Mood Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified

diagnosed bipolar and pissed about it

Category: Adventures


the next morning, my feelings had followed my behaviors and i felt okay.  besides, we were going to see old ruins, an activity of which i am a big fan, so i woke with excited anticipation.

the day began early.  we were to meet downstairs at 7am to get on the road because it was an hour and a half drive.  i should have known better by then, but i still felt frustrated when we didn’t leave until 9:30.

the feeling only grew when, after an hour and a half passed and we were still driving without an apparent destination, i realized we were lost.  the mexicans hadn’t prepared.  they hadn’t looked up directions, but just kind of proceeded on distant memories, driving in the general direction of the pyramids.  we stopped, asked for directions, and turned around several times.  two hours passed, and then three.  linda and i gave each other exasperated looks.  another day, wasted.

finally we arrived.  i let the frustration go, replaced by my earlier feelings of excited anticipation.  you could see pyramids in the distance, and we got to choose which one to visit first.  we chose the one with paintings still visible and parked.  getting out of the van, and not having to face teaching, the failed execution of my meticulously planned curriculum, or abused women was like a breath of fresh air.  everyone seemed released from the burden of the week’s activities.  my advisor was jolly even.

i borrowed thor’s camera and took to documenting our trip.  i took the liberty of occasionally walking away from the group to capture the ruins, climbing up pyramids or walking off the beaten path to get a new angle, or to take a detail shot of the construction.  we walked around for about two hours, in and out of pyramids, through cavernous rooms with stone carvings and painted walls.  those that had been preserved were spectacular in their rich colors and designs.  then thor asked if we were hungry at all, which, of course we were because it’d been a long morning and breakfast was at 7am.  he suggested stopping to eat somewhere quick, or getting a quick snack like ice cream and then continuing on to the next pyramid.

the mexicans had other ideas.

we loaded back into the van and drove around for 30 minutes, passing several restaurants.  i wasn’t sure what criteria they were using to make a decision, so i just waited to see.  finally we pulled into an empty restaurant.  not really a good sign, but they seemed to be okay with it.  we sat down.  i ordered a shot of tequila and another cocktail.  because fuck. yes.

the food came.  it was hit or miss.  then, a huge platter arrived with little bowls on it.  linda looked at it with disgust and pushed away her plate.  i wasn’t sure what the big deal was so i peered into the little bowls.

the little bowls were filled with insects.  some of them might have even been moving but i don’t really remember.

one of the mexicans took a tortilla and dumped a little pile of insects on it.  he might have added some lettuce and salsa.  then he rolled it up and took a huge bite.  my stomach turned.  i drank my tequila.

thor told me to try it.  i said no, but by the end of my *next* shot of tequila, i was ready.  there were three puny little insects in the bowl.  i picked out a medium sized one and put it on my tongue while thor took a picture.  linda scooted her chair away from me in revulsion.  i took the plunge and pulled my tongue into my mouth.  the little insect rolled around a little before i ground it in my teeth.  the shell disintegrated with a small crunch.  it tasted a little like barbequed chicken.  i smiled and put my arms in the victory position while thor took another picture.

by the time the meal had ended, it started to rain.  we tried to go to another pyramid but it had closed.  it was the end of the day already.  we’d spent 2 hours waiting and 3 hours driving to spend two hours at an actual pyramid and another 1 or 2 hours sitting at a restaurant.  we had to head back to our hotel.

the next day, we were to leave to our next mexican destination: hermosillo.  i was SO happy to be leaving mexico city, to leave the dirt, grime, dejection, pain, and frustration behind.  i teased linda, who for some unexplainable reason had chosen a flight that left at 6am, and would have to wake up at 3:30am to get to the airport.  meanwhile, i relaxed in PJs, packed in leisure and spent the evening watching netflix and playing candy crush.  we’d made it!  in hermosillo, we would be staying in a lovely hotel, with a pool and exercise room and good food.  the city was nice, clean, and relatively similar to where we lived in the states.  it was going to be a vacation, compared to the last week.  i fell asleep peacefully, ready to turn the page and escape mexico city.

little did i know…that mexico city wouldn’t let us go so easily…

dia de los muertos

the last day of our first workshop was upon us.  linda was back, so she taught the last day of classes.  by then, i had relinquished the idea that the students would get as much out of the workshop as i put into it.  linda hadn’t prepared the materials.  she hadn’t engrossed herself in the topic like i had.  even though i had presented all of this information in our u.s. trial run, most of the details were glossed over, meaning that students missed out on a lot of the applicability and integration of the subject matter that i had built in to the “curriculum”.

thor didn’t seem to mind.  he didn’t mention it; in fact, he said the presentation was great.  i’m not sure why; there was so much missing, educationally.  it felt like a sham.

