suspicious lump wasn't malignant. But I felt so bad for Angela. I also knew that her reaction was a textbook example of what psychologists like to call "maladaptive anxiety." Visualizing the worst possible outcome and feeling that she just HAD to know are two components of maladaptive worrying; cognitive therapy teaches people how to cope with uncertainty and avoid assuming/imagining the worst.

There are a lot of people like Angela, whose stress and worry get away from them. Fortunately, there's a cure: cognitive therapy. Dr. Leahy, who consoled me so beautifully last week, has a new book coming out called The Worry Cure. I thought Angela would benefit from reading it, so I sent her an e-mail:

Dear Angela,

I'm a writer and a first-year doctoral student in a clinical psychology program. I've been getting your newsletter for years.

Your tendency toward extreme anxiety and worry could be mediated by using some simple (but not easy) cognitive therapy techniques. I highly recommend "The Worry Cure" by Dr. Robert Leahy, a prominent cognitive therapist.

Sincerely, Ayelet

Angela has 4 kids and a home-based business, but she got back to me right quick:

Thanks so much, Ayelet!! I just preordered it from Amazon.

I really, REALLY appreciate you taking time out of your day to help me this way! :) Big hugs!

When/if I have my externship interview with Dr. Leahy, I'll try to mention that I was so impressed by his discourse with me, I helped sell a copy of his book.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Putting myself under the microscope

Med students are famous for imagining that they suffer from the disorders they study; it's a form of hypochondria. I know I don't have hypochondria, because I'm actually sick -- I'm living with a disorder. And I learn about my illness almost every day in class.

It's painful sometimes. Tonight in "Introduction to Cognitive Therapy" we reviewed beliefs and other cognitive processes that people with depression experience. And I saw myself in almost everything. The thoughts I had prior to my suicide attempt? They derived from my core belief (a foundational concept of cognitive therapy theory; core beliefs influence all your other beliefs and behaviors) that I was a failure and didn't deserve to live. As I said in my first blog entry,

The night I overdosed, I couldn't fall asleep. Schizophrenia is hearing voices that don't exist. Depression is hearing your own voice in a relentless wave of criticism -- "I'm a failure. I'm lazy. I'm almost 30 and still not married. I'll never get married. I'll never have children. I'll never have a normal life. I haven't achieved anything worthwhile.

"I don't deserve to be alive."

That last sentence was implicit in everything I was telling myself. I didn't express it directly, but it underlay my whole miserable outlook.

It's unsettling to watch a professor talk about "them" -- the clients -- the maladaptive way they think and behave, and blithely assume that you're not one of them. Even if the prof is talking about ways to understand their feelings so you can develop empathy with these clients, and sincerely believes that they're suffering. It's still us vs. them, but I'm both.

I was also struck by the concept of strategies that people adopt to help themselves cope with upsetting core beliefs. Say you're an insecure person and think that people don't like you. To cope with the distress produced by this belief, you try to come up with strategies to get people to like you. For example... you might tell jokes in class, meetings, slow-moving city buses, etc. Again: I'm looking at myself under the microscope.

In some ways I think having a disorder will make me a better psychologist; I probably know better than anyone else in that classroom what it feels like to be sick. (Unless they're also on medication.) And I've definitely got a lot of insight into myself, which is essential for a therapist; you have to be aware of your own feelings and reactions in order to understand other people's issues; otherwise, you might assume that your problems are theirs.

But it's difficult, sometimes, having to read about myself in a textbook or listen to a professor talk about me in class. And because I'm not "out," I can't talk about how this makes me feel with anyone at school.

That's why sometimes, between classes, I run to the computer room and blog. I guess I'm putting this material out there so that someone will read it, and understand, and empathize.

I wonder if I need to be back in therapy. The writings about cognitive therapy make it seem like it can cure depression. Would it be possible for me to go off my medication someday? I have to talk to my psychiatrist about that. And maybe Dr. Leahy, if I do end up doing my externship with him.

I hate taking medication. I've considered electroconvulsive therapy, aka shock therapy, but it has serious cognitive side effects, including permanent memory loss. (If I could choose which memories to lose, though, I'd sign up in a heartbeat.) I've also wondered about using a vagus nerve stimulator, but that involves brain surgery, and I don't think my depression is considered serious enough to warrant that. If I could really cure my depression through talk therapy, I'd be the happiest girl in the world.

They say that the most well-adjusted people in the world are cognitive-behavioral therapists, because they're continuously practicing the principles of dealing adaptively, rather than dysfunctionally, with stress. Maybe becoming a therapist is the best therapy for me.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Common cause

Apparently kissing ass is easier than I thought. I got on Dr. Jerk's good side this afternoon, and all I had to do was mention a group of people that he hates more than he hates me: Psychiatrists.

There's a lot of tension between psychiatrists and psychologists. In the M.D. pecking order, psychiatrists are pretty much at the bottom. But in the mental hospital, they're at the top of the food chain, and they love to lord it over the psychologists.

In a very revealing survey, psychiatrists and psychologists were asked to evaluate their relative competence at 11 tasks -- including assessment, treatment, and program administration -- performed by mental health professionals. Psychiatrists thought they were better at 8 of the tasks; equally competent at 2, including testifying as expert witnesses in court; and worse only at administering psychological tests, which they are not trained to do. Psychologists thought they were better at 9 of the tasks, equally competent at testifying in court, and worse only at managing medication.

