Posted in Baking, bipolar disorder, Cognitive problems, Fiber, Sciatica

A Dangerous Time

I have entered The Dangerous Time in my recovery from an angry sciatic nerve. I feel good. The pain is nearly non-existent. I think I can do things. Like walk through the grocery store. That walk is what started the relapse. I had some pain on Monday as I pushed my walker from one class to the next. I had more pain on Wednesday as I pushed my walker from one class to the next. I won’t be doing any more pushing for a while because I’m taking another week off from school. I don’t like doing that, but I really, really, really don’t like the idea of having to push this walker around for a few more months. This was week 5. According to the articles I’ve seen, sciatica is supposed to clear up in 6 weeks. That’s not going to happen . Yes, I have had this conversation with my sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve isn’t paying attention to me. 

I broke down and ordered a new walker. Buying a walker is not the best time to be economy minded. My current walker has 6” wheels on the front legs and end caps on the back legs. It’s not designed for use on pavement. What I ordered has four 7.5” wheels, hand brakes, a seat and a nifty basket under the seat. I’m thinking that the larger wheels will help avoid the death traps on the sidewalks and pavement. The smaller wheels on my current walker would get stuck in the sidewalk joins and in low spots on irregular pavement. The campus is rife with death traps. The seat will allow me to move baking ingredients from the pantry to the counter. I doubt I’ll ever sit on the seat, but I wanted a seat so I could put stuff on it rather than try to push a walker while holding something in my hand. I suspect I’ll need to use the walker for at least another month.

I discovered a leftover from the cognitive deficits that were part of the withdrawal from Cymbalta. I tried sewing, and couldn’t remember basic things. Like how to thread my machine. How to attach the free motion quilting foot. I forgot I needed to lower the feed dogs when I quilted. I forgot where the button is to lower the feed dogs. As a result, I made a quilted tote bag filled with technical errors. I always cut the batting and backing larger than what will be the top side of the quilt. Not this time. I cut the batting too short and too narrow. I had to diddle around joining additional pieces of batting to what I had cut out. The backing was also too narrow. I had to sew a strip onto the backing. I wanted to do a pillowcase type quilt. Sew all three layers together leaving a hole on one end, pull the inside of the bag out through the hole, and sew the hole closed. Ta da! No binding needed. I sewed the seam too narrow in spots and the backing didn’t get caught in the stitching. I did a row of top stitching around the quilt to fix that problem. Except it didn’t fix it. Deciding I wasn’t about to go crazy making this quilted tote bag, I left the gaps. I folded the quilt in half, sewed up the sides and proclaimed it finished. No, there will not be photos. I really don’t want something this filled with errors on the internet. Yes, I will use the tote bag. It’s a tote bag – not an art piece.

I get to find out in the coming week if my sewing brain has returned. When we were on vacation last August, I bought patterns for quilted purses and a quilted wallet. Last week, I bought a pattern for a quilted messenger bag. I was having a minor manic episode and that’s about the extent of my shopping spree. That and the bunny cake pan which makes six little bunny cakes. It is beyond cute. Manic episodes are supposed to be when those with bipolar disorder spend vast sums of money. I’m always careful when I’m manic and my spending sprees are limited to about $100.00. The other part of my manic episodes is culinary. I bake. I cook. I make home made pasta. The bunny cake pan hasn’t arrived yet and I’m looking forward to making little pound cake bunnies when the pan arrives. Yes, there will be bunny cake photos.

I decided to make the quilted wallet first and the messenger bag after that. The wallet has a long strap on it so it can be used as a mini purse. This is a great idea. When I’m at school, I put my wallet, credit card case, and assorted purse stuff in the backpack. If I want to go someplace after school, I need to move purse stuff from the backpack to my purse. I’m thinking that a wallet with a strap could double for a purse when I want to go somewhere after class.

I’ve had a lack of ambition lately, and I think maybe making art will pop me out of the blahs. It’s worth a try.

