Thursday, May 29, 2008

I'm not dead

My California trip was great but tremendously disregulating. I don't know if it was the cold, the time change, or all the running around doing fun stuff, but I was feeling very anxious by my last day there, and not up to doing much. I came home to a training program that starts at 7:30 a.m. each morning, a pack of job interviews, a deafening silence concerning the interviews I had before I left, and a disappearing act on the part of SB. So I'm not in the mood to write much right now. But I'm not dead, and not planning to be. I'll write more when I feel a little more grounded.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Such a Jewish psychiatrist

I have a cold and feel completely lousy, but I'm going to California tomorrow (that's going to be a fun plane ride) and I wanted to blog about a few things.

Early this morning I went to a bris -- the son of a friend of Adir and Alona. They couldn't make it, so I conveyed their congratulations. Then I went to see Dr. R, and after we discussed graduation and job-hunting, I told him I was seeing someone. An Iraqi Jew.

"So he is Sephardi?" said Dr. R.

"Yes, but that's not a problem on either side," I said. "The problem is that he hasn't been paying much attention to me lately. I used to get text messages, phone calls, and pokes on Facebook all the time. I saw him last Thursday night, and I haven't really heard much from him since -- and then, only when I contacted him. Allegedly he was working all night Saturday, most of Sunday, and was very busy yesterday and today. But he still says he's making me dinner and taking me to the airport."

"What does he do?" asked Dr. R. That made me laugh. He sounded more like my dad than my therapist.

It's always a struggle for me not to paternalize older male therapists. It wasn't hard not to paternalize Albert Ellis because 1) he was old enough to be my grandfather and 2) he wasn't very affectionate or gentle. I usually haven't had this problem with Dr. R, but for some reason I got hit with a little transference this time.

Of course, it was also a practical question: what's keeping SB so very busy that he can't even poke Ayelet on Facebook? Has he lost that loving feeling, or is Ayelet manifesting a wee bit of paranoia? Dr. R seemed to think things weren't as doomed as I felt they were.

He also gave me some practical job-hunting tips.

"You almost never give me advice," I said.

"Well, I would not advise you about your boyfriend," he said -- effectively terminating the paternal transference -- "but this is very concrete."

Dr. R's Job Search Suggestions:
  1. Take notes after every interview so you can remember exactly what happened and impress them at the follow-up interview.
  2. Set a deadline to lower your asking price. Right now, I feel I'm worth at least $45-50,000, given my two master's degrees, significant professional experience in writing and communications, moderate but extensive clinical experience (I did a little bit of everything at the ACT team), initiative, creativity, excellent work ethic, and spectacular sense of humor. But if I don't have a job offer by July 1, I'm coming down to $40,000. Maybe even $38,000, much as it galls me. Better to have a job where you're underpaid than be unemployed for a long stretch.
I've got an interview after I come back from Cali with a substance abuse treatment program that really likes me. I applied for a MICA (Mental Illness/Chemical Addiction) specialist position that they thought I wasn't qualified for -- not enough years of clinical experience -- but they liked me for a caseworker job that paid $38,000.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I like the way your organization sounds and how you approach substance abuse treatment, but I have two master's degrees and I live in Manhattan. I can't afford to work for $38K."

We talked for a while, and I told him about the substance abuse group I discerned the need for, initiated, and developed -- recruiting reluctant participants, writing up a curriculum, and co-facilitating group sessions. And how I spent 10 years as a communications professional, which he liked because they do a lot of outreach and need someone to be their spokesperson. (Hello -- PR princess here!) So he called another person, did a little wheedling, and they're interviewing me for the MICA position after I get back from California.

I need a really impressive suit for this interview. Fortunately, my aunt Luba, who lives near cousin Yaffa, is a clotheshorse and seamstress. We'll go shopping, find me something stunning yet professional that implicitly communicates my broad-ranging competence, and she can alter it to fit perfectly.

As for SB... well, I'll see him tonight and assess whether he's just giving me a ride to the airport because he promised he would.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, May 19, 2008

Classic... or just old?

The flower girl sisters of the bride, who are co-maids of honor, were very impressed with the song I wrote and sang at Jerusha's reception many years ago. They were tiny, but apparently it made an impression, because they asked me to help them write a song for their sister, who's getting married next January.

I contacted the bride and asked her about herself and her intended. After mining her for trivia, I asked if there were any special songs they had or bands they liked. She said they were into pretty much all kinds of music, and couldn't think of a particular song they especially favored.

So I picked one: the Randy Travis classic, "Forever and Ever, Amen."

At least I thought it was a classic. I whipped up some lyrics and sent them to Maid of Honor #1 (i.e., middle sister). She wrote back:

So sorry I haven't gotten back to you, I just graduated but I still have to study for the MCAT and stuff! Ahhhhh it never ends!

[You're telling me. Two master's degrees and sometimes I still think I'm getting a doctorate, too.]

I think the words to the song are so perfect -- it amazes me how you can be so creative! I honestly had never heard of Randy Travis or this song before but it works out great!

[Ugh... Never heard of him??? I was young when this song first came out.]

I will show it to Maid of Honor #2 [baby sister] and see what she thinks. I am sure she will love it too. I feel so bad that you have done this work and that I have avoided it by focusing on schoolwork that I easily could have procrastinated on (hehehe). But thank you so much for all your help/practically doing everything!

How is school for you? Are you out for summer? I hope all is well! Love, MOH#1


Man, I'm old. You never heard of Randy Travis? I'm calling your parents.

I wrote this last night -- after all my schoolwork was done. I hope MOH#2 likes it! I'm going to California to visit my cousin Yaffa. Then I'm back for a two-week stint of auricular acupuncture training -- it's used in substance abuse treatment. All the while applying for jobs... sigh. Good luck on the MCATs -- I'm sure you'll do great!
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"


It wasn't bad. I had to leave early to put my family on a bus to meet Jerusha, who's driving them to the airport. So I didn't get to meet all my friends' families. I'd feel better if I didn't have a nasty cold and the worse suspicion that things are over with SB.

I have to admit -- I caved. I called him yesterday to see if we were still on for dinner-and-a-ride-to-the-airport tomorrow. He was in a rush, had allegedly worked all night Saturday and most of Sunday.

"Why wouldn't we be on?" he asked.

"Well, I haven't heard from you in a few days..." I said, my voice trailing off as I realized how weak and stereotypically female that sounded.

"I'll call you later, sweetie," he said, and we hung up. But it's almost 8 p.m. and I still haven't heard from him. If I'm going to organize another route to the airport, I need to do that tonight. So even though I don't want to, I have to call him back. I looked back over my caller ID records, and in his defense, he has called me a lot over the past two weeks. But now is when I really need to hear from him, and I haven't.

I should never have told my parents he took me to dinner where we had lunch today. We shared the chocolate and avocado terrine, which he thought was too sweet but I thought was amazing. My mother's a huge chocoholic, so I suggested we get the same dessert. And I guess it made me think of him. I should have just had lunch and skipped dessert. I jinxed myself again.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Jerusha's still fat

I was relieved to see that official gym membership hasn't really done all that much for Jerusha's figure. I shlepped out to the suburbs after the birthday party, where the kids surprised me with homemade graduation cards and an ice cream cake that read "Congrats Aunt Ayelt." (Close enough.) The renovated kitchen is bigger than my studio apartment and obscenely well-appointed, with two dishwashers, four sinks, two ovens, roughly 7 million cabinets, and a refrigerator that could take you to Narnia. Nice to have a husband who makes bank.

The birthday party was fun, but it was hard to be the only single person there, not counting Shuli's widowed mother-in-law. Harriet, who was there with all three kids, was a bit surprised to see me lifting Baruch out of the snap-n-go after he awoke from his nap.

"Oh, Ayelet loves holding babies," said Shuli, with what I felt was a trace of condescension.

"That's right," I said, "make fun of the childless woman."

I spent a good part of the party hanging out with Harriet and her husband, David, when I wasn't helping Shuli and Avner. They're very nice people, great conversationalists, impressed with my degrees, internships, etc. But I couldn't summon empathy for Harriet, who has two daughters under the age of five and a baby boy and feels like she doesn't have enough time for herself. She asked me, "Do you feel completely free -- like no one needs anything from you and you can just do whatever you want?"

