Posted in bipolar disorder, Photography

Of Masks, Bipolar Disorder, Aging, & Photography

Turns out, I’m not the only person who is bipolar and having problems with this pandemic. Rapid cycling is defined as four or more episodes in a year. I managed that in six days. I rested on the seventh day. The anxiety, mania, insomnia, and wild mood swings seem to be attacking so many of us. In my case, getting the dosage right is critical. Too much, and I’m a zombie. Too little and I’m suicidal. Meds don’t cure bipolar disorder. Meds dull the symptoms and the mood swings are not as extreme. The fear and anxiety caused by the virus makes bipolar symptoms worse.  

New Mexico has been having a surge in new cases the last few weeks. We’re in better shape than the southeast, Arizona and Texas, but we’re not in good shape. I don’t think we’re seeing a second wave, we’re seeing what happens when the country opens before the first wave is done. What needs to happen is the entire country closing down for a couple months. Otherwise, we’re going to be having an out-of-control epidemic that lasts more than a year. 

I’ve been doing more shopping on line rather than in person. I don’t want to risk exposure to covid. I’ve gotten sheets from Target – free shipping for orders more than $35. I’ve ordered contact lens products and ink cartridges for my printer from Amazon – free shipping with a Prime membership. I ordered spices from Savory Spice – free shipping for orders more than $49. We started wearing masks long before they became mandatory. There’s a state, city and county law mandating masks in public. Some store managers decided not to insist people wore masks. The law changed, and now store owners can face criminal charges for allowing people who aren’t wearing masks to enter. At Sam’s Club, there’s a disconcerting sign at the entry saying because of the government, everyone has to wear a mask. Right. Blame someone else for your stupidity. The state shut down one Walmart here because four employees tested positive a few weeks back. Neither the employees nor customers were told they had been exposed to the virus. Walmart waited an additional six hours before shutting the doors. Walmart managers offered excuses for keeping the positive cases a secret, but no apology.

I bought Mary Trump’s Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. I read it in one sitting. The book is well written, entertaining and explains how horrible parents created a narcissistic sociopath who’s killing us. What struck me is how similar the sociopath’s upbringing was to my own. No, I don’t feel sorry for him. I’m not a narcissist or a sociopath. I think narcissism and sociopathy are created rather than a mental illness that one is born with.

When I had my eyes examined recently, I asked the eye doctor if contacts would help. I have cataracts that can’t be removed because of problems with the retina in my right eye. There’s a 25% chance of the retina detaching if I have cataract surgery. I wear bifocals and I have a pair of single-vision sunglasses so I can go hiking and be able to see where the ground is. If I wear my bifocals for photography, I’m squinting against the sun. If I wear my sunglasses, I can’t see what the settings on the camera are. That’s important because I set the ISO and the aperture. The camera sets the shutter speed. I haven’t worn contacts for 26 years. At the time I got my first pair of bifocals, contact lenses for people who needed bifocals meant one lens for distance and one lens for reading. I’m severely nearsighted and thought contacts wouldn’t be a good fit for me. Turns out contacts are now multi-vision. My eye doctor gave me a pair of contacts to try. I like them. I can go outside wearing no-prescription sunglasses, see what I’m photographing, see what the camera settings are and I don’t have to squint. 

I’m developing lines on my face and a strange indentation in my chin. I try, but I can’t stop or even slow down the formation of the lines. After age 65, the body undergoes massive changes similar to what the body undergoes during puberty. Puberty, as horrible as it was, is more fun than the aging process. I’m trying to accept the wrinkles, crepe paper like skin, and oversized pores. I’m not succeeding. We live in a culture that demands women be young, unwrinkled and anorexic. I’m none of those. 

I’ve been wanting to photograph the comet, but we’ve had rain every day and each evening we have complete cloud cover.

Because of the rain, the desert is blooming.

Acacia bush.

Desert sage. Humidity triggers the bush to flower, and the entire bush flowers at one time. These should open tomorrow.

I used the macro lens today and the above is what’s left after the flowers fall off the cholla. It’s an odd looking cactus and the spines are vicious.

A week ago, the ocotillo were dead looking sticks. Now, the plant has grown leaves.

This is a bud on a prickly pear. This shouldn’t be happening this time of the year. All the blooms have come, gone and tunas are developing.

These are tunas. Once they turn dark red, they are ripe and can be eaten. Or turned into wine.

I’m linking with Nina Marie http://ninamariesayre.blogspot.com

My store, Deb Thuman Art is here: http://www.DebThumanArt.com

My Spoonflower store is here: https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/deb_thuman

Posted in Beads, bipolar disorder, Fiber, Jewelry, Photography

The Art Cure

Anxiety shows up in one of three places – right on top of my sternum, lower left quadrant of my abdomen or last molar on the bottom right. I’ve been to cardiologists, dentists, had a colonoscopy, had ultrasound, and every time I’ve been told my tooth is healthy, my heart is healthy, there’s nothing in my abdomen that shouldn’t be there. I take an anti-anxiety med. I munch on edible pot. I get some relief. 

I’ve had chronic insomnia for about 10 months. The insomnia got worse as soon as the governor shut down New Mexico. I’ve got a prescription for a sleeping pill. I munch on edible pot. I don’t go to bed until I’m sleepy. Lately, that’s been around 3 AM. I get up around 8 AM. I’m living on 4-5 hours sleep a night. My sleep is mostly light sleep. There are some dreams, and almost no deep sleep. I can’t remember anything for more than a few seconds. I can’t think clearly. I’m moody. I read that pink noise will induce deep sleep which is when a whole lot of healing goes on. Pink noise sounds like fuzz looks. I tried listening to pink noise while I slept the night before last. For some reason, the 9-hour Youtube video only lasted 15 minutes. I did sleep better than usual, but still very little deep sleep. For last night, I downloaded a noise app onto my cellphone. I slept soundly, but still very little deep sleep. I’ll keep experimenting.

