Chaos in Action

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Categories: The Learning

On the October 22nd Common Day, I presented a paper for consideration for publication in the Silberman social work journal Voices; it is entitled “Chaos in Action: An Examination of Co-occurring Bipolar II Disorder & Alcoholism.” The presentation went well, and the Q & A afterwards lasted for years, so my fingers are crossed that the Voices board will accept my work. Here’s the Prezi that went along with the jillion index cards I put together for the presentation. Luckily, I had what I wanted to discuss easily accessible to my conscious mind because I left a whole section of index cards in the library (I retrieved them later), and my Prezi wouldn’t work on the computer in the room. It took some gathering of myself, but I pulled it off.

Considering the topic, I was crazy nervous. But self-disclosure – “radical disclosure” – is an agenda I intend to push. Disclose the shame away. I’m totally singing that in my head to the tune of a Peaches song that is absolutely inappropriate.

Anyhoo, here’s the Prezi:

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They’re quite aware of what they’re going through….

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Categories: The Learning

I am a member of the Student-Faculty Senate and the student representative to the Faculty Curriculum Committee at Silberman. Our Common Day was yesterday, and I found myself furious by the end of the day. What I’m posting below is what I almost sent out to the Student Senators but decided to keep for myself – a cathartic rather than confrontive endeavor. Writing it did, indeed, help, but I remain disappointed in a member of the school’s administration for having felt a need to attempt manipulation of a student representative, which seems to me entirely inappropriate, and I’m also fairly disappointed in one of my peers for taking the stance that a student voice ought to be silenced. Namely, my voice. Before I post the letter, here’s a picture of a t-shirt I received for my donations to the Obama campaign; it is one of my more favored possessions:

One Voice 1

And the letter (edited for privacy):

My Fellow Senators –

Something has been voiced to me that causes me great concern regarding the nature of our role as student senators and in particular the role of the student representative to the Faculty Curriculum Committee. I believe our role is to present views upon our best information, which is necessarily a personal decision. I believe the notion that we democratically speak for the student body is a misconception. Unless one of us has an ability of which I am unaware, none of us are aware of the wishes of a majority of our entire student body, hence no decision we make is fully democratic but rather is based upon our best-informed judgment.

Two situations in particular concern me: one from the Common Day forum and one from the October 20th Faculty Curriculum Committee meeting. At the Common Day forum I voiced my opposition to the survey result of the question concerning whether or not our Policy I course thoroughly covers the US governmental process. Seventy-four percent of the roughly 25% of the student body who took the survey believes Policy I does, in fact, comprehensively cover the topic. I disagree and stated so, which prompted Professor L., who teaches Policy I, to tell us he agrees with me and will talk to Professor A. about the concern to see if the governmental process might be covered more in-depth. Only a positive result can come from this conversation, in my opinion, and it would have been remiss of me to keep my disagreement to myself considering when I was voted into Senate, getting Policy I to more comprehensively cover the governmental process was on my platform.

Next there is the Faculty Curriculum Committee meeting. At one point I said, “I’m going to switch from democratic mode of speaking for the student body to republic mode of speaking for myself.” This occasion was prompted during a discussion of Silberman switching to letter grades. I stated that I am for it and told the committee why, at which point Professor G. thanked me (he seems to want the change). On the second occasion, which was regarding whether or not there is enough integration of the classes, I stated, “Back to republic mode” and told the committee that the curriculum and the faculty have offered us the tools to connect the classes and various curricula. I told them we do have the ability to connect the classes, and that it is an academic responsibility of students to form this connection for themselves. I do not believe anyone can “speak for the student body” on this topic since we all have various and different sets of professors, hence me making it unmistakably clear – to my mind – that I was speaking solely for myself.

If this body agrees that in our roles as Student Senators we are to be but vessels for what we assume the student body desires, and are to silence our own voices as students, I will respect that as the body’s decision; however, I vehemently disagree, and I believe the notion goes against an essential component of our responsibility as social workers. I hope we are all passionate about following our directive to value our clients’ inherent worth and helping them to do so, as well. We should not silence our own voices; we would be debasing our own worth by devaluing through silence our own beliefs. That would be a worrying state of affairs at any school of social work and particularly at Silberman.