So there's a lot of resentment among psychologists at psychiatrists. Dr. Jerk is no exception.

We've been learning about classification of mental disorders. The basic "bible" in the U.S. for psychiatric diagnosis is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, aka the DSM. Published by the American Psychiatric Association, it's unreliable, unwieldy, and very very flawed.

So I "innocently" asked Dr. Jerk, "Why do we let the psychiatrists write the manual? Why doesn't the American Psychological Association do it?"

And he was off -- ranting that the APsychiatricA is part of the American Medical Association and thus has access to much more funding than the APsychologicalA, that psychiatrists are wined and dined and seduced by Big Pharma... on and on. He actually smiled at me! After class, when I had a question about our first term paper, he was pleasant!

So it wasn't my rack, fine as it is. And it wasn't kissing his ass. It was deflecting his antipathy toward me at someone or something else.

Not a bad day at work.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

How grades are weighted

Another class with Dr. Jerk, another session of being ignored or being denigrated while other students are engaged with and praised. I'm starting to wonder if it's not because I'm sassy but rather because I'm fat and sassy. Another student in the class, whom I like quite a bit and who is also not a size 2, was also ignored by Dr. Jerk. So I'm wondering if he's ignoring and denigrating me because he thinks I'm obnoxious or because he thinks I'm unattractive. For the record, I wore a tight, low-cut blouse today and it didn't have the anticipated effect. It is going to be an uphill road trying to suck up to him. I'm not sure I can climb it.

It's funny, because today Dr. Jerk was talking about nonverbal communication as being more revealing than verbal, and his nonverbal communication speaks volumes. He looks me in the eye when I have a question and then looks away and walks away, not calling on me when I have my hand raised. That's deliberate humiliation.

Of course I was upset, but I found a smidgen of comfort: at least I'm not Malak Ghorbany.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, September 18, 2006

Love and acceptance: The best medicine

I wouldn't discount the value of laughter, but being loved and accepted for who I am is a huge factor in my ability to get on with my life. I'm often afraid of telling new friends about my disorder, because I don't know how they'll react and whether they'll judge me. But almost always when I do, I'm presented with tremendous support and caring.

The Goldbergs, one of the families I go to on Shabbos, went away on vacation when I started this blog. They know I'm in school, but didn't know about my diagnosis and struggle with bipolar. When they returned and had me over for a meal, I told Ruchama Goldberg that I'd started a blog and would be interested to hear her thoughts, and I emailed her the link.

Today she wrote me,

You write really well, and it's devastating to realize what you have been through, as well as the fact that other people are also in this situation.

Thanks for showing me, I will read you regularly! Apart from that, please consider our home a friendly space for whenever you fancy -- to chat or just hang out. Not quiet, but caring!

She also commented on two blog entries and invited me to spend the Yom Kippur pre-fast or break-fast meal with them. I wrote back:

Well, one way of gaining something positive from the suffering is trying to help others who are also struggling. I know that my original essay and my blog have been read by at least a few people who found it helpful.

I already feel that your home is a safe haven for me -- and the love and support I get from all of you makes a huge difference in my quality of life. Concerning Yom Kippur, I am probably going to stay at home in bed; I think that's the only way I can really tolerate fasting, which apparently is more important than going to shul. But I'm looking forward to seeing all of you over Sukkot or Simchat Torah.

When I go to see the Goldbergs, their 3-year-old daughter, Tikva, comes running at me, full-tilt. Spending time with their kids is very healing. Even if I never get married, I am loved, and I am an important person in many children's lives.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Dr. Jerk, Part Deux

Last night my school sponsored an open-bar social event at a local club. Good to know my student activity fee is well-spent, although since I'm on painkillers I could only have one drink.

It was nice hanging out with my classmates in a more relaxed setting. We compared notes about whom we like, whom we respect, and whom we can't stand, with interesting overlaps. (I was happy to hear, from more than one person, that I really do appear to be significantly younger than I am. And that one of the other people in the class is close to my age.)

But the high point of the night was talking to another Dr. Jerk victim, a third-year student (TYS).

TYS confirmed our impression that Dr. Jerk is egomaniacal and tyrannical. Apparently a few years ago Dr. Jerk was forced to go on early sabbatical because he was prone to telling students in his classes that they were "stupid." So now we've got the kinder, gentler Dr. Jerk.

Unfortunately, one thing everyone agrees with is that Dr. Jerk doesn't like being challenged or questioned. His word is law, and we are not to disagree. Even more unfortunately, I've already disagreed publicly with him.

I can't help it. At my undergraduate institution and in my master's program, I was encouraged to question what the professors presented as truth and fact. And rewarded for it; if you taught them something they didn't know, they were appreciative. But TYS told me that Dr. Jerk downgrades those who challenge his authority. That made my heart stop cold.

The last thing I want to to get bad grades from someone teaching not one but two of my foundational courses. Even the professors I hated in my master's program didn't penalize me for annoying them by asking questions or having a different opinion.

So one of my classmates started encouraging me to suck up, as a means of damage control. She said that sometimes smart, confident women have to play the game in order to get what they want -- even if it goes against every grain of their being.

And she's right. Stephen Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People includes this dictum: Begin with the end in mind. My end is a good internship and my doctorate. To get that, I'll apparently have to suck up to this prof. She reminded me that it was his limitation, not mine, dictating this somewhat underhanded maneuver, and that once I have my doctorate, I'll have more status and won't need to kiss up as much.