Some of the anxiety and insomnia is likely from bipolar disorder. Most of the anxiety and insomnia is from being in the middle of a pandemic. Because of my age, I’m high risk for a nasty outcome if I’m attacked by a tiny virus. I over eat. I under exercise. Yoga doesn’t help. Getting on the elliptical machine doesn’t help. Art helps.

Yesterday, I decided to refrain from Facebook which is filled with politics, knee-jerk reactions, and misery. Instead, I made jewelry. Art cures everything. A few months back, I bought peace jade beads. I bought them because I liked the color. Now, I like the name as well. I need some peace. I made earrings. By the time I was finished, the outside temperature was 100 degrees. Way too hot to go outside and do photography. I prefer shooting outside in natural light. The colors seem to come out more accurate when I shoot outside.

Today, I was able to shoot new masks and earrings outside before it got unbearably hot. 

Peace Jade and Pearls
Peace Jade and Carved Shell
Peace Jade and African Jade
Peace Jade and Blue Goldstone
Peace Jade and Swarovski crystals

All of the above can be found at my store, Deb Thuman Art http://DebThumanArt.com

All of the masks are made with fabric I designed and is available in my Spoonflower shop here https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/deb_thuman

Our 48th wedding anniversary was Wednesday. Jim bought me flowers and I worked on focus stacking. I put the camera on the tripod, and took several shots each focusing on a slightly different part of the flower. Then, when I edit the photos, I use the focus merge function in Affinity to make a final photo with every part of the flower in focus. 

I’m linking with Nina Marie http://ninamariesayre.blogspot.com Stop by and see what other artists have been making.

Posted in Beads, bipolar disorder, Cognitive problems, Depression, Fiber, Jewelry, Photography, Psych meds, Quilts

Art, Depression, Poppies & Starbucks

I have the parts all drawn out. I know what I want this quilt to look like. Now, I’m auditioning fabric. I’m not sure about the fall print. All the other fabrics I auditioned today don’t look right. I wanted one fabric to be muted and the other vibrant but the original muted fabric I thought I would use looked terrible against the teal background.. Maybe if I borrowed from the movies and had sex with my fabric I could find the right fabric.

This is for a quilt about suicide. A year ago, someone I knew committed suicide. Since then, I’ve written my feelings, I’ve quilted my feelings, I’ve lectured about suicide, and I’m still trying to find reasons why. What was happening in this person’s life that was so horrible that death was preferable? I want the universe to make sense. I know from all the biology classes I’ve taken and all the times I’ve stared into a microscope that there’s a phenomenal amount of order in the universe. I can’t find the order in suicide. I know it’s there; I just can’t find it. Maybe suicide is the entropy all things are rushing towards.

Every personality test I’ve ever taken has shown I’m equally introverted and extroverted. That goes along with bipolar disorder. When I’m manic, everything is magnified. I can talk to anyone about anything. I have no social anxiety. When I’m depressed, I isolate. Isolation seems to be my default. Maybe that’s because for a huge chunk of my life, I was depressed. The introverted part of me is having no problem with staying home, not dealing with people, and only venturing out occasionally to go to Starbucks. The artist part of me went to Baylor Canyon to photograph the Mexican poppies. These flowers only bloom if there’s sufficient precipitation in late winter. It’s a spectacular show of brilliant color and the show doesn’t last long. 


Covid-19 has made me exceptionally anxious and that much anxiety causes physical pain. Yes, I’ve had the pains checked out. Every doctor, with the exception of my dentist who suggested I may be clenching my jaw, has found nothing physically wrong. I’ve decided to increase the dose of my mood stabilizer. My doctor knows I do this. The extreme anxiety is gone. I’m not in pain. Instead, I have Zombie Brain. This will be helpful in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse. 

The increased dose of my mood stabilizer doesn’t seem to be helping with depression. I find I’m being hit with rolling depression. I’m not suicidal, but I am depressed enough that I want to curl up into a ball and cry. When this happens, I need to immediately start making art. Then, the depression goes away. 

I have an online store that I built with the help of Wix. Something is wrong with the site because I can’t upload photographs. Without photographs, I can’t upload jewelry that I want to put into my store. It took quite a bit of internet searching to find a way to contact Wix. I got an email back saying they couldn’t help me because they weren’t employees of Wix but here’s the secret phone number. I have to wait until Monday to call. 

I learned how to do focus merge in Affinity. I take several shots of a necklace and focus on a different spot for each shot. After downloading the photos, I merge all of the shots into one shot where everything is in focus. 

I’m linking with Nina Marie http://ninamariesayre.blogspot.com

My online store, Deb Thuman Art, is here http://www.DebThumanArt.com

My Spoonflower shop is here https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/deb_thuman

Posted in Beads, bipolar disorder, Fiber, Jewelry, Photography

Art = Sanity

My anxiety is close to out of control. I’ve had anxiety pain for a week. Yes, I’ve had the pain checked out – three times over the years. Three doctors said there’s nothing physically wrong with me. Klonopin isn’t calming the anxiety. I’m scared. I’m tired of being at home. The university admits some of those who tested positive for covid-19 in the county where I live are students. HIPPA mandates the person’s name and sex can’t be given out. But what classes these people were in can, and absolutely should be given out. People shed this virus for up to 14 days before they become symptomatic. They infect others who infect others who infect others and so on until we’re all sick. My age and a health condition put me at high risk. I need to know if I’ve been exposed. 

Yes, I washed my hands – soap and water – when I used the restroom at school. Here’s how this works. Hold onto handrail to get downstairs to the restroom. Open restroom door. Open stall door. Close stall door. Do what I came to do. Touch handle to flush toilet. Open stall door. Touch tap to turn on water. Touch soap dispenser. Touch tap again to turn off water. Touch paper towel dispenser to get paper towel to dry my hands. Touch the restroom door to get out of restroom. Hold handrail to get upstairs so I can leave the building.

I made Jim and I masks although I don’t think they will protect us from a virus. They might protect us from something else. Spring in southern New Mexico features intense wind. Pollen, spores, dust, small children left unattended, and desert detritus blow around and eventually enter our noses. We both have allergies that get irritated in the spring and I hope these masks can help. 

