Monday, December 29, 2014

Yes, it's been a while

It turned out to be something of a difficult autumn and winter. The light box is helping, but I'm still mildly down, lacking initiative, shy, reluctant, dulled. My brain isn't very sharp. This isn't great because I have a newer new job.

I don't want to discuss the circumstances that led me to leave the job I thought was my rescue and salvation. Suffice to say they were humiliating. I have some distance now and can see some of the mistakes I made, including trying too hard and caring too much and pushing myself into a frenzy, which made me do and say really stupid things. Still not sure why I can't stop myself from making these mistakes, even as I'm developing the ability to recognize them as I commit them.

Ever feel like your life is like a car accident happening as you watch and can't stop it?

Fortunately, I found another job where they seem to like me well enough. It's not ideal, but it's not terrible. I'm catching on relatively well, I think, and making some progress. With difficulty. Because I'm not thinking as quickly and clearly as I'd like to. Is "depression brain" a thing, like "pregnancy brain"? It should be.

The knee therapy is going reasonably well, but not so well that I can really exercise enough to boost my spirits. I have to watch it or I overdo it and regret it.

My social life is nonexistent. Officially. Unofficially, I've taken up messing with millennials. Dating for marriage didn't work out for me, now I'm trying to have some fun. Of course I'm being safe, as far as STD protection goes. When things go south I still get hurt. Too easily. Fortunately, there appears to be an unlimited source of millenials who like women my age, so if one doesn't work out, I'm on to the next.

Which brings us to New Year's. After much consideration, and wading through about 300 responses to an ad on Craigslist ("I'm the hot aunt you always wanted to nail at Christmas Dinner" -- along those lines), I might have a date. With a 28-year-old who seems grounded, cute, smart, and nice.

Am I insane for pursuing a "relationship" with someone technically young enough to be my son? I don't know. I don't know if I'll fall in love with him, or with the 31-year-old I had on tap until he allegedly contracted bronchitis. He asked for a raincheck; I guess if I have some free time I'll give him another shot.

I do know that I'm slightly happier and less lonely, fielding all the texts and emails, although the sex isn't as intensely pleasurable as I remember it being with my ex. But then I was young and foolish, so there you go.

Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Ayelet takes a shot in the dark

Woke up this morning at 3 am with a pounding heart. Not unusual, but hasn't happened for a while. Work has been very stressful; I walked in on one of my subordinate, joking around, giving the Nazi salute and saying"Heil Hitler" -- and my supervisor seemed more pissed at my reaction than her action -- i.e., I said in front of others, "Please don't do that" rather than taking her aside to discuss it.

I stood my ground and refused to give a written statement of my actions, because I didn't want it to be used against me, and my supervisor backed down. But only enough to meet with me and the subordinate to say that some jokes aren't appropriate for the workplace.

For the workplace? What about ANYWHERE?

That, and some other work shit I don't want to get into, has me on edge. Which could be another reasson for the insomnia and tachycardia. So I went online, did a little shoe/jewelry shopping, and while surfing MSN came across an incredible article: Ambitious plan to treat mentally ill inmates, built on a father’s anguish

By his count, Francis J. Greenburger has built or owned more than 20,000 apartments over the past 50 years.... Yet for all of his 20-million-square-foot empire, the project Mr. Greenburger may be most excited about — certainly the one he is most determined to build — is a 25-bed center to treat convicts with mental illnesses. 

"These aren’t criminals,” Mr. Greenburger said during an interview last week at his 15th floor office at 55 Fifth Avenue. “These are people who have committed crimes, mostly because they don’t know any better or they are acting out on impulse. And study after study has shown that prison only makes this behavior worse.”

I couldn't agree more. So I sent him my resume with this note:

Subject: Social worker committed to re-entry and reintegration for ex-offenders with mental illness‏   
Dear Mr. Greenburger,

I just read the New York Times article about your new initiative and had to write to you immediately. I don't know if you are hiring, but your organization is doing exactly what I have hoped to do since I entered John Jay's forensic psychology master's program in 2002: advocate and care for people with serious mental illness who are entangled in the criminal justice system. Because recovery is possible, but only in an appropriate and therapeutic setting.

In addition to my MA, I have my LCSW and CASAC, and I am a certified substance abuse detoxification acupuncturist. I've treated parolees, probationers, and other court-involved clients in a forensic outpatient substance abuse and dual diagnosis treatment program, I provided clinical supervision for 16 counselors in Beth Israel's methadone program, and I have some experience in supportive housing. I would like to submit my resume for your consideration, or just to meet you and share ideas.


Ayelet's name and 11 more letters

I forgot to mention Andrea Yates, who really catapulted me into this field, but I think it's still a pretty good letter.

I also interviewed for a different re-entry job at an agency that assists young ex-offenders with career development and placement. It's very clinical, because in order to go from being a drug dealer to being a legit employee, you have to make significant changes to your mindset. I sent them my resume on Saturday, and on Sunday the CEO emailed me to ask me to call and set up an interview, which I attended a week ago.

I thought it went well. I interviewed with him and his second-in-command and sent a thank-you email as soon as I got home. I think he intended to forward it to the second-in-command, but responded instead:

She has the passion, that's for sure

I do share your connect ability with the guys

I bet [name redacted] would like her

Haven't heard anything, but it felt good to be interviewing. To get my LCSW I spent way too long in a job I hated way too much. So I'm going to explore my options aggressively if I'm not happy. I've worked tirelessly for my current agency, I've been incredibly productive and creative, and yet I still get blamed for everything that goes wrong. Like being saluted with "Heil Hitler." So if I get a better offer, or even an equivalent offer, I'm moving on.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, October 03, 2014

Speaking in tongues: The Fake-Nice Social Worker, the Angry Psychiatrist

I have always been a straight shooter, speaking my mind and letting people know exactly how I felt about what they are doing. That is not always effective; it failed me spectacularly in my first job out of social work school. Now that I'm a manager and have to deal with outside agencies and clients at a fairly high level, I have to be effective. If' I'm annoyed at someone, I can't just tell them. It's simply not pragmatic, because then they'll get annoyed too and won't do what I want them to do.

Deliberately managing how I speak and interact with people feels duplicitous and manipulative to me, but for most of the world I think it falls under the category of "diplomatic" and "think before you speak." So I'm learning how to control and strategically deploy my tone of voice, rate of speech, and choice of words. (Apparently being a manager means managing yourself more, not just your subordinates.)

Right now I've developed two basic modes of communication that are more effective than the Ayelet blunt go-to of "This is how I feel and what you have to do because I say so." It sometimes surprises me how effective they are.

The Fake-Nice Social Worker

This is the tone and demeanor I employ when I'm trying to get an annoying person to stop doing the inappropriate thing they're doing, like calling me or a case manager incessantly to check on their application (still in progress, just like it was yesterday) or showing up at the residence every day to see if they're qualified to apply to live there when they are not. (This actually happened.) Or when I'm trying to get them to do something they are reluctant to do.

In person, FNSW begins with a big smile, like I'm seeing one of my nieces or nephews and I am delighted they're there. On the phone, I add an element of delighted surprise when they identify themselves and I greet them. Then I ask how they're doing, pretend I'm interested in their answer and respond accordingly, and speak in slow, soothing cadences with lots of pauses. Unlike my usual rapid-fire peppered-with-witticisms verbal delivery.

I guess I use a similar tone when I'm conducting therapy with clients who are fragile and need more emotional holding, but then I have a clinical justification for not talking the way I usually do.

When I lay the bad news on them, my tone and expression turn tragic, like I'm so sorry I have to tell them this and it just isn't fair but lamentably, that's the way it is and I am powerless to do anything about it. I explain painstakingly why the bad news has to be and offer hope that maybe some other solution will work out, or, if there is something they can do, encourage them to do it as though their doing it is personally important to me.

I hate being in FNSW mode. It feels completely artificial and manipulative. But I can't think of another way to get people to thank me for giving them bad news.

The Angry Psychiatrist

This is the tone I use to convey extreme disapproval without getting loud or abusive. It's called "the Angry Psychiatrist" because I've never met a psychiatrist who actually yelled at me, yet they manage to convey extreme quiet disapproval. Psychologists don't seem to have the same stricture, because I've gotten yelled at by good ones (Albert Ellis) and bad ones (Dr. Jerk).

AP is also delivered more slowly than my normal discourse, but the pauses are ominous, to give them time to take in the measured disapproval. I explain in painstaking detail why what they are doing or saying is inappropriate or inaccurate, such as an agency again sending us one check for several clients when we requested, in writing far in advance, separate checks for separate clients. I clearly and slowly detail the negative consequences that such conduct will likely lead to if they do not change what they are doing.

