Posted in bipolar disorder, Fiber, Peripheral neuropathy, Quilts

Closer To Bipolar Normal

Settling back to the kind of normal that’s possible with bipolar disorder. Yesterday, I had a manic episode. It was a small one. I couldn’t calm down. Doing things to try to get rid of the nervous energy, like vacuuming the living room and sucking up the cobweb in the corner, only made me more anxious. I tried art. Didn’t work. I took my anti-anxiety med. Kind of worked.

In desperation, I decided that I would continue working on the next nerve quilt. This one is about regeneration. I decided I was done screwing around trying to find the PERFECT DESIGN, and decided the design I had worked out said what I needed it to say. I decided I was done trying to find the PERFECT COLOR COMBINATION and decided the fabrics I picked out worked well and said what I needed them to say. I cut and pinned. I wanted to start sewing down pieces, but my sewing room doesn’t have good light and I wasn’t sure I was seeing the thread colors correctly. Today, I’ll look at the threads I’ve picked out and make a decision. Then, I’ll start raw edge applique and start some embroidery with Razzle Dazzle.

Nerve regeneration 2 3-23-18

Nerves regenerate. If an axon is damaged or dies, the nerve cell can grow a new axon. Or grow new dendrites. It’s called plasticity. The last nerve conduction study showed that the nerve cells in my lower legs had grown new axons. I got all kinds of plasticity going on inside of me and my nerves are regenerating. The neurologists who smile at me and hand me prescriptions for more useless drugs are, as I suspected, full of shit.

I’m linking with Nina Marie here. Stop by and see what other artists are doing.

Looking for a great, one of a kind gift? Please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art here.

Posted in bipolar disorder, Emotions, Grief, Pain

Maybe I’m Headed Back To Normal

I thought it was just situational depression. Fearing that a nerve conduction study would show that I’m going to have to spend the rest of my life in pain is depressing. There’s a logical reason for the depression. I knew I was suicidal, and I told people about wanting to kill myself. I told Jim and a friend how I planned on killing myself. Hold the pistol about an inch to the left of my breast bone, use hollow point ammunition, and squeeze the trigger. Fast and lethal. When I went for my nerve conduction study, I had to fill out pages and pages of information. I detailed, for an entire page, that I was suicidal, that I had a plan for killing myself, and that I had brought Jim with me in case I needed someone to talk me out of buying bullets on the way home. I formulated a plan for dealing with the police who I was sure would be called. I’d remain calm, I’d be sure not to do or say anything that could possible be construed as a threat to others thereby ensuring that if I didn’t want to go to a hospital, and I didn’t, the police would need a court order to take me to a hospital. Court orders take time. I was pretty sure I’d have about an hour in which to disappear if necessary.

I had a great plan.

No one talked to Jim about me. No one called the police. No one asked me about being suicidal. Probably because no one read the damn paperwork.

I have two bad days a year, April 1 and June 24. April 1 was my late sister’s birthday. June 24 is the anniversary of her death. April 1 is approaching and I’m depressed. My mother, a horrible narcissist, decreed that no one tell me my sister was sick or that she had died. I only knew because a friend saw the obit and called to ask how I was doing. Some years are better than others. I assumed this wasn’t one of the better years. There’s a logical reason for the depression. It would pass after April 1. I just had to wait a few days and the depression would be gone.

Since March 6, 2012, the day after finally being accurately diagnosed bipolar, I had been on both a mood stabilizer and an antidepressant. After the Lexapro and lithium stopped working, I came off them one at a time. I went through withdrawal, then saw my doctor. She prescribed Wellbutrin and Lamictal. I was on the best set of psych meds I’d ever been on.

I started having problems right after the inauguration last year. I was sure the problems were situational. We have a president who brags about being a sex offender. I went into the second worst manic episode I’ve ever had. I tried increasing the Wellbutrin, but that gave me hallucinations. Or maybe there really was a tiny bug pushing a huge dust bunny along the bathroom wall. Backed off on the Wellbutrin and increased the Lamictal. That worked. Once the crisis had passed, I went back to my regular dosage. Problem solved.

