Intake Ramblings

The ramblings part of the title is veeeery accurate here! This is about my experience with intake and therapy and (1) I most certainly do not want to discourage you from seeking therapy if you have access to it! Intake may suck, but it is (usually) worth it. (2) I wrote this last night and refused to let myself do anything fun until I’d sent in my therapist request. So these are Thoughts and Feelings, but they are also out of date. 

It’s 2 a.m. and I can’t sleep. It feels a little like the insomnia is coming back. 2:30 am last night. Probably even later tonight. And awake at six, disoriented, but not exhausted.

There’s no AC, and a hot day turned into a warm and sticky night. So I’m on the couch, and I can’t sleep, with a mug of tea that won’t help.

I need to send in a request for assignment to a school therapist. I’ve been delaying. Again. I was late last year, too. My file will get a little bit longer, and a small and silly part of me thinks that’s worse than the feelings.

Eating disorder. Then, eating disorder again, with a new year and a new therapist, and a footnote–obsessive tendencies?
This year: anxiety.  Maybe. Probably.

I’m going to have to do intake again and auuuuugh. I will sit in a room and cross my legs and quietly spell out the last few years. I will ramble a little, because you’re speaking into silence and getting nods in return and I want to sound functional, but I need them to help me, and that means finding the worst parts.

“I believed I had the tendencies under control when I left for college.”
“And by the end of that year I was unable to keep from swinging between bingeing and depriving.”
“Invasive thoughts…trouble leaving my house once or twice.”

There will be a series of questions when I stop talking. I’ve sat on the other side and asked them myself, ticking boxes and nodding. I know what they are, and I know why they’re asked and I will still feel weird and shift uncomfortably, even as I answer honestly.

Have you ever felt suicidal?

Have you ever been sexually assaulted? Raped?

And then they will nod and smile and thank me for sharing, as though I’d set pretty cupcakes on the table between us, instead of my insides.

They’ll let me know when they have a therapist for me, they say as we shake hands. I’ll go sit in the campus garden for a bit when I leave. It’s become a ritual, this. The story, the niceties, the third bench on the right, behind the tulips, letting the feelings crash down.

And then, in a week or so, I’ll get an email from my new therapist. She’ll have my file, but she’ll ask me to explain why I’m there, and I will retell the story again. And then, finally, the work will begin.


The Social Psychology of Sportsball

Photo credit: wikimedia commons

Social psychology is a weird and confusing bird. Humans, as you might imagine, are complicated.  And so it goes that the most interesting research results usually have caveats in caveats, beginning with “well, we did this once in a lab with college sophomores” and ending with “….and it may or may not replicate”.*

Which is why the research on black jerseys and sports is so very fascinating. We’ve studied it from a few angles. We’ve looked at it in real life. It’s replicated, to an extent.

When teams wore black jerseys, they played more aggressively, getting more penalties. Okay, cool, maybe that’s a thing, you say, all skeptical-faced. But what if it’s just coincidence? Or what if there’s some mitigating factor?

Well, researchers looked at sixteen seasons of data from the National Hockey League (NHL) and National Football League (NFL). In both cases, teams have two uniforms: one with primarily white, and trim in the team color, the second in the team color with white trim.  In each case, the teams with black as the main color in their colored jerseys received more penalties when dressed in black.

Okay, but what if it’s just where the black jersey’s are worn? After all, NFL players traditionally wear their black jerseys at home games and the predominantly-white ones for away games. (The reverse is true for the NHL) What if it’s just a matter of the team playing more aggressively when home (in the NFL) or away (in the NHL)?

Well, that was examined, too! During the sixteen year sample, several teams switched uniform colors from non-black to black. In each case, there was an immediate uptick in penalties. This was even seen in one case where the switch happened mid-season–meaning that management and players hadn’t changed. When teams exchanged their black uniforms for different colors, there was an immediate decrease in penalties. This finding has also been replicated in other studies, where teams are randomly assigned a uniform color, then swap uniforms.

Common objection: Black jerseys are easier to spot–so referees are more likely to call penalties. 