My psychiatrist friend Joey hates when I make fun of psychiatrists, but it was actually an argument with him that inspired me to create this persona. I think at one point he said, "Well, I'm very sorry you feel that way" and I cried, "Don't do that! Don't talk like I'm an annoying patient and you're the angry psychiatrist!" I don't think he's done that since, and I would much rather he yell at me than treat me like a difficult patient.

I have to be careful how much I use AP because at the end of the day it still reveals you're angry. But it's much more effective than yelling and getting frustrated.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

I know it's been a long time...

Lately I've been taking more to Twitter than blogging to express myself. Maybe because I'm really, REALLY busy at work, which is generally a good thing. Also because I just survived a hellacious monthlong battle to get my insurer to cover one of my antidepressants at my dose, not their idea of what my dose should be. (And I totally had to twitter-shame them into it.)

I'm doing okay, but if you really want to know what's going on with me, I suggest following @ayelet_survivor.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Practice makes perfect?

Never ceases to amaze me how bad I am at online dating, or dating in general. OKCupid is known for having tons of men who send out generic emails to tons of women in hopes of playing a numbers game -- maybe a few will respond. Here are a few examples:

  • Hi pretty how you doing today that is a lovely smile you got right there on your profile pic. Do me a favor always keep that smile on your face.  
  • You have a contagious smile and look that invited me to your profile. I am writing you with hope of sustaining a connection with you, i feel we have a lot we could explore together, i would love to learn more about you if you don't mind. Go through my profile and write me back if anything about me piques your interest. Honesty is important to me and i love the simple things in life. This is my first time on a dating site and am hoping to make it count.....I look forward to your response. Hugs
  • Im Jack, just wanted to say in all honesty. you have to be one of the most beautiful women I have seen in forever. you have stunning eyes and a stunning smile. simply gorgeous   
  • Just wanted to say you are truly a beautiful seem intriguing and classy..I'd love to get to know you better...if you give me the opportunity to... 

But recently I got an initial email that sounded a bit more sincere:

You have one of the best profiles I've seen... gorgeous photo, of course; you really did put some time into it and have a nice way of expressing yourself. Anyway, in addition to liking your comfortable and also confident look in your photos, thought we'd have some things in common... Would be great to hear back from you.

Normally I wouldn't have responded, because he is not Jewish and "somewhat serious" about Catholicism. But I thought he sounded interesting in his profile, and his picture was cute, so I responded:

Thanks :) I like writing, and when I'm with friends, I'm always comfortable & confident. You express yourself well too.

It's been two days, and no response. I'm wondering why. Possibly he's busy; it's Labor Day weekend, after all. But why be so enthusiastic in an initial email and then completely ignore my response? What did I do wrong? Should I not have suggested that I'm only comfortable and confident around my friends? Did I not sound interested enough in him?

Or maybe that's just his initial email to everyone, and someone prettier and younger also responded to him.

I totally suck at dating. Online and offline.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, August 28, 2014

You're not an addict. You're a borderline.

Yesterday I was at an all-day "safety" training, which intends to teach employees how to de-escalate clients who are very upset or angry. The idea is to calm them down verbally before they become physically violent, although you also learn how to break out of various ways people can grab you.

During the training, the topic of mental illness and violence arose -- understandably, since we work with people who have mental illnesses, some of whom occasionally might become violent. The trainer, a program manager, was talking about one of her residents who frequently displays aggressive behavior.

"She's a borderline," said Tessie Trainer. "You know what a borderline is, right?"

Well, no, I don't. I know that some people have borderline personality disorder, and that many of them have difficulty managing their anger and impulsive behavior, so sometimes they are aggressive or violent towards others. (Or themselves.) But it always bothers me when people use psychiatric diagnoses as adjectives. I'm not "bipolar" or "a bipolar." I have bipolar disorder, but it's not my only or my primary defining characteristic.

This became even more striking when Tessie explained how our formerly homeless clients have been marginalized and stigmatized for being homeless or abusing substances. They've been ignored, stepped on, attacked, and labeled.

"I tell them, 'You're not an addict, you struggle with substance use,'" she said.

I didn't think it was my place to point out the glaring inconsistency. First of all, I'm still on probation. Second, I didn't want to call her out in front of everyone. But it bothered me. If we're not going to stigmatize our clients for their substance use, we shouldn't stigmatize them for their psychiatric illnesses.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, August 11, 2014

If Robin Williams had nothing to live for...

I was going to write about a great conversation I had with my aunt Caterina -- aka, Katya -- that put all my current employment disgruntlement into excellent perspective. But then Robin Williams lost his battle with bipolar disorder.

I learned about his death on Facebook (where else?) after a tremendous busy day of bossing people around and doing important work. I was feeling extremely accomplished and effective. In large part because my aunt Katya, a retired psychiatric nurse, understood exactly the frustration and confusion I've been experiencing. She is probably the most sensible, grounded, level-headed person I know. She sees people for who and what they are.

I never thought Katya would have had the exact same problems I've had negotiating this agency -- or previous agencies. But she has. She's experienced the exact same frustration and confusion. And she's a hell of a lot more normal than I am. I assumed there was something wrong with me, not knowing when to take initiative and when not to overstep, after being criticized for both shortcomiongs in what seemed an almost random manner. I thought I just wasn't getting it, and Katya always, effortlessly, knew what to do.

She didn't. And she was attacked and criticized for bogus reasons, like I have been. And she had the rug pulled out from under her more than once. And she was set up and knocked down. And there's nothing wrong with her.

So if it happened to her, I can't blame myself if it happens to me. There is much less wrong with me than I thought.

This was a huge and empowering relief, and I breezed through today. Deployed my direct reports strategically, gave directives and organized workflow. Chaired a clinical meeting, monitored the progress of various projects, supervised my ass off. I came home tired but satisfied with a good day's work done. Then I saw Robin Williams committed suicide.

On a human scale, it's tragic. He had children. You wonder how someone so accomplished and beloved could feel that life is not worth living, that it's just unending pain. But he damaged the pleasure centers of his brain with years of substance abuse, leaving him prey to anhedonia, one of the most insidious depression symptoms. The inability to feel pleasure and joy. Ironic, since he provoked riotous joy for so many.

People with bipolar disorder are the most successful suicides. That is, our fatality rate is highest. The next highest suicide rate is found among middle-aged white men. Robin Williams was 63. Only 19 years older than I am.

Who knows where I'll be and how I'll be feeling in 19 years. I certainly couldn't have anticipated the life I have now when I was 22. I don't have to worry about that right now. But I'm personally saddened by this loss.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mazal tov -- it's a submucosal fibroid

Friends of mine, after more than a decade of trying, recently had a baby, and I am genuinely delighted for them. This is not always the case when I learn that someone has had a baby. Because I'm essentially not a very nice person, when someone I don't know and love who is much younger than I am has children, I am sometimes envious. Depending on how cute and/or annoying the children are.

Yesterday, I had a pelvic sonogram to determine the extent of my fibroid growth. It's actually a two-part exercise. First you drink a few gallons of water and wait forever until an ultrasound tech rubs gel on your distended belly and pushes a probe around on it. Then you urinate and the probe goes inside you. I have decided that it's only as invasive as you allow it to feel, so at this point -- my fourth or fifth go-round -- it doesn't really phase me. What shook me was seeing the image of my uterus with a submucosal fibroid.

There are three kinds of uterine fibroids: external (subserosal), internal (submucosal), and in-between (intramural). The Mayo Clinic does a great job of explaining the various symptoms each type causes. I will spare you the details of the symptoms I experience; just know that I'm coping with frequent discomfort and increasing pain.

I've never really paid attention to the ultrasound screen. But after the less invasive half of the procedure, I went to the bathroom, and when I got back to the exam room, the tech had stepped out. So I looked at the monitor and saw an image of my uterus with a misshapen bulge inside.

We've all seen sonogram images; it's no longer a mystery. People share them with co-workers and post them  on Facebook. So I knew what I was seeing. It just cut me deep that I wasn't looking at an embryo. A baby. Which is almost all I've ever wanted since I was, I don't know, five years old?

Gloria Chang started chatting with me on Facebook later that evening. I told her I'd had a pelvic ultrasound. She asked what it was like.

Physically uncomfortable & slightly painful. Always makes me bleed. Emotionally, it was wrenching. Looking at the picture of my uterus with a lifeless lump growing in it.

And that's all I have to say about that.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, July 27, 2014

I really don't know what to think

Dating has been as per usual lately, which means it sucks. I had one date with a guy that didn't go anywhere. When I got in the car, he said, "You look just like your pictures!" Presumably a good thing, since he contacted me initially. But it wasn't a great date, and I never heard from him again. I should have probably called my friend the dating coach for a de-briefing, but I didn't want to think about it.