i felt frustrated.  i had spent so many hours working to make the course seamless.  in the midst of the end of term clusterfuck, i still pulled together an awesome course with cross-referencing materials…the whole enchilada.  i didn’t sleep a few nights, but i fucking pulled it off.

in other words, my work was going unrecognized and that pissed me off.  i had set the bar high and met it, but clearly i could have done a lot less and it would have been just as well.  i could have slept, maybe.

we called it a day early because the next day we were getting up bright and early to go visit some women in a poor town.  these were abused women, which thor seemed to take lightly but i knew i wouldn’t be able to.  after some reflection, i decided to tell him that the experience could upset me because of my early environment.  i didn’t go into detail.  he seemed surprised to find this out, but said it was fine and that i could leave if i wanted to.  but that i should still go if i wanted to collect any data using this “sample”.

suit yourself, thor.  i’ll give it a whirl.

we woke early and got ready.  the mexicans were late to pick us up, as usual.  the ride was long, over an hour.  i wasn’t prepared for the level of despair i was about to see.

the town was, by far, the most dilapidated collection of “buildings” i’d ever seen.  god had clearly abandoned this place long ago.  it was like a ghost town.  the people, like rats, scurried to and fro, quickly hiding within buildings.  it was apparently not safe to remain outside long.  old, worn, dejected faces stared without expression, eyes vacuous, as we rode by slowly in the van.

we arrived at some kind of compound.  it was completely surrounded by a tall fence, completely covered by graffiti, and we had to wait for the gatekeepers to let us in.  the little compound turned out to be some kind of school.  young children in uniforms darted around.  a few older women with painted on smiles greeted us.  i accidentally used the informal “you” in my introduction.  the smiles disappeared.

we walked into an old classroom, empty but for the group we’d been teaching and a few of the women.  no abused women yet.  i scouted out the joint for a seat with an easy exit, just in case.  but when the old audio system was set up, i realized i wouldn’t be able to hear from the back of the room so i picked one in front, off to the side.  slowly women trickled in.  i felt my stomach turn.  in each of them i felt and saw my own experience.  there was nothing physical about their appearance that would cause this; i was merely projecting my experience on to them.  i saw one man come in too, and thought, yikes, how many ways could this go wrong?  i’d assumed he might be one of the abusers, coming in to see what ideas these outsiders were putting in the womens’ heads.  i have no idea if that was actually the case, and i didn’t like that i’d thought that way about a perfect stranger.  but i knew i was off center in this whole thing, so i let it slide.

finally thor began to speak.  he asked first who’d been involved in an abusive relationship, or who’d had parents who were abusive.  almost all of the hands shot up, and that’s when the tears started.

i tried to hold it together, but they came in a steady stream.  i tried to stifle my sniffs and turn my face away.  women in the room saw me crying and were expressionless.  their glances passed over me without indication or acknowledgement.  instead, they listened intently to my advisor’s questions, and were more than willing to share their own experiences, through tears.  their voices were filled with so much desperation, so much need for help or guidance, plagued by pain and hopelessness.

but we weren’t there for help or guidance.  we were there so we could put on our little scientist hats and collect data.  what a fucking sham.

i made it 30, maybe 45 minutes, before i realized i was just sinking.  i couldn’t stop the tears, and i’d felt myself leave the room and go into a void.  i couldn’t process, i couldn’t translate.  i could only hear pain.  i left the room.

i went back to the van and sat and stared.  my mind was blank; i felt empty.  linda came out and sat with me.  i didn’t feel like talking so i just didn’t.  i didn’t care that she felt uncomfortable in the silence; her presence was more of a nuisance than anything, not of any fault of her own.  i was just in a dark place.  i went to the back of the van and laid down on my stomach, staring at the floor.  linda got out of the van and started talking to some of the school children.  i continued staring at the floor.

a long time passed.  finally, the “meeting” was over, and the van door slid open and i could hear thor asking where i was.  i mumbled something to indicate my location.  people started loading into the van and i realized i had to get up.  the kids we’d been teaching climbed in; i gave them the same vacuous expression offered by the townspeople.  i didn’t speak and was only looking forward to returning to the hotel and hiding under a blanket for the rest of the day.

as it would turn out, we had a full day ahead of us before we’d return to the hotel.  i came to understand this through bits and pieces of the conversation.  they wanted to take us to some archaeological site nearby.  i didn’t give a fuck, but we were over an hour away from the hotel, so i didn’t really have a choice.  we went to the dig.  i got out of the car just to get some fresh air, and walked around like an empty shell.  i climbed the side of a pyramid and sat on a corner overlooking the town, which i discovered was actually an extremely large city spanning an entire valley and up a mountain across the way.  i saw a lot of gilded domes.  churches.  these people were gonna need god to survive this mess.