"It's a lot lonelier than you think," I replied. I didn't add that I only have enough money to pay my rent through July -- forget about groceries -- and that another birthday as an old maid is staring me in the face. Seeing all those happy parents with their happy kids was painful. I realize you never know what goes on behind closed doors, but everyone there was married with kids. and I am neither. And I don't think any of them are worried about eviction or not having health insurance after August. (Remember, we're in Manhattan.)

Honestly, I wish I had Harriet's problems. She complained that even with the babysitter around, her kids actually expect her to spend time with them. I don't doubt her life is demanding, but it's nowhere near as stressful as mine. At least she didn't complain about her husband.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bogarting the baby

Went with Shuli, Avner, four-year-old Elimelech, two-year-old Meital, and baby Baruch to Spanish-Portuguese today. It's not a cuisine -- it's a Jewish congregation that's been in NYC since 1654. Her friend Harriet was giving a kiddush to celebrate the birth of her baby son Milton (named after his grandfather), who's a few weeks younger than Baruch.

Shuli was looking forward to showing off her new baby, too. Unfortunately, she didn't get much of a chance because as soon as Avner lifted him out of the snap-n-go, I took him.

"Ayelet!" protested Shuli, empty-armed.

"I had to say goodbye to all my clients this week," I said truculently. "I need to hold a baby." She couldn't argue because she's got a thing about not making a scene in public -- a trait I had cleverly planned to exploit. Also, I happen to be much better at burping Baruch than anyone else, so I decided it would be in his best interest for me to give the next bottle.

"What a beautiful baby!" one of the congregants said to me.

"Thanks, but I'm not his mom," I said. "I'm the weekend nanny."

She must be from Morocco (the synagogue caters to Jews from Morocco, Turkey, Greece, and other non-Ashkenazi lands), and she must have taken me seriously and assumed I'm from Latin America, because she immediately began speaking to me in Spanish. She was particularly taken with Baruch's nose: "!Esta narizcita! !Que linda!" (It is pretty cute, but I love his big blue eyes and the way he smiles with his whole face.)

On the way out of the synagogue Avner and Shuli ran into a woman he'd once dated, who married someone else, now has several kids, and looks about 70. She's gaunt, wrinkly, and has bags under her eyes that Paris Hilton could use for a weekend getaway. (Avner and Shuli are remarkably well-preserved and look much younger than their years.)

"You made the right choice, dude," I said to him. "She looks terrible!"

"See how you look after you've had three kids!" said Shuli. "Gd willing."

"Well, if she could do it, I guess I could," I said. "She probably had her first when she was about my age, right?"

"I think so," said Avner.

Tomorrow I'm going to be the official baby holder at Elimelech's birthday party. I also need to buy a bathing suit, which I'm not looking forward to shopping for, but the party should be nice. I'm still sad about leaving my clients, but I know I need to move on.

I also need to do something to regain the upper hand with SB. (In the immortal words of George Costanza, "I had hand!") When I was juggling SB and Ikey, I was a little lukewarm on both of them. I had a very clear sense of their flaws and shortcomings. But after Ikey decided not to renounce the priesthood for my love, I've only had SB to focus on. Not that I haven't been looking for other options, but he's the only one I'm dating now. And I have no idea if he's anywhere near ready to get married. Whereas I am and I want to. This puts him in a superior position, strategically.

SB was trying a lot harder to make me like him right at the start. I found it annoying, but at least it showed his eagerness. He's gotten a lot calmer lately. I'm not saying he takes me entirely for granted, but he's not falling all over himself to impress me. And he's not constantly calling and texting me the way he used to. (He's also no longer poking on Facebook, but I think that's because I gave the impression that I found it annoying.)

So what do I do? I'll try to play by The Rules. Don't call, don't text, don't email. If he contacts me, only respond sporadically. This exploits what behavioral psychologists call an intermittent reinforcement schedule. Because the animal is only rewarded some of the time, it is spurred to perform the behavior more and more, in order to up the odds of being rewarded. Gambling is a great example of intermittent reinforcement: winning one hand, or one pull of the slots arm, can keep you playing (and losing) for hours.

SB is on Facebook right now. So am I. He hasn't IMed me, and I'm actually a little annoyed about that. But I'm not going to IM him. If he IMs me, or calls, or texts -- I'll respond. But I won't initiate anything.

We have plans for him to make me dinner Tuesday night and then drive me to the airport for my redeye flight out to the coast. I won't contact him before then. If he doesn't contact me -- well, then he's not the most reliable ride to the airport, and I'm best off finding that out sooner rather than later.

I hate playing games. But dating the way I have been for more than a decade -- wearing my heart on my sleeve -- has obviously gotten me nowhere. I'm trying to be more strategic in how I interview for jobs. Might as well practice behaving strategically in more than one domain of my life -- the only way to get really good at something.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Filed under, "This cannot possibly be happening."

I had a hard day at my internship. I had to say goodbye to a number of clients, whom I'm really going to miss, and someone stole the present I ordered for one of them. (Good thing I had a backup present at my desk in case she didn't like the one I had planned to give her.) I was on the verge of tears all day, and really looking forward to seeing SB tonight. I thought basically nothing but snuggling with him could make me feel better.

Then I saw a Facebook status update from one of my Friends, Mary Downtown, whom I don't really know. (She Friended me randomly a few weeks back; we have one Friend in common, Craig of craigslist. And I don't know him all that well either. But she asked to be my Friend and I agreed.)

Mary thinks it would be fun to run a television network.

Mary's not just blowing steam. She's a television producer. So I wrote on her wall:

If you ever run a TV network, I definitely have a show to pitch you ;)

Which I didn't, but I thought it would be funny.

She thought I was serious:

Pitch it to me anyway...believe it or not I have a pitching meeting next Wednesday with NBC.

Don't be publicizing that or my already full in box will explode! You can trust me. If it's good... ok great... we'll tweak it in time to toss it in as I'm only presenting one.

I figure if that's a go... the spin-off I have in mind will be a breeze. Heck, maybe yours is even better. Shoot me your best pitch. I love to help people if I can. Your timing is lucky because I got the call this morning.

Wow. I have the ear of a TV producer! I cannot let this opportunity escape. What could I pitch?

One of the clients I said good-bye to today loves to write; we've composed and shared little writing exercises in our sessions. As a parting gift I gave her an old 3-subject notebook with tons of fresh paper that I bought to use in grad school but decided was too heavy to carry. And a pen with real ink, not ballpoint. I wrote a little note in the back, passing along two classic pieces of writing advice: "Write about what you know" and "Write something every day." She was thrilled.

Taking the first piece of advice...

Wow. I will definitely keep your secret, because I don't want any competition :)

I propose a reality show about people who live with mental illnesses, all of whom are at varying levels of functioning. Some work as professionals in the mental health care field, or "prosumers"; some are clients of mental health care services, or "consumers." There would be *plenty* of drama, especially if there are a lot of people with bipolar disorder included.

I know several "prosumers" who would love to be on the show. They are all very interesting people with fantastic stories of struggle and triumph. They're smart, they're funny, and they're very real.

I realize it would be difficult to get consent from all the potential clients to appear on the show, but I think it's important to get the message out that people with mental illnesses aren't so different from other people -- they work, go to school, get married, raise families, etc. Their lives just take a whole lot more effort.

You know the saying, "Everything Fred Astaire did, Ginger Rogers did -- backwards and in high heels"? Well, living successfully while coping with a mental disorder is like living life backwards in high heels. You have to work much harder to accomplish the same goals and live a good life. But with support, it's possible.

I guess that could be the working title: "Backwards in High Heels." (We could probably find some drag queens with DSM diagnoses who would be willing to be part of the show.)

Thanks for listening! :)

I used the line about Ginger Rogers today in the wellness/self-management group I've been co-facilitating, so it was top of mind. And I figured I might as well pitch something I know about, especially since there's so much disinformation about mental illness in the media.

I could not have asked for a more enthusiastic response:

You know what? Read it quickly & I love it. It's too good for folks I'm seeing Weds.