And I've been hearing from the same kind of weirdos I normally attract. I've live-tweeted some online conversations, which is probably not as interesting as other live-tweeted events, and shared some especialy nasty correspondence. I've done this on both Facebook profiles, and I probably shouldn't. At a recent potluck picnic, two men informed me that reading what these men had to say -- and what I had to say about them -- was demoralizing to them. Which means they find it unflattering to me.

So I will stop posting about the losers I date on the "real" Ayelet's page, and limit that to Ayelet Survivor. This is the latest... let's say "passionate" email I recently received from a man who lives in California.

Hello ayelet First of all, let me start by saying that I was blown away by your beautiful smile and i find you so very attractive. A little more about me, I am a good person, I am loyal, giving, funny, I laugh alot. I value honesty greatly, I am a one man woman, meaning when i am serious with someone, there is no one else. You're such a very beautiful and charming woman and am sure you hear that everyday, why in the world is a very beautiful woman like you still single? My profile wont be up for too long, I'm on here with the 3days trial, if you would love for us to get to know each other, you can write me on 323) xxx-xxxx or send email to @ gmail . com Or here on yahoo messenger duelove789 @ yahoo .com I'll be counting the seconds until i hear back from you.. Take care

(The man I went out with recently also asked me why I'm still single. I guess he discovered the reason during the course of the date.)

Since Passionate Guy (PG) says his profile won't be up for long (which probably just means he won't be active on the site), I'll share his "About Me":

I am a very generous person in that I give quality time and make people feel special. I am a man who acts according to his moral principles. I'm a very confident person and love being a man of substance. I feel that I am "spicy" - alive, spontaneous and love life and everything it has to offer. I am looking for a woman that has a sense of direction in life, confident, sensitive, energetic, and most definitely thirst for knowledge and continuously striving for growth - whether that being spiritual, emotional or intellectual. I believe in the beauty of life. I will never choose to sit out.I want every drop I can squeeze out of I need a partner who sees the world as a great place to be and one who will never loose that sense of the wonders that life has to offer. I am looking for an honest and fun loving woman who is opened to the world...bright, a "doer" and not a "follower"...a creator more than a consumer - provocative, curious, and original - someone with presence. A lover and a friend..worldly, settled, very sensual and articulate - with a PHD in kissing, of course! Above all, a person to share ones intimate feelings and build a true partnership with honesty and integrity...where there is peace and harmony together...invites more laughter than tears...and after the connection you can intelligently discuss a wide range of topics. I am seeking a partner to mutually navigate the obstacle course of life... someone to help each other overcome life's help heal the wounds when we falter. The truth to be told, - I'm looking for that someone. I am a big believer that the love you put in is love you get in return. The canvas of my passion is a large one and it would be wonderful to add new depth, enhance meaning and more love to this masterpiece/work in progress. Might it be you? I love a woman who is young in heart and who has not lost the ability to play - with words, with dreams, with thoughts, with me! I love down to earth kind of people...are you one of them? I am a people person and love entertaining at home. Love sincere, compassionate, passionate, and empathic folks! I do not create or surround myself with people who feed off of DRAMA. I love cities deep in history, art and architecture...and the art of conversation. I believe that a good relationship is initially built on friendship.No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each others worth.Miles may lie between us, but we're never far apart for friendship is not calculated in distance;it is measured by a heart that brings happiness that gold nor silver can't buy.   
A whole lot of cliches, and is PG for real? It's pretty clear his first language isn't English. But he strikes me as intense, at best, weird and scary at worst.

It always seems kind of weird and scary when someone gives you his email address in the initial contact and urges you to email him off the site right away. But am I judging him too harshly? I really don't know at this point.

Often I think that my judgment of some men is vindicated by the unpleasant way they react when I decline to meet them in person. But the question still hangs in the air: why am I still single?

For guidance, I contacted Rochel, the dating coach. I emailed her PG's initial contact and "About Me." Her response was succinct:

I wouldn't bother, something is off about him

I thanked her for confirming my suspicions.

You're welcome, he seems really nutty

She's married. And she consults with numerous women, so she's seen a lot of dating correspondence. Even more than I have, which is hard to imagine. So I'm not contacting Passionate Guy. Whatever the reason I'm still single, he doesn't have the solution.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Don't write back in anger

I'm on edge. Hate my stupid chair at work, and the temporary cramped quarters I'm in, and some of the people I'm supposed to supervise. Well, I don't hate them, but I hate supervising them. I probably shouldn't say why, but the whole "supervisor" role is not coming as naturally as I thought it would. I'm figuring out my job, and then I have to help other people figure out their jobs. And the guy I went out with two days ago hasn't called. And my back hurts and my knees hurt.

So I'm jangly. Nervy, as the Brits would say. And I got a message on OKCupid, and I didn't respond well to it.

The guy is clearly ineligible. He's seven years younger than I am, and Catholic. Still, he's not hideous, and I'm heartily sick of Jewish men. And his message to me was rather debonair:

You are remarkable. I'd like to get together and try new, exciting and delightful things!

That's kind of cute. I haven't been called "remarkable" in a while. But my first thought was, "Uch, I don't want to try new things, I want to do things I already like. And my back hurts." So I don't think my response was very flirty:

Thanks. I think? You're assuming we find the same new things delightful.

That's just dumping a bucket of cold water on him. I need to make a new rule: Never respond to email on a dating website unless you're in a good mood. Or you've taken a Klonopin.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, July 03, 2014

People fight for their right to mock mental patients

Recently I've left two Facebook groups because the moderators insisted they had the right to make fun of people with psychiatric disabilities. People who would bite your head off if you used the word "retarded" or some ethnic slur get extremely offended when you ask them not to make fun of you and your friends.

being popular on the internet is like sitting at the cool table in the mental hospital

That's what one insensitive person (IP) commented on an online thread in the "OTD and Sane" group. Another person jumped on the bandwagon.

Hey, that's the closest some of us are going to get to sitting with Napoleon, Elvis, Genghis Khan, and Oscar Wilde. And that's only when one other person is at the cool table

I didn't bother talking to him about this flagrantly offensive rant. I thought I could talk to IP, woman to woman, because she's emailed me a number of times to complain about other group members and we've had a decent rapport. So I tried:

I've actually been hospitalized for psychiatric reasons, so I would prefer it if you didn't make fun of mental patients as a group. Thanks.

And failed. She became defensive.

I dont think i made fun of mental patients. How is that making fun of ANYONE

I didn't think I was being unreasonable, and tried to reason with her.

It's making fun of the people at the "cool table" in the mental hospital

She insisted it wasn't offensive:

A table with elvis genghis khan oscar wilde would be amazing conversation

I tried to educate her:

That's not realistic. Neither as a patient nor as a clinician have I ever seen that scenario.

I guess some people would interpret that as having somewhat of a testy tone. She certainly did.

Ok im not going to apologize for what i said. I dont feel i made fun of anyone. Im sorry you feel that way.

That's not really an apology, and is she really that ignorant?

You did put down people in mental hospitals, and I'm surprised you don't see that. There's no need to get defensive. I'm not asking you to apologize in public. I'm just asking you to be a little more mindful before making jokes about psychiatric hospitals and hte people in them.

Trying to emphasize our common humanity. She's not having it.

Im sorry but you are totally over reacting or bring super sensitive. Im sorry you think i was making fun. I disagree

That got me a little annoyed.

You actually were making fun. I'm not overrreacting.

So I posted a thread in the group asking if others found this offensive or inappropriate. And was roundly denouced. I left. I should have known that people in a group called "OTD and Sane" would jump at the chance to make fun of people with psychiatric disabilities. Like me.

Mental illness is the last acceptable stereotype. I try to educate people, but it doesn't seem to be working. They think mocking people who are suffering is funny and resent your attempts to assert that it's not. Not sure what the answer is, but I'm pretty angry right now.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, June 23, 2014

A long, strange list of supplements I can't tolerate

The reality of the new job is starting to sink in. For one thing, our temporary headquarters are fairly makeshift. I hate my chair -- its seat is too big for my thighs and it gives me a backache. I'm trying to navigate a role that's new to me in an agency that's new to me, which is a whole lotta new. I thought I was doing fine until my heart started beating really fast, really often.

At first I thought it was just anxiety. A week ago I was scheduled to visit the residence, which is still being renovated. I was wearing sandals because now that I no longer work for a hospital, I can. Unfortunately, you need to wear closed-toe shoes on a construction site. Since it was late in the day, I ran to Payless with my supervisor, bought a shoddy $25 pair of flats, and went to the site. Walked all over it, up and down stairs.