Bipolar disorder magnifies everything. I’m scared and I have severe anxiety. Klonopin doesn’t help. The insomnia is back. I listen to relaxation music. I meditate. I do yoga. What seems to help the most is art. I’ve been working on fabric design. You can see my latest fabric designs here https://www.spoonflower.com/collections/379032-playing-around-3-27-20-by-deb_thuman   My Spoonflower store is here https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/deb_thuman I’ve ordered proofs of another 30 designs. The proofs should arrive in a few days. I’ll put the best of the lot into the store.

I’m learning how to do focus merging. My macro lens is a great lens, but it’s tough to get a large depth of field. Consequently, my jewelry photos have a couple beads in focus and the rest is blurry. I got out the tripod, attached the Canon 90D, laid out jewelry, and took several photos of each piece of jewelry. Focus on the first bead, take the shot. Focus on the next bead, take the shot. Repeat until all of the piece has been shot in focus. I use Affinity for editing and it has a nice focus merging function. I’ll need to take a few more shots of each and I’ll be ready to list them in my store http://www.DebThumanArt.com


I’ve also been working on making boring shots more interesting by using creative editing.

I’m linking with Nina Marie http://ninamariesayre.blogspot.com

Posted in bipolar disorder, Photography

Naked Emperors and Other Features of Life

My Valentine’s Day present, a Canon 90D, arrived this week. I’m learning how to use it. I’ve been using a Canon T3i so digital photography isn’t new for me. The controls on the 90D are in places that I’m not used to. I’m learning the depth of field of assorted apertures. Most cameras, SLRs and DSLRs, have a button that when pushed is supposed to show the depth of field. I’ve never found that button useful. Instead, I got to know the T3i and what I could expect from assorted apertures. Now, I get to learn the 90D and what I can expect from assorted apertures. So far, I’ve learned how to set the date and time and to turn on live view. The 90D has in-camera focus stacking which I’m looking forward to learning how to use. I’ll be able to photograph the jewelry I make and have every bead be in focus. 

I’m having a weird disconnect today courtesy of bipolar disorder. I’m angry when there’s no reason to be angry. My moods have minds of their own. It’s annoying at times, but it does make life interesting. About all I can do today is make art. I’ve been editing photos. 

On Friday, Jim and I went to Mesilla, NM so I could begin to learn the 90D. It was cold, damp, and complete cloud cover. Absolutely imperfect conditions for photography.

Mesilla is where Billy the Kid hung out before Pat Garrett shot him. Billy, a thief, cattle rustler, and murderer, is revered in this state.

Like many towns in New Mexico, Mesilla has a plaza – the southwest version of a town square. That’s where we went. The Mesilla has restrictive zoning ordinances and rehabbing is strictly regulated. The idea was to keep the 19th century charm of the town. Rather than charm, the town has decrepit, badly rehabbed buildings – none of which feature a straight wall, overhead powerlines, and Rube Goldberg type swamp cooler contraptions retrofitted for a building that was never meant to have plumbing and electricity. A swamp cooler works, sort of, by letting wind blow over water soaked pads. The now wet air is sent into the building. The theory is when the water in the air evaporates, the air temperature will drop. No, swamp coolers don’t work well. 

In the photos below, you can see the original wood beam over the window, original adobe, and the challenge of getting wiring into a building that was never intended to have wiring.

Nothing is straight.


I didn’t like this next shot until I realized it shows everything that can go wrong with historic preservation. Overhead power lines. Parking where parking shouldn’t be because it’s impossible to park on the narrow streets. The streets can’t be made any wider because the buildings are so close to the street a sidewalk barely fits between the building and the street. The church has a parking lot, but the entrance to the lot has a chain across it keeping cars out. I still don’t like the shot, but now I don’t like it because it’s an accurate depiction of Mesilla. No place left for Billy the Kid to park his horse.

Even the charming places aren’t charming. Those yellow things on the top of the building are candelurias and are a traditional Christmas light here.

It’s time for someone to tell the 19th century charm emperor that he’s naked.

I did some portrait work while we were in Mesilla.

I’m not yet worked through all the emotions I have following the suicide of someone I know. I’ve got a fuzzy idea for another quilt. It’s so hard getting my feelings into fiber. I have ideas, but when I work out the ideas, the feelings aren’t in the quilt.

I’m linking with Nina Marie here http://ninamariesayre.blogspot.com Stop by and see what other artists have been creating.

My Spoonflower shop is here https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/deb_thuman

My online store, Deb Thuman Art is here http://www.DebThumanArt.com

Posted in bipolar disorder, Emotions, Fiber, Photography

It isn’t pretty. It’s art.

According to the National Institute of Health, 26% of the population of the US has a diagnosed mental illness. That doesn’t count the people who have a mental illness but haven’t been diagnosed. It took 35 years for me to have an accurate diagnosis. I am bipolar. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t bipolar. 

I have a fascination with the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. This grand, old building is a monument to a time when mental illness was properly treated and a monument to the hell that mental institutions had become by the 1960’s. 

The original building had a main building in the center and a wing with five sections on each side. One side was for women, the other side for men. The sections farthest from the main building were the smallest sections and were for the most violent patients. The theory was that mental illness could be cured by treating mentally ill people humanely. Work was considered a part of treatment. Men worked the gardens and in the wood shop. Women worked at fiber art. The hallways were wide with high ceilings and huge windows. Benches were placed in the hallways because it was thought, correctly, that isolation was harmful and that interaction with the other patients would be healthy. There was a library. There were lovely grounds with both flower and vegetable gardens. Sunlight was considered healthy and the huge windows let in as much sunlight as possible. Patients would gradually, as they became healthier, work their way towards the main building. The idea was to heal patients and then release them. 