A few things came to mind. Let me noodle this in my brain a little... and I will be in touch with you.

It's good. I had something along these lines that I ran by one person who LOVED it and another did not get it at all.

That's how it is. Hit or miss. So, we need to get it to folks who GET IT. Perhaps someone with bipolar while they are in their manic phase!

I'm so politically incorrect. LoL. On a serious note, I have a tremendous respect for mental illness, and I like what you said about mainstream America realizing that society is FILLED with people with mental illness who are functioning... at high levels too.

The cardiothoracic surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation is dyslexic and he's the number one heart surgeon. He was recently promoted to the CEO. I interviewed him and was amazed when he told me that. There are countless other people too.

Something happened recently that also fits in with this. I was in a courtroom listening to cases. I could not believe that the judge said to one woman, "It says here that you were diagnosed with bipolar. It also says you are going to law school. How are you going to go to law school if you have bipolar?"

The judge was serious. The individual said she was taking medication. The judge said, "I really think you should rethink this plan. I don't think you can realistically become a lawyer if you have this condition."

I wanted to stand up and SCREAM. Jane Pauley has bipolar. How dare this judge say that! Many creative folks suffer from these things.

So, this is all interesting. As mentioned, let me think about the best way to approach this... and I'll be back in touch with you soon!

Glad we connected. M.

I think I'm in love.

I second every emotion you expressed. Can't wait to talk more about this. Thanks for taking it seriously! btw... loved the "manic phase" joke -- seriously; that's how those of us in the field joke about ourselves. You're talkin' the talk! Ayelet

I have prosumer friends who work at prosumer-run mental health care agencies. (Some of whom read this blog.) We could definitely cast this program in NYC alone. So who knows! I'm still looking forward to seeing SB tonight, but now I'm in a much better mood. Which is good. I don't want to appear too needy too soon.

Also, I told SB it bothered me that he cavalierly declined to let me educate him all about bipolar disorder. SB responded that I hadn't been ready to tell him about the disorder -- he discovered it by accident -- so he'd wait until I was ready to educate him about it. Good answer.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How much sleep can I miss before I have a psychotic break?

I'll have to ask Dr. Roda when I see him next week. I tried to sleep well last night. I turned off the computer before 11. I took a vitamin K. And I still woke up at 4 a.m. So now I'm exhausted. This doesn't make saying goodbye to my clients any easier.

I think the interview went well. However, I thought the other interviews went well, yet I am still jobless. I guess I'll send her a thank-you card and hope for the best.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

SB called

He's very excited about the kuuba bamya. A little disappointed that I won't be using hot peppers in the broth, but I can't help it if my people didn't train me to tolerate spicy food. I can barely eat at the kosher Indian restaurants, and I know they bland the food way down for the "gefilte fish," one of the nicknames Sephardim have for Ashkenazim.

My number of posts per month is a rough index of my mood -- as well as how busy I am. When I'm depressed, I only post about 10-15 times a month. When I'm slightly hypomanic, or extremely bored, I can hit upwards of 45. We're only halfway through May and I've already posted more than I did in April.

Good thing I filled my lithium prescription tonight. I have a job interview tomorrow, and since I'm not going to be working for Dr. Genuine, I don't want to blow it. To make sure I sleep more than three hours, I also took a Vitamin K, which I try not to do too often. But the interview's at 9 a.m. sharp, and I need to be sharp, too.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

So hard to play by The Rules

I'm trying to date SB mindfully and strategically. We went out on Sunday. On Monday I posted a couple of links on his Facebook wall to websites displaying the work of Georgia O'Keefe and Alfred Stieglitz, neither of whom were familiar to him, despite his love of floral photography. (He studied film and video production at Brooklyn College. Apparently they don't set much store by the American classics in that department.) I also Introduced him to a Friend of mine who likes discussing the stock market, in the hopes that SB will stop trying to discuss it with me.

All of this, according to "The Rules," is much more than I should have done. One of their first rules is "Don't call him and rarely return his calls." (It was published in 1995, the year the Internet exploded, but I assume the same goes for emails and text messages.) But I'd told SB I'd make the introduction, which he had asked me to do, and that I'd show him some of Stieglitz and O'Keefe's work, which he was interested in seeing. I keep my promises.

He didn't call last night. Fine, whatever, I was out to dinner, I was busy. I didn't hear from him today until I turned on my cell phone just now and discovered a text message from five hours ago:

How long must a guy wait for a phone call from a girl after an encounter
Looking forward to seeing you again

Okay, very disingenuous, but it's an indication of interest.

I called him back, because I hate text messages -- I hate not being able to type with all 10 fingers and being charged for doing something so uncomfortable -- and got his voicemail. Left a message saying that the phone works both ways and if he called me, I'd probably answer. I also posted a recipe for kouba in tomato-okra broth that I found on, of all places, YouTube.

I told him that if he played his cards right, I'd make it for him.

I got another text message:

In a meeting
But I'm thinking of you Ayelet


SB I hate texting so if I am going to the trouble then I must be thinkin of u 2
call me after ur meetin I have a surprise 4 u

Stay tuned, loyal readers....
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"


Guess who's filling in for Dean Evillene until a replacement is found? Dr. ED-DHRSJ! I sent her a little congratulatory note:

Congrats on your new appointment! After listening to my experiences, you certainly know exactly what kinds of problems the department has ;) I am sure you will bring about great and much-needed improvements.

Dr. Mike Smith at Lincoln Recovery Center has expressed an interest in starting a second-year clinical internship at his clinic, which of course does more than just acupuncture. Can I put him in touch with you to develop it? Please let me know when would be a good time -- I'm sure right now you're quite busy.

She responded:

Hi Ayelet.... thanks so much for your congrats... it means a lot to me coming from you. Yes, you've prepared me well :-) I look forward to working closely with students and would also love to speak to Mike. I'll be away till the 19th, starting the 21st, so please do put him in touch with me.

Thanks for thinking of this, and Ayelet, it was a pleasure getting to know you this year although I wish it was under different circumstances. I'm so sorry for all that you went through, and you handled yourself with grace!! Take good care, ED-DHRSJ.

Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Last supper

Melanie took me out to dinner last night to say thanks. We went to a kosher restaurant in my neighborhood that has great food, terrible service, and no atmosphere. I tend not to go there on dates early in a relationship because it's not romantic, but once the relationship is established, it's a good place to go because the food is fantastic.

We got there pretty early, so the restaurant was fairly empty. It filled up as we ate and chatted. "I'm lucky tonight," I said to Melanie. "I don't see any guys I've gone out with." Then I peered behind her to be certain and... sure enough, there was G. I. Josh.

"Spoke too soon," I told her. "My ex-boyfriend's at the table behind you." She was amused, especially when I told her that despite his fascination with knives, violent video games, and warcraft roleplay fantasy games, he was really more passive-aggressive than aggressive.

I also confessed that I read her blog -- mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa; she forgave me, especially since her blog isn't terribly personal -- and that I have my own. I told her I hadn't been ready to share it with her before, but now I'd like her to see it.

"Why is your gmail address 'helpfordepression'?" she asked.

I told her about the terrible tragedy in my neighborhood almost two years ago, and said, "I'll let you read the blog and find out." Her response should be interesting. She's usually pretty good at reading the people in the office, pinpointing their quirks and issues. I've wondered before if she thought I have OCD or some other kind of issue. I'd like to know how close her horseshoe falls.

I also want to call attention to the recent loss of a truly righteous social worker: Irena Sendler, who saved more than 2,500 Jewish children from the Nazis. She was 98.

The Talmud says that those who perform good deeds attain long life (Yevamot 105a). Poland didn't exactly have the optimal health care system after WWII, nor was it always possible to obtain a nutritious diet there. Living to 98 is rather miraculous under those circumstances. Clearly Irena was rewarded for her bravery -- if she'd been caught, she'd have been killed in a very painful way -- and altruism. Jadwiga, my classmate, should be darn proud.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mazel tov, Elah

Just heard that the lovely Elah is now a kallah. She got engaged to a Cohen because unlike me, she didn't sleep around while she was hypomanic. (To the best of my knowledge, she has never been hypomanic). She was the one who organized the tehillim group for unmarried women that I used to belong to. I wrote to her:

So organizing those tehillim groups finally paid off! ;) I am so happy to learn of your engagement! May you be zoche to build a bayit ne'eman b'yisrael and be blessed with many children.