Except it wasn’t solved. I started having hallucinations last August and made the decision to come off Wellbutrin. Hallucinations are a good reason to suspect you’re either on the wrong medication or on the wrong dose. I went through 12 weeks of withdrawal which was not only miserable for me, it was miserable for anyone who had the misfortune to be around me.

I thought that because I am retired and no longer working in a hostile, hateful, stressful, and downright miserable environment, perhaps I could get by with just a mood stabilizer. My doctor agreed with my decision. She knows I’ll be back if I’m wrong.

Yesterday afternoon, I realized the depression wasn’t situational. It was permanent. It was a part of my mental illness. I cried because I was depressed. I cried because I felt like a failure for needing to go back on antidepressants. I grew up in a family where seeing a therapist was worse than walking naked into McDonalds at noon. A household run by drunks has one inviolate rule: Don’t tell. I was a failure. I would always be a failure.

In the midst of this, I realized I need to go back on antidepressants. I found my supply of Wellbutrin, cut a pill in half, and took it. Within two hours, I had a complete personality transformation.

I will continue to take a half pill a day and see how this works. I’ve been on a number of antidepressants, and needed to come off every one of them. I came off Effexor when I hung onto the living room wall to keep the universe from spinning out of control. I came off Paxil when I realized that I could not continue living as I was living. Take my Paxil dose, things are fine, then I was out of control and the dose had to be raised. Again and again. I came off Lexapro when my meds stopped working and I was bouncing off the ceiling. After coming off Lexapro, I looked in the mirror and wondered when I had gotten so grossly overweight. I looked around the house and wondered when it had gotten so cluttered. I looked and the clothes I had been wearing to work and wondered whatever possessed me to wear such outfits.

I didn’t gain weight on Wellbutrin. I lost weight although not enough to get down to a healthy weight. I wore normal clothes. I cleaned the bathroom although I’ve still got clutter I want to remove.

When I go back on medication, I go back down the rabbit hole. Again. I enter a cycle that can’t be broken or altered. I enter med adjustment which lasts about 6 months. Then I am in the eye of the hurricane and my life is under control. Then the meds stop working – all psych meds eventually stop working – and I enter med hell. I stay there until I am sure I cannot stay there any longer. Then I enter withdrawal which lasts a minimum of 6 weeks and up to 12 weeks. I long for the ease of heroine withdrawal where all that’s required is puking and pooping for three days. I am forced to repeat this cycle until I die.

To those who reached out to me after my last, depressing, suicidal blog post, thank you. You will never know and I cannot express how much you helped.

On an artistic note….I finished the nerve quilt. And I’m working on a design for the next nerve quilt. While this quilt is about frustration, the next quilt is about healing. I’m getting there. It’s just going to take longer than I want.

Nerve Quilt 1 3-19-18

I’m linking with Nina Marie here. checkout what other artists have been doing.

Want to see the art I have for sale? Check out my website: Deb Thuman Art here.

Posted in Baking, Beads, Cognitive problems, Emotions, Fiber, Pain, Peripheral neuropathy, Photography

The Coffee Cake Cupcakes Were Good

I’m doing better, but it was a horrible week. I had a nerve conduction study on Tuesday. I wasn’t afraid of what it would show; I was terrified of what it wouldn’t show. If the study showed tarsal tunnel, I’d be fine. That can be corrected surgically. If the study showed it wasn’t tarsal tunnel, I’d be stuck being in pain with not relief.

