Wednesday, April 30, 2008

He called

We're going out Monday evening. Sunday I'm writing a paper, so I hope I'm not too fried.

I asked IA about the girl with bipolar and guy he set up, all those years ago.

"She's married," he said. "He's not."

"He missed his shot," I said.

"He did," said IA. "I think he really regrets it. But his brother's a doctor, and got all freaked out and told him to break up with her. And he listened."

"Most doctors don't know crap about mental illness," I said, "including many psychiatrists. That guy's brother spent five or so weeks on rotation in an inpatient psych ward, where the clients are not functioning well at all. He doesn't understand how capable people can be of independence and stability when they're well supported. I see that every day at my internship." [And of course in my own life, but I didn't tell him that yet.]

"I wouldn't ask a dermatologist to give me a knee replacement; why would I ask him for psychiatric advice?" I continued. IA agreed.

Very promising.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Filed under "The one that got away"

The first guy I dated after I woke up from the coma (and spent some time as a psychiatric inpatient and outpatient) was a really sweet fellow named Ikey Abadi. Both very common Syrian Jewish names. We went out once, then he didn't call for a really long time, and according to "The Rules" I wasn't supposed to go out with him again so I didn't.

Eight years later, on Facebook I noticed the friend of a friend, "Ikey Abadi," seeking Scrabulous partners. I looked at his photos and he didn't look familiar, so I figured it must be some other Ikey Abadi, which happens a lot in the Syrian community -- certain first names get a lot of usage, and everyone's related to everyone else so there aren't that many surnames. I challenged him to a game and we've been playing, and kind of flirting, since Scrabulous lets you send little emails to your opponent.

Today he sent me an IM and we started chatting. He was asking more and more questions about the "other" Ikey Abadi... and finally revealed he IS that Ikey Abadi. (Apparently he goes to the gym a lot these days.) I was mortified, because I'd told him I'd once gone out with another, less attractive Ikey Abadi who might have been his uncle.

"So... are we starting all over again, or have we been dating all these years?"

IA asked me.

"If I'd been dating you for all these years, I'd have a lot more jewelry to show for it. Either we start from scratch, or you have to buy me a diamond necklace."

IA opted for the former.

It never rains but it pours. I'm probably going to go out with IA sometime relatively soon -- of course, I have to finish my schoolwork, so the weekend's more or less shot. And I'm going out with SB tomorrow night. But I'll talk with IA tonight -- allegedly. (He does have a history of not being so quick with the phone.)

One very interesting thing about our one date was a story IA told me. He'd set up two friends of his, but the guy had just found out that the girl had bipolar disorder, and he wasn't sure what to do. He really liked her, but he was very apprehensive about what marrying a woman with bipolar would entail.

"What would you do?" I asked, deceptively casually, heart in my throat.

"You know, it wouldn't deter me," said IA. "There are no guarantees in life. You marry a person and you don't know what's going to happen."

I was so blown away, I thought I would have to marry him. But then he didn't call for forever... and my life took all sorts of twists and turns. Still, it's kind of nice to have a second chance; I always thought of him as "the one that got away."

Although I'm apprehensive, because while he is in much better shape now, I'm definitely not. He did think I was very pretty back then -- said I looked like Andie McDowell and I smelled good. I don't know what he'd think about what I look like today.

But I guess I'm going to find out.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Taking me seriously

I should be working on my final grad school paper EVER (unless I cave and fall into a social work doctoral program...) but I wanted to post about the latest research on bipolar disorder. These are excerpts from an article in the online magazine Psychiatric Times:

The Diagnostic Guidelines Task Force of the International Society for Bipolar Disorder (ISBD) has been examining diagnostic issues since 2004.... The task force brought together some of the world's clinical experts on bipolar disorder and key researchers with the goal of having them develop a more systematic and coherent set of diagnostic guidelines....

Looking at bipolar II, the subgroup concluded "bipolar II disorder is supported as a distinct category within mood disorders, but the definition and boundaries deserve greater clarification in DSM-V and ICD-11." Bipolar II is often underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed, the subgroup said, and it is frequently accompanied by high morbidity and mortality. "Bipolar II disorder, sometimes wrongly called 'soft bipolar disorder,' is actually a severe pathology," the subgroup said. "[It] often implies a higher episode frequency, comorbidity, suicidal behavior, and rapid cycling."

While I'm not happy to have a severe and persistent mental illness, and I'd take bipolar II over I any day, I'm glad my disorder is recognized as serious and difficult to live with. I work very hard to function at a level where I can "pass" as "normal."

"Passing" is a term African Americans used to use to describe how some light-skinned folks pretended they were white folks. (It's also the title of an excellent novel by Nella Larsen.) Some days I really feel like I'm pretending to be something that I'm really not -- "normal." That's how psychologist Fred Frese describes people who don't have mental disorders; he calls them "the normals." He has schizophrenia, so he uses the term somewhat tongue-in-cheek.

Another metaphor I use sometimes is being "in the closet." I'm not gay -- after watching six seasons of The L Word, I think I'd know if I were attracted to women -- but I am concealing a major aspect of my identity that, if known, would almost definitely cause many people to treat me differently, if not openly discriminate against me.

I've written before about the strain I sometimes feel as a prosumer, how I feel I'm not living an entirely authentic life because I can't tell co-workers or clients about my illness and how I live with it. I'm not ashamed -- damn it, I'm proud. I'm going to graduate from my second master's program in less than a month, and the fact that I haven't done my dishes in three weeks is irrelevant. Or is it? I don't think my apartment would pass the section 8 inspections my clients have to undergo -- in fact, I'm sure it wouldn't. They might think I'm a hoarder. (In fact, they almost definitely would, because those Wikipedia photos don't look so aberrant to me.)

