Friday, December 27, 2013

Not lithotoxicity. Serotonin syndrome

I went to a new psychiatrist tonight. Dr. New, I'll call her. Not very original, but I'm not feeling very well. Indeed, I might have a mild case of serotonin syndrome.

That was her take, after she considered my current medication cocktail and me taking tramadol on top of it, for the knee pain. She's already called to consult a colleague who thinks she might be right. I thought serotonin syndrome had to be more drastic, and I certainly don't have all the symptoms, which range from fever and headache to hallucinations. But apparently you can have a mild case.

This makes sense: last July, when I felt so ill, my lithium levels were normal. Last week, I had an awful headache on top of the nausea. Headache's a typical symptom of serotonin syndrome, and taking tramadol could have prevented another typical symptom: diarrhea.

I'm stopping the tramadol, I'll get a lithium level next week, and I'll see her in a week from today. She's already more helpful and attentive than my former psychiatrist, Dr. R. More expensive, of course. But I feel some hope.

And I feel justified in firing Dr. R. Because serotonin syndrome can be fatal. Dr. New knew that tramadol could increase serotonin levels dangerously. Apparently Dr. R didn't.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, December 21, 2013

This poison I live and almost die by

The nausea of lithium toxicity is unique. It's a gripping burn along your digestive tract. It's painful. It's never made me vomit, but it's kept me home from work several days this autumn.

Ever since I took off the lidocaine patches, Ive had trouble regulating my lithium levels. Small things seem to overdose me, like taking extra melatonin, or a daily dose of tramadol to combat knee pain, which, though diminishing, is still with me. I don't remember being this sick on lithium before the patches, but I wore them for months. Hard to imagine that the lidocaine is still in my system, but perhaps it is. I'd do a cleanse if I thought it would rid me of the pharmaceuticals I no longer need, but I don't think cleanses really work, and I know I get shaky if I don't eat. Because of the Cymbalta.

Two days ago, Thursday, I sat at work in growing misery. Nausea, weakness, and a nasty headache. I went home early, lay in bed wondering why I was in so much pain. I couldn't think very well. I tried to sleep and sometimes managed. I put a cold compress on my forehead. Friday I was just as weak and shaky, called in sick again. The headache was gone, but the burning grip inside told me what was wrong.

I didn't take lithium Friday night. Woke up Saturday feeling better, thought I would take just one so that my levels wouldn't drop to the point where I'm frantically anxious and can't concentrate. Which is what happened after I took off the lidoderm patches for good. I took one, just one, and the burning nausea fastened itself inside me again.

I don't remember my lithium levels being this difficult to manage before I had to depend on the lidocaine patches. Patches on, lithium through the roof until I realized what the problem was. Lowered lithium, and a brief period of happiness before I settled back into my usual slightly unhappy vibe. I can't call it depression because I can think and work and speak coherently; dysthymia, maybe, or just inability to accept the life I have instead of the life I hoped for. Patches off, and I became tremendously anxious. I went back up to my pre-patch levels and I was okay -- until Thursday, two days ago. Not to mention the change of generics imposed on me and how sick a different manufacturer's generic lithium made me.

I'm not confident my psychiatrist can figure this out either. I'm functional on 900 milligrams, but not 600. (It comes in 300mg and 450mg strengths). I don't know if I'd be able to function on 750 milligrams, or how I'd react to the 450mg dose. And I don't want to add another medication to my cocktail.

I just have to be careful, exceptionally careful, of any medication or supplement I take. I used to take Sudafed routinely; no longer. I can't take tramadol for knee pain every day. And I'm laying off melatonin for the time being.

On a side note, I'm having unpleasant dreams about my sister almost every night. In each dream, she behaves as in life: she makes fun of me, belittles me, denigrates me to other people. Sometimes they take my side and sometimes they take hers; last night, someone who resembled her ex-father-in-law physically intimidated me, which was strange because they never got along. I'd like to say I don't miss her, but I'm wondering if my dreams are telling me that I am.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, November 21, 2013

So THAT's my problem

Got an anonymous email today:

Ayalet, you are very bitter and angry, that is why no one is good enough for you.
Have some compassion for others and Hashem will have compassion for you

I'm somewhat bemused by this. Yes, I am angry and bitter, despite my best efforts. The brief joyful interlude of this past summer is long past. I would have expected him to say, "That's why nobody WANTS you" than "why no one is good enough for you." That he didn't shows he's probably a much kinder person than I am.

I know I'm judgmental. And unforgiving. Despite entering a profession essentially based on compassion, it's not an emotion that always comes naturally to me. The Dalai Lama would agree 100% with this dude. I should be more compassionate toward others, and then I'll be happier with my own life.

Well, easier said than done. I know you're supposed to be happy no matter your circumstances, but I'm not one of those beatific types who can be joyful amid daily pain and frustration. I know my life is a million times better than a slave in India or Mauritania, a sex worker in Thailand, plenty of people in the U.S. Somehow that doesn't really sustain me through my frustration, pain, bitterness, regret, and envy.

Included in the email was a poem of sorts.

Nothing Is By Chance

Some think that things may happen just by chance
But all is planned by heaven in advance
Those in sorrow and those in despair
May feel G-d turned his back and is not there
But as the stars he counts and knows each name
He counts and knows each living thing, the same
And each dilemma dark to us as night
He frees us when he knows the time is right
Look at all things as if his gift or test
But always know he does for us what's best

I just can't believe this. I'd sooner believe in karma and reincarnation. If I was evil in a past life, then my present life is atonement. But somehow I think my brilliant patient is right: we live, we die, we're gone, and only our works or our progeny live on after us. He's thought about this a hell of a lot more than I have, and technically he's smarter -- at least in terms of measured IQ.

It's sad how well I can sometimes relate to him -- I think that's why I'm so good at reflecting back to him. I know what it's like to live with resentment constantly simmering just underneath the surface, so you're always ready to be disappointed, frustrated, or angry.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Depressed therapist wearing pretty big shoes.

One of my patients is brilliant. IQ measured at over 150. Attended an Ivy League college on full scholarship. Before he was thirty, he owned his own home and two luxury cars. And then he discovered heroin.

His fall was the stuff of Greek tragedy. His recovery was interrupted by numerous relapses and took decades. But he's finally established some abstinence and will soon enter a drug counselor training program. He'll be good at it, and that's fortunate, since it's his only option. With his prison record, he can't even get a job at Trader Joe's.

He likes to talk to me. I don't really have time to manage an ongoing therapy caseload, since my primary responsibility is working with the counselors, but I make time for this patient.

(If I may be allowed to brag: when I was brought into the clinics, their October 2012 audit granted them a one-year license, which is not good. In October 2013, one clinic got a two-year and the other a three-year, which is the maximum amount. And the clinic that got the two-year license was audited by a woman with an ATTITUDE who made several factual errors. We pointed this out to the administration, but I don't know if they're going to protest to the licensing agency. But that's beside the point: That is how hugely I improved the clinics.)

I'm damn good, even when I'm coping with chronic pain and bipolar disorder. I'm muddling through some mild depression right now, and it makes therapy difficult. Because when giving therapy, you have to be completely present and in the moment and responsive to everything that's being said (and not being said). I can do that, even when depressed. What I can't do is remember everything I say and everything the patient says.

This is annoying, because today I apparently said some pretty awesome things. In reflective listening, you don't just repeat back what the patient says. You also summarize from time to time, and you respond to unspoken cues, like expression, tone of voice, body language, etc. One of my summaries was so good, the patient said, "That's exactly it. That's me in a nutshell."

And I have no idea what I said.

Well, that's not strictly true. I remember the basic topic we were discussing. This patient ruminates frequently on the kind of philosophical questions that have bedeviled great thinkers for centuries: why are we here, is there a God, the meaning of life, etc. I think I noted the difference in him now versus last year, when he was still using. Today, he thinks about these questions and other unanswerable issues in his life, and, not surprisingly, doesn't really find definitive answers. Not knowing the answers bothers him, but not as much as it used to bother him, when he would become frustrated and enraged and relapse. He has accomplished a great deal of acceptance, which was very hard-won in his case.