I’m finally able to stand long enough to block and photograph scarves. Being confined to the couch is conducive to knitting. I’m now playing with cotton yarn that I hand dyed. First, I knit some of the yarn. Then I dye the yarn. Then I unravel the yarn and get a mottled effect. I think there’s more life in yarn that isn’t a solid dye.

Hand dyed cotton scarf.
Playing with cables
Working on designing lace patterns.
Closeup of lace pattern

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

If you are looking for one of a kind art pieces, please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art,www.debthumanart.com

Posted in Baking, bipolar disorder, Cognitive problems, Pain, Peripheral neuropathy, Photography

Rolling On

I have sciatic pain. Apparently two major depressive episodes in three weeks is not healthy. The second episode was scary because I caught myself thinking being dead wouldn’t be so bad. I called my doctor and now have my psych meds tweaked. Meanwhile, I woke up in severe pain last week Monday. I couldn’t walk more than a few steps. I had to push a chair around because I didn’t have a walker. 

Now, I have a few life adjustments. I use a walker and will likely need it for at least 4 more weeks. I have to consider how far I can walk. I tested out my walking ability in the grocery store this morning. I want to go back to school on Monday and I needed to know if I could walk from the shuttle stop to my class. I’m pretty sure I can get that far. I was afraid I’d get halfway to where I need to go, my leg would give out, and I’d be stuck. I’ve missed two weeks of school and I don’t think I can catch up. I know the grades don’t matter; I’m not working towards another degree. I’ve seen too many retired people taking classes and all they are doing is taking up a place in the class. I don’t want to be like that. I want to get as much as I can from my classes.

One of the main roads on campus is torn up. As in removed right down to the soil. I have to cross that road to get from one class to the other. I’m not looking forward to pushing a walker through an uneven, messy, wet, muddy road. I’m not looking forward to trying to get in and out of buildings that don’t have door openers. The university is asking the state for a few million dollars and one of the projects to be funded is $40,000 for a patio outside the football coach’s office. I’ve been taking classes since 2000 (I’m the poster child for the over educated) and in that time, I’ve seen only one student in a wheelchair and only one student using a walker.

If you ever need a walker, get one with a seat. I didn’t, and I’m regretting it. If I have to stand for any length of time, it sure would be helpful to have a seat on which to place my knee. My walker came last Friday. My cupholder came a few days later. That cupholder allows me to go to Starbucks by myself. Such a little thing but means so much to me. I’m used to being independent. Now, I have to wait for someone to open the door for me so I can get in and out of buildings.

We now have a collection of night lights. I got up in the middle of the night Friday night because my foot hurt and I wanted to get my TENs unit. I’m not sure how this happened. I lost my balance, went flying to the floor, banged my head on the wall, and scraped up my hand and arm. Then the lamp fell down on top of me. Jim had to rescue me. I have positional vertigo and I do what I call ear exercises. The exercises help to reset the fluid in my ears. I did my exercises after my deep tissue massage and I feel steadier. I’m not old enough to be this old.

Eating dinner at Chili’s was….interesting. The fellow who was about to seat us asked if we wanted to sit in the bar. I asked him if he saw me using a walker. He did. “Do you really think I can climb up on those stools?” If I gotta be disabled, I’ll make darned sure to educate people on how not to be stupid.

I so wanted to make something for Pi Day, March 14. But I couldn’t stand long enough to bake anything. I wanted to make decorated cookies for Hibernian Heritage Day. I’m that rare combination of Scott-Irish and Polish Jew. I can’t bring myself to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. I can celebrate Hibernian Heritage Day. I still can’t stand long enough to make cut out cookies and decorate them. No, Jim doesn’t want to bake per my instructions. He likes his own version of baking. We have a running discussion on whose oatmeal cookies are better. Jim adds chili powder. I use dried cherries rather than raisins. Adding chocolate chips is also good.