finally, we got back in the van and i hoped we were returning to the hotel then.  instead, we drove through the town and came upon a huge crowd of children filling the streets.  school had gotten out.  it was a sea of people, and we crawled through slowly.  old merchants sold trinkets and candy to the kids.  it must have been the most lucrative time to open up shop.

the sliding door opened again.  a few people got out and i breathed easier for the space.  but then, the students we’d been teaching started getting in.  they filled the seats beyond capacity and loaded into the back and filled the floor.  i was squeezed tight between the side of the van and another student.  i started to feel claustrophobic, but again, i was an hour away from the hotel so i didn’t really have a choice.

i gathered from bits and pieces again that we were not returning to the hotel, but instead going to visit the city center.  i placated myself by imagining the hotel room.  i felt my pj’s on, lying on a pillow in cool air conditioned air with headphones on and some random show passing over my retinas.  when i came back to, i was still a sardine and we were heading into traffic.  so now i was a sardine in a van that was a sardine in traffic.  i couldn’t breathe.

i don’t know if you’ve ever experienced traffic in mexico city but it is despicable.  the van was old and the air conditioning couldn’t compete with the 15 hot bodies inside.  it was so hot i wanted to peel my skin off.  i started to sweat.  now i was a sardine in a van in a microwave.  i got very close to screaming and launching myself over four people to get out of the van.  i closed my eyes and practiced my breathing exercises.  this is temporary, this is transient.  it won’t be this way forever.

finally we arrived at the city center.  i had to get out of the van so we could walk around.  i was suddenly in the middle of a huge metropolis.  we passed by fancy restaurants and boutiques, filled with shiny and expensive things.  i felt offended.  the juxtaposition of such despair with such extravagance was painful and disgusting.  we walked into a restaurant.  i walked straight back into the bathroom and tried the door.  it didn’t open.  i stood there, mind blank, face empty for probably 7 minutes before someone came out and i realized i just hadn’t used the knob correctly.  i walked in and saw in the mirror that my shirt was inside out.  i don’t know when that happened.  i was a mess.

i went out and sat at a large round table.  there was a brief, few minute period of respite before a live musician began to play.  the sound was disproportionately loud for the space.  the music notes filled the empty space in my head and i couldn’t escape.  maria sat near me and turned to me.  she said, in her broken english, that she was so sorry for my experience.  she said her students are trained for a full year before even getting to interact with these women and i’d gone in with no training and a history that made the experience hit too close to home and she felt terrible.  she, too, had a similar experience growing up and she, too, leaves and cries for having seen it again.  tears welled up in her eyes, and then tears welled up in my eyes and i felt her pain and she felt mine and we kind of cried there together in the middle of the table, surrounded by 15 other people going about their conversations.  i decided to try to snap out of it on her behalf.  so i put my fucking game face on and swept my dissociative state under the rug.  i’d have to deal with that later.

the day continued.  we walked around and i made conversation with the students; i think most of them had grown to like me, and that feeling congealed when i made some smart-ass comment in spanish in the giant church in the city center.  i don’t remember what it was; i only remember them choking on laughter with looks that said “THIS gringa!”

i don’t recall much about the rest of the day.  i was depleted.  i went to bed, and awoke early again the next day for our visit to the giant pyramids an hour and a half away.  it was our “play day” and by that time, we deserved one.


[un]loading zone

i think i’m ready to write again.

i’ve not been able to until today.  i haven’t been ready to face it all again.  and there is a lot, which is good because my evaporative cooler broke and it’s too fucking hot to move.  besides, the computer is in the coolest room of my house at this hour, so win-win.

i’m not sure why i’m ready to write now.  i realized while i was running an errand that i feel really uncomfortable.  a general feeling of anxiety and i feel uncomfortable in my skin.  this could be for a number of reasons, including some of the events i plan to describe today.  it’s not been helped by the fact that at least 3 different people unloaded a bunch of vitriol on me; not toward me, but about events going on in their lives, but i can tell it has taken its toll.  just unhappy fucking people.  and unhappy fucking people are energy suckers.

i’m going back to mexico to describe the rest of the trip, because it will become relevant in another story and plus i still have some processing to do with regard to that trip.  besides, it’s a pretty good story on its own.

so brace yourselves, if you plan to read this.  it’s gonna be a wild ride.

Workshop, Days 2 and 3

Day 2 was slightly better than Day 1, but started out like shit.  Linda and I woke up, and she told me I didn’t need to go downstairs to meet with Thor since I wasn’t involved in the data analysis.  Fine with me.  I knew the tasks I had to do with the workshop materials were relatively simple.  Time consuming, but simple.