I woke up the next day in knee agony. Could barely walk. Which was a damn shame, since that evening I was supposed to go to my niece Shira's graduation. I  missed a day of work and the graduation.

Missing a day of work made me nervous, so early on. I'm still on probabation for five more months and four more days. Missing the graduation made me miserable, and having a severe resurgence of the knee pain was terrifying. So the next day, I woke up with a pounding heart. We -- the program director, two of the four case managers I supervise, and I -- were supposed to go to a psychiatric ward and meet with potential residents. I had to appear normal and in control.

We met at another site because they had a van we could use to drive to the psych ward (it's not well served by mass transit). All the way there I was nervous and conscious of my heartbeat. When I got there at about 8:50 a.m., I was greeted by one of the care managers.

"I've been here since 8!" she said. "The email said the meeting was at 8."

Really? I thought. I was almost positive I'd said the meeting was at 8. Had I screwed that up? "I'm so sorry," I told her. "I thought I set it for 9."

"No problem," she said, sitting down at the table in the small conference room near the entrance and busying herself with her cell phone. We sat in silence for more than a few minutes until the other care manager joined us, and then the program manager arrived.

I was kind of surprised she didn't want to talk to me, since I'm her supervisor. Then again, I've never been a supervisor before. I've done clinical supervision, but never had to address someone's behavior or demeanor. Also, I was terrified that they might realize how anxious I was, how confused my thinking. I could barely concentrate. I tried to calm myself down by reminding myself that anxiety is just a feeling and it passes, which didn't really help much.

After we met and reviewed a few things, we set off in the van for the psych ward. I wasn't 100% sure what we were going to discuss with the residents -- my supervisor had left things kind of undefined. When I'm thinking clearly I'm fairly quick on my feet and able to respond appropriately to situations. But I wasn't thinking clearly. I was terrified, and I had no idea what I was going to do or say.

We got to the ward and they put us in the dining hall. Where we waited. I was annoyed because I'd spoken to the housing specialist about this meeting and we'd set a precise time: 10:30 a.m., after they've finished morning rounds. At about 10:50, the housing specialist came in.

"Are you sure we were supposed to meet today?" she asked.

I'm losing it, I thought, but I committed. "Yes, we said today at 10:30," I stated firmly. Did I screw up the date or time? I wondered.

She didn't have anyone for us to meet with that day. So we took the case managers back to the locations where they work, and my supervisor and I were taken back to our temporary offices. I immediately checked my calendar and emails. In black and white, they said that the meeting with the care managers was at 9, and the meeting on the psych ward was at 10:30 on that day. That was a bit of relief.

But it didn't erase my anxiety. Okay, so I wasn't completely losing my mind, but my heart was still pounding. I started wondering if my Cymbalta dose was too high. My psychiatrist, Dr. New, raised it during last winter's deep depression. But now I have a job that I don't hate, a schedule that's not killing me, and it's summer. Could I be hypomanic?

I made an appointment to see Dr. New at the end of the week, just two weeks after my last appointment with her. She didn't think my symptoms supported a diagnosis of hypomania.

"No pressurized speech or racing thoughts, no increased spending, no hypersexual behavior, right?" she said. None of the above. "How are you sleeping?" Quiet well, actually. I wake a few times but fall back asleep.

"It sounds like anxiety, and maybe a little more depression," she said. I couldn't understand why. Nothing bad has happened to me recently except that the guy I met and liked pulled a disappearing act. But that's nothing new. "I wouldn't want to reduce your antidepressants. If anything, I'd maybe want to increase the mood stabilizer, but I'd hate to put you on four medications."

I would hate that too. So we agreed that I would take the Klonopin more often than once every month, which is about how often I usually take it. "Take it every day if you need it," she said. "Half a milligram twice a day." I'll see her in another two weeks.

I put the Vitamin K in my purse and resolved to try that. Then I thought of something else that might be the problem. Something about the pounding heartbeat made me think of calcium. Because I have a shameful little secret: In addition to the calcium supplement I take daily, I've been consuming calcium-based chewable antacids. Since my most recent bout of bronchitis, I've been taking Nexium prescribed by my internist/gastroenterologist, but I've still been feeling the burn at the back of my throat. And those calcium chewable antacids are good. I've been chewing them every night.

I looked up the symptoms of calcium overdose:
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bone pain
  • Coma
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Muscle twitching
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
Well, clearly I didn't have all the symptoms. But bone pain? Sure -- my knees were killing me. Confusion? Somewhat. Depression? Definitely. Irregular heartbeat?

So I've stopped taking the supplement, and I've given up the chews. And already, I feel better, although not 100%. Add calcium to the long, strange list of supplements I need to be careful of -- turmeric, tea tree oil, ashwagandha, passionflower, oregano oil. So far I don't think Vitamin D, fish oil, and folic acid are hurting me, but I'll definitely check next month during my annual physical.

Tomorrow I'm sending my laptop off for maintenance -- it's developed an annoying pink line across its screen. Don't worry, I'll be fine -- especially since I've laid off the calcium.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Your brain's no better than my brain, bitch

I went to a smoking cessation training today that was pretty good. (The residence where I'll be working is going to offer smoking cessation groups, so I needed suggestions to develop the curriculum.) It would have been awesome if the other participants had shut their damn pie-holes. Several agencies sent more than one person, and they sat in pairs or groups and yap yap yapped while the trainer was trying to speak over them.

Yes, I sound a bit testy. Lately I've been noticing a greater mindfulness about my anger, both how I experience it and how I think about it. I'm increasingly aware of the adrenaline surging in me when I rocket from annoyance to fury. And more and more, I realize that the reactions I have (or the actions I want to take) when I'm angry are unwarranted, disproportionate, or both.

Most likely this is the result of the new job and the success of the knee therapy, which have led to an immense increase in my sense of satisfaction and well-being. My baseline is much more serene, so it takes a lot more to get me angry. Since the disparity is greater, the difference between serene and angry is much more noticeable, which makes it easier to be mindful of my anger. Sadly, being mindful of my anger does not always prevent me from reacting to it.

I was simmering most of the day because of all the yammering. But one participant really hit a nerve. Several of the training participants are smokers, and the trainer asked them to share their experiences of trying to quit. Della had taken Chantix, a prescription medication that partially blocks the nicotine from acting on the brain and also eases some withdrawal symptoms. Unfortunate, its side effect profile is fairly draconian.

"I had nightmares!" Della said. "And suicidal ideations! I'm a licensed clinician -- suicidal ideation is something my clients have, not me!"

If I had the ability to raise one eyebrow, I would have. Yes, most "licensed clinicians" don't experience their patients' symptoms. However, those of us who have experienced symptoms can utilize that experience to empathize with our clients, not denigrate them.

Your brain's no better than my brain, bitch, I thought. Way to miss an opportunity to hone your clinical skills.

During my 2010 hospitalization, after I got the excess Klonopin out of my system and waited for them to release me, I spent a lot of time observing and talking to the other patients. It was quite informative, especially one episode of violence.

I had a feeling something was going to go down late one night. Katressa, my 19-year-old roommate, was striding back and forth across the patients' lounge, muttering to herself. She'd been moved into my room a few days prior. We had some great conversations about her confused sexuality.

"Maybe I like girls, maybe I like guys, maybe I don't know," she said. "Everyone keeps asking me."

"You don't need to decide either way right now," I said. "This is something you're allowed to figure out slowly."

In the lounge that night, sex wasn't on her mind. She was angry. I thought back to my Violence & Aggression class, taken while earning my first master's. The professor described how anger escalates into violence on the ward. First the person sits and broods, with an angry expression, possibly muttering. Then the person gets up and begins pacing and complaining, sotto voce. It's best to intercede earlier rather than later.

Her pacing should have been my cue to fetch an employee. But I was frozen on the spot. I didn't know if I should leave or stay. I was afraid to try to talk to her.

Another patient, Irma, stepped out of the bathroom, and Katressa leapt on her, smacking her with open hands. I ran to the nurses' station and screamed for help. A nurse and a few orderlies walked quickly to the lounge and pulled Katressa off Irma. I was relieved to see she wasn't badly hurt; I guess I'd thought Katressa was a more skilled fighter.

No idea why Katressa hated Irma. But I didn't want to sleep in the room with her that night. So they put me in the isolation room with a mattress on the floor. I was haunted and agitated and guilty. I couldn't sleep.

Another patient, Raymond strolled by. "What you doin' in here, Ayelet?" he asked. He and I hadn't talked much, but he'd listened to me talking with the other patients and had apparently decided I was cool.

"I was scared," I said.