But: I'm graduating. My clients are doing well. I'm getting good grades and I got a fantastic final evaluation from Melanie. All this despite a semester of fairly active symptoms, although not as bad as last semester around the time change.

And why shouldn't I be able to tell people who I am? If I don't, I'll never know if they'd accept me as I really am. I identify with gay people who feel that disclosing their sexual orientation would lead to all kinds of problems, and who resort to living a deceptive half-life. They call it the closet because it's stifling.

I promised my parents I wouldn't tell the world about my diagnosis until I got married, got my master's degree, and got a job. Two of those conditions are probably going to happen fairly soon (one definitely is). The other? I don't know if it will ever happen.

And if it's never going to happen, shouldn't I be able to live my single life honestly and authentically? I think I'll pick an age, like 45, and say that if I'm not married by then, I'll step out of the closet. I'll tell my colleagues, fellow alumni, and friends. I'll publish articles about living with my illness -- under my own name. Because anyone who's going to marry me at that age is probably that age or (more likely) older, and hopefully will be wise enough to love me for all the good things that I am and accept my many flaws.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

This bodes well

SB is Iraqi, like the Arabian Knight. Maybe he'll appreciate me at this weight. He was pleased that we share a taste for single-malt Scotch and impressed that I have made kuba, a traditional Sephardic delicacy. Turns out Shimona knows him, in one of those small-world kind of twists.

He was also surprised that I hadn't read more about him on his Facebook profile. Which is good. It shows -- or makes it seem like -- I haven't been obsessing about him ;)

We're having coffee tomorrow night. I'll let you know how it goes.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

The ethical complaint I won't file

When I was preparing to go over DOTS's head to the University and/or the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), I expanded my original complaint letter and included all the ways Dean Evillene violated the Social Work Code of Ethics:

Value: Dignity and Worth of the Person
Ethical Principle: Social workers respect the inherent dignity and worth of the person.
Social workers treat each person in a caring and respectful fashion, mindful of individual differences and cultural and ethnic diversity.

Dean Evillene violated this principle by treating me with the utmost disdain and discourtesy, belittling, questioning and challenging me in a brusque and suspicious manner. She made no effort to empathize with my experience or pain. Rather, she sought to invalidate my experience and perspective by undermining, interrogating, and blaming me.

Value: Importance of Human Relationships
Ethical Principle: Social workers recognize the central importance of human relationships.
Social workers understand that relationships between and among people are an important vehicle for change. Social workers engage people as partners in the helping process.

Dean Evillene did not treat me as an equal partner with my own strengths and knowledge, a professional in my own right, or a person who deserved to be consulted and included in decisions that affect me. Rather, she treated me as a subordinate obliged to obey her unquestioningly, a student who could not possibly know what was right for my own education -- despite my maturity, my years of work experience, and my master’s degree in psychology.

1. Social Workers' Ethical Responsibilities to Clients
1.02
Self-Determination

Social workers respect and promote the right of clients to self-determination and assist clients in their efforts to identify and clarify their goals. Social workers may limit clients' right to self-determination when, in the social workers' professional judgment, clients' actions or potential actions pose a serious, foreseeable, and imminent risk to themselves or others.

As a social work student, I am in a subordinate role to the dean of the field department, similar to a client. However, Dean Evillene did not assist me in identifying and clarifying my educational goals. Rather, she imposed her opinion of what my goals ought to be upon me, even though I was at no risk to myself or others.

1.12 Derogatory Language
Social workers should not use derogatory language in their written or verbal communications to or about clients. Social workers should use accurate and respectful language in all communications to and about clients.

Dean Evillene’s demeanor and speech toward me were consistently belittling, denigrating, and derogatory -— from the moment I entered her office. She did not manifest any respect for me as a student, a professional, or a victim of a bias incident. Her tone and manner were rude, brusque, and hostile throughout the meeting.

2. Social Workers' Ethical Responsibilities to Colleagues: 2.01 Respect
(a) Social workers should treat colleagues with respect and should represent accurately and fairly the qualifications, views, and obligations of colleagues.

Dean Evillene’s behavior toward me was entirely devoid of respect. She refused to view me as an educated and accomplished professional in my own right. Her manner was hostile, dismissive, and rude, throughout this meeting and in every other communication I have had with her.

3. Social Workers' Ethical Responsibilities in Practice Settings: 3.02 Education and Training
(b) Social workers who function as educators or field instructors for students should evaluate students' performance in a manner that is fair and respectful.

Dean Evillene’s evaluation of my fieldwork experiences and interview was anything but fair and respectful. She blamed me for all the unfortunate and unpleasant circumstances in which I found myself, effectively revictimizing me.

5. Social Workers' Ethical Responsibilities to the Social Work Profession
5.01 Integrity of the Profession

(a) Social workers should work toward the maintenance and promotion of high standards of practice.
(b) Social workers should uphold and advance the values, ethics, knowledge, and mission of the profession. Social workers should protect, enhance, and improve the integrity of the profession through appropriate study and research, active discussion, and responsible criticism of the profession.
(e) Social workers should act to prevent the unauthorized and unqualified practice of social work.

Dean Evillene failed to condemn the anti-Semitic speech I experienced at my first placement, saying merely that I had been removed, the school had done its job, and I should expect nothing more. The ethical thing to do, however, would have been to assist me in filing a complaint against Miss Thing or her supervisor, the clinical director of the agency. As an outspoken anti-Semite, Miss Thing discredits the social work profession and warrants censure. Instead, I was told never to speak to anyone at the agency again.

As a first-year student, I read the Social Work Code of Ethics numerous times in several classes. I would hope I did not waste my time perusing an essentially meaningless document. If the Social Work Code of Ethics is to be taken seriously, such egregious violations thereof must be taken seriously.

[That line was in case I decided to file a complaint with NASW.]

Moreover, I do not think the University wants to appear to condone administrative abuse of students, or anti-Semitism, at this time.