I know I'm doing a good job because he's very eager to participate in therapy with me. This is an enormous compliment, because he used to be in therapy with one of the most prominent forensic psychologists of the 20th century, who worked in the prison where my patient was incarcerated for several years.

Dr. Bigshot wrote articles and textbooks that I studied in graduate school. It's like Albert Einstein was my patient's physics tutor. So if I were an incompetent therapist because of my depression, my patient would be able to tell. That he keeps coming back for more is a huge compliment.

I'm just annoyed that my brain isn't working as seamlessly as it does when it's not depressed. It's like rusty machinery, grinding and sticking at times. I grope for words and phrases much more often. I have trouble explaining what I'm thinking. Blogging is very difficult.

So is interviewing. Two days ago, I had a very strange group interview with three people. Did I say interview? I meant interrogation. First about my current job -- why it's structured the way it is -- which I thought I explained adequately but then was asked about again. And again. Then about my 3 greatest weaknesses and failings, how I manage conflict with others, do I sacrifice kittens to Satan, etc. (My depression is probably imposing something of a negative cognitive bias on my recall of this interview.)

I don't think I'll follow up with them; it was a very uncomfortable vibe. And it's probably moot, because they didn't seem very impressed. If I weren't depressed, they might have been more impressed, and I don't think I would have been so exhausted afterward.

Today I had a much better interview at a much better agency, which has just opened up a new outpatient clinic. They seem to respect their employees, and I'd be doing only psychotherapy, which would probably be a nice change from wrangling uncooperative supervisees. I liked the assistant director I interviewed with, and if they take it to the next level, I'll meet with the director and several of the other clinicians. Hopefully not all at once.

I've also been networking with Professor Supportive, one of my favorites from social work school. She works part-time at a very prestigious psychiatric institution, where I sent my resume several weeks ago. Despite the recent decline and passing of her mother, she and I have been in touch, and she's going to reconnoiter at the institute the next time she's there, to see how their hiring process is going and throw in a good word for me. I'm pleased that she remembers me fondly, and glad I sent her a condolence card.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Some nerve

One of my supervisors at my former job, Stella, was amazing -- in person. Every supervision session was supportive and a learning experience. However, she was difficult to email, because she responded irregularly, and impossible to get on the phone.

Then I was transferred to the other office, and when the clinical director of that location announced her departure, Stella threw her hat into the ring. Unfortunately, the coke-addled agency director promoted Snotty McBitchy, whose family coincidentally provides the agency insurance.

Stella started interviewing and confided in me. On one day when she had an interview scheduled, she was wearing a blouse and slacks. "I should have put on a blazer," she fretted.

"This is your lucky day," I said. I was interviewing in those days as well, and kept some interview attire in my office, just in case. I produced a neutral black blazer for her to borrow. She got the job in November 2010 and left.

I got fired in January 2011 and left her a voicemail to ask if she'd be a reference for me. She wrote back to me in February:

hey ayelet. i just got your message yesterday....i'm not good at checking my messages. yes, i am happy to serve as a reference for you! sorry for the delayed response. good luck on the job search...hope you're hanging in there!

I responded,

I'm trying... I saw an ad for a job at your agency. Any chance you could send them my resume?

She wasn't encouraging:

I wouldn't recommend it. I went on another interview today. Place is a total mess. OASAS coming back in march. Not sure we'll pass the audit.

OASAS is the state agency that oversees substance abuse treatment programs. I definitely didn't want to go from the frying pan to the fire:

OMG sorry to hear that Good luck. There are lots of jobs out there for LCSWs.

Her response surprised me a bit:

I haven't taken the test yet. Just sent in my paperwork last week! You're welcome to apply here, but I just wouldn't recommend it at this time. Maybe a year from now the place will be better. Its been mis-managed for a decade. Total frigin mess! Chaotic mess! And I'm responsible for fixing it! I don't regret taking the job, but it has been pretty difficult there.

She and I had always worked well together, but I was starting to get the sense that she didn't want me there.

Wow. Sure you don't want me to come on board and help you clean house? I understand. But if anyone can do it, you can.

She was sure.

Its pretty miserable there. 5 people have quit since the summer. OASAS may shut the place down eventually. Medicaid will totally destroy that place. So....that said, I can pass ur resume on if ur still interested. LOL.

I declined. We emailed sporadically in March and April, when she sent me a request for help:

Hey ayelet! I'm looking for a new therapist...do u have anyone u would recommend? I would really appreciate it!

I immediately sent her contact information for an excellent therapist near where she lives. In May, I sent her an email alerting her that I'd had an interview and she'd probably be called soon. She said she would. In June, an agency helped me get an offer for a job that I ultimately didn't take -- but she took more than a week to call the agency after they asked me to ask her to call them.

Hi Ayelet. Just spoke to the placement agent - my apologies for the delay - I've had a few personal issues and have been out of the office. Gave u a good ref.

Fine, whatever, everyone goes through time-consuming stuff.

Then in early August, I got the offer for my current job. Sent her a nice email:

Hi Stella,

Hope you and Pam (her chihuahua) are well. I just got a job offer from (where I work now), which has requested two letters of recommendation. The recruiter's name is (whatever) and her email is whatever@whereiworknow.org. I guess they want you to send in information so they don't have to call you. I appreciate your support and belief in me.

Ayelet

And... crickets

Ultimately, I contacted two people from my social work internships, because the other person at my former agency who said he'd give me a good reference also shafted me. And I got my current job. But it really stung that Stella didn't come through for me.

Last night I posted on my "real" account that I got my LCSW. Soon thereafter, I got an email from Stella:

hey ayelet!!! congrats on the lcsw!!! i'm planning to take in it mid-january. how was it? what did you study? please - any info would be very much appreciated!!! yay for you!!!!!!!

I really don't feel like responding. Even though I went to an excellent review course that made passing the test very easy. I don't want to bother. Because her agency is still up and running. I've helped her when she needed it. And she hasn't always helped me.

I know holding a grudge and being vindictive is poison to the soul, but how much out of my way am I obligated to go for someone who disappointed me profoundly? I know it's not personal, and I know she has "issues." But I have issues too, and I don't let my friends down like this when they really need me. At least, I don't think I do.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, November 01, 2013

DON'T try to find me on dating websites. EVER.

I frequently write about my misadventures with men I meet on dating websites. This has led several men to look for me on those sites. And when they find me, I inevitably feel creeped out. If you want to contact me, my email address is helpfordepression @ gmail.com. Use that. Don't find me on a site and then gleefully contact me to let me know you successfully stalked me. I don't enjoy that.

It happened recently.

do please excuse my indiscretion. I think you run that Ayelet blog. I really enjoy it. 

hope you are not offended or creeped out , I looked you up on [the site]. I was just wondering what you looked like. You are an attractive woman.

I was depressed for many years, but I somehow survived. And live a good life now. While I was ill I started reading your blog. Now that I have been stable for quite a while, I still really appreciate the blog. It's a good mix of sadness and laughter.

The stories you tell about dating are quite hilarious. I am not entirely sure I know how to approach a woman, but I am amazed how incompetent, rude and stupid some men are.

It can, indeed, be somewhat of problem when you have or had a mental illness. There are, however, a few good people who are willing to give someone a chance.

 
Well, yes, I am offended and creeped out. Even though he only had lovely things to say about my looks and my blog. Because his screenname is "wooden box" and he has nothing on his profile. No pictures, no mini-essays. Nothing. And that is very unsettling. He knows so much about me, and I know nothing about him.

I asked him, nicely, to contact me via my gmail address. Instead, he instant-messaged me. Boundaries, dude! So I blocked him.

It's been a mistake to mention which sites I'm meeting people on, or what I have written on my profile. I'm going to try to be a lot more careful in the future.

