Wednesday, February 28, 2018

March Forward

Most people who have known me for at least 10 years (jeez, has it been that long) know that March is my least favorite month of the year, and March 15th my least favorite day. Obviously "bad" stuff happens throughout the year, but there are certain things that stick out in March. The focus being my first suicide attempt (2004), and my first major psychological breakdown (2008). It would be the latter that would affect me emotionally, mentally, physically, financially, and socially in the months after. I won't tell the story again, but in March of 2008 my then boyfriend broke up with me. I was not yet diagnosed with BPD, and if you know anything about BPD (if you don't look back in this blog, or google), then you know it was not something I handled well. I still struggle when I lose someone today, and I've had years of therapy and a chance to build skills. Image me not having any skills or even knowing what was going on. So how bad was it? I quit my job, I screamed and begged, I threatened to kill myself, I have panic attack after panic attack, I obsessively called him and showed up at his house. I'm not proud of all this, but I've never hidden it.

In the months that would follow I'd lose friends, get kicked out of my apartment, and have night after night of night terrors; waking up in a panic. I didn't know I had one of the most severe mental illnesses in the DSM, I didn't know what I was dealing with, and I didn't know how to handle it. More than likely I disassociated (more than once). That experience is scary enough when you know about it in detail, imagine having never have heard of it. It would be about a year and a half before my ex even uttered a word to me. I spent most of that time obsessively wondering when he'd contact me.

For years I viewed March in a negative light. I dreaded it.  Over the past couple of years, however, I've tried to view it in a different way. It's still my least favorite month, and that weekend in 2008 is still one of the worst experiences of my life, but it was also the beginning of my journey to better mental health. At the time I was no stranger to therapy, I had been going on and off since I was 14. However, I was being treated for all the wrong things. Bipolar II, ADHD, a kid having a tough time. The thing about Borderlines is we need specific therapy, we need to learn specific skills. It was my friend, Tiffany, who first pointed out what I might be dealing with, and it was not long after that I started Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). The therapy designed by someone with BPD specifically for people with BPD. Of course life happens, and it would take me until 2016 to successfully complete a DBT program, but sometimes things don't come easy, and though I'd experience heartbreak, depression, anxiety, breakdowns, abuse, and hard times over the years; each month, each year that passed I would gain more skills, more practice, and more awareness.

I try to have a positive outlook when March comes around. I always say, "compare me to me," and if I compare the me now to the me in 2008, I see two different people. I have a more stable life now; a great job, nice living space & roommates, I've rekindled friendships that were lost during that time, and if my ex never broke up with me I would not have met Daniel; whom I am so in love with. Have I been an angel since then? You've read my past blogs, of course not. The difference now? I'm aware of the why, I have an immense inner perspective, and I have the skills to (most of the time) react to it in a non-harmful way.

I can't control how my thoughts react to March, but I can control how I react to my thoughts. March is a major self-care month for me. For at least one month; I stay out of debates, spend a little less time online, read more, focus more on my prana, focus more on how my body feels, &and love myself just a little extra. I can't change the past, but I can change how I react to the past. 

Ready? Set. March.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Criterion #6 & #8

One of the hardest aspects of BPD for me to control is inappropriate anger and anger outbursts. While I've come a long way, it's still something that I struggle with. On the plus side, I have been able to recognize my triggers.

For one, most of my anger outbursts happen online; someone doesn't understand what I'm trying to say, someone misinterprets what I'm saying for being mean, calling me or insinuating that I'm stupid, telling me or insinuating that I haven't made progress. Here's the caveat though, my reactions depend on my mood. If I'm in a good mood, then I won't react with anger. However, if I'm irritable, frustrated, or tired (just woken up) then I am more likely to snap or lash out.

The irritability can trigger my anger in "real life" aspects. I've snapped and lashed out at people getting my food order wrong, I've yelled at customer service reps over the phone, or I've yelled at random people in my way or who irritate me. Again, my reactions are mainly based on my level of irritability. Unfortunately, all three of my disorders cause me some form of irritability. I have, however, worked on this. I do yoga, color, I will pre-write what I want to say before calling customer service. These strategies are helpful if I'm in a place I can do them, or I have time to think about an upcoming event or interaction that might upset me. However, what I continue to have trouble with is spontaneous triggers, when I'm not fully cognitively aware, or if multiple things happen to me during the day and I'm far from my baseline (for people with BPD, it takes us longer to get back to baseline. So if a trigger happens, and then a second one happens before we're back at baseline, it can elevate us even more).

