Sunday, December 31, 2006

Farewell, Little Marty

Well, he finally got up the courage to tell me what I already knew: that we have to cool things down so I won't get hurt. At least that's how he put it.

"I want you to know that I really like you, Ayelet," he said, "and I don't want to hurt you. And the more time we spend together, the more likely it is that I will eventually hurt you. We've always been honest about where we are in our lives."

Meaning: no matter how spectacular you are, I will never fall in love with you, so you need to back off, because if you fall in love with me you'll get hurt.

He's right, of course -- and this does make it easier for me to stay chaste. But I'm still a little sad. If only...
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

I'm too sexy

Late last night Chaya called -- turns out she made it into town for Shabbos and was with her father at a kumsitz. "Come meet my father!"

So I threw on some clothes, a touch of lipstick, and ran five blocks to the kumsitz. Her father is a mekubal -- versed in kabbalah, and he reads palms. I wanted him to read mine and see if I was going to get married.

He told me some interesting things about my past -- that I was insecure when I was younger, which was certainly true -- and that I've got leadership qualities, and that I sometimes try to hard to fit in. Not sure about that last part, but it was noisy and dark, so maybe he couldn't see my hand ideally.

Then Chaya and I ran down to the China Club, where a friend of hers was celebrating her forthcoming aliyah to Israel. We had to go through metal detectors and get frisked -- by women security guards, fortunately -- before going in. I don't know why I did this, I called Little Marty. "I'm at a club, I just got frisked for weapons -- it's the most action I've gotten in weeks!"

No dice. He didn't ask when he could see me again, so I couldn't tell him he can't. Very annoying.

But after we got upstairs, for the first time in a long time, I attracted some interest by not saying a word. Chaya and I were dancing, and I noticed a guy looking at me and smiling.

A lot.

So I went over to him and said, "Why don't you ask me to dance instead of staring at me?"

I thought he was with the goodbye party -- read: frum -- so we danced for a little while, but then I asked what he was doing at the club and he said he was here on his own. So I danced with him a little longer, and then said goodbye.

But it was very flattering! I wasn't really wearing club clothes -- I looked more like something out of Lands' End -- but he noticed me and wanted to dance with me.

Later, a group of us ended up at Ali Baba, the only kosher restaurant on the Upper West Side that's open until 4 a.m. Chaya walked outside with her friend JG (she reads hands a little too, and I guess they wanted privacy).

A guy with a shaved head (read: not Jewish) came in and ordered a sandwich -- and started smiling at me! As he was leaving, he asked me what my name was and told me I should come hang out with him at Crossroads, a local bar. "I'm going there to eat my sandwich."

"Sure," I said, "I'll meet you there." Which I guess was a lie, since I wasn't going to, but I was overtired and flattered. It's nice to get noticed twice in one night, even if the guys noticing me aren't eligible.

Chaya and JG walked me home, and she encouraged us to exchange email and phone contact info. She said she could see us having some kind of relationship, friendship or more. So who knows?

I also have tentative plans to go out with a guy who contacted me on a dating website. I'm a little nervous, because he describes himself as yeshivish -- I usually consider that too frum for my blood. But now that I'm saying tehillim every day and having someone daven for me at the Kotel, I'm trying to be openminded to every dating opportunity.

And another 26-year-old wrote to me on another dating website. He sounded nice, but after the VYG fiasco, I responded a little defensively:

I guess I'm a little surprised to hear from someone so much younger than I am. Not very surprised, because I've been contacted by several guys your age or younger -- but they all had only one thing in mind, and it wasn't tachlis. So if you're serious about falling in love and getting married, I'd love to get to know you better. I hope you don't think I'm being too defensive, but I've been unpleasantly surprised so many times, I guess I'm kind of cautious.

He replied:

What did those other people have in mind???? I am serious about falling in love and getting married, so I would really like to get to know you better. Don't worry I do not think you are being too defensive, because I feel the same way. Normally I have my heart broken because I am very loyal, trusting, and nice so most woman want to be treated like shit and I can't do that.

Hm. Unfortunately, he lives in Florida, but I guess I'll start corresponding with him and see what happens.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, December 29, 2006

Ray of hope

My rabbi has engaged the university's student advocate person, who is a friend of his -- and not directly involved with the psychology department. So that's a breath of good news. Hopefully he'll take my side against them and get them to seal my records.

Spoke on the phone with Little Marty last night for more than an hour. I started by asking if there was anything he wanted to tell me, since he'd seemed very distant lately.

"Nope. Nothing the matter."

"If you want to stop seeing me or slow things down... just tell me."

"Nope. I've been busy," he noted pleasantly.

"I know all guys hate to talk about their feelings, but I just want to know what's going on," I said.

"I think I've mentioned this before, but you should know I'm not like most guys." But he didn't say that he WANTS to see me, or try to make plans to. Grr.

And yet I can't tell him about my new chastity kick. I guess I'm afraid he'd greet the news with barely concealed relief or perfect equanimity. I would want the news to hit him hard, since it was a difficult decision for me to make.

And yet -- his indifference should help me wash him out of my hair, shouldn't it? Because he's definitely more distant than he has been. Even though he denies it.

Matt also called last night -- I was kind of surprised, since he'd promised to call the night after we more recently spoke, and since weeks went between that call and the one before it.

And I didn't tell him about my vow of chastity either. I don't want to think that I'm leading him on, but when he talks about visiting me, or maybe letting me into his heart, I don't disabuse him of the notion. Maybe because I kind of doubt it's ever going to happen. I mean, I don't intend to get involved with an alcoholic who's not interested in recovery. Also, he's not exactly a fast mover, so by the time he actually tries to do anything, I could conceivably be busy.

Since there's nothing else really going on in my life, I guess I still appreciate the attention.

He has found a new job, which he seems to like a lot and has potential for advancement. But he still comes home every night and sits alone, drinking. I could hear him pouring as we spoke.

"What's that you're pouring?" I asked him.

"Vodka."

I hate to think how much of a bottle he can kill in an evening. And he doesn't want to stop drinking. It's the only way he believes he can deal with his life. He's been to AA, but apparently it hasn't taken.

Like all substance abusers, he drinks to avoid having to deal with aversive mood states. And yet he refuses to see that he is depressed. Even though I made him cry, when we were talking about his right to be happy. He seems to think that because he's not an impoverished beggar, he can't really expect any more happiness from life, and I insisted he could -- and he wept.

"You deserve to be happy. And yet you come home every night and get drunk," I reminded him.

"That's so I can fall asleep and get up and go to work the next day. I'm not depressed!"

I should have told him insomnia is a symptom of depression. I'm just not getting through to him.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I'm down

Last night I was supposed to see Slava's Snowshow with a friend who was given free tickets, and I backed out. I pretended to have a stomach bug. In reality, I just didn't think I'd enjoy it; I'm not in the mood. It seemed like too much effort to shower, get dressed, and take a bus and a subway to Union Square.

I know I'm not feeling as badly as I have in the past, when I avoided people altogether -- I was out and about all Shabbos. But when I don't have low-key plans, I'm moping at home.

The lawyer Eric recommended to me can't help me. I don't know whom else to turn to. My sister's husband is a lawyer, but I hesitate to impose on him; our relationship is cordial but not really affectionate. Although apparently when I was in a coma he felt terrible, and wanted to hire a private detective to see if there was a man at the root of my sorrow. (There wasn't.)

I thought about offering them a weekend of babysitting so they could go away for Shabbos, or just for one day and night. That would include walking the dog (and picking up after her), but I guess I could handle that. I certainly could handle the kids.

But I don't feel like making that call. Just like I don't feel like calling my rabbi to see what's doing with the university higher-ups. Or calling my former stats professor to beg him to complete the online recommendation for the social work program I tried to apply to.

I did call Little Marty, after not hearing from him for six days. I don't know what I was expecting. He was very distant -- didn't ask when he could see me again. I was hoping he would, so I could tell him he couldn't. But the topic didn't arise. We talked about his job, his daughter, and his divorce. Not about us.

I suppose I should be grateful that he's drifting away; it makes my resolution easier to maintain. And I've been hearing from several gentlemen -- more than usually write to me on those dating sites I love to hate. Unfortunately, one of them is in South Africa, and another is in Australia. The third, The Teacher, lives in the NYC area. He's quite frum -- calls himself "yeshivish." I am not yeshivish, I am modern orthodox. So the religious level doesn't seem compatible.

