Sunday, January 28, 2007

Reinforcements

I'm still struggling with this damn depression. I'm getting by, barely. It's very hard to function. I spent the entire weekend in my apartment, and now that it's getting late, I'm dreading tomorrow, when I start my internship. Adolescents. Oy. I hope I can manage.

It's really hard to write right now, so hard to concentrate, but I want to talk about the props I'm getting from my fellow students. This is important, because I feel abandoned by my fellow students at The Bad Place. Only one of them has called or emailed to see how I'm doing; I think another one reads this blog and comments from time to time. The others -- nothing. Makes me feel radioactive.

So I'm really chuffed, as the Brits say, to be on the receiving end of a lot of flattering attention from my current classmates. Three in particular -- two twentysomethings, Leslie and Sonya, and a fiftysomething, Carly. All female, although there are a substantial number of men in my class. (Substantial compared to my class at The Bad Place, where men were barely 10% of the population; here they're about 25%.)

Leslie and Sonya both share my interest in psychology, and approached me, separately, to discuss some issues. I wish I could give a better description of what went down, but depression interferes with short-term memory; I was unable to remember specifically what we discussed. But it is flattering to be sought out and listened to, avidly. Of course, my knowledge of psychology isn't encyclopedic, but we've had some good discussions. It makes me feel like I'm connecting with people and I'm liked. Positive reinforcement.

Carly approached me the day after the psychiatrist's lecture and told me how my eloquence during the Q&A impressed and intimidated her. Carly raised twin boys as a single mother and worked two full-time jobs -- waitress and something else, can't remember right now. I'm mighty impressed by her. But she came up to me to compliment my speaking up in public.

I was thrilled to know that despite the depression, I'm still in some control of my faculties. And thrilled that people didn't think I was showing off.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Do I dare?

I'm too exhausted to concentrate on the reading for my next class, and I'm so blown away by the openness of my fellow social work students, I have to write about it.

(I think it's time to stop the flaxseed oil megadoses. I don't know how parents of newborns function on less than 3 hours of sleep.)

Jerry is in his 50s, so I like him already for being older than I am. He had two careers in finance -- on Wall Street as a trader, and then as the CEO of a startup tech company. He's a big WASPy guy, who wouldn't look out of place on the deck of a yacht or in the Oval Office. But during our daylong seminar on multicultural awareness, when Jerry was told that as an educated, affluent, white male Protestant, he experienced tremendous power and privilege whether he knew it or not, he replied that he tried not to exploit that power -- he works very hard to be gentle. Which I thought was a beautiful way of saying, "Don't shovel me that P.C. b.s."

I spoke with him today in the student lounge, and learned that his wife has suffered from bipolar disorder for 17 years (it seems to be more or less under control now) and his son suffered from substance abuse and terrible allergies, which created such stress that he experienced symptoms of bipolar as well.

Wow. I was blown away by his matter-of-fact description of what they've been through -- some of which parallels what I've been through.

And I wonder why I'm still afraid to talk about my own illness and the experiences it's plunged me into. Jerry and Clive, the British dyslexic recertifying social worker, are so open about their own pain and struggles.

I'm terrified of revealing this part of my history. I don't want people to judge me, to make assumptions about who or what I am because I've got a diagnosis. I am not the sum of my diagnosis; it's just a disability.

But -- but -- but: it is becoming increasingly clear to me that this program is not at all like The Bad Place. It is supportive. It recognizes our differences, our weaknesses. The students are more mature, realistic, down-to-earth. If I am going to come out and identify as openly bipolar, this might not be a bad place to do it.

Not yet, though. Not yet. I sort of promised my mother I wouldn't disclose about my disorder until I got into grad school and got married. I had a rough start with part one of the agreement, and part two continues to elude me. I don't want my diagnosis to be the first thing a potential husband learns about me -- how could anyone get past that? I don't know if I could.

So, not yet. At least I have enough friends and supportive relatives, and a good psychiatrist, so I don't feel like I'm entirely living a lie.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

No such luck

Apparently people with bipolar disorder should not eat a fistful of flaxseed oil capsules before bed, because then they will not be able to sleep. I haven't had trouble sleeping for weeks -- at least, not falling asleep; I've had some pretty bad terminal insomnia. Today I just have regular insomnia. It's going to take a few cups of coffee to get me through tomorrow.