[That line was kind of a threat against the University, which has been justifiably criticized for not attending sufficiently to the emotional as well as educational needs of its students.]

Good thing I didn't actually have to send it. But I'm still a little concerned. I interviewed today for a job that I really really REALLY want, and I think I have a pretty good shot at it. The interviewer, Dr. Genuine, seemed impressed with my credentials and experience, and I made him laugh in entirely appropriate ways. But can they wait until mid-June, after I've finished my obligatory (thanks to Eleanor Feckless and her dishonesty and dithering) acupuncture training?

I had to schedule the first of two follow-up interviews with Dr. Genuine. I wanted to wait until after I finish school and my last week of fieldwork and then undergo graduation, but he insisted the first follow-up interview be next week -- which also happens to be the last week of school, when I'm crazy busy trying to finish a paper I've somehow avoided working on all semester. (At least I was able to schedule it for the day after the paper is due.)

So I don't know if Dr. Genuine will be willing to wait for me to graduate, visit Yaffa and Chrissy (and the dogs and cats and the outdoor deck hot tub) in San Francisco, and then spend two weeks poking needles into people.

I hope so. I really liked the way the program was described to me, and it sounds like the work they do and the supervision they provide would advance my skills several levels. I need that; I can't afford to take a job that won't take me to the next level, if not further. I'm too old to stagnate any longer; I stagnated for a decade in PR, that most soulless of professions, and now I really need to make my work time count.

So if I lose out on this job because of the time they kept me out of placement, I will make sure DOTS knows. And the University. And ... well, I'm not sure who else, but I used to work in PR, and I still know how to make media contacts. I hope I won't have to.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, April 28, 2008

What I did and didn't write

The school sent round a request for an evaluation of our internship experience and our appraisal of the internship department:

Listed below is this year's Student Evaluation of Internship form. The survey is a crucial part of our ongoing review of all aspects of internship. The survey you complete today does not come to the Internship Department until after your grades have been submitted and you have left your placement. So please be honest and reflective. We do appreciate your candid feedback. The survey is due by Sunday, May 4th.

We especially appreciate hearing of ways in which your internship was a positive experience, so that we may identify those sites that best meet the MSW program's educational goals. We are also interested in knowing when an internship falls short of the standard. If you identify a problem that I am not already aware of, I or a member of my staff will contact you in June. Rest assured that we will handle your criticisms with care and tact, so as not to put you in an awkward situation with your supervisor, agency, or advisor.

That we will continue to work with agencies that receive positive feedback goes without saying. A negative report prompts us to investigate, assess, and, if appropriate, re-contract with the agency contingent upon development of a corrective action plan. If we find that the plan is not implemented, the student is assigned a new placement expeditiously, and the old placement is closed.

I personally read each of your surveys, and gladly look forward to reviewing your responses.

Evillene, Assistant Dean and Director of Internships

This is what I wanted to write:

The internship department is execrable. Eleanor Feckless has done nothing but lie to me, condescend to me, and set me up to fail. Dean Evillene is a vicious hypocrite who routinely violates the Social Work Code of Ethics in her dealings with students.

I do not recommend this school to any student interested in pursuing an MSW because the
internship department is so horrendous. Quite frankly, I think the internship department is the reason my ACT team is not seeking another student from this school for next year, since they have been uniformly happy with my work and contribution to the team.

My excellent experience this year was due to my hard work and the excellence of the ACT team. It was accomplished in spite of the internship department staff's utter ineptitude. My supervisor recommended that I pass my fourth semester, so if you fail me for any reason, including my frank opinions expressed herein, I will most certainly seek recourse elsewhere.

But then I thought, "What is that going to accomplish? Dean Evillene already knows the depth of my contempt for her and her department. She's certainly not going to change. What's the point of writing a nasty little note that could be passed around to Lord knows whom and then come back to bite me in the ass?"

As we say in DBT, it's better to be effective than to be "right." So I limited myself to one line:

I cannot praise the internship department too highly.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Not in the mood

Haven't been in a writing mood much, lately. Not sure why; stuff's been happening, I'm just not inspired to chronicle it. School is stressful, but it's almost over. Passover was decent, although I didn't do anything last days, just lay around in bed. I don't get enough sleep during the week -- terminal insomnia -- so on the weekends I oversleep.

Just two more weeks of classes and one more big project to finish. I think I can pull it off. The hard part will be leaving my clients and co-workers at my internship. And my fellow classmates, and some of the professors. I won't be missing the school administration much.

I was rather pleased with how I performed at a motivational interviewing workshop I attended last week. Apparently I've actually learned a few things, because my role-play partners were pretty impressed.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Public service announcement

To men in their fifties, sixties, and seventies (!) who frequent online dating websites:

STOP LOOKING AT MY PROFILE !!!!!
I
DO NOT WANT TO DATE YOU !!!!
YOU ARE OLD ENOUGH TO BE MY FATHER !!!!!!!!!
SOME OF YOU ARE
OLDER THAN MY FATHER !!!!!!!!!
IT'S
GROSS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Going by numerous conversations I've had with friends and acquaintances, you can probably assume that is true for most woman in their thirties. Please -- assume it is true. Unless you are a movie star or a billionaire, we do not want to date you. Join the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints if your need for a much-younger woman is that pathologically strong.

UPDATE: Men in their sixties are included in the above PSA. And men in their late forties who only consider women in their early thirties (or younger).
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

H&M: Swedish for "No fat chicks"

I have a closet full of suits, and only two of them currently fit. I went into H&M to see if they had anything I could wear on a job interview, and apparently Swedes do not believe in hips. Or bellies. I looked five months pregnant in the skinny Swedish dressing room mirror.