But Gd achieves miracles through indirect means, and I'm trying to be more open to more kinds of men. It would be too much to ask for Him to send me a guy who perfectly fits my ideal dating profile: close to my age, a professional making good money, very modern but very spiritual, handsome, fit, sensitive, respectful, yada yada yada. I guess I'll call The Teacher tonight and see why he was attracted by my profile, and whether he thinks women should work outside the home or stay at home with kids. (That's a non-negotiable.)

Also whether he thinks girls should learn gemara. I once dated a really nice, funny, smart guy, who was just too frum for me. He believed that since the gemara said you shouldn't teach your daughters gemara, they shouldn't learn it. I know plenty of men who disagree with him, but he was steadfast on that point, and it was really representative of a whole host of other incompatible points between us. So it didn't work out; I want my daughters, if I have any, to learn gemara. I guess we'll see what The Teacher thinks, and take it from there.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Easier said than done

I miss Little Marty. Tremendously. Probably it's worse because my academic life is completely up in the air, so I feel bereft of everything, but oh, I miss him. And the worst thing is knowing that I chose to be even more lonely than I normally am. I could call him, and pretend I didn't resolve to give him up, and I'd be with him again.

But only temporarily. What I'm feeling now was inevitable, sooner or later. I was always going to lose him. At least this way it's on my terms.

That doesn't make it easier, though. I'm almost in tears with wanting him to hold me, just hold me. To feel his lean, strong chest and arms, his curly hair, which always smells so wonderful to me, musky wax.

I am sure I was this miserable after G.I. Josh and I parted ways, and for months afterward I missed him sorely. I'm just so sick of going through this! I can't stand breaking up and being alone again. And yet I have to stand it; I have no choice.

When Mazal blessed me, she said I should find my shidduch with great simcha, happiness. I want her to be right. I want to be happy and loved, and to love. If I have to suffer to get there, it w ill be worth it. I'm just afraid that I'll go through the suffering, try, pray, get my hopes up -- and not get there.

I've been trying to get mad at Little Marty, which might help me put him out of my mind sooner, but it's not easy. Even though I know that while I'm suffering, he's perfectly happy. He's hanging out with his daughter this weekend; he hasn't given me a second thought. He hasn't called in days -- he's obviously not missing me at all, despite how "spectacular" (his word) I am.

If he doesn't miss me, and yearn for me, he doesn't deserve me.

I just wish that saying that, and reading it over and over, could make me believe it. But it doesn't. I'm over 30 -- shouldn't I know by now that a man who doesn't want me isn't worth having, or wanting?
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Spiritual renewal and a pre new-year's resolution

Went to Eric and Ahuva for Friday night dinner again, and it was much nicer. No nasty Republicans at the table -- just several lovely women of a certain age.

Why are there so many terrific single women in their thirties and over? It's mind-boggling.

One of the women, Mazal, is Sephardic and very spiritual. She interpreted a troubling dream I'd recently had -- in a very positive way.

At the table was a psychologist who is studying psychoanalysis. As I've said before, I'm not a big fan of analysts, but I think they're quite good at interpreting dreams, and I'd had a doozy: I dreamed my teeth were loose and falling out.

The psychologist didn't have much to say about my dream, but Mazal jumped in. She said, "You're going to lose all your bad thoughts, fears, and actions."

Impressive. And a very positive spin on a very disturbing dream. So I decided to act on it -- to let go of my anger and my negative actions, as much as I can.

And that means no more messing around with Little Marty.

I knew this day would come. I knew that getting too close to him would just derail me from my ultimate goal, which is marriage and children. He can't give me that, at least not right now. So I need to stop my physical intimacy with him.

I hope that doesn't mean we can't still be friends. He has been an amazing support for me during these very trying weeks. But our physical relationship is wrong. There's no halachic justification for it; it's just assur. And if I want to be worthy of finding my zivug, I have to give up the temporary pleasure and physical comfort he offers me.

Mazal is going to daven for me, and I'm going to daven for her. Along with the person who's davening for me these 40 days at the Kotel. And I have to believe that our prayers will be answered in a way that makes me truly happy.

The westernwallprayers folks advised me to say Psalm 32 every day while a stranger prays for me at the Kotel. Don't ask me how, but surfing online I also found this: a group of tehillim, including #32, that will ensure my soul will find its "true destined pathway without being interfered with or side-tracked by other people" and I will receive guidance to be in the right place with the right destined soul mate, livelihood and true purpose in life." Right now, I need all of that.

Part of me doubts that my prayers will be answered -- I've been praying for years, and others have been praying on my behalf, but the answer has not been affirmative. Also, during the Holocaust and so many other times of strife for the Jews, I am certain that people much more deserving than I were praying with much more kavannah, and their prayers did not save them.

But -- I need hope, and right now it seems that faith is the only way for me to achieve it. And I'm going to try my hardest to really mean it when I pray.

So last night was really beautiful, and today was also very good. I went to shul with Alona, Adir, and their small daughter, Batya, who calls me Aunt Ayelet. Unfortunately, I made Batya cry, but in a somewhat positive way: she was eating a jelly donut (usually the synagogue kiddush doesn't run to donuts, but it was still Chanuka) and wiping the jelly on her father.

"Batya, no," I said sternly, taking her hands and wiping them with a napkin. "Wipe your hands on a napkin, not on Daddy."

Her beautiful blue eyes filled with tears, and she began to wail. I felt terrible, but I'm a very strict aunt, with Batya, Tikva, and my own nieces and nephews. If they act up, I don't indulge them -- I let them know it's not appropriate. I think Alona was actually more or less appreciative -- jelly stains!

A little club soda got the jelly out of Adir's shirt, and Batya recovered from her distress. By the time lunch rolled around, I was waving around a little wand Batya was carrying in her pocketbook, singing "Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo" from Cinderella, and she was giggling and happy again.

I also asked Eric for the name of an attorney who could help me put the fear of Gd into the horrible faculty at my soon-to-be-former school. I don't want to sue them, but I want at least a partial tuition refund and I want my records sealed. If they don't seal my records, I may never get into another clinical psychology doctoral program -- and that could mean a loss of income of at least $60,000 times 30 years. That's about $2 million.

And I wouldn't just sue the school -- I would sue Dr. Jerk, Dr. Dragon, Dr. Octopussy, Dr. Freud, and the control-freaky T.A. for harassment, creating a hostile educational environment, slander, and discrimination against a person with a disability. I don't think they want to risk that kind of personal indemnity, not to mention the bad publicity, if it came to an actual lawsuit.

Hopefully the lawyer will write them a really nasty letter -- in exchange for a lot of babysitting; he and his wife have two small children -- that will just make the evil faculty seal my records and refund me some cash.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Another twist of the screw

Just received this dainty missive from Dr. Dragon:

Dear Ms. Survivor,

Dr. Jerk forwarded me your email where you state that you are withdrawing from this semester. I understand from him and other faculty that you have not been attending classes since our last meeting where you were informed that you would be permitted to complete the fall semester but that you would be placed on leave of absence beginning December 21, 2006. At that meeting and a follow-up letter following the meeting, you were given the option to withdraw from the program and were also informed that you had the right to appeal these decisions.

Students are not permitted to withdraw from a semester without penalty and without permission from the faculty after October 6th, 2006. You were not given permission to withdraw from the semester at any time. As such, you are considered enrolled in the classes and will receive grades for these courses.

Please let me know if you have any questions or needed further clarification on this or any other matter.

Sincerely, Devona Dragon

This is the email I wanted to send her:

Dr. Dragon:

You will be contacted soon by my legal counsel. Please direct all future communications to him. This is no longer an internal faculty-student matter; it is a legal matter, and you, Dr. Jerk, Dr. Freud, Dr. Octopussy, and the control-freaky T.A. will be held accountable for your actions this semester.

Happy holidays.

Ayelet Survivor, M.A.

Of course, I didn't send it. I did give my rabbi a draft email that he can modify and send to the university president's special assistant, who is a friend of his. I can only pray that the higher-ups will want to intervene on my behalf.

And I'm so miserable that I considered buying a bottle of wine and drinking tonight. Which I never, ever do. I'm really not a drinker. But tranquilizers don't make you happy -- they just take the edge off your troubles. And my troubles are so big, losing an edge doesn't make much difference.

Only thing cheering me up is my conversation with Matt Stein last night. After not hearing from him for a long, long time, I wrote him a brief email asking if everything was okay -- I was afraid he was still unemployed and drinking too much.