I finished another scarf. I can’t stand long enough to block it or photograph it. On this one, I played around a bit. I had worked out the lace pattern for the blue scarf, and the lace pattern on this scarf is based on the blue scarf. I kicked it up a notch.

My doctor tweaked my meds. I go from 3 mood stabilizers a day to 6. I’m supposed to add another pill each week. I go from 1 antidepressant to 2. The change left me with brain fog. Yesterday was the first day I could think clearly since I increased the doses. I’m thinking waiting two weeks rather than one week between increases will make it easier to adjust. I feel….safer now. I’m not worried about sinking into a dangerous depression or becoming suicidal. I feel….solid. Like I’m not going to fall below center.

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

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

Posted in Baking, bipolar disorder, Depression, Fiber, Pain, PTSD, Sciatica

Some days, I just don’t feel like slaying dragons.

I can’t tell if I’m depressed or just royally pissed off. The muscles around my hips got tight enough to effect the sciatic nerve. I can’t get around without using a walker. I can’t take my vitamins because they are in a cupboard and I can’t reach them. I can get a glass out of the cupboard, but I can’t carry the glass to the sink to fill it with water. I can’t bring a drink from the kitchen to any part of the house because I need both hands to use the walker. My cupholder for the walker will arrive in a few days. 

I didn’t go to school last week because I was waiting for my walker to be delivered. I won’t be going to school this week because about 98% of the buildings are inaccessible. I only know of one restroom that’s accessible. There’s an office set up to “help” accommodate students who have disabilities. Yeah, right. The office is only to protect the university in the event of a lawsuit. Even if the office actually gave a shit about students, they couldn’t help me. I’d need someone with me all day to open doors for me. The someone would have to be a woman so I could use the restroom. The restroom by my first class has two doors. One door gets you into a sitting room. The second door gets you into where the toilets are. There isn’t a handicap stall so I would be forced to use the toilet with the stall door open.

I’ve been working on a bag to tie onto the walker so I could carry stuff. I used three placemats piled onto my cutting mat so I could iron the seams. I am not sure I can put the bag together. I need to cut out a backing, cut out batting, and sew the whole works together. But…the batting is not in the sewing room. It’s in the guest room. I bought 10 yards a few years ago so I’d always have batting when I needed it. I can’t lug the batting to the sewing room because I need two hands on the walker. I can only walk a few steps without the walker. Cutting out an 18” x 36” piece of fabric requires standing up. I can only stand on my own for a minute or two before the pain in my leg becomes unbearable.

I need to photograph a scarf I knitted so I can put the scarf in my on-line store. But I can’t get the white board out of the closet and get it over to the sliding glass door and I can’t stand up while I focus the camera. This is the best I can do…and it’s not very good.

So much of my life right now is restricted. I see the world in terms of what I can’t do. I can’t make the bed. I can’t change the sheets. I can’t do laundry. I can’t put away my clothes after Jim washes them. I can’t stand while brushing my teeth or blowing my hair dry. I can’t bake because I can’t get the mixer or the ingredients out of the pantry.

My appointment with my doctor arrived before my walker was delivered. I got as far as the reception area where I could check in and doubled over from the pain. I think I may have traumatized the poor woman who asked if I was all right. No, I’m not all right. She offered to get me a wheelchair. Did you know that driving a wheelchair is a whole lot harder than it looks? I found that out real fast.

I can’t.

I can’t.

I can’t.

I found videos on Youtube for exercises to help with the pain of sciatica. The exercises work. I had a deep tissue massage yesterday and that helped. I have rice bags that I made. I put them in the microwave, then wrap the hot bags in a dishtowel. I put the bags under my right hip and right calf. That helps. I thought when we had the house built that a ledge in the shower was luxury. I thought it would only be used when I shave my legs. Now, I sit on that luxurious ledge in order to take a shower. Jim put a chair in the bathroom so I could brush my teeth and dry my hair.