"Scared of what? Katressa? Shoot, she wouldn't hurt you! She likes you!" he said. He crossed himself, kissed his fingertips and pointed them at the ceiling.

Well, that was some relief. Patients can sometimes be a good source of information on other patients, although when they're unreliable you might not know until it's too late.

Raymond strolled away, and eventually one of my favorite fellow inmates shuffled by. Kwan was a very sweet and quiet kid, about 19, with terrible insomnia. We talked at strange hours, usually early in the morning or late at night, since he slept most of the day. Kwan didn't seem surprised to see me in the isolation room, or awake at 2 a.m., but came in and sat down with me.

For a while we talked about his situation. Then he asked me, "You know so much about all this stuff. Why are you in here?"

Trenchant. Why was I in there? What did I have to offer other people with mental illnesses, if I couldn't keep myself together?

Sleepy though I was, I think I had a good answer for him. "Because these are illnesses, and we don't have a cure for them yet. Only treatments that aren't perfect. I have an illness, so sometimes I get very sick, and I have to try different treatments to get better. That helps me to understand what other people, like you, go through, and helps me figure out treatments that might help you."

Kwan accepted that amiably, nodding. I was afraid he'd fall asleep at the foot of my mattress, but eventually he got up and shuffled away.

I don't have much respect for clinicians who think they're all that much healthier than their patients, because I've felt how mental illness can knock you on your back and disable you. Maybe it can't happen to anyone -- I doubt Antonin Scalia will ever suffer any kind of mental illness, smug and complacent as he is -- but it can happen to a lot of people. People who have psychiatric disorders aren't categorically different from all other people, just as people who have diabetes aren't categorically different. You can develop diabetes through lifestyle as well as genetics. Same is true of mental illness: environment has a huge impact on mental health.

So that's probably why I was so angry at what she said. Not that I was fully aware at the time. I didn't think back to my time on the psych ward and reminisce about Katressa's anger and Kwan's insomnia. But what Della said set me off. Of course, I was already halfway to angry because of the incessant jabbering from some of the ruder participants.

I have to admit, sadly, that my response to my anger was not entirely appropriate. One response to anger, probably the best response, is to say and do nothing. Nobody needs to know you're angry. Nobody wants to know you're angry -- it will only make them uncomfortable or defensive. A cluster of five or so jabberers were sitting next to me; two loudmouths were directly across the room. At one point, I "shushed" the loudmouths while I was trying to listen to the trainer.

"Did she just 'shush' me?" said Loudmouth One.

"Oh, no, she didn't!" said Loudmouth Two.

Really? I thought. People actually still say that? They continued to discuss my rudeness, which, of course, made it even more difficult to hear the beleagured trainer. When their chatter faded away, the jabberers next to me kicked into high gear.

Should I say something? I thought. I'd considered approaching Loudmouth One during the break and asking him about his job (not that I was actually interested, but as an excuse to ask where he worked and did he work with Loudmouth Two). Then I thought I could say, "Could I ask you a favor? When you and Loudmouth Two talk while the trainer is talking, it's really hard for me to hear what he's saying."

I chickened out. It seemed indirect and manipulative, which probably means it's diplomacy far above my paltry skills. And I didn't say anything similar to the gang of jabberers. But I didn't keep myself from looking at them and rolling my eyes, which one of them observed and shared with the rest of her pack.

"Look at her rollin' her eyes. So inappropriate," scoffed a 50something woman wearing an off-white lace t-shirt that was only lined in the front. From the back, her bright white brassiere and back rolls were clearly visible through the lace.

I'm not about to study appropriate behavior from an aging woman who apparently still shops at Forever 21, but she did have a point. I shouldn't have rolled my eyes at them. I shouldn't have done anything. Nobody else needed to know I was angry, because my anger was not going to accomplish anything. The trainer tried to shush people several times, to no avail; obviously I wasn't going to be able to. I could have tried to ask them nicely to be quiet, but given Grandma Lingerie's response, I doubt it would have been successful. I should have put up and shut up.

Maybe I'm finally approaching maturation, now that I've processed and more or less resolved my adolescent sexual trauma. Maybe I'm gaining some ascendancy over my anger. It's unfortunate that a training room full of mental health clinicians can act like a kennel full of adolescent chihuahuas, but it is what it is. I did like the trainer, and he seems to know the material very well. Although he said something I disagreed with vehemently. (Fortunately, I was able to keep my vehemence cloaked with a mask of professional neutrality.)

"A good therapist never answers a direct question," he said, noting that he'd been through 30 years of therapy -- two psychoanalyses -- and had four years of psychoanalytic training. I'm pretty sure that most CBT clinicians would disagree with that statement. You're trying to provide a rational viewpoint and explain how their beliefs about themselves and the world impact their feelings. You need to be direct.

I was kind of appalled at the length of time he'd spent in therapy, but of course, most of us agree that I'm not quite finished yet either.

A person I don't particularly like posted a meme in one of my Facebook groups. I consider 99% of poster memes absolute garbage; in fact, people who post tons of them in groups annoy me. But this one really said something:

There are some people
who always seem angry
and continuously
look for conflict.
Walk away;
the battle they are
fighting isn't with you,
it is with themselves.

What can I say? True dat. Oh no he didn't!
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Even stupider about men than Ayelet

Not many women are stupider about men than I am, so when I met one, I had to blog about her.

Stupid Idjit Girl (SIG) is probably in her late forties/early fifties, judging by her profile pic. Two last names means she's either widowed or divorced. She and I are in a Jewish singles group on Facebook. Another woman posted in the group that a guy she'd gone on one coffee date with had texted her the next morning to suggest they watch a movie at his place that night. Uh-huh. Obviously a booty call. A number of people commented on her post, including this troglodyte.

Troglodyte: You made yourself look lose [sic.] by kissing on a first date. This is being shomer negiah and shomer yechida makes [sic.] dating less complicated (albeit less fun)

I was the first to call him out.

Ayelet: He participated in the kiss too, Troglodyte. Does that make him loose as well? Most of the people in this group have been married before, so it's naive to think they'll practice shmirat negiah.

Others followed my lead, including SIG.

SIG: On which date do you think a woman should kiss a man, Troglodyte, to not be considered loose? On what date do you wish someone would kiss you?

I liked her comment, which encouraged her to send me an email:

SIG: hi. Troglodyte makes me ANGRY!

(Obviously she used his real name, not "Troglodyte.") But seriously: one stupid comment gets you zero-to-sixty ANGRY? I thought I had a temper.

Ayelet: oh, he's just a troglodyte who can't get women, and he's bitter

SIG: what is a troglodyte? is that the reason, [sic.] he can't get laid? lol

That should have been the first indication she's not very bright.

Ayelet: "troglodyte" is like a cretin or a boor

SIG: oh ok... I don't get men...they want women to sleep w/ them YET at the same time they want to be able to call us names for doing it. IT MAKES NO RATIONAL SENSE.

Well, she's not wrong there.

A: he's angry because women don't want him, so he's blaming them publicly

SIG: oh, because no one wants him... hmm... yeah

I would have been fine if she'd stopped there, but she decided to confide in me:

SIG: I want someone I have known on AOL for 13 months..
I need to quit thinking about him
he wants too much
do you like anybody?

She's still on AOL? Strike two. And no way in hell am I telling a total stranger, male or female, if I like any boys. Are we in 6th grade?

A: what does he want that you don't want?

Hoping it's something simple so I don't have to get too involved. I figured she'd say "a commitment" or "to be shomer Shabbat" and I could throw a few platitudes at her -- be true to yourself, but don't be afraid to take a risk, something like that. I was not expecting:

SIG: to come meet me, from [another state], he will tell me his last name and fly here if I do a sex video. I have to do it on mycell phone and show him on skype

Whoa. That is very, very bad. Someone who asks you to make a sex video and stream it to them is likely to distribute it. Also: she's known him 13 months and doesn't know his last name? Is she a complete idiot?

A: ewwwwwwwwwwww
forget him NOW, that is disturbing

SIG: also, he wants to be able to handcuff me and tie me up
very upsetting

Well, under the right circumstances there's nothing wrong with that, but these are not the right circumstances.

A: I would block him and not talk to him at all.

SIG: I told him I am only accepting real love from him..and I want to go to his house and break all his dishes and slap him in the face

He is not going to give her any real love. And she totally can't see that.

A: You need to break with him completely.

She didn't respond, and I hoped she had lost all interest in chatting, as I had, because I don't like chatting with stupid people.

SIG: sorry..someone came to my door to do work out there...lucky me..they are taking all my trash out

Like I'm interested? Now I really just need to get rid of her. Unfortunately, she sent me some pictures of the sick bastard, including a selfie of his shirtless torso and boxer-brief-clad loins. Not his face, of course. Another red flag she completely didn't see.