At first I was at a total loss. I'm not an obsequious person. I'm not good at kissing ass; I don't think I've ever tried to do it. But for this course, I'll have to be.

That probably means doing a term paper on something he's interested in, not what I'm interested in, and citing a lot of his journal articles. I'll also try to schedule office hours with him and ask for information in his specialty but not challenge any of it. It probably won't be too bad. There are aspects of his area of specialization that I do find somewhat interesting. My fear is that he's going to notice I've gone from being an uppity disagreeable sort to a suck-up, peg me as a hypocrite, and will hate me all the more instead of being flattered. But it's worth a try. I'll be quiet in class for a few weeks, then ask him for some information about his research area. And listen intently, and not challenge his authority.

TYS also advised me to wear low-cut tops. Because apparently Dr. Jerk prefers female students to male students.

Well, that's one thing I do have confidence in. Since I've gained all this weight, the only area of my body that I'm really happy about is my rack. It's quite spectacular these days. So if I have to wear tight sweaters every week, I will. Whatever it takes.

I do have to say, though, that I felt very self-conscious about my weight. Most of my twentysomething classmates are twiggy little things, lithe and delicate. Among them, I felt like one of the tutu-wearing hippos in Fantasia. And I felt like the men were glancing at me and past me, not seeing me as an attractive woman.

So maybe the tight sweaters are a bad idea. Maybe I should stick to sucking up.

Another interesting element of the night was the forthrightness with which TYS disclosed his ADHD diagnosis. We had asked him what he wished he'd done differently in his first year, and he explained that he wished he'd been more organized, describing that since he had ADHD, organization and time management were among his issues.

I really wonder how many of my fellow students are diagnosed with bipolar or clinical depression. It would surprise me if I were the only one. But it's much too soon to be talking about it; I don't tell people whom I don't know well and trust.

I do hope that ultimately I'll make some real friends among my classmates, and that I'll be able to tell them about my diagnosis.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Disclosure revisited

Every once in a while, our program invites outside experts to lecture to us in their area of expertise. Today's speaker was Dr. Bob Leahy, a leading cognitive-behavioral therapist and director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy, who specializes in anxiety disorders .

After lecturing about the cognitive processes involved in worrying -- very interesting if you're a grad student; since I'm not sure how interested anyone else would be, I'll let the curious check out Leahy's institute -- he wanted to deconstruct a current problem that a student was worrying about, and asked for a volunteer.

Dead silence.

I had already asked a couple of questions, so I didn't think I should say anything more. But I knew that my current knee difficulty was rather tailor-made for his brand of intervention. I didn't think he'd tell me anything I didn't already know -- after all, I have more than four years of cognitive therapy under my belt -- but I thought his approach to my problem could prove useful for the other students.

So I raised my hand and gave him the upshot: after joining a gym and working out with a trainer, I sustained a knee injury and don't yet know how serious it is, but that my doctor believed I should consult an orthopedic surgeon, who would probably recommend surgery. Extremely painful, potentially not covered by my crummy insurance, yada yada yada.

He spoke very nice about validating the problem -- acknowledging that I might be facing a tremendous expense and a world of pain. He also talked about the importance of keeping my life in perspective, in that I still have many things to live for. He brought up the example of Jean-Jacques Bowlby, a journalist who became almost completely paralyzed, but who was able to blink and wrote a book -- letter by letter, communicating in blinks with his assistant -- called The Bell Jar and the Butterfly. Bowlby was still able to find richness of experience and meaning in his greatly circumscribed life -- the softness of the sheets on which he lies, memories of the people who visit and talk to him, sunshine and a fresh breeze streaming through an open window.

After he spoke to me, very tenderly and compassionately, the assembly applauded. Several of my fellow students thanked me for disclosing (and subsequently, many of them have gone out of their way to be nice to me). I was sobbing, which I hate -- I really don't like crying in front of people, it makes me feel helpless. Dr. Leahy came over and gave me a big hug, which, as I write this now, again brings tears to my eyes.

But what I really want from him -- more than a five-minute therapeutic boost -- is an externship at the Cognitive Therapy Institute, and I asked him about that. He said to send him a letter, which I've done. The professor at my school who's in charge of externships told me that usually students don't apply until late December -- but that's probably when I'd be having the surgery. I'm going to see if I can apply early and get this taken care of -- one less thing to worry about.

And what I'd really like to disclose is my bipolar disorder. But I'm afraid of how my professors would react. I can't help but think that they'd view me as less stable and reliable, a poor prospect for becoming a clinician. Maybe I'm exaggerating this concern; maybe they wouldn't think any less of me. But I can't take that risk; my professional future is in their hands. As a result, it's frustrating to have a disability and not be able to ask for special assistance or accommodation.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

An absolutely meaningless assertion

In order to justify its move to a pay-only model (as opposed to letting people maintain a free profile without letting them read or send email), one website has promulgated this statement:

Each and every profile will represent a screened person who is single, listed only once, and with contact information. He or she is available to go on a date, will respond to all messages (in the negative or positive) and is sincere about marriage. All information on the profile is 100% accurate and includes current and verified photos.

They IMMEDIATELY qualify this statement by saying, in smaller print:

We cannot currently and will not in the future guarantee the honesty of all members or authenticity of each profile. Each member should engage in their own reference checking and use the same common sense guidelines in off-line dating as they do with online dating.

