Well, it’s certainly been quite an interesting week since my last post. I’ve started improv classes, was betrayed by a work frenemy, started my journey on Bumble, ended my post-doc fellowship, and saw Katiya at a drag show (thereby inspiring me to become a bio-queen).
I’ve only had one class so far and I’m already hooked. There’s about 12 of us, all from different walks of life. There’s other working professionals – doctors, lawyers, neuroscientists, hair stylists, librarians. I didn’t disclose that I am a post-doc fellow or in the field of psychology because I didn’t want the profession associated with me, my name, the energy I bring into the space, or to have any of the expectations, assumptions, and stereotypes ascribed to me unfairly. I wanted a clean slate, and I got one.
We played so many different introductory games that helped us all ease into the work. We played a game in which we split into teams of four and has to come up with an infomercial including a jingle, celebrity endorser, and at least three different ways to use the product. My team was assigned the object of a “toaster.” We called our product the “Hamilton Hand and Hair Heater” in which we could put our hands in the toaster for warmth in the Michigan winters and with barely any blisters, put our hair in the toaster for an easy-crimp with less split ends and more burnt ends, and as a combo murder-suicide option to throw in the bathtub if someone wanted to end it all. The last two games we played were called “World’s Worst [Profession]” and “Freeze.” I enjoyed these two games the most, because this was where we got to let our creative juices flow and really go all the way in ridiculousness. I believe these last two games will be mandatory for the big show on Tuesday 9/19 at 7:30pm at Pointless Brewery and Theater. I can’t fucking wait!
I’m lucky to have the improv instructor that I do for a beginner’s class. I’ll call her Miss Lit, because she’s a litigator by day, and a weird-as-hell funny-ass-bitch at night. She doesn’t get paid to do this work because she loves what she does, and that’s pretty goddamn inspiring. Needless to say, I think I’ve found my tribe. She called improv as an activity for “misfits,” and that really suites me. I’m slowly learning to step into my element here.. to be goofy, weird, and absolutely ridiculous – because that’s improv! It’s already helping me with my confidence and audacity to trust myself. It’s the ultimate exposure for me because I suffer from performance anxiety and social anxiety, even though I’m an entertainer-at-heart and I’m meant to live on that stage. I will be releasing an episode on my experiences with improv soon, so mtbr on that.
This story is not brief, so scroll down if you’d like to skip it, although I’m not sure you would because it’s quite dramatic.
Small disclaimer: I don’t want anyone coming to me saying I revealed private or personal information of anyone else, so please know that I’m speaking from my own experiences – my observations, the impact these events had on me, how I got through it, and what I’ve learned moving forward.
There are just over a handful of former co-workers who follow me on snapchat. I only started snapchatting about a year ago. The purpose was to have a creative outlet to express myself to a close knit group of friends and family whom I thought I could trust. It’s honestly the only way I’ve managed to get through the difficulties of my job and the horrors of our current state of affairs in the nation and the world. So far, I’ve received feedback that my snaps are entertaining and/or thought-provoking.
I’ve always been hesitant to accept people from work on social media, particularly on snapchat. There’s an expectation or assumption that snapchat allows users to post some impulsive, wacky, and ridiculous shit – mainly because it’s here one day and gone the next. As you’ve probably seen from other blog posts, I upload many of my snaps from the past few weeks, and it includes my experiences with the “here-and-now” – whether I’m at work, driving in my car, out and about in the world, with friends, or am at home with my catboy, Mr. Smithers. Check out this blog post (Snapchat is my Psyche) for more info.
The transient nature of this outlet attracted me, so it’s really unlike posting to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter where it can exist forever. Plus, I liked having the “control” of knowing who watches my snaps, which makes me feel like I can be my full self in any particular moment. But this means that I have to trust whoever’s on the other end. So, it was my mistake accepting one co-worker who, instead of coming to me with an issue they had with my snaps earlier this week, blew my snaps out of proportion and narked to my superiors. I don’t think this person was alone, either. My suspicion is that this person showed my snaps to another co-worker, who does not follow me on snapchat as I blocked them not soon after approving them, and that the two of them conspired against me (paranoid, much? i think not, actually).
