Friday, November 17, 2006

Mindful students united against Dr. Jerk

It's 3:30 a.m., and I guess terminal insomnia can occur during hypomania (or pre-hypomania) as well as depression. Maybe I'm in a mixed state. That would really suck.

It has been very hot in our classrooms lately -- the building managers haven't noticed that we're having an exceedingly un-November-like November. Near the end of yesterday's guest lecture I had a little trouble sitting still, I was so overheated and eager to ask my questions. Later that night, in class, all of us -- students and professor -- were a little trippy. So I felt like my hypomanic behavior was a little less noticeable amid the general gaiety.

Dr. Roda believes my happy mood is probably due to the romantic encounters with Matt and Marty, although he approved of me stopping the flaxseed oil supplements and we're going to test my lithium levels. As I've mentioned, my mood has been good, maybe too good, even though my stress level hasn't really decreased. I can tell because my appetite has virtually disappeared; I'm not interested in eating most of the day. I force myself to eat meal replacement bars every so often, because if my blood sugar drops too much I get very shaky, but over the past three days, I haven't really eaten much. (Although if I go to someone's home and they offer me appetizing food, I'm happy to eat it. I just don't get very hungry on my own or fix myself much to eat.)

So the stress is still there -- it's just not being expressed cognitively as depression.

I guess I feel that what I'm saving in groceries I can spend on some clothing that actually fits -- since as I've mentioned, I am now too thin for my fat clothes and too fat for my skinny clothes -- or small rewards to myself for doing well on most of my midterms, like a few items of inexpensive jewelry or perfume. So I've been doing a little shopping. But small rewards add up, and I probably need to stop.

I say "most" of my midterms because I got back my psychopathology midterm and I got a 76; according to his curve, that's a B. And it was entirely unjustified. Some people who gave the essentially same answer to a question as I did got more points than I did.

But I wasn't the only person to suffer from Dr. Jerk's arbitrary grading practices. And many of my classmates were angry; in fact, one was awarded a 49. She had to go talk to him -- I do not envy her. Dr. Jerk is not pleasant nice one-on-one. She was afraid that he would tell her she doesn't belong in the program -- but we checked in with second-year Nechama, who said that he was probably just going to tell her how to give him what he wants, not that she doesn't belong.

I spoke with two of my classmates in the lounge (constantly looking over our shoulders to see if Dr. Jerk cometh). It was, as usual, an extremely validating experience. One of them, a Buddhist (I will call him, affectionately, "Little Buddha"), is one of the most grounded, centered, serene people I've ever encountered. When I told him that the faculty thought my boundaries were loose based on my disclosing about my knee injury in colloquium, he was shocked. "I was so glad you shared that with us!" he said. "And I thought the lecturer was glad too -- it gave him such a great opportunity to illustrate his theory."

I just had to hug him. He was also appalled that Dr. Jerk told me I should take a leave of absence to deal with my knee injury, instead of trying to reasonably accommodate me.

I told Little Buddha and the other classmate that we as grad students should make use of one of our greatest assets: each other. Many of us come from interesting backgrounds and have particular expertise in certain areas -- we could learn a lot from one another.

Little Buddha said he's always thought that we should work on ourselves before going out to fix other people, and I agreed. He said that so many people live in the past or the future, and this causes so much needless anxiety and tension. Mindfulness helps us live in the present.

So I said, "Let's start a Mindfulness Club!" I think it would be hilariously psych-geeky to have this sort of club. We could get together over the winter break, and Little Buddha will instruct us in ways to "be here now." (Maybe we could meet at Marty's apartment. It's a nice big one in Queens. When I turned 30 I threw a big party at my then-boyfriend's apartment and served pizza and doughnuts, so I've got precedent. We would just need to borrow some chairs or big pillows to sit on -- or tell everyone to bring a pillow or mat to sit on.) So I'm going to try to drum up some enthusiasm for it and coordinate a meeting.

But the main good thing about talking with the others was the validation. Little Buddha did something that Buddhists generally don't do: he engaged in gossip. He had heard that one year, a group of first-year students angered by Dr. Jerk's arbitrary grading had complained to the dean of students. As a result, Dr. Jerk was forced to take an early sabbatical.

I'd heard this as well, and I also knew that Dr. Jerk's technical title is Associate Professor. He's been at the school for WELL over a decade. The fact that he's not a full professor is telling.

Nevertheless, you have to know when to stop Jerk-bashing. It rained last night, and one of the students who commutes by car gave me and another student a lift to the train station (usually we have to take the bus).

Dr. Jerk's name came up in conversation -- I think the driver wanted to know why he wears several rings on his right hand -- and I said it was because he spends a lot of time in New Mexico and consumes Native American culture, showing yet again that he is cool. We know he is cool, I continued, because he talks about doing yoga (although he's none the serener for it) and playing an instrument (not the accordion) and how much his patients pay for therapy with him.

"I didn't know I was going to ignite a Dr. Jerk-bashing session," said the driver wryly. So I shut up, after noting that my stimulus threshold for engaging in Jerk-bashing was incredibly low.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. Maybe you should do a little research as most graduate schools ONLY have associate professors. At my school the highest professors are associates, and then there are adjunct professors. Way to know what you are talking about.

  2. Wow...considering what else you say about him, I'd have taken the comments about his "coolness" as mild. :-P