By the 1960s, the Psych Center had become the hell we think of when we think of mental institutions. Overcrowded to the point where patients were tied to beds in the hallways. Patients were over medicated and treated like something awful to be hidden away. When I lived a couple blocks from the Psych Center in the 1970’s, we had to go into the Psych Center to vote. Someone’s idea of a weird joke. God forgive me, I was reluctant and scared to enter the Psych Center. I had been taught, as had everyone else, that mental illness was evil, scary, and mentally ill people had to be locked away. I was taught that mental illness was a character flaw. My grandmother insisted that people could snap themselves out of depression and that seeing a psychiatrist was shameful and to be avoided no matter how ill a person was. She was horrified when I sought mental health treatment. She had been dead for 17 years by the time I was finally, accurately diagnosed. Probably a good thing. My diagnosis would have killed her if she had known I was mentally ill. 

I think about how, if I had parents who actually cared, I would have been a patient in the Psych Center. Then I think about how, if I had parents who actually cared, I wouldn’t need mental health treatment. 

In August 2018, I photographed the Psych Center. Attitudes, beliefs, and empathy flooded my thoughts. Part of the men’s wing had been demolished in the 1960s to make room for a “modern” hospital. It’s an ugly, square, lifeless brick building. There’s a high chain link fence surrounding the basketball court adjacent to the ugly building. A man, just one man, was on the court taking shots at the basket. I didn’t photograph him. He was entitled to privacy and to be treated like a human being rather than a freak in a zoo. 

Lately, I’ve been going through my photographs and picking out shots to be manipulated and turned into fabric designs. I played with some of the Psych Center shots this morning. 

Meandering Through Madness. The title reflects my personal journey through the mental health care system and my own mental illness.

I won’t be selling this design. It’s too personal. It’s too much of a gut punch. It’s too much my life. Eventually, I’ll have it printed on fabric and turn it into a quilted wall hanging which likely will never be hung. My emotional art isn’t pretty. It’s raw. It’s painful. It’s something no one in their right mind wants to look at. It’s also something that I have to make and something people should look at. Something people should feel. Something people should talk about. 

You want pretty? Go to Walmart and buy a bad reproduction of an insipid painting that nicely matches the sofa. 

You want art? Be prepared to be kicked in the stomach. That’s what art is supposed to do at least some of the time. 

I’m linking with Nina Marie http://ninamariesayre.blogspot.com Stop by and see what other artists are doing.

Please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art http://www.DebThumanArt.com.

My Spoonflower store is here: https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/deb_thuman.

Posted in Beads, bipolar disorder, Jewelry, Photography, Psych meds

Good Stuff, Hard Stuff, Pretty Stuff

This wasn’t supposed to be complicated. I ordered proofs of 30 fabric designs I had made from Spoonflower. I got the proofs back this week. I attempted to list a design for sale, and couldn’t. I verified my address. I followed the steps to verify my email address. I tried to fill out the W-9 form. After much frustration and swearing, I accidently managed to get the vile form signed electronically. Hint: you can’t sign the thing using an iPad and iPencil. Thinking I had everything worked out, I tried to list a design for sale. I can’t because I’m in an infinite loop. As soon as I try to list a design, I’m told I have to follow the verification process. When I try to follow the verification process, I’m told my address and email have been verified. The problem is the W-9 form for which there’s no way to submit. Why can’t I just have a form to print out, fill out, sign, scan and upload? Why do I have to be stuck in an infinite loop? Yes, I have sent an email to Spoonflower. No, I haven’t gotten an answer yet.

I’m having a bad bipolar day. I’m snarling at Jim. I get impatient over nothing. And this episode is coupled with introversion. Every personality test I’ve ever taken shows I’m both introverted and extroverted. This makes sense. The extrovert comes out when I’m manic and the introvert comes out when I’m depressed. No, there is no specific reason for being depressed. If you know someone who is bipolar, if you love someone who is bipolar, if you live with someone who is bipolar, spend time learning about bipolar disorder. It’ not easy having a brain that has a mind of its own.

I have ordered beads from Lima Beads. Lima is the only online store with semi-precious gems I trust. What I see is what I get. With Firemountain, the semi-precious gems are C and D quality. In my opinion, they aren’t worth buying. I’ve been buying pearls from Lima and I’m amazed at the quality. First rate at extremely reasonable prices! I had run out of amethyst beads, was running low on sodalite beads, and wanted to have some goldstone beads. I also splurged on pearls of assorted colors and sizes. 

Larimer used to be affordable. Gem prices float just as gold and silver floats. At the moment, Larimer is expensive and I was surprised to find these so reasonably priced. So far, Larimer has only been found in the Dominican Republic.

Feldspath is something I bought a while back. I liked it more than I thought so I bought larger beads this time. 

Goldstone. I have magpie tendencies and I love things that sparkle. Maybe because they reflect the extroverted manic part of me.

When I was picking out beads, I concentrated on size, color and price. I didn’t think about the name when I ordered peace jade. Now, I think about having beads that are both pretty and a political statement.

When I was a kid, I had nightmares about the hydrogen bomb and skeletons burning. The nightmares are back. This time, the nightmares aren’t about gut terrors of an unthinkable event as when I was a kid. Then, we had a Cold War and the certain comforting knowledge that if both sides had nuclear weapons, no one would be silly enough to start a war. Now, there is no comforting knowledge. Now, I have nightmares about a narcissistic sociopath president who thinks starting a war with a dangerous, fanatical, and likely mentally ill leader is a great way to get re-elected. Long ago, I decided if ever there was a nuclear war, I would kill myself. I’d rather die fast than die from radiation poisoning. Even if there were an antidote, there would be no medical care available. Doctors and hospitals aren’t immune from nuclear attack. Don’t kid yourself; hospitals will be, as they are in all wars, a major target. Thoughts of suicide mixed with bipolar disorder is terrifying. Do I need an extra antidepressant? Do I need a permanent adjustment to my psych meds? Am I having an abstract conversation with myself? Or am I suicidal? I don’t have an answer. Instead, I’ve decided to be extremely careful what I read in the New York Times each morning. I can’t stop what’s happening. I can’t change what’s happening. I don’t have to make myself physically sick by reading about what’s happening. Instead, I’ll make beautiful jewelry with peace jade beads.

