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HopeAgain , 31 Mar 2012

NEED HELP - in real trouble!!! LONG

Ok well this is really hard to write but... here goes... I got married about five years ago and moved with my husband to a new state to start a doctorate program. My adviser left soon after I got here and I got here. My experience in the program ever since has been horrendous and I am really scared that they may have it out for me. It has been horribly unfair but I don't know anybody here and I've been trying so hard to jump through all their hoops that I haven't really established any healthy connections in town either. I am feeling horribly threatened and afraid I will be kicked out and I have worked so hard to get here. Unfortunately I succumbed to a few bouts of picking that have been quite harmful and I may be in trouble again! I really, really could use to talk to someone, I will write more in a minute about who I think it would be ideal for me to talk to. Here are some more of the sordid details: in my first year I noticed a certain lack of "theoretical depth" on the part of my adviser but I really tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. In second year I started a really difficult field placement counseling elderly stroke/cardiac patients and long-term special needs patients, mostly with terminal illnesses and on ventilators. I really started to need him more in second year because I was new to counseling this population and I needed to learn some things quick. Unfortunately the kind of stuff he was teaching was not very applicable to this setting and I tried to ask questions and get some advice on how to integrate some of the stuff I was learning better on site. I was taking a class from him this semester as well and one day things got busy at the field placement site and I didn't make it to class. I had a reaction paper over the reading due the following week, so I wrote it and turned it in. Unfortunately, the book was horrible. The situations the clients presented with were unrealistic and simplistic (I know, I used to work for Child Protective Services), the interventions were shallow and impersonal, and many of the techniques have long been considered harmful and abandoned. He assigned around six books, however, so I thought this one was for us to critique (an example of what "not to do"). Anyway, I criticized it pretty thoroughly because I really couldn't believe some of the stuff I was reading, and thought he'd be pleased. Oh, was I wrong! Not only did I turn that paper in, I also criticized the book during class. I found it quite peculiar, however, that nobody else said anything about it. After class I asked a colleague as we were walking down the hallway why he thought nobody else said anything about that book. He asked "don't you know?" I said "no, what?" He said "he went on and on in class last week how this book was written by his former PhD mentor and best friend!" I ran as fast as I could but by the time I made it back to class, my adviser had the paper in his hand. I tried to get it back but he wouldn't give it. He said he looked forward to reading my true opinion. I told him he didn't but he didn't listen and I couldn't do anything about it. Well, I got a grade of "enough!" on the second page (the recommended length) and he didn't even read the additional pages. He just wrote "you don't get what they are trying to say." Believe me when I tell you, it has been hell since then. NOTHING I have said or written has been judged as positive or effective or useful or accurate; I have been made to rewrite papers for silly reasons and he never has addressed any of my actual points in regards to therapy practice or theory. When I wrote that a certain intervention was gaining popularity in a certain branch of psychology he wrote that "research isn't about popularity!" The term is used like that all the time in textbooks and articles. Anyway to make a really long story shorter, because of the BS from him and the other dysfunctional members of this department, I ended up a year behind my cohort and having to take a class over. I became really disillusioned and depressed in my third year and didn't turn in some assignments; however I have since made up all past work and received passing grades for the incompletes. Because of these set-back (of course all considered on my end), I was put on a remediation plan and even sent to the department of disabilities to get an "accommodation." Whatever, I did it, but he is still messing with me in some big ways that are just cruel and I don't know where to turn. For certain reasons I can't go to the counseling center and I don't want to go to the ombudsman because I don't want to file an "official" complaint with him yet. Unfortunately I am stuck with him as the chair of my committee (neither of the other two in the dept are appropriate or any better). I also, because of the troubles, have not turned in a "program of study" (a document that must be approved by the doctoral committee) until now and I only have four classes left in my program. The program of study has to be turned in when you have no less than 45 credits to go until you graduate; obviously I need way less but they could make me take additional classes just because that's the requirement. My adviser said he was willing to write a letter on my behalf urging them to waive that and I really need him to. I have also put a committee together and am due to meet with them in about three