For some context: earlier this week, I posted a series of snapchat rants about my experiences working with folks who, in so many words, may have personality characteristics that require special attention during the interaction, and with whom I have a history of feeling a certain type of way when interacting (e.g., manipulated, exploited, used and confused). Some may see this as negative, whereas others, especially those in the field of mental health, understand this all too well and consider it part of a day’s work.
(I thought of posting the snapchats here, but I’m still debating if that’s a good idea or not – so I’ve posted an excerpt instead. This whole ordeal is teaching me about what I can or cannot post, what’s considered private/confidential of others and what’s considered commentary on my lived experiences. It’s quite complicated actually and gives me a lot of anxiety about whether I should continue this plogcast and be a licensed clinician at the same time.)
In the past, I’ve received no complaints when expressing myself through snapchat about my job or anything else for that matter (because I don’t post shit that could get me in trouble). However, in my last week as a trainee, this co-worker took it upon themselves to go behind my back and tell my authorities about it, all the while leaving out vital context, which I believe was intended to make me look “unprofessional.” Naturally, the authorities came to me with “care and concern,” even though I left feeling judged and ashamed.
Now let me be clear: I *never* reveal any confidential or personal information about my clients because I. am. not. an. idiot. I know better. But! I do speak to my experiences in a way that comments on my initial reactions (as colorful as they may be), the thought processing leading me to a better understanding, and my “working through it” by using humor and mindfulness self-compassion. So, for the most part these rants end positively. And I do this for a reason. Much like what I’m doing on this plogcast: to document events that happen to me/I observe/witness/experience, the impact it has on me/others/the world, how I am getting/or got through it (aka my resiliency), and what I’ve learned about it all (aka insight and wisdom for the future).
Needless to say, I felt completely embarrassed and betrayed. My superiors were just trying to understand my thought process behind posting on snapchat because they were more concerned about future trainees and the use of social media, particularly snapchat. You see, social media is relatively new to the field and considered a “grey” area because there’s really no hard-and-fast rule in the Ethics codes about this just yet. My superiors tried framing this dialogue in this larger context rather than pointing the finger at me saying that I did something unethical or unprofessional. I’ve accepted the role of a scapegoat, which is the story of my life. Obviously, I felt blindsided and overwhelmed with emotion because of the betrayal. I could rule out who it wasn’t, as far as the co-workers who follow me on snapchat, because I truly believe I can trust (most of) them. So naturally, my mind went to the one person – someone who has an interesting history with me from the beginning (I could go off about this person but I’m choosing to let it go because they’re pretty much dead to me now).
I interpreted this act of betrayal as vindictive and sneaky. Their actions led me to believe that they don’t respect me or value the relationship, and that by going to my superiors, they don’t have to deal with the consequences for themselves because we’d never really see or talk to each other again once the training year was over (it’s mutual, I’m sure). I’m salty as hell.
Also, according to the Ethics codes, if there is something blatantly unethical (e.g., sleeping with a client, taking home confidential information and losing it, etc.), that’s enough to go straight to the institutional authority or licensing board. But! if there’s something that’s more in the grey (i.e., possible violation), ethically, they’re bound to come to the person informally first to give them a fair chance of correcting whatever mistake. So really, these two co-workers were acting more unethically than I.
When psychologists believe that there may have been an ethical violation by another psychologist, they attempt to resolve the issue by bringing it to the attention of that individual, if an informal resolution appears appropriate and the intervention does not violate any confidentiality rights that may be involved. (See also Standards 1.02, Conflicts Between Ethics and Law, Regulations, or Other Governing Legal Authority, and 1.03, Conflicts Between Ethics and Organizational Demands.)