It took about three years, but I finally filled up my external storage disk. When I do photography, I shoot in RAW. A lot of my work is outdoors, and I want the most amount of digital information my camera will give me. I have more and better editing options if I shoot RAW. However, RAW files are HUGE and it takes almost no time to fill up the space on the laptop. I’ve been putting RAW files on the external storage disk, then changing the photos from RAW to JPEG, dumping the RAW version from Photos and replacing that with JPEG version. That way, I have a portfolio of photos without using much space. Once photos are edited, there’s no visual difference between a RAW edited photo and a JPEG edited photo. I also backup my laptop to external storage.

Yesterday, I bought a 5 TB storage disk for less than the 3 TB cost me when I bought it on sale. Storage is becoming remarkably cheap. Today, I’m busy creating folders on the new disk and transferring files and photos from the laptop to the storage disk. 

I’m linking with Nina Marie http://ninamariesayre.blogspot.com

Please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art http://DebThumanArt.com

Posted in bipolar disorder, Depression, Photography, Psych meds

It wasn’t fun and it had to be done.

On Friday, I gave a talk on suicide – from the perspective of nearly killing myself, and my emotional response to the suicide of someone I knew. There were only five people in the audience and, rather than attempt power point, I used two quilts I had made. The first quilt was made when I was suicidal. The second is what I saw in my mind after someone I knew had killed himself. I’m used to working without a net and never write out what I intend to say. I speak from the gut. Sometimes, from the heart. The talk went well although I didn’t have time to say all I intended to say. I suspect for me to get everything in, I’d need an hour. I only had a half hour. I was asked what to say to a 20-something person who is suicidal. I stressed the necessity of taking the person to the hospital. If you take a person to the hospital and you are wrong, you get embarrassed. If you don’t take a person to the hospital and you’re wring, you’re going to a funeral. 

I got home and depression snuck up on me and grabbed me. Friday was rough. I found myself looking for Amazon Prime movies about suicide and mental institutions. Now, I find myself looking through Amazon to find books about mental institutions. I don’t know why this fascinates me. Maybe it’s because there but for having junk for parents, go I into a mad world run by mad men and mad women disguised as psychiatrists. Maybe I’m looking for validation for my refusal to be dumped into a locked ward.

Bipolar disorder sucks. For so long, I didn’t mind being bipolar. I finally had an accurate diagnosis that explained so many of the confusing bits of my life. I finally had proper meds. And then I nearly killed myself and bipolar disorder started to suck. 

I’ve discovered that once one admits to being suicidal, one needs to speak carefully. I’m having wild mood swings and something is clearly out of whack. Either my thyroid med needs adjusting, or – please, God no –  my mood stabilizer has stopped working. Coming off a psych med means going through withdrawal hell that lasts three months. This is followed by four to six months of med adjustment. Please let it be my thyroid. I saw my doctor last Wednesday and saw the bloodsucker on Thursday. Later this week, I’ll pick up the lab results. I described the mood swings and told my doctor I can’t live like this. I then had to tell her I’m not suicidal. I’m frustrated. I’m scared. I’m waiting for the next mood swing to arrive and blow through my head like a hurricane blowing through Florida. But, and this part is critical, I don’t want to die. Today, I don’t want to die. I’ve no idea what I will want tomorrow. That’s the terrifying part of bipolar disorder. I know my mood will swing wildly; I don’t know when or in what direction. Manic and more insomnia? Depressed and worried about becoming suicidal?

We went to Bosque del Apache on Saturday. I like the nature preserve, but I dislike being restricted to only a few roads. I’d like to do some serious exploring. The sandhill cranes have arrived and I had fun shooting them. I use a Canon rather than a gun. I worked on photographing birds in flight. It’s harder than it sounds. I use manual focus and it was tough to focus fast enough to get a clear shot.

I also worked on composing the scene when I’m doing landscape photography. I want to move away from snapshots and start taking photographic art. 

What passes for fall color in New Mexico

Looking for cool, art stuff? Please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art http://DebThumanArt.com

I’m linking with Nina Marie http://ninamariesayre.blogspot.com Stop by and see what other artists have been doing.

Posted in Beads, bipolar disorder, Jewelry, Photography

Art To Calm By

I’ve been in better shape this last week, but I’m still manic. Some days are better than other days.  I had to tweak my mood stabilizer. It helped, but I’m now noticing more than brain fog than usual. Psych meds interfere with my ability to think. At least I’m not a zombie and I can still drive myself around town. Taking Uber from my home to class would be $30 one way. Plus tip. Assuming there’s an Uber driver willing to come this far out of town to pick me up.

Art is a way I can calm down, so I’ve been making necklaces.

Recycled Black Glass Pendant

I’ve been fascinated by the recycled glass beads I’ve been finding for sale. I like the idea of recycling. Why should glass go into the landfill when it can be turned into jewelry?

The iridescent blue beads are also recycled glass.

Impression Jasper Pendant

Impression Jasper is a default name. Someone dug up a rock, said it gave the impression of jasper, and the name stuck. This is a piece that was enhanced by heat treating the stone. Without enhancing, Impression Jasper is more subtle.

The above necklaces are for sale. I’ll eventually get them into my online store once I figure out the price for each. Jewelry prices are a function of cost of materials, time to make and how much I have to swear at the piece while making it.

This one I’m keeping for myself. The pendant is a fossil.

I put fancy stitches on the straps for the quilted laptop totes and wanted to serge the ends. The first end got caught somehow in the serger and I spent quality time swearing at the serger while trying to coax the threads off the finger. It’s still stuck. I’ll try again later. These quilted laptop totes are taking way too much time to make. Eventually, they will be finished and they will go into my store.

Tinker Helps With The Laundry

Usually the cats hide when they think I’m going to photograph them. I had to sneak up on Tinker, zoom the cellphone camera as much as possible, and hope for the best. The shot is backlit and I could have overcome that with the Canon. The cellphone doesn’t allow for that kind of tinkering. The cats don’t allow for me to take the time to use the Canon.

I’m linking with Nina Marie http://ninamariesayre.blogspot.com. Stop by and see what other artists are doing.