Sometimes, when it gets really bad, I will disassociate. While in this state, I'm aware of my actions, but I can't control them. It's like I'm standing outside of myself, telling myself to stop, but I won't listen. Unfortunately, I haven't quite learned how to deal with disassociating.

It's hard for me to open up about this because I feel a lot of shame surrounding my anger and behaviors. I am also affected in other ways; migraines, panic, night terrors. I am not trying to get sympathy by saying, "poor me," but trust me when I say no one punishes me more than myself. Both consciously and unconsciously.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Growth

The stick this week I picked is, "growth." What does growth mean to me? One of my yearly affirmations at one point was, "compare me to me." Meaning, compare present me to past me. How much have I changed? How much have I grown? A couple of years ago, I decided to go through all of my diaries I had been keeping since I was 11 or so. A lot of it was painful to read, especially the teenage years. But one thing I noticed was that it was like I was reading the diaries of someone else.

Yesterday, I had a rough day. I was lashing out at people, having anger outbursts, and generally being a shitty person (that's not to say I am a shitty person, just what I was doing was shitty). When I act like that, I get down on myself. I wonder if I really have grown and changed. A lot of people tell me I have, but I tend to hide outbursts like that. Mostly because I'm ashamed of myself. But if I'm comparing me to me, then I think I have grown. For one, my outbursts, 95% of the time seem to be isolated to online interactions. I can't say that for past me. Another change I notice is how I react to these situations. Before I would think I'd done nothing wrong, now I know I have and when I can, I try to fix it. For example, I plan on reaching out and apologizing to one of the people I lashed out at yesterday. Unfortunately, that's not always possible, and the best I can do is forgive myself.

I've also grown in other ways. I am clear on my career path now and have been at the same job consistently for a year and 4 months (or almost 2 school years). I used to move around a lot, only staying in one place for months at a time. Now I've been in the same place for a year and 8 months. Finally, before Daniel, my longest relationship was about 6 months. He and I are celebrating our 2 year anniversary in April.

So, yeah, I do still struggle and have my moments. But it's a lot less, and the big difference is how I react to it. I want to start being more honest about my outbursts. The thing is, BPD is extremely hard to deal with, and while it's not an excuse, a lot of my behaviors are part of my disorder.

As far as growth this week, I would like to see growth in my lesson planning. I am able to create lessons for my RTI and math groups, and I'm excited to actually plan something out, and use the information I've been learning in my methods and materials class.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

NVLD


In December of 2016, I was diagnosed with a non-verbal learning disability (NVLD). When I read about the symptoms, a lot of my behaviors started to make a lot of sense. NVLD presents a lot like Asperger's (in fact when I first did my testing, it was to see if I was on the spectrum). However, they are not the same disorder. According to Understood.org, "there’s a lot of overlap between Asperger’s syndrome and NVLD. Many experts consider them to be separate conditions that look a lot alike. Studies indicate that most children who meet the criteria for Asperger’s also meet the criteria for NVLD. But the opposite of that doesn’t appear to be true. Many children with NVLD don’t meet the criteria for Asperger’s." So, how does NVLD manifest for me? Let's take a look...

