Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Too close to home

We talked about suicide in class today, and I had to walk out.

One of the questions in our take-home clinical practice final was about suicide assessment, and we started discussing what questions to ask a person you suspect might be considering suicide. People were speculating about what goes through a person's head before they make a suicidal gesture, how some attempts aren't meant to be fatal but end up that way, how some people were found and saved just in time, and of course the big "Why?" that so many people are hit with after surviving an unsuccessful attempt.

I tried to stay composed, but I started to cry. It brought back too many memories. "Ayelet, do you need to leave the room?" asked the professor. I fled.

It was so hard not to talk about my own experience and miraculous recovery. So many of the people in the hospital with me didn't know why they'd taken an overdose. At the time, neither did I. Fortunately, Jerry's in the class and we commiserated afterward.

I've been thinking about my hospital experiences lately -- in the ICU after I woke up and on the psych ward. I think part of the reason I started this blog was to talk about those experiences, because they were so truly fundamental to who I am and yet I can't discuss them with the majority of people who know me.

Sometimes I identify more with my clients than with my fellow social workers, but I'm reluctant to disclose my diagnosis and experiences to Melanie. She's been saying I need to put more of my thoughts and feelings into my process recordings -- and I'm afraid to. How can I just "start" to describe my anxiety or insecurity or confusion and not talk about the underlying factors? I've been holding back -- apparently too much.

But in my last process recording, I self-disclosed a little more. While I was co-leading the IDDT group,

we started to discuss "using more of a substance than planned," which is a marker for addiction. I asked one client, who I knew was in IDDT because of his eating issues, if that was ever a problem with him and, say, cookies (the snacks that the other group leader had brought, rich chocolate/raspberry covered butter cookies, had vanished quite fast, and he seemed to be the primary consumer of them). He agreed that it was.

I told him I had a similar problem—“I think I’m going to have just one of those Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches, and before I know it, how did four of them get gone?” Everyone laughed, and I wondered why I’d said that. “What’s the therapeutic value?” I asked myself. “Why am I singling him out? Is he going to think I’m blaming him for eating all the cookies?”

I also wrote about the way I kind of hijacked the IDDT group:

I asked the IDDT co-leader how he thought the group went, and he said he thought it went well. However, I asked him in front of my supervisor, not privately, so he might not have wanted to acknowledge that he was annoyed with me hijacking the group—not wanted to make me look bad in front of her. Then again, I tend to overestimate how poorly people view my professional behavior—I was a little suspicious of the constant praise the program director gave my performance and suggested that my supervisor find out what the director “really” thought. My supervisor was pretty sure the director “really” thought I was doing a good job.

It will be interesting to see Melanie's reaction to all this self-disclosure. Hopefully her feedback will help me readjust my boundaries. (Not that I think my boundaries are as loose as the nutjobs at The Bad Place assumed they were -- but it could provide some useful perspective, a counterbalance to their delusional input.)

Today I also heard from Ruth, my fellow classmate and future fellow Jew, that Frau Know-it-All is miserable at The Other Bad Place. Her supervisor, one of the evil bad social workers there, is treating her harshly.

I can't tell you how much schadenfreude is warming my heart. They so richly deserve each other, and I really dodged a bullet.

I'm a little annoyed with Celeste, though, and it's completely not her fault. She told me today that her husband had to talk her into marrying him.


"You didn't want to get married?" I asked.

"I'd always been single, you know, and I wasn't so sure I was ready for that kind of commitment," she said. "I didn't even want to admit to myself that we were dating, for a really long time."

Argh. She didn't even want to get married -- but she did! I'm dying to get married and... well, you know the rest of that sad tale.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

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