When the neuropathy flares, the pain routinely hits 7. The last time, it was bad enough that suicide looked like a good idea. I even planned out how I would do it. I’ve got a .22 calibre pistol. The advantage of a .22 is that it bounces around inside and cases more damage than a 9mm. I figured I’d use hollow point ammunition. Hollow point bullets are designed to flare upon impact and damage more tissue. If I held the pistol about an inch to the left of my breast bone, I’d be sure to blow a nasty, as opposed to nice, hole in my heart. I figured I’d have only one shot at killing myself and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to survive this shot. Naturally I’d do this outside so Jim wouldn’t be stuck cleaning up a mess in the house. Then I came up with a better idea. I’d go back to the neurology clinic at University of New Mexico and tell whatever neurologist was handy that I was tired of being ignored, I was tired of neurologists refusing to find out why I’m in pain and I was tired of being handed yet another prescription for yet another useless drug. So, if you can’t be bothered listening, let me put this in words you won’t be able to ignore. Bang. Why should Jim have to clean up any of the mess? Maybe, just maybe, one of those genius neurologists would start to listen to patients. And if not, at least I wouldn’t be in pain any more. I would just have to remember to tell Jim not to accept my body. Let the state pay for the cremation.

That scared the shit out of me.

The closer it got to the nerve conduction study, the more anxiety I had, the more depression I had, and the more terrified I was that I was going to have to commit suicide. I had Jim come to the appointment with me in case I needed him to talk me out of buying bullets on the way home.

One of the ways I deal with anxiety is to cook or to make art. I found a recipe for sourdough coffee cake and made coffee cake cupcakes. I brought them to my neurobiology class on Tuesday morning. The class enjoyed them. Then I started working on a quilt. More about the quilt in a few paragraphs.

When I got to the doctor’s office Tuesday afternoon, I filled out a good dozen pages of history and information. I had to list my allergies on at least three pages. I had to answer how much I agreed or disagreed with a list of statements.

“I enjoy talking to attractive people.” I wrote: You’ve got to be kidding me.

I spent an entire page writing about being suicidal and having a working plan for killing myself. I warned Jim that someone would probably be talking to him about me being suicidal. I expected to be sequestered in a room and have a police officer come in and try to convince me to go to a hospital. There are three ways to get someone into a mental hospital. Voluntarily go; commitment by court order; or if the person has committed an offense for which the person could be arrested, the police could take the person to a mental hospital for a mental exam without order of the court.

Under no circumstances would I voluntarily go to a mental hospital. I’ve visited friends inside of locked wards. They all have a glassy expression, talked like they were underwater, and shuffled when they walked. No thanks. I don’t need more drugs.

A court order takes time and I knew I couldn’t be held in a room against my will. I could get up and walk out of the doctor’s office. I knew I had to be extremely careful not to do or say anything that could be construed as a threat against another person.

So what happened? Nothing. No one talked to Jim. No one asked me about being suicidal. I doubt anyone read a word I wrote.

I told the doctor, a pain management specialist, that I wanted to be able to see the monitor during testing. So he told me about his experience. Somewhere in there, I mentioned I have an undergrad degree in biology. Unfortunately, I was facing the wall when he asked, “Are you a neurophysiologist?” “No. I’m an attorney.” I would have loved to see his expression.

I did get to see the graphs for a number of the tests. Because of my neurobiology class, I had a pretty good idea what I was looking at and I could keep up with the medical terminology. The tests showed a lowered amplitude on the action potential. Translated: the electrical impulse in my nerve wasn’t as strong as expected. I have a slower velocity than expected. Translated: the impulse travels down my nerve axon slower than “normal.” The tests also showed there had been problems with the axons connecting to my leg muscles, but I had grown new axons to take the place of the defective axons. That’s nerve regeneration and it does happen.

My nerves are dead or dying and this isn’t going to get better. Fortunately, I was too depressed to be suicidal. Yes, there are levels of depression so deep that one would have to feel better to commit suicide.

The pain management specialist said he had no way to treat me. That’s okay. I would never let this guy treat me. I told him the only reliable pain killer was making art. He tried telling me that was a diversion. No, this isn’t like Lamaze. The pain stays gone after I stop making art. I don’t think he liked hearing that. It’s tough to make money prescribing art.