She immediately responded:

Thank you so much! I appreciate your well wishes. May those who bless be blessed doublefold and may we hear the good news VERY SOON from you!

I wish I could share her optimism. I'll try to match her enthusiasm:

AMEN!!! Please daven for me when you are under the chuppah -- Ayelet bat Plonit. If you like, I can make you a chuppah davening list like I did for AidelMaidel when she married Sky-High.

Did you ever hear from the superior school of social work?

No word yet. But I am very happy for her. I just wish I could be happy for me, too.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Maureen writes back

Hi, Ayelet -- of course I remember you. It sounds like you have accomplished a lot -- that is wonderful. I am positive you will be a fabulous clinical social worker. It is nice to hear later on how people I’ve worked with are doing. Thank you for taking the time to email me.

I have changed careers as you know. I moved to the this area with my husband to take on a directorship position in a mental health facility. I did not do my homework on the mental health care system here. It is very different from what I was used to -- unfortunately, not for the better.

[Boy, do I know what that's like.]

When I had my son, I took time off from work to be with him. It was during that time that I decided to do something different. I do miss it though sometimes. That is why it is lovely to receive an email like yours.

I hope to continue to pursue your goals. Your list is impressive already. Again, thank you for taking the time to email me. I appreciate it very much.

Aw, shucks.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Too small a world

I spent a few hours with SB, trying not to miss Ikey. For a while it was easy. We went for lunch, then strolled through Central Park so he could take pictures. Sometimes he wanted to shoot flowers, and sometimes he wanted to shoot people, which led to conversations like:

"SB, those Brazilians are not posing in the Ramble so you can take their photo."

"Who's asking them to pose, Ayelet?"

Laughter in Portuguese.

"SB, that couple doesn't want you to take their photo right now."

"They're not thinking about me right now. Trust me."

Smooching sounds from the admittedly oblivious couple. I blushed, and SB got his shot.

He's very affectionate, even in public. Loves to hold hands, which Ikey doesn't. But that doesn't mean he's looking to get married. Shimona is convinced he isn't. And Ikey is. Damn twist of fate. I kind of wish I hadn't run across Ikey on Facebook. What good does it do me to have him dance in and out of my life again?

Also, when we went upstairs to my apartment so I could change into something warmer between lunch and the park, SB snooped.

"Why are you taking lithium?" he asked. "Does it get you high?"

Crap -- forgot to hide it. "You weren't supposed to look at anything," I reminded him. "That was the condition of coming up to my apartment."

"I don't mind if you get high on lithium," he protested.

"I don't get high on it," I said. "It's a mood stabilizer. I have bipolar disorder." Not that I wanted to tell him about at this stage, but I guess the lithium was out of the pharmacy bag.

"Really? You seem pretty stable to me," he said.

"Well, I work at it," I said. "I work hard to function well."

He didn't seem curious. I asked if he wanted to see some websites or information about bipolar, and he said, "Nah -- I'll probably just diagnose myself with it."

This is not a good sign. If he were interested in a future with me, he'd be interested in what I bring to the table, good and bad. Lack of interest doesn't bode well. However, it was just a third date, and I hadn't planned on disclosing my illness to him anytime soon. At least he's not put off. And it's not like we're dating exclusively -- I'm open to meeting other guys.

SB told me he became Facebook friends with a girl from Lebanon and described her to me. She looks a lot like me, chubby with lots of dark curly hair, which to an Arab like him is very attractive. So I went on his Friends list to find her. Guess who else I found -- Ikey Abadi.

Small world.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Giving thanks

Recently I decided to thank the clinical social worker, Maureen, who worked with me while I was an outpatient. As I said in my post on the atrocious Dr. Incompetent,

I felt more comfortable [than I ever did with Dr. Incompetent] during my first private session with a clinical social worker on the psych ward. She wasn't even Jewish, but she really understood me and we got along well.

All I remembered was her first name, so I emailed the psychiatric program where I'd been an inpatient and outpatient and got her last name. She's no longer there, but a Google search found her. Seems she got married and became an interior decorator, using her social work skills to manage difficult clients. (Apparently social work degrees are broadly applicable.)

Dear Maureen,

I don't know if you remember me, but I was a client of yours at XXX Hospital in the spring/summer of 20XX. I had been living in NYC but came to XXX for treatment because my parents live near there. You were my individual therapist and discharge planner, and helped me find a partial program in NYC so I could return there to complete my recovery.

It seems you've done a lot since then! Your website is beautiful, and I'm sure you need just as much patience in your new profession as you did when you were a clinical social worker. Perhaps more.

In an interesting twist, I have become a clinical social worker. I also have a master's in psychology.
So if you're the same Maureen O'Connor, I just wanted to say thank you and let you know that my life after hospitalization has been a good one.

A big part of the credit goes to you. You were honestly one of the best therapists I've ever had -- genuine, an excellent listener, and able to see through complications to the heart of the matter. You were not just a good therapist, you were a good role model for me as I embark upon a career in this field.

Sincerely, Ayelet Survivor, M.A., M.S.W.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Ashkenazi men SUCK

I slept a lot this Shabbos. I lay down at about 5:30 p.m. on Friday to rest and woke up at 2 a.m. Too late to light candles, so I went back to sleep. Shabbos morning I accompanied Alona and Batya to shul. It was actually quite nice, except for all the Ashkenazi men who wouldn't make eye contact with me at kiddush.

I've written before about feeling rejected at shul by both men and women, but today it was just the men. I made a new female friend and hung out with others. But the guys -- many of whom I recognized from online dating site profiles -- completely ignored me. To a man (or boy, or guy, whatever.) Didn't even make eye contact, let alone smile.

Is it any wonder I'm into dating Sephardim these days? Ashkenazi men won't give me the time of day, and Sephardic men think I'm gorgeous. Who do you think I should favor?

I went to Eric and Ahuva for lunch, where I met some more new Facebook female friends (and perhaps we'll be real friends). But the single guys there were the same; they paid absolutely no attention to me unless I said something really funny. Which happens fairly often, but still. The orthodox "singles crisis"? It's the men's fault. Most definitely.

Then I lay down to take a little shabbos nap and woke up 15 minutes ago.

I'm still waiting to hear the verdict from Ikey Abadi's rabbi about whether we could theoretically get married. It's not fair -- Cohanim are allowed to sleep with non-Jewish women and still marry a Jewish girl. Ours is a sexist religion. But it's better than the alternative.

Wait -- Ikey just IMed me on Facebook. His rabbi said no. That's that. It's over. Guess I don't have to complete the SB vs. Ikey cost-benefit analysis I started on the train on Friday afternoon. We also spoke on the phone tonight, essentially breaking up after one date. (Technically, two dates if you count the one eight years ago.) Still painful.

Good thing we met up with his friend who disclosed his cahuna status. In a month I might have thrown over SB and fallen in love with Ikey. Better now than then.

At least SB is a better kisser (yes, I made out with both of them, I'm a loose woman -- obviously, since I can't marry a Cohen).
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, May 09, 2008

R - E - S - P - E - C - T

This week, in my final group work class with Dr. Meander, we performed role-play group simulations. Some students were facilitators, some clients. It was very interesting and creative; we all had a lot of fun and it illustrated many important aspects of how groups function and promote change.

During one presentation -- a role-play of a parenting skills and support group -- one of the characters was a Cuban man who smacks his 12-year-old daughter when she doesn't obey his rules. This, naturally, led to a lot of discussion in the group, and then they asked the rest of the class what we would have said to such a person if we were facilitating. I volunteered.

Ayelet: Mr. Cuban, have you ever spoken to your daughter about the reasons you have these rules?

Mr. Cuban: I don't have to. I'm her father. The rules are to protect her, and she has to follow them. If phone curfew is 11 p.m. it's 11 p.m., no exceptions

Ayelet: Can you tell me why phone curfew is 11 p.m.?

Mr. Cuban (exasperated, as if it's obvious): Because she needs her sleep!