Well, I was fortunately only half right. He wrote back:

Great to hear from you, and Happy Chanukah! I actually have wanted to say 'hi' for a while, but put it off for some reason. I've been working at the a small paper for three weeks now, and I like it a lot. It's a much smaller and funkier production department, and I get to do graphic design on top of my routine production duties. Ironically, I have more responsibility than I did at my last job, because in this small department I am the last person to proof every page of the paper and send it to the press. They seem pretty happy with me, and I've been credited with catching design, spelling, grammar, usage and factual errors which would've gone to press without little ol' me.

How have you been? Nice weather we've had for December, eh? School going well? Ready to shrink my head or grow my heart? I really do hope I can visit you in The City some time soon. Drop me another note with all the spicy details of your fabulous life in New York. OR... turn on your Skype at night and I'll ring your computer.

We talked last night, and renewed our plans to have the prom we never had back in high school. We both went to public school, since our small town didn't have a yeshiva high school option, and he never asked me to prom -- I ended up going with a friend from NCSY. He ended up going with a female friend, and always felt that he should have asked me.

I've saved a bunch of '80s songs to a youtube playlist, and I've got a dress that would almost be acceptable for a prom. So when he comes to visit me, we'll have the prom we never had. In my living room. But -- that doesn't help me now, sitting sadly in my lonely apartment.

I did get some positive reinforcement from my rabbi -- today we met with the Partner in Caring candidate whom we might hire, and talked about some of the programming we want to start. He kept saying what a great contribution I had made, and what a greater one I would make once I was done with my schooling. It means so much that he believes in me, because it feels like no one else approves of me.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Jerk 'til the end

Got another lovely email from Dr. Jerk:

Dear Ayelett [sic.],

I am writing to inform you that given the fact that you did not attend the last 2-3 weeks of classes or labs and did not complete final exams in either class as well as not submit written assignments, you will receive F grades in both IQ Testing and Psychopathology. Please be advised that your flagrant violation of professional and ethical conduct in IQ Testing already resulted in an automatic failing grade for that course.

Sincerely, Jack Jerk, PhD
Associate Professor of Psychology

I responded:

Dear Jack,

I am withdrawing from this semester, so any grades you might wish to assign are irrelevant.

Ayelet Survivor, M.A.

I was tempted to write about his flagrant unprofessional conduct toward me during the semester, but decided that brevity was the soul of wit. Strangely, he wrote back quickly to say "good luck."
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, December 18, 2006

Dr. Arnold (if you're clever, you'll know why that's her name)

Dr. Arnold taught me in my master's program. She told me several times that I was special -- that she didn't remember most students the way she remembered me. She wrote me a love letter of a recommendation the first time I applied to psychology programs. She also went to the school I've just been bounced from and had a few unpleasant run-ins with Dr. Jerk. She even told me he was known to have problems with older female students.

So I actually thought she might see things my way.

No such luck. She sent me this stinker of an email last night:

Ayelet, it's taken me some time to figure out how to respond to this message and your earlier message of the same day, so you may have had the meeting already and matters may have progressed in some direction that I haven't anticipated.

In any case, it's impossible for me to know exactly what's been going on or what the equities of the situation are. But, taking all of your messages together, I gather that you don't really want to continue at this school (after a semester of mandatory leave, that is) and are planning to apply elsewhere.


Frankly, my hope would be that you and the faculty could resolve this impasse so that you could remain at this school. But if that can't happen, there are two things I really need to say -- even though you may not agree with them -- because I'm concerned that you may undermine yourself in the long run if you don't consider them.

The first is that, if you do re-apply, you should be straightforward about the circumstances of your departure from this school. (In one of your earlier e-mails you implied that you might offer a somewhat sanitized explanation for leaving.) Graduate psychology programs take ethical issues very seriously, so if you were admitted to another program and it were later discovered that you had concealed pertinent facts in your application, you might be faced with another premature departure.


The second is that you should consider waiting a while before re-applying, to be sure you completely understand (and can avoid a repetition of) what happened at school -- and to make sure you're emotionally on an even keel during the process.

At the risk of sounding perseverative, I again stress the importance of being in therapy at a time like this. You mentioned your psychiatrist, and you said he's supportive, but it's not clear to me whether this is someone you see at least weekly for psychotherapy, or less often for medication management (and some psychotherapy). Of course, I hope it's the former!

I see Dr. R once a month for 45 minutes, and I've spoken with him on the phone once during this whole debacle. He agreed that I was handling this mess as best I could. Moreover, the only way I can avoid a repetition of what happened at school is to go to a school where the faculty isn't COMPLETELY NUTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I wrote her back:

Dr. Arnold: The most objective person who knows me best, my psychiatrist, does not believe that any of the faculty's charges against me are true. I do not have "loose boundaries" or anger problems.

I only "cheated" by testing people I knew -- and only AFTER trying unsuccessfully to get people I could test from my labmates, and after being berated yet again by Dr. Jerk, who has been consistently rude and harsh to me for no good reason. I did not feel I had anyone among the faculty to go to when the person I was supposed to test -- and went out to Queens to test -- stood me up right before an assignment deadline. It was either test someone I knew or fail that assignment; Dr. Jerk and my T.A. were unwilling to help me, even though what happened was not my fault.

Moreover, the clinical health students are encouraged to test people they know, and the school clinical students are encouraged to test children they know. The course is for practice; any test results are invalid by virtue of the fact that we're still learning and making mistakes. So for the faculty to point to this as a major ethical failing is meretricious. They set up the system for me to fail; when it didn't work for me, I had no recourse. I had no choice but to practice testing with someone I already knew. They are acting as though I plagiarized or assaulted someone physically.

I resorted to duplicity because the faculty has been harassing me almost from day one -- Dr. Rock certainly, and Dr. Octopussy and Dr. Dragon as well. I have asked for help, and it was denied me. I was accused of having loose boundaries and being rude and disrespectful. None of the faculty have ever interviewed me or conducted any kind of assessment. They're going on clinical judgment alone, and I think you know that clinical judgment alone is not a very valid assessment measure.

That, of course, is unethical -- they let their personal biases influence their professional judgment. Moreover, when I asked my advisor, Dr. Freud, for help in dealing with Dr. Jerk's enmity, he was of no assistance.

Dr. Jerk has lied about me in faculty meetings; that is beyond unethical. Dr. Dragon asked me if she could help, and when I asked for help she charged me with being rude and disrespectful. That does not speak well of her compassion. In fact, she told the class of 2010 that she is not a warm, compassionate person. What the hell is such a person doing training clinical psychologists?

In that last, horrible meeting, three of the faculty ranged against me, they intimated that because I tested -- for a course, not for clinical purposes -- someone I was dating, I could not be trusted to work with male patients. Apparently I'll either get too angry at them or try to sleep with them. This is a vicious slander and wholly undeserved.

I am sorry you are disappointed, but I tried to do my best under extremely trying circumstances. I did not deserve the calumnies that they have heaped upon me. I am not the horrible person they say I am, and it is only this belief in myself that has kept me from utter despair and another suicide attempt. They tortured a person who is extremely vulnerable to stress, and it is only my friends and family who have kept me from decompensating.

I deserve a second chance without any negative aspersions cast upon me. That is why I do not feel bad about glossing over my experience at this school. What happened there was not my fault. That is not merely my opinion; it's the opinion of my psychiatrist as well as many of my fellow former students and Dr. Goodman, who taught me in several classes in my master's program and for whom I have been grading papers on a freelance basis.

Since you do not see things this way, I would greatly appreciate it if you would keep your opinions about me to yourself. I will certainly never trouble you for another recommendation.

Ayelet Survivor, M.A.

I realize she's not going to be convinced by anything I could write. I'm so sick of people second-guessing me. But -- whatever. As long as Dr. R and Dr. Goodman believe in me, I'm not concerned about the opinion of any other mental health professional.

Annoyingly, Dr. Arnold sent me a very understanding response:

My message was not intended to be critical, though unfortunately it seems to have come across that way. I'm not in a position to judge your past actions; I was simply trying to caution you about what may be a risky strategy going forward. Obviously this is a very unpleasant situation for you, as it would be for anyone, and I'm sorry if I've inadvertently added to your distress.

Makes it a lot harder to hate her. I don't want to be saying "You're either with me or against me" -- only morons say stuff like that. (Damn you, Ohio -- you elected him to a second term!) And I don't want to overreact when people try to give me good advice -- it's quite a deterrent. But if I can't talk to my own mother right now, obviously I'm being pretty restrictive concerning whose input I listen to.

Thank Gd I see Dr. R tomorrow. I need a reality check. I don't think I'm being irrational, or sliding into hypomania. But I need some reassurance that I'm behaving as well as could be expected, considering my circumstances.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Rock bottom

I've hit dating rock bottom. Between the confusion I feel over my liaison with Little Marty, and my anger at the Very Young Guy for acting just like every other superficial guy I ever got too physically involved with too soon, I decided I can't take any more of this, and I'm seeking divine intervention.