That evening, I spiraled and regressed to old patterns of negative self-talk, self-criticism, self-loathing, and self-destructive patterns (e.g., binge eating). The shame spiral led me to intrusive and uncontrollable darker thoughts about suicide, and it was fucking scary and distressing. Concerned, my lovely Quangel met me for dinner at a Vegan restaurant (btw, an episode on Vegans is coming out soon), where I couldn’t publicly hide my feelings. Instead of eating my yummy Peanut-Thai Ginger entre, I held my head in my hands and sobbed. I had no choice but to painfully and publicly sit with my shame. I know it was hard for Quangel to witness because they know where my heart and intention lies.
I struggled with thinking I could continue being a plogcaster and a licensed clinician because it felt restrictive, limiting, and oppressive. Part of the snapchat rant included my opinion that mental health clinicians are expected to be calm and graceful in response to difficult situations and experiences. Well, that’s not necessarily the case because we’re also human and have every right to feel frustrated, angry, irritated, hurt, disappointed, and any other emotion. We’re also allowed to feel moved and touched by our clients, hell even attracted to them for various reasons, all because WE’RE HUMAN! Hello!? We have permission to feel what we want, as feelings are always valid. We’re just not allowed to act on these feelings – no d’uh. But this doesn’t mean we’re not allowed to talk about these feelings and what we’d like to do/not do (these last few statements are courtesy of lessons learned as a member of group therapy with Mr. A).
In fact, before being approached by my superiors, I spoke with Mr. A earlier in the day about these kinds of clients, and we agreed that the feelings that arise in therapy are actually critical data about the interaction and relational dynamic in the room, so basically it reveals information about what’s mine, what’s yours, and what’s ours, and it helps us figure out what can be done about it. It forces us to question how might we both be contributing to energy in the room and what we need to do to protect ourselves. Essentially, we feel certain types of ways when interacting with people, not just clients/co-workers, because there is something in us that pulls these emotional experiences out of each other. This is no surprise because that’s humanity, but it’s also super “taboo” to talk about it. And I think that’s bullshit.
While I’m grateful for my Quangel’s support during dinner, it wasn’t enough for me to get out of the shame-spiral or let go of the dark thoughts. Quangel was afraid that talking about the betrayal was only making me feel worse, which was true. I tried numbing the shame a bit by drinking down two Rubaeus Raspberry Ale’s, but I was too angry and hurt, and I felt snarky as hell. I couldn’t really eat, so the brew got to my head faster than usual. I was desperate for relief and, because I was regressing, I craved an old habit of smoking weed to silence the suicidal thoughts and distance myself from negative emotionality so that I could process more thoughtfully and productively. So, instead of burdening Mikachu, who’s also dealing with her own humanity as a therapist, I hit up my new friend, I’ll call her Kasian, whom I met at my Nerd Nite performance a couple weeks ago. We sat on her patio for three hours, drinking beer and smoking an old joint while giving this some serious thought.
Kasian had some valid feedback and brilliant ideas. Coming from a marketing and business perspective with a background in therapy, she agreed that therapists should be allowed to talk about the challenges of our jobs, particularly on our own mental health, because she believes that the world wants to know. When hearing my story, she didn’t understand why any of this was an issue. She shared stories of other bold-ass-women who defied the odds because they “gave no fucks” about what others thought of them. So, she told me to get used to the haters and nay-sayers if I want to make it in the entertainment industry. She said to walk over the haters as I climb my way to the top.
She helped me to solidify the purpose about this plogcast venture because she understood that I’m not doing this for the money or the attention. I’m doing this for the message and the cause, and that I am a “pioneer” because no one else is doing it . The message being: mental health issues don’t discriminate, so I shouldn’t be exempt. And the cause being: stop mental health stigma by sharing my story and building the collective emotional resiliency to better overcome and transcend life’s hardships. Kasian understands why I don’t want to be licensed and she believes it’s genius marketing to say, “I know I am smart enough to get licensed, but I choose not to because I want to talk about what a (former) therapist’s life is like.” She believes it’s actually incredibly relatable, especially if I use myself as the “client” and speak to whatever thought/feeling is inspired by my interactions with others, including my clients/co-workers. I left her apartment feeling emboldened and empowered. Even right now, she’s literally thinking of how to re-brand what I’m doing for this plogcast. It’s not “therapy” or “counseling.” Maybe I’m more of a “personal journalist?” mtbr…
I also took a Lyft to and from Kasian’s place in which I asked the drivers questions about their lives as Lyft drivers. Both said it’s good money for the amount of hours they put in each week. So it pretty much confirmed that this will be my day job for the next month at least. Also, my interview with the private practice isn’t until Wednesday 8/23, so mtbr on that…
The next day, I showed the saved snaps in question to my supervisor, Dr. C, to get some feedback. He verified that I did not in fact reveal any private/confidential/identifying information about the client. He also said that this was all knew to the field of psychology and that I’m taking a risk stepping into unknown territory as a clinician .