But that rotund guy on OKCupid still hasn't gotten his act together. I'm mystified that he was able to get married and have children with someone.  
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, October 28, 2013

Do something. SOMETHING. Like, NOW.

There aren’t a lot of Jews that keep kosher on OKCupid, and so far, kashrut is just about my own Jewish practice. I can’t seem to abandon it completely. This doesn’t mean I don’t eat in Burger King – I just limit myself to the fish sandwich and onion rings. I went to the famously kosher-style Ben’s Deli last week and felt guilty for eating a few bites of my date’s “deli omelet” (made with pastrami and corned beef). Especially since the date turned out to be a total douche, but that’s another disappointment I don’t feel like documenting.

I’m writing about a guy on OKCupid who needs to do something already. He visited my profile several times but didn’t contact me – perhaps because he’s somewhat of a rotund fellow. Not really my preference, but he seemed nice, so I rated him four stars.

OKCupid has this thing where if you rate each other highly, they notify both of you. Finally, after weeks of loitering, he sent me a message:

Just a T-shirt and body lotion? Wow!

(I write on my profile that I can dress to the nines but prefer lounging at home wearing only a t-shirt and body lotion. Which might be why so many men in their 20s and early 30s have been writing me.) I responded:

I like being comfortable at home :)

I thought that would open up some kind of conversation, but not so much.

Hence the lotion, I assume. ;)

Um, duh, yeah. I’m still waiting for him to go on to something more substantive.

Carry it in every purse I own, plus a few bottles in the apartment. I’m a hedonist ;)

That was probably a mistake. If I want to be taken seriously, I shouldn’t sexualize every conversation I have with men. And it did me no good.

Is anyone against hedon?

Technically not a word, but I’m not going to go Grammar Gestapo on him.

Triathletes.

Because I seriously do not understand triathletes. Somebody dies in every triathlon that is held, and yet it’s still legal. But he had a theory.

I think they're in it for the endorphin rush. Plus, some chicks dig triathletes...

Why aren’t you asking me more substantive questions about myself???

True, forgot about endorphins.

Waiting for him to take the lead isn’t getting me anywhere, because all he said was:

Yeah. Never did anything for me.

I left it there for three days. And decided to give him (and myself) another chance to actually start talking:

How was your weekend?

He was forthcoming, at first:

Not the most exciting... But I did have some good meals, took some good walks, spent some quality time with my younger daughter and my older sister and... Wait for it... Bought some new jeans. :)
I hope yours was more exciting than mine! :)

I’m going to say just enough to get him to say more:

Not more exciting, but relaxing.

Nope, still didn’t work.

Buying the jeans was pretty relaxing. Not that it's a competition...

That’s his last word. That’s where I left it. Did I spoil things by mentioning the h-word? What is wrong with men – why can’t they just talk to women?

Another problem popped up for me today. An alleged 32-year-old with washboard abs who calls himself something like “hotdog246.”

hello sweet how are you

Why would a man in terrific shape 11 years my junior be interested in me? Does he think I have money or something? I decided to play along.

not bad -- getting through another damn Monday

His response was a little too cute.

aww sorry to hear that sweetie pie

Is he for real? I much doubt it. Still, let’s play along:

how are you?

His response was extremely enthusiastic:

i m great how about you cutie pie ? you are so cute

I’m not cute, I'm skeptical. But polite, for now:

You're very friendly ;)

This spurred him on to declare:

i m friendly bec of you being so cute and sweet :) so what type of guys are you into

I haven’t answered yet, largely because I’m pretty sure he’s running some kind of scam. It would be nice to get this kind of sincere attention, but all I seem to attract are men who buy jeans and can’t stop talking about them.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Shut up. Please. Please, just SHUT. UP.

I posted before about a clueless married friend who asked me while I'm still single. I told her I didn't know and hoped that would be the end of it.

Of course it wasn't. Out of the blue she emailed me:

Do you pray for your future husband?

She's a devout Catholic. I didn't want to get into my whole spiritual confusion, so I responded tersely:

I used to. It didn't seem to work.

Subtext: Please stop. Just stop.

She is oblivious to subtext.

Hmmmm. God's timing is not our own.

That's for darn sure. I didn't respond, hoping she would let. It. DROP.

She didn't.

The priest who married my husband and I said the best relationships/marriages happen when neither is looking. That is what happened with Devon and I. We have been friends since I was 22; we used to work together and we crossed paths 14 years ago regarding work stuff. Neither was looking, but God changes hearts. The harder you try, Ayelet, the more it will allude [sic.] you. Just my own experience.

When I didn't respond, she added:

My 2 cents.

Why is it that people think they have the right to judge and criticize you just because you accept their friend request on Facebook? I haven't responded, but I've been wanting to send her an article entitled "17 Things You Should Never Say To A Single Woman," which includes #8:

The right guy will come along when you stop looking.

I don't know if I should send it to her. Because I don't want to have that conversation with her. The one where I tell her, "Shut up. Please. Please, just SHUT. UP."
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Do you REALLY need to ask that?

I've been getting a lot of attention from 20somethings on OKCupid. At least once a week, someone visits my profile and usually tries to strike up an acquaintance. This is frustrating because I'm not trying to maximize the number of men who see me naked, I'm trying to get married.

I expressed this frustration in a Facebook status update and got this question from an acquaintance (at least she emailed it to me rather than posting it as a comment):

Can I ask you a personal question? You seem like a very social person and you are involved in a lot of organizations; why are you looking for a guy online? It seems like you should have no problem meeting someone live and in person in NYC. Just an observation.

Do you REALLY need to ask that???? If I knew, I WOULDN'T STILL BE SINGLE. Obviously I'm doing SOMETHING wrong, but I don't know WHAT, and I'm frustrated as Sisyphus.

My mood has taken a definite downturn. I'm not sure if it's the cumulative effect of all the work shit that went down, or my menstrual cycle, or the continued pain, relative immobility, and uncertainty about the expensive intervention I've just embarked upon. I slept most of today, I used the light box, and yet I couldn't bring myself to take a shower this evening. Not a good sign.

I did force myself to brush my teeth, and even flossed. And I still go through my ridiculous multi-step skin care routine, which includes castor oil to re-grow overtweezed eyebrows, a lash enhancer, a light glycolic acid peel, retinol serum, and three different eye products. So I'm not giving up completely. But I feel miserable.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Damaged goods for damaged goods?

I don't want to appear ungrateful when people offer to set me up. Since I can't go to many parties or singles events these days, and since I've given up throwing good money after bad on dating websites, how else am I going to meet someone? But I'm not interested in marrying another person who has a mental illness.

This might seem unfair or arrogant. After all, I'm proud of how high-functioning I am (at times); why wouldn't I give another person the same credit?

It just doesn't seem like a good idea. Genetically or otherwise. Aside from that... it just bothers me. But I had some trouble articulating how I felt when a friend emailed me with a shidduch suggestion.

I am getting on a plane now but MUST speak with you later. I had an idea for a shidduch for you while we were in (another city). He lives in (another city) -- Masters in psychology but works in IT now. Used to do clinical work. Also managing bipolar disorder and overcoming a difficult family situation and never previously married.

He's VERY funny. I don't know him well and did not see him this trip but being in (another city) reminded me of him and I heard he is doing well...

I immediately thought of you and wondered if you would be interested in talking to him. Don't tell me to send him to your blog. If you are interested, talk by phone...

I am SO pleased how well you are doing!!!!!!!!!!!!

I've gotten into trouble with friends by blogging about encounters with them. So I was on the fence about sharing this conversation. All I responded was:

Thanks. I'm not sure I want to be with someone who also has bipolar. It might be too much.

I couldn't put my finger on why her suggestion bothered me so much until I read an article about Michael and Chava Willig Levy, He's legally blind, she's a survivor of polio, and they've been married 30 years with two children. Heartwarming story, blah blah blah, but the Q&A that really hit me in the gut was:

Did you have any reservations about marrying someone with a disability?