Looking for one-of-a-kind jewelry or fiber art? Please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art http://www.DebThumanArt.com.

Posted in Beads, bipolar disorder, Fiber, Jewelry, Photography, Quilts

There’s A Reason It’s Called Art Therapy

I tweaked my mood stabilizer, and I’m feeling better. At least I’m not getting slammed by moods. Rapid cycling is having four or more episodes in a year. I had four in a week. The insomnia is still with me but Ambien is helping. 

I started working on jewelry and I like what I came up with. I don’t like how I photographed the pieces. Natural light wasn’t enough light. I added two LED lights, one on each side. That made for nasty shadows. So I kept the LED lights and added on camera flash. I’m not wild about the results although I did get the colors accurate. 

I worked a bit more on the suicide quilt. I don’t think that quilt should have a border, so I did a pillow case finish. Never did one of those before. Using Razzle Dazzle threads for hand quilting meant that the back of the quilt was nasty looking. The pillow case finish hides all that. I need to draft an eagle wing, get the wing drawn on the quilt, and quilt the wing with silver thread. 

The university is having a symposium in November and, being manic, I thought it would be a great idea to propose doing a talk on suicide from the perspective of one who nearly killed herself and one who is left behind by someone else’s suicide. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I have two nightmares about this: no one will show up, or 500 people will show up. Rather than power point – something that’s guaranteed to have a technical problem no matter how much you practice – I’m using two quilts. 

This is the quilt about when I nearly killed myself. It has a catchy title: Get Back Here Motherfucker, Sit Your Ass Down In That Chair, Shut The Fuck Up, And Listen To Me. That should explain why I don’t enter this quilt into a juried quilt show. It’s from a time when the neurologists were patting me on the head, smiling, and handing me prescriptions for useless drugs. They refused to answer any of my questions.

This is an axon with neurotransmitters represented by beads, coming out of the end of the axon and not being received by the dendrite.

The quilted part is an action potential. It’s a representation of the electrical impulse that goes the length of the axon.

There was another rape on campus. This time, the campus police actually did something. They temporarily banned the rapist from campus. Although I asked, the police refuse to give out the rapist’s name, photo or description. I’m so tired of being afraid. There’s probably a quilt in there somewhere. 

I’m linking with Nina Marie http://ninamariesayre.blogspot.com   Stop by and see what other artists are doing. 

Looking for a great gift? Stop by my store http://DebThumanArt.com

Posted in bipolar disorder

I didn’t choose bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder chose me.

Bipolar disorder has an ugly side.

Not the deadening depression that causes us to have a suicide rate 20 times that of the rest of the population. I’m still alive.

Not the stereotypical spendthrift manic episode. I am constantly careful to never spend more in a month than I can pay in full when the credit card bill arrives.

The ugly side is the side that meds don’t help. It’s the fluttering and skipping in my heart that tells me I’m having an excess of anxiety. Three cardiologists have told me my heart is healthy.

Since the age of four, my life has been consumed with intense emotions. I’ve only relaxed once when I went on a women’s retreat in 1976. It felt strange. Comfortable. Nice. I’d like to have that happen again, but I know it won’t.

Today my heart flutters and skips while pumping blood. This happens from time to time. Usually, one clonazepam solves the problem. Twelve years ago, I was put on the lowest dose and told to take one pill three times a day. I take the pills when I need them and ignore the bottle when I am able to calm down. I’m still on the lowest dose.

Today, one clonazepam didn’t solve the problem. Two didn’t solve the problem. Three are starting to unravel my anxiety. I’m listening to music that’s supposed to have inaudible sounds to trigger specific brain waves. I made myself a cup of tea – one of my calming habits from more than 50 years ago. I’m starting to have fewer flutters and skips. I am nowhere near to being relaxed. I know relax is something that won’t happen again. I don’t know how to make it happen. I don’t know how to calm myself.

Most of the time, being bipolar doesn’t bother me. It gives me a view of life others don’t have. It gives me understanding others don’t have. It gives me knowledge of what psych meds will and won’t do. It gives me intimate understanding of med hell, med adjustment, and med withdrawal. All of it sucks. All of it is part of being bipolar.

People try. One coworker told me he was sorry I had to be bipolar. I know he was being compassionate and I appreciate that. I told him I couldn’t remember a time when I wasn’t bipolar. I don’t know what normal is. I don’t know how normal feels. I’d like to know. I’d like, just for a little bit, to be normal. To see the world others see. To feel the world others feel. To not have to constantly monitor my reactions to events and try to figure out if my reaction is normal, or part of being bipolar.

People ask me what bipolar disorder is. It’s a mood disorder. That label doesn’t explain anything. My moods have a mind of their own. The manic and depressive swings rarely have anything to do with what is going on in my life. I hate the manic and depressive swings.

I’ve read that bipolar disorder gets worse as one gets older. Maybe that’s happening to me. During the 35 years in which I could have been, should have been, and wasn’t diagnosed, I put myself through college earning two degrees. One in journalism and one in biology. The biology degree was hard because I wasn’t allowed to take any science or math classes in high school. I put myself through law school. I ran my own solo law practice. I moved 2000 miles across the country and lived on my own for a year.

I’m a criminal defense attorney. I’ve fought my guts out doing trials for clients. In desperation, I put together a program where people with minor drug charges could go into counseling and upon successful completion of the counseling their charges would be dropped. I figured out a way to have an appropriate consequence for non-citizen clients so they could avoid a deportation triggering conviction. I survived working in a toxic office and quit before the toxicity killed me. Two weeks after I quit, I could sleep without pills and the lower back pain stopped. Six months after I quit, I no longer needed blood pressure meds.

I survived growing up in a house run by a violent, drunken narcissist and a violent drunk who bragged about being in Germany during the occupation after WWII. He told, time and again, how he drove a jeep down “Jew Alley” where goods and produce were sold, knocking over stands and sending people scattering. The drunk thought that was a great accomplishment and how funny it was to see Jews scattering. Jews who survived the Holocaust only to be tormented and terrorized by a drunken asshole.