Also, by this time, I had confirmed with all but one co-worker who follows me on snapchat if any of them had disclosed anything to my superiors, and each had denied this with appropriate reactions. However, one co-worker and good friend of mine (I’ll call her Mrs. Beige) who’s another boss-bitch that speaks her mind and see’s through the veil of bullshit our world is faced with, was legitimately protective of me and suggested that perhaps even sharing my personal reactions to clients is a form of breaching confidentiality. Something to think about, for sure.
Dr. C also stated that there was one bit where my rant implied that I was working with someone who had a “personality disorder” and that this would be better suited for supervision rather than snapchat. I don’t disagree with this, but I’m also wondering what’s off-limits here? Can I not talk about what it’s like to work with folks who have personality characteristics that are considered “disordered?” I mean, hell, I know what it’s like to have personality characteristics that get in the way because I know what my “Clusters” are (mtbr on this, too). Basically, what I’m saying is that “it takes one to know one.” Again, I’m not exempt so why can’t I speak my truth about what this experience was like for me? I’m not speaking about anyone else’s truth, stories or experiences, so what’s the big deal exactly?
Long story not so short, I snapped an invitation to this co-worker to come to my office and tell me why they went to my authorities instead of coming to me. Of course, even after they viewed this invitation on snapchat (which I knew they would), they didn’t have the same bold courage to confront me, so I blocked them from all my social media. It’s interesting the data that the process of elimination and non-verbal behaviors reveal.
I could tell this person was acting shifty and shady because they weren’t making the usual eye-contact with me when passing in the hallway. To be frank, this person looked suspicious as hell, and I knew something was up because I remember thinking, “that was odd, I wonder what that was about.” Well, now I know, even if this (cowardly) person will never fess up to what they did. Mrs. Beige said that it’s not worth getting into a confrontation and instead focus on ending my post-doc year strong. I can learn from it, let it go, and move on.
So, how’d I get through it since then? Well, it certainly wasn’t easy. While I didn’t want to, I had to let myself “feel it to heal it.” This means that sitting in the shame was purposeful for teaching me how to tolerate it and what to learn from its message. I realized that I felt shame because this triggered a deeper rooted issue for me in which I felt that any thought/feeling I had was offensive and deserved to be apologized for and that the relationship needed to be mended or repaired. I learned to silence myself.. internalized oppression as they call it. I doubted myself to keep myself in line, and I played small with myself so that nothing I said/did would cause anyone to come for me unfairly. I did it to protect myself. I was psychologically safer that way.
I couldn’t access mindfulness self-compassion when in the shame spiral at dinner with Quangel, which is to be expected because when emotionally aroused, our thinking brains goes dark. I was too busy numbing myself out when at Kasian’s apartment, even though it still felt productive and worthwhile. It wasn’t until the next day, before going to my supervisor, Dr. C, in which I was able to hold myself so that I could hold the experience with curiosity and compassion. I had to come to terms with the fact that yes, there will be people out there who will disagree with what I have to say and who will do what they need to, even if it’s something that I disagree with. That’s life.
What also should be expected is that I’m new at all of this so I’m bound to make mistakes and errors. By making room for that, I can take some of the feedback less personally and more as constructive criticism to help guide me as I navigate this new venture. So by responding to myself with kindness and concern, rather than self-hate and self-destruction (e.g., binging on junk food the evening of as punishment for being a terrible person), I can bounce back from hardship smoother and recover faster than ever before. It’s truly life-changing to practice what I preach as a clinician. Kasian believes this is where my niche is as a plogcaster, and I’m starting to see what she sees… it’s still unraveling and unfolding.