Ayelet: That's a good rule. You know, when kids are little, it's not so important to explain your rules. They might not understand your rationale, and they usually accept that it's best for them anyway. But adolescents are a little more questioning and rebellious. They like to know why they have to do something. Then, if they understand why they have to do it, it's easier for them to do it. So it can be helpful to explain the reason behind a rule; then teenagers might be more likely to follow it.

Dr. Meander said, "Ayelet, I have to interrupt."

Uh-oh. Was I making too many generalizations about kids and adolescents? Lecturing too much? Giving too many suggestions?

"I want to call attention to the wonderful respect Ayelet is showing this gentleman," continued Dr. Meander. "Your tone, the way you're explaining things to him, and the way you're not judging him or his culture. As group facilitators, we often work with clients who come from different backgrounds, different cultures, who have different ways of doing things that we do. It's important at all times to show respect for a client even if you might not agree with the way they are doing something."

"Mr. Cuban" (who in actuality was an African-American woman wearing a fake soul patch) agreed. "I didn't feel threatened or criticized," she said. "I felt like she respected me and was trying to speak to me in a way I wouldn't object to."

This shows a few things:

1. I'm still paranoid I'm always doing something wrong. Last week Melanie said there was something she had to discuss with me. "Uh-oh," I thought. "What did I do?" Turned out she wanted to take me out to dinner to say thanks for all my good work and didn't know any kosher restaurants. But the first thought that jumps to mind when someone says "we need to talk" or the equivalent is never that I'm doing something right.

2. I'm able to convey respect when I work with clients. (Bad Place psychologists, you are so ignorant.)

3. Dr. Meander isn't half bad. I like her a lot more now than I did at the beginning of the semester -- I guess the meandering has grown on me, especially if she's meandering on about something I'm doing right -- and I've really learned a lot from her. I have a lot of respect for her. Dr. Meander said that in the future, as we go on to work with groups, if we have questions we can always call or email her. I'm going to take her up on that.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Ikey likey

"Hello, gorgeous!" he greeted me.

Ikey looks fantastic. He's in amazing shape, occupational hazard of being a personal trainer. I forgot he has blue eyes. And he thinks I look fabulous too -- just as beautiful as I was eight years ago, yet lusciously curvier. I might disagree, but it was great for my ego. (And the truncated Facebook status update of his did, indeed, refer to me.)

"What is it with you and Sephardim?" my friend Alona asked.

"I can't help it if Ashkenazim don't think I'm beautiful," I replied. (Note to Boaz: I know this doesn't include you. I'm talking about most other Ashkenazi guys, who are looking for, as one once confided in Ikey, "A supermodel who studies gemara.")

Ikey and I went out for dinner and had a wonderful time. I really enjoyed his company; he's interesting and fun to talk to, and he thinks I'm brilliant. (Of course, SB called three times while we were out.)

But: I wish Ikey were a little more settled. He doesn't get along with his parents -- not a good sign, although they do sound kind of crazy -- and he moves around a lot. And he's a personal trainer -- not nearly as stable as his previous job. That makes me a little nervous.

Also, Ikey's a Cohen -- which I found out from the restaurant manager, a friend of his, who said, while they were catching up, "How can you afford to travel so much, Ikey? I guess money finds you because you're a Cohen." (If I were Syrian, I would have known that Abadi is a Cohen name.) According to some authorities, Ikey can't marry me. He has to talk to his rabbi. It's a question he's apparently had to pose several times -- I guess Ikey likes bad girls -- and the response has varied.

My sexual activities with non-Jews took place primarily, although not exclusively, while I was hypomanic. That might give me an out. I don't know why, but Sephardic rabbis seem to be a little more lenient on this issue than Ashkenazim. So there's some hope.

Ikey's definitely looking to get married and have kids -- and I'm not so sure about SB. I think we'll have to talk about it on Sunday, when we go to the park. Since I won't have to prepare for my third follow-up interview with Dr. Genuine, I'm a free woman.

I also think I'll have to tell him about my illness. Because Ikey knows about it; I told him. He took it completely in stride -- not put off at all. I have to be with someone who can handle my diagnosis, because not every man can. So I'll talk to SB about it on Sunday.

It would be really ironic (read: my life) if Ikey couldn't be with me because I can't marry a Cohen, and SB dumps me because of my illness. That's sort of what I'm expecting to happen. Of course, if neither of those issues is a problem, and both of them are ready to fall in love with me, get married, and have kids, then I have some hard choices to make. Very soon.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, May 08, 2008


That's Spanish for "rejected," and I had to look it up, so Dr. Genuine's probably correct in his assessment that I can't do therapy in Spanish. Which I'm pretty sure I told him in the initial interview. For this I rescheduled my therapy session (in English) with my client?

I slumped home and found two messages: SB and Ikey. I called both. SB is out of town on business but said he could call me later tonight. Ikey has recovered from his bout of illness and is very sad he couldn't see me on Monday. He suggested we get together tonight after his dinner plans with friends he hasn't seen in a while (but presumably less than eight years). He made those plans a few weeks ago -- even before I started beating him at Scrabulous.

"Cancel with them," I said boldly. "I'm feeling rejected and sad. I need comfort now."

And he did!! We're having dinner tonight. Stay tuned...
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Props to Boaz

My friend Boaz reads the New York Daily News and sent me this note:

Today's Daily News covered the verdict handed down against Uma's stalker, and they called him a creep and an ex-mental patient, but nothing about crazy, loony, wacked-out, or otherwise offensive characterizations. You may have made an impact even if they didn't print your piece.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Okay, so he called

Ikey left another voicemail on my home phone. Still allegedly feeling weak and sick, not sure about Thursday. But he didn't leave his number, so I can't call him until I get home tonight, by which time he will allegedly be asleep. Oh well.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Where's Ikey?

I haven't heard from Ikey Abadi since that anguished voicemail canceling our Monday date -- i.e., he hasn't confirmed our Thursday date. (By the way -- not cool. It's Wednesday already.) The only clues to his mindset I can access are his Facebook status updates. On Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. he posted:

The greatest ironies of life: having the right person at the wrong time, having the wrong person when the time is right, and finding out that

Which must have been a fragment of something too long for a status update, because two minutes later he changed it to:

To love someone is nothing. To be loved by someone is something. To love and be loved by someone is everything.

I guess he's in the mood for love, but am I the right or wrong person? I don't know what he's thinking because I haven't heard from him! The only communication we've had has been on Scrabulous. He started with a bingo -- POINTER.

Ayelet: Good start. I'm still going to win this one.
IA: my first bingo
A: aw

I looked up the cut-off quote and found it (without a citation):

The greatest ironies of life: having the right person at the wrong time, having the wrong person when the time is right, and finding out that you love someone after that person walks out of your sight.

Yeah -- he's in danger of that happening again right now, unless he calls me tonight. I'm not even going to poke him on Facebook -- it's all up to him.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Not sure how I feel

SB is a nice guy. But he's also a little corny sometimes. He makes jokes that aren't funny and then continues in that vein until it's frankly annoying. I can see why Shimona didn't want to date him -- she has no patience for that sort of thing.

Still, we had a good time tonight, he thinks I'm smokin' hot, he's a genuinely nice guy, he's reasonably bright (and thinks I'm brilliant), he laughs at my jokes, and I can see him being the type to worship the ground I walk on. Which is not a bad trait in a man. I guess I don't have to decide right away whether he's right for me. We went for a walk in Central Park, which he has never visited in the more than three decades he's lived in the city (honestly, outer borough folk are so provincial) and then had dinner.

He'd be mortified if he knew I disclosed that 1) he loves chick flicks and 2) he loves to snuggle. He got a little handsy in the park, but he kept it appropriate.

I thought about mentioning to him, casually, that I know he told Shimona he's not looking to get married. But if I do that, I lose my power -- it's as good as saying he's the one who's going to decide where the relationship goes. Also betrays a stronger interest in him, which might induce him to feel cavalier and complacent, like he's got me where he wants me.

I always want him to think he wants me a little more than I want him. (Which right now is true enough.) That way he'll be stimulated by the challenge of winning and keeping me, which will keep him in the game until I've made up my mind about him. It feels weird, but it's thinking strategically. I just have to keep that focus in mind.