Enter Western Wall Prayers. They offer to pray for you for 40 days at the Kotel, and supposedly you'll be answered in the affirmative.

It's not cheap -- $90 for my name to be mentioned in a group of other names of people wishing for the same thing. It would have cost me $360 for an "exclusive" prayer and a psalm recited by an entire yeshiva.

Part of me thinks that if I wasn't deserving of happiness before shelling out $90, why should the prayers of a stranger elevate me to that level? And part of me thinks that just like all the other things I've done to get a shidduch -- wear the kallah's engagement ring while she's under the chuppah, drink from her wineglass at sheva brachot, take a piece of the shattered plate after tenayim, make a big donation to hachnassat kallah, etc. -- there's no way that this is going to help me, either.

But -- I needed to give tzedaka, and I might as well try to get a return on my investment. I guess another part of me is hoping beyond hope that Little Marty will come to his senses and let himself fall in love with me.

It's funny -- on paper, LM is not at all what I'm looking for. He doesn't have a steady job or advanced degree, and he certainly couldn't afford to buy me any of the engagement rings I've spent more than a decade longing for (my tastes have changed over the years, of course). I like him -- or maybe more -- because of who he is, because he understands me and we get along so well together. We are so compatible in so many ways -- ARGH! I sound like a lovesick teenager.

This is my prayer, which I send out along with my shaliach in Israel: I want to meet someone who will love and respect me, whom I can love and respect, and start a family with him. I've watched it happen to so many others -- including children whom I babysat for, who are now parents of their own children. IT'S MY TURN. I've had enough suffering to last me a lifetime. I deserve my fair share of joy and satisfaction -- not fleeting fragments of happiness, but real contentment that I can comfortably reside in.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Kids say the darndest things

All of Jerusha's kids had play dates at her house this Shabbos, and two of them were from the same family -- a pair of sisters who came over to play with my oldest and youngest nieces.

I don't remember exactly what transpired, but I was trying to get the younger sister, Chani, to behave (she's a bit wild) and asked the older sister, Dassi, to calm her down. The older sister tried to intervene, and the younger one wouldn't listen.

I said, "Listen to Dassi -- she's your sister." (Not that I'm so good at heeding my sisters, but Chani doesn't have to know that.)

Chani said, "She's my sister -- I fart on her every day!"

You can't make this stuff up. I have no idea what goes on in their household, but I bet it's pretty entertaining.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

The faculty blinks

Got a MUCH nicer note from Dr. Dragon:

Dear Ms. Survivor,

I have rescheduled the meeting for Tuesday, December 19 at 9 a.m. Dr. Octopussy and I will be present at the meeting. This second meeting for which you requested a postponement was initially scheduled in order to give you time to process the feedback given to you during our meeting on November 30, 2006. A second meeting is not necessary from our standpoint and need only occur if you would like to meet so that we may answer question or offer further clarification. Should you decide that a second meeting is not necessary from your standpoint, please let us know so that we may cancel the meeting. Please note, however, that this is an internal student-faculty meeting and therefore, if you do decide to attend, you will be required to attend the meeting on your own. We do not permit third party representation at internal student-faculty meetings.

Please note that your leave of absence will go into effect on December 21, 2006. Again, if you would like to appeal any decisions made by the clinical program, you are welcome to do so but you will need to do so in writing to the dean no later than December 20, 2006.

Our student catalog and handbook are on the website.

Best, Devona Dragon

I wrote back concisely:

I cannot make a meeting at that time, and I do not think it will be necessary. I am not appealing the leave to the Dean.

Ayelet Survivor, M.A.

Nice and ambiguous -- I don't have to lie about appealing to the higher-ups at the university. My good friend Alona, whom I naturally bcc'ed on my response to the Dragon Lady, wrote me:

Adir and I both think that the administration 'blinked' by effectively cancelling the meeting -- clearly they were afraid you were going to bring a lawyer. Good for you.

What's doing in terms of sealing your records and/or getting partial credit for your classes? Did our rabbi come up with anything yet? If not, I assume you'll proceed with plan B.

The faculty doesn't have me to kick around any more. I'm through with crying and groveling in front of them. From now on, I am unrepentant and will champion my cause. They harassed me for almost an entire semester and succeeded in kicking me out. I'm not going to take it lying down. "Plan B" refers to me getting a lawyer.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Very Young Guy

Last night I went out to dinner with a Very Young Guy, 10 years younger than I am. Met him on a dating website -- he contacted me (I wouldn't have the chutzpah). We spoke on Saturday night (while Little Marty was working) and Tuesday night, and made dinner plans for Wednesday night.

The VYG seemed very mature for his age -- I was understandably hesitant to get involved with him, but he talked me round. He seemed like a nice guy, smart, funny, interesting, good company. But somehow -- maybe it was the lateness of the hour Saturday night -- we ended up talking about sex.

Not just sex -- we were talking tachlis too. But sex entered the conversation a few times. He mentioned Prime Grill, an excellent kosher restaurant in Manhattan, and I asked if he was going to take me there on our first date.

"Not on the first date," he told me. "Some things need to wait until you're more serious about a person."

"Okay, so I'll sleep with you after we go to Prime Grill," I joked.

We didn't go to Prime Grill, of course; we went to Darna. But after he walked me home and kissed me good night, he began to agitate to come upstairs.

Why did I let him? I really didn't feel like doing anything more with him. But I let him importune me, and upstairs he came.

And... things happened.

I don't want to go into detail, and I'm pretty sure no one would want to read about it. But a lot more happened than I was prepared for.

I told him, trying to fend him off, that I wasn't ready, that it was too soon, that getting physically involved too early would ruin things. He assured me it wouldn't.

"I'm not like any other guy you've been involved with," he said. "Do you think I'm going to leave here and never call you again? I'm going to call you tomorrow night, and we'll go out sometime next week."

Famous last words. He hasn't called. I don't know whether to be relieved or disappointed -- that is, I feel very disappointed, but I probably should be relieved that one encounter was the end of it. He's obviously not a man of his word, and not mature enough to be ready for a serious relationship.

Another problem is that even while I was with him, in his arms, I couldn't stop thinking about Little Marty. Partly because the VYG wasn't built as well -- I almost labeled him "the very small guy," because he's quite, shall we say, inadequate -- and partly because Little Marty is the guy I want to be with, and can't.

I had told Little Marty that I'd let him know when we had to end our physical relationship. I'd considered calling him last night and telling him that for now I'm off the market. But I'm glad I didn't. Because it seems like the VYG is destined to be just another vague name on the long, tattered list of men I've dated. And while Little Marty can't give me what I ultimately need, he's there in the meantime.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Waiting, waiting, waiting....

Still no word from my rabbi on whether he'll be able to help me get some justice. I just want to withdraw with the guarantee that my records will be hermetically sealed -- I don't want other schools seeing the faculty's baseless slanders against me -- and get back some of the tuition money I wasted on them.

As soon as that happens, I can open up the blog again.

I've also applied to an intense 16-month social work program. A clinical social worker can do almost everything a forensic psychologist can -- and faster. Dr. Stats is still willing to write me a recommendation, bless his heart. With recommendations from him, a professor from my master's program, and my rabbi, I might just make it into the January 2007 session.

A friend of mine called last night to see how I was doing, and was surprised by how cheerful I sounded. Thing is, once you've decided that the people against you are WRONG, and pretty much EVIL, you're left feeling okay about yourself.

But I still can't really talk to my mother. I can only stay positive if everyone around me is positive, and she's too pessimistic. She's had a hard life, and I can't really blame her, and she did find me comatose after my overdose, so I can understand why she worries about me. But I can't listen to it. I have to hope beyond hope that every little thing is gonna be alright, Jah willing. (Gotta love Bob Marley.) And I can't listen to any pessimism. I just can't.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Close Every Door

I've been thinking about that Andrew Lloyd Webber song tonight, as I wrote up a description of Fran's son's bar mitzvah for friends in Israel who couldn't attend, washed the dishes from Shabbos, and listened to a voicemail Dr. CT left me. She doesn't feel she could write a recommendation for me that doesn't mention my entire school debacle, even though my performance in her class was excellent.

Scratch her off the list. I've written Dr. Stats to see if he feels the same way; I don't know how he'll respond.

Have I destroyed my psychology chances? Is this the end of the road, as far as this career path goes? Will I ever be Dr. Survivor?