And apparently, I'm not so over Little Marty. Even though I frequently find his conversation less than stimulating, I still crave him. And it doesn't feel like purely physical desire; why else would I cry on the phone, telling Boaz how much I miss LM? There's too strong an emotional component. I don't just miss the sex, I miss him.

Although -- do I miss him, or do I miss having an un-boyfriend? Am I just lonely?

Everyone's a philosopher at 2:30 a.m. -- unless they're sleeping.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A few good things

I'm still not entirely up to speed, but handfuls of flaxseed oil capsules are helping me barely cope.

Curiously enough, my mom understands. She's in town, and I saw her on Sunday after spending the weekend at my sister's. I finally told her tonight I've been depressed these past days, and that's why I couldn't spend a day with her during her visit.

"It makes sense," she said. "You went through such a terrible experience at The Bad Place [note: this is what I will now be calling my former doctoral program]."

"I think it's just hitting me now," I said. "It's worse than when I was waiting to get into the social work program."

"Sure, because you just had to get through it. Now you're dealing with the aftereffects of what happened at The Bad Place."

So she wasn't mad that I blew her off and didn't tell her about this mini-depression. Which is great, because when she's upset while I'm depressed, it makes me feel worse.

I made it to school and learned the first Good Thing: missing fieldwork orientation was no big deal, because there are videos posted on the field education department's website. I just have to go through those.

Second Good Thing: instead of having to sit through a class on professional identity -- I love the professor, she reminds me of Rosie O'Donnell, but I think the class is kind of a waste of time -- we went to a lecture by a psychiatrist who joined the social work faculty a year ago. She's collaborated with social workers, has great respect for the profession, and wants us to adopt more research-based assessment and intervention methods.

Hallelujah! They want me to give psychological tests!

Well, not the elegant, difficult tests like the Rorschach or WAIS. Psychologists still have dibs on those. But social workers can administer simple measures that assess depression, anxiety, and other major disorders.

I was able to ask two very intelligent questions after the lecture, and impressed a few people. I can't really reconstruct them right now, because my brain is really not functioning too well. My concentration is terrible, I've got music in my head -- I'm depressed. Sorry if I sound redundant.

I might have got myself into an interesting project: putting together a group of simple, useful assessment tools that can be used to monitor clients' progress during therapy. This is one of the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy -- regular temperature-taking, so to speak, to see how the patient is doing.

Once I put together this "toolbox," if it's good, the alumni association wants a copy. And I get to spend time working on real clinical psychology. And I'll probably end up doing some stuff with the psychiatrist. Who seems cool, like Dr. Roda, not evil, like most psychiatrists.

Another Good Thing: I finally got a field placement! Every student spends 3 days a week working in the field and 2 days in school. My classmates are working in diverse settings -- social service agencies, nonprofits, hospitals, etc. --some doing clinical work, some doing more traditional "social-worky" stuff like helping elderly people apply for federal entitlements.

My first placement was supposed to be at an orthodox health/mental health organization in Boro Park. I was actually excited about it -- I was supposed to be doing some group therapy work, which I really want to learn about -- then was told they weren't able to supervise another student.

The second placement, which I really didn't want, was an agency in Bedford-Stuyvesant, the Brooklyn neighborhood where Spike Lee set Do the Right Thing. I didn't know how much clinical work was involved, and I wasn't thrilled with the area. And Gd must have heard my prayers, because they moved and didn't have room for an intern.

So now I'll be working in a domestic violence shelter in Manhattan. I'm not sure exactly what they want me to do, but they have a growing adolescent population -- victims of abuse and the children of women who have been abused. I'm not sure what they want me to do with them, and I'm not a big fan of adolescents, but it's definitely a clinical placement. So it's definitely something I'll find interesting. (Wish I could say that about most of my classes....)

But the best Good Thing that happened was: Little Marty called and left a message on my phone, and when I called him back... I was bored. He was talking about the new job he has and blah blah blah, and I sort of tuned him out while making noises like I was listening.