This was clearly an error, however, because I got down stairs about 30 minutes after 10a and Thor was fucking pissed.  He gave me this whole big to-do about being on time.  I blinked, and said, that’s fine.  I was actually surprised at how well I kept my composure at this verbal attack so early in the morning, but clearly after the day before, my bullshit threshold had increased and I was unfazed.  Of course, I didn’t need his help *at all* to work on the materials, and it was really just annoying to be there because their conversation interrupted my train of thought.

Somewhere in there, Linda started saying that she wasn’t feeling well.  She had some kind of scab on her leg that looked to me like an ingrown hair.  Suddenly, she was convinced that she had a staph infection.  At one point, she said she was absolutely positive about it.  Although I was highly doubtful, she said she’d had it twice before so she knew 100% that it was.  Then, she started feeling sick and was convinced she had the flu.  She was freaking out.  Then, she was freaking out and saying she was going to fly home.  Then *I* was freaking out that my genius plan was all for nothing.  See, I knew my spanish was weak, so I reconciled all of the work and prep I did for the class with the fact that I would have Linda teach it in Spanish.  Therefore, I did not have to teach in Spanish, which would have been very stressful given my level of fluency.  Now, I had done all the work, and was looking at also having to teach the class.  In Spanish.  Dear god.

By the end of Day 2, Linda decided she was going straight to bed.  Moreover, she would be staying in bed all day the next day.  I would be teaching the class.  Still, having her stay in bed while I did the work was still a net gain over listening to her have a freaking panic attack and complaining all the time about how much Mexico sucked and she hated being there.  I was ready to stab myself in the eye with a fork at one point.

The morning of Day 3, I grabbed a notebook and began writing down key words.  It’s kind of difficult to anticipate all of the words you will need in an advanced statistics course being taught to graduate students and professors, but I did my best.  I was dizzy and shaking from fear.  I already have a tremendous fear of speaking, but add the stress of teaching in another language (in which you are decidedly NOT fluent) to other grads and faculty, and I was just doomed.  I spent the morning trying not to throw up.  I kept thinking of words last minute.  I assigned Thor the role of answering questions, because I just couldn’t envision myself being able to compute questions on the spot with all of my anxiety at peak levels.

I stood in front of the class, trembling.  My voice shook as I introduced myself and then the topic.  I got a question, which I had to direct to Thor because my mind was completely blank.

Then…something fucking magical happened.

The whole culmination of my preparation of materials and understanding the material and teaching experience and writing down key words had apparently percolated sufficiently and suddenly, I was teaching the course in Spanish.  With almost no help from Thor.  I felt like Forest Gump in that scene where he realizes he could run fast as shit.  That was me.  The chick version of Forest Gump and instead of running, I was teaching in Spanish.

I saw the change reflected in the attendees too.  Suddenly, they were looking at me with big round eyes and big smiles on their faces.  Marisa was in the back of the room, *beaming* at me.  We were all thinking the same thing.

This fucking gringa can speak Spanish.

Workshop, Day 1

We arrived in Hermosillo earlier than I had anticipated.  The sun was still out when we pulled into the parking lot.  The hotel’s glimmering glass doors parted, granting us entry to the marble-floored reception.  A spiral staircase wound up through the center of the room, and a sparkling pool waited outside.  We dropped off our things, and immediately changed into bathing suits.  Linda and I ordered pina coladas, which were brought to us poolside.  I swam laps, reveling in the cool water and letting the tension from the road dissipate.  I hit the treadmill for another 45 minutes, watching the sun’s reflection fade against a desert hill across from the hotel, and then got ready for dinner.

We met up with our group, and it was practically my first interaction with Spanish.  I kept quiet for the most part, and tried to follow along, pretty unsuccessfully.  I was familiar with this process, since it had happened in Chile a few years back.  I would simply suck at conversation for a short period of time until I got my bearings.  Fortunately, I’d been sitting in on Skype conference calls in Spanish for the past couple of months, so my comprehension had gone from almost nothing up to about 75%.  Really, the biggest issue was if people asked me a question.  Passively listening, no one could tell that I was delayed in understanding.  But when addressed directly, there was the delay, and the added anxiety of having to generate a response, so I was really just a hot mess in those situations.

We had a flight first thing in the morning to head over to Mexico City in the morning for our first four-day workshop.  The flight felt longer than I had expected, but I had a book with me.  We were picked up from the airport by “Marisa”, our contact in Iztapalapa.  Again, I was pretty quiet.  I still didn’t have my Spanish-speaking hat on yet.  Marisa looked a little nervous, so my advisor quickly reassured her that Linda would be teaching the class.  It made me feel useless, but I took a deep breath and gave myself permission to acclimate.  So I wouldn’t dazzle them at first.  Just wait.

The drive to the hotel was…startling.  For a while, it reminded me of my trip to Chile a few years ago.  There were tons of similarities, even at the airport.  Then, the city started to turn.  On a busy main road I saw a young woman dressed provocatively on the sidewalk.  It didn’t really hit me until we had passed 4, 5, maybe 6 women–within a city block.  Prostitutes!  Out in the open, just waiting.  Shit just got real.