But how can I hate myself when my classmates and professors missed me so much last week? Ruth came up on me from behind and grabbed me in a big hug. Clive gave me a huge hello and spent 10 minutes pissing and moaning about our DBT assignment. It feels good that he seeks me out for support, since he's spent almost as many years as a practicing professional as I have been alive. Another classmate from another class told me the Wednesday night discussion was not nearly as lively without me.

Professor Meander could not have been nicer. I emailed her, on Wednesday, an assignment due Tuesday. She didn't take off a single point. I've grown to appreciate her a lot more, especially since I've really been able to apply a lot of the techniques she's been teaching. My social work school doesn't give us enough practice classes, preferring to muck around with the curriculum, so good practice classes are to be treasured.

And Professor Supportive, of course, almost niced me to death. I'm rewriting a paper I wrote last semester and re-submitting it to a professional journal that provisionally agreed to publish it. The journal reviewers gave me a bazillion comments on it, and she asked if she could see them. I jumped at the chance, since I didn't understand or agree with every comment.

Dear Ayelet: I went through your paper and the reviewers' comments. The paper is really something for you to be proud of -- I appreciate the tremendous work and thought you put into this. I read the reviewers' comments very carefully, particularly paying attention to the one inserted in the margins. I think this reviewer is quite thoughtful and obviously quite knowledgeable -- to tell you the truth, having reviewed many articles and been reviewed many times, I thought this person was significantly more attentive than any review I have ever read. This means that he/she was involved and engaged, which is significant in and of itself.

So my suggestion is to pay careful and thoughtful attention to these comments, using what makes sense to you and being careful to consider what does not. I also think this paper provides a tremendous opportunity for you to pay attention to "stigma" and "labeling" among this group of individuals [substance-abusing pedophiles] -- I would think that this is a major issue and has probably not been addressed very effectively in the literature.

At any rate, if you want set up a time to talk about the paper, I am happy to do so. I hope you are doing okay -- I missed having you in class. Thanks and I very much look forward to the next version of your paper. Lucy

Gotta make an appointment to see her; I'll talk to her tomorrow before or after class. This afternoon I had to see Dr. Roda, and then it was too late for anything but a pedicure.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Pesach so far

Well, I survived the first days. Of course, now I have to go to school and internship with extremely limited eating options, and I'm sure Zoraida will have something to say about that. (She actually told the cute new social worker how I eat red peppers like apples and scarfed down five bananas at one staff meeting, after hiking all over two boroughs with Melanie. I'm sure he wanted to chew off his arm and escape. I certainly did.)

Shabbos. Alone by myself at home since I couldn't get any meals. It was actually quite relaxing.

First seder. Held at the home of one of the families, the Mermelsteins, where I often go for Shabbos meals. Three of their four children (all at least nine years my junior) are married; the youngest is about 17, so I might beat him to the chuppah. I was afraid he and I would be the only singletons at the seder, but two cousins in their 20s and a 50something guy from Mrs. M's job were also there.

Yossi M., newly married in December, was resplendent in his spodik, which I at first mistook for a shtreimel -- apparently a common mistake.

"So is he a chassid now?" I asked Mrs. M, puzzled.

"No -- he's a freelancer," she replied, meaning he reflects an eclectic group of ultra-orthodox influences. He's learned with the Mir, at Lakewood, and is now at a new small yeshiva in Jerusalem. Mrs. M was slightly annoyed because Yossi has taken on some new seder customs that didn't jive with her husband's.

I couldn't believe Yossi didn't know what kind of fur his spodik was made of. Apparently that's a guy thing. He did know his bekeshe was "authentic polyester" and not silk. I was surprised he wasn't wearing his kittel, but apparently freelance ultra-orthodox Jews pick and choose their customs. Or maybe he felt wearing it more than once in six months would be unseemly.

Yossi's new wife is very cute, very young, and very shy. She didn't read at all during the seder -- the rest of us went through the haggadah, paragraph by paragraph around the table, in English or Hebrew as we saw fit.

Across the table from the newlyweds were Mrs. M's daughter, Blimi, and her husband, Moshe, the yeshivishe Litvak -- one of those anti-chassids. During Hallel, near the end of the seder when all of us were tired and going through the haggadah at our own pace, Yossi in his flowing beard and payos caroled chassidic tunes while Moshe in his neatly trimmed beard kept his head down and murmured quietly but intensely. It was kind of a microcosm of the modern ultra-orthodox world, except they were not trying to kill or excommunicate each other.

One married couple that was definitely not any kind of ultra-orthodox was a pair in their early forties who could not keep their hands off each other. I've never been inspired to say, "Get a room!" at a seder before, and fortunately the four cups of wine were small, so I managed not to.

What made this more interesting to me was the fact that the husband was grotesquely large -- pouring-out-of-his-clothes obese. Yet his average-weight wife snuggled up to him and kept giving and taking little kisses. All damn night. It was fairly annoying -- a seder isn't a make-out movie theater -- but it did make me think about how not being attracted to obese men could be curtailing the number of eligible husbands I might consider.

I also got to hold Blimi's four-month-old son for a fair chunk of the evening. All in all, time well spent.

First lunch.
With another family I go to on Shabbos -- the gentleman who leads davening at the kollel. Three of his four grown kids, whom I hadn't met, were there with their kids, so it was a bit of a zoo, but lots of fun. (The fourth, whom I've met, was at his in-laws.) I really liked their daughter-in-law, who was wearing funky clothes and a nose ring.

Second seder. I told the person who set me up with sedarim (including the grandfather who hit on me -- and I still think a single woman shouldn't be sent to a single man's seder) that I wasn't comfortable with huge group meals. Apparently 60 people isn't "huge." I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, but I didn't enjoy this seder nearly as much -- partly because it was a zoo, and I wasn't in the mood to be around tons of people, but mainly because the average age was about 10 years above mine.