In other words, the foregoing statement is completely meaningless. They're not doing ANY screening or verifying, and they're not adding any value by switching to the pay-only model.

I've had a love-hate relationship with this website for years, but this really takes the cake. I've alerted them to numerous men lying about their age, which they refused to verify and correct. I've also told them about the men contacting me for sex, not tachlis, and they've done nothing. They're just a greedy bunch of profiteers trying to siphon ever more cash out of sad and near-desperate single people.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

The cure is worse than the disease

My favorite painkiller during years of back pain was OxyContin. Took away the pain with absolutely no jitters, dizziness, or other altered mental or physical states. Then spoiled, self-indulgent idiots like Jack Osbourne started abusing Oxy as a party drug, and now people who really need it can't get it.

Right now I'm taking tramadol, a mild narcotic. Two days ago, right after hearing that I might need major orthopedic surgery, I took several pills to deal with the pain. Unfortunately, yesterday I woke up with a nasty hangover. I was headachy, dizzy, nauseated; it was like having a migraine. All day. It made class participation extremely difficult; I can't tell if I sounded coherent or like I was smoking pot. So today, even though I'm mostly feeling better -- stomach still a little queasy, head still a little achy -- I'm trying to avoid taking more painkillers until I absolutely have to. (Though I have to say I'm sleeping much more soundly. I guess I finally found the silver lining in severe, traumatic orthopedic injury -- it's a cure for terminal insomnia.)

It's a hell of a way to start grad school. Yesterday I had a ton of reading to do, but I don't know if I really absorbed any of it, I was so lightheaded. If this continues, I'm in serious trouble. Hopefully I can compensate by reading and re-reading the assignments.

I'm used to uncomfortable side effects with my medication, having tried most of the current antidepressants and mood stabilizers, and a few of the atypical antipsychotics, at one time or another. Paxil made me stop eating for six days straight; after I collapsed in the bathroom and narrowly missed bashing my head on the side of the tub, I stopped taking it. Serzone, which I don't think is prescribed in the U.S. anymore, made me feel like a nuclear warhead was going off inside my skull. Effexor, which was extremely effective at containing my depression, gave me nightmares. Twice, when sharing a room with my mother -- at a cousin's wedding, and over Thanksgiving at a relative's home -- she told me that she woke up to hear me crying in the middle of the night. Even though I felt fairly good during the day, I couldn't stand having anxiety dreams every night, so I stopped taking that medication.

In general, SSRIs, like Prozac, either catapult me into a hypomanic state or, like Zoloft and Celexa, do absolutely nothing for me. Like most people with bipolar, I can't take them. I'm pretty happy with Remeron and Cymbalta, both SSNRIs; they work on norepinephrine as well as serotonin. Unfortunately, Remeron is known to increase sugar/carb cravings, and since I take it late at night, that could be why I usually get hungry right before bed. Of course, that's a fantastic way to gain weight. But that's also a relatively minor side effect, and since it has overall good effects on my mood and overall physical condition, I'm not about to stop taking it. Cymbalta initially gave me wicked constipation and really bad acne, but both resolved within a few months.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The grass isn't always greener

I recently sent my blog to an old friend from high school. She seemed to have her life in order; after a brief, abusive marriage, she married again and seemed to be living and reproducing happily. I envied her. Then I heard back from her:

Thanks for sending me the link to your blog. I still struggle to find mental well-being myself. I have been on Prozac for several years now, and to me it is a lifesaver (yes, literally -- I was suicidal when I started taking meds). I just want you to know (not that this will help) that marriage is not a panacea. My husband does not understand/appreciate/accept depression as a physiological illness, and the fact that I am so honest about my shortcomings makes me an easy scapegoat for all that bothers him in life. This morning he woke me up to tell me that he considers my treatment of him "abusive," he wonders why he stays in this marriage, and he will probably give up after our daughter's bat mitzvah.

I am not telling you this to make you feel sorry for me. As a matter of fact, he has said this before and although it hurts, it no longer shatters me. My point is only that inner peace, happiness, and well-being can only come from you and your perspective of God, because it sure as hell doesn't come from anyone else.

I was devastated. After her first matrimonial disaster, I was really happy to think that her second was blissful. I wrote back to express my concern, and fortunately, my concerns were somewhat unwarranted, as she responded:

Things are generally good in my marriage. My husband is a wonderful father, very good person, and, like most of us, complex. After I asserted my commitment to him again today, he is back in the game. It is like he needs to test me every once in a while, to hear me say out loud that I want to be married to him. Sigh. I could go on and on about what I have learned about his psychological makeup, but overall things are fine. Don't worry about me!

It just goes to show that you can't always tell what's going on inside a person. I never would have guessed that she's taking medication. But I'm glad that she felt comfortable telling me about it, and I know this will bring us closer together.

My mood is somewhat better today -- Dr. Cool gave me a prescription for a pretty good painkiller, so I'm not too uncomfortable. I am developing a very annoying absentmindedness, however. I've been losing small things -- a 3-ring binder, a bottle of chocolate syrup -- at school. I forget to put them in my bag when I leave the room, and when I come back a few days later, naturally they're gone. This was happening before I started the painkillers, so it's not a narcotic side effect. I suppose it's better that I lose small things that are easy to replace, but it's starting to irritate me. Feels like, if it weren't securely attached, I'd accidentally leave my head in the ladies' room.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, September 11, 2006

Social support makes all the difference

In addition to medication, one of the most potent forces in coping with a mental illness is social support from family and friends. I'm very blessed with wonderful friends who love me and go out of their way to help me out. When I feel alone against the world, victim of too many forces beyond my control, my friends step in.