We also got some other bad news.  The original plan was great.  We’d start the workshop at 4pm each day, M-Th.  That meant that the laboratory portion that Linda and I were responsible for would go from 6-7p.  In other words, we’d have all day to trip around, and I could get work done on my summer class that started two days after our return from Mexico.  Now, we found out that there was some problem with the scheduling…Not only would our schedule be changed, but it wouldn’t even be a regular schedule.  Now, we started at 12p on Monday and Thursday, and 2pm on Tuesday and Wednesday.  On top of that, our hotel was almost an hour away from the university, and my advisor wanted to attend talks in the morning.  In summary, our days were completely fucked.

We finally arrived at our hotel, and instructed not to leave under any circumstances by ourselves.  Hmm…

Once I got my hotel key, I was pleasantly surprised to walk in to a beautiful, spacious hotel room, with a flat screen TV and DVD player, where we could watch the first season of Game of Thrones, and large, private bathroom with an ample supply of travel sundries.  I was surprised because the website for this hotel was, let’s just say, sparse.  I was not looking forward to the stay there until I got to the room.  Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Come morning, however, it was a different story.  My advisor…we’ll call him Thor…was in a terrible mood.  From the first minute, he was pissed off.  Pissed off that we weren’t down stairs earlier, pissed off about the food, pissed off about the service, the chairs, the room.  All of it.

In fairness, the breakfast was pretty awful and I saw his point about the chairs.  They were seriously made for really small people.  And Thor, let’s just say, is decidedly NOT a small person.  It pretty much sealed the deal when the waiter came back and told us we had to pay for our shitty food, even though we were told it was included.

We were supposed to arrive at the University early to be at some opening ceremony for the International Conference that was going on at the time, and Thor was so pissed off, he said fuck the ceremony, we’re packing our shit and going to a different hotel.  Linda and I looked at each other sideways, thinking the same thing: This is going to be a long day.

We had “30” minutes to pack everything and be back downstairs.  But really, it was only like 15 before Thor called up to the room and barked that we needed to get downstairs in 3 minutes. Clothes and toiletries were thrown haphazardly back into bags. Luggage in tow, made our way back to the lobby.  We were driven to the University, and ended up leaving our luggage in the car, which I don’t even do where I *live*, let alone in Mexico.

There was no time to argue, though, because Thor was on a rampage.  The poor student who picked us up was frantically trying to text Marisa to let her know about the hotel situation.  Then, we got to the site of the International Conference, and Thor’s face quickly morphed into an expression of clear dissatisfaction.

Stairs.  He couldn’t take stairs.

Now, it would be true to say that Thor was acting a bit like a primadonna that morning.  A Diva, even, as Linda had succinctly put it.  But the stairs were another issue entirely.  Thor is grossly overweight, and that’s even after losing enough weight to constitute an entire human being.  He can’t walk for long, and stairs are just out of the question.

We made it up those stairs exactly one time. After seeing what constituted this so called big conference, it now deserves quotation marks.  An “international conference”, where the first talk was seriously an argument for the divination of Hugo Chavez.  Seriously.  Thor, a staunch libertarian, left the room after 5 minutes.  I went outside myself after about 45 minutes of feeling like it was a complete waste of time, frustrated that I’d be spending my mornings attending this BS conference rather than working on my class.

A sliver of hope.  Thor told me that under no circumstances would he be attending this event after that day.  Thank god.

We had a short break before our workshop started, so we walked to a street just outside the university.  It was a small, narrow street, clogged with traffic and cyclists, and vendors selling cheap trinkets and pirated DVDs.  The “restaurant” was decidedly sketch.  I couldn’t understand the conversation.  I felt meek and ignorant.  Patience, I reminded myself.  Just keep trying.

Much to my dissatisfaction, I discovered that the current plan at the moment was to stay at Marisa’s house.  Now, just taking stock of everything, I quickly realized how awful that would be.  We were in a poor ass town, at a poor ass university.  Marisa was a professor at this poor ass university, which means she probably didn’t make shit, income-wise.  Which meant we would probably end up sleeping on couches and sharing a bathroom with Thor.  I was fucking livid but I did my best to keep my cool.  Still, the day’s stresses were becoming unbearable.

Soon, it was time for the workshop to start.  I had to use the restroom and discovered that there were absolutely no toilet seats, whatsoever, and you’d be lucky to have toilet paper.  Inevitably, I had left my portable toilet supplies at the hotel.  Big mistake.  Drip dry it was.

Fortunately, on the way back to the room, the conference organizer stopped me in the hall and told me that he’d found us another hotel.  Honestly, I only understood “other hotel”, so I thanked him and brought the news back to Thor and Linda.