weeks; I can't have him pissed at me but I already dread that he will undermine me and make me look stupid in front of them. Anyway, now to the picking... *sigh* I also have PCOS and hirsutism (hair growth) and the only thing I can do is shave. This irritates the skin and doesn't help. I had a cyst that I messed with for a while last summer when some particularly difficult things happened with school and I ended up having to have surgery on my chin. Unfortunately this left my chin quite lopsided and scarred and I was devastated. I paid $400 for that, money we really couldn't afford, but had to. I swore I would never do it again but it's been really hopeless since I've not only acquired a permanent deformity but my adviser is still messing with me. He's taken to the habit of agreeing to things and then taking it back, and some of the things he's messing with are rather important to me. I picked again two weeks ago and the wound was bad enough to where I broke down and went to the plastic surgeon and had him look at it. I thought he would close it right then but unfortunately he told me to wait two weeks and come back. I am due back on the 4th. As you can probably imagine I haven't stayed away from it and now it's bigger than it was. I can't get it closed and can barely cover it with a band aid and I'm afraid he's going to know. He can't know though because if he says anything or sends me to counseling or something I am done for. I have no access to counselors outside the health center and I can't go there. I know most of you will probably say that since the situation is so bad then I should probably get counseling. The thing is, I know I will stop for certain now that I have found this site, because I wasn't aware of this as a common problem and now I at least have some hope. One of the things that contributed the most to the inability to resist has been the feeling of helplessness over the permanence of the disfigurement. I know plastic surgeons can perform miracles these days but when I asked mine he didn't say anything except "well we usually try to hide the scar somewhere underneath the chin if we can but in this case it's too in the middle and I can't really hide it anywhere." I asked him a couple of times what he thinks can eventually be done and he has been very unhelpful and non-specific. besides not understanding at all what is going on here, my family does sense trouble and are worried. if i fail it will look like I just couldn't cut the academics, but the academics are a joke. they give well intentioned but simplistic advice: "give them what they want and worry about doing what you want later." Common advice given by many; they think my conflicts with my adviser are due to my being too stubborn about pushing my own ideas, but the truth is he has never bought my attempts to align with his theory and after the critique I wrote, I don't blame him. It's about the only logical thing he is doing. I finished my masters with a 4.0 and I have two bachelor degrees, two masters degrees, and two graduate certificates; I can do academics. The difficulties I've had here have not been related to academics as but to ruffled feathers and a foot so far down my throat I'm still choking on it. By "give him what he wants," most people mean to talk in his language, use his ideas, complement his outlook, however, that is his sandbox and he will not let me play in it. He is and shall remain the "expert" here. The thing is that I proposed a topic for my dissertation about a month ago which he actually said yes to (every one before he insulted). I was overjoyed; it was a topic we had not had any conflicts over and I hoped we could develop a more positive relationship over this topic. I have prepared a lot over the past month to introduced the topic to my committee at the meeting coming up. What do you know, the other day when I met with him he told me that he frankly wasn't that excited about the topic and asked me if I was okay with him chairing a dissertation on a topic he didn't care about. I immediately said yes (he chaired quite a few on other interests) and when I said yes he peered at me and said "really? think about it, are you sure about that? think about what you are saying..." Well, think or not it was obvious what he was saying and it just crushed me again so much because it's so late in the game and i need to have a topic and this is the only one he's actually accepted. I told him that i was certain many students came through with interests different than him but I had said yes because he was the one who told me he was willing to chair it. He started going into how it was a lot for him to learn/do on a topic he wasn't familiar with. He then lamented "if you were at least to do something on model xyz" - model xyz representing a counseling model I had taken an interest in while counseling at the hospital in second year. The thing is, I kid you not, when I asked him to get me into his doc sem in third year he said to me in his office "I don't think I want you in this class but if I do end up letting you join, I better not year any model xyz out of you!" He also changed the procedures for my comprehensive exams due to the remediation plan, however after I turned them in once, then redid them when he didn't like them, he changed the procedure again and told me I couldn't redo them again until after I formed and met with my committee. He agreed to send me a copy of previously submitted successful comps and then he told me he