In the latest instance, my wonderful friend Alona has offered to help me find an orthopedic surgeon and make an appointment to see him. While I could have done this by myself, it was a relief to have someone take on responsibility for this. That enabled me to concentrate on getting the elusive corporate weasels who run my gym to refund the money I dropped on personal training sessions I haven't used yet, and probably won't be able to use.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Dark victory

Sometimes I wonder whether I get depressed because my life is objectively worse than other people's. And sometimes I know I do. Today I went to see my doctor, and found out that my knee injury is so bad that I'll probably need major, disfiguring surgery. I wanted to slit my throat.

I don't say that figuratively. On occasion, when my bad luck rears its ugly head yet again and I'm already mildly depressed -- days like today -- I feel a visceral tug on my head, pulling my head back, exposing my neck so I can slash it. And my right hand wants to hold the knife, and cut. I don't stop and rationally think, "My life is never going to get any better; I should just die." It just hits me like a kick in the head: I want to die and end this misery.

That's on top of the fury and misery I feel that yet again, I've wasted time and money only to injure myself severely. Yet again, nothing goes my way, and everything I touch turns to garbage.

My G.P., who is an internist and a gastroenterologist I've been seeing for years -- call him Dr. Cool, because he's been very supportive and funny over the years, and always forgets precisely how old I am -- told me to see an orthopedic surgeon, and of course I'm getting the runaround; I can't even reach a person to set up an appointment. I'm trying to cancel the block of training sessions I just bought and haven't yet used, and of course they're making me jump through a dozen hoops. I feel even more angry and helpless -- the perfect recipe for depression.

And part of me just doesn't think my life is ever going to get any better -- my life will always suck, and is not worth suffering through. I'm so sick of contending with not just emotional difficulties but innumerable physical setbacks.

Suicidal thoughts are a symptom of depression that, once experienced, come back with alacrity. Because I've not only had suicidal thoughts for more than a decade, but actually once acted on them, they're more likely to hit me.

It's strange to imagine that your thoughts are beyond your control, but depression, while not always a psychotic disorder, is marked by disturbances in cognition. People who are depressed tend to have negative thoughts about themselves, their environment, and the future. In my case, I thought that my health would never improve, that my attempts to improve it would only make it worse, and that no one would help me -- instead, everyone would only make my situation worse.

I'm in good contact with reality -- I don't think that the CIA is trying to hurt me by sending an agent to serve as my trainer and work me beyond my capabilities, resulting in injury -- but after my doctor told me I needed to see an orthopedic surgeon, my mood plummeted, and thoughts of killing myself just came to me unwittingly. Not because I performed some kind of cost/benefit analysis in my head concerning whether it pays more to live or die. In that moment, I just wanted to die.

Fortunately for the people who want me to stay alive -- a group that, right now, does not include myself -- I'm not going to do anything self-destructive. I know that at some point I'll feel better, and I'll do whatever I can to cope. I've got mild tranquilizers and moderate painkillers, and I'll take as many of each as I have to. I might order in something nice for dinner, although right now my stomach is in knots. I'll do some deep breathing. I'll try to call a friend who knows about my illness and get some sympathy.

It's ironic. Today I was feeling extremely proud of myself because I took out the garbage and cleaned my bathroom. When I'm depressed, even mildly, it's very difficult for me to take care of my apartment. Bills and other mail accumulate, dirty dishes pile up in the sink, the recyclables don't make it to the curb, vacuuming is a distant memory. So when I actually do clean, it's a real accomplishment. It's not a chore -- it's overcoming the illness.

Before my doctor's appointment, I had a ton of reading to wade through. When I needed a break, I decided to clean the bathroom instead of logging onto the internet or watching TV. So I cleaned, and I felt so proud of myself. Then the bad news from the doctor shot that all to hell.

I have to remember what one of my therapists told me. He wasn't a fan of touchy-feely therapeutic terms, but he said that for me, every day is a victory. Every day that I get up, get dressed, brush my teeth, and do what I have to do -- school, work, synagogue, homework -- is a day that I didn't spend paralyzed in bed, sleeping or watching television, ignoring phone calls and e-mails. Every day that I accomplish what to most people is mere routine is more than routine for me. It's a victory; a victory over my illness. And today is a greater victory than usual, because choosing not to die is a difficult choice right now.

Today it's really hard to feel victorious. But the tranquilizer is kicking in. I've got plenty more reading to get through, and hopefully having to concentrate very hard -- psychology textbooks and journal articles are pretty dense reading -- will distract me from the thought that I'm badly hurt, I might need disfiguring surgery, and it's going to be even longer before I can really try to lose the weight I need to lose so I can be attractive again.

It's funny -- I was worried that this blog would degenerate into a bunch of gripes about my sad, lonely singledom, and that it would lose its unique educational value by not exploring my illness fully enough. Now I'm not so worried. I know it's not normal to want to kill yourself because your doctor says you probably need surgery. I also know that not acting on that impulse is a victory.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Bitter, party of one

Today I went to a bridal shower I helped organize for a very dear friend of mine, Bina, who's been incredibly helpful and supportive in dealing with my illness (she's a psychiatric nurse, so she knows a lot about the various medications I've been put on). She's also an older single, like me.