Thor talked for over two hours, gouging into our laboratory session.  I was frantically making final revisions on the laboratory materials.  Linda didn’t offer to help, or even seem to think about whether the materials were ready.  Over the past week, though, I had learned that involving her was actually more work than doing it myself because she is technologically illiterate.  At times, it was maddening because there was SO. MUCH. TO. DO.  And she was virtually useless in that regard.  That was aggravating on its own, but it became even worse later.  Hold that thought.

We were brought over to the computer lab about 5 minutes before it was supposed to start, which is never a good thing.  The computers didn’t have the program we needed to run the statistics software.  Moreover, downloading it was going to take, for some stupid reason, 35 freaking minutes.  Linda had *no* idea what was going on.  Somehow, she also didn’t seem to notice how fucking unprofessional and retarded we looked.  We were 40 minutes into our hour-long slot and literally zero had happened.  I broke out into a sweat.

I was not about to have my professional reputation sullied by incompetence, so I stood up and told Thor that we were changing the format of today’s class, and then told Linda that we needed to introduce the program with the User Interface document I had created.  This document provided step by step instructions, with screen shots, for everything we would be doing in the program and more.

I was frustrated.  If I had spoken better Spanish, this snafu would have been minimized considerably.  I could have easily worked around it and minimized the effect on students.  Instead, we looked like freaking dodo birds.

Moreover, Linda had been substantially less involved in the preparation for the course.  She simply hadn’t been available for a number of meetings for various reasons.  A few times, for work.  Other times, not so valiant reasons.  I don’t remember if I mentioned this in my last post, but began working on this workshop the Saturday after finals ended, and one week exactly before leaving to Mexico.  We met around 11 or so in the morning, and Linda was hung over as fuck.  We wasted the first hour talking about personal crap, before I turned the conversation to the workshop.  I asked her two questions: 1) how much work was she willing to do, and 2) how much time did she have.  She seemed interested in producing high quality work, so I told her my ideas about creating PowerPoints, the User Interface with screen shots, Annotated Outputs, and so on.  About another hour or so in, we realized the restaurant was closing and would have to change locations to a coffee shop.  I arrived at the coffee shop, and she called me to ask if I was there already.

Yeeeeesssss…why, I asked.  And she said, I feel like shit I just want to take a nap.  A lightening bolt of disgust/annoyance/anger struck, but I took a deep breath and closed my eyes to recenter.  I asked her what other time she had to work.  Of course, I already knew she didn’t have any other time, but I clearly had to remind her about that, and to indicate that under no circumstances would I do all of this on my own.  Little did I know at the time…

Finally, she came to the coffee shop.  What followed was 6 hours of fucking AGONY.  I set her to the task of taking screen shots of the whole process we’d be going through in class.  Meanwhile, I’d work on the PowerPoints.  What actually happened was I did not have even ONE 5 minute span where I was not interrupted to solve a problem.  By 9:30pm, my head was pounding, and we had gotten almost nothing done.  I didn’t even have all day to work on this, because grades were due two days later and I still had a MOUNTAIN of shit to grade.  Finally I decided I’d get more done on my own and ended the “meeting”.  I had resolved myself to the fact that I simply did not have time to sleep.  I went home, popped a Nuvigil, and redid everything for the workshop.  I finished around 9am, took a small break, and then started grading.

Meanwhile, I’m getting texts from Linda about her out of town trip, which had suddenly morphed into a spontaneous trip to Vegas.  She’s texting about stopping to go shopping and two free nights in Vegas and drinking.  Originally, it was just a one night deal, and she said she would have time to help Monday night.  Clearly, that wasn’t happening anymore.  Meanwhile I’m at home, in physical agony from exhaustion and frustration from grading shitty papers.  It was absolutely fucking maddening, but it was slightly less maddening than trying to get her to accomplish any work, so it felt like a net win.  And that’s just sad.

Anyway, back to Mexico.  The point of that whole digression is that I was having meetings with my advisor to get clarification about the topic and have the materials approved and to make sure I understood what was being taught.  Linda, on the other hand, got none of this, which meant that a good 30% of the work I did was neglected entirely.  Which also meant that Mexican students were getting a worse deal than they should have, in terms of education and the value-added of paying to attend our class.  She blew through conceptual stuff, background stuff, and anything extra.  She did a black-and-white, step by step of the program, and then said, yep, well that’s it!  I had to use everything I had to keep my poker face on, because she was making our class sound fucking pointless.  There was literally zero pedagogical skill going on there, even though she had sat in on and observed me teach the workshop in the US, where I did go over those very topics.