The first question the setter-upper asked me was my age, and I told him. But I would much rather have been with a bunch of kids 10 years younger than I, or a family with small- to medium-sized children, instead of a group of singles in their 40s and 50s. I found it terribly depressing.

Loud, overweight, 40something women in flashy yet frumpy clothes, with long frizzy hair and heavy makeup, trying to appear youthful and not succeeding. Desperately making themselves conspicuous -- yelling, "Oh, I'm sooooo hungry!" or "Where are we?" or even, "Wait, I need to go to the bathroom!" Like anyone cares to hear that pathetic cry for attention.

Pontificating 50something men, who insisted on telling long, boring stories -- even though the seder leader asked people to keep their comments to two minutes -- about their travels and visits with various important Jewish personages, when the rest of us just wanted to get through the haggadah. Trying to show that they're still important, they still matter, even though they're not married with kids. Attention must be paid.

The organizers were three unmarried siblings in their forties. I applaud their determination to joyfully and enthusiastically observe Pesach, take care of others, and create ritual and custom without spouses or children. But is that my future? I sneaked out right after Hallel and went home. I won't be asking that guy for seder referrals again.

I did note a few married couples where the wife appeared to be much younger (and hotter) than the husband. More food for thought. Maybe my age and appearance guidelines are too strict.

Second lunch. Tikva was thrilled to see me -- it's been months. She insisted on sitting next to me and feeding me bits of matzah.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Just couldn't leave it alone

When I was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the faculty adviser gave a little speech about the real knowledge we'd need to survive in the real world (implying that we'd spent four years just diddling around). The only piece I remember is, "If you pick it, it won't heal."

Well, if you've learned anything about me from this blog (or real life), you know that this is a piece of advice I simply can't take. I always have to pick. I can't let pimples heal; I have to squeeze them and create big red scars. I can't sit out heated discussions; I have to stick my two cents in. And I can't let anyone have the last word -- I have to say something more.

So Chip changed his online screenname from something romantic and evocative to something pretty generic. At first I didn't understand why this generic guy was visiting my profile -- then I looked at his and realized it was Chip wine in new bottles.

So I sent him an email:

I preferred your other screenname. More romantic and evocative -- but I guess it wasn't attracting you the girls you wanted. Chag kasher v'sameach.

Passive-aggressive, which is unlike me -- I'm usually just aggressive. He hasn't read it yet, which is probably just as well.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

All better now

Speaking facetiously, of course. But I am feeling a little better. It was a struggle to get up and get to work, but I'm functioning more or less normally. Of course, it's easier to lead a group or meet with a client than to read a journal article, especially since journal articles rarely say things that make you laugh, whereas clients frequently do. (Although I've got my anger management client coming in, and sessions with her are very taxing for both of us. Gd, give me strength.)

I don't know if my dip in mood was the result of scrambling for meal invitations -- that's always a possibility. I might just have to stock up on kosher for Pesach food and sit at home some of the time. Of course, my cleaning for Pesach resembled my cleaning the rest of the year -- nonexistent. I'm just trying to get by.

Maybe I'm feeling better because I aromatherapied constantly on Tuesday and Wednesday -- essence of rose, jasmine, and geranium. The hallway outside my apartment smells like someone crushed an entire flower shop. I hope the neighbors don't mind.

This is my 500th post. I'd like to mark it with a song by The Proclaimers, whom I loved before they made it big with the theme song for Benny & Joon. (Or the Shrek soundtrack.)



Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Stuck

I've had a horrible two days. Couldn't go to school. Couldn't read or work on papers. Couldn't hardly think straight. I don't know what's wrong. I was feeling feverish, and I thought it might be lithium toxicity, so I lowered my dose. Probably a mistake. I feel horrible. I hope I can go into my internship tomorrow. I have to; I have a group and an individual client to see. I can make up what I missed in school.

Just a few more weeks. I only have to hold it together for a few more weeks. Then I can rest a little.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Thinking strategically

There's an application on Facebook that's supposed to introduce you to the friends of your friends, and hopefully you'll find someone you want to date. So far most of the guys who've found me attractive haven't been all that Jewish. But a few Jews have, and I've tried to strike up a conversation with them, with remarkable lack of success. We get to the point of expressing mutual interest, and then it goes nowhere.

Then some guy and I found a mutual interest, and we friended. Cute, nice smile, a few years younger than I. Can't remember who poked whom first -- probably I poked him. Then we were poking back and forth. Then I got fed up with poking and emailed him:

enough poking -- ask me to have coffee already ;)

This runs contrary to the advice of my "Rules-certified" dating coach. For what that's worth. I didn't think he'd respond, but he did:

you're cute! being that we have a few friends in common I guess you are safe. I am going away tonight. After passover would be a perfect time for coffee. Happy and healthy

PS: Starbucks, 7Eleven, or Dunkin' Donuts?

This is progress! This is behavior that should be reinforced!

I'm even cuter in person ;) Chag kasher v'sameach. After yomtov let's go to Cafe Edgar's. They have kosher cake, so we can get a chometz fix ;)

Let's see if he responds...

I'm going to Vegas tonight. I'll be back on Wednesday morning. I'll be home for Pesach. What about you?

I bet you are cuter in person. Edgar's sounds great, in the meanwhile, POKE AWAY


Don't need to tell me twice. So I poked and responded:

If Pesach isn't in Vegas, what draws you there? Are you a gambler? Because if you are, you can't be a witness, and I probably wouldn't want to date you ;)

I'll be in Manhattan for Pesach. Usually I go to my sister's in the suburbs, but it's a shlep, and I have class Tuesday morning, so I didn't feel like shlepping. (Also, her in-laws are going to be there and the house will be pretty crowded.) Where's home for you?

I'm a terrible flirt. I really am. Why do I go and accuse the guy of being an invalid witness? Why insult the man?