The shower was held at the palatial home of Bina's childhood friend Rachel, whose teenage daughters put in an appearance, and another childhood friend who attended was celebrating the recent birth of identical twins. There was also a former resident of the West Side there, Sheryl, now married with two kids, who asked me about an awful ex-friend of mine.

"How's Daisy doing?" she asked.

"Fine," I said. I didn't say: she betrayed me in the worst possible way. She knows about my illness, and when I called her on her self-pity, she sent me a vicious email that began, "Ayelet: Get help" and went on to tell me that I was acting manic, and everyone knew and thought I was crazy. It was particularly vile because it wasn't true, and because I had been exceptionally supportive of her after she broke up with her boyfriend and moved into a new apartment.

You would expect, in a just world, for misfortune to rain down upon such a terrible person. Instead, she got married and quickly had three kids.

"Where's Daisy living now?" Sheryl asked, innocently.

"I'm not in contact with her anymore," I said. My curt tone must have tipped Sheryl off, because she quickly changed the subject.

So even though I'm deliriously happy for Bina, the shower just rained down more reminders that I'm husbandless and childless. And that while I'm sad and lonely, women who don't deserve to be happy are.

I know that this kind of thinking is very bad for my mood, and I usually don't indulge myself in it. I'm trying hard to focus on the good things in my life -- getting into school, my family and friends. But it's not easy when I'm so unhappy about so many aspects of my life, and when it feels like my every effort to improve those aspects are just blocked at every step. I need to lose weight, but in the more than two months since I joined a gym and started training with personal trainers, I haven't lost an ounce -- but I did mess up my knees. Or, more accurately, the trainer I paid a ton of money messed up my knees.

I can only hope that my GP, Dr. Cool, will realize he misdiagnosed my knee problem the first time I saw him, and will look a little harder next time. And that he'll be able to guide me and my trainer in crafting a workout program that will actually help me lose some weight.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Not the funniest kid in the room

I was a very lonely kid. I didn't have a lot of friends, and I experienced school as a long, unpleasant wave of rejection. I made friends in college, but moving to the Upper West Side was like being back in high school.

I've lived in NYC long enough to have a reasonable crop of friends, even if they inconsiderately insist on getting married and leaving the area. But I really want the other students in my program to like me, because I'll be hanging out with them for years. I suppose that's normal; everyone wants to be liked and respected by their peers.

Tonight was a little disappointing for me. I'm in a very small evening class -- 12 students -- on a boring topic. It's been a long day, we're all tired, and none of us want to be there. So I tried to make a few jokes to lighten the mood.

Nobody laughed. It was like dead air on the radio.

I pride myself on my sense of humor. At my last job, I was excellent at telling jokes to enliven boring meetings. So it's a shock to perform, so to speak, and not get any applause. When I was a kid, I desperately wanted to be the class clown, so I tried to be funny, and it didn't work so well; the other kids mainly thought I was weird.

But now I'm funny. Really funny. In my master's program, I cracked up my fellow students on a regular basis. In fact, once I made a professor laugh so hard, he had to shut his eyes and lean on the blackboard, tears streaming down his face. The class was laughing too.

The course was in child development, and the prof was talking about Freud's oral stage of development. He said that when he was in college, he had a girlfriend who grew up on a farm, and she loved to let the baby calves lick and suck on her fingers.

"And that's why you didn't marry her?" I asked. It brought the house down.

But tonight -- nothing! My only consolation for the lukewarm reception of my attempts at humor -- well, actually there were two -- was, one, the professor, who was making valiant attempts to be amusing (and he wasn't half bad) wasn't getting any laughs either. Two, I rode the subway part of the way home with another student, and she seemed pretty willing to talk to me. So I guess I didn't totally lose face with my classmates.

But I really need to shut up in class. No more jokes. This class is a tough crowd. I don't want them to think I'm a crazy old lady. There was one of those in my master's program; she always made strange, irrelevant comments that no one wanted to listen to. I don't want to be like her.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Tiny little married ladies

For some reason, my school has an inordinate number of married women among its students. I use the term "women" with some trepidation, since some of them appear to be teenagers. Of course, they're not only much younger than I am, they're also considerably thinner. The dreaded skinny jean trend has made it to my school; I feel like an elephant.

It's hard enough returning to school after several (I won't say how many) years out in the workforce, and being older than most if not all of my classmates (and at least one of my professors). But I'm starting to get tired of seeing big shiny rocks on bony little hands. It makes me feel not just old, but REALLY old.

I was sitting in a classroom waiting for the instructor, half-heartedly reading a magazine and somewhat eavesdropping on two girls chatting. One of them said, "You're two years older than me, right? I'm 22."

"I'm old," said the other one. "I'm 26. Old, old, old. I'm an old woman." She giggled.

I got fed up and said to her, "I'm over 30. Shut up."

They were polite enough to laugh and include me in their conversation.

Compounding my dreary mood are my aching knees, which still elude diagnosis. Even though I know the pain doesn't mean I'm doing serious damage, it's hard to tolerate. And my back pain, which I thought the Cymbalta had put to rest forever, has resurfaced with a vengeance. Advil doesn't even begin to put a dent in it, and ice only helps briefly.