Having offered my very strong opinions – passionate beliefs, really – I will get to the point: the position of student representative to the Faculty Curriculum Committee. Perhaps this isn’t even an issue for any of you and the bearer of this news, who was neither a Student Senator nor Faculty, was out of place. But if it is an issue for any of you, and you strongly believe the student representative should be only a vessel for whatever student body opinion we assume is held by a majority of our peers, and that the position requires that we silence our own voices in pursuit of pushing that assumption, please call a vote to replace me. I will always present the student perspective as best I assume it to be, and I will certainly bring back to the Senate what is said in the meetings, but under no circumstances will I devalue my own perspectives.

I realize I have presented this in negative terms, but consequences must always be considered, and the consequences of an opposing view, as I believe them to be, are what I presented here. It would be very disappointing, certainly, if such a vote occurred, but I know this would be a well-considered decision based upon theoretical and professional beliefs. I would not take it as a personal rebuke.

I want this body’s backing if I am to remain in this position, and at the moment I am uncertain I have that.



Once Upon a Time….

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Categories: The Learning

It has been a while. My internship is the most important thing to note. I am enjoying it quite a lot, and I’m confident I am going to learn a tremendous amount that will be super helpful to me; however, there is something boiling in the back of my brain about this placement. I am sleeping terribly every night before placement. Sleep before school days – perfecto. Weekend sleep – perfecto. I’m concerned, so I have scheduled a long overdue appointment with my Head Doc. My moods have been erratic, and I think it might be from alcoholism-related concerns stirred up by my internship rather than from bipolar disorder.

There have been a few internship experiences of note. The first was sitting in a room for a prescreening with a well-groomed, well-spoken man wanting to cease his medication in order to start working (the medications made him too tired to work). The only negativity the man exhibited was in explaining his girlfriend’s negativity. About 20 minutes into the session, the man indicated that the girlfriend was sitting next to him telling him negative things about the possible outcome of our program. I found myself nervous throughout the rest of the session.

The next experience of note occurred in an art therapy group. The participants were asked to draw what they were feeling. One of the members showed a drawing of her family “the way [she] wishes they were but knows they will never be.” My heart ached.

Next was a blow-up in the anger management group, which is amusing in its way. Easiest way to describe it: a woman, in the anger management group, screaming – yes, screaming – “I. Am. Not. Angry!” I feel a bit guilty for having been so amused.

Also, I sat in on an intake session for a man who is such a chauvinist, but he’s actually kind of amusing. The points of interest: he called the other social worker in the room (a woman) gorgeous, he asked us (the social workers) if we’d like to go for a drink when the session was over, and as I made his next appointment he accused me of being high. I told him that I of course was not, at which he smiled and said, “It’s Friday…it’s OK, right?” I actually asked my supervisor if this guy can be one of my individual clients because I think it’ll be great experience. She said yes. So I have my first client!

Finally, I ran my first solo group today. A couple of the clients were testing my boundaries, I think, but all-in-all I think it went well. There was, though, a lot of advocacy of methadone hoarding; I had to turn the conversation away from that several times, and I found myself growing even more concerned about the harm reduction model after the group. Learning to either appreciate or understanding my qualms about harm reduction is the reason I wanted this internship, though, right? Right.


First Day

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Categories: The Learning

Today was the first day back at school. I was so ready. Interestingly, in my first class a peer mentioned research he had helped conduct on the connection between boredom and relapse. I hadn’t linked my boredom to my recent thoughts (very frequent thoughts) of alcohol, and after hearing it, I thought Wow, that was obvious! This might have been a circumstance of my addict mind totally pulling the wool in front on my logical mind’s eye. Perhaps the psychic energy involved in maintaining my sobriety was the cause of my bad moods?

So about school….I’m confident – so far – that I’m going to like my Research and my Human Sexuality professors. Time shall tell.

By far the best thing about today was seeing all my peers again – learning about their summers, discussing with them recent goings on in the world, gossiping. After classes a group of us went to a bar to socialize and celebrate being back. I had these tasty beef arepitas that kind of blew my mind, particularly since I hadn’t a clue what they were before they landed in front of me. I sat behind a long table, pretty much trapped, and I found myself feeling safe and comfortable. What I mean to convey is that being in a bar wasn’t at all uncomfortable for me. This particular place is where we also celebrated having finished our first year, and on that occasion I was uncomfortable. Notably, I was exhausted then, but also, it was tremendously helpful having nibbles and keeping myself surrounded by friends rather than exposed to the room.

I made the journey home with a couple of folks who I’d not seen all summer and who I like quite a lot, so that was fun. One of them, Dara, and I were about to get into a likely juicy discussion of the Israeli aggression against the Palestinians…pretty sure she thinks as do I. I’m anxious to get back to that one!