Sunday, September 30, 2007

Living another lie

I have to get a referral to see Dr. Roda or I won't get reimbursed (wish I'd know that last year), so I went to Student Health Services to make an appointment to waste 20 minutes with a G.P.

"What's the appointment for?" asked the perfectly nice receptionist.

"I need a referral," I said.

"What kind of referral?"

I wanted to say, "None of your business -- and not the business of the 14 students waiting on line behind me, either." Instead, I said, "Endocrinologist." It doesn't have the stigmatic sting of "Psychiatrist."
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Scraping by

It is hard. Hard to get up in the morning and get to my internship or class. Hard to get dressed, impossible to take a shower and wash my hair. Thank goodness for bathroom wipes; they freshen underarms pretty well. And fortunately, most female grad students' hair is a little frizzy and straggly. I don't stand out. (Since I'm not sleeping with anyone, my vaguely questionable personal hygiene isn't really an issue.)

I'm constantly exhausted and having some trouble concentrating -- I get music in my head. I can't remember if I've written about this before, the annoying tendency for a catchy melody that I hear -- someone's cell phone ringtone, perhaps, or a song suggested by something I read or hear (if I see an ad for the lottery, I'll have "If I had a million dollars..." in my head for a long, long time; great, now it's going through my head...) -- to get stuck in my head and interfere with reading, thinking, etc.

I'm afraid people will be able to tell that I'm not on my A game, so to speak, but I guess I've gotten pretty good at contributing just enough to the discussion to seem with it and coherent. Inside I'm anything but together, as this tattered, scattered blog post will attest. I panic when I think I'll have to start meeting one-on-one with clients and actually trying to accomplish something with them.

Fortunately, my knees seem pretty quiescent; the barometric pressure must have dropped. I'm going to try to walk a little more and get a little exercise. As little as 10 minutes a day could lift my mood. It's really no longer optional on my part -- it's mandatory. There's no medication change I could effect to lift my mood. I have to move.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I see me

Yesterday my bus was 20 minutes late. I walked into class 10 minutes late, and the teacher decided to do a Behavioral Chain Analysis (BCA) on my tardiness.

A BCA is a way for therapists to examine their clients' behavior -- the vulnerabilities and preconditions that lead them to commit a "target behavior" (the focal point of the analysis), and the consequences of that behavior.

In my case, I was late because of the bus, and also because I chose not to take the subway instead of the bus, since my knees woke me up at 4 a.m. screaming in agony. (Taking the subway involves climbing up and down stairs and walking several blocks. It's quicker than the bus, but tougher on the knees.)

I also needed to check my email and read a little news before coming to school; it's a nice little ritual that helps me structure my day -- and that prevented me from getting to school even earlier. So even though I would have been 10 minutes early if the bus hadn't been criminally late, I was still late and it was still my fault.

This wasn't terribly fun, but it wasn't as painful as it could have been. After all, I was in therapy with Albert Ellis, so I'm pretty tough when my behavior's being dissected by professionals. (By my sister -- another story altogether.) And the class has to learn how to do BCA's, so why not subject the narcissist to public scrutiny? I can take it.

It was weird, though, because I had to hold back. I couldn't talk about why it's essential for me to have structure and read my email every morning. People with bipolar need regular routines -- and full-time grad school isn't all that regular. This week was also a big change in my routine, since my internship started -- and depressed people hate change. Moreover, I have a tendency toward terminal insomnia -- but I wasn't going to tell my professor that.

Today my internship supervisor, whom I'll call Melanie (as in Klein), and I met with one of her clients who has a bad hip; he walks with a cane.

"Did your hip start hurting really bad yesterday?" I asked him. "Because my knees sure did."

"It did start hurting really bad yesterday!" he exclaimed. We condoled on how it must be due to some mysterious change in the weather or barometric pressure or something.

On the subway back to the office, Melanie sighed and said that the client is affectionately known as "baby-man" among herself and the other social workers at the agency, since he likes to be coddled by the staff and he really needs to be pushed. "He was supposed to schedule an MRI of his hip and he never did," she said. Implying that nothing's really wrong with it.

I like and respect my Melanie, but I don't think she knows what it' s like to be depressed and in pain. Depression can prevent you from making or keeping appointments, and it magnifies whatever pain you're in. I don't know this client's diagnosis, but it's likely to be bipolar, schizophrenia, or schizoaffective disorder (which is sort of a mash-up of depression or bipolar and schizophrenia) since those are what most of the clients have. It's possible he's mildly depressed right now. Maybe he needs a kick in the pants, and maybe he's in real pain.

Also, not all pain shows up on an MRI. According to my MRI, my knees are fine. (And according to the MRI tech, I'm fine.) Yet I'm frequently in pain. Does that mean I'm relapsing into a depression? Possibly. Malingering? Absolutely not. I feel the pain; it is real. And so is the client's.