I'm going to have to talk to my new trainer again. The last thing I want to do is sit through another MRI, but I can't continue suffering like this.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

First day of classes

Today was my first official day of classes, and already I know which professors I love and which I hate.

Unfortunately, the professor I hate (let's call him "Dr. Jerk") teaches two very important and difficult classes, with bushels of assigned reading. And this is why I hate him. Not because he assigned tons of reading, but because he makes us work hard just to access it.

Many of our assigned readings are journal articles. Which Dr. Jerk has obviously read, downloaded, etc. But instead of creating a webpage with links to PDFs of the articles -- as did ALL of the professors in my master's program at another school -- Dr. Jerk is forcing us to look up all of the articles in online databases and download them individually. My home internet access doesn't enable me to do this; dial-up is too slow to download multi-MB files. I'll have to download the articles at school and e-mail them to myself.

This is rude, inconsiderate, a COMPLETE waste of our time, and in my view, unprofessional. Our day started with a group meeting at which we were informed that our professors are training us to be their colleagues. Dr. Jerk's behavior is not collegial.

It's funny -- during class today, he ripped on medical doctors by saying that they don't like it when patients ask them questions. But he himself *hates* it when we ask questions, and doesn't make it easy for us. That would involve interrupting his flow of thought. One of my classmates pointed out that he put three of his own journal articles on the syllabus, likely a reflection of his massive ego. (That's the fun part of going to school with psychology students; we tend to deconstruct everyone's behavior.)

So for four hours a day, I'm stuck with Dr. Jerk. Fortunately, I also get to revel in two hours with Dr. Adorable. He's teaching a much more subjective course -- part history, part psychotherapeutic modalities, part philosophy, and a lot of our own reaction to it all. I get the feeling that we can write almost anything in our papers, as long as we write coherently and convincingly.

Dr. Adorable is the polar opposite of Dr. Jerk. He goes out of his way to let us ask questions, and tries hard to be amusing. Even when he has to state something hardnosed -- for example, no gum-chewing during class -- he dips his chin a bit, glances shyly around the room, and giggles. I'm wistful that his research interests don't match mine, because I think he'd be an awesome dissertation advisor.

I'm just hoping that Dr. Jerk turns out to be like the jerky professors I endured in my master's program. They both seemed to take pride in not engaging with students, and not being nice or supportive. But they both gave me very fair grades -- at least I got the grade I thought I deserved. I hope Dr. Jerk doesn't have to like a student in order to recognize that her work is excellent.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, September 04, 2006

Morning person, not by choice

One symptom of depression that I really hate is early morning wakening, aka "terminal insomnia." No matter how late I go to sleep, at around 5:30 a.m. I'm up. It's as bad as its clinical term sounds.

Serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in mood regulation, is also involved in sleep regulation. So it's logical that a person whose moods are out of whack will have sleep disturbances. Logical, but infuriating and exhausting. It's just another thing I have to cope with that ordinary people don't. And it's a vicious circle: sleep deprivation can lead to depression. (A big part of the reason many new mothers suffer from "baby blues" or post-partum depression.)

Sleep disturbances are very much a part of bipolar disorder. A person in a manic episode often sleeps very little, or not at all. And terminal insomnia is associated with the most severe depressions. One of the reasons I am forcing myself to go to the gym is the hope that it will help my sleep; exercise is known to do that.

Now that I have a blog, at least I can sit at the computer and draft an entry during those quiet predawn hours. When school starts, however, I have a feeling I'll be sucking down a lot of coffee to stay awake during class.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, September 03, 2006

I wish I were a lesbian

Okay, maybe that's a little extreme. But I'm fed up with men. Especially men who are a lot older than I am, and yet still think they're entitled to date me.

I can't stand middle-aged men who write "young" or "youthful" in their self-descriptions. That's code for "I don't date women my own age." So I get a message from a guy on an ostensibly "frum" dating website who, incidentally, is not orthodox. In his profile he writes:

I'm a young, drug free, alcohol free, tobacco free, ex-wife free, child support free, community inolved, highly affectionate(!), down-to-earth, athletically fit, professional Jewish guy with a great sense of humor and a desire to get married to a "nice Jewish girl".

Being over 45, he's not "young" -- and he's more than 10 years older than I am; in my profile I state that 10 years is my upper limit. When he contacted me, mewling about how young he looked and how I should give him a chance, I sent him the website's standard rejection: "I read your profile, but I did not think that we would be a good match. Much success in your continued efforts."

This apparently rubbed him the wrong way, and he responded:

You're gonna have a very hard time with all of this, ma'am. If you had met in me in person, you would not be so dismissive.

The luck should be yours.

This rubbed me the wrong way. I was in no mood to tolerate his underhanded nastiness, and I fired off:

Dude. I don't care how young you think you look, you are still much older than I am. More importantly, you are not shomer shabbat and nowhere near being shomer shabbat. Can you read? I didn't put "Modern Orthodox - Liberal" on my profile as a decoration.

Obviously my rejection of you was far politer than you merit. It was inappropriate for you to email me in the first place, and your petulant rejoinder and bad wishes are just pathetic. Men who don't date women their own age need more than luck -- they need wisdom. You'd think someone your age would have acquired a little of it, but apparently not.

Then I blocked him so he can't bother me anymore.