Finally, the agony ended, and we were driven to our new hotel.  It was in an even more sketch area, and was decidedly shittier than the original hotel.  The rooms weren’t as nice, and there was like NO privacy for bathroom related activities.  The shower opened right out into the room.  Thankfully there was a door for the toilet.  It was disappointing to say the least, but Thor was happy, so I put my fucking game face on and said it was fine.

We all met down in the restaurant, where I immediately ordered a fucking cocktail that was glorious and wonderful.  We ate dinner, and made a plan to meet in the morning, because Linda was analyzing some data and I needed to make revisions to the User Interface, which had now, through some unspoken agreement by everyone but me, completely fallen on my shoulders.  Linda didn’t even ASK if she should help or indicate that she thought she should.  We’d be meeting at 10am the next day, 4 hours before the workshop started.  Then there was talk of going out to eat afterword.  In other words, the day was shot.

Finally, we made our way back up to the hotel room and zonked the fuck out.

the road to hermosillo

Where to start.

It’s hard to say, because it has felt like one big domino effect for I don’t know how long.  You know, I don’t ask for much, and maybe that’s my problem.  Today I reached the last thread on my rope, and I am just done.  Done.

Given the nature of my more recent posts, it may seem like a complete turnaround to appear to be back to ground zero again.  Thankfully I’m not at ground zero, and in the end, these trials and tribulations will stand as evidence of how far I’ve come.

But today, they are just shit.

I am in Mexico right now.  I’ve been in this country for one harrowing week already, with one more to go.  The weeks before that were filled with grading, end of semester stress, threatening students (them threatening me, not the other way around), preparing a workshop, etc.  It has literally been non-stop, and by that I mean several sleepless nights, up working, plugging away at grades and handling mundane responsibilities, and preparing all materials for a multivariate statistics workshop, and teaching the pilot version in the U.S. before bringing it abroad.

I’ve been handling my shit, in other words.  And that’s been really great, although I’ve since discovered that there is practically zero incentive for being so awesome.

Before leaving for Mexico, I got all my ducks in a row.  Grades were submitted ON TIME.  The workshop was prepared, with PowerPoints, and an illustrated (more like screenshots, but whatever) user interface manual, annotated outputs, and a complete knowledge of the material and its implications. And by the way, when I showed these materials to my advisor, who had invited me to teach the laboratory portion of this workshop, do you know what he said?  He said, “oh great, now I know what I need to teach in the lecture.”


Mind you, this was literally a day or two before the workshop was to begin.  And he hadn’t even started.  I pulled all nighters, working on this shit, and he hadn’t even bothered to start.

Lesson #1: Only work as hard as your students.  Or in this case, your advisor.

Back to my original illustration of being initiated into the superhero society: I looked up international phone services, and got instructions to avoid extra charges.  I arranged to have my neighbor watch my dogs, and paid her a hefty sum so I knew she’d step up to the plate.  I ordered rental insurance in case anything happened while I was gone.  I called the bank, and made sure my cards wouldn’t be canceled or flagged if I used them in Mexico.  I paid my mother fucking rent.  Early.

I also arranged it so that I would not be responsible for teaching in Mexico.  My Spanish is spotty and combined with public speaking fears and being in another country, I thought it best if my colleague and friend taught it, since she speaks more fluently than I do.  It seemed like a reasonable trade that I teach the material in the U.S., she teaches in Mexico, and we share in preparing the materials.  It turned out that I ended up preparing EVERYTHING, but still, since I didn’t have to teach in Spanish, I was only moderately annoyed.

It’s been hard and trying and exhausting and challenging.  That’s par for the course with, you know, life.  I made it.  I earned my fucking stripes.  I kicked ass and took names and goddamn it, I wish I could say that in real life without feeling like I had to make a fucking disclaimer, or water it down by saying it as a joke.

In any case, so everything is in order, and I’m on my way to my advisor’s house bright and early so we can drive to Mexico.  At the time, I’m thinking, Great!  I’ve got my shit done, my friend/colleague (we’ll call her Linda) is going to teach this, so I’ll have the days to myself to set up my summer course, which begins exactly two days after returning from Mexico.  The lab is, after all, only one hour out of the day.  The lecture portion doesn’t start until 4pm, and so we would teach from 6-7pm.  I’d be like an assistant, helping students with the interface and materials, while Linda reads off the PowerPoint slides.  Whole days could be spent working, getting my class together, and even working on research projects.  Or if I’m really lucky, relaxing.

Lesson #2: Nothing ever goes as planned.

I get a random call from Beautiful Disaster, who is shit-faced as expected, and telling me how amazing his life is, fluffing his peacock feathers, about how he wants to fly me to Miami, or come see me in Tucson, or whatever.  Really, I only ever talk to him just to hear about the crazy experiences he’s having.  Sadly, I can’t really empathize anymore because of, well, mood stabilizers.  They really kill highs.