Social
  • Anxious in social situations. 
  • A tendency to “over-share” private information, or continue talking even when social cues indicate the conversation is unwanted. 
  • Difficulty understanding the rules of games. 
  • Concrete thinking; taking things very literally. Has trouble telling when someone is joking, when someone is mad or just in a bad mood. 
  • Trouble with nonverbal communication, like body language, facial expression, and tone of voice. 
  • Difficulty comprehending unsaid information or drawing reasonable conclusions without being told directly. 
  • Fear of new situations. 
  • Asks too many questions; disrupts the flow of conversation or interrupts frequently.
Daily Living
  • Has difficulty coping with changes in routine. 
  • Pronounced difficulty in adapting to new or complex situations. 
  • May be very na├»ve and lack common sense. 
  • Anxiety, depression, low self-esteem. 
  • May develop an inflexible routine for waking up, going to the store, or other common tasks, becoming upset if the routine is interrupted. 
  • Trouble dealing with change or unexpected setbacks, like a traffic jam. 
  • Sensual sensitivity (for me it's sensitivity to loud sounds and certain food textures). 
  • Gets lost easily. 
  • Trouble telling left from right. 
  • Taken from an NVLD blog, "I have excellent working memory and long-term memory. I can remember what I wore on the first day of kindergarten, things that were said years ago, and lines from books, movies, and songs. But because of NVLD, I often have trouble planning out events, gatherings or appointments in my head. That includes planning how to get to unfamiliar places. I tend to get lost frequently, even when I’m using my smartphone to guide me. I’ve realized I can organize and execute a plan if I write things down, whether it’s on my digital or paper calendar. Writing things down helps me see what I need to do spelled out in words, which is one of my strengths. And it’s part of why I always manage to get where I’m going, and remember meetings and appointments." 
  • Easily irritable. 
Learning & Academics
  • Attention to detail, but misses the big picture. 
  • Trouble understanding reading. 
  • Difficulty with math, especially word problems. 
  • Poor abstract reasoning. 
  • Messy and laborious handwriting. 
  • Trouble following multi-step directions. 
  • When writing, trouble organizing thoughts or getting to the point. 
  • Visual-spatial planning difficulties. 
  • Trouble reading maps. 
  • Many people with NLD are very good at rote learning, and they are able to do well in math just by memorizing data. But as they get older they struggle to solve more advanced mathematical problems that are based on recognizing concepts and patterns. 
  • Poor abstract reasoning. 
  • Confuses abstract concepts yet can recall sequences. 
As you can imagine, there are traits of my other two disorders (BPD and GAD that overlap with NVLD, or amplify some of the NVLD traits). Such as;

GAD
  • Difficulty handling uncertainty. 
  • The anxiety, worry or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning. 
  • Overthinking plans and solutions to all possible worst-case outcomes. 
  • Inability to relax, feeling restless, and feeling keyed up or on edge. 
BPD
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights). 
  • Black and white thinking. 
  • Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self. 
  • Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days). 
As you can imagine, dealing with all of this is hard. And if you don't deal with it yourself, it may be difficult to understand why I act the way I do sometimes. It's also difficult to understand how it effects me. For example;
  • My anxiety, panic, paranoia can lead to days of depression. 
  • I still struggle with anger outbursts. Especially online. 
  • I feel ashamed of myself often. 
  • I struggle sometimes with expressing my thoughts in writing and can become easily irritated if people misunderstand me, or taking something I say the wrong way.
I hope this has helped some people understand me a little bit better.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Inconsistency

Since I moved back to Boston in 2015, I've had a very inconsistent relationship with behavioral health. When I first moved back, I decided to join Cambridge Health Alliance. They were the network I was with before I moved out of MA in 2012. I joined a DBT group, but I ended up getting kicked out for slamming a door. I never connected with a therapist for very long because all of their people are fellows and thus short term. The only consistent was my psychiatrist. Unfortunately, she left after a year. For a while, I was between Arbour counseling and CHA. I switched to Arbour to find a new psychiatrist (since mine at CHA left) and continued to wait for a therapist at CHA. Eventually, I ended up switching to a therapist at Arbour. Unfortunately, I realized after a couple of months that it was not a good fit.

I admit the timeline of everything is a bit foggy to me, but I know I saw a psychiatrist for a little bit at Arbour, and stopped because at the time I felt meds weren't right for me. At some point, I started seeing a therapist at a private practice and really liked her, but she ended up moving to D.C. From then on I struggled to stay consistent with a therapist; either because of scheduling reasons (going back to school limited my time even more) or because they were short term. At one point I stopped trying to see a therapist for financial reasons. I was in a DBT program and seeing a psych and each appointment was $15. I felt that the DBT was providing me what I needed at the time. I finished the DBT program in summer of 2017 (I had also previously done a partial program), and had trouble finding a therapist (this was at Arbour). I started to see someone but had to stop cause I went back to work and started school. I saw a psychiatrist a few times, but she left.

Eventually, I decided to switch everything over to Fenway. I had heard good things about their behavioral health system. I got an intake appointment this past November, and told them at this point I was more interested in a group setting than an individual. It would be a 3-month wait before anything happened. On February first I started a CBT group but quickly had to stop because I missed two weeks in a row due to having the flu. Now I have to wait until May for the next one. May is also the soonest they can get me in for a psych appointment. One of the reasons I didn't want to do individual therapy at Fenway, was because I really needed something skills based. Plus I simply couldn't afford therapy and group every week.

