Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Check, Check, Check, Check, Check and Check!

From yesterday. Please click on the photos/slides to blow them up (not literally):

Abnormal Psychology Professor's Tip, Day One: Try not to self-diagnose. Try not to diagnose your friends and loved ones. Throughout the course of the 7-week term, we will learn about a myriad of psychological and psychiatric dysfunctions and disorders. She urged us not, as so many medical students are prone, for example, to label Grandma Meredith as schizophrenic (please, she's totally bipolar). Medical students in a GI rotation are quick to "diagnose" Uncle Bob as having Barrett's (not Syd this time) Esophagus every time he complains of heartburn. OB/GYN residents assuredly tell their wives they certainly must be approximately 8 months pregnant and are ready to hook up a doppler and check for effacement, when in actuality, Honeybuns just *really* led her mid-section go to pot.

Just because my mom is meticulously trying to iron a church linen into 3 equal, perfectly aligned (symbolic of the Holy Trinity) sections doesn't mean she has OCD, though while chatting her up about today's Abnormal Psych class and watching her iron, *I* nearly had a nervous breakdown. (She finds ironing relaxing, whereas I find it gravely irritating and overwhelming. She said I have no patience. Duh! Lest we forget that Luke and I are the Duke and Duchess of Instant Gratification, as my ex-husband insists! Ironing drives me loony!)

The professor, a licensed clinical psychologist, didn't say, however, what to do if you, yourself, the student, have already been diagnosed (by professionals!) with and are being artificially, chemically balanced for a myriad of the myriad of disorders about which we'll be educated. The most information she garnered about each of the approximately 20 of us was our first names (which she indicated she'll soon forget, though she has a daughter named "Andrea," which she pronounces differently than the way my name is pronounced, ack. WHY didn't I just say my name was "Annie?"), what our prior education amounted to and why we're taking the course (I think there were only one or two other post-grads, and I was the oldest one there, and golly, the field of occupational therapy will soon be overflowing with job seekers...) and one interesting thing about each of us. (I said that I was a drummer.) At no time today during class did I forewarn the professor and my fellow students that I'm, in fact, clinically batshit crazy with like a zillion different psychological and psychiatric disorders, though she'd probably try to convince me to refer to myself as a "co-morbid, challenging patient" rather than an "impractical, barely-functioning, yet highly creative fucktard* on multiple meds who's cognitive dysfunction and memory problems from years of drug abuse and alcoholism are severely exacerbated by dooming mental illness, but is otherwise a total savant."

(*While the term "fucktard" is derogatory, I learned today that calling someone "retarded" is actually, clinically correct, though the Angels of Political Correctness like to umbrella it under "mentally handicapped," or otherwise, erroneously deem all of the mentally ill as being likewise "mentally handicapped." To call someone "borderline retarded" is *not,* in fact, incorrect or derogatory, even if they're as dumb as a stump (please, it's a joke. I beg forgiveness from the all the Dumb Stumps who read Rhythms).

I thought it best to impart my personal tidbits of insanity into the course as they came on-topic. More fun that way! Plus, my residual bipolar hypomania as of late has re-stabilized into what I like to call "As Normal As I Ever Get, Which Is Still Pretty Fucking Abnormal, But What the Hey?" The professor wanted a mini-vitae today, not my medical history. We'll save the "They actually DO throw trays of food at one another in the psych ward!" anecdotes for later. That being said, I had to laugh to myself when she showed one Power Point slide in particular, which outlined certain criteria for what is clinically considered "abnormal behavior." In my head, I checked, "Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep and YEP! That's me!"

(Thanks again to the manufacturers of the miracles that are Geodon, Lamictal, Zoloft and Estazolam, without whom....)

Yeah, that just about covers things!