I did some thinking the next day.  I realized I don’t have dead nerves. I know this because I felt every one of those impulses. Then I did some research. Then on Thursday I had a chat with my neurobiology teacher. I had some of the amplitude problem figured out although I had the wrong ion. I had the velocity figured out, although the problem might not be as bad as I thought. I looked at the results of blood work done in December. I remembered what my primary care doctor told me.

The blood work showed a mild potassium deficiency and my triglyceride level is way higher than it should be. My chiropractor told me that peripheral neuropathy is a metabolic problem. The potassium deficiency at least contributes to the neuropathy. I had been monitoring my blood glucose levels and keeping a food diary. My primary care doctor told me that the glucose levels are indicating a problem. I’m not diabetic or even pre-diabetic. My doctor told me that if I continue to monitor my glucose levels and learn what foods to avoid, keep exercising and keep losing weight, the triglyceride level should go down to normal. So that’s what I’ve been doing. My nerves have already proven they will regenerate. I’m hoping that fixing the potassium deficiency will reverse the neuropathy.

Here’s the quilt I’ve been working on. I have finished putting the beads on the dendrites. I’m working on quilting it. I’m quilting by hand around the dendrites and the axon. I’ll be quilting the graph for a healthy action potential on the quilt. The axon has vesicles containing neurotransmitters and one vesicle releasing neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are how nerves communicate with each other. Note that the neurotransmitters aren’t being accepted by any of the receptors (beads) on the dendrites.

IMG_5418IMG_5422

The working polite title is: Damn it, LISTEN to me.

The real title, which would keep this piece from ever being accepted into any quilt show on the planet, is: Get back here motherfucker, sit the fuck down and LISTEN TO ME.

I’m no longer suicidal. I’m working on getting healthier.

I got a new lens for the Canon. It’s a Tamron 18-400mm zoom telephoto. I’ve tested it out and I love this lens. It gives me way sharper shots than I was getting with a generic 75-300mm zoom telephoto. I even get sharp macro shots at 400mm. I went out to Soledad Canyon to do some shooting yesterday. My brain is still messed up from all the anxiety – anxiety that was worse than I had when I took a bar exam. I forgot my phone. I forgot I had used a custom white balance and neglected to switch back to automatic white balance. I’m shocked that the colors came out right. I forgot I had used exposure compensation and many of the shots are badly over exposed. At first, I thought there was a problem with autofocus. Nope. Autofocus is nearly silent.

Soledad Canyon 6 3-16-18Soledad Canyon 5 3-16-18Soledad Canyon 4 -16-18

I’m linking with Nina Marie here. Take a look at what other artists have done this week.

Looking for a one-of-a-kind gift? Please check out my store, Deb Thuman Art here.

Posted in Beads, Fiber, Pain, Peripheral neuropathy, Quilts

Listen To Me

I love my neurobiology class. I signed up for the class because I wanted to understand the peripheral neuropathy in my feet. I still don’t understand what’s happening in my feet, but I’m learning a ton of intriguing stuff.

I learned that the writers of the series Homeland screwed up when they wrote about the effects of sarin gas. I knew they screwed up because if the story line were accurate, the antidote for sarin would have guaranteed the person died. It’s good to know stuff like this. I did some research and asked my teacher if I had figured out the mistake right. For the most part, I had. I missed when I assumed a particular medical reaction, but I was right with the rest of it.

I learned that when a vesicle binds with a receptor, the cell membrane expands. In order to keep the cell the original size, a piece of membrane has to be removed. The process is remarkably like sewing a dart. That caused my brain to start working on quilt designs. I wasn’t happy with what I was sketching, so I started playing with lines and color. Much more satisfying, but not something I could turn into a quilt unless I wanted to spend several months hand sewing curved pieces. Which I don’t want to do.

Meanwhile, my primary care doctor noticed that no one had looked for tarsal tunnel syndrome. That’s the ankle version of carpal tunnel syndrome. I subsequently discovered that was one of the first things the eight neurologists I had seen should have checked. I’m furious. I’ve been in pain for five years. I’ve told all eight of these neurologists that I wanted whatever was wrong with my feet fixed. Find the cause, treat the cause, and the nerves regenerate. They smiled at me and handed me a prescription for useless drugs. I have another nerve conduction study scheduled for next Tuesday. If the problem is tarsal tunnel – and the nerve conduction study will answer that question – then the problem can be easily fixed surgically.