I still look at my life and am disgusted because I haven’t achieved anything.

I’m very well medicated. I look at my life and see only the extremes of bipolar disorder. I still feel the extremes of bipolar disorder. The horrible, out of control manic episodes and the crushing depressive episodes were I worry I’ll become suicidal. I worry about suicide and dread becoming yet another bipolar person who succeeded in dying. I’m terrified that’s how my life will end.

Don’t you dare feel sorry for me. I neither want nor need your pity. I don’t want your understanding. What I want, is something you can’t give. I want to know what it feels like to be normal. I want to react to events and not have to analyze my reaction to attempt to determine if the reaction is genuine or a function of bipolar disorder. I want to realize, as I start to move away from center, that I need to adjust myself back to center. Instead, I have insomnia for three weeks before I figure out I’m manic. Instead, I find myself thinking that being dead wouldn’t be so bad before I figure out I’m depressed. I want to know how to calm the anxiety without having to take a handful of meds. I want to never again, have the weight of flashbacks. I want to never again have to talk to memories, tell memories they are about something that happened once but isn’t happening now. I want to never have to tell memories I did the best I could at the time the event happened.

Most of all, I don’t want you to feel sorry for me.

Legacy of Child Abuse
Posted in bipolar disorder, Fiber, Photography

Rape, Dog, Knitting and Other Oddities

Odd things happened this week. Another woman was raped on the New Mexico State University campus. This time, the campus police actually did something. They temporarily banned the rapist from campus. I’ve asked for a complete description and photo of the guy as well as the date he can return to campus. Naturally, I got no response.  I’m tired of being scared. I’ll be making myself some decent cargo pants so I can have ready access to my pepper gel and stun gun.

Meanwhile, I got an email about a request for proposals for “Graduate, Online, and Nontraditional Student Recruitment, Retention, and Consulting Services.” Clearly someone screwed up because there’s no way the administration wants to hear what I have to say. This is going to be fun. My first suggestion will be to get rid of the Keystone Cops and replace them with a real police force. The reason for never arresting anyone for sexual assault or rape on campus is to dissuade women from reporting sexual assaults. If there are no reports, then the campus is a wonderful, safe place to send your daughter because there’s no crime on campus.

In a few weeks, I’ll be participating in a symposium on campus. Being manic, I decided it would be a great idea to bring two art quilts and talk about suicide from the perspective of nearly killing myself and the perspective of someone left behind after suicide of a friend. I have two nightmares about this. No one showing up and 500 people showing up. If nothing else, this is going to be an interesting experience. 

I’ve put more scarves into my store. 

I’ve bought a type of yarn I have never bought before and I’m making silky, chenille scarves. I like how this yarn feels. Depending on how well these two sell once I get them into my store, I may be working with more chenille yarn. 

I went dog shopping at the shelter where Animal Control takes strays yesterday. This is so discouraging. I found a dog that was close to what I need. She’s listed as a year old, but I think she’s older. The prominent teats tell me she’s had at least one litter. She was shaking when she met me, but did calm down once she was sure I wasn’t going to hurt her. She’s mellow. She even likes me. But….she’s not housebroken and she isn’t trained to walk with a leash. I can’t leave a dog that’s not housebroken home alone while I’m at school. I can’t leave her in the yard. Even if we did break down and put up a fence, we’re out in the desert and have an assortment of critters. Rattlesnakes, javelinas, bob cat, coyotes and that’s just the predators I know about. You can’t fence out a rattlesnake and we’ve had rattlers lounging on the patio next to the door. It’s unsafe to have a dog running lose in the yard. And so, reluctantly, I decided this isn’t the dog for me. 

I’m linking with Nina Marie http://ninamariesayre.blogspot.com   Stop by and see what other artists have been doing. 

Looking for a great, one of a kind piece of art? Please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art http://www.debthumanart.com

Posted in bipolar disorder, Emotions, Photography, PTSD, Scarves

Scarves, Dogs, PTSD

Insomnia. It isn’t just for breakfast any more. This manic episode can leave now. Please leave. I am wide awake at 10:00 PM and don’t feel sleepy until after 1:00 AM. I drag myself through the next day, and wait for the insomnia to arrive about 10:00 PM. And on and on and on. I see my doctor on Wednesday morning and I’ll ask about sleeping pills.

Meanwhile, the anniversary of my mother’s funeral is on the ninth. To celebrate, I’m having flashbacks to the hell that woman put me through. She was a violent, drunken narcissist who had four children she didn’t want and made sure we knew she didn’t want us. I remember how I felt when she was complaining about her sister in law. “Why does she get all the boys and all I get are girls?” It was said in front of me. Inside, I asked what was wrong with girls? I knew better than to ask out loud. From the day she married the violent drunk until she died, I have no happy memory of her. Just misery and pain. 

This year, Yom Kippur falls on October 9. The very day I see my doctor. The anniversary of my mother’s funeral. Maybe God is trying to tell me something but I can’t decipher the message. 

We’ve had rain here in the desert. Photographers like to talk about shooting during the Golden Hours – two hours after sunrise and two hours before sunset. That leaves 20 less than perfect hours in a day. I like to play with photography when it’s cloudy. Although I sorely lack energy today, I went outside to photograph and play. Here are some of the results. 

Sometimes, I just gotta play with editing.

I need to get more scarves into my store. The scarves were finished, they just needed to be photographed and listed. I’ve got some hand dyed pieces. I knit up a blank using white cotton. Then I dye the piece. Next, I unravel the yarn and knit up the final piece. The dye doesn’t take evenly on a knitted blank, so the result is a marled color. 

I worked with some new to me yarn. It generates heat when exposed to sunlight – even on a cloudy day. I couldn’t pass up this yarn and I had a coupon for 25% off. I also bought some bulky chenille yarn

The search for a service dog continues. It’s frustrating. So many of the dogs in this area are part pit bull. I had a case where the pit bull got loose and chewed a lady’s leg nearly down to the bone. I cannot have a dog I can’t trust. That there are so many mixed breed dogs that are partially pit bull tells me that the owners like to let their vicious dog run loose. 