Still, even with all the help, I can’t do so many things. I can’t fix myself a cup of tea and bring it into my office because I need both hands on my walker. I can’t fix myself a bagel and bring it into my office because I need both hands on my walker. I can’t cook because I can’t get ingredients out of the pantry. I can’t open a can of soup and nuke it. I can get up to nuking it if I can reach the proper size container, but I can’t carry my soup to the table.

This misery came about after two major depressive episodes within three weeks. The pain started last Sunday and got worse over the next few days. My doctor tweaked my meds with the hope that the new doses will keep the depressive episodes away.

I never let bipolar disorder or PTSD stop me from doing what I want to do. I almost never run from my PTSD triggers. The two exceptions are a series on Amazon Prime that deals with treatment of veterans who have PTSD. I could see a problem starting as we watched the show. Fortunately, the show sucked and we switched the channel before I had an attack. The other time I ran was watching the news. I couldn’t bear to hear a teenager express her admiration of her parents because they got her help when she was suicidal. I had to mute the TV.

I’ve never run from bipolar disorder.

Mental illness never kept me down. My sciatic nerve is keeping me from doing nearly all the things I want to do. 

That’s why I don’t feel like slaying dragons today.

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

Posted in Baking, bipolar disorder, Depression, Psych meds, Suicide

Here’s Why I Have No Ambition

I don’t feel like doing anything. I don’t feel like making art. I don’t feel like studying although I enjoy my two botany classes. I don’t feel like reading. I just looked at a recipe for banana cake with maple cream cheese frosting. Certainly a combination of flavors that will be wonderful. I don’t feel like making the cake although I could probably be convinced to make the frosting and eat it with a spoon. 

This was bothering me until I thought about the cause for the lack of ambition. In the last year, I’ve been through:

  • Deciding to commit suicide and coming back from the edge
  • Going on Cymbalta which I did reluctantly
  • Four infections in five months
  • Severe nerve pain
  • Having to report sexual harassment to the campus police
  • Having the joy sucked out of life and realizing the problem was Cymbalta
  • Coming off Cymbalta and going through horrendous withdrawal 
  • Having cognitive deficits from the withdrawal and not being able to find the street where I live
  • Having so many withdrawal problems that I was sure I was going to be hospitalized so I drafted an advance psychiatric directive and packed a bag before I went to my appointment with my doctor
  • Having breakthrough bleeding and doing the research to find the causes, treatments and incidence of uterine cancer
  • Having to wait a month for a biopsy and another week for the results
  • Having severe anxiety resulting in many cookies and scarves
  • The dishwasher broke just after Thanksgiving
  • Someone I knew committed suicide

No sane person would have any ambition after all that.

I look back, and wonder how I managed when I was working for the Public Defender Department. I think part of survival was to do what I really shouldn’t do – ignore what’s going on inside of me and keep myself busy so I don’t feel much. Now, I don’t have an extreme stress and adrenaline job. Now, I have time to take care of myself and no excuse not to take care of myself.

In Sylvia Plath’s book The Bell Jar, she compares depression to being under a bell jar. From time to time, the bell jar lifts, but she knows it will always come back down. I had a mental health crisis this week. I sort of saw it coming on Wednesday night when I found myself thinking about suicide. The suicide rate for people with bipolar disorder is 20 times the rate for people who aren’t bipolar.

I am 20 times as likely to commit suicide as you. That’s terrifying.

Thursday morning, the anxiety and depression increased. I cried a lot. I needed an extra ½ pill of Wellbutrin. I needed to take all three klonopin. I’ve been on the same dose for klonopin for the last 12 years. Sometimes I don’t need klonopin. Sometimes, I need one or two. Thursday, I needed three to stop the flutters in my chest.

Today, I feel the bell jar coming back down. On Monday, I’ll call my doctor and talk to her about increasing my meds. I don’t like living like this. Suicide terrifies me and I want to live.

Bipolar disorder: the ability to feel like crap 80% of the time.