changed his mind. He told me, when he first agreed to chair my dissertation, that he didn't know that much about the topic so he was willing to accept ten core articles that I would put together to get him oriented. When I brought these in he said that he wouldn't take the, that it was too early. This catch 22 is one of the reasons I feel he has it out for me: i can't mess up in the future but the things I need advising on in order to do well in the future are denied to me until I complete overdue tasks, however the overdue tasks are being held hostage by him until after some really important future stuff has to get done. There was also no reason to change the comps process again after it was started the way it was; there is no benefit to anyone if i resume working on comps after the first committee meeting. He says this is the official protocol but, unlike students who start the comps after the committee is formed, I will meet with the committee knowing I "failed" comps twice and struggling with the guilt and doubt of having brought these people on board while myself having one foot out the door. It won't help me on comps but it will also hurt my confidence in the first meeting and I wonder if this is intentional. I have no supports or help here; my brother, who lives in another state, and my husband here are my two main allies. My parents are super religious and they think everything you need to know for good mental health is in the bible... I pretty much pursued this degree against their wishes and now have apparently "made my bed." My brother isn't religious but he was born a genius and everything came rather easy to him. He is successful, he loves me, but he is very arrogant and condescending. Basically everyone who doesn't succeed just doesn't care enough to work as hard as him. My husband had a rough childhood; he was neglected, abused, and started college when we married. He is finishing his Bachelor's degree this semester and I am very proud of him; he's done very well. My brother, although he has been very good at academics, has never quite mastered the art of connecting to people very well; he resents how much he works but that's all he knows how to do. Every time he has helped us (with an amount that is a drop in the bucket to him), he has made insensitive comments about my husband that break my heart. My husband is one year younger than my (very "successful" brother) and my brother resents that I married someone who he sees as "holding me back." Since I got a 4.0 before I married, he assumes that a large part of the reason for my difficulty is my husband. I left my parents' church long ago, however, since they don't seem to believe that women can think for themselves, they also blame my husband for "luring me away" from the church. It makes me very sad because my husband truly has no one but me; his own family abandoned him and mine rejects him. In the end my brother and husband both try to be helpful but they each have very short tolerances and distance from the situation easy. My husband says that even if he were to give advice, I end up listening to my brother anyway. He blames me for taking on too much at my brother's insistence and he says the whole thing scares him so much he doesn't want to touch it with a ten foot pole. My brother tries to be more helpful but he loses patience soon too. At first he understands that I might have insulted my adviser's views pretty severely, unlike anyone is likely to do who knows the association between him and the author of that book. Before long, however, even my brother starts making comments like "but has anyone else actually failed under him? If others could do it why can't you?" and "well, people who succeed must learn how to deal/work through things like this so if you can't then maybe you're not cut out for it." My adviser too makes comments like "I don't get why all the students before you could do comps well and you can't." Well, I know I did comps well; I looked up every grounded everything in literature. He won't give me feedback though until much later on what I actually still did wrong but he won't hesitate telling me he and the other two faculty members have no confidence in me. The second reason I think he has it out for me is because, despite having finished field placement successfully, he wants me to another one. Field Placement is very subjective though and it's easy to find issue with pretty much anything. At field placement we had some rather traumatic deaths on the long-term care unit and the staff were pretty torn up. They told me how jealous they were that patients got to see me but they didn't have a counselor to help them deal with their grief and troubles. They would get attached to patients who would often be in the unit for years, so it was understandable they felt bad. I suggested to my supervisor on site that I offer a one hour session with staff a week; not only did I think this would help them cope but I thought that many could use some education on dealing with patients anyway. Often I would be told about a patient acting inappropriately, however, they wouldn't when I visited. Some of the more immature staff would say things that they should not to the patient or engage in petty disputes and then, of course, it was the patient who I was sent so see for being the "problem." Anyway my supervisor said no because I was there to counsel the patients and it was inappropriate for me to branch out into holding sessions for staff. I have a Masters