I'm going to Las Vegas for a convention. While I am there I will obviously play the casinos. I enjoy blackjack but I am not a gambler. I go a few times a year to Vegas and every so often to Atlantic City. I live in Brooklyn. I do the meals by my parents. They live a few doors down from me.

Looks like I've managed not to scare him off. Yet.

I learned two good things: 1) you're not such an inveterate gambler that you can't bear witness, and 2) you love your parents enough to live near but not with them. Good boundaries to go with that great smile ;)

Have a great flight, enjoy the convention, kosher and happy Pesach, see you at Edgar's. If you give me your email address before your flight, I can PayPal you a dollar for you to give to tzedaka after you land ;)

Observant Jews give a few bucks to people going on a plane -- it's designated for charity. Obviously Gd wouldn't want you not to give it to charity, so he'll make sure the plane doesn't crash. Very scientific.

I'm at the airport. I have mitzvah money from mom. my email is shalom@shalombaruch.com. I enjoy blackjack and could, play for hours but I bet with my head not above it.

He emailed me from the airport! And I managed not to ask, "Which head?"

Well, I can't out-do your mom ;) Have a good flight, enjoy meeting up with your uncle, and don't take a card after you've drawn 17. My email address is ayelet@server.com; drop me a line if you have a minute between the convention and the blackjack. What kind of convention is it?

I took a look at shalombaruch.com (not his real URL), and it seems he's a wedding photographer/videographer. Interesting. My grandfather and father were and are big photography buffs; we have about seven albums of baby pictures and a bunch of photos that didn't make the cut.

I wonder if I can find out more about him... I searched a dating website for guys his age in his area. And guess what? Not only is he on there -- but I emailed him a while back and he never responded because he wasn't a paying member. He hasn't been back on the site in more than a month.

So I'm cautiously optimistic. I'm going to try to continue thinking strategically -- not telling him, for instance, that he's blown me off electronically. I'm just going to continue reinforcing the behavior I like, and hope he thinks I'm cuter than my photos when we meet. It's a small start, but it's a start. I'll let you know if Shalom Baruch (SB) lives up to his emails.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I hate shnorring

I hate calling people and begging them to invite me over. I try to make it cute by asking people if they need any guests, but it's shnorring, plain and simple. I do it because I have to -- if I didn't, I'd be alone every Shabbat. But I hate it. And this year, I have to beg for a three-day yontif's worth of meals, including two Seders. (I'd rather sit home alone than go to Jerusha's.)

So this organization offered to set people up with Seders. That way I'd only have to beg for the two Shabbos meals and two lunches. I contacted them, and after asking me how old I was, they told me to call some guy for the first Seder.

After exchanging pleasantries and assuring me I didn't need to bring anything, he said, "So will you be bringing your son?"

"I don't have a son," I said. "Did they tell you I did?"

"They said two women would be calling, and one has a son," he said. "I have room for three people besides me and my two sons. My middle son is married with a baby; he'll be at at his in-laws." He also mentioned that he goes to a certain synagogue in my neighborhood, LSS.

All of this sounded vaguely familiar, but it wasn't until the next day that I realized he's the grandfather who asked me out.

AAAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGggggggggggghhhhhhhhh!

I did not want to go to his seder. I wondered if he recognized who I was and thought he could stealthily draw me to his seder table, where I'd have no choice but to go out with him afterward. (For the record, he never set me up with anyone else, as he promised he would if I let him see my photo.)

Thank Gd a friend I saw today said I could come to her seder. I called Grandpa and canceled. Ew.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, April 11, 2008

Misojewnist

Today I went to a social work job fair and found myself resenting all the frum people I saw (there were a few, including the neighbor of Jerusha's who knew me when I was in PR). The frum guys because I'm obviously of no interest to them. The frum married women because I'm not married and nobody gives a shit and nobody is helping me. (And because their little scarves and hats are mere lip service to the necessity of covering one's hair. If you're going to take on a mitzvah, take it on, don't play around.)

Sometimes I can't bear going to shul, because I just feel totally rejected and ignored by everybody there. (Including the Mutters, who are now all completely ignoring me.) It makes me want to abandon everything I was brought up with and and everything I've learned and acquired, and not be Jewish at all. I could find a nice Italian guy and have a much more comfortable life. Sure, he'd probably cheat on me, but at least I'd have lots of kids, plenty of sex, and a nice place to live.

I did play the londsman angle, though. One of the recruiters was wearing a yarmulke. He told me to contact him if I didn't pass the licensing exam because he could help me re-take it sooner than the usual 90-day waiting period. I said, "Wish me hatzloche (Yiddish for hatzlacha)!" So he did.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Nobbody's prfect

I have to say, it's great to have a professor/role model who's more of a drama queen than I am. No small feat. Professor Worried talked in class yesterday about the challenges she faces with her children and numerous occasions when she's lost her cool. She's always been flamboyant and emphatic, not calm and reserved. It's been good for me to see, because at this age I'm definitely not going to achieve any radical character change.

I thought a therapist had to achieve perfect equanimity and solve all her own problems. Apparently that's not necessary -- you can have numerous problems of your own and still help other people with theirs. The bad psychologists at The Bad Place thought I wasn't worthy of being a therapist. Professor Worried believes I am.

Although -- Professor Fun says that you can't help a client resolve a problem you're still struggling with and haven't resolved for yourself.

Which sometimes makes me wonder if I'm just wasting a client's time when I asked her to come in twice a week for anger management. I do manage to get her angry -- I'm just not so successful at helping her restructure her thoughts so she won't get so angry. Unfortunately, she doesn't take medication because she doesn't think she has paranoid schizophrenia or delusions, and it's hard to dispute a notion that someone "just knows" is true, in spite of any evidence to the contrary you might offer.

But I'm lucky. Melanie lets me take on these immense challenges and helps me see the incremental change and learning that accrue.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Keeping up appearances

"I admire you so much, Ayelet," said Carly. "I feel totally burned out, and look at you -- you're always focused on your learning."