Chava: We were both dead set against marrying someone with a disability. It’s a piece of who we are but certainly not what defines us and what was so thrilling was that we had so much else in common. We are both very attached to Jewish tradition, we both love music, words, kids, and then we both have disabilities. It’s been symbiotic; it happens that the things he cannot do, I can, and what I can’t do, thank God, he can.

Michael: People would want to set you up with people who are disabled just because of that without knowing anything else about you and it’s dehumanizing because they are saying that your central quality is that you lack something.

They didn't meet because they were disabled, they didn't fall in love because they were disabled, they didn't get married because they were disabled. It's not the first quality they considered when seeking a match, and it's not the first thing they think of when they think of themselves.

Granted, my friend's friend is said to be funny (which most people think Ayelet is) and to have worked in my field at one point. But that's not why she thought of me for him. She thought of him because he has bipolar and I have bipolar.

I think that's the biggest reason I may never go "public." I have never wanted to let my illness define who I am. Some days I'm more successful than others. But having people say, "I want to set you up with this guy who has bipolar disorder" is as disheartening as being hit on by men I find unattractive who say, "We should go out because I have bipolar disorder."

When you seek a life partner, ideally you find someone who complements you -- who is strong in areas you're not, and hopefully you're strong in areas they're not. I don't want to marry someone who shares my biggest weakness. Just like I don't want to marry someone who's got a bad temper.

I'm not looking for someone who's perfect, despite what my sister might say about me. But I want to be with someone who's calm and easygoing. Maybe a little too calm and easygoing, so he'll appreciate my vivacity, energy, enthusiasm, and passion. Because that's the positive side of my mood disorder. I don't need someone who's a laugh a minute -- but I do need someone who appreciates my sense of humor.

Apologies to the friend, who will probably read this post. I hope I've disguised you sufficiently. I do appreciate you thinking of me -- but I don't want my bipolar disorder to be the first thing you think of when you think of me.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, October 05, 2013

My joints are too flexible. My poker face sucks.

After several appointments were rescheduled, I finally went for my Apostherapy evaluation. Apostherapy is an Israeli-developed form of physical therapy that trains your muscles to support your joints appropriately. Joints that have been injured are often poorly supported by muscles. It's not the muscles' fault. They just stiffen and tense up around the joint, which causes pain. An enormous load of pain.

Having injured most of the joints in my body at one time or another, I have a great deal of pain. Basically, all of my joints are overly flexible and I'm extremely accident-prone.
  • I'm flat-footed and pronate because my ankles are weak: I sprained both of them within four days when I was a 17-year-old spending the summer in Israel, and I've sprained each of them at least twice since. 
  • As a senior in college, I developed neck and shoulder problems from spending too much time hunched over a computer working on my honors thesis. I still have pain and stiffness from time to time. Going to a chiropractor helps, but I haven't made time for that recently; I probably should.
  • I am knock-kneed, thanks to the horrible personal trainer at Crunch, who in 2006 probably stretched out my ligaments too much, and they never quite recovered. 
  • I've had lower back and pelvic issues since 2000, when I slipped on a wet floor and sprained half my pelvis. My hips are not properly aligned. The pain was more or less cured through acupuncture, but it resurfaces now and again to torment me.
And after all these injuries, I never received appropriate treatment. Hopefully that stops now. The Apostherapy program is designed to retrain all of my muscles to properly support most of my wobbly joints: knees, hips, back. Don't think my ankles will be assisted, and pretty sure my neck and shoulders won't. But fixing my knees and hips will have a huge impact on my well-being.

I don't know if I'm allowed to explain how it works in more detail than the website does, so if you're interested, check it out. I have some confidence in my physical therapist, because what she told me about myself made sense: all of my major injuries do seem to result from various overly flexible joints.

But it better work, because it is hugely expensive and not covered by insurance. I was hoping I could pay for most of it next year using flexible spending dollars, but I had to cover a whopping fee on the first day and will receive large credit card hits in November and December. The final three payments will be in 2014 and I can use pre-tax dollars for them.

So that's the latest on the knees. I went to an ENT and an allergist because my sinuses have been dreadful this past summer and autumn. I had sinus surgery in 1995 and was hoping I would never have to undergo that agony again, but was feeling very uncomfortable.

The ENT prescribed a steroid spray, which helped a teeny bit. Then I got a wicked sinus infection and bronchitis, for the second time in six months. A friend suggested I see an allergist, so I made an appointment. After jabbing my forearm thirteen times with a surprisingly painful circular needle, the allergist realized that one of my psychiatric medications might be suppressing the histamine reaction. Annoying. So a tech drew some of my blood for tests, which showed that I'm not allergic to basically anything: dust, mold, cats, dogs, ragweed, pollen, grass.

This is good news in case I ever get a cat again, but if I don't have allergies, why are my sinuses always inflamed?

"It's non-allergic rhinitis," said the allergist. "Try a different steroid spray for a few weeks. If it's not better, come in again and we can try some prescription medications." She also told me that my deviated septum, which was repaired in 1995, has re-deviated. "An ENT would know more about whether surgery is needed," she said.

I was slightly tempted to go back to the ENT and lobby for another surgery, since this time I would go to a cosmetic surgeon and get the tip of my nose refined while my septum is straightened, but for now I'll stick with the steroid spray and see what happens. I'm also thinking I should go to an acupuncturist to see if they can get rid of some of the sinus inflammation. About a month ago I went for an acupressure facial treatment, and the esthetician was horrified at all the stagnated ch'i in my face. I think my whole head is stagnated.

But acupuncture will have to wait for a bit, because I'm starting to study for my LCSW exam. I went to my first review course and ran into a former co-worker whom I actually like, which was a pleasant surprise. I'll study for a few weeks and then schedule the exam.

And then I will really start looking for another job, because at this point I'm just hating mine. I pretty much hate four of the counselors, who have treated me like crap even though I've treated them fairly. Other counselors remind me that these counselors have had problems with all the previous social workers, so I know it's not my fault, but it's still unpleasant.

I hate not having an office. I work in the chart room, which has a computer and a phone, but there's no privacy. I have one tiny bin in which to store all of my personal files and effects. It's poorly ventilated and extremely dry; I'm convinced that's why I've had bronchitis/sinusitis twice in the past six months. (Which didn't exactly impress the allergist. "If you've had bronchitis six or seven times in the past six months, that would really be something to worry about," she said.) But missing weeks of work and going through significant pain and discomfort is bad enough.

I hate that methadone maintenance programs don't expect anything from the patients. So most of them don't do anything. They get food stamps, Medicaid, and weasel their way onto SSI. They stop using heroin but continue using cocaine -- or don't stop using heroin and continue using cocaine. I don't respect people who aren't trying to change for the better. Which means I don't respect a huge number of my patients.

At my last job, with people mandated to treatment by parole or other agencies, we had to deal with a lot of resistance ("I'm only here because my P.O. makes me come here"), but we also saw a huge amount of change and growth. I like being an agent of change. I do not like enabling stagnation. I'm an acolyte of Albert Ellis: if you want to feel better, you gotta push your ass. Not sit around using heroin and cocaine and watching TV all day.

This appears to be a particular problem in the clinics where I work now; in other neighborhoods, I saw patients who were making more of an effort. Which could be because of the neighborhood culture, or because of the clinic managers. Doesn't really matter, because the end result is the same: I don't like working where I'm working.

And people are starting to notice, sometimes, that I'm not happy. The fax machines are kept in the clinic managers' offices. I had to go in there and fax a document to help a patient secure housing. Sitting in the office waiting for the fax to go through, I began imagining how I'd tell everyone off once I got a better job and gave notice.

"I hate working here," I'd say to the clinic manager. "You're the worst manager I've ever dealt with. Nobody respects you. You play favorites. You let a little bitch without a license make my job extra difficult and disrespect me in front of patients. I want to--"

"What's wrong, Ayelet?" asked the clinic manager, interrupting my flood of negative thoughts.