in Business, so I know more about employment and organizational issues than I do about stroke and heart attacks, nevertheless I was holding stroke and cardiac recovery groups with patients every week. I didn't think it was that bad of a suggestion, but since she was not in agreement I agreed to drop it and moved on. At the end of the semester she wrote in her evaluation that I had "violated boundaries" by concerning myself with organizational issues. I took this up with her reminded her that I not only merely suggested it, and respected her wishes without further argument, but that she knew words like violating boundaries were red flags in psychology to anyone who would read the review. Next semester she felt bad and the truth came out: turns out that unit had been in crisis for over 15 years and several years ago they decided to offer staff counseling. They assigned my supervisor as the counselor they could go to but unfortunately nobody every showed up. My supervisor said she wrote my final review in a way that I could feel comfortable turning it in as a reference for internship; she also invited me to stay and provide counseling to the Long-Term care unit after my position ended, throughout the summer. I took this up with my adviser and he said no. He said he would not let me enroll in another Field Placement because I had "all this unfinished work" still to do and he wasn't offering the class to anybody that summer anyway. Well, "all this unfinished work" happened to be numerous reaction papers in the same fateful class as the one I turned in the paper criticizing his mentor, and even though I went straight home and re-sent him all the papers from my sent folder, he still didn't change his mind. I also found out other students did enroll and continue their field placement at other sites. Now tough, he wants me to do another field placement, somewhere else, even though now I do have "unfinished work" (comps) which he is holding hostage. I also have to find a one-hour a week supervisor who is at the PhD level for my hours to count, something I am having a very hard time finding. This is another reason I think he has it out for me - I finished field placement well; the only troubles I ever had were with some papers in some classes that I turned in long ago already, Unfortunately he says that I need to regain the faculty's favor and right now nobody has faith in my abilities. The thing is, I have tons of clinical practice, more than anybody else in my cohort! Since it's so easy to find something problematic in this kind of service I wonder if he is not only looking to get rid of me but make the department some extra money by making me take classes over and do additional field placement. Since I wrote this much already I might as well mention why I can't go to the counseling center: it's a conflict of interest issue. Two of the four classes I have yet to take will be taught by the director of the counseling center next year and the rest of the counselors are interns that are further along than me from our department. In fact, my cohort only consisted of myself, three guys, and another girl. Like we all know, when people start showing signs of trouble, others can either come to their aide or run for higher ground like rats on a sinking ship. Unfortunately the individuals in my cohort decided they were just glad it wasn't them who was getting all the crap and distanced themselves. This girl though not only started giving me the cold shoulder, but she as also in the class with me that I failed and am now retaking. She went to my adviser at the end of the course and told him I went over time on my presentation, something he was very upset with me about. The truth is that it wasn't the best presentation and a lot could be found lacking about it, but I didn't go over time. I didn't see the prof flash the 5 minutes signal but I did see her flash the 2 and I said "good, I'm about done anyway" and wrapped up. Well, this girl is not only an intern at the counseling center now, she and another grad student from a year above her are actually co-teaching a gender class I am taking this semester. Talk about awkward; there are only two students in the class too, myself another girl. We know that kids who witness domestic violence will, at around the age of three or so, start hitting mom for example if they see dad doing it. Experts believe that this is because as soon as humans recognize how depended and vulnerable they are, they immediately seek to align themselves with the most powerful party. Well, in a similar fashion this girl is continuing my adviser's poor treatment by giving me subjective and arbitrary feedback, and treating me like I'm stupid. She puts on an air of as though she has "arrived" and provides information and corrections like she's some kind of authority. The other day my adviser, even though he knows the history, told me the instructor didn't think a proposal I turned in appropriately relevant to the class and that I had to make sure that I turn in assignments that met the teachers' requirements. It's insipid but the most anyone has ever told me has been to "give them what they want." Even when I tell them that when I try to toss around the popular lingo there is always something wrong with it because I'm the one who is saying it, not because there is anything actually wrong with it, they say a thing or two that expresses sympathy and then get back to recommending the same thing. I'm not going to win the game