We were sitting in the free "Spanish for Social Work" class my school decided to offer during the last seven weeks of the semester. I was there because I've paid so much for this education -- I'm going to grab any freebie I can get. Also because Spanish is a useful language to speak, even badly, when you work with the underprivileged in New York City. Also because it's taught by a really nice physician, and I'm touched that he's giving up his time to teach social workers, who normally aren't all that valued by doctors (and I feel guilty that attendance is dwindling along with the semester).

"I'm not so focused at home," I said. "There I'm focused on watching movies on my computer instead of doing my reading."

These days, it's hard to imagine how someone could look at exhausted, cranky Ayelet and see an idealistic, enthusiastic lifetime learner. But I must be looking better than I feel these days. Today I felt like a huge blubbery whale with frizzy hair, but when Ruth came into DBT class she said, "Ayelet, you look so pretty today!"

Ruth's awesome -- and not just because she thinks I'm pretty. She asked me to be her licensing exam study buddy -- which is great, because it will probably keep me on track and focused. And she already bought all the materials. Total win-win.

Unfortunately, Ruth is being run ragged at The Other Bad Place. At 5:00, after running three therapy groups and seeing two individual patients, her supervisor says, very nicely, "Oh, Ruth, you should go home!" But Ruth still has to do a huge pile of progress notes and paperwork. She's there until 7 or 8 every night.

It's called "passive aggression." I sure dodged a bullet. And apparently I'm not the only student they declined to enroll, so I'll take their incredibly unethical gang-rape mind-fuck group interview with a few more grains of salt.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Ding-dong, the witch is dead!

Well, not dead, but Dean Evillene is leaving the school. I saw Jerry today. He congratulated me on my handling of the situation -- finding a compromise that gave DOTS a graceful exit option. Then he said, "I'm totally going to make your day" and sprang the news on me. I was speechless for a good 45 seconds, which, for me, is long.

Of course it has nothing to do with my relentless self-advocacy -- Evillene's been advising a hedge fund that supports a children's agency, and now she's going to be the agency director.

"Good move," I told Jerry. "You need to be a bitch to deal with those hedge fundies."

I'm still a little annoyed DOTS failed to acknowledge that the "frustrating process" the school put me through was a) completely avoidable and b) their fault, but of course such an admission would leave the school liable. Negotiating with her was difficult -- forced me to act contrary to my nature. Good practice. You have to ask, "Do I want to be right, or do I want to be effective?" If I'd insisted on not having to make up any hours at all, I'd be stuck doing five extra weeks of work for no pay. Instead, I'm doing something I wanted to do anyway. Win-win.

I'm so tempted to send Dean Evillene a congratulatory email, addressing her by her first name.... No -- best leave blame well enough alone. (Something else contrary to my nature that I need more practice doing.)
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

She respects me, even though I'm fat

Barb sent me the sweetest email:

I was so thrilled to hear the news of the resolution of the internship debacle. Congratulations! What a blessing to be able to move on to what is assuredly a very bright future and leave all the ambiguity and conflict behind. I bet there was a great deal of learning in all this too - always a handy byproduct!

She's always been a big cheerleader and fan of mine. Even though she's a tiny delicate WASP and I am an enormous lumbering hippo.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Victory

Finally heard from DOTS.

Dear Ayelet,

My apologies.


I believe that your compromise solution takes an earnest step in the direction of satisfying the internship requirements that must be met by all master's level social work students at the School. I thank you for bringing forth an option for consideration, and I thank you for your candor during our meeting.

Given our commitment to professional social work education, our aim was necessarily to ensure that requirements specified for our master's program when you accepted admission are satisfied. In this regard, I have sought to verify the details of the circumstances you presented and also to determine whether unanticipated consequences might arise related to any shortfall in the number of hours completed.

The foregoing was important to explore as waivers are not granted on the basis of one's achieved level of competence or professional development. We have had physicians and attorneys and others with impressive and extensive professional credentials and experience enter and complete the MSW program, enhancing their knowledge and skills even further in the process of satisfying field and other educational requirements along with students with only the most minimal of previous experiences.

Recognizing that your requisite field hours will no longer be short by as many hours as previously discussed and expecting that you understand that the School cannot be responsible for unanticipated consequences emanating from any shortfall in your field hours, I am approving the waiver. This waiver is not intended to establish precedence and assumes that you will proceed as you propose in your earlier email. Here, I feel compelled to note that training in acupuncture, while certainly immensely valuable and supplemental to social work practice, may not in itself forward your mastery of social work practice.

I realize that this has been a frustrating process. I hope that you will understand that the School is committed to your development as a social work professional and to your potential as a leader. As such, I did not wish to give your request short shrift.

We look forward to your graduation and to your joining the profession. Please let me know whether you wish further discussion.

The very best to you, DOTS

Blah, blah, blah, we're the experts, nothing's our fault, do it at your own professional peril -- and I won.

I'm proud of myself. This is the response I wanted to send:

Dear DOTS,

Thank you for approving the waiver and for your consistent professionalism and courtesy, traits sadly lacking in your staff.

But my mother convinced me that it would be petty to gloat. I beat Dean Evillene -- I don't have to rub her homely face in it. Of course there won't be any professional repercussions -- I passed my first year internship and I'm acing my second year. And of course the deficit isn't my fault, but they're not going to take responsibility.

More goes on at the rehab center than sticking needles in addicts -- it's a comprehensive program. So I don't think any employer would look at my time there and think all I learned was how to stick needles into addicts.

In any event, it doesn't matter. I took on the school and I won!
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Therapist, heal thyself

I'm studying DBT, and one of the first things you do is teach the client how to get through a crisis. A crisis is defined as a stressful event or traumatic moment that you can't work on solving right away. The challenge is to get through the crisis without hurting or killing yourself or anyone else, destroying property, or doing anything else harmful and unproductive, because "making things worse will make your life worse."

