Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Rare Case Where Something Actually Works Out Smoothly. Er, Mostly.

Yesterday, as I walked into the Adler School of Professional Psychology for the last step in my Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology application process, I was wracked with nerves, and checked in with the receptionist at the front entrance desk. I hadn't remembered her, but she remembered me having been at the winter school tour/meet-and-greet/Q&A with my mom. I told her I had an admissions interview and asked for Jake, my admissions counselor. "You're gonna do FINE," she said. "I'l bet you come back down and you'll have good news!" she said. I was hesitant but knew I was supposed to go to the 15th floor and didn't need directions.

Jake came to fetch me as I sat twitching and texting friends after about 15 minutes, directing me to the office of the Chairperson of the Counseling Psychology Department. I anticipated being interviewed by a panel of people, so to find out it was a one-on-one interview was actually relieving. I could see she had a series of green papers, stapled together, that included questions, lines for answers, and grading scales from 1-6 on them rating my responses to her questions. 

Not typically the best interviewee (at Balderdash & Verities? "I'm really good with old people!" when in actuality, they sort of drive me batty), I animatedly poured out my inner psycho-smartypants half-assed extrovert and jibba-jabba'd my way through questions ranging from how I would adapt to providing therapy in a cultural or socioeconomic situation to which I was not accustomed or comfortable (the "Listen, sister, I endured a psych ward detoxing from alcohol with every race, creed & color out there, witnessed what would otherwise permanently scar a lesser character, accidentally OD'd & shook from the effects of Narcan,  & have more practical lunacy with which to draw from than, I guarantee you, any of your other present applicants"), and why I thought psychology was a science ("Duh, it's in helping people who have brain illnesses, which are no different than any other bodily diseases and should be treated with as much dignity, as many ethics and the same compassion as patients with epilepsy, diabetes or cancer, and my belief is that psychologists should work more in tandem with psychiatrists in constructing a holistic, well-rounded treatment plan instead of blindly Rx'ing medication after medication until someone finally juggles with and cracks the right egg.")

(Aside: I'm watching "The Dark Knight" with Luke, as we watched "Batman Begins" the other night, and I asked Luke if Morgan Freeman's character was made CEO of Wayne Enterprises, given he was a lowly techie in the basement in the last film. Luke just looked at me and said, "That's Morgan Freeman." Yes, I suppose that's reason enough...don't mind me, dumb question.)

The Chair asked me what my opinion was of Alderian psychology methods. I was honest with her and told her that in the 2 psychology classes I'd taken thus far, while I knew who Adler was, we hadn't comprehensively studied his methods, or really had gone into deep analysis of any particular theorist's methods. It wasn't held against me, as she glanced at my Knox transcript and saw that my degree was in English-Writing, and I believe my retort thereafter was something about how fascinating I found Abnormal Psychology, because I learned so much about what's wrong with me and, after being prompted, I explained why I wanted to work with patients grappling addictions and substance abuse in particular, to which I alluded in my entrance essay. 

I told her, "I'm coming to Adler as a PATIENT, first and foremost. To LEARN to be a clinician." What, I told her, stood out when she asked me why I was choosing The Adler School, was what I repeated from my essay: that on Medicaid and a perpetual in-therapy intern's guinea pig, I'd worked with student therapists from the 3 major schools in Chicago specializing in training and licensing psychologists, and it was my honest critique that my Adler intern was the best of the lot, as I've said in previous blogs. I complimented the Chair and the school for how they trained her to conform her therapeutic approach to my many moods and that, at any given session, a different, more complex version of Annie would walk in (no, I don't have multiple personalities, just rapidly shifting moods), and I told the Chair that while cognitive behavioral therapy is the most widely studied and practiced approach to therapy right now, the seeming cure-all, it doesn't necessarily work for everyone, and while I thought it had been effective on me in some respects, there were times when Elena and I would shift to behavioralism, or just talk therapy, or no structure at all...

When she noticed that I was keenly observing what she was penning, my eyes rapidly shifting, my hands in motion, reading upside down and alternating that with looking her straight in the eyes, she began to tilt her paper upwards, in order for me not to view her comments, making it difficult for her to write. It was such a flurry, and with me, flurries induce temporary amnesia, that I honestly couldn't tell you the rest of the questions she asked me from her list, other than her wrap-up question, which was to tell her something special about myself that I hadn't mentioned in my entrance essay, nor had (most likely) those who recommended me had said. I told her that I was a passionate musician, at which time, she wrote down "a passionate musician." I told her how I taught myself how to play the drums before my legs were long enough to reach the pedals, and I'd practice and play whenever my brother or folks weren't around, and that after a church friend saw me play on her son's toy kit, I was encouraged to answer the call to the music ministry at my church, upped and joined our Praise Band, never having played in public before, and nearing 7 years with the band as of right now. I explained to her that I think in song. I think poetically. Yet I can think objectively and critique fairly. 

We dabbled with my Knox transcript and she flat out told me the grades I received as an undergrad were pretty much shit. I put my finger on the transcript and told her, "That young woman, in those records, is not THIS woman (pointing at my chest) as a student anymore." That I somehow managed bipolar disorder by self-medicating for almost 20 years with drugs and alcohol. That even now, balanced and medicated, I have symptomatic episodes, and that when they strike me, with either hypomania or depression, I get hit hard and cycle very rapidly. I told her that it was my belief that everyone deserves a second shot at this life, and that I felt called (yes, political correctness be damned) by my God to enter into this profession. I said, "My comorbidity as a psychiatric patient and recovering addict/alcoholic isn't an isolated occurrence." That it happens "more often than not." I sold myself on the notion that my perspective and personal experience did a lot of the training that will be foreign concepts to many of the new Adler students, but that I was uniquely capable of extending empathy and care to my patients. I told her that my undergrad grades are not remotely a present-day signature of my intelligence, intellectual ability or capability of handling graduate-level coursework. In essence, "bring it on." 