Status: seems to be false. Even when players wore other dark colors, black uniforms had significantly more penalties.
Caveat: Jerseys that were perceived to be black, notably the Chicago Bears’, appeared to have the same status as black jerseys. So, dark jerseys don’t behave like black ones…unless they’re dark enough to appear black. That’s a bit of a fuzzy boundary.

Potential mechanism driving the black jersey effect: Black is seen as a symbol of malevolence and aggression.

Status: Somewhat supported, less replicated than the black jersey effect. The researchers who did the original research with the NHL and NFL also got naive participants (those who didn’t have any sports experience or recognition) to rate the ‘malevolence’ of players pictured in black and non-black uniforms. They consistently rated those in black uniforms higher.
Caveat: Small sample size, undergraduates, and heavily skewed towards women participants.

Further reading at NPR and PubMed.

*This is an unqualified dig; I actually adore social psychology. It’s messy and frustrating and often conflicts and makes sweeping claims, but it studies some of the most interesting subjects on the planet: us. 

Monday Miscellany: All Caps-y BRAINS Edition

Pete Etchells takes a look at what data we have on screen-time and mental health. (Spoilers: it’s not as simple as TV = bad.)

Miri on making the normal abnormal.

Here is a “normal” thing in our society: a young woman walks down the street at midnight, one hand clutching her keys and the other holding her pepper spray with her finger poised on the trigger. Her heart pounds and she walks as fast as possible. Few other women are still out, but plenty of men hang around, walking freely down the street. A few of them shout sexual comments at the woman just for shits and giggles.
So what I want to do is to get people to look at this differently. I want them to see how weird, how artificial, how bizarre this actually is. I want them to imagine a sentient alien species visiting Earth and furrowing their brows (if they have brows) and wondering, “Wait, so, you divide your species in half and one half can’t walk down the block without getting harassed or threatened by the other half? And your solution to this is not for the ‘men’ to stop harassing and threatening, but for the ‘women’ to stop walking alone?!”

GUYS. WE MADE A BRAIN-LIKE THING IN A LAB. It’s a bit of a proto-brain, without neural networks, but it is SO. COOL.

Pretty is a set of skills.

Have spare time? Want a less-jargony intro to artificial intelligence risk? Robby has curated one for you. I’m only on Part II–much like Wikipedia, I get lost in links within the linked articles.

Give people time to be stupid: compassion in the face of questions.

Haters gonna hate? Yeah, there’s a psychological explanation for that.

Poverty increases cognitive load, leading to a decrease in mental ability.

In a series of experiments run by researchers at Princeton, Harvard, and the University of Warwick, low-income people who were primed to think about financial problems performed poorly on a series of cognition tests, saddled with a mental load that was the equivalent of losing an entire night’s sleep. Put another way, the condition of poverty imposed a mental burden akin to losing 13 IQ points, or comparable to the cognitive difference that’s been observed between chronic alcoholics and normal adults.

The finding further undercuts the theory that poor people, through inherent weakness, are responsible for their own poverty – or that they ought to be able to lift themselves out of it with enough effort. This research suggests that the reality of poverty actually makes it harder to execute fundamental life skills. Being poor means, as the authors write, “coping with not just a shortfall of money, but also with a concurrent shortfall of cognitive resources.”

Binge-eating and the ‘rewards’ system.


In Which I Accidentally Test My Previous Post

Yesterday I posted about reducing a somatic symptom of anxiety. Today, I accidentally gashed myself with a knife and found myself quite panicky at the injury and blood and in the emergency room….retesting all that advice I was handing out*. Empiricism!

However, this also serves as an announcement that blogging, if it occurs, will be short and possibly typo-prone. My left hand looks a bit like a sewing project, and I’ve just sent my computer into the shop for a few days. The WordPress app on my phone isn’t bad, but the links feature is buggy, and composing is slow.

* I tried all suggestions in sequence and found the most immediate relief from the cool cloth on the back of my neck, but want to compare it to an ice pack in the same location. Even more helpful was the friend who talked cheerfully about her summer without needing much response from me–distracting me for the entire procedure. She’s going to be a brilliant doctor.