Fortunately, Shabbat was very nice, a little respite from my miserable school sitation. Little Marty had to work on the Upper West Side motzei shabbat, so he stayed by me. I cooked for him, and he liked everything I made, which was something. Today we went to the bar mitzvah together, which was lovely.

But last night we had a serious conversation, one which I hadn't wanted to have. It hurts so much to hear him tell me how wonderful I am, but that he just doesn't want to be restricted at this time in his life -- he's too gun-shy. I also think he's not quite over a girl he was seeing toward the end of his marriage and right after he left his wife -- she dropped him without explanation, and he's still hung up on her.

He has so much less to lose than I do. He's younger, more resilient. He already has a child. He can fall in love with me and walk away. I can't do that, and it's getting harder and harder to deny myself the luxury and comfort of loving him.

So I feel, ultimately, very alone. That's why I'm thinking about "Close Every Door." I feel like I've fallen to a depth that I can't pick myself up out of; all doors are closed to me, and I'm lost in darkness.

Close every door to me,
Hide all the world from me
Bar all the windows
And shut out the light
Do what you want with me,
Hate me and laugh at me
Darken my daytime
And torture my night.

And yet, I'm somehow optimistic. I don't know why. I'm not often an optimistic person, but I haven't given up hope that despite the fine mess I've gotten myself into, somehow there will be a positive resolution:

Children of Israel
Are never alone
For we know we shall find
Our own peace of mind
For we have been promised
A land of our own.

Substitute "career" for "land," and that's how I feel. I have a sense of destiny. There are things I am meant to accomplish, and there are evil forces trying to thwart me. I cannot let them win.

For the record, I'd like to remind everyone that I am not and never have been psychotic. I don't have delusions of persecution -- I don't think the CIA or Al Qaeda or the Vatican are trying to keep me from reaching my goals. But I do believe there are forces of evil in the universe, and they have been attacking me since childhood. I've had to overcome more obstacles than almost anyone I know -- physical ailments, bipolar disorder, financial anxiety, bad luck, bad decisions, trusting too many of the wrong people.

For a long time I've been thinking I'm an unlucky person -- that bad things happen to me as a matter of course, and always will, no matter how good I try to be.

I'm going to try to see things another way. For some reason, I've been set more than the usual number of challenges to overcome. If I were really egocentric, I'd compare myself to Abraham, who faced ten challenges of increasing difficulty -- including, ultimately, the order to sacrifice his beloved son. Such was his trust in Gd that he was ready to obey that dread command. But he was spared -- because he believed.

It's all about bitachon. If I don't have that, if I don't hold onto that, I'll never make it through this.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, December 08, 2006

At least Dr. R's on my side

Never heard back yesterday from my rabbi. This morning I spoke with him briefly, and he'll call back later. I hope the university administration takes an interest in my case.

I did finally call Dr. R, as former professors and family members have urged me to do. I thought I was handling the crisis as best I could -- and turns out, he does too. I'm seeing him in a week and a half, and he thinks I'm doing as well as can be expected. He also believes that if the faculty hadn't been given my blog, they would have found another pretext to nail me to the wall.

I expressed this to a former professor of mine from my master's program, who attended my school and whom I've been keeping in the loop. She wrote me recently:

This is obviously a very serious situation with some potentially far-reaching effects. Dr. Dragon's letter indicates that another meeting between you and the faculty was scheduled for earlier today, so the crucial decisions may already have been made; but at the risk of sounding repetitive I urge you to discuss everything in detail with your therapist, even if extra sessions are required. You didn't explicitly ask for my opinion, but I assume that sending me the letters was, at least, an implicit invitation to give it. In any case, I'm truly sorry about this turn of events.

I wrote back:

Actually, I've spoken with my psychiatrist. He thinks I'm handling this crisis as well as can be expected; he knew that the faculty has been after me almost since the beginning (in Dr. Jerk's case, since the beginning), and that I'm coping as best as I can.

I'm sorry if you're disappointed in me for breaking the rules Dr. Jerk set. I do not believe my actions make me an unethical or unprofessional person. In my view, he and the rest of the faculty are as egregiously unprofessional, if not more so. I never had any trouble like this as an undergraduate or master's student, even with professors who didn't like me. The abuse and harassment I have received at this program obviously compromised my judgment; an article Dr. Jerk gave us to read about stress and coping noted research that showed people making bad, impulsive judgments when under severe stress. Perhaps that's what happened to me; as a person with bipolar disorder, I have to work 15 times as hard as a normal person not to crumble under stress.

Nevertheless, I still believe that I have a contribution to make to this field, as a clinician. I am re-applying to several schools. I'll re-take the GRE. And I'll keep re-applying until I get in somewhere.

Unfortunately I forgot to tell her I didn't attend that meeting because I hadn't yet lined up someone to represent me, which was probably more important for her to know than my little show of courage and bravado; I had to send her a P.S.

I also wrote to Dr. CT, my cognitive therapy prof. If she's going to write me references, she needs to submit one of the forms by next Wednesday; if not, I have to find someone else.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Waiting game

I spoke to my rabbi yesterday and this morning, giving him the latest scoop. He advised me not to go to today's meeting without some kind of representative or advocate, and tried again to reach the university president's special assistant. So I spent the day waiting for his call, which never came. I didn't go to the latest educational gang-rape. Nor did I hear from Dr. Dragon concerning the postponement I requested.

Nechama, one of the friends to whom I sent Dr. Dragon's letter and my letter to the adjuncts, comforted me again:

Ayelet, I know that the past few weeks have been pretty nightmarish for you. I hope that those who love and support you (including myself) have provided you with at least some peace of mind, and that the final decision in leaving school has provided you with some closure for this terribly painful ordeal.

The letter from Dr. Dragon was incredibly cruel, and would have been even if it had been 100% true. I am so sorry that you had to experience this. Hitler himself said that people will believe a lie if it's repeated enough times, and apparently the faculty subscribes to this theory. Please do not doubt yourself and your capability on account of what the administration is telling you. The fact that they are repeating and amplifying their message does not mean that their message is accurate. The opinions of those who know you well, whether they be therapists or good friends, are by far more valid measures of what you can handle.

I will be more than happy to pick up the recommendations for you. I wish you luck with the whole application process! It must be frustrating to repeat the whole apply-and-interview shpiel, and I admire you for having the courage to charge on so quickly.

Take care and have a good Shabbos! Please feel free to call or e-mail me at any time. Love, Nechama

I don't know what will happen next -- if the faculty will try to nail me for "skipping" the meeting, although what more they can do to me, I certainly can't imagine. But I don't intend to respond to any of their communications until I've either got someone from the administration on my side, or a lawyer.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

All over but the shoutin'

Yesterday I got an email from Dr. Dragon:

Dear Ms. Survivor,

As we discussed in our meeting on 11/30/06, and during prior meetings, the first with Dr. Octopussy, and the second with Dr. Octopussy and Dr. Freud, the pattern of behavior you have demonstrated toward faculty and students over your two months in the program indicate to us that at the present time you are unsuited to becoming a clinical psychologist and providing care to patients. Examples of the behaviors you have demonstrated toward faculty and students that have already been discussed with you include: (1) a tendency to take offense at perceived slights;

[My feelings are not invalid, and the slights were not slight; they were serious.]

(2) expressions of inappropriate hostility; (3) displays of poor judgment and impulse control; (4) inability to maintain appropriate professional boundaries (5) Inability to pick up interpersonal cues; (6) a lack of insight into these behaviors and an inability to take responsiblity [sic.] for these behaviors. These behaviors have been observed by us and have been reported to us by other faculty and students.

[I have no idea who these "other faculty" could be, unless it's Dr. A, and he really would have no cause to say anything like this. The adjunct faculty would not have told them such things. Also, they're not naming the alleged students, so I have no idea if it's more than one person -- or any people, really.]

During the meeting on 11/30/06, Dr. Octopussy, Freud, and I reiterated the above, and also discussed other information that has come to our attention since your last meeting with Dr. Freud and Dr. Octopussy. We informed you at this meeting that multiple sources had informed us about your blog.

[They didn't tell me that multiple people mentioned the blog, and again, they're not exactly credible making this claim since they're not naming any of the alleged informants.]

Your blog provides further evidence of your behaviors noted above. Further, we told you at the meeting that it is clear from your blog and is confirmed by your fellow students that you lied to faculty about the identity of the people you tested for your cognitive testing course, and furthermore, asked a fellow student to lie for you to cover up your deceit. Dr. Jerk and his TAs have been very clear that you were required to use only the volunteers given to you by your fellow lab mates.