"Oh, nothing -- I'm just waiting for the fax to go through," I said, hastily rearranging my features into a semblance of pleasance.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ayelet cock-blocks for a friend

Feeling especially disconnected this set of holidays. I didn't really do anything over the first days of Sukkot, in part because I was recovering from a fierce sinus infection/bronchitis, but also because I don't really care anymore. Took off from work mostly because I wanted some time off and I'm not well enough to travel. Went to Hakafot and felt like an observer. Why are those people singing and walking around in circles carrying these large objects? Almost anthropological. Not spiritual.

I almost didn't go. But I forced myself to throw on some makeup and put on a new, significantly low-cut, body-conscious burgundy dress. I got a lot of compliments on it, even though I thought it was a bit too tight (fortunately there's shapewear). And it definitely helped me distract a man away from a woman who distracted him away from a friend.

Actually, she's not even really my friend, she's the friend of a friend. I think she's a bit of a loose cannon. Call her Loosey Goosey, or LG. We were all at the annual Simchat Torah oneg sponsored by West Side Institutional Synagogue. LG stormed up to my friend and me to complain that a friend of hers whom she's known for more than 30 years had just cock-blocked her.

Urban Dictionary defines cock-block as "To interfere with someone who is getting acquainted with, conversing with, or hooking up with a member of the opposite sex." I've been accused (unjustly) of doing this before at a few parties I've attended. LG was fuming because she'd been talking with a man and then her friend butted in.

"Who's the guy?" I asked. LG indicated a chubby, balding, white-haired gent talking to a hefty woman with badly colored hair. I didn't see why he was so worth getting worked up about, but I wasn't getting much attention from anyone I'd be interested in and I was bored. (Probably the sexy dress made me look like I was trying too hard.)

"Want me to cock-block her?" I asked.

"Yes!" said LG. So I sauntered over to him and said, "Oh, I was just told you're just the person I need to talk to! May I sit down?"

"Of course!" he said. Hefty Woman's eyes narrowed as he turned from her to me.

"My name is Ayelet," I said. "I was told that you'd be able to advise me because you're so knowledgeable in your profession. You know something I need to know more about."

I didn't know anything about him. Not his name, not his profession. But I figured I could fake it, especially if I flattered him.

"You mean, the law?" he said.

"Yes!" I cried. Hefty Woman clenched her hands. "Remind me of your name?"

"My name is Gullible," he said, turning his entire attention to me.

"Well, Gullible, I need to know more about that big Supreme Court decision. About 20 years ago. Specifically in your area of law." I don't know a lot about the law, but I figured there had to have been some big Supreme Court case I could fake my way through if he mentioned it.

"Real estate law?" he said.

"Exactly," I said. "It was that big case about... oh, what's it called? I can't remember the term."

"Eminent domain?" he asked.

"Yes! Eminent domain!" I cried. And chatted to him about Columbia University's calculated takeover/buyout of a big chunk of Harlem. Which I don't know much about, but enough to keep a conversation going with him -- and away from the Hefty Woman. Eventually she got up and left, to LG's delight.

Gullible and I chatted about the law, his recent divorce and move to the city, and exchanged names. I'm kind of hoping he won't remember mine, but if he does I'll probably ask if he's interested in LG's contact information. Not sure he will be -- apparently she tried to talk to him after I did and he kind of blew her off.

"He said he's not feeling well," said LG. "Maybe you gave him a heart condition!"

As usual, it's easy for me to snatch the attention of men I'm not remotely attracted to. But it wouldn't be Simchat Torah if I didn't have another fleeting encounter with DavidAfter Hakafot at the Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue, David and my friend ET and I hung out at their light dinner, followed by a heavy ice cream social. And as usual, David appeared happy to see me and paid me a little attention, but I couldn't really get a read on him.

"Guess I'll see you next Simchat Torah," I joked as I was leaving.

"Or before then," he said.

"You were supposed to take me to the transit museum last year," I said. "Is that ever going to really happen?" (Looking back, this sounds kind of shrewish.)

"I know I'm busy this Sunday," he said, "but maybe another."

"Check your calendar; let me know on Facebook," I said. But I'm not really expecting him to. I guess I could email him on FB myself to schedule something. I always thought if he were really interested in me he'd make more of an effort to get together. But if he's very shy, maybe he wouldn't. Also, I realized that I'm not that nice to him. I make fun of his hair and glasses, and tease him for living with his parents. What man wants to be with a woman who puts him down? I'm acting like a second-grader with a crush.

I don't know. Whenever I try to follow dating rules, nothing works, and whenever I flout dating rules, nothing works. I'm good at charming elderly attorneys, but not attractive men my age. I should just marry Gullible and try to scare him into a heart attack so I can inherit. Actually, as an attorney he'd probably make me sign an ironclad pre-nup.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ayelet appeals to the insurer

My rheumatologist, Dr. Kind, and surgeon, Dr. Sharp, have both spoken to the insurer to plead for my surgery to be covered. They were both denied, but I was told I could write a letter to the appeal coordinator and plead my case.

I am writing to appeal the decision made to deny my surgery. At this time I am experiencing severe pain on a daily basis, which hinders me as I try to do my job and imprisons me as soon as I get home. I am a social worker in two busy methadone clinics, and it is very painful for me just to walk around both clinics to supervise 16 counselors and see patients. I am unable to stand for more than one minute without significant discomfort; even waiting for the elevator is painful.

I am dependent every day on Tramadol and Lidoderm patches to manage the pain, and it is never fully absent. I wake up in pain and struggle through the day with pain, and when I go home and take off the patches, I am a prisoner of the pain; I cannot do anything socially after work, and since I live alone, I am frequently very lonely. Often the pain wakes me up at night, so I am frequently sleep-deprived during the day, which only exacerbates the pain and impedes my ability to be effective at my job.

For years I have sought other treatment for the pain. I have seen numerous physical therapists, sports medicine specialists, pain management specialists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, and orthopedic surgeons. I have even tried hypnotherapy. Nothing has helped. Because I am in such significant pain whenever I spend too much time standing or walking, exercise is very difficult; I cannot even use a stationary bicycle. I have tried to lose weight without exercise, both on my own and with the support of my primary care physician, but have not been able to.

This surgery is my only hope for regaining a normal, productive, balanced life. Please see attached a letter from my rheumatologist detailing how this procedure will help me in my current condition. I beg you to reconsider allowing me to have this surgery.

Writing to my elected officials may or may not have lit a fire under the NYS Education Department, but they finally granted me eligibility to take the LCSW exam. I'm looking into review courses.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ayelet advocates for herself

I have been waiting forever for the New York State Education Department to sign off on my LCSW paperwork and declare me eligible to take the LCSW examination. Today, as I languish at home, recovering from yet another stint of sinusitis/bronchitis (third or fourth this year; I work in an unventilated germ box), I decided to email all of my elected officials -- from President Obama on down to my local community board -- and let them know what's happening, or rather, what isn't happening.

I am a clinical social worker with master's degrees from (distinguished CUNY) and (distinguished school of social work) and have obtained my LMSW. Months ago, I submitted my LCSW paperwork (documenting my hours of supervised work in the field) to the Dept. of Education to obtain permission to take the LCSW examination. They made this process very difficult by not telling me, when I specifically asked, all of the documents I would need, and then later telling me my application was incomplete without those documents. But finally I submitted everything to their satisfaction.

For more than four weeks, I have been calling to find out my application status. Every time they either tell me something is missing that is not missing, or merely say "It's being reviewed." It is not that long an application. I am tired of waiting for permission to take the examination, and not having the LCSW—for which I am fully qualified— is significantly hindering my professional advancement and development.

I am a registered Democrat and vote in every election. I'm sending you and all my other elected officials this note because I am fed up with the Education Dept.'s delays and excuses.