I felt the same way during the staff meeting, when the foibles of the clients were discussed and gently mocked. I have to emphasize that I like and respect the people who work at this agency; they do their best to ensure that difficult people are cared for well. And sometimes to blow off steam and keep your sanity, you need to joke about the little things your clients do or say.

But: I've been on the other side of the locked ward door. I've been a client. I've been profoundly sick, and unable to behave as I should. It's entirely possible that clinicians laughed about wacky Ayelet during a staff meeting while I was an inpatient.

I wonder what my professor and colleagues would think if they knew.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fin do Senhor Brazil

After hours of struggling through dull, redundant social work readings, I just had to take a break. I saw him again on the website. My curiosity burned:

Subject: did I scare you off?

I was just trying to be funny -- I'm sorry if you were offended.

I know the best thing to do is usually let such things go, but I've been denied so much closure lately, I forced the issue.

I am smiling here

but yr question did seem a bit on the extreme side;
but here are the main answeres
I am separatted for 1 yr, but divorced for 2 months...

Okay, fine, at least he's smiling. (At least he thinks I'm funny!)

It's just that I've had some very bad experiences with recently divorced guys who weren't ready to date and/or get married again -- and told me that after I'd gotten entangled with them. So I'm open to dating divorced guys but wary. Also, I don't know that much about Brazil, so I just named the items I could think of that are associated with your country.

What do you like to do for fun? What haven't you found in this big blurry city?

I was disappointed to read:

u have a good point...and I will be honest.... I dont think I am ready to even consider marriage.....but I am open minded to it..I am not in the dating arena looking for fun...

At least I knew how to respond:

I don't think we're on the same page. Good luck with everything.

Obviously there's no potential here. Not because he's "exotic," as one commenter noted, but because he's just not ready for another marriage. Maybe I should give up on divorced guys; I have such terrible luck with them. Then again, my record with never-marrieds is equally grim.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, September 17, 2007

No sense of humor

First day of internship went smoothly enough. I'm a little concerned about not having my own computer to use, since I'm expected to produce two weekly progress reports (complete with verbatim accounts of my interactions with clients). Other than that, the people seem nice and the work seems interesting enough.

Happy to report that my nausea is a thing of the (recent) past, although my appetite is moderate rather than hearty. That's a good thing, though.

I wrote the post title because I'm flummoxed -- yet again -- by the reaction of a guy I've been corresponding with online. Let's call him Senhor Brazil, since he's from that country.

I asked him what brought him to NYC. He responded:

I am basicaly hear in NYC running the office for the family bussiness based in Brazil; got married and divorced here in NY too !!!!
AS I am recently divorced; NYC is a big blur to me.... what the f... am I doing here? LOL
Senhor B.

(I'll overlook the grammatical errors, since his English is far superior to my Portuguese.)

how recently divorced?

and what's the family business? SHOES????? ;) Let me think. Gems? Coffee? Plastic surgery? Wax? What else is made or mined in Brazil?

Obviously I need to know how recently divorced he is; one RD-SOB or Little Marty is more than enough. (Also, I saw a picture of him, and while he's no Val Kilmer, he's definitely not my toxic type.)

Senhor B. has revisited the site. He's read the note. And... no response. It's driving me crazy. Was I too flippant? too blunt? too rude? Did he view my comments as an insult to Brazil? Did I ask too abruptly about his divorce? He says in his profile that he's sarcastic, which I liked; it's no fun being snarky by yourself. Does he disapprove of sarcasm in ladies?

Gentlemen readers of this blog: feel free to weigh in.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Why I love Shimona

Just so you know, I think you are a saint to put up with your sister. She should have been on her knees in apology.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A wasted day

I did some reading today, but I don't think any of it stuck. My brain has turned to glass. I'm anxious and unable to concentrate. Also unable to eat, which is not such a bad thing at this point. I weigh four times as much as skinny seven-year-old Shira. Maybe this bad bout of anxiety will shave off a few pounds. I just hope I don't fall too far behind in my schoolwork.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Not an auspicious beginning

On Rosh Hashana, we stand before Gd to be judged. Last Rosh Hashana, I was waiting on bride-to-be Bina, organizing an impromptu shabbos kallah before her wedding to Asher; l'sameach chatan v'kallah is one of my favorite mitzvot, and I think I did a pretty good job of it. I also think I davened with reasonable fervor.

And I had the worst possible year.

Maybe not the absolute worst; I didn't die or lose any close relatives or friends. (Except for Bina, who moved to Yennensville, but we still talk on the phone about every week.)