Today is my last day of grad school. I can't believe it's over -- it seems only yesterday I was entering the school with tremendous trepidation, emotionally shredded by The Bad Place, devastated that I wasn't going to be a psychologist and unable to see myself as a social worker. Today, not only am I proud as hell to be a social worker, I think social work is a superior profession to psychology.

There are some psychologists who invented a form of psychiatric rehabilitation for former criminal offenders called the "Good Lives Model." It's supposed to address all areas of a client's life, replacing deviant or maladaptive behaviors with more functional ones. They're terrifically proud of themselves for coming up with this revolutionary approach, which targets all causal aspect of offending behavior: biological, neuropsychological, and what they call "ecological" and define as "social, cultural, and personal circumstances."

Interventions take place in all three domains: medication for the biological, psychotherapy for the neuropsychological, and case management for the ecological. Essentially, they're recommending intensive therapy and supervision for the clients, which reminds me of ACT -- a practice model inspired by the effective work of a social worker.

The "Good Lives" psychologists act like they invented the ecological perspective. But they didn't -- social workers did. Psychologists forget how much situational factors affect behavior. In contrast, the social work perspective is always focused on context and the environment clients are in, which I duly noted in the paper:

Social workers, who are accustomed to the ecosystems model and strengths-based perspective, may not find this approach quite so novel.

Don't know if the editor of the journal will let me keep that line, but Dr. Supportive thought it was hilarious.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

SB is spontaneous

I finally got tired of all the poking and emailed SB on Facebook:

enough poking already, when are we going out again?

He sent me a text message:

Poking is so suggestive

When r we going out next... name the time and place and I'll be there


Have a great day

So I called him and said, "Tonight!" After a surprised pause -- SB had been told I'd be off limits for a while due to school -- he said, "Okay!"

We're going to go for a walk (despite my aching knees) because it's spectacularly beautiful out, and then we'll get some dinner. I need to blow off steam. I spent a beautiful sunny Sunday trapped in my apartment working my final grad school paper, which is for Dr. Supportive's class. Time to relax.

I met with Dr. Supportive this morning to discuss some fine points (that's when I told her about The Bad Place and she offered her interpretation of events). The paper might not be ready for publication (I might have mentioned to you that it was provisionally accepted by a professional journal, whose editors gave me 90 million comments on it), but it's ready for the next editorial round, and that's good enough right now. As Voltaire put it, "The perfect is the enemy of the good."
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Ataque de nervios

Dr. Genuine had to reschedule my two follow-up interviews. But I might only need one of them. If I don't pass their Spanish test on Thursday, showing that I can do therapy in Spanish, they don't need me on Monday. It's not a paper and pencil test -- I'll be doing a role-play assessment with a member of their staff.

!Ay ay ay ay ay! Thank Gd I took that Spanish for Social Work class -- or rather, half of it. And thank Gd Carly got all the handouts for me. I'm definitely taking a Vitamin K before that interview. Dr. Genuine seems to think I'm qualified. I certainly hope I am. I don't remember him mentioning that the job involved actually doing therapy in Spanish -- I doubt I would have made such a claim for myself. But I could probably do a decent assessment, and a big chunk of the job is case management, which I could probably also accomplish in Spanish. But therapy? Oy.

Good thing I also scheduled another interview for another position -- I need to keep my options open. But that's definitely it. I'm not sending out any more résumés until I'm back from visiting Yaffa and Christine and the pack.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

"That's gross."

Dr. Supportive's clinical opinion concerning what they did to me at The Bad Place.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

The freshest hell

Now in addition to being unable to stay asleep, I seem unable to fall asleep. I've got insomnia coming and going. Yet despite my exhaustion I'm functioning. I hope this doesn't mean I'm developing another hypomania.

I can't wait for Wednesday night and grad school to be officially over. No more papers, no more process recordings, no more boring journal articles... actually, I'll still have to read to keep up with the field. And of course, I've got a follow-up job interview on Thursday. No rest for the weary....
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, May 05, 2008

Just say nopie

Ayelet, we're going to respectfully decline this submission. But thank you for sending it, and feel free to try again down the road.


Opinion editor, New York Daily News

What a tool.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Let down again

Ikey Abadi allegedly ate some bad salmon and called to cancel. We'll have to wait until Thursday to find out if he still thinks I'm pretty.

(He wasn't too sick to update his Facebook status update, though:

quote du jour... He that displays too often his wife and his wallet is in danger of having both of them borrowed. B. Franklin.

I'm not sure what to make of that, other that it kind of proves he's Syrian.)

We did speak on the phone at length last night, which was nice. His enthusiasm for me seems unbridled. I asked him what he's been up to these past years, and it turns out -- quite a bit. He's traveled to 35 countries (and had his picture taken, shirtless, in every one of them). Also, he went through a career change. When I met him he was a business analyst. Now he's a personal trainer.

I was rather surprised to hear that, too. (Certainly explains the different look and the 111 shirtless photos posted on his profile.) This made me even more anxious that he'd find me unattractive at my current ungainly weight. He claims he won't, but how can he know until he sees me?

In other ways I'm reassured, though. I said to him, half jokingly, "You talk as though you're just waiting for me to fall in love with you so we can get married."

"I am!" he said. He's a cards-on-the-table kind of guy, very open and direct. His biological clock is ticking even louder than mine: "Even if you conceived tomorrow night, Ayelet, I'd still be in my fifties by the time he's bar mitzvah."

No mind games -- or so he says. I'm still wondering how bad that salmon was. I'm a fairly accomplished liar, but that hasn't made me a better lie detector, unfortunately.

SB continues to send me text messages, emails, and pokes. Today he wrote something especially sweet:

I don't want to bother you while you are busy writing papers but i wanted to say hello
i was thinking of you and looking forward to getting together again

Also refreshingly direct and ungamesian. I wrote back:

It's no bother; I'm taking a break tonight. Just got home.
I'm also thinking of you and looking forward to getting together again :)

Stay tuned, loyal readers...
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

What I fear lies ahead

I was recently sent a troubling email indicating that depression is a significant risk factor for developing Alzheimer's Disease. Like I don't have enough to worry about.

William Styron's daughter wrote a beautiful New Yorker piece about his life, including the last six years of it, which were "an ongoing disaster.... a cavalcade of emergency rooms and rehab centers." They tried remedy after remedy, including ECT and vagus nerve stimulation, to no avail. He was abjectly miserable, in almost constant agony.

I shouldn't worry about this now (especially not at 5:30 a.m.). But my grandmother has dementia and geriatric-onset depression, and it's extremely hard on my parents, with whom she lives. Will I descend to the same depths as Styron? If I never end up getting married and having kids, who will take care of me?

Then again, I'm not even supposed to be alive. If my mother hadn't found me less than 12 hours after my overdose, I would have died. I took a pretty whopping overdose, including about 7000 mg of Depakote. If you don't happen to be a pharmacologist, I'll let you in on a little secret: that's a lot of Depakote, which is pretty toxic. They dialyzed my blood three times, and when I stayed unconscious, some of the doctors (including Jerusha) thought I would never wake up.

But I did. And there seem to be no lasting effects from my "little stunt" (as Jerusha terms it, of course), aside from a minor tremor. I remember the doctor coming into my hospital room on my last day there, after a week in a coma, five days in the ICU, and seven days on the regular medical ward. Shaking her head, she said in a tone of amazement, "I just wanted to let you know that your liver and kidneys are fine, no damage whatsoever."

That was another minor miracle. A fellow therapy group member on the psych ward, who struggled with both depression and polysubstance abuse, let me know this was probably because I wasn't a party girl and didn't wolf down cocaine and alcohol the way she did -- I hadn't overworked my liver and kidneys, which filter and process toxins. Lucky me.

So maybe I'll go gentle into that good night, instead of raging and suffering as Styron did. Even if I don't, now is probably not the best time to worry about it.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Adventures in advocacy

I don't know how I'm supposed to get this darn paper written if I can't sleep the night before the day I'm supposed to write it...