SIG: [sick bastard's first name], sigh

Strike three. I'm out of here.

A: Just forget about him. Sorry, just got a phone call.

SIG: ok..are you on the phone now?

A: yes

If someone says they got a phone call, aren't they usually on the phone seconds later? Actually, I wasn't on the phone, but I did not want to get drawn into her loose-boundaried drama.

I know I've done stupid things while dating, but this isn't just stupid, it's potentially lethal. Obviously she's not going to listen to reason; she might not be capable of rational thought. I do not have any time for this person.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, May 26, 2014

Surprise! Bina's in town!

It's been a nice Memorial Day weekend. Yesterday I went on a picnic in Central Park with friends, then went to a standup comedy open mic. Definitely uneven, but it got me out of the house.

As much as I've wanted to, I haven't called any men, although I emailed the one I've just emailed with and not met in person. Haven't heard from him, or from the other guy. Not happy about that, but trying not to let it get to me. We scheduled a date last week for later this week, so I guess we're still on, even though we haven't spoken or emailed in days and days.

Today I planned to get a massage and a facial. What I didn't plan was getting a phone call from my dear friend Bina, who was in town for her cousin's bar mitzvah at a conservative synagogue eight blocks from my apartment. Could I come over?

"I'm wearing a t-shirt and cargo pants," I said. No problem. I walked over and saw her with Asher and their children: six-year-old Gingi, four-year-old Shimmy, and the adorable Matuka, two years old with a halo of curls and a penchant for taking photos with Ima's smartphone. Currently, her enthusiasm exceeds her skill; I was sitting next to them, and she got several shots of my arm, my decolletage, and my nose.

"I take pictures!" she announced, then started hunting through the phone's gallery. "That's me!" she said, pointing at a picture of herself. "Me winging!" (swinging)

"Do you like to swing?" I asked.

"Yes," she said, reluctantly surrendering the phone to her brother Shimmy. She frowned and rubbed at her eye. "Something hurt in my eye," she told me.

"Should I try to get it out?" I asked. My long nails made it difficult to draw her eyelid down and flush her eye with tears, so I thought I should try to rinse her eye with water. "Let's go find a bathroom, okay?" I suggested. She led me out of the sanctuary.

The ladies' room was downstairs, which Matuka negotiated backwards, painstakingly. We went into the bathroom and up to the sink, where I shook some water into her eye.

"Better?" I asked. She blinked, considered, shook her head solemnly and said, "Bettoh." We negotiated the stairs up almost as slowly and found Bina at the top. I guess I forgot to mention I was going to get something out of her daughter's eye. Fortunately, she wasn't mad.

"I wash my eye!" proclaimed Matuka. We went back into the sanctuary and Matuka sat leaning against me, one hand on my leg, one eye on the smartphone she hoped Shimmy would surrender.

It's amazing to see Bina wrangling three children, who always seem to be vectoring off in opposing directions. While she chased Shimmy, I tried to keep Matuka from grabbing a knob on the railing.

"It's dirty," I warned. "Don't touch. Lots of germs."

Crestfallen, she stepped back. "Don't worry, we'll wash your hands," I said, and turned back to look for Bina. When I turned again, Matuka was about to negotiate the stairs again -- by herself.

"Where is she going?" asked Bina, behind me.

"To the bathroom," I said, rushing to the stairs just ahead of about five dozen hungry Jews. "I promised to wash her hands," I continued, lifting Matuka up and out of the foot traffic.

We got the kids downstairs to the luncheon, found them seats, and grabbed them some challah rolls from the buffet so they could start eating while we waited on line for the rest of the food. Takes a village to raise and herd children; Aunt Ayelet is always ready to lend a hand.

Leaving was a little painful; I wish I'd scheduled the massage for later. I don't spend enough time holding and taking care of babies and small children. Feeling the little curly head against my side and small warm hand on my leg was comforting. Of course, the pictures Matuka took of me were vastly unflattering, but those can be deleted.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Jewish Singles Thirty-five to Dead

Last week I went to a Lag b'Omer party sponsored by a group that calls itself "Jewish Singles Thirty-five to Fifties" (JSTF). I've been kicked out of their Facebook group for calling some of the administrators "dicks," although, in my defense, they really are dicks. But they throw fun parties that aren't too expensive, and when I'm not morbidly depressed I like to attend. (Apparently my money's still green to them.)

The Lag b'Omer party was typical of other JSTF parties in that many people much older than their 50s attended. Some women, but in general, men. Old men, with gray or white hair, sagging and wrinkly facial skin, stooped posture, etc. I realize I'm almost 44 and no spring chicken, but these roosters are too old and shriveled even for the cooking pot.

I'd gotten a Brazilian keratin treatment for my hair a few days prior, something I like to do to keep my hair healthy and shiny. It's a very long procedure that includes flat-ironing the product into your hair, so for about a week my hair was as straight and shiny as a shampoo commercial. I wore it down for the party, and while standing and chatting with a group of girlfriends, I felt a pair of hands descend upon my shoulders, grip them a few times with varying pressure, and then slide their fingers through my hair.

Startled, I whipped my head around and saw an elderly man behind me. Gray hair straggled around his shiny scalp. Face of a Shar Pei. "Coming through," he intoned in sepulchral tones. Yeah, right -- you're just walking behind me where there's plenty of room and had to run your fingers through my hair to get by.

The boundary violation would have been unpleasant no matter who took the liberty, but for a man my parents' age to take it is just disgusting. But I shrugged it off. I don't really go to these parties to meet men; I go because I like to dance and hang out with many of the other women who go. I could have told the administrators, but I didn't think it was worth it. Geriatric money is green to them too.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, May 23, 2014

More bad poetry

Today is May 23. The guy doesn't have time to see me until May 29. He hasn't called or emailed, and I haven't called or emailed, because I don't want to appear desperate. Hopefully we will actually go out next week; until then, I console myself with bad poetry.

want to feel your hands
on my body want to feel your lips
on my neck want to feel your weight
over mine want to feel your skin
on my skin

Writing poetry on Twitter is a creative challenge.

calling you, silently
with invisible words
drawing you
closer closer to
my throbbing

Not feeling particularly well today. Smaller and smaller opiate painkiller doses seem to cause worse and worse hangovers: headache, nausea, feeling icky. I really shouldn't take them ever at all. Today's been kind of a waste. I went to the chiropractor and CVS, then home & collapsed. Heart pounding like I just ran a 6-minute mile, which I hope is just an opiate side effect.

I passed the CASAC, though. That's something.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The MINUTE I go OTD, God sends me a frum guy on OKCupid

So I've been seeing this guy. Two coffee dates and many telephone conversations. I know -- according to The Rules it should be the other way around. He's about 7 years younger than I am, went to YU undergrad and got an MBA from University of Phoenix. Pretty cute; not too tall, not too skinny, not too fat, nice smile. Not my toxic type. Never married (so he says), gainfully employed (so he says), lives with his parents because of Hurricane Sandy (so he says; obviously several things need to be verified).

Things I like about him:

  1. We have great conversations. We don't always agree on everything, but we seem to agree on most of the things that are most important to me. We have fun together. Sitting in a cafe drinking coffee with him is more fun than going to my favorite museum with someone I'm not into. Which leads to...
  2. love talking to him on the phone or in person. Even when we disagree. There are zero awkward pauses, although there are some meaningful silences. He's fun, funny, exasperating, sometimes rigid and stubborn. (Remind you of anyone?)
  3. He sought me out. Even though I'm older. My age doesn't bother him (so he says), which I can't say about most men my age.
  4. Initially we emailed and spoke on the phone. I got impatient that he hadn't made plans to get together with me, and we had a minor fight about that via email. I said we should either go out already or stop corresponding altogether. He agreed. Then, after a few weeks, he emailed me again and we made plans and finally went out.
  5. He thinks I'm gorgeous, hilarious, sexy, and smart. Doesn't think I'm fat, which I can't say about most men my age.
  6. He's pretty sexy. He emphasizes, indirectly, that satisfying me would be top priority. 
  7. He says adorable retro things like "if you were my girl, you'd be on my arm and I'd be showing you off." Teeny bit sexist, yes, but I like it.
  8. From what he says and how he presents himself, I think he'd be able to accept my bipolar disorder and like me despite it. I can't really explain how I know this; it's just a gut feeling. And I'm trying to listen to my gut more than my head or heart, since those organs are so frequently wrong.