As prophesied, I got up at 5:30 am this morning for my 9:45 am class, even though the Actual Annie Physically Getting Ready Process, minus coffee and writing, including eating, (though I only ate an Atkins bar and nearly gagged trying to eat an apple, read: conditional anorexia, or stress-starving.) takes only about an hour and school's only 20 minutes away from home. (Read: a combo platter: anxiety disorder & OCD.) I awakened charged after an entirely pleasant dream about scoring all-access passes to a George Harrison concert (by virtue of my association with The Flaming Lips), circa 1988, at the height of his "Cloud Nine" comeback. In my hand, I held a bunch of long-stemmed, deep purple flowers (I don't know what kind they were. But I'll bectcha anything it's a photographic memory of something I saw on the grounds of his estate, Friar Park, because brains are weird that way.) that I got in a long queue to hand to him on his tour bus.

Distinctly, I remember he was wearing his "I am an erotic being" subliminally embedded sport coat, which he did wear around that period, he was clean-shaven and when it was my turn, I handed him the flowers. I then put my hands together and offered him a Hindu blessing (kind of the equivalent of crossing yourself if you happen upon the Pope, after you smooch his ring). There was nothing to rally SuperJuls in to interpret with this dream. I honestly think George just wanted to stop in my unconscious and say "Cheerio!" as I embarked upon another chapter in my continuing education, which is a thousand times better than my usual "anxiety dream" of not being able to find my classroom on the first day of school. (An honest-to-God fear I have bordering on clinical phobia.) Thanks, George.


My GPS was on in the car, talking over my music, despite the fact that I do know how to get to the school, as I've taken a course there before and have been there dozens of times (Read: anxiety disorder.). I indeed did arrive at school 45 minutes before class in order to find my room, only to notice another class was taking place, and I couldn't enter the room, which concerned me, whereupon I went to the Enrollment Center "just to double check the room in which my class was meeting." (Read: Having an acute panic attack.) I had the room right, which was a stroke of luck, as I was triple checking the school web site yesterday to verify the room number (Read: OCD.) which had actually been changed since the LAST time I checked, uh, the day before. If only my professor had double-checked herself, as she arrived 7 minutes late, as did a few trickling students.

I poised myself in a strategic seat: 2nd row, far left end, southpaw-friendly, view of action not compromised by a computer or other heads. Normally, when I stake out a seat in a classroom, I fully plan on sitting in THAT SEAT for the entire semester. Dr. Anne, however, announced that she wished for us to regularly change seats in order to get to know one another (cue MASSIVE anxiety attack!). I, on the other hand, was quite content to acquaint myself with the 2 people nearest to me and have that suffice.  (As I've said before, despite living my life freely over the internet, in person, I can be cripplingly shy meeting new people. Read: More Generalized Anxiety Disorder, yay!)

While there is copious textbook reading material, in which, it would seem, EVERYONE has schizophrenia and we manic/depressives are largely ignored (straight up, must they use schizophrenia in every example?), the professor's lectures are all on Power Point and further, available on her page of the school's web site. Instead of schlepping our books to class, we were advised to bring our laptops, which is cool, because I type a lot faster than I hand write, and can take notes directly beneath her slides on my computer. She did ask, however, that if we plan on web surfing during class, that we poise our multi-tasking butts in the back of the room. (Good to know. For those of you who may or may not be interested, my 140-character in-class, interrupting Tweets will be limited, for I am supposed to be paying attention. If you're not following me on Twitter, I'm @AndreaMiklasz. If you're not following me, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?  It's a protected account, private to the world at large, so you have to request to follow me and I have to approve you. Expect zingers! And no, not everything will be directed towards @stevendrozd, much to his relief.)

Quizzes are largely to make sure we COME to class in the first place, and are mostly group quizzes (thank Jesus, because there's nothing I hate more, with my millions of dead brain cells, than pop quizzes). I have my first exam next Tuesday.  We're covering an astounding amount of material in a very brief period of time. The final exam is "optional" and can only enhance our grades, not decrease our overall percentage. Too early to determine if I'll need it or not, though hopes are high that I'll do better than ok.

We have to write a dry, research-based paper, on any abnormal psych topic of our choosing. I say hell, go with what you know best, research based on the case study of a 40-year old Caucasian, divorced female with a 12-year old son, with PTSD residue from being severely abused, who is Bipolar II with mixed-mood episodes (manic and depressive at the same time). I'll be ahead of my time, because that combination in manic/depressive patients is actually quite rare. Rare enough *not* to have made it into the DSM-IV, but is supposed to be addressed in 2013's DSM-V. Finally! Now, whether or not we include the co-morbidity history of multiple substance abuse (narcotics and alcohol), NSSI (the new term for self-harm, "Non-Suicidal Self-Injury," certainly kinder than "cutter"), situational/conditional anorexia, clinical depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, OCD...actually, that might actually make up one's doctoral dissertation, not an undergrad-level research paper.

