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"