I’m still knitting to keep the anxiety down. Here’s my latest scarf and it’s in my store: Deb Thuman Art http://debthumanart.com

I’ve Got The Browns

One of the tings I can do to make the bipolar crap go away is to immerse myself with art. Before, art was visual. This time, art is verbal. I’m working on the novel and just did a massive editing. I had Jim print out what I had written, and I went through the pages by hand. I’ll put all the changes into the computer when I finish editing. I’m playing around with an idea for something that I’ve never seen done before. Don’t know how well it’s going to work, but it’s an interesting exercise.

I’m also baking to keep the depression from getting any worse. I’m making croissants. Because of the time between turns and the amount of time the dough has to be in the refrigerator before I can turn it into croissants, I make the dough on Saturday and cut out, shape, and bake the croissants on Sunday morning. 

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

Looking for a great gift? A treat for yourself? Please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art http://debthumanart.com

Posted in Baking, bipolar disorder, Depression, Fiber, Grief, Suicide

Feeling Better, still…upset? Sad? Angry?

I’m still woking my way to understanding and sanity. I’ve written more conversations that I’ll never say out loud and that no one will ever read. Maybe. Someday. Right now, the feelings are still too raw. 

I’m closer to center, and I feel…solid. Like being centered is going to stay. Bipolar disorder is a lifetime full of mood surprises. I’ve no idea how long this solid feeling center will last. I do know that it won’t last. Sooner or late, I’ll have another mood surprise.

I did a google search to find a way to make sense of suicide and came across this site:https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/end-of-life/in-depth/suicide/art-20044900

It’s from the Mayo Clinic and I trust this website to have decent information. There’s a whole lot of inaccurate junk on the internet. So much of what is described in the article is an accurate description of what I felt and continue to feel. I’m troubled by the knowledge that I was brought back from the edge of suicide by a thin thread. Depending on your theology, this was either pure luck or divine intervention. Jim and I went hiking and I suddenly felt good. When we got home, the good feeling left and I realized I was depressed. I went on antidepressants immediately. I had no idea I was depressed. Yeah, right, Deb. How the heck can you be suicidal and not know you’re depressed. It’s easy. And that terrifies me. At the time I was aware that I was having a manic episode. I wasn’t aware I was having a mixed episode where both intense mania and intense depression coexist. Why am I allowed to continue life and John wasn’t? I want the world to make sense, and the world doesn’t make sense. The world has never made sense and will never make sense. I read murder mysteries and watch TV police dramas even though I know the shows are inaccurate. The world makes sense in murder mysteries and on television. Innocent people don’t go to prison in novels. Innocent people go to prison in courtrooms every day.

My world doesn’t make sense and I can’t figure out how to make the world make sense. And so I knit. And bake. This week, I made puff pastry. Um…..I’m not wild about puff pastry. I suppose it has its uses, but I don’t care for it.

I’ve made another scarf and bought yarn for four more scarves. So far, I’ve made 11 scarves and sold 5 of them. This one is listed in my store Deb Thuman Artwww.debthumanart.com

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

Posted in Baking, bipolar disorder, Depression, Grief, Suicide

Writing my way back to center

My psych meds keep me alive. Literally. After a depression so severe that I decided killing myself was a rational decision, had worked out how when and where, and by divine intervention realized I had to go back on antidepressants, I decided I’d never again discontinue Wellbutrin. I had good reasons for going off Wellbutrin. I was having hallucinations. I had left a toxic work environment three years prior. Maybe I could get by with just my mood stabilizer.

And then someone I knew killed himself. I’m still reeling. I’m not crying as much, but I haven’t recovered. I still have questions about why I’m alive and he isn’t. I still have no appetite. Fortunately, I’m seriously overweight so not having an appetite isn’t a health issue and won’t be for several more months.

Earlier this week, I tried writing out my feelings. It’s a written piece that I can’t share now and doubt I’ll ever share. It’s too personal. Too raw. It almost helped. Or rather it helped for a few days.