Maybe it's the first step in working him out of my system. A girl can dream, can't she?
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, January 22, 2007

The most depressing day of the year

Two years ago, a Welsh psychologist began calculating the worst day of the year. This year it's today. No wonder I couldn't get out of bed this morning.

I was supposed to go to field education training, but I couldn't face it. And I was a terrible aunt this past weekend at my sister's. I wanted to read, to watch TV -- anything but actually talking and playing with the kids.

It is so hard to write this. I am depressed. So I'm feeling extra guilty about skipping training. I'm sure I can make it up -- and I got a message that my field placement has actually been made. Third time's the charm.

My friends were worried about me this weekend -- I hadn't told them I was going away. They called each other, then me -- four times. One even stopped by my empty apartment. By the time I called them on Sunday, they were tremendously relieved. It was almost funny.

I'm not in danger. But I'm almost paralyzed. I feel so low. I don't know if it's missing Little Marty or being disappointed at my demotion from psychologist to social worker. Or both. And there's nothing I can do. I'm taking my meds, I've started taking flaxseed oil supplements again, and I'm even getting some exercise.

But I'm just having so much trouble getting up in the morning, and that's always a symptom of depression for me. When you're depressed, routine things like getting up, washing up, getting dressed are just too difficult and complicated. Even though you've done them a million times before.

Not that I have trouble waking up. I wake up repeatedly, in fact. Early morning waking, as I've written before, is one of my least favorite symptoms of depression. And lately I've got it in spades again.

But today I couldn't face dealing with school. I just couldn't, not after a weekend with the family. I think it will be a while before I go back to the kids -- I need to spend so much time alone on the weekends that I WANT to go to school.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Mixed feelings

I just had my first official social work course, and it was pretty dull. Just not what I'm into. The readings are fairly tedious, too, and there's lots of 'em. I know I just need to suck it up and get through the program so I can be a therapist, but I've got really mixed feelings right now.

My mood is fairly low. I haven't done much this week -- I should have met with the financial aid office and the field placement person who sent me to Bed-Stuy, but I lazed in bed until I absolutely had to get dressed and out the door. I'm just feeling blah and sad. Unfortunately, that means I don't really have anything interesting to write about.

I've got another class in about an hour. Maybe that will perk me up.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, January 12, 2007

Getting reoriented

My DSL bugged out abruptly Monday evening, and won't be back until next Monday. So I'm warily blogging from a computer on campus. Warily because blogging from an on-campus computer got me in trouble at my old school. But my new school is located on a small university campus, where all the buildings -- undergrad, grad, and professional -- are fairly close together. So this blog could be written by a cranky sophomore or a law student. Theoretically.

Social work orientation has been going on all week. We've been through introductions to the university computer system, library, and health services -- which are FAR AND AWAY so much better than those at my stupid old school. Not to mention much cheaper. If I could drop that insurance and sign up for the other school's health plan, I would. Just goes to show that if a school really cares about its students' well-being, it makes reasonable health care provisions for them. There is nothing reasonable about my old school.

I am happy to note that I am far from the oldest person in my class. There are two men and a woman in their 50s, plenty of 40somethings, a batch of 30somethings (including me), and the requisite just-out-of-college 20somethings. But I'm not the oldest, and that's a good feeling.

We had a full day of multicultural awareness programs. Most of it was kind of boring, but one part shook me. We were standing in a circle, and the facilitator asked us to step into the circle if we identified as: an oldest child, a youngest child, a person of color, gay/lesbian, married, etc. And then he said, "Step into the circle if you identify as disabled."

Clive, a British chap in his fifties who's studying in this program to recertify, since he was a qualified social worker in England, stepped into the circle; last night at the happy hour, he told a bunch of us that he has dyslexia.

And I... couldn't move. I do identify as disabled -- and I've felt horribly disabled this week. It's been harder and harder to get up in the morning. It's hitting me that I am not going to be a psychologist, I'm going to be a social worker. And that just doesn't seem enough to me. I feel like I've given up, almost.

Which is ridiculous, and I'm sure as soon as I start classes I'll feel more challenged and invigorated. But right now, I've lost a dream, and I haven't fully mourned it. And that makes it extremely difficult for me to function.