The problem now is, I am moving in July. Chances are they won't be able to get me an individual therapist until April/May if that. From what I hear, they are not taking new patients because they have a doctor shortage. Either way, that means I'd only be with a therapist/psychiatrist for a couple of months before I had to leave.

I don't really blame myself. I had to make choices based on scheduling and finances. It's just frustrating.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Sticks, Sticks. Which Shall I Pick?

For my birthday, my boyfriend's mother got me a bag of what I call, "inspiration sticks." Popsicle sticks with labels that have various words on them. Since the beginning of the year, I have been picking a stick at the beginning of the week and writing about what it means to me. It is also my focus for the week (I'll carry it with me or bring it to work and leave it on my desk). Originally I was writing in a journal, but I've realized that I am more motivated to blog. So, here are the sticks I have picked thus far, and what each means to me.

Intuition: I used to think I had really good intuition, but I've realized that's not true. I tend to worry and become paranoid. I also have trouble reading people's tone, meaning, etc. It's part of my NVLD. However, I have really good intuition when it comes to my boyfriend. So, I guess that's a plus.

Stability: For the first time in a long time, I feel like I have stability. I've been at the same job, with the same partner, and living in the same place for nearly two years. I know that doesn't seem like a lot, but it's huge for me.

Love: Probably the most important thing to me. I often say I am a Star Sapphire (I have a tattoo) because they wield the emotion of love. The hardest thing about love is loving myself when it's difficult.

Vitality: Yoga has helped me tremendously with vitality. Both physically and mentally.

Spontaneity: This is not one of my strong suites. I like things planned, I like them to go a specific way. Even when I do something last minute, I have a certain way of going about it. I have a hard time being whimsical and just seeing where things take me. Once in a while, if I have nothing to do, and I'm bored, I might go out and wonder. But, if I am making plans with someone, I like to know what we'll be doing. I've gotten a little bit better since my boyfriend is the opposite and just goes with the flow.

Confidence: This is still hard for me. However, I've become a lot more confident in myself than in the past. Unfortunately, I still question myself and my abilities. I'm afraid of doing something wrong. I am continuing to work on this and trusting in myself.

Potential: I must have thought I had potential to succeed as an educator, or else I would not have gone back to school. I think sometimes I underestimate my potential, which ties into my confidence issues.

(By the way the title of this post is a play on one of the rhymes we use in the classroom).

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Murder Stick FAQs

I thought I would put together some gun/gun law FAQs. You're welcome to research this info further if you like. Every Town is an excellent resource. Of course, if I got anything wrong, please let me know. Some of this is my own opinion (you'll know those parts). The main opinion I have is that the only people who should own guns are military and people who showcase historical pieces in museums. However, since I know that won't ever happen, I'll settle for something better than our current situation. Okay, onto the FAQ.

Q-Isn't there already an assault weapons ban?

A-Yes, at one point. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act was passed in 1994. However, that ban expired in 2004 and has not been reinstated.

Q-What's the deal with background checks?

A-Currently background checks are required on a federal level when purchasing a gun through a licensed dealer. Keyword being licensed, more on the later. This Gun Law Navigator is a helpful resource if you want to explore more federal gun laws.

Q-What about state laws?

A-Each state has their own set of gun laws which can either mirror federal laws or close federal loopholes. For example, NH and VT do not require background checks for all handgun purchases. Technically, if there is a conflict between state and federal law, federal law will prevail (supremacy clause). However, as we know this isn't always carried out. For example, federally marijuana is still illegal, but nothing has been done about that where state laws make it legal (for the record I'm 100% in support of federally legalized marijuana).

Q-Can domestic abusers buy guns?

A-Federally, no. Though those laws are limited mostly to married and cohabitating partners, with some exceptions. However, domestic abusers can find loopholes through state laws. For example, several states have the "boyfriend loophole." Meaning, unless an abuser is cohabitating or married to their victim, they can buy a gun. In some case, states do not submit all required info to the FBI when doing a background check. Using NH and VT as examples, neither states require domestic abusers to surrender their guns.

Q-How about mentally ill people?

A-Currently under federal law, a mentally ill person is barred from purchasing a firearm under two conditions; 1. They are involuntarily committed to a mental hospital and 2. If a court or government body declares them mentally incompetent. Here is the important part. Federal law does not require mental health records to be part of the background check system, and many states will not voluntarily submit them. In addition, here is more info regarding Trump's rescinding an Obama era law involving background checks and the mentally ill. Spoiler-it's mostly true.