Things I don't like:

  1. On our first date, he said he had no problem with gay people. This is not strictly true. Apparently he's opposed to gay marriage and thinks homosexuality is unnatural. I am bothered by this, because I'm an LGBTQI ally both personally and professionally. Homosexuality is not unnatural, it's just somewhat rare, like blue eyes. It's not the majority, but that doesn't make it unnatural.
  2. He's pretty religious. He would want his wife to cover her hair and dress modestly in public. What that entails I'm not quite sure; it seems a bit negotiable. For example, if I were in his parents' home and nobody was there but family, would I have to cover my hair? I don't think so, but he's not sure. I've told him a million times I am never going to wear tights or pantyhose every day of the year. I generally only wear them from late October through late March. 
  3. There's a lot I don't know about him. Although, to be fair, there's an extreme amount he doesn't know about me. 

Would I be willing to go back to religious observance in order to get married? Would I really cover my glorious hair? Absolutely. Does that make me a hypocrite? Don't really care. I'm enjoying getting to know him, and I'll see where it goes. I'll have my friends do some research on him. And I'm not giving him a funny nickname, because I don't want to write about him very much on here.

In other news, my start date was pushed back to May 27, so I have almost another week free. I have to go in on May 19 for a brief meeting with HR to fill out paperwork, and May 21 for an all-day department meeting. On May 20 I'm finally taking the CASAC exam; hopefully I'll pass so they can put it on my business cards.

Overall I'm pretty happy right now. I hope that doesn't mean disaster's about to strike.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, May 09, 2014

Don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya

In other news, today was my last day in Hell. I start my new job in 10 days.

I've been at these clinics since September 2012. I brought them from a one-year license (the worse) to a three-year license (the best). And yet I've been treated like garbage the whole time. Including today:
  1. No party. No going-away present. No cake. Not even a damn card.
  2. I had to go downtown and then to midtown (corporate HQ), running from office to office and floor to floor to collect secretaries' signatures on a damn form.
  3. The dumbass union didn't tell me I needed to fax them my letter of resignation. But I can bring one in next week; I'm going there for a training.
  4. No exit interview. No interest in what my experience was. Which I guess is a relief, since I had nothing good to say and diplomacy is not my strong suit.
I'm disappointed. Trying to allow myself to feel the sadness and not push it away, so that eventually it will go away on its own.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Who is crazier than Ayelet?

I've noticed a trend among some of my friends: they are actually more irrational than I am. This shouldn't elate me as much as it does, but I just love it when I know that I am being reasonable and some "normal" people are not.  (Of course, they don't know I have bipolar disorder, and for all I know they do as well)

So far I've noticed a trend: the crazy bitches are older than I am, single, and frum. Granted, my sample size is 2, which some might not consider representative.

The first example I'll call Frumma Sara. She and I are planning a charity event involving a skill she's accomplished at, whereas I am not -- crocheting. I saw a funny series of photos showing pristine examples of beautifully crocheted items juxtaposed with the wretched attempts of ordinary people to imitate them. Needless to say, there's not much of a resemblance.

I posted the article on Frumma Sara's Facebook page and jokingly suggested that we have a competition: pick a project, she and I will both try to make it, and we'll see whose end result more resembles perfection. (Hint: It won't be mine.) She thought it was a great idea and suggested we invite people to watch and/or crochet with us for a nominal fee to raise money for charity.

Fine, whatever. I have already proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that I can't crochet. When I was a social work intern, several of the program clients were skillful crocheters. One gentleman used to make pocket money while living in a homeless shelter by crocheting slippers for other residents. So I was given some petty cash to buy needles and yarn, and we all got together to crochet. That is, the clients crocheted and tried to teach me how to crochet. I made a big deformed thumb.

Because I was a smart person attending graduate school and providing psychotherapy and clinical case management to the clients, they assumed I was pretending to suck at crocheting. I assured them that I was honestly trying as hard as I could. Unfortunately, that did not result in an attractive product.

I thought it was a good object lesson for them. It's important to try new things but to be ready to fail, to understand and accept your limitations. It's okay not to excel at absolutely everything. I wanted the clients to know that yes, they had major mental disorders and substance use histories, they'd been homeless, they'd been arrested and gone to prison -- but they could crochet, and I could not.

So I told Frumma Sara that people who want to learn to crochet should watch her, and people who want a good laugh should watch me trying to follow the instructions. She sent me this email:

Let's talk more seriously about the event. In the meantime, my dear, please do not post foul language on your page. I recognize that you are trying to show what a moron the OK Cupid guy is but must you repeat verbatim his lewdness? I have a policy that I unfriend those who curse. So if you are not going to be on the chopping block, consider more elegant ways of expressing disgust with idiotic men. I think there must some... No?! Anyway, my number is 718-xxx-xxxx. It is more likely that I will be available in August as now I have a big project due in July. Thanks.

She's referring to a message I received recently from a 25-year-old, which I duly posted to show my married friends what I endure as a single person, and to receive commiseration from my single female friends. I'll paraphrase it as "You are so fucking hot."

I've had at least one friend apologetically tell me he couldn't be Facebook friends with me because the internet censor he and his wife installed on their computer (they have children) blocks profanity. Fine, whatever, I understand. But he didn't tell me to stop cursing.

I am a grown-ass woman, and if I want to use profanity on my Facebook page, nobody is going to stop me. Immediately I blocked her from receiving my status updates, although I'm not sure how much I'd mind if she unfriended me. Honestly, she could block my updates from her feed. Who does she think she is?

However, the crazy light in Frumma Sara's eyes is dimmed by the glare from my former friend Machla. I assume she's a former friend because she blocked me after our latest email exchange. What set her off? My birthday party. I created an event on Facebook and invited some friends to join me. She sent me this:

Machla: Hi you know when it was your birthday I took you out to a really nice restaurant. And you asked for my birthday at that time. (and also Facebook sent out a reminder to my Fb friends). And I was hurt when you basically ignored my birthday altogether. 

I felt awful. I hadn't written her birthday down. I assumed I'd be notified on Facebook. I didn't remember being notified.

Ayelet: When was your birthday?????? I am so sorry! My health problems have been really overwhelming from July 2013 - March 2014. I never meant to slight you.

M: Please Ayelet - you got a reminder and you had asked me for it specifically - apparently you made no note of it. But Facebook sent out a reminder to all my friends. Ayelet, I don't really care but notwithstanding your health problems you've been very active on Facebook and certainly participated in other friends' celebrations. But as i said I don't really care. I hope you're feeling better. 

Whoa. Epic way to hold a grudge: monitoring my participation on Facebook and concluding I'm ignoring her. Also, clearly she does care, so why the passive aggression?

A: I'm really, really sorry. Is there any way I can make it up to you? 

What  else can I do?

M: There's no need to. Let's just forget it. 

I guess I could have stopped with that. But I knew she was still upset, and she had taken me out to a very lavish lunch -- I wanted to try to atone for my wrongdoing.

A: I don't remember getting a reminder. You know I value your friendship and would want to celebrate with you. 

M: I don't know any such thing. I know that I went out of my way to try to make your birthday special, and even offered to organize a group (but you said you had done that the year before so preferred more private celebrations). And my birthday was totally ignored. I would think you would've at least put it in your phone somewhere if you had asked me for it. And the Fb reminder went out to all my Fb friends. And you're on Fb daily. 

You don't know any such thing? After I tried to schedule coffee with you for months last autumn, and you kept making plans with me, then canceling them? After I brought you a really gorgeous and expensive hostess gift -- coral bracelets to match the coral handbag you carried to my infamous birthday lunch -- when I attended a meal at your apartment? Yes, I'm on FB a lot. That doesn't mean I remember everything.

A: When is your birthday? Can I try to figure out what happened? 

M: It's irrelevant but it's in January.

Not irrelevant. I was paralyzed by depression this past January.

A: Machla, in January I was profoundly sick from a medication my doctor put me on and then got even worse when it was discontinued. Can I celebrate your half-birthday with you? 

M: I'm sorry you were sick - but I just looked at your Fb page you made 4 posts ON my birthday. And I don't want to suffer further humiliation of your forgetting the half-birthday as well. Let's just forget it. Apparently you made no note of it anywhere even though you made a point of asking me as I left you after we went to the restaurant. It's not important. It was only my birthday.

"Suffer further humiliation" when I forget her half-birthday? I don't think I will ever forget her birthday or half-birthday. I'm starting to think that nothing I do or say is going to calm her down.

A: Obviously you're very angry, so I'm not going to ask you to dan l'kaf zechut. I would hope we could discuss it more calmly at another time. And I'm going to end this conversation for the time being. 

Kinda like Yaffa did when I went apeshit on her.

M: I am not angry. But if you say you were inactive on Fb at the time, it's just not so. 

Stop lying to me. And activity on FB is hardly a way to judge someone's psychiatric or medical state.

