Monday, May 21, 2007

Not all social workers are nicer than psychologists

Miss Thing certainly isn't, and neither is Ms. Fascist, the rigid and brutal educational coordinator at The Other Bad Place (the renowned psychiatric facility that dissed me last week).

Ms. Fascist was brusque, unfriendly, and dismissive from our first phone call. I had to chase her down to schedule a confirmation interview. I couldn't understand it. But after being forced to defend my actions at my last internship -- four times in one day -- I really believe that she never wanted me, and was determined to reject me before I even showed up. (She also made a slightly disparaging remark about very orthodox Jews; I shouldn't have told her I was modern orthodox and understood the ultra-orthodox sector.)

The interview was supposed to confirm my placement at The Other Bad Place. Instead, it turned into a referendum on my experience at the shelter. Why had I had to leave? I had to explain that over and over, to five people in four interviews -- it took more than three hours, and I had to walk several blocks from one building to another, to be mercilessly drilled again and again. It was incredibly stressful and anxiey-provoking; given my mood disorder, it's a miracle I didn't break down and cry or kick something.

The worst part is, they should not have been allowed to ask me that, and I should not have had to answer. Because what happened at the shelter was not my fault. Yet clearly they believed it was, and nothing I could have said would have convinced them otherwise.

I wasn't prepared to answer why I'd had to leave the shelter. And obviously I didn't do so well, since they came up with so many half-truths and outright lies to support their rejection of me. I also don't understand why they felt so threatened by me. They knew from my résumé that I have a master's degree. Why shouldn't I use proper terminology when discussing psychiatric disorders? Why shouldn't I express the desire to take part in treatment team decisions, including assessment of medication efficacy?

My friend Alona said it was clear they had already decided to blame me for what happened at the shelter, and nothing I could have said or done would have changed their narrow little minds. "You could have stood on your head," she said, "and they would have called the school and said, 'She didn't stand on her head.' And you shouldn't have had to stand on your head in the first place!"

I spoke with my academic adviser for about an hour yesterday, since I really needed advice. She was supportive, but told me that I can't complain about or criticize the interviewers to the internship department. I just have to say I am disappointed in how I did at The Other Bad Place, I wasn't prepared to answer those questions, clearly I did not do well, and ask what I should do next. "You're an excellent student, and you will do well in whatever internship you are placed in," she said. "Don't worry about not knowing your second-year placement. Try to help them find you a placement for the rest of your first year -- as soon as possible."

So that's what I'm trying to do. Obviously The Other Bad Place would not have been a good setting for me to learn and grow. I just have to have faith that wherever I end up will be.

I was greatly comforted this Shabbos by the Pirke Avot shiur I attended. (On a side note: Mrs. Mutter was at the Pirke Avot shiur, and she invited me over for dinner on the first night of Shavuot. That was nice.) We were up to the last chapter (many thanks to Chabad for posting an online translation), and so many of the verses seemed directly relevant to my current situation:

Whoever studies Torah for Torah's sake alone, merits many things.... [and] becomes modest, patient and forgiving of insults.

Torah is acquired with forty-eight qualities [including]... humility... companionship with one's contemporaries... tranquility... slowness to anger... acceptance of suffering, knowing one's place, satisfaction with one's lot... not taking credit for oneself, likableness... fleeing from honor, lack of arrogance in learning... and saying something in the name of its speaker.

My ordeal at The Other Bad Place was especially painful because of my ordeal at The Bad Place. But as Alona pointed out, at my current school I have respect and support from my professors and fellow students. And what I learned from this week's Pirke Avot session is that I must be especially careful to guard against arrogance. Because arrogance must have come out during those three hours of interrogation. As a defense, surely; but it's unappealing and off-putting.

Arrogance and grandiosity are aspects of hypomania, so I have all the more reason to work on my humility. Joan warned me before my interview that I can seem like a show-offy know-it-all; I wish I'd kept that more in mind. Arrogance leads to being easily insulted; anytime someone treats you with less respect than you believe to be your due, you get hurt. Humility protects you from being so easily injured.

I still don't think there's anything I could have done to win Ms. Fascist over, but as painful as this experience was, the only way I can redeem it is to learn from it. And I will grovel to the internship department, telling them that I wasn't prepared to answer the questions I was asked, and beg for help in getting new internships.

Even though I shouldn't have to.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. kudos to you for being able to admit your flaws!

  2. I'm really sorry that they gave you such a hard time, and that you didn't get the position you wanted. It's really unfair that they were prejudiced against you from the very start. :( But, as you said, clearly it's not a place where you would have been able to learn and grow in the profession, if that's how they treat people, so I guess it's for the better...cold comfort, I know, but it's something. And it's good that people are more supportive in the program you're in now.

    Good luck finding another place!

  3. I'm very impressed with the honesty of your self-examination. And at the end of the day, you should have a 30-second summary of what went wrong at the initial internship, prepared and ready to present at future interviews.

    Who knows? Maybe someone from the clinic - miss thing? - called miss torquemada ahead of time? Or gave her a bad report of some kind and poisoned the waters?

    Either way, it doesn't pay to point fingers and speculate. It pays to be your awesome self and move on.

    Love ya.