Sincerely, Ayelet Survivor, MA, LMSW

I added an additional paragraph to Chuck Schumer's email:

Also, I am single and I hear you like setting people up. I am 43, very attractive, a petite and voluptuous brunette, smart, spunky, and very kind and loving. If you know a nice Jewish man aged 38-48 who might be interested, feel free to ask me for a photo to show him.

It's election season in NYC. I didn't want to threaten to vote Republican, but maybe I should send emails to the Republican local candidates as well, promising them my vote if they light a fire under the NYS Ed Dept.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, September 09, 2013

Mommy Dearest: A Tishrei poem

I miss you
I never want to see you again

I love you
I hate you

I want to get past my past
I want my innocence back

I want to hug you
I want to punch you in the face

I can't control you
You can't control me

I want to forgive you
I can't
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, September 02, 2013

Señor Creepy Control Freak

Never believe a man who says he just wants to help you improve your Spanish.

A few weeks ago, I started getting to know an older gentleman in one of my Facebook Jewish singles groups. That is, I know he's older, because he sports white hair and a substantial mustache. I assumed he was a gentleman. And I also assumed that since he reads my posts and comments in the group, he knew I was not interested in dating someone his age.

Señor Creepy Control Freak (SCCF) and I commented on a few posts in English and Spanish, and I thought he was reasonably cool. We met in person at a party, and he offered to hang out with me from time to time so we could speak in Spanish. Go to concerts, museums, stuff like that.

So I friended him. And almost immediately regretted it, because he posted on my wall:

Thanks for the friend add. I can already feel your arms around me!

You can what now? I sought to clarify:

You know we're just friends, right?

His response was not comforting.

Friends hug each other all the time.

Oh-kay. Kinda weird. Took that post off my wall.

SCCF also started posting some very strange comments on my status updates. For example: I ordered some clothing online and was waiting impatiently for the packages to arrive. So I posted some nonsense like

Online shopping is the gift that gives twice -- once when you order and then again when you receive the goods. But I want my little black dresses NOW!

My friend Faigie sympathized, and is always on the lookout for a nice LBD:

Faigie: send me links, I need one

So I commented and included some links. My friend Bruria approved:

Bruria: I am sure you will look amazing in whichever dress you choose to wear. Enjoy them all with good health

As did my friend Lisa:

Lisa: Thanks for the links. I will check them out. Can never have too many LBDs.

And then SCCF weighed in:

SCCF: Can we put an M or F at the beginning of our postings? This way, with an F, we men know that the posting is without any interesting contents whatsoever, and we save ourselves valuable time. If there's an M its worth reading.

I'm trying to be more diplomatic and less impulsive these days. On Facebook and in real life. So I didn't respond with my first thought -- "Who the hell are you to tell me how I should post my status updates?"

Ayelet: You may want to unsubscribe from my status updates

That did not satisfy SCCF.

SCCF: Why? Some of your postings are highly interesting and your comments too! I mean, all M.

Still trying to be polite.

Ayelet: I can't tell the difference between what you consider M and F. Sorry.

Actually not all that sorry -- not at all sorry -- but again trying to be diplomatic.

SCCR: Well, a posting about your dress with 3 or 5 buttons ordered early evening or late nite is not very interesting for a man, I guess....

That's not my problem, dude. You don't have to read everything I post. Fortunately, my Very Modest Friend changed the subject.

VMF: Too bad the dress above is so short...

Initial thought: "That is fine for a big slut like Ayelet." Second thought:

Ayelet: It will be longer on me. I'm very short.

Fortunately, VMF approves.

VMF: That works! I'm 5'10" and all my height is in my legs.

Apparently that was interesting to SCCF:

SCCF: Wow, legs with a woman on top, that should be interesting!

VMF is modest, but she's no prude.

VMF: My husband finds it convenient.

Which concluded that elevated exchange of ideas. A few days later, I put together a "manager's" computer desk chair that I ordered online. I was very proud of myself, but unfortunately actually sitting in the chair gave me horrible muscle spasms. The seat is too long for my thighs, and I couldn't make the chair short enough so my feet could rest on the ground. Some of my friends sympathized.

Lisa: Poor us short girls

Ayelet: Well, I learned two things: 1) I can assemble a desk chair, 2) I need a REALLY small one.

Apparently this was interesting enough to SCCF:

SCCF: Good Voch, hope you had a nice Shabbes celebration! Could you send me a pic of the chair? I happen to be on the market for a desk chair.

Selling it to a friend is easier than taking it back to the store.

Ayelet: It's $100 online, I'm offering it for $50!

And I attached a link to a photo of the chair. A few other friends weighed in.

Margalit: Super proud of you for assembling it yourself!!

Bina: Good for you for your efforts, but sorry the result was not up to par!

Ayelet: Well, it was a learning experience. Hopefully someone will want to buy the chair off me.

SCCF: Ayelet, can it be used if one is not a manager but a plain proletary?

Ayelet: I won't tell if you don't

And that was the end of that exchange of ideas. But I came away with the impression that SCCF was interested in the chair. Unfortunately, when he called at 10:15 p.m. last night, I was too tired to talk to him. I'm stuck in my work schedule; my body wakes early and falls asleep early. Also, who calls a casual acquaintance that late at night?

I called him back this morning (Labor Day, so I was at home). "Sorry I couldn't talk last night," I said. "After 10 p.m. is late for me."

"10 p.m. is late for you? Aren't you a grown woman?" he asked.

Huge red flag. Because it makes people feel anxious and insecure, putting someone on the defensive is a preferred technique of abusers, whether they target adults or children. It's a way of exerting control.

"I'm a grown woman who gets up at 5:30 a.m. every day, so 10 p.m. is late for me," I clarified.

That didn't help. "But you didn't have to wake up at 5:30 a.m today, did you?" he asked.

Am I on trial here? "I still wake up early and get tired early; my body is used to that," I said.

"So you're not in control of your own body, is that what you're saying?" he persisted.

"Were you calling about the chair?" I asked, trying to change the subject and increasingly uncomfortable.

"No," he said. "I realized that I've sat on chairs like that, and they make my tushy sweat. I need one of those mesh chairs, but they're very expensive."

First: um, GROSS. I don't want to think of his aged hairy ass sweating. Second: cheapskate.

"Try craigslist," I said. "What did you want to talk about?"

"You know I'm in a fight with Sol in the Facebook group," SCCF said.

"What kind of fight?" I asked.

"Well, he posted that the first time you have sex with someone is always the best time."

I.

Was.

Stunned. Did he seriously start talking about having sex with a woman he barely knows? How on earth could anyone consider this appropriate?

"And I disagree," he continued blithely. "I believe that each time you have sex with a woman, it gets better and better. And if you're a person like me who likes to have sex every day --"

I cut him off. "I'm not comfortable talking about this with you," I said, trying to purge my mind's eye of the image of his sweaty hairy aged ass banging some unfortunate woman.

"Why not?" he pushed. "You discuss sex with me in the Facebook group all the time."

Well, now I know what he really wants from me. And it's not a chair or a Spanish lesson.

"I'm not comfortable talking to you," I said. "I'm hanging up." Which I did. He immediately called back and left an indignant message about how all over the world people understand it's rude to hang up on someone else. Apparently he thinks all over the world it's appropriate to push women into talking about sex, or whatever you want -- and only what you want. I disagree.

Also: WTH? He knows I'm intelligent. He knows I'm feisty. Why on earth would he think he could push me into having sex with his aged hairy sweaty ass?
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Too many people are dead to me

I'm starting to wonder how weird it is that I don't talk to my mother or sister, and that I've razored several friends clean out of my life.

I cut out my mother because I finally realized what a destructive impact her degenerate pervert boyfriend had on my life. Now I feel like I'm approaching satisfied with my life. Do I let her back in, or keep her out?

She's still feeding, clothing, and sheltering him. It nauseates and infuriates me when I think of it. So I try not to think of her, which is easier when I don't talk or email with her. But she's my mother. Most of what she did for me was good. I was always fed and clothed. Went on decent vacations. Was put through an expensive private college. Braces on my teeth, even oral surgery to correct a snaggletooth.