[Which would have meant that I could not complete the assignments, and which is an entirely arbitrary requirement; the students in the clinical health program at our school are encouraged to test friends and family, and the school psychology students are encouraged to test children they know. Is the clinical program more valid than those programs?]

Dr. Jerk has also made it expressly clear that students are not permitted to test anyone with whom they have a friendship or an intimate relationship and that all rules pertaining to the relationship between a therapist and a patient are to be maintained with volunteers.

[He never stated this. He said that if we tested people we knew, the results would be invalid. And since we're neophytes at this, the results are invalid anyway.]

It is clear from your blog, from your statements to us during our meeting on 11/30/06, and from confirmations of your communications with fellow students, that you were aware of these rules, that you have tested individuals not given to you by your class mates, that you have tested individuals with whom you have a personal or an intimate relationship, that you have lied to us to cover your actions, and that you have asked fellow students to lie for you. These are serious violations and represent a flagrant disregard of the rules of the clinical program and constitute a serious ethical and professional breach.

[But the unwillingness of the faculty to help me when I was stood up by someone I was supposed to test, or when a professor was harassing me, is perfectly professional.]

At the meeting on 11/30/06 you admitted that it was your blog, admitted that you have deceived us and admitted that you had tested individuals with whom you have a personal and intimate relationship. However, once again you demonstrated no insight into these behaviors and took no responsibility for your actions. You expressed to us that you did not believe you had done anything wrong by lying to us and by testing these individuals. Instead, you blamed fellow students and Dr. Jerk for not providing you with enough students and stated that you had no other recourse but to deceive us.

[Well, it was either not do the assignment because my fellow students would not give me people to test or try to do the assignment as best I could. In the meeting you asked why I didn't come to you for help -- it could be that you failed to acknowledge the letter of apology I wrote you, which inclined me to think that you would not be sympathetic to my plight with Dr. Jerk.]

You were reminded that the faculty had informed you in the past that you had the right to request accommodations if you believe you have a disability, and had informed you about the process to seek disability accommodation which would require you to request it and provide proof of disability. You did not pursue this avenue and instead chose to violate the rules of the clinical program.

[I did not pursue that avenue because by the time that option was given me, it was too late. I adhered to Dr. Jerk's requirements and tried to test people who were inconveniently located, as Dr. Jerk said I had to, despite my knee pain. And those people stood me up.]

We informed you at the meeting that these behaviors outlined above are a matter of grave concern to us and based on these behaviors, we believe that you are not suited to provide care to patients and are unsuited to the profesAgain [sic.], you did not report any insight or reflection into your own behaviors which are basic and necessary skills to becoming a therapist. Instead, you blamed others for the actions you have taken and expressed inappropriate hostile statements toward us during the meeting for concluding that your unprofessional behaviors provided evidence that you were not suited to provide care to patients.sion of clinical psychology at this time.

[I told you I was offended you would insinuate that I would consider sleeping with my male patients. That is neither inappropriate nor hostile. It is a legitimate expression of outrage at a wildly speculative and slanderous remark.]

At the meeting on 11/30/06, you were informed that effective 11/30/06, you were being placed on probation by the clinical program. You were also informed that you would face the penalties for your deceitful actions, and given the policies and procedures in the program, that you would likely incur an F in intelligence testing. Dr. Jerk will directly inform you about your grade in his course. Furthermore, you were informed that although you would be permitted to finish the Fall, 2006 semester, that the clinical faculty by unanimous vote were placing you on a leave of absence effective 12/21/06. The primary factor in our decision was your disregard for the rules and prescriptions of the clinical program, and your inability to maintain appropriate boundaries and maintain the ethical and professional behaviors necessary to become a clinical psychologist.

During this required leave of absence, we urge you to contemplate the feedback given to you this semester and use this opportunity to ameliorate these problems, which includes but is not limited to your entering mandatory weekly psychotherapy. Please note that your return to the clinical program is not guaranteed. At the end of the 2007 spring semester, you will be required to meet with a faculty committee who will determine if you may return to the program. You will be interviewed by the committee and you will be required to provide proof that you have attended weekly psychotherapy. You will also be required to provide proof that these behaviors have been remediated and that you possess the adequate interpersonal skills and professional and ethical behaviors necessary for functioning as a student within a Clinical Psychology program. Please also note that if you are permitted to return to the program, you will be required to repeat any courses in which you have received a failing grade and will not be permitted to apply for externships until we have determined that you are ready to do so.

You were informed at the 11/30/06 meeting and are being reminded again that you have the option to withdraw from the program if you so decide and that you have the right to appeal the decisions made by the clinical program. If you decide to appeal, please do so in writing to the dean within 2 weeks of receipt of this letter.

We offered you time to consider these options and have set another meeting with you. Dr. Jerk, Freud, Octopussy, and I will meet with you in my office at 1:45 pm on Thursday December 7th, 2006.

Sincerely, Devona Dragon, PhD.

I sent a copy of this nasty letter to Dr. Stats and Dr. CT, the adjuncts, with this note:

As you can see from Dr. Dragon's letter, I am being given little choice but to withdraw from this semester.

For the record, they did not inform me about the option of officially requesting special accommodation for my injury until it was too late; by then I would have missed at least one cognitive assessment assignment. I was unable to point this out to them because I walked into the meeting blind, not knowing any of the charges that would be leveled at me. They told me that I could have consulted the student handbook to find someone to advocate for my side of things, but unfortunately, the student handbook has not been printed and distributed.

Their refusal to tell me which students perceive me as angry and hostile leaves me completely unable to defend myself against this charge, and their invalidation of the insults I have suffered this semester is breathtakingly cruel. They castigate me as lacking insight, but their extreme offense taken at my behavior and refusal to acknowledge what I have done at their request, such as apologizing to Dr. Dragon after the colloquium on cognitive therapy, is just as uninsightful.

Furthermore, the restriction that I test only people I did not know is entirely arbitrary; the clinical health students test friends and family members because the goal is practice, not actual assessment. Their refusal to see the role their behavior has played in my actions -- such as a semester's worth of rudeness and hostility from Dr. Jerk, and the coldness of Drs. Octopussy, Freud, and Dragon -- is also quite obtuse.

I am sorry if you are disappointed in me. I believe I have tried my hardest this semester, despite extremely trying circumstances beyond my control, and I know I am not the only student who has been so harshly treated here. I've heard from other students and from a professor who used to teach here that such behavior on part of the tenured faculty is not uncommon.

I am not proud of having lied to the faculty, but I'm not entirely ashamed. I went to Dr. Freud early in the semester to tell him about my problems with Dr. Jerk, and he was no help. Then Dr. Octopussy called me in to castigate me for my loose boundaries after I disclosed in colloquium about my knee injury. I met with both of them to follow up, and they asked what they could do to help. I asked them to contact both of you -- and they failed to do that.

Clearly, I have been targeted for removal, and their discovery of my blog and deception of them is only a pretext. It's unfortunate that I handed it to them (or, rather, that a classmate of mine handed it to them), but while I may have been indiscreet, I am not ashamed of anything that appears on my blog. It's been one of the few things that helped me deal with this nightmare of a semester, and it's been a good way for my family and friends to keep an eye on me and support me through the grief the faculty has given me.

I have learned so much from you both, and you have been a tremendous comfort to me. If you are still willing to complete the grad school recommendations for me, please put them in my mailbox in the student lounge. A fellow student will make sure that I get them.

I bcc'd that to several friends, and Alona called me back with some advice. She helped me craft the following note to Dr. Dragon:

After receiving this letter, I would respectfully request a postponement of tomorrow's meeting so that I may ensure the attendance of a third party to represent me in this matter. I would also like to request a copy of the student handbook.

Sincerely, Ayelet Survivor, MA

Given the antagonistic tone of this email, in contrast to their expressed concern for the pain I was in during our last meeting, I have no intention of marching into another inquisition alone. My rabbi has been trying to contact the bigwigs at the university to see if they have some kind of ombudsman who could be my advocate, but personal circumstances in his life have kept him busy this week. Maybe today he'll get through to somebody.

Alona did me an even bigger favor: she talked to my mom, who's been sending me lots of emails with well-meaning but unhelpful advice, and reassured her that I'm handling the situation as best I can and getting help from others. I can't talk to mom right now; I can't deal with her unhappiness on top of my own.