This is not the first time that my polite rejection of someone has provoked a rant in response. I got a message from a man who lives on the West Coast, divorced wtih a kid, and lacking a bachelor's degree. I wasn't interested and sent the formulaic response. He responded:

Your reply message is noted that we would not make to you,a suitable match. I have no problem with this. Everyone is driven by different criteria and this does not even have to be expressed at this stage.

The one thing that I did get upset about is the speediness and callousness of your reply. It was within 2 minutes of me sending my message to you.

The ink had not even dried and I received this short stock reply . You say you are Frum and as a mitzvah you should gaurd yourself about being careful about hurting peoples feelings. I do not think I am being oversensitive but to write what I did even though there were mistakes was not intentional you would have made out the jist of my message.

In a nutshell falling a sleep took a little longer as I tried to assimilate in my mind what our world had come to and especially I was thinking about Frum people who blatantly are missing it . Now dont get upset now . This is the reality.

One has to be KIND no matter what . OR are you turned off totally by my LOOKS. WHAT DO YOU LOOK LIKE ????? WHY DONT YOU SHARE THIS AS AN ACT OF SENSITIVITY????

Now, I hate it when I write to someone and he never responds. But I've never been attacked for responding too quickly! I should have known better than to address this diatribe, but sometimes I'm awful slow for a smart chick. I wrote back:

I had seen your profile before and knew that I was not interested in you. I thought it was better to respond promptly rather than ignore your message completely. I am sorry if your feelings were hurt, but that was not my intention, and I think you're being a little sensitive. Dating involves a lot of rejection, some of it polite and some of it not so polite. People need to learn how to deal with it.

I don't know why I bother; this is what he spewed back at me:

Lets see if you really are smart and send me your password for your photograph. Then the rejection playing fields could or could not be levelled.

It has nothing to do with being oversensitive on my part. It is about rejecting politely and that should be your motto for life.THIS IS THE JEWISH WAY AND IT IS IN THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

So apparently the reply that the website considers polite is not only rude but breaks the Ten Commandments -- as does password-protecting your picture. Which commandment/s, I have no idea. [I've been password-protecting my picture to cut down on the number of inappropriate men -- too old, too uneducated, too chassidish, etc. -- visiting my profile again and again. Unfortunately, now that my voice profile is posted, the serial visitors are back.]

After that, he went on my rapidly lengthening block list. Is it any wonder I've had it with men? Problem is, I want to marry one and make some children with him. That lofty goal is seeming ever more remote and impossible.

It's enough to make me consider not responding to the incredibly inappropriate guys who write to me. Maybe their understanding of boundaries is so warped that they can't appreciate a polite rejection.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"


One of the few aftereffects of my overdose and week in a coma is a slight muscle tremor upon exertion. This is quite noticeable when I'm lifting weights or doing calisthenics. In an ideal world, I'd never do either, but trying to lose some of that 37.4% body fat has me sweating at the gym. And my trainer has noticed the shakes. Fortunately, she's chalked it up to being out of condition.

I've told her more than I thought I would about my condition. I told her that a depressive episode was to blame for my weight gain, and which medications I'm taking. It turns out that her best friend has bipolar disorder, too, and admitted herself to a hospital some years ago for inpatient treatment that included electroconvulsive therapy -- aka shock treatments.

This trainer is very cool. She emphasized that she doesn't judge me for having this disease, rather she was impressed by how well I'm coping. She also asked how she could help -- what she should watch for in case I start decompensating. I told her that I don't really become manic anymore -- something of a shame, since initial mania is intensely pleasurable. I said that if I become withdrawn and irritable, and start skipping training sessions with her, I'm probably getting depressed and she should call me. But I didn't tell her about the coma. I don't know why.

I am blessed with wonderful friends who watch out for me zealously. But it's nice to add a person to my safety net. And it's nice to have one more person with whom I can really be myself -- I don't have to guard what I say, or how I behave, quite as zealously. Most of the time I'm very conscious of living in the closet, so to speak.

My experience with this illness makes up such a huge part of my life -- especially the period of time after I overdosed, when I was putting my life back together. And I can't really talk about it with most of the people I know. I feel like they can't really know me unless they know about this incident and its aftermath -- but I'm afraid to disclose because I fear how I'll be judged.

And yet I want to talk about it. It sounds strange, but there were so many beautiful elements to my recovery. I was cared for so compassionately, with real love, in the intensive care unit. The doctors and nurses -- especially the nurses -- were so happy when I woke up, and then when I started walking again. I felt like Marilyn Monroe, greeted by delighted faces and applause wherever I went.

My time on the psychiatric ward, inpatient and outpatient, was also marked by excellent medical and nursing care. It was this love and genuine empathy that helped me heal as much as any medical procedure -- including three dialyses of my blood -- or any psychotherapeutic technique.

Thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. Because the love I was shown made me feel worthy of living, deserving of happiness. The fact that so many people worked so hard to save my life, and were so ecstatic when I woke up, impressed upon me that my life mattered. And after I woke up I was happy. I knew that I was going to get the help I needed, and hadn't been able to ask for.

I wish I could talk about this with more people. Even though I know that most of my friends wouldn't judge me, I still don't tell most of them about this experience. I haven't told my classmates, and they of all people should be expected to view me with compassion. But I'm just not comfortable doing that. I don't want my diagnosis to be the first thing people know about me. Especially since I'm still single. Maybe my optimism is misplaced, but I still hope to get married, to find someone who will love me and accept me as I am. And I don't want my illness to be the first thing he knows about me.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"