I was given the opportunity to ask my own questions, which were all more or less of semantics and practicality, and she said it was a pleasure to meet me, was glad I was interested in the school, and that she'd make a decision soon. I was escorted back to Jake, who sat and penned out my next steps in the event I would be accepted, which he was already confident I was. He said it normally takes 12-24 hours for an admission decision, but not to panic, given classes start Monday. He shepherded me to the financial aid office and said he'd see if he could find out any more information. He barged in on us in the aid office and said, "Guess why I'm smiling! It took her 10 minutes to decide. She really, really likes you. You're in!" 

I gave him a hug, finished with financial aid, and was handed materials regarding the mandatory orientation later this week, during which I will meet my fellow new students, be assigned an advisor, or "cohort" as they call them, learn the ins/outs of the Adler School (including the free yoga/meditation studio), and then embark on a (yawn fest, please, I live here) double decker bus tour of Chicago. Luckily, Friday's orientation events are all elective, and I think I can skip yet another architectural boat tour of Chicago, having been permanently scarred by how I froze my ass off with Chris and our friend Sharon on one a few years ago. No thanks.

I went back down to leave and again ran into the receptionist, who's name is Ivy, by the way, and who has amazing intuition. I threw my hands up in the air and said, "I made it!" and she said she knew I would. I briefly explained why I wanted to be a psychologist, and she wisely said, "It's God's time. It's your time. To pay it forward, pay it forward." Which is exactly what I plan to do. Not only to prove all my naysayers wrong, those who regard me as an utter failure, and make up for the mistakes I made years ago. I'm becoming a therapist to assist and care for all the people I will meet who desperately need the listening, wise ear and expertise that I will provide to my patients. Ivy said we'd be seeing a lot of one another soon, and she was genuinely thrilled, as was I. 

Immediately, as I found a quiet smoke hole, I texted family and friends about what happened. Talking to Guy Friend would have to wait, since his cell phone pooped out and he's awaiting a new one (but he called me today). Best Male Friend knew. Everyone else who mattered knew before I got on the subway to go back home, and I texted my Facebook status update with the news as well. Everyone knew except my mother, whom I wanted to tell in person, and Kate, whom I had to email. What I thought was a very good omen and fitting send-off awaiting my train? A street performer in the subway with an acoustic/electric guitar and a microphone, who, as I came down onto the platform, began singing "My Sweet Lord." I was SO close to jumping in with the Hare Krishna part but alas, my train came. My mom burst into elated tears when I got home, an unusual move for her, as she's usually crying out of desperation or anger towards something I've fucked up or how I've behaved against her grain. "Prove them all wrong," she said. 

Today, I reflected on what this first semester will include: 6 classes (2 online, 4 on-campus), a campus work-study part-time job, taking care of my son, playing in my band and somehow finding my way to things like AA meetings and even my own therapy, though some friends have suggested I just talk to myself and be a self-therapist. Please, that's fine. I talk to myself all the time. The elusive visit with a new psychiatrist I'd been trying to book for 4 months conflicts with school and has to be rescheduled, as I can't miss class. Guy Friend was expecting me to be frantic, manic and frazzled when he called, when I'd actually just received my schedule and was working on my financial aid. I thanked him again for his wonderful letter of recommendation, and we said we'd take a look at our schedules after Labor Day to get together again. 

My mom thinks I should abandon the blog while I'm in school. I disagree, for this is my little sanity outlet. It's part of *how* I take care of myself. To not internalize my feelings. For sure, posts will be less frequent and maybe a week will be condensed into one sequential blog, but I told my mom that writing helps keep me sane, and if I couldn't write for leisure, I wouldn't be sane anymore. I told her that my mental health and stability had to be taken care of in order for me to be a successful student. Journaling, actually, will be part of my coursework; now, whether that winds up on "Rhythms" or in a notebook, I don't know yet.

I'm too tired to check in on Slow Nerve Action's web pissing in the Lips forum today. All I can tell of the blog as that the hits are coming in the hundreds the last week versus a few dozen visits a day, most of which are still coming, for some reason, from Slow Nerve Action, even after they banned me and took my related posts down. I think some of the Lips fans are looking for more information, more juice on drugs and the band. Sorry, I have none. The only energy between Steven and myself in the last 24 hours was my good news text, which he said he thought was "good news!"  If he's mad at me because of the whole board/blog clusterfuck, I'd have known that by now. But he's not that kind of guy. Slow Nerve? Slow day.

And it was. For once. Something worked out as it was supposed to. I managed it all. Now I just have to MANAGE it. Sanely and successfully. A B average is the minimum GPA Adler will accept. You get a C and you're on probation. You get caught checking Facebook in class and you get a wrist slap. I'm not paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to dick around, y'all, after all...


Aaron S. Cohn said...

Congratulations! We're actually at very similar stages in our careers. You are not alone! :-)

Kate said...

Way to Go Andrea!
Not surprised at all ! I am banking on you improving the
"Alderian psychology methods ".
How about "The Miklaszian
psychology methods ". Now this is the perfect setting to exercise your anarchist tendencies ! Enjoy your success and be proud of yourself. Congratulations . I am so happy and proud of you . I knew you would do this .

Andrea Miklasz said...

Thank you thank you thank you!!!

"Miklaszian" sounds so European, doesn't it? :)

Off to New Student Orientation!


best male friend said...

I like Miklaszian. It's got a nice ring to it, soldier. Now come up with something revolutionary!