So does all that good outweigh the extreme and negative influence her boyfriend's pornography had on my sexual and psychosocial development? I don't know.

With my sister Jerusha it's a little simpler: she cannot be nice to me, and I will no longer tolerate that. This became painfully clear during Shira's bat mitzvah, almost exactly a year ago.

Jerusha was rude and invalidating throughout the bat mitvah weekend. My dress was wrinkled; I borrowed her iron, not noticing there was some kind of crap seared onto its surface. It melted the polyester chiffon. Horrified, I showed it to her. She shrugged; I would obviously have to improvise. But she went out of her way to lend diamond and sapphire earrings to my cousin's 10-year-old daughter.

Basically, my sister is incredibly nice to everyone except me, and incredibly rude and hurtful to me. This was abundantly clear when I met her friends as they arrived to the party. They knew everything about my cousins Yaffa and Yonina, but had no idea who I was. Because Jerusha has repeatedly refused to be my friend on Facebook. I don't think they knew she had a sister.

I told my aunt that my sister was horrible to me all weekend and I didn't want to go out to dinner with everyone two nights after the bat mitzvah, especially since I was in a lot of pain after some sacroiliac injections. This prompted my sister to send me the following email:

I have heard that I upset you at the party. I assure you it wasn't intentional, not sure what I did, but I apologize if I hurt your feelings.

I was very glad you were there, and so were all the kids, especially (the batmitzvah girl). My kids really love you and want to see more of you.

I will have the kids for Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, you're welcome to join us. I don't plan on putting up a succah this year, too lazy, and the kids will be with their father for first days and Shabbat of Sukkot anyway.

This is after I took her older daughter for frozen yogurt to free up my sister's time, paid for my sister and nieces' mani-pedis so that we could get out of the salon quicker (Jerusha didn't even thank me), and prevented a major meltdown by helping my younger niece get marker ink off her hands before the party even started. And then was humiliated by having to explain to Jerusha's friend that she actually has a sister. But Jerusha has NO IDEA what she's done that is hurtful to me. Obviously it is all in MY head.

Note that she says "My kids really love you and want to see more of you." Obviously she doesn't love me, but she has to endure my presence, with the absolute worst grace you've ever seen.

I wrote back:

It's never intentional. You just can't bring yourself to be truly nice to me. You are nice to everyone except me. I totally get why your husband left you for his secretary. If it weren't for the kids I would cut you out of my life completely. At this point I'd rather go to their father to spend time with the kids, but I know that will never happen.

Actually, it has happened. Several times. Because her ex-husband's wife didn't refuse my friend request on Facebook. I just got back from another visit, to celebrate my nephew's birthday. We all went out to lunch -- Oedipus, Shira (Malka was at a birthday party), ex-BIL Bill, his new (and pregnant) wife, and her daughter from her previous marriage.

It's weird, but it's working. The kids are happy -- they get to see me, and I don't disparage their father and stepmother, whom they love. So there's no reason for me to let my sister back into my life. I can access the children without her, and she's never going to treat me with anything approaching respect. At this point, she can have one of my kidneys if she needs it, but nothing else. (I doubt she'd thank me if I gave her a kidney.)

I've cut a few friends out of my life over the past several years. But I don't feel as conflicted about shedding friends as I do with relatives. I have many, many amazing friends who support and comfort me; I don't need to hang on to those who let me down. Sometimes I wonder, though: is my let-me-down threshold too low?

I want to be a forgiving person. But I've been hurt and let down by so many people who essentially got away with it. I had no control over those situations. But I have control over whom I befriend and unfriend. Am I exerting it wisely?
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Hypomanic -- or just happy?

Since lowering my lithium dosage, I've been feeling remarkably happy. So happy, in fact, that I started worrying. Was the lower dose sufficient to prevent another episode of hypomania?

I've been processing this on twitter for a few weeks.

8/15/13: Home improvement projects are so much easier when you're not depressed.

I've been making small improvements to my apartment. Reorganizing, throwing out clutter, putting anti-slip appliques on the tub. Even bought and assembled a new desk chair.

I should blog. I should be productive. I haven't slept well in a week. How do parents of infants manage? Although I was moderately productive at work. I supervised counselors all over the place, met with a few patients, signed a bunch of charts.

I haven't been sleeping well. Which is sometimes a harbinger of hypomania, or a symptom of seasonal depression, or a result of work stress. Without going into details, I've been dealing with a number of stressful situations and people at work. But it's not getting me permanently down. Even if I get very angry or anxious thinking about or dealing with a particular situation or person, I shake it off and keep... enjoying life.

That's right. Enjoying life. Even though my knees hurt constantly, my job is stressful, my surgery has twice been denied by my insurer, and of course I'm still single.

So am I happy, or hypomanic?

I'm happy- but not TOO happy. Gone is the simmering resentment anger bitterness envy. I'm content with my life for the first time in- ever? Is this the person I was always supposed to be? Are the seething neurochemicals in my brain finally balanced? Am I naturally exuberant?

I'm productive & efficient. I'm in control. I make people happy. I solve problems @ home & work, & everything is so EASY. Not simple or oversimplified. But I just think of the right intervention for a patient or the right way to organize my shower & it works.

Life is working out. Want to go to a party to see friends, not to meet a husband. Feeling like that's enough of a reason to leave the house.

I'm not hypomanic. I'm just productive, creative, effective, efficient, hilarious, empathetic, vivacious, solution-oriented. And... happy.

I almost don't recognize myself. But this is who I want to be. I see how I'll progress- get my LCSW and CASAC, then a better job. Organize & fix up my apartment. Get a cat. Make a nice life for myself no matter my marital status.

1 symptom of hypomania is "excessive involvement in pleasurable activities" - shopping, sex, food, etc. Been shopping a lot but not SPENDING a lot. I'll pore over a makeup store for an hour & buy a lipstick for $1. My bills are paid. No debt.

Have not been having sex with strangers, or friends for that matter. What I do in my own home w/a vibrator and @JamesDeen is - reasonable.

So far, I'm not hypomanic. I'm just exuberant and managing my life.

I hope the last tweet is true. But I worry, especially when I'm not sleeping.

8/16/13: Up at 2am agin. Sigh. Work stress. Hope I sleep Friday night. At least I have fun plans for Saturday and Sunday.

Perspective: almost 20 yrs after my bipolar Dx, I finally feel like I'm really the person I'm supposed to be. Question is, do I stay with the psychiatrist who didn't help me change my meds to get to this point? A psychiatrist who, incidentally, doesn't take my insurance? He knows me well, but is that enough to stay with him?

one thing's for sure: as many bad mistakes as I've made, I'm still grateful for the ones I haven't made, or married ;)

Enjoying making weekend plans. Tomorrow: lunch w/friends. Sunday: baseball game w/friends. Next Sunday: hope to see nieces/nephew.

Labor Day Weekend: hope to go to CT and bake with a friend (lemon bars and red velvet cupcakes, not marijuana).

Again struck by how easy and enjoyable life is when you're not depressed! Even when you don't have a bf/husband/lover! don't get me wrong, I still want a husband, or at least a lover, but I'm not MISERABLE without one or obsessed with finding one

Making use of terminal insomnia: extra time in the morning to ice my knees & get dressed.

I've been really enjoying my life, and it's been so effortless.

8/18/13: Enjoyed the simple pleasure of wandering thru a flea market, not kept at home by depression or knee pain. Got some bargains too! Going to a party. Just to see my friend & have fun - not to meet a husband. What a difference less lithium makes ;)

Nervous about the party. But not anxious. Blessed difference.

Great party. Good food, saw friends, met new ppl, even got a tattoo. AIRBRUSH tattoo, don't panic, it will fade. Knees will hurt tomorrow.

SHIT is GOING DOWN at work. But I'm still happy. Not deliriously happy. Just calmly joyful. Life on less lithium is AWESOME!