My friend Boaz stopped by after his office holiday party to give me some moral support. We talked about various things going on in his life, since I really didn't want to talk about mine. Later that night he wrote me:

Hey sweety - it occurred to me as I was driving home that the validation and ego boosting and moral support you gave me tonight - especially when considered together with the kindness and support and encouragement you gave me when things started getting weird with that person in my office - essentially prove that you're capable of empathizing and helping people in need. You know what to say, how to say it, and you're in touch with the other person (in this case, me) enough to present it all in a caring and/or authoritative voice that's attuned to his or her needs.

You're good at helping people and talking things out. You help me, and I appreciate it. And I'm here to help if you need anything.

He knows me much better than the faculty does. And I'm going to choose to believe his opinion over theirs.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Do I admit defeat and negotiate a surrender?

Right now, I should be sitting in Dr. Jerk's psychopathology class. Instead, I'm trying to decide how least to ruin my entire professional future.

My rabbi wasn't able to meet with the university bigwig yesterday; he'll try today and tomorrow, and asked me to check in with him tomorrow afternoon -- less than 24 hours before my next meeting with the Inquisition. I don't know if the higher authorities will be able to do anything for me -- or if they'll want to.

Jerusha, with whom I negotiated a truce, discussed my case with her husband, the hotshot lawyer. They think I should withdraw, citing health reasons. That way, I'll get a partial refund of my tuition, and I can make a fresh start -- next year. And I'll be able to explain to the schools where I'm re-applying that my health problems prevented me from doing as well as I could have, especially since the school was not accommodating.

I don't know what to do. One of my former professors is pushing me to consider getting a degree in social work instead of psychology; another has urged me to talk to my psychiatrist before making a decision. I don't see how either course of action will help me.

I have so many people who love me and support me, but I feel completely afraid and alone. I can't believe how badly this first semester has turned out. Some of it was my fault, but most of it was the faculty's -- and I'm not the only one who sees it that way.

It's so unfair. I can do this work! Why am I being kept from it? Why, after so many years of wandering without direction, and then finally finding a direction and working so hard to attain my goal -- why am I being thwarted?
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, December 04, 2006

Not a good dating weekend

I don't always drink on a date, but last night I needed two glasses of wine to survive dinner .

First of all, the 34yo isn't 34. He saw somebody he knew at the restaurant -- actually a guy I went out with years ago, who was there with his wife and newborn (she's already back in her skinny jeans; I think I have to hate her).

"How do you know Jeff?" I asked my date.

"Oh, we both worked at [big sweatshop law firm] back in the day. I was assigned to be his mentor when he was a summer associate," he said blandly.

"Isn't he... older than you?" I asked.

"Oh. My age is wrong on my profile. I'm not really 34, I'm 41." he said, just as blandly, and laughed.

I don't like being lied to. Especially by men who lie about their age. Apparently he felt justified in lying about his age because a lot of people tell him he looks much younger than he is.

"They do? Really?" I said. "I don't see that."

Unfortunately, that was just his first lie of the evening. His profile neglects to mention that he was married before, has a child in college, and smokes. So this guy is a Big Fat Liar (BFL). And liars who laugh about their lies bear a striking resemblance to psychopaths.

BFL could tell I was annoyed, because I didn't say much and smiled tightly. He launched into an explanation of the way friends of his used to lie to women in order to get them into bed -- allegedly because he never approved, was in fact embarrassed, and did not indulge in the same kind of behavior -- and how now most of them are married to women whom they did and do not lie to. Apparently it's okay to lie to people some of the time, especially if they're really beautiful and you want to sleep with them. And women who disapprove of this kind of behavior are apparently very harsh, which is evidently not a good way to be.

Call me harsh, but I found all of this appalling. I don't know why I ever thought getting involved with this creep was worth my while; he told me during our first phone conversation that when he's bored, he likes to go to strip clubs and get strippers' phone numbers, allegedly because he's going to call them for a date. That should have tipped me off right away.

Moreover, BFL ostentatiously left his cell phone on the table. I just think that's rude. I had my cell phone in my purse, and it was on, but I didn't anticipate getting any calls; I left it on so that if BFL were delayed, he could let me know. (He was at the restaurant bar when I arrived, though, downing a Scotch. Apparently there are some family/sibling problems he's experiencing, and that was the reason for his somewhat distant and downcast mood during our date.)

So I was pretty annoyed at BFL. (Understatement.) So annoyed that I thought about leaving. But I was hungry -- and thirsty; the wait staff was ignoring us; apparently they mistook tense conversation for romance. I mentioned my thirst to him and he did nothing to summon help, so I started making a little flag from my knife and a napkin and told him I'd flag someone down. He got up quickly and went to ask the wait staff for some water. I grabbed my cell phone and dialed Little Marty; of course, I had to hang up because BFL was heading back to the table, but Marty called me back.

"I'm so sorry," I said to BFL, "it's important, I have to take this call."

"Help me!" I said to LM. "I'm on a horrible date. Make up a cover story to get me out of it."

"This is what you say," said LM. "You know, I've realized that we are really not compatible. I don't think this is going to go anywhere, so we probably should just call it a night."

Then I had a brainstorm. "No. I'm going to stay and order the most expensive thing on the menu. He says he has all this money -- he can afford it."

"Don't be passive-aggressive! Just get out of there!"

"No, no, it's fine, I'm fine. Thanks for listening. I'll talk to you later, goodbye," I sang, hung up, and headed back to the table.

"Sorry about that," I said, and quickly made up a cover story: my friend's father is dying of cancer in hospice, and I thought this was THE CALL, but it turned out just to be an update. If he could lie, so would I. It was kind of an evil lie, because Adir's chevruta's father had just passed away from cancer; I babysat for his daughter earlier on Sunday while he went to the funeral because Alona's on a business trip. The best lies contain a grain of truth.

The waitress had given us some water, and returned to the table to take our orders. I asked for a moderately priced glass of wine and the most expensive entree on the menu.

"Oh, I'm so sorry, we're all out of that," she said. So I chose the third-most-expensive item, which happens to be my favorite, the BBQ ribs. Normally I wouldn't get ribs on a date; they're messy and unladylike. But obviously I didn't care what he thought about me at this point, and was determined to cut my losses as much as possible.

The wine came, I drank it quickly and went from judgmental to giggly very soon. Then LM started sending me text messages on my phone, which rang each time:

Repeat after me... I changed my mind. I'm just not interested and would rather just leave. Have a good night.

You're not gonna do it, are ya?

All right. Stay. But my way's better!

Maybe we'll just annoy him with messages all night

You sure I can't keep annoying him?

Finally I turned off my phone (even though BFL didn't) and invented another lie: the friend calling me with an update on our friend's father's condition had just broken up with her boyfriend and was trying to get me to comfort her, even though I'd spent a good chunk of the day comforting her already. I don't know if he bought it, and again, don't care. I had a great dinner and enjoyed the wine, we talked about lighter matters -- Carlos Mencia, The Family Guy, etc. Apparently we have a few tastes in common.

When he dropped me off in front of my apartment, he said, "I had a good time tonight, but I have to think about it." As if!

"Think all you want," I chirped. "Take a few days." And I floated upstairs, filled with red meat, red wine, and jollity. Today I emailed the website where we met with a complaint:

BFL lies several times on his profile. He is not 34, he is 41. He is not single and never married; he is divorced. He has a child, who is not mentioned on his profile. He claims to be a non-smoker and he smokes. I found all of this out on our first date. He told me I was very "harsh" for being bothered by his lies.

Of course, they haven't always been responsive to complaints before, but maybe this time they'll make an exception.

It's funny -- I really enjoy drinking, and I hardly ever do it. I get so happy when I'm drunk. I mean, really happy. And I think, "Wow, I'm so happy. I should do this more often." Then I wake up the next morning with drinking amnesia -- I forget how happy it makes me, and months go by without me touching a drop.

I guess I'm lucky that way. I don't have to worry about developing a comorbid substance disorder, as many people with bipolar disorder do. The only thing I've ever gotten addicted to was Entenmann's, and I kicked that monkey off my back long ago.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Gd will gather me in

One of the few good things about hiding my blog from the world is, I get to invite people to view it -- and if I don't invite them, they can't. This includes my mother.

Since she can no longer read my blog, she's been calling me more, and I've had to hang up on her a few times. She is not an optimist, and feels obligated to point out the worst-case scenarios to me. Repeatedly. And I'm just not in need of a nattering nabob of negativity right now. I need to stay positive, or I'll never survive this witch hunt.

I tried to explain that to her this morning, and she persisted in being negative. I don't think I'm being unrealistic by staying positive, but she kept trying to rein me in. Maybe she thinks I'm getting hypomanic again, and feels she needs to intervene before I self-destruct.