We watched a video of Marsha Linehan, the inventor of the therapy, describing two strategies for doing this: distracting yourself or self-soothing. I found that several aspects of the strategies are things I do anyway. Which I guess means I'm mentally healthier than the average DBT client. I suppose that's progress.

Linehan recommends making a list, when not in crisis, of ways to distract yourself. There's an acronym for this strategy (DBT is big on acronyms; they're good mnemonic aids): ACCEPTS.

A is for mindful activities, like reading an engrossing book, exercising, cleaning, hobbies, or going to an event. Anything that will keep your mind off the crisis. I thought, "I like doing crossword puzzles when I'm stressed out, and watching movies, and reading mystery novels."

C is for contributing -- focus your mind on someone or something else that you might be able to help. I always forget about my anger or distress when I'm focused on my clients.

C is for comparisons -- compare your situation to something worse, either in your own life or affecting other people. I never find this very helpful. Even though I know I'm more fortunate than most of the planet, I still manage to resent those who are more fortunate.

E is for emotions -- induce an opposing emotion in yourself to distract yourself from the current one. Listen to uplifting or soothing music; read an engrossing book; watch something funny. I do this a lot. I go online and watch reruns of funny, witty sitcoms like "Coupling" or "Friends."

P is for pushing away -- when you just can't cope, make a list of the main problems that are on your mind, number them, and ask a) whether you can do anything about each item and b) if now is a good time to try. If the answer to both a) and b) is no, then place a check next to the item and envision yourself putting it in a box and putting each box up on a high shelf. Supposedly this is a really great intervention; I haven't tried it yet, and I don't know if it will help me. But I've got a huge project due on Wednesday so I'll really have to focus this weekend; I might try pushing away my anger and sadness.

T is for thoughts -- focus on thoughts, not your emotions. Count and/or name things you see; if you're with a person who is making you upset, say to yourself, "He's wearing a jacket, a shirt, a tie, pants, glasses..." Haven't tried this yet either.

S is for sensations -- distract your mind with harmless sensations (as opposed to cutting, which a lot of DBT clients do). Take a hot bath or a cold shower, or hold a piece of ice in your hand. I might fill my ice tray and try this one.

Self-soothing techniques remind me of a quote from The Picture of Dorian Gray: to cure the soul by means of the senses, and the senses by means of the soul.

Look at something beautiful like art or flowers.

Listen to soothing music, talk to a friend, or call an 800 number and listen to the recorded voice.

Smell something nice -- I do this with aromatherapy.

Taste something pleasant and strong, like an herbal tea or a peppermint candy. (After she said this, I put a stick of sugarless peppermint gum in my mouth. I got to class late and missed the first few minutes of the video, and I hate it when that happens.)

Touch something soft, like velvet or a pet; hold someone's hand or hold your own hand; put lotion on your body and rub it in well.

One of my old therapists said that the happiest people were cognitive-behavioral therapists, because they're constantly practicing the principles of managing their emotions. But Buddhist monks are probably happier than CBT therapists. And DBT is based in part on Buddhist concepts like mindfulness and radical acceptance. So maybe learning DBT will help me manage my own chaotic emotions.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Eavesdropping

Eavesdroppers may only hear bad things about themselves, but they often hear interesting things about other people. Today in the back room -- where all the social workers except the program director, Sally, have cubicles -- I overheard Melanie calling the benefits department. It's not staffed by the brightest lights at the agency, so she had to speak loud and slow. And give her birth date. Two years, two weeks, and two days after mine.

I wasn't sure how old she was -- she's got some gray coming in at her temples and a few lines on her face -- and I was kind of hoping she was older than I am. No such luck.

It doesn't really matter -- Sally is actually several years younger than Melanie. And everyone thinks I'm about 10 years younger than I am -- at least until I tell them otherwise. The newest (and hottest) social worker on the team, who started just over a month ago and is much younger than I, was shocked to learn my real age.

I don't mind being my age, as long as I don't look it. My development has probably been somewhat arrested by my illness, so I certainly don't feel my age -- I feel much younger. Except when my knees and my back hurt, or I'm feeling really depressed and hopeless. Then I feel about 9000 years old.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

What the -- ?

I went out a while back with a younger guy -- let's call him Chip. We went to Le Marais, his first time there, and had what I thought was a great time. I asked him at the end what he was thinking, and he said, "The steak was delicious and so was my date." Pretty straightforward, no? And yet I didn't hear from him for months.

Today Chip pops up in an IM, tells me my profile photos are pretty, and asks if he can have some more. Huh?

What for? The internet is full of porn

I sent back.

that's not why I asked u for pics, do u think i'm that kind of guy?

was his outraged response.

I don't know what kind of guy you are. I don't appreciate the way you treated me.

(It was probably a mistake to get into things with Chip, but I wasn't in the mood to study and I had an hour to kill before class.)

what did i do that was so bad?

Could Chip really be that clueless? I reminded him of how things went down, and ended with:

You can't go out with a girl, tell her you had a great time, NOT ask her for a second date, and THEN ask for pictures!!! Why do you want pics of me?

I'd love to know what he's thinking.

because i was missing you

What the -- ? If Chip missed me, why didn't he want to go out with me? And why am I so vested in dating a guy who didn't finish college and obviously has issues with communication?

Things got somewhat heated. He IMed some things, I IMed some things, and he finally signed off with:

so fine bye then and you should practice what you preach!

I have no idea what that means. But then, it's increasingly obvious that I don't understand anything about men. At all.

FYI -- I have yet to hear from DOTS. She promised she'd make a decision over the past weekend at the latest. Apparently Eleanor Feckless is not the only social worker at my school who makes a regular habit of not keeping her word.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"