Q-What's the "gun show loophole"?

A-Much like online sales,  private sellers are not required to perform background checks on buyers. They are also not required to record the sale or ask for ID. The loophole in the federal law states, "any person may sell a firearm to an unlicensed resident of the state where they reside, as long as they do not know or have reasonable cause to believe the person is prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms."

Q-Well, I heard that Chicago has the strictest gun laws in the state and the most gun deaths.

A-The notion that Chicago has the strictest gun laws is an outright lie, yet pro-gun people love to spread that myth. New York has stricter gun laws than Chicago, and it's gun deaths are at historic lows. The important thing about Chicago is that there are no gun stores and no loopholes for private dealers, therefore guns being used to kill people are coming from neighboring states, which surprise surprise; have very lax gun laws. More info here.

Q-Clearly it's a mental illness issue. Right?

A-According to the APA, "Mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent less than 1% of all yearly gun-related homicides. In contrast, deaths by suicide using firearms account for the majority of yearly gun-related deaths." and "The overall contribution of people with serious mental illness to violent crimes is only about 3%. When these crimes are examined in detail, an even smaller percentage of them are found to involve firearms." Mentally ill people are much more likely to be the victims of violence than the cause. Furthermore, "mentally ill" is a very large and broad spectrum. When people speak of mental illness being the reason for these mass shootings, it feels like they are lumping everyone who deals with mental illness into one, "crazy person" stereotype. Finally, mental illness exists worldwide, yet we are the only country where mass shooting happen on a (sadly) now regular basis.

Q-Is it true about the UK not having any mass shootings?

A-Yep, read about it here. However, I have not researched whether what works in places like the UK and Australia would work in America.

Q-Are people trying to take away my constitutional rights?

A-No, but you also need to take into context when the constitution was written and how times have changed. The second amendment states, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." This was written during a time when we didn't have assault rifles. It was written during a time where soldiers used bayonets that would miss half the time. Do you know why they always lined up so close together? To have more of a chance to hit their target. I know you think you're John Wayne and you need to own guns to overthrow the government, but should that day come, your AR-15 won't stand a damn chance against military tanks. As much as I want all guns to be melted down and turned into a statue of Malala, I know it's not going to happen. If you are truly the responsible gun owner you claim to be, then stricter gun laws shouldn't matter to you. It's a bit concerning that you, Mr. gun fetishist, really need to go to a gun show and buy a gun in 5 minutes rather than waiting. 

Q-Well, these school shootings wouldn't happen if we armed teachers, put guards at schools, and installed metal detectors. 

A-This sentiment makes me so angry. The government can't seem to find the funds for pencils, but they suddenly have money to put guns and metal detectors in schools? They pay teachers shit, but they can afford to pay armed guards? In addition, I work with inner city, low-income students who are mostly youth of color. You know, the kids who are going to grow up being told not to do something dangerous like wear a hoody or smile at a cop. And you want these 5-10-year-olds to walk through metal detectors and sit in classrooms where there are guns? You are a special kind of stupid. Finally, let's say we do arm and train teachers. So now they have to carry a gun on them while teaching? I know you think this is the wild west, but that's not how this works, that's not how any of this works. There is no guarantee that reaction time would be quick enough, that they wouldn't accidentally shoot a child or co-workers. I just can't with this absolute asinine opinion.

Q-If they don't use guns, they will just find another way.

A-No one is killing dozens of people in a matter of seconds with a knife. What about cars? Cars have a purpose. A guns purpose is to kill. Guns don't kill people! People kill people! Fishing rods don't catch fish, the fisherman does! Yeah, well it's a hell of a lot harder to catch a fish without the tool. How about homemade bombs? Let's tackle one thing at a time, okay?

Q-So what's the cause of mass shootings?

A-In my opinion it's a few things. It's toxic masculinity, it's state and private seller loopholes, and it's lack of mental health and crisis services. Not because people who are mentally ill are the cause of all these shootings, but because people are bullied and pushed to the point where they feel they have no other choice. A person does not have to be mentally ill, to benefit from mental health services. 

Q-So what's the solution?