But right now I'm extremely clear, and while I'm angry, I'm fairly calm. I'm appealing to a higher authority, and I'm trying to put my trust in my rabbi and, by extension, Gd.

I tried to explain to my mother why I want my transcript to reflect incompletes for Dr. Jerk's courses -- I don't want F's on my record, and I don't think he'd give me a decent grade at this point. If I don't finish the course requirements, it's logical for an incomplete to be granted. Schools I'm applying to will be told that Dr. Jerk refused to give me extra time to finish my requirements after an injury, and that I will be finishing the requirements during the current semester.

She doesn't get it. After I hung up on her, she sent me this:

What's your objective? Certainly you want to have a positive outlook, but you have to have a strategic plan. Hoping for the best is not enough. Thinking that some higher-ups will see it 100% your way is not realistic. At best, a compromise will have to be reached.

[I don't have to compromise if I have the backing of the university administration.]

You have to acknowledge that you did not adhere to the requirements of the course. The readers of your blog, including me, failed you in that they did not alert you to the possible consequences of your acts. What does an incomplete mean? It's my understanding that if it's incomplete, it needs to be completed. And it needs to be completed for the person for whom it was incomplete.

[It's not REALLY incomplete. It's just incomplete as far as the other schools I'm applying to are concerned.]

You have to assess your position and know your adversary. That other courses were run differently doesn't matter. The professor for this course set up his course his way. That accommodations weren't made for a disability is unfortunate, but that was the reality in this case. The professor is very angry, and he wants to win. Not only did you defy him, but you embarrassed him and called into question the way he set up his course requirements.

[True dat. And he deserved it.]

What is the best outcome you can expect? They will not cave in to your wishes even though they did not do right by you. Don't let your conflicts or separation issues with me get in the way of looking at what you're facing in this instance. Assess the situation as realistically as you can. And see how you can reach an acceptable resolution. You will have to make restitution for not complying with the course requirements.

[Not if I transfer to another school, which is what I'm hoping to do. And thanks for throwing in the pop psychology, Dr. Mom. You're still not entitled to hide my IQ score, but that has nothing to do with the current situation.]

I've been thinking about bitachon, trust in Gd, a lot lately. My situation has gotten so bad, I have to trust that something or someone will help me. Maybe I'm putting too much confidence in my rabbi, but he wields a fair amount of influence. I have to believe that Gd will not let disaster overtake me. I know that injustices take place every day in this imperfect world, but I can't give up hoping that this time I won't be punished again.

I'm reminded of Psalm 27:

Though a host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise up against me, even then will I be confident....

For though my father and my mother have forsaken me, Gd will gather me in....

Trust in Gd; be strong and of good courage, and trust in Gd.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

My friends are behind me 100%

My good friend Dov just wrote me to express his concern and support:

I, for one, certainly believe that you are fit to care for patients and to be a psychologist. I have good reason to believe so, as well as anecdotal evidence. I have talked to you in the past about all sorts of issues that have been on my mind, and I have always found you to be a compassionate, astute and pleasant listener, with an attention to detail.

I point out that I did not know that you were suffering from any kind of disorder until you allowed [my wife] Tovah to show me the blog. It did not come through AT ALL, in the conversations we had or in the email exchanges. I do not think that you gave me bad advice, or listened to me in a different way because you have bipolar. The school might find your lack of discipline disruptive (and for all I know, they may be right but that is their problem), but that has NOTHING to do with you as a future psychologist. They have no right to tell you that you are not fit to treat people, and you have no right to believe them when they put you down.

There is a great therapist in you that is one day going to provide a very special kind of help to people, and you must do what it takes to make that happen. The world needs it just as much as you do.

You have been through a lot. You have met all sorts of people, and you have done a lot of introspection. You have been on both ends of the give/receive relationships. There have been time when you have been there for friends who were at their hardest moments and needed support, and you have been through some very vulnerable moments yourself. I think that you have had more 'street smarts' and intuition on what it takes to be a psychologist then most professionals will acquire in an entire career.

Bottom line. I do not care what the faculty or some professor thinks of you, and neither should you. You have a great career ahead of you, and you are not going to let anyone ruin it for you. Got that?

Try somehow or another to get over this recent crisis, and just push on. You can not let something like this bring you down.

As always, Tovah and I will always be there for you and we will provide any type of support we can.

It's good to have friends who believe in you. They know me much better than the faculty does, and I'm choosing to believe that they're right and the Inquisition is wrong.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Up and down, all Shabbos

My mood has been rather volatile this Shabbos, to say the least. I was invited out for both meals, so at least I wasn't alone. Friday night I went to Eric and Ahuva, who gave me a lift (in two ways -- a ride, and a spiritual boost) to my ex-boyfriend's wedding.

Everything was fine, I was chatting and socializing, and I helped organize the seating, making sure that Eric and Ahuva's daughter (Mara)'s friend could sit next to her mother and Mara.

Then the man next to me turned into Rush Limbaugh.

"You know," he bloviated, "the difference between Democrats and Republicans is that Democrats run away from confrontation, and Republicans don't."

You think that might be because Republicans say unpleasant things in an extremely loud voice, as if they believe that will imbue their blatherings with truth?

That's what I should have said, but I'm so on edge from all the school issues, I'm just not at my best in a battle of wits. I just underwent a very unpleasant interrogation, which I had to walk into blind and defend myself as best I could without getting angry. I wasn't in shape for anything but a relaxing Shabbos, and I was sitting next to a goddamn Republican.

I shouldn't have said anything to him. I wasn't in the mood for a debate; in fact, I had a whole bunch of very unpleasant arguments along those lines with my ex G.I. Josh (not the one who married a 26-year-old; I'm no longer in contact with G.I. Josh and don't wish to be). We got into screaming matches about abortion, Terri Schiavo, gun control, etc. I think he was trying to talk himself out of liking me, so he decided my political views were contemptible and therefore he was safe from having to marry me.

Anyway, after a bit, I said, "I really don't want to have this conversation."

"See!" he blared. "This proves my point! Democrats are afraid of confrontation!"

"Look," I snapped, "I've had a really crappy week. I might get kicked out of school. I ... " and I rushed from the table (so fast that I slipped out of my shoes) to the bathroom, where I tried to collect myself.

I couldn't. I was shaking, crying, furious with myself for losing my cool and telling a table full of strangers (Eric and Ahuva entertain huge numbers of guests every Shabbos; I think the minimum they average is 14) about my school troubles. I thought maybe the faculty was right; maybe I'm too angry and out of control to be a psychologist.

Finally, after I'd gathered a few crumbs of composure, I went back to the dining room, retrieved and put on my shoes, and got my coat. Ahuva came over to me.

"Ayelet, what's the matter?"

"I've lost my appetite," I said, and hurried out the door, down the stairs, straight to Alona and Adir's apartment.

Thank Gd for good friends. They managed to calm me down and reassured me that everyone has bad weeks, and my behavior wasn't entirely out of line.

Later, Eric walked to my apartment with a plate of food; apparently he ran after me when I left his apartment but went down the other staircase and didn't see me on the street.

He and I stood in the hallway, talking about what's going on with me at school and how distraught I am about it.

"When I was studying for the bar," he said, "I was very careful not to study on Shabbos, at least not until the very end. I let myself enjoy Shabbos and really relax. The rabbi isn't going to talk to the president's assistant until Monday -- there's nothing you can do until then. So just try to enjoy Shabbos. I'll see you in shul tomorrow."

He also assured me that he found the bloviator's politics just as odious as I do, and chose not to talk with him on that topic.

It meant so much that he tried to find me and brought me food. He and Ahuva are definitely on my team. Right now there are more people with me than against me -- unfortunately, those against me are the ones with all the power in the program. But I would think that the president of the university might have a little influence. I just hope he can use it to help me.

Shabbos morning I made sure to go to shul so that I could see the rabbi and Eric and Ahuva, and let them know I was doing okay. I told the rabbi I liked his tie, and he said, "Tell the rebbetzin -- she bought it for me."

So I went to give her the compliment, and she asked me what I was up to.

"I'm in school." I decided to keep it brief.

"Oh," she said, "how's that going?"

My rabbi is a very discreet man.

"Oh, fine," I said blandly, and turned the conversation to her children and grandchildren.

Then I went to Ruchama and her family for lunch. That was the best therapy. Tikva was very affectionate, as always, sitting on my lap through lunch and crying when I had to go home. Although she didn't like my red sweater and red lipstick. She prefers pink, and I had to promise to wear pink when I go there for lunch next week (apparently she's decided she isn't seeing quite enough of me, and told her mother I was coming over next week as well).
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"