Plus, it would be stupid to burn bridges with someone who has ungodly amounts of money and no idea what to do with it.  A few weeks before, he had called to ask if he should consider going into a PhD program.  To be a clinician.  Of course I thought this was a terrible idea but rather than say that right away I asked him to tell me why he wanted to do it.  His reason?  Because he’s fucking rich and wouldn’t have to go so far in debt to get the degree.  And then how awesome it would be to have this amazing degree and he’d work barefoot counseling people.  Almost like clockwork, he played right into the point I intended to make.  I said, you know, there is one reaaaaally important think in that whole answer that I didn’t hear.  Something that would be SUPER important if you were going to do this job, you know?  And he said, what?

I said, you didn’t say one word about wanting to help people.  Not one!  This is clearly not the job for you.

We went through a few more options.  But the point is not that he is a retarded kid, which he is, clearly.  The point is that someone with stupid amounts of money is asking ME what he should do with it.  Which means that given the right circumstances, I could, possibly, influence him to do something good with it.  It might never happen, but it could.  So, in the end, it’s worth it.

Back to my original story.  Mexico.

I arrived at my advisor’s house 10 minutes early, which interestingly made my advisor flustered and a little irritated.

Lesson #3: With some people, you simply can’t win.

I had just a few tasks left before heading out of the country.  I called my veterinarian to put my credit card on file, in case anything happened while I was gone.  I also tried to pre-order and pre-pay for dog food in case I ran out.  That didn’t work, so I texted my neighbor that I would send money via PayPal.  Finally, all was complete.  I was ready to go.

Or so I thought.  I gave my advisor’s wife the keys to my car, in case she needed to use it, or the alarm went off spontaneously, which it has been doing as of late.  Not 20 minutes later, it went off, and by the look on my advisor’s wife’s face, random instances of my car alarm would not be remotely acceptable.  After a few seconds, I decided that the best course of action would be to disconnect the car battery.  I asked for a wrench.  They didn’t have a single one.  I requested an old rag and tried to remove the negative terminal cable by hand.  No luck.  Eventually, I just decided to go knock on the neighbor’s door, even though they weren’t my neighbors and I had no idea if they would have the tool I needed.  The bottom line was that I was going to do whatever it took to solve the fucking problem.  And I did.

We finally got on the road, albeit late, around 10:30-ish.  The morning events, and likely the stress of the week(s) prior, left me feeling anxious and uncomfortable, tired but restless, and on edge.  Suddenly, it dawned on me that I had been irritable all week, frustrated with useless people and assholes, and I started to panic a little because I thought that the stress from everything had initiated a bipolar episode.  The feelings were identical to those I felt when she-who-shall-not-be-named told me I was experiencing dysthymic hypomania.  I was on my way to Mexico, with my advisor and a colleague, and of all possible times, I was cycling into a fucking episode.

We weren’t at the border yet, so I texted my aunt and asked her to look up symptoms and treatment.  I only had just enough meds to get me through this trip, so if I had to increase dosage, I’d need to fill a prescription in Mexico.  Not ideal, but do-able.  I didn’t want to say anything yet to my advisor and colleague…not until I was absolutely sure AND knew that it was going to impact my capacity to work.  That stretch of highway was REAL fucking lonely.  I was scared and humiliated that this was possibly happening to me, doing my best not to cry or bug the fuck out.

My aunt was able to call while we were stopped at a gas station, just before the border.  “Not the ideal time for this, now, is it?” Ha. Ha. Ha.  I made sure to decrease the volume on my phone, but Linda had already swiveled her head around the seat, one eyebrow raised, and looking very, very curious.  I tried to smile and brush it off, and dialed the volume down lower.  We made a plan for her to look up some information, send it by email, and for me to practice deep breathing exercises.  After all, I had had a lot of coffee that morning.  Maybe that was it.  Hopefully.

For an hour and a half, all I did was count my inhales and exhales.  If conversation was going on, I didn’t hear a word of it.  Only, breathe in, 1, 2, 3, breathe out, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, over miles of desert.  Maybe 45 minutes in, I started to feel myself start to center.  My mind started to calm.  I stopped trembling.  We pulled over to a restaurant for lunch right after the border at a delicious place called Leo’s.  Just one of many hole-in-the-wall places set up haphazardly on the side of the road.  I decided I would eat and make sure to use the bathroom, in the case that the caffeine was causing my symptoms.  I continued my breathing.  I distracted myself by eating the spiciest salsa I could stand.  My eyes watered and my face burned.  It was excruciating.  Excruciatingly good.

The hard work paid off.  My face was flaming hot, but my mind was calm.  By the time we finished lunch, I was able to drive, and we pulled out on the long road to Hermosillo.

Lesson #4: Exhaust all options before assuming the worst.

to be continued…

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