But I was raked over the coals numerous times at The Bad Place. My current school had many unpleasant surprises in store for me, ranging from Miss Thing to Dean Evillene and The Other Bad Place. I went through another depression that lasted several months. And of course, while I went on many horrible dates and had several fruitless entanglements, I failed to get engaged or married. Or to lose any of the weight I need to lose. It was not a good year, despite how virtuously I tried to usher it in.

This year, I didn't even try. I didn't go to shul either day of Rosh Hashana, nor did I daven on Shabbat Shuvah. Why bother? There seems to be a negative correlation between how hard I try to do mitzvot and how terrible the consequences are. Like the year I went on bikur cholim on Yom Kippur and suffered a seizure. That was a pretty awful year, too.

I had good intentions, but I woke up the first morning too depressed to face a synagogue full of married people. The second day, I woke up nauseated -- a severe gastric disturbance that has waxed and waned but not abated. I'm still queasy, typing this, and fearing a recurrence of two horrific bouts of gastritis that I experienced a few years ago. Months of nausea, vomiting, and waning stamina. I became physically run down and so depressed that in the course of the second gastritis, I overdosed on my psychiatric medications and wound up in a weeklong coma. It's quite possible that these gastric symptoms are somatic signs of depression. I hate to think I'm facing another few months of constant nausea and misery.

On Yom Kippur, when I'm forced to stay at home all day, I probably won't be thinking much about forgiveness and redemption. I've been punished enough for being good and trying to go beyond the call of duty. This is going to be a year of doing the minimum and trying to fly under the radar.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, September 10, 2007

Facebook weighs in

Gotta love Facebook. I set my status:

Ayelet is flummoxed and bewildered... do men EVER make sense?

A guy friend of mine (actually, he's soon to be my college friend's second ex-husband) offered to try to make sense of things, so I sent him the rundown. He asked how long I'd been waiting for a response; I told him three days. Then he wrote back:

It is a bit more of a challenge for me given that he is French/Moroccan.

Given the timeline, I would have to say that he ...

is a total flake and not worth your time!

It is possible he made a knee-jerk reaction when he saw your picture. European men have very different standards when it comes to a woman's appearance.

I think you should just write this off as "his loss" and keep looking.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

I just don't get it

So I write to a guy on an online dating site. He's Moroccan, grew up in Paris, now lives in Boston doing a cardiology fellowship. A few years younger than I am, but what the heck -- nothing ventured, nothing gained. I dredge up every bit of my high school French to write him (I'll translate for your benefit):

Hey, how's it going? I studied French in high school, now I'm studying social work. How do you like Boston? Do you ever come to New York?

Didn't think I'd hear from him, but:

I think that your french is excellent. I love Boston.
I go to NY frequently. I have a coussant who is leaving in NY.
I love your profile. Will you like to be in touch?. Perhaps we can chat by telephone if you dont mind.
I hope to hear from you soon.
My email is

Fine. So I wrote him at his Yahoo address:

Hi! Thanks for writing back -- now I really have to write well... ;) I liked your profile too. You seem to be an intelligent, interesting man. I've never been to Morocco, or Paris, but I've always wanted to go!

If you want we can talk on the phone this Sunday. I'm going to Brooklyn in the morning but returning home in the afternoon. You can call me on my cell phone, 917-xxx-xxxx. If you don't get an answer, you can leave a message. Where does your cousin live in New York?

I forgot to give you my photo password -- it's xxxxx. The kids in the photo are my nieces and nephew, with whom I'm completely enamored. You can see why, right?

Never heard from him. I sent him another email on the website:

Hey -- did you get the email I sent you yesterday at your Yahoo address?

No email, no phone call. WHAT DID I DO WRONG???????? Is it any wonder my mood is slipping?
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Change is good, right?

Depressed people hate change. Dr. Roda thinks that's why I'm so mopey and anxious lately. Another transition, coming on the heels of so many.

I'm trying to stay positive. I've been wearing body-conscious clothing -- not tight, but not tentlike. People say I look pretty, I hope they mean it. I try to do my homework assignments, read the tedious texts. It's a struggle. I didn't go to a birthday party for two people I really love because I thought I needed to stay at home and study -- and of course, I only got minimal studying done.

Fortunately, the demands on me aren't too strenuous so far. I'm not yet behind in my reading. The article has gone through a third round of editing, and hopefully it's finally finished. The advocacy project has been back-burnered until after the High Holidays; ditto the shul-based community mental health programming. The student group is being created by others along with me -- I need to let them do some of the work. The panel discussion is scheduled, the room is reserved, and the flyer is almost finished. All on my impetus, not my classmates', but whatever -- as long as it happens. The clinical practice "toolkit" I put together is mostly finished; I just need to meet with the school administration to have it formatted and posted on the website. (And I should update my résumé to reflect all this.)