Anger and fascination merged. I want a quilt that says how furious I am, how frustrated I am, and how downright pissed off I am. I want a quilt that speaks with words a neurologist can understand. The working title is: Damn it, LISTEN to me.

Nerve Quilt use this one 3-9-18

It’s a dendrite with receptors and an axon with an axon terminal. Briefly, the axon terminal (green piece) contains the neurotransmitters in vesicles and the vesicles bind to a receptor on the dendrite (blue piece). When the neurotransmitters are released there’s a chemical communication between the nerve cells. Axons and dendrites are contained on the same neuron. I’m only showing part of two neurons here. I’m the axon and the dendrite is the eight neurologists too arrogant to listen to me. I’m pretty satisfied with the design but I want to do a little tweaking with the axon. I think it would be better if it curved more. Yes, there will be beads. Beads for receptors and beads for neurotransmitters. I need to work out what colors I want to use for the background, dendrite and axon. I haven’t decided if I want the dendrite to be darker than the axon. I know I want the axon to be bright and colorful. I’ve got a batik for the axon in mind that I think will work. Perhaps a darker, more muted batik for the dendrites. Then I have to figure out the background color. I’m trying not to rely on off-white or black. Something that would be surprising and unexpected would be nice.

Do these beads make my dendrite look fat?

I’m linking with Nina Marie here. Stop by her blog and see what other artists have been working on.

If you’re looking for a gift or for something special for yourself, please stop by my on-line store, Deb Thuman Art here..

Posted in bipolar disorder, Cognitive problems

What goes on behind my eyes?

I understand laetrile. Remember laetrile? The peach pit pseudo drug that was supposed to cure breast cancer and instead killed women? I understand why women took laetrile. I have my own laetrile. Meditation. And I’m clutching it as tightly as I can. I want it to work.

I had to choose and read a research paper for my neurobiology class and I chose a paper on the effects meditation has on the brain. Briefly, just as you can exercise and grow muscle mass, you can meditate and grow brain mass. The researchers selected two groups; one comprised of regular meditators and one comprised of those who don’t meditate. Because there are many ways to meditate, the researchers chose to limit the meditation practice to Brain Wave Vibration meditation .

The researchers took MRI images of the participant’s brains and discovered specific areas of the brain where the meditators had more brain mass than the same areas in the brains of the non-meditators.

So what? Glad you asked. Several years back, I read a paper about physical changes in the brains of people suffering from PTSD. There were deficits in brain mass in specific areas of the brain. More recently, I read about deficits in brain mass in specific areas of the brain of those who have bipolar disorder. This explained – or seemed to explain – why I have trouble concentrating and why I have scattered thoughts.

Does each form of meditation grow brain mass? Does each form target specific areas of the brain? If so, can a specific form of meditation replace the brain matter my bipolar/PTSD brain is missing? If so, will that cure me? Did the bipolar disorder cause parts of my brain to atrophy? Or did the brain deficits cause the bipolar disorder?

I don’t know the answers to any of those questions, but I’m not waiting for more research. I have taken up meditation although I’ve taken a scattered approach to the form of meditation. I have an app on the iPad that gives me choices of a whole lot of different types of meditation and different topics of meditation. Calm anxiety. Visualize health in your body. Healing grief – a meditation that triggered a wave of PTSD flashbacks. I want my brain back. I want to be able to concentrate without thoughts flying around like billiard balls after a successful break. I want this NOW. Except meditation doesn’t work that way. The brain mass grows gradually and I won’t be able to chart the growth the way I can chart weight loss.

Psych meds treat symptoms of mental illness, but they don’t cure mental illness. Pysch meds are expensive in several ways. Without insurance, my generic mood stabilizer would be more than $128 a month. My mood stabilizer keeps me from screaming, but it gives me brain fog. My scattered thoughts scatter farther and my concentration decreases. At least I’m not screaming.