What'll be certainly more fun is the presentation of the topic of the paper, during which we have to Power Point our way or something through the disorder and make it sound interesting in order to teach the professor and students something they didn't already know about the chosen topic. I'm already thinking of Jonah Lehrer's Imagine: How Creativity Works and, as previously blogged, the connection he correlated between bipolar disorder and the emergence of prolific and influential art and creativity.

What fascinated me today was the slide on the normal distribution curve, which I probably haven't seen since my one math class at Knox. Odd that I enjoyed it, or what's more, I understood it, given it's math-related.

At last! Empirical data supporting the theory that I am an individual who falls into both opposite ends of the abnormality spectrum. My psychiatric disorders place me at the low end of the negative curve at approximately -1.7%, a representation of extreme behaviors/mental illnesses (the -0.1 is where the mentally retarded fall). I fall into the "normal" category, as I sat and thought about it, in as much as I'm average-looking, an average cook and use an average amount of Chapstick. At the other end of the standard deviation chart, I fall into the approximately +0.5% in terms of my intelligence quotient and prolific creative output. (which has been tested, of course, by professionals. My son, who is in the process of being extensively tested, will most likely fall into the same percentile. That +0.1%? Those are the way-out-there-super geniuses. It's important to note two things regarding this chart: 1) Mental retardation is considered a deviant behavior or condition in society. 2) Being considered gifted or a genius is not a deviancy. This puzzles me, because technically, they're both "abnormal.") 

So that was the first day of Abnormal Psychology. I did my homework and survived. Thank you to Balderdash & Verities for the yellow highlighter I used in my book. Since you fired me over diarrhea medication, why not have the police come after me for a stolen office supply? Oh wait. Yeah. I still have those 18 pages of data about you all stalking me on the internet. Never mind! (Not that ya'll read me anymore, which is most relieving.)

In other news, I went to FINALLY pick up my much-needed Lomotil (the legendary pill that got me fired) and couldn't help but notice something in the entrance of Jewel/Osco, between the doors. Note: If something random says "ECOLAB" on it, it's a pest-control company. What was betwixt the doors? A giant rat trap. That bodes well and welcomes shoppers for sure. Hello, my groceries will be coming from Dominick's or Trader Joe's henceforth. I love me some serious Trader Joe's, but I harbor a MAJOR intolerance for the tiny carts they allow mini-shoppers (read: kids under 4' tall) to use, which unfailingly get in my way during my shopping experience. Mommy and Skylar (God, I hate that name!) are haplessly meandering through the store, whereas I know what I need, I'm trying to get to it and your toddler and her organic raspberries are in my fucking way. In an effort to alleviate my aggravation, I hypothesized about the following policy being enacted at Trader Joe's: a mandatory rest period. Kind of like what they have at public swimming pools. Once an hour, for 15 minutes, all the kiddies have to leave the establishment, allowing only those over the age of 18 to shop in peace. (That's roughly how long it takes me to grocery shop there anyway.) Bingo! Problem solved. As per my psych book, I could always test my hypothesis on rats, which I evidently would have no trouble finding at Jewel/Osco. 

At least school's getting me out of the house and interacting with individuals of a reasonable level of intellectualism, though today was only the first day, and I haven't gotten to know my fellow students yet, because that's too scary. I told my neighbor, "But they're all KIDS!" to which she replied, "Eh, you look like a kid, you'll be fine." I'm ok at acquaintance-making. I just have otherworldly anxiety over it.

No, I will not participate in "study groups," thank you.

PS, Guy Friend? We still need to make plans to make plans. Like soon.

Stay tuned for more fascinating updates from the world of Abnormal Psychology and how it relates to the Offbeat Drummer.  For now, I have more deviant behavior in which to engage. Shalom!

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