Sometimes I wax philosophical on twitter.

8/19/13: Today was especially stressful, waiting for a shoe to fall that STILL hasn't fallen BUT WILL. Despite this, I'm still joyful and grateful.

Give without thinking about what you'll get, and you'll get more than you can imagine. Or you'll burn out and die.

But not sleeping does take a toll.

8/20/13: Work stress is very bad for my sleep. Not happy. Like they're trying to make me miserable so I'll be too afraid to quit.

Slept badly all last week b/c of work, no sleep 2nite b/c of work. Callin in sick today so I can go out w/friends later. I deserve a life.

fuck, I am SO TIRED but CAN'T SLEEP. I hate terminal insomnia. & my knees are killing me.

I'm not a robot. Mess with me, stress me out, and I will get sick.

OW OW OW OW OW KNEES HURT >:(

You know you're stressed when you lie down on a Stearns&Foster pillowtop mattress & everything hurts. Truly need a mental health day.

Rested. Took Tramadol+Voltaren. Pain eased. Ran some errands, did some more home improvements. Needed this day to heal after all the stress.

Had a great time @ the party. So glad I went. Got a ride home, he didn't want to let me out of the car, but I think he's too young. For the record, we were ONLY TALKING. He wanted me to friend him, so I sent him a friend request. He accepted. Ball's in his court...

Dr. Incompetent called AGAIN, clearing browser history didn't help. So sick of her. I'm glad this is making her miserable.

Terminal insomnia AGAIN. Despite calcium supplement & Vitamin K. But the pervasive body ache is gone, so I'll go in to work & function.


8/24/13: Spontaneously organized my desk drawer. Doing a lot of organizing lately. So EASY when you're not DEPRESSED. Amazing.

8/25/13: Hit 2 parties 2nite. Repulsive men liked me, hot men didn't. Story of my life, but I had fun anyway. Saw some old friends & met some new. Guy said to me, "you seem like a happy person." On the right medication cocktail, I guess I am.

Didn't sleep much, will nap letter. Knees sore, but not as bad as expected. Will have a semi-productive Sunday.

sleep LATER, not LETTER... obviously did not get enough sleep

danced last night, running errands today, pretending I don't have knee problems. we'll see how long that can last.

should blog but feeling lazy. had a massage. masseuse says I'm storing tension in my face & body, retaining water & looking puffy. ya think?

Sorting organizing discarding consolidating, it's all SO EASY when you're NOT DEPRESSED. I feel like I'm who/how I want to be.

8/27/13: woke up OW knee pain OW burning OW OW OW OW OW took Percocet & ibuprofin, can't call in sick 2moro OW OW

Exhausted & in PAIN all day, nevertheless put in a great day's work. Consummate professional, that's Ayelet.

Life would be pretty good if my knees weren't so horrendously painful. I've taken one of almost everything I have, and they still hurt.

Plus side: Knees don't hurt. Minus: skin ITCHES & can't sleep. At least I don't have to run a group today...

I've been wondering about other signs of hypomania.

8/28/13: Horrendous pain & so fucking horny. Must be ovulating under intense barometric pressure. NOT a happy state.

And waxing philosophical again.

I think, therefore I suffer.

But not philosophical for long.

Took painkillers, iced the knees, and received some online shopping deliveries. Ridiculously happy.

Online shopping is the gift that gives twice. Once when you purchase, and then when you receive the package. Unfortunately, I wasn't happy for long.

oh the pain is bad, worse than it has been in a long time. rheumatologist is on vacation. taking more painkillers than I thought I should. not so many that I won't wake up, but more than I usually take in a day. not happy about that, but I have no choice. if I don't sleep tonight, I'm calling in sick tomorrow. this is ridiculous already. every day this week a day of pain.

Dr. Kind was on vacation this past week of pain; won't see him for another few days. Still, even in pain I'm projecting happiness and confidence.

when your lithium dose is correct, and you're happy, people come out of the woodwork to set you up. 2 suggestions in the past 2 days. it really is about the positive energy you project attracting more positive energy. or whatever, but despite the pain I'm happy. 

things are chaotic and negatively-charged at work, but I leave that at the office and don't let it affect me. you have to stop expecting life or work or anything to be FAIR, because it ain't. but I'm doing better @ this job than any previous.

8/30/13: I feel like a junkie for hoping that Dr. Kind will write me a Tramadol script. But I don't see how I'll be able to function otherwise.

The upshot? I'm performing well at work, spending time with friends, addressing my health issues, and making my apartment a pleasanter environment. I'm shopping hellalot online, but not going into debt. So far, I'm happy, not hypomanic. But my friends are invited to watch me carefully for signs of mania.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, August 26, 2013

Unoriginal Roger

On June 24, 2013, I got an email from a lackluster man named Roger on a dating website.

ShalomHi, there! I couldn't help but notice you. You seem to be a sweet, sincere, dedicated, sensitive, lovely, attractive, and beautiful lady. I'd like to know more about you. If you'd like, you can tell me what time you are normally online so that we can chat at that time or you can send me your skype name, messenger ID, and/or phone number so that we can chat with each other whenever we are both available. In the meantime, I'll wait for your reply. Have a nice day!

He was lackluster, as I said, so I didn't respond.

Recently I changed my profile picture. And guess what happened?

ShalomHi, there! I couldn't help but notice you. You seem to be a sweet, sincere, dedicated, sensitive, lovely, attractive, and beautiful lady. I'd like to know more about you. If you'd like, you can tell me what time you are normally online so that we can chat at that time or you can send me your skype name, messenger ID, and/or phone number so that we can chat with each other whenever we are both available. In the meantime, I'll wait for your reply. Have a nice day!

Whatever...
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Dear Devona Dragon: I'm not an alumna of The Bad Place. Thank God.

I got a strange email recently from Dr. Dragon's email address:

Dear Dr. Survivor,

I hope this email finds you well! I am writing to ask if you could take five minutes to complete the Annual Alumni Questionnaire, the link to which is pasted below. Completion of the questionnaire ensures the clinical program's continued accreditation. Your help with this as soon as possible would be greatly appreciated!

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/wtfwtfwtf

Best,

Devona Dragon's Whipping Girl
Clinical Program Coordinator

Curious, I clicked on the survey. It's basically trying to determine how many of their alumni are actually working in the field. Unlike one Bad Place PsyD I recently met who went back to her original career of financial management, and another who keeps getting certifications in different skills because she can't find a job as a psychologist.

Unfortunately I couldn't take it and skew their results. But I could respond to Devona. What would I say to her, seven years after she and her faculty abused and tried to destroy me?

Dear Devona,

Apparently you don't remember, but I withdrew from The Bad Place in 2006 after you and some of your faculty—Dr. Jack Jerk, Dr. Stinky Octopussy, and Dr. Stupid Stone—exerted horrendous abuse of power against me. You met with me in groups, two or three of you against me, without allowing me an advocate for support or to contest your assertions. Jack Jerk told vicious lies about me during faculty meetings, which you did not even bother to verify. (I did; I asked several adjunct professors and students if what he said about me was true, and they all agreed it was not).

Stinky Octopussy accused me of having loose boundaries, when, at a lecture with Dr. Bob Leahy, I asked how he would respond to my struggle with excruciating knee pain. As I later learned from a Bad Place PsyD grad who attended another of his lectures, Bob loves when people give him personal examples of their struggles; it's a great way for him to demonstrate his technique. I don’t think he would have hugged me at the end of the lecture if he didn’t appreciate my openness and candor.

After I left The Bad Place, I obtained my MSW and began working in the field of substance abuse. I now supervise 16 counselors in a major hospital’s substance abuse program, overseeing clinical and social service care for more than 800 patients. (That recent Bad Place PsyD grad? She’s still unemployed.)

You may wish to remove my email address from your mailing list.

Sincerely,

Ayelet Survivor, MA, LMSW

Living well isn't the best revenge. Professional success despite opposition is.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"