A-Sadly, this isn't easy. In my opinion, I'd like to see the following;


  1. An end to the private seller and gun show loophole. 
  2. Stronger counseling and mental health services in schools.
  3. All state laws to coincide with federal laws.
  4. States required to submit mental health records to background checks.
  5. A ban on AR-15s. Honestly, no one needs this gun. If you like target practice, there are other guns for that. Using this gun during hunting would destroy most of the meat. Feel you need protection in the home? Well having a gun increases the likelihood of a gun-related injury or death, but if you must, I'm sure a handgun will do just fine. Honestly, you can give up one type of gun if it means saving lives.
  6. Anyone found guilty of domestic violence is prohibited from buying guns, no matter what. Also, make all abusers turn their guns in.
Is this something that will happen over night? No. Is it easy? No. Will it completely stop gun violence? Probably not. But you know what really doesn't stop it? Doing nothing. Stop doing nothing. Stop thinking the anwser to gun violence is more guns. Stop using mentally ill people as scape goats.

#Neveragain

It's Not Me, It's You

Yesterday I spoke to someone from the Department of Education in NH. They told me that I could possibly use my SAT scores in place of some of the Praxis. I got excited and called my High School. It was surprisingly easy to get a copy of both my transcript and scores (the scores are in the transcript). However, my excitement quickly turned to discouragement as I thought, "wow, was I stupid back then."

I have NVLD. One of the ways this affects me is in math;

  • Poor arithmetic skills.
  • Very poor math skills
  • Difficulty with math, especially word problems.
  • Deficits in the areas of nonverbal problem solving, concept formation, hypothesis testing.
  • Many people with NVLD are very good at rote learning, and they are able to do well in math just by memorizing data. But as they get older they struggle to solve more advanced mathematical problems that are based on recognizing concepts and patterns.
  • Visual-spatial planning difficulties.
  • Poor abstract reasoning.

Okay, keep that in your head, as I give you the next bit of information. Here are my final math grades throughout all four years of High School.

*anything in bold from now on reflects the core subjects.
  • Algebra I-D+
  • Algebra II-D (first and second quarter I got failing grades)
  • Geometry-C
  • MCAS Math-U
Now let's move on to something more positive. Here are the classes I ended up with a B- or above (not including classes where I could get satisfactory or unsatisfactory);
  • Computer Lit I-B+
  • Fundamentals of Language Lit-B-
  • P.E.-A
  • American Lit-B-
  • Art Workshop-B
  • Biology-B-
  • Chemistry-B
  • English 11-A
  • Health 11-B-
  • Human Relations-A-
  • Math Sat-B-
  • Video Production 11-A
  • English 12-B
  • Exp. Childhood-B+
  • Health 12-B
  • Pottery-B+
  • Psychology-B+
  • Sculpture-B
  • Video Production 12-A
Now let's look at classes I got a C+ or below.
  • Civics/World History-C+
  • General Science-C
  • Italian 2-C+
  • Italian 3-D-
  • P.E. 10-C+
  • World History-C-
  • U.S. History-C+
  • Law-C
  • MCAS Science-C
So, looking at core subjects (Math, English, History, and Science). Here's how I did overall;
  • 7/16-I got a B- or above. That's 43%.
  • In math, I got a B- or above in 1/5 classes.
  • In my other classes, which could be categorized as electives or "specials" (as my school calls them), I got a B- or above in 12/16 classes.
I felt really discouraged, but even more so when I looked at my SAT scores;
  • 440 Verbal
  • 380 Math
I felt like, wow! Apparently, I was really stupid in High School. Then I started thinking about things. Here's my take-a-away from all of this;
  • Most of the classes I did well in were hands on. I learn really well kinetically, so this makes sense.
  • I was not diagnosed with a learning disability and aside from having support from a liaison, I was not in SpEd classes (though I'm pretty sure I was in middle school).
  • The classes I did the worst in were mostly math, which makes sense for me. People with NVLD, as described above, struggle a lot in math.
  • Because I have trouble piecing things together, trouble with word problems, etc, I don't do well with standardized tests. I also took the SAT with no accommodation.
Today, I have accommodations in school; I have a proper diagnosis, and guess what? I am getting nearly straight A's. I even got a B+ in geometry which is one of the most difficult things for people with NVLD. So, I wasn't stupid. I just didn't get the proper support and diagnosis I needed to succeed. I was an average student when it comes down to it. I graduated 119 out of 240. 49%...average. Yeah, I did shitty on the SAT, but fuck standardized tests. Oh, and on top of everything I was being bullied.