I saw Shimona over the weekend, and she said that reading about my activities on the blog made her dizzy. I have to make sure I don't overwhelm myself with all of it.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

High anxiety

Day two of school, and instead of going out to lunch after class with two friends who really wanted me to join them, I fled to the computer lab and then home. I had the mean reds.

I'm not sure why I got so anxious -- maybe because this professor seems determined to work us extra hard, maybe because I was nervous and tried too hard to be funny, and then got worried that the professor, who's pretty funny herself, would be feeling upstaged and would turn on me like Dr. Jerk or Dr. Dragon. My extracurricular obligations are really starting to pile up, and my schoolwork will before long.

I had errands to run -- picking up laundry and prescriptions, going to the post office, getting a pedicure and a haircut -- but I couldn't go. The anxiety had me. My heart was pounding. I wouldn't consider it a full-blown anxiety attack, but it was very uncomfortable. I had to go straight home. I made a list of just six things I need to do, which usually helps me feel less anxious. No discernible effect; I didn't know how I'd get them done.

Fortunately, the mean reds abated after a nap, and I was able to take care of some list items. I wrote up a flyer for a panel discussion I'm coordinating and a request letter for alternative practitioners to give presentations to our new student group. I got a pedicure and the prescriptions. And I have most of tomorrow to get my hair cut; I'm also meeting with Dr. R and having lunch with Boaz.

Maybe I'll tell Dr. R that after my prescription coverage ran out, I started gaming my meds. Not taking the full dosage every night, so that I wouldn't have to refill so soon. For about a month. I figured it wasn't a big deal since I wasn't in school, and for about half the month I'd be on vacation, relaxing. I forgot that being around so many married people -- in the Catskills, in Bina's little city -- can stress me out as much as school, or more.

I hope it hasn't been too big a deal. I'm back on the full dose of everything. And I'm going to start carrying my clonazepan with me. Just in case.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Slip-slidin' away

Classes have started, I'm helping to organize a new student wellness/complimentary therapy group, I'm coordinating a panel discussion, and I'm trying to launch an interesting media advocacy project with some other former mental patients. I saw a bunch of classmates who expressed a lot of pleasure in seeing me and being in class with me. And I'm taking classes that more closely resemble psychology than many classes I suffered through last year.

I should be excited and energized. I'm not.

Why do I feel so stressed and overwhelmed? Why don't I feel motivated?

It's not just the normal back-to-school blues. The demands on me, so far, are relatively minor. But one of the deans wants me and my fellow group-founders to take a big part in organizing our annual Self-Care Day, I need to coordinate the external advocacy project (one of the other people who's supposed to take part has suffered a relapse and is now on medical leave from his job, so more's on me), and just thinking about all the reading I'm going to be assigned is choking me -- not to mention the papers and projects. I've got classes today from 9-1 and 6-8 -- an 11-hour day, although I do have a break in between; tomorrow I have another class and will probably be doing lots of reading.

Just last week I felt on top of the world, relaxed and happy. But then I spent time out of town with tons of married and rapidly breeding people, and felt like my life has stagnated. I can't think of another reason why my mood would have dipped so precipitously.

I can't afford to get depressed now. I'm wondering how I can cut back. It will probably be the external advocacy -- I have to focus on school and school-related activities, because that's what will get me hired after graduation. Fortunately, I'm seeing Dr. Roda in a few days.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, September 03, 2007

The REAL reason Ayelet wears low-cut tops

"Thanks so much for holding the baby!" said Bina. "I vacuumed upstairs and downstairs, and now I'm going to iron a shirt for Asher."

"Thanks for letting me hold the baby," I replied, "and not asking me to vacuum or iron." I snuggled the baby closer to my left so she could hear my heartbeat, gently placing her cheek near my sternum. She loves to feel her skin against someone else's -- my less-than-tznius low-cut tops, which my niece Malka so disapproves of, are perfect for soothing a newborn to sleep.

It was a fabulous visit. I held the baby almost as much as I needed to, and it was great spending time with Bina again. The fading industrial/college-town city she now lives in resembles the fading industrial/college-town city I grew up in, to a remarkable extent; the residential neighborhoods, shopping areas, downtowns, and college campuses are strikingly similar. As Asher says, "Apparently all out-of-town cities look the same."

The people are incredibly friendly and nice, and they get along in that wonderful out-of-town way. Her shul has a modern yeshivish rabbi, a Lubavitch assistant rabbi, and a very mixed congregation. That would NEVER happen in New York.

Another family invited us over for lunch -- a young couple with four small daughters and a baby son, a few months older than Bina's baby. I held him for part of lunch so his parents could eat.

"Ayelet, you seem like a nice girl -- have I got a guy for you!" said the host.

I know he was trying to be funny. He didn't succeed. I pretended to laugh, and when the baby started rooting to nurse, I was glad to hand him back to his mother.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"