The depressive episode arrived this past Monday. I saw my psychologist on Tuesday. It didn’t help. The depression lifted – I though – on Wednesday. It came roaring back yesterday. The usual depression cures didn’t work. Jim and I went to a kitchen store in El Paso. Kitchen stores, even if I don’t buy anything, reliably lift the depression. Not this time.

I’m working on more scarves. Knitting the scarves helped me through the intense anxiety while waiting for doctors appointments, biopsy appointment, results showing I don’t have cancer. It’s not working this time.

I tried baking my way out of this depression. I found a recipe for chocolate cutout cookies and tried piping royal icing. I need to listen to myself. I thought that icing was too stiff. I was right but by then, the icing was in the pastry bag and there was no going back. And I was out of powdered sugar so I couldn’t start over.

I love botany. That’s what I concentrated on in college. Botany and microbiology. The smaller things get, the more fascinating things are. I am taking two botany classes this semester: structure and function of plants and plant physiology. Same text book for both classes. One set of studying for two classes. What could be better? Except I’m depressed and don’t care about the classes.

I have the blood spatter on the background fabric for a quilt about the murders in the synagog in Pittsburgh last fall. I can’t bring myself to work on the quilt.

So I sit here. Depressed. Knowing I need to read the textbook for my classes next week. Knowing I need to at least read over my notes for a test on Monday. Not wanting to do anything. Knowing I have to wait out this depressive episode. Knowing there’s no shortcut. No cure. No relief. Just tears.

At least I did laundry and will have clean underwear next week.

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

Looking for one of a kind jewelry? Scarves? Seam ripper? Please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art https://www.debthumanart.com

Posted in bipolar disorder, Cognitive problems, Fiber, Psych meds

Withdrawal Sucks

I had read about how getting off Cymbalta is hell. I thought people were overstating it. Turns out, they were right. Getting off Cymbalta is hell. I’ve now gone through 8 weeks of withdrawal, and I’m not done. I had a couple weeks where the cognitive deficits were bad enough that they mimicked dementia. Dementia feels terrifying. Although I walk from the parking lot to my class, three days I turned down the wrong street and had to scramble to figure out where I was. One night, I had a hard time finding the street on which I live. And I’ve lived on this street for 17 years. Last Sunday, my brain started to feel better. I had five good days before I had a withdrawal relapse. This time, I had vertigo followed by “flu-like symptoms.” Today, I feel good again although I have to slow down, sit and think, before I can remember something I did – like where did I put my water bottle.

I’ve been sewing.

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I used the Slouchy Tee Shirt Blouse patter from Hotpatterns. You can find the pattern here.

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The pattern calls for a rib knit cuff, but I don’t care for rib knit cuffs. The ribbing always wears out and looks nasty. The point of sewing your own clothes is so that you can have what you want. I folded the sleeve in half and added a button hole. Then I sewed on a button, and the opening at end of the sleeve is now comfortably small. You may have noticed the buttons are different. My blouse, my buttons. A friend sent me about 20 pounds of buttons, and I couldn’t find two of either of these so I decided to use the two I could find.

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I wanted to make holiday earrings but didn’t want to make earrings that screamed CHRISTMAS!!!! Angels can be worn all year long. These two pair, along with other cool stuff is in my store.

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

If you’re looking for angel earrings (or other cool stuff), please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art here.

Posted in bipolar disorder, Clay, Fiber, Pottery, Quilts

Bring Back The Original Asylum

I’ve been thinking about the Buffalo Psychiatric Center which was originally known as the NYS Asylum.

The original purpose of the asylum was to give those with a mental illness a calm place in which to heal. New therapies were used. Patients were allowed to work on the farm and in gardens. They were allowed access to the library. They were encouraged to create useful things via weaving and woodworking. The halls were wide and the windows large. Patients were discouraged from staying in their rooms and encouraged to interact with other patients by sitting in the chairs lining the hallways and chatting. It was thought fresh air and sunshine would be a benefit and there were verandas where patients could sit outside. The purpose of the asylum was to cure patients so they could return to their families.