So, it wasn't me. It was the school system.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

It's been a while.

It's been about a year since I blogged. I'm not sure exactly why I stopped, but I've been wanting to get back into it. Even if no one reads, it helps me to have a creative outlet for my writing. Also, it saves me from having to write several facebook posts or lengthy status updates (do people even use that term anymore?)

I'm currently feeling both anxious and excited about the future. Daniel and I have plans to move in togehter in July. We are looking at the Franklin County area of MA (think northern western MA, near eastern VT and south-west NH). We are also considering Brattleboro VT. I'm excited, because frankly it sucks living two hours away from my partner. I'm anxious because I've never lived with a partner before, and so this is a big step. I'm also anxious because July seems so far away.

I also have some big plans for the future of my career that are both exciting and a bit scary. Currently I am going through my Master of Education program at BU (Teaching and Curriculum-Special Education track). My plan is to become certified in NH through their Alternative 4 (critical shortage list) program. Here's how it works;

  • Pre-requisite: 2 courses in special education, passing score on Praxis.
  • Fill out a statement of eligability (SOE) that would allow me to be hired in a NH school district as a Special Education teacher.
  • Get assigned a mentor.
  • Fill out a beginning of plan. There are a list of competencies I would need to fulfill and the beginning of plan would establish  which ones I've fulfilled (most likely with course work).
  • I then have 3 years to fulfill the rest of the competencies (and I can get a year extention if needed).
I like this plan for a few reasons;
  1. I like the idea of being hired as a SpEd teacher, but knowing I will probably have support and help when dealing with aspects of the job that allign with competencies I have not yet fulfilled. For example, if I haven't learned to write an IEP yet, more than likely someone at the school would help me or at the very least look over what I've written.
  2. Taking the Praxis is going to (from what I've been told) be easier than taking the MTEL. It's also one test (with different core tests) vs 4-5 seperate tests. Which means, less money.
  3. It just seems like a less complicated path to teacher certification. Less red tape and bureaucracy than MA.
So my plan/goal is as follows.
  • Finish this school year (June 2018)
  • Work one more year as a para (Sept 2018-June 2019)
  • Finish degree program (December 2018)
  • Take Praxis (sometime before summer 2019)
  • Apply for SOE for alternative 4 (summer 2019)
  • Hopefully get hired as a SpEd teacher for 2019/2020 school year
I am super excited about all of this, but also very anxious and nervous. I tend to be very rigid with my planning and, well, "best laid plans...." I naturally worry about all the, "what ifs..." I also have a hard time when I can't control my external world (it's imporant to me since I feel not in control internally a lot). I also have a lot of anxiety about getting older and being a "late bloomer." I'm excited about moving forward, but anxious that I'll be 37-38. I'm also, understandably, anxious about starting at a new job. Having to learn to navigate a new school, get to know new co-workers. I love where I work, my supervisors know me well, and I can be open about my issues. I also have a great relationship with the teachers I work with.

I've been managing my anxiety and BPD pretty well. I've had a spattering of anger outbursts, panic attacks, but I think I've been able to handle and come out of them quicker and more effectively. I'm however, frustrated because I really haven't had consistent therapy since I moved back to the Boston area in 2015. I had a psychiatrist for about a year, did a partial program, and completed a DBT program. However, I haven't had a therapist for more than a few months at a time. Either because of scheduling, the therapist leaving, or on one occasion I didn't think it was a good fit. I recently did an intake with Fenway in Novemeber, had to wait until February to start a CBT group, only to miss 2 in a row (I had the flu), and be told I had to wait until May. I called to get a psych appointment (my PCP is currently prescribing my meds), and I have to wait until May. Great, I'm moving in July. I plan on calling about individual therapy, but more than likely it will be a months long wait. I really don't want to look outside of Fenway. My whole reason for switching over is so all my providers were in one space.

I have also been anxious regarding my finances. This also ties in with my sometimes inability to be flexible and realize that sometimes things won't go perfectly as planned. This is especially difficult becuase I don't have the kind of salary where I can save and have money for large, unexpected expenses. It's one or the other. So I spend a lot of time hoping nothing goes wrong, and when it does I get discouraged.

Anyway, I've been doing a lot of yoga, writing, and I recently started a Queer coloring group. My UU community has also helped me tremendously. 

I think that's a pretty good update for my first blog in a year. Hopefully I can keep up with this.