I’m linking with Nina Marie http://ninamariesayre.blogspot.com

Looking for a scarf or one of a kind jewelry? Please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art http://debthumanart.com

Posted in bipolar disorder, Fiber, Suicide

Dogs, Bipolar Disorder, Suicide, Quilts

For the last couple years, I’ve been trying off and on to find a service dog trained to work with someone who has bipolar disorder. I’ve found a place out of state that will charge $16,000 for the dog and I’d have to move there for four months to be trained with the dog. Nope. 

I’ve found places where service dogs are trained to work with people who have PTSD. Nice, but PTSD isn’t bipolar disorder. That would be like suggesting you have open heart surgery when what you need is to have your gallbladder removed. 

Finally, I found a trainer who not only trains dogs to work with people who have bipolar disorder, but comes to the house to train both the dog and the human simultaneously. There was some sort of dog convention in the convention center this weekend, and we got to meet the trainer. When I read all the things a psychiatric service dog can be trained to do, I nearly cried. Dogs can smell mood swings at the start of the swing. You’d think I could do better than this, but I don’t realize I’m manic until I’m bouncing off the ceiling or that I’m depressed until I’m suicidal. I’ve had insomnia for the last couple weeks and I’ve never had insomnia. I only figured out the day before yesterday that I’m having a manic episode. Manic is annoying, but depressive is terrifying. The suicide rate for people who have bipolar disorder is 20 times that of the rest of the population. Depressive episodes are life threatening.

The dog can be trained to make sure I take my meds at the same time every day, get up at the same time and go to bed at the same time. Routine can be extremely helpful in managing bipolar disorder. 

The dog, most likely a rescue dog, will cost me about $200 and will already be house broken, neutered/spayed, and have up to date vaccinations. Training will last 9-18 months at a cost of $200 a month. When the training ends, I’ll be in a position to train another dog when the first dog retires. 

The trainer suggested getting a dog 2-3 years old. We have two cats and the cats aren’t going anywhere. The dog has to be okay living with cats. Also dogs that age are easiest to train. My dog, when I get one, will be trained to get on the shuttle bus at school, go to class with me, get on a train (can’t wait to take an overnight train trip) and fly. The flying training encompasses everything up to getting through airport security. Airlines have to let a person fly with a service dog and cannot charge additional for the dog. Yes, there are airlines that do that. As my first amendment teacher in law school said, don’t assume something is legal just because someone is doing it. However, flying with a service dog means being all but guaranteed a seat in the front row where there’s the most leg room. Jim is 6’3” and needs extra leg room. 

If it’s a place where the public can go – airport, restaurant, post office, class room – the facility must allow service dogs. No exceptions. It’s federal law and most states have a parallel law. 

I’m in the process of setting up an appointment for both the trainer and I to go to a dog rescue organization and see if they have an appropriate dog for me. Once I get the dog that’s right for me, training can begin immediately. I’m so psyched about this. For the first time in my life, I’m going to be able to live a normal life. I wonder what that’s going to feel like. 

I’ve been working on art quilts. I’ve got the quilting done on the memorial quilt about the people murdered at the temple in Pittsburgh last October. The Hebrew word in the middle is Chai. It means life. There is a quilted star for each of the 11 people murdered. The red threads are temporarily holding the layers together. I need to trim the quilt, pick out a backing, finish the piece, and launder it. 

I’ve got a good start on the quilt about someone I knew who committed suicide. The horizontal threads are temporarily holding the quilt together. There’s a trick to photographing shiny stuff. Obviously, I don’t know what that trick is. I find myself working out emotions while working on this quilt. 

I’m linking with Nina Marie http://ninamariesayre.blogspot.com  Stop by and see what other artists are doing. 

If you’re looking for something that’s one of a kind, please visit my store, Deb Thuman Art http://www.DebThumanArt.com

Posted in Beads, bipolar disorder, Clay, Depression, Emotions, Jewelry, Quilts

Beads. Quilt. Clay. Bipolar disorder.

It’s been a rough few days. I wanted to decrease the Wellbutrin because I’m taking a prescription form of folate that is formulated to cross the blood brain barrier. The folate helps keep me above suicidal but doesn’t cause brain dropouts. I tried cutting the Wellbutrin pill in half. Nope. Bad idea. I felt myself sinking below center. The rate of suicide for people who are bipolar is 20 times that of the rest of the population. I find that terrifying. I’ve been suicidal 5 times in my life. How many times can I walk up to the edge of the cliff and not jump off?  I’m back to the dosages I was on and much closer to center. 

Bipolar disorder means having moods that have minds of their own. I’m in a foul mood, but there’s no reason why I should feel this way. Working on art helped, but I’m still not at center. I had ordered some impression jasper. It’s a stone that gives the impression of jasper. Except it’s not jasper. These two are dyed. I liked the color, so I’ve been playing around. 

I don’t usually just have a pendant on a silver chain, but this particular Swavorski crystal would be overwhelmed if I added any beads. 

I played a bit with making a book mark.

I can’t just sit and watch TV; I have to be doing something. I’ve been crocheting circles. Eventually, I’ll roll out a slab of clay, arrange the circles on the slab, press them in, and cut out little trays. 

I wanted to make a quilt to commemorate the murders at the temple in Pittsburgh last October. I’m not sure I’m all that happy with the chai, but I’m not about to wash this piece. I had to figure out how to make blood spatter for this piece and I can’t remember if I set the blood spatter. 

I’m trying to force myself to relax and have fun with my classes, immunology and cell biology. I spent college having to be the best in my classes. I spent law school having to be the best. I spent a career practicing law having to be the best. Now, I’m taking classes that interest me. I’m not going for another degree. The grade doesn’t matter…..except it does matter. I’m feeling burnt out because I’m putting emphasis on getting a good grade rather than putting emphasis on enjoying the class. 

I’m linking with Nina Marie http://ninamariesayre.blogspot.com Stop by and see what other artists are doing.

Please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art http://www.debthumanart.com