A: I wasn't inactive on FB. I do not remember receiving notification that it was your birthday. 

M: I understand - but you somehow missed wherever it was that you noted my birthday as well... you missed both things? anyway it's fine - I don't care. 

A: You obviously do care, and it's not fine. Apparently there's no explanation that could satisfy you or no substitution. I'm very sorry I missed your birthday. January was a very difficult month for me; don't judge a person by their FB posts. 

M: My friends took me out to a film and to a nice restaurant. 

Okay, so at least I didn't completely ruin her birthday.

A: Are you sure I was invited? 

M: You weren't invited to it. You don't know any of my other friends. They surprised me with it and I didn't ask them to invite anyone. But since we had celebrated privately when it was your birthday, I thought at the very least that you would wish me a happy birthday. But really it's been a year since your birthday I would think you would've realized that mine must've occurred somewhere in between your birthdays, but you just blithely invited me now to celebrate yours again without making any mention of mine! This is why I said something. 

Quite honestly, I don't know that I care to work on a friendship with a person like this. I know I'm narcissistic, but this is astonishing. I understand wanting reciprocity, but there is no excuse for attacking like this, being so hostile and passive-aggressive and nitpicky.

A: All I can say is that I'm very sorry I didn't remember your birthday during what was a very difficult time in my life. I was throwing up and experiencing weakness and other miserable side effects. 

Your birthday isn't listed on Facebook, which is what I kind of rely on to remind me of my friends' birthdays. I invited you because I thought we were friends. But if this is the way you nurse a grudge, then clearly I need to reevaluate that. 

A friend would have told me right away that she was a little hurt I forgot her birthday. And given me a chance to make it up to her, instead of saying, "No, it's too late, it's fine." 

M: Well I am your friend. And I don't feel a friend should ask her friend to do something for her - if the friend truly feels like doing something, the friend should do it. But no one should ask someone to do something for him or her. I would think you would've realized this yourself. But forget it, I'm sorry I mentioned it. Really Ayelet I do regard you as my friend. 

A: Then I don't understand why you attacked me like this. I didn't blithely invite you to my birthday party knowing I'd forgotten yours. 

M: I didn't attack you but having invited me to yours - didn't you realize you had done nothing to celebrate mine, after I had extended myself to celebrate yours with you? 

I've had enough.

A: No. I was very sick when yours happened. A lot of things fell by the wayside. It had nothing to do with you. Please leave me alone for a while. I feel like you kicked me in the stomach.

And then she blocked me.

It's a shame. Even though I always thought she was a bit weird and flaky, I liked her and respected her. She's a brilliant scientist, and we've had fun together. But I guess this is the end of the road for us.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Constipated hangover

One of the least pleasant aspects of taking codeine for knee pain, aside from its failure to fully ameliorate the pain, is the constipation that follows in its wake. Usually I can tolerate it. However, one day this week the constipation doubled down with a wicked codeine hangover, and I was truly miserable.

This happened because the day before, I took more codeine than I usually do. I'd like to think it was just because the weather has been so up and down, wreaking havoc on my knee joints. But truth be told, I had a very stressful week. I thought that after I left this job I'd feel unadulterated joy. Instead, it's hitting me that I'm really going to miss some of my counselors and patients, especially one patient that just made a very difficult decision with my encouragement. I want to see how that plays out, but I can't. I'm leaving.

So even though I took some codeine in the morning, I also took some in the evening, hoping for stress relief and a little boost of joy as well as pain relief. The next day, I had a horrendous headache, nausea, and general shakiness. My knees were killing me, but I was afraid to take more codeine. I spent a dreadful day in the clinic and was grateful for quitting time.

After several days of constipation, I felt like I was going to explode. Commuting home from work on the subway and bus was torture. The lights were too bright. Voices and noises too loud. Lurching in my seat, I was afraid I'd vomit. And pressure was building in a very delicate area of my anatomy.

The walk home from the train station is about two blocks. Every step jarred. I focused on my breathing, which was labored after painfully walking up the subway stairs to street level. Breathe in, breathe out, I thought. Almost home.

Things came to a head in the head, so to speak. When I finally sat on the toilet... nothing came out. Despite rocking back and forth, squeezing, straining, pushing, grunting, groaning, panting, etc. I started to feel like I was in labor. There was a tremendous need to expel a large mass, but nothing was moving.

My forehead was sweating. My legs, braced on the bathroom floor, were trembling. The pain waxed and waxed; it didn't wane. "Urggggghhhhh!" Another push. "AAAAAAAAAAAAkh!" Dammit. Hesitantly, desperately, I reached down to check on my progress. Nothing. It felt like a large kettleball had been installed inside me, and I couldn't push it out. I leaned back, shaking.

There was only one thing I could do. If Bobby Brown could do it for Whitney Houston, so could I. Clawing desperately inside myself, I managed to break up the mass. After a few more painful pushes, releasing a pitiful few little scraps, I finally shoved out what felt like 15 pounds of crap of varying textures and densities that clogged the toilet decisively. My hands were covered with blood and shit. I washed them and then lay down for a few hours.

So I don't think I'll ever take codeine twice in a day again. I can't imagine taking this stuff every day. Taking drugs really is a sickness, if this is one of the consequences.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

"The Pervert Loves Jazz" is not a rock opera

Pesach was pretty awesome. Jerusha was polite, cousin Yonina was tolerable, my mother kept her distance, and I had a blast with the kids and cousin Yaffa. The food was great, nobody monitored and complained about my intake. I got a fantastic new pair of glasses fairly inexpensively thanks to a Groupon. Yaffa & I went shopping together, and while we were there, she downloaded it and got herself a foxy new pair of prescription sunglasses. We saw the new musical "Aladdin," which was quite good. It was relaxing and fun.

But there was one minor incident.

My nieces & nephew love playing a card game called Anomia. (Here are the directions.) Basically, you each get cards with both a category of something, like citrus fruits or breakfast foods, and a symbol, like a green arrow. If you and another player each have a green arrow face-up, you have to give an example of something from their category. The first one to spit out a noun wins the other one's card.

It's astonishingly difficult. I would find myself explosively shrieking, "LEMON!" or "Pan... waff... SAUSAGES!" because you can't name anything that was previously named. More and more I became aware of the huge similarity between my behavior/demeanor and my mother's. It's been so long since I spent time with her, I forgot how much I resemble her most annoying traits. Which probably explains at least in part why my friend Alona loves my mom and why I'm so angry at her.

I don't want to be like my mother. Yes, she's financially very savvy; she had me start an IRA at age 16, and when I called to check on it recently, the Vanguard phone rep seemed a bit gobsmacked with the sum of my post-2009 portfolio. Apparently I had the foresight to invest in Europe before they switched over to the Euro, and then just left everything alone for decades so it could grow in peace.

Yes, she put braces on my teeth and sent me to Europe and Israel, paid for my expensive private university and part of my grad school education. She took me to the pediatrician and tried her hardest in every way but one: She brought a degenerate pervert (let's call him DP) into my life and my home. And that has had almost as many disastrous consequences as her positive actions.

One of the "Anomia" categories is "jazz musicians." The kids don't know too many jazz musicians. Frankly, I don't either when under pressure; it took me almost an hour (after the game had finished) to remember the name "Thelonious Monk." My aunt, my mother, and my niece Malkah were sitting at the dining room table, and I was in the kitchen cleaning something up, when my niece asked for names of jazz musicians for the next round. I poked my head in.

"DP loves jazz," said my mother with a shy, proud smile. Like it's such an honor for her to pay him to live in her house and sleep in her bed. Like he's such an amazing, wonderful person. Like it's an outstanding achievement attained by few; like he could actually play an instrument, not just a cassette.

I don't like hearing his name. It's like hearing the megillah reader say "Haman." So I made some noise.

"Great! The pervert loves jazz!" I said, walking into the dining room. "Fantastic! The pervert loves jazz! Good to know! How could I forget?"

I hadn't forgotten. In fact, when the category came up, I remembered DP playing his jazz cassettes and delivering interminable pointless monologues about the time he and some friends of his I don't know and don't care about heard that performer back in the 1970s, the decade he exhibited his only sliver of accomplishment by getting a bachelor's and master's in English.

"'The Pervert Loves Jazz' -- is that a rock opera?" asked Malkah. During the game, the only rock opera I could think of was "Tommy," although thanks to the news coverage of Neil Patrick Harris now I could cite "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" with relative ease.

"No, sweetie, it's not," I said, and changed the subject. She was disappointed; I need to make a list of rock operas and jazz musicians and email it to her and her siblings.

My mother was upset. She went into the kitchen and washed a bunch of dishes.

Yes, I know I need to get a therapist already.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"