I want a cure so I hang on to my laetrile known as meditation for dear brain health.

Today is International Women’s Day. When I entered college the first time, I was 25 years old and women had to have higher SAT scores and higher grades than men needed to be admitted to college. When I graduated in 1981, I had earned two degrees, one in journalism and one in biology. At that time, there were two women professors in the biology department of Buffalo State College and one allowed students to address her as Mrs. Wilson rather than Dr. Wilson. One of my physics classes had a higher than usual number of women. There were five of us. One was planning on being an engineer. I was in the biology program. I don’t know about the other three.  There were no women professors in the chemistry department. One chemistry teacher told me I was incapable of learning. Another refused to answer questions asked by female students. Until the day I forced him to answer my question. He told me he had been teaching for 26 years and he never met anyone as insolent as me. I told him I’d been learning for 26 years and I’d never met a teacher who refused to answer women’s questions. I could feel the other students’ fear and shock.

I started law school on my 38th birthday in 1990. Mine was the first law school class that was 50% women.

I’m now in a neurobiology class that’s roughly half women and is taught by a woman. One day, I kept track and discovered that the male students asked or answered questions approximately twice as often as women. Real changes in the sciences, like growing brain mass, take an inordinate amount of time.

To every woman in a STEM program or working in a STEM field, I offer this advice: Never let the male motherfuckers stop you.

I’m linking with Nina Marie here.

Posted in Beads, Fiber, Jewelry, Pain, Photography, Quilts

It’s Not Called Art Therapy For Nothing

I’m getting my energy back s-l-o-w-l-y. The infection is now gone and I don’t miss it. I’m still furious that tarsal tunnel, the ankle version of carpal tunnel, wasn’t ruled out 5 years ago. That should have been one of the first things any of the 8 neurologists looked for. But it’s so much more profitable to pat me on the head, smile when I say I want to know what’s causing the pain, and hand me another prescription for another drug that doesn’t work well. I have a nerve conduction study done on March 13. This time, I want to ask if there’s a way I can be positioned so I can see the computer monitor. I’ve now got a pretty good idea what those graphs mean and I want to see what’s going on inside of me.

I had been sleeping on the sofa because that was the only way I could keep the TENs unit attached to me while I sleep. I toss and turn which pulls the leads out of the dermatodes. There’s no room to toss and turn on the sofa so the leads stayed attached. Either I keep the TENs unit attached all night or I’m up in severe pain after a couple hours. I discovered that if I wear fleece socks, the leads don’t come unattached. This means I can sleep in my bed again. And I can use my CPAP machine which I can’t use in the living room. The outlets aren’t in the right places.

Armed with coupons and knowing fleece was on sale, I went to JoAnn’s in search of fleece that stretched in at least one direction. Some fleece will stretch, some won’t. I picked out five fleece fabrics and bought a yard of each. I’m using a Green Pepper pattern. The big thing is to make sure I’ve got the pattern pieces oriented so the stretch is in the proper direction. I finally found my ribbing so I used that for the cuffs.

Socks 4 3-4-18Socks 3-4-18Socks 2 3-4-17Socks 1 3-4-18Better black socks 3-4-18

The other day in my neurobiology class, the teacher was explaining how when the vesicle in the axon terminal binds to the receptor on the dendrite, the cell membrane gets larger. This requires a bit of the cell membrane to be removed from the side of the terminal. Ah ha! It’s like sewing a dart! And that’s when the designs started flowing.

Nerve quilt 1 3-4-18Nerve quilt 2 3-4-18Nerve qilt 3 3-4-18

Then, I took a little walk through my brain.

A walk through my brain 3-4-18

I’ve also been working on jewelry.

Necklace 2 3-4-18Necklace 1 3-4-18

I’m linking with Nina Marie here. Please stop by and see what other artists are doing.

Looking for a gift? Please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art here.