Anyway, I've submitted my op-ed piece to the New York Daily News. They run a lot of editorials and articles about how dangerous former mental patients are, and I sent in my piece arguing that most former mental patients are no more dangerous than most people. Which, statistically, is true and there's plenty of evidence to back it up. I've been having a little back-and-forth with the Daily News opinion page editor -- call him "Opie." I originally sent it to him about a month ago with this note:

I request that you run an opinion piece to counterbalance your editorial, "This is crazy" (4/7/07). The relationship between mental illness and violence is complicated, mediated by gender and substance abuse. Most gun violence is committed by men in their twenties who drink, and most people with a mental illness history are never violent.

I have a master's degree in psychology, a master's in clinical social work, and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I'm an Ivy League graduate and a devoted aunt. But many would judge me by my diagnosis alone -- and violate my privacy by including that information in national databases.

That's not fair to me or the vast majority of people living with mental illness. We've never committed a single violent act. Your readers deserve to know that.

Thank you for your consideration. Please let me know if you would like to see the piece.

Opie responded:

Thanks for sending your note. Is there something in particular you’d like to advocate for, other than a more balanced understanding of who mentally ill people are? That in and of itself doesn’t seem like enough to hang a piece on. If, however, that basic realization leads to a bigger argument, it could hold up as an op-ed.

The argument is that most former mental patients aren't violent and it's wrong to treat all of as though we are. I thought I'd made that pretty clear, but I wrote back:

Thanks for getting back to me.

Every day 81 people die from gun violence in our country. The percentage of those killed by random strangers with mental illness is tiny. The real operant factors are easy gun availability, age, and gender. Most homicides are committed by men in their twenties -- with or without mental illness.

But the media only portrays violent, "deranged" people who kill strangers at random. You never read about people like me, who are living successfully with (or despite) a mental illness.

I wrote the piece from my personal perspective -- how people view my accomplishments (Ivy League undergrad and master's degrees, Phi Beta Kappa, etc.) and how I'm afraid they'd judge me if they knew I also have bipolar disorder. I'm also concerned about my privacy rights; I don't think gun dealers (who in my view are quite morally suspect since they deal in death and destruction) have the right to know about my diagnosis, since the chances of me committing gun violence are incredibly slight. Yet I'm tarred with the same brush as every isolated person with a mental illness history who commits a violent act.

I hope this clarifies my intention. I'm taking the liberty of attaching the piece. It's bylined "Ayelet Survivor," the pseudonym I would need to use if it were to run. Thank you again for your consideration.

I didn't hear from Opie for a while, and I was busy with school and my internship. Then two Daily News articles on May 1 caught my attention, and I wrote Opie again (while getting ready for my first date with SB, no less):

I have not heard back from you concerning my opinion piece about the stable, nonlethal, and nonthreatening people who constitute the vast majority of "former mental patients." Today your paper had two articles focusing on the minority of former mental patients who act violently or threaten violence:

Uma Thurman testifies against 'stalker'


Lovelorn loony sparks gun scare panic on City College campus

Not only are these articles unbalanced in that they do not provide information about the majority of people with mental disorders, the second headline uses an inaccurate and tasteless term, "loony," which refers to the outdated notion that people with mental illnesses behaved increasingly unstably as the moon waxed or waned.

You don't call African-Americans "niggers" in your headlines. You don't label Jews as "kikes" or Latinos as "spics." The term "loony" is just as offensive to people with a mental health condition as any of those terms, and thus your use of it is incredibly inappropriate. A little headline alliteration does not justify slandering an entire category of people.

Given the appearance in today's paper of these articles and the use of this extremely offensive term, I strongly believe it is even more important that you present a point of view from the other side of this issue. I again request that you consider using my piece under a pseudonym or commissioning one from the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI). I am again attaching a copy for your convenience.

I cc'd a bunch of people, including my NAMI media/advocacy group and a number of folks who work on antistigma advocacy, including a virtual friend of mine, David Gonzalez. He and I have never met in person, but we've corresponded and I've used information from materials he's created, including videos and websites, in my work. Then I went on the date.

Opie wrote back about two hours later:

Thanks for the note, and sorry I haven't gotten back to you. Honestly, we've been swamped and hadn't made a definitive decision on the piece. We'll do that soon and let you know. Sorry about the wait.

That was fast.

That was fast! Thank you

I wrote back, thinking Opie would leave it at that, but he didn't.

I just want you to understand that we haven't intentionally ignored your submission. We're always juggling lots of pieces. Thanks.

Like I didn't know that? I forwarded this to my NAMI group and a bunch of antistigma advocates, appending the note:

I think Opie doesn't think I'm very bright...

David wrote back to me and the advocates:

I hope that Opie won’t mind if I point out to him that according to the Daily News’ own editorial "Eliot, Mike you must act" (2/21/08), acts of violence committed by “the mentally-ill” in NYC occur four to six times a year"

What this editorial neglected to mention is that five to six hundred homicides a year occur in NYC. So, if we accept this editorial statistic as fact then that means that “the mentally-ill” in NYC are responsible for 1% of the annual homicides in NYC. Is this the quantitative and empirical evidence that the Daily News uses to justify its misleading reports and editorials, or does the Daily News know something we don’t know?

That's an excellent point. I wrote back:

David, please point that out to Opie. The more voices of reason we raise, the more they will have to listen.

Opie weighed in again:

Thanks. No need to copy everyone on every note, but if you want to, that's fine.

I hadn't realized David had added Opie to the group of people I was keeping in the cc: loop. I sent his response to my NAMI friends again:

Snippy, isn't he? ;)

Professor Supportive, whom I've also been cc'ing, had this to say:

Snippy is right -- ugh! But it does seem that you have made a dent at least, which is excellent.

David wrote to me again:

I did send an e-mail directly to the editor: "I think I can safely say that Ayelet's opinion piece accurately reflects what most of us are feeling."

His reply to me was: "I don't know whether we'll run it, but I appreciate your input."

I want you to know that I whole-heartedly support your opinion piece and I’m willing to help in any way that I can. You are an amazing advocate. It’s very disappointing to me that there are not more people like you in our community. Although I’ve never been fortunate enough to meet you, you are truly one of my heroes.

I'm his hero? He's the one brave enough to put his real name on his work! All I did was write an op-ed that might not even run.

David, I can't be your hero because you are MY hero!!! (And that editor is a tool. Still, a tool can be useful. If he runs the editorial I'll definitely let you know.) Sincerely -- the videos you make, the websites, and most of all your courage to live openly as a person with an illness. I am in awe.

I hope we can meet soon. I've got finals this week, but after that I'm somewhat freer. I'm interviewing for jobs but I would love to have coffee with you and talk about things.

Also, one of my classmates, Suze, is a documentary filmmaker. I'm still not 100% clear on why she went to social work school, but she's awesome and she's doing something for NPR about living with a disorder. I'm going to send her an email with links to your websites and CC: you. You two should definitely be in touch. She knows I do advocacy stuff but doesn't know I have a disorder.

I hope you're feeling good, and I'm so honored that you find my work impressive.

David responded:

Thanks for your e-mail. I would absolutely luv to meet you. I think that meeting you would definitely lift my spirits, because I’m feeling very discouraged right now due to the lack of unity within our community. So much so, that I’m seriously considering relocating to California.

I recently sent out a mass e-mail titled “an urgent appeal for unity” because of the current state of public hysteria driven and fueled by the non-stop negative media reports and editorials and to make a long story short - it was quite possibly the most foolish thing I have ever done. The level of distrust amongst our leaders and the outright animosity left me aghast (wow, I rarely use that word, lol). There was no willingness whatsoever to put their petty differences aside and unite for the sake of confronting and challenging the media.

Thanks also for the compliments on my video clips and websites. Believe it or not, you are partly responsible for that because I did all that with no budget whatsoever and you were the only person who ever sent me a donation when I had posted a link on CineMania (now requesting donations. I didn’t get so much as $1 from anyone else. I got so discouraged that I actually took the request link done after about six months of nada, zilch.

Had it not been for your donation, I would have probably taken the website down too. That’s a true story!

Imagine the level of work I could have done if I would have had a budget. I had the ideas and the ability -- but not the money. I had to literally "create something out of nothing." So I would luv the opportunity to work with an established documentary filmmaker.