And I am still not ready to live my life as an openly bipolar woman. I don't think anyone in the program would judge me -- but after what happened at my last school, I'm gun-shy. The professors found out about my disorder, and they still tried to crucify me. The folks at this school can't possibly be as or more evil -- they'd report to Lucifer if they were -- but I'm still not ready to have that label slapped on me.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, January 08, 2007

Watch out

Boaz and I were discussing JG, who called last night to say he's REALLY busy these days, and simply doesn't have time to get together. Right.

I told Boaz that JG resembled other (recently) divorced guys I've dated with remarkable lack of success, and he said, "Now you know what to watch out for."

Almost revelatory, that statement. I have to steer clear of shaggy-blond, short divorced guys. Should be fairly easy to do -- most Jewish guys aren't blond. Of course, RD-SOB wasn't blond. But he was divorced -- and trouble.

Still waiting for those 40 days of prayer to kick in. I guess I should count getting into another grad program as evidence of its efficacy, even though that's not what I had in mind when I sent them a check.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Definitely straight

Been watching "The L Word" on youtube, and now I'm definitely convinced that I'm straight. I used to joke that I'd join the orthodykes if I couldn't find a man. That no longer seems like a viable option. But after watching approximately 30,000 lesbian love scenes, I feel more alone and bereft than ever.

I saw JG at shul today, and he was friendly, but didn't seem very into me. Which is a shame, because he looked really cute. A bit like Little Marty, and a bit like another divorced guy who loved me and left me: not overly tall, sandy hair, somewhat large head, swimmer's build. Maybe that's my "type." I don't know. I'm so lonely.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, January 04, 2007

A new day dawns

Pretty soon, I won't be able to sit around in my underwear watching youtube all day. That's because I start a clinical social work master's program on Tuesday. Hallelujah! It's not my original plan, but it works. I'll be able to do just about everything I wanted to do as a psychologist. And I can always go back for a doctorate later; I'm the queen of going back to school.

Also, my brother-in-law agreed to write a nasty letter to my old program -- just to get them to seal my records and refund some tuition. I offered to baby-sit the kids (and the dog, gevalt) some weekend night or Shabbos, so he and Jerusha can go away together.

I sent out a jubilant email announcing the happy news and got many responses, including this:

Great news! Very happy for you. When life gives you lemons... wait till they're rotten, chuck 'em at [your old school], and move on to what you deserve to have.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year

I'm usually a little sad on New Year's -- not sure why, unless it's because I feel especially single. The whole kiss-at-midnight thing, I suppose. I should have been happy to bid 2006 farewell -- not much good happened that year. I was laid off abruptly and rudely from a job I'd held for five years, I only got into one of the doctoral programs I applied to, and we all know how that turned out. If nothing else, 2007 has to be better by default.

I guess I have the sense that time is passing but my life is not progressing. I'm no closer to being a clinician than I was in September. If anything, I'm further from my goal, since I have to start all over at a new school -- assuming I get into one.

I had a decent time with my friend Chaya, going to a few (free) parties. I got in some good dancing, although it left me sore and stiff all day yesterday. But I felt kind of invisible most of the night. Apparently the interest I excited in a few random people the previous night was not very generalizable -- I wasn't paid much attention, except of course by Chaya, who's always incredibly supportive and loving.

But I still have a shot with JG -- even though he's probably a good five years younger than I am. (Which Chaya doesn't think should matter. I hope it doesn't.)

I did go on a very dreary date with the Very Frum Guy, who is 42 and looks 46. And isn't much fun. We spent an hour talking about the development of his nascent radio career, which apparently has left him significantly in debt -- just what every woman wants to hear -- and the sorry state of nursing homes, in one of which his father resides and in another of which his mother died, slowly and uncomfortably. I was not at all attracted him, he looked way too frum (and too old), and I just didn't enjoy talking to him. After a tortuous hour, I had to say, "Well, good luck with everything -- I have to get going."

His face fell. "So -- I guess you're not interested in getting together again."

"I'm sorry. I just don't see it." I fled.

I wondered if I really gave him a chance -- especially since I'm saying tehillim for 40 days and focusing on marriage even more than I usually do. But at some point, dating can't be so much of an effort. If you really don't enjoy someone's company, there's no hope.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"