What’s weirder, all of what was written above was also written in the cards during my latest tarot reading on July 1st. I’ve seen my reader for the past three years before a major life decision (mtbr on this too). I listened back to 10 minutes of the recording from that reading session and all of it pointed to what happened earlier this week. It’s all starting to make sense for me, even if it’s not for you…
I’ve had an interesting history with dating websites since I was in my late teens (another mtbr episode/post on that, so stay tuned). I’ve been off the market since 2007 because of other relational betrayals and sexual traumas that I just cut off my connection with my body, my femininity, my sensuality and my sexuality. Ever since returning from the 5-day intensive retreat on mindfulness self-compassion in June (mtbr on in another episode/post), I have felt more connected with these aspects of myself. This is why going out on that stage for Nerd Nite a couple weeks ago was so monumental. I stepped into my light and power as a queer femme of color and it was fucking magical and scary af!
Two days after this betrayal written above, I decided to sign up for Bumble, an app that a close friend, Madonia, told me about where she had met her current partner from. So, I gave it a shot and already there’s been some interesting developments. So much of me has changed since 2007, I was initially nervous to upload pictures of myself (because I’m fatter and more queer than ever before) and was unsure about what to share in my bio. Well, whatever I did seemed to work because I’m already getting connections with people who are attractive, have their shit together, and intriguing. What more could I ask for? We’ll see where all of this goes…
I’ll be venturing with my friend, Mikachu, for speed dating soon, so mtbr on these experiences as I step back out into the dating scene after 10 long years in a self-induced dry-spell. Plus, I’m horny as hell and just wanna be touched, ya know what I’m sayin’!?
Trainee No More
As previously mentioned in other blog posts, I’ve been gearing up for the end of my post-doc fellowship as a clinical psychologist. It’s been quite an an interesting journey. I’ve been in grad school for over 8 years… 2 years for my masters and 6 years for my doctorate, plus an added year post-degree, so I guess 9 years of being a student/trainee.
I have no idea how to be a professional out there in the real world. I don’t think I can hack it sometimes because I don’t want all of that responsibility. It seems like nonsense to me. I’ll have to get over this eventually, especially if I want a job at the group private practice. I have an interview with them on Wednesday 8/23, so I guess I’ll know more about where my career is headed in the field of psychology depending on if I get the job. You can read more about my journey under my blog posts Wurk and Freaking Out Now.
I’ll have to start studying for my licensure exam too, which I will try to do while driving Lyft as a way to make money on the side. I thought of being an adjunct professor at a local community college, but all they have are classes for stats/research methods and those aren’t subjects I know very well, so I may have to scratch that idea. Other than that, Lyft is gonna help me pay my rent and bills, and I’m gonna save up for better podcasting equipment and for getting glammed up as a bio-queen. Things are changing in unexpected ways, and it’s thrilling as much as it is terrifying.
What can I say. Drag queens are some of the most empowering icons that have ever existed. I am a HUGE fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Some of my favorite queens are Bianca Del Rio, Pearl, Katiya, Bob the Dragqueen, Thorgy Thor, Sasha Valour, Alaska Thunderfuck, Tatiana… the list goes on.
Here’s some snaps of my evening at “A Dragqueen Christmas” at the Fillmore in Detroit last November…
This weekend is Ann Arbor’s Outfest, and Katiya was headlining at Necto nightclub! Of course, I couldn’t let a shitty few days take away this amazing opportunity. Plus, it was my last day as a post-doc, so I dressed up all sexy, had a few Jim Beams and Diet Cokes, and had an absolute ball with my Quangel, their boyfriend, and my Mikachu.
I had such a great time that I could see myself on that stage as a bio-queen, which basically means that cis-women can be drag entertainers as well. I’m still thinking about a good dragqueen name, though, so mtbr…