Once again, I’d luv to meet you. Let’s consider getting together one day for lunch - or even better - getting together on a weekend so that we can have time to talk. Let me know if that works for you. Thanks again for your thoughtful and encouraging email.

Now I feel bad for not having told him, when I got that email, that I thought it was a great idea. I'm surprise so many people reacted so negatively to it. This is what he sent (2/19/08):

"Our human rights should not end where our psychiatric diagnosis begins!" Ron Schraiber, People Say I’m Crazy

Dear Colleagues and Peers,

As most of you probably know by now, there has been unending stream of news reports this past week demonizing the whole mental health community. This has been an overt media attempt to imply that we are all time-bombs just waiting to explode. Since Sunday evening I have had to leave my TV off because I was literally getting ill from the non-stop reports.

And so I am pleading with all of you to unite for the express purpose of confronting what is potentially the greatest threat to our self-determination and on-going recovery.

I ask to you to envision an event so big, so gigantic in its scale that that the media would have no choice but to notice us - even if they didn’t want to.

An event that would do for the self-help/peer support movement what Woodstock did for rock...

An event that would be open to the general public - not just "consumers / survivors / ex-patients" – but to their family members, providers, college students, and anyone who supports our stand for justice and equality.. .

An event that celebrates the history of the self-help/peer support movement...

An event that celebrates our diversity...

An event whose guest speakers and entertainment would be provided by the founders, the movers and shakers, and the up and coming leaders in our movement...

An event so spectacular that even those who could not attend for logistical or practical reasons would be able to watch us with pride over the internet or on TV...

An event whose very participants would welcome those attending, serve as guides, provide any necessary security, take turns overseeing comfort stations (can you imagine the stigmas that would crumble under such an event)...

An event that would offer hope and inspiration to society’s most disenfranchised and marginalized people.. .

An event that would shake the foundation of the psychiatric community down to its very core.. .

An event that celebrates our humanity.. .

An event whose time has come...

Is such an event even possible? Only if you dare to dream!

I’m sure no one ever thought Woodstock would ever be possible.

Who among you dares to envision such an earth-shattering event?

An Urgent Appeal for Unity, David Gonzalez

This is part of the reason I wanted to introduce him to my filmmaking classmate, which I did with an email:

Hey Suze! How's your final paper (ugh!) going? I'm dragging, but hopefully I'll pull it off.

So my friend's name is David Gonzalez (I'm cc'ing him on this), and he's brilliant. He creates websites, dissects anti-mental illness expressions in popular culture, and creates trenchant videos about stigmatization.

I've told him about you. I think you two should definitely talk.

See you Wednesday, Ayelet

I also wrote back to him:

Hey David -- I'm actually going to California (briefly) after graduation to visit family. I hope you don't get too discouraged. I'm surprised by the reaction you've gotten from the mental health community -- I thought your idea was brilliant.

Have you ever gone to a NAMI-NYC media & advocacy meeting? I don't know if that's your speed, but I've found them supportive and inspiring. I haven't been in ages because of school, but after I graduate I'm going to try to start going again.

When I get back from Cali I'll get in touch with you and we'll make plans to meet up on a Sunday. Hang in there. Your ideas are timely, relevant, and essential.

Now I'm sleepy again. Blogging must be good for insomnia.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, May 02, 2008

Don't shop 'til you get enough

I'm in the mood to shop again. It's not as bad as it's been in the past, but it's still a fairly strong craving. I've been trying to sublimate it by throwing myself into shopping for things I need -- termination gifts for my clients and Melanie, flowers sent to my mom and grandma for Mother's Day, and suits for interviewing.

It's really hard to find suits that fit. I'm sort of lumpy right now; I used to be much sleeker. So it's difficult to find tailored, woven garments that look professional and not bunchy on me. H&M sure doesn't have any. I bought a couple of rock-bottom discounted blazers from an outlet website I love and I've had good luck with in the past, so I hope they arrive soon and fit me; I can wear them with black skirts. I'm undergoing a triple-interview procedure at the site where I really want to work, and I only have two blazers right now, since none of my suits fit. I need something for the final day to really dazzle them.

The things I have to go through just to get a job.... I do plan to tell Dr. Genuine this:

"There are three unique reasons why you should hire me, aside from my credentials, experience, and excellent work ethic. First, I called you on it when you were talking about being genuine with people while wearing a psychoanalyst's poker face with me. So that shows I really understand the concept of being genuine.

"Second, I made you laugh when I called you on your less than genuineness, and I guarantee I will make you laugh at least once a week if you hire me. I'm a really entertaining co-worker and subordinate to have around the office. Just ask the ACT program director; I crack her up every team meeting. Only in appropriate ways, of course. This work can be stressful, and appropriate humor can release a lot of tension. The team I join will enjoy that aspect of my personality.

"Finally, I excel at instituting significant positive changes wherever I work. I assess, take initiative, and create effective solutions. At the DV shelter I developed a schedule that increased group attendance and commitment. They even started using it in the charts. At the ACT team I saw that the substance abuse treatment group was inappropriate for the majority of the clients, and I developed a new one that will continue after I'm gone. If you hire me, I promise that I'll use my creativity and analytical skills to make your program even more excellent than it is now."

Kinda sounds like I'm bragging, but I made Dr. Genuine laugh several times during the interview, and it must have been appropriate because I made the semi-finals. I just can't help being this smart and funny.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Of course he couldn't be that wonderful

So Shalom Baruch was allegedly falling all over himself to impress me last night. But then he goes on Facebook and IMs Shimona, telling her he's not really looking to get married -- if it happens, it happens, but he's not actively working on it.

That's not exactly congruent with my dating approach. Which is why Shimona called me at midnight to let me know what he said. (I didn't know what the female equivalent of "Bros before hos" was, so I looked it up on "Sisters before misters.")

I'm still going to go out with SB, but Ikey Abadi has developed a distinct advantage in this horse race. Of course, I don't know if Ikey will think I'm as hot as SB does.

Sigh. I actually thought my life was going to go the way I want it to, for once. Silly me.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, May 01, 2008

He thinks I'm "Stacy's Mom"

This is how hot SB thinks I am:

I was telling SB about the baggage that came with a divorced guy who wanted to date me. "He said, 'I've got two adorable twin boys!'" I related. "I asked, 'How old are they?'" and he said, 'Sixteen!' I couldn't deal with that."

"That could have been so cool!" said SB. "You're hot -- they could have had mad crushes on you!"

So SB is just as Iraqi as the Arabian Knight. He thinks I'm hot, and he was falling all over himself to impress me. ("Shalom Baruch" is actually not a terribly typical name for an Iraqi Jew, but I didn't know he was Iraqi when I met him and coined the nickname, so I'm going to stick with it.)

Unlike the Knight, SB's not a flake. He's got a lot of business experience under his belt; he's a laid-back, risk-taking go-getter type. Total opposite of Ayelet; I'm high-strung, anxious, and risk-averse.

I like that he's so different from me, temperamentally. He also knows how to get things done. When the doctors were telling him that they had to amputate his mother's arthritic leg after her third serious infection in three months, he called a few clients and asked for the best doctors in the city to take her to. Today, she's still got the leg.

So I'm impressed. And pleased that he thinks I'm so hot, funny, adorable, smart, fascinating, etc. It was a great first date, and I'm looking forward to the second.

One funny thing, though, is his disdain for Syrian Jews, whom he considers materialistically judgmental. "They look at you and want to see how much money you make and what car you drive," he said. "I'm not about that."

Of course, Ikey Abadi drives a Porsche. Should make for an interesting contrast.

I think dating two men at once is also going to keep me from leaping into bed with either of them, something I've had problems with in the past. Because I can't be sleeping with two guys at once. That's just gross. So dating both of them will keep me a little more virtuous, not to mention clear-headed.

I also won't be able to rush into anything, because I'll be comparing and contrasting them. I realize that doesn't sound fair to either of them. But given the way I've dated in the past, getting my hopes up so fast and having them shot down faster, I think that this setup might be good for me. It will force me to take things slow with both of them. And that will be better for the ultimate relationship I might develop with one of them.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"