doing it like that because they will not review my efforts as worthwhile no matter what. I have learned so much on my own and I know I'm not full of shit in what I write because I am very good at citation management and referencing. Unfortunately my adviser is computer illiterate and one time in doc sem when I offered to put our lit review in RefWorks and share the folder with everyone, he said he didn't want that because he thought it was unfair for me to "be in control" of all our literature. Well, I wouldn't have been in control! I would have shared the folder and any of us could have edited it or accessed it, however neither was he open to the idea nor did anybody else in class say anything to help him understand I wouldn't be taking over. They just squirmed uncomfortably and kept quiet. I have a huge and well organized database of articles on multiple topics but I can't even show it to my adviser in a way that he understands. I feel completely alone and I have to do a lot of work but I can't concentrate on it because I am scared that nothing I turn in will be accepted. I fret and worry and picking is a nervous habit I picked up that I know must stop. I could really, really use help with some things though, and here they are: I would really, really like advice on: - what to tell the doctor so he doesn't know on the 4th - what to do with the wound until then; I have it covered with a band aid but it's deep and you can kind of tell it's completely empty under the band aid. it's very awkward and embarrassing. - what to tell my parents and brother when I have to see them next month; we are immigrants and they are the sort to think that if you don't do good in school it's just because you don't study hard enough. they would never understand someone doing something like this to themselves because of the stress they are under and they would be not only devastated by incredibly mad at me. - THIS IS PERHAPS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT: where can find anybody who can look at my chin and tell me what may be available at some point to reconstruct it. I would really like to know what the best I can expect is regardless of the cost; I just want to know what can be done. I know right now I have no money but if there is hope then I want to at least look forward to something and let it motivate me. Right now the doc will must close the wound and suture it but once that is done, the medically necessary part will be over and my insurance won't cover the rest, but I would really like to know what I may eventually be able to have done. Is there a website I can send a picture to or someone I can talk to who would know what kind of procedures might give the best results? - I could really use to talk to somebody in academia, somebody who can maybe help me navigate these waters a bit better than I have been. I have honestly never been rude, pushy, inappropriate, or challenging with him but no matter how diplomatically I try to say things, he doesn't respond well. - i could use some help adjusting for now; I feel horribly self conscious all the time and there is a very noticeable deformity now on my chin that will only get worse on the 4th. I haven't talked to anybody about this or about how to handle it and if someone has a few more years of adjustment than me, I could really use the camaraderie. Since the surgery I have avoided even the few people I have gotten to know in town so besides the few people I see at school every day, I am very isolated. I am always hoping I don't run into somebody I knew and I definitely dread the day anybody asks me "what happened to your chin?" Thank you so much to anybody who actually took time to read this whole post and I'm sorry it's so long... I am just, like I said, really alone here and I am having a bit of trouble with panic and figuring out what to do and what or how much to say these days. I'm really in a bad spot but I have a lot of compassion in me and I honestly want to help others in a dignified, compassionate, and gentle way. Of all the things I thought I would learn in a PhD program in psychology, I never thought that what I would end up learning what is was like to be truly alone. Nobody cares besides what particularly pertains to them; I went to multiple people in the department when I was having issues and everyone said "not my problem," even my adviser. If you guys help me I will pledge to dedicate some of my time pro bono to help others who are suffering from this kind of disorder and I will do it in a way that is non-stigmatizing and non-judgmental. For right now though I am not at a point where I can even admit to it much less do much to help myself but please, if anybody can help, I would appreciate it, even a kind word would go a long way. Thank you!!
1 Answer
April 01, 2012
First off...BIG CYBER HUGS!! I felt your cry of despair as I read your post. I'm not a "skin picker" per say..but I am a lip biter/picker and I understand how it feels to feel alone, isolated and in a panic mode. I feel for you and wish I could give advise to you. I'm struggling with my lip looking like someone punched me in the mouth because it's swollen, red and bleeding all the time from picking it. I wanted to let you know you have come to the right place..we all understand where you are coming from. You are a wonderful person. Nothing or no one can take that away from you. If you would like to write me, please feel free. Big hugs

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