Eventually, the asylum turned into hell. A good portion of the land was taken over and became the campus of Buffalo State College. The farm was gone. Crafts were gone. Inmates were housed in the hallways because the facility that was designed for 600 patients suddenly had 3000 patients. Patients were tied to their beds, confined in ice baths, given insulin treatment, given electric shock treatment, given lobotomies. Inmates were dumped into what was called the Buffalo Psychiatric Center and forgotten about. No one was cured. Everyone was warehoused, mistreated, and likely over medicated. Nothing like Thorazine to keep the tortured inmates docile.

Now, we know that damage to the hippocampus – the part of the brain that is damaged when the brain’s owner suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – can be healed. The damaged neurons in the hippocampus can regenerate and heal. We know that regeneration is triggered by learning something new – such as how to manage a farm and by creativity such as weaving cloth or making items from wood. We know that fresh air and sunshine is beneficial. We know that being social is beneficial and an antidote to depression. We know that lobotomies did harm and never helped. We know that electric shock treatment was horribly overused and had little effect. We know that confining someone to an ice water bath is torture.

Can mental illness be cured? I think so. I think so even though I take a mood stabilizer and an anti-depressant every day and likely will always need to take psych meds. I believe the bipolar disorder can be tempered to the point where I need significantly lower doses.

I am going through withdrawal because I need to come off cymbalta. The drug was sucking the joy out of my life. I didn’t feel like going to class. I didn’t feel like doing any reading. I didn’t feel like doing my homework. Most telling, I didn’t feel like making art. I cannot and will not live in a joyless world.

I felt bad enough one morning that I considered going to the hospital and asking to be admitted to the psych ward. While considering my options, I remembered the two psychiatrists I was forced to see – both of whom insisted that I take more drugs and higher doses. I don’t need more drugs now; I need fewer drugs. And so I didn’t go to the hospital.

Choices for those of us living with a mental illness shouldn’t consist of misery of the illness or in the alternative, misery of treating the illness and being told there’s nothing anyone can do for us besides feed us more drugs.

For the first time in months, I want to make art. I’ve got designs for two quilts worked out. One is based on an exercise done in a drawing class. I model for the art department and I get to sit in on critiques. As I learned about the drawing assignment and listened to the comments made about each drawing, a quilt started to form in my head. Yesterday, my animal physiology teacher mentioned we could come to class on 10/30 dressed in an animal physiology theme costume. Got a dandy quilt in my head for that day. I’ve also got to figure out how to do the final quilting on the nerve regeneration quilt. This weekend, I’ll do a glaze firing and maybe even make for little ceramic trays.

I’m linking with Nina Marie here.

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

Posted in bipolar disorder, Emotions, Garden, PTSD

Home Again

We flew to Buffalo, NY last week for a vacation. I’m from Williamsville, a suburb north of Buffalo and Jim is from Cheektowaga, a suburb east of Buffalo. We went so we could visit with friends, see the Threads of Resistance quilt show, and bury some ghosts.

The Threads of Resistance show was moved to a later date about a week before we were to leave. No, we couldn’t change plans. School starts this Wednesday and we both had to be back for classes.

Seeing friends from law school and a friend from before high school again was fun. I had beef on weck, a Buffalo delicacy consisting of thinly sliced roast beef layered on a kaiser roll that is studded with coarse salt and caraway seed. Add fresh horseradish, and it’s a food found in heaven. Jim had fish fries. In Buffalo, an area where about 70% of the population is Catholic, every decent restaurant and gin mill has a fish fry on Fridays. New Mexico is devoid of fish fries.

My mother and her husband had a cottage on Rushford Lake. It’s a place that holds so many misery filled memories for me. My mother and her husband hated me. Nothing I ever did escaped criticism. Nothing I ever did was worthy of praise. I got screamed at and hit on a daily basis. My escape was to take a long walk through the woods. When I was in high school, my mother would take my brother and sisters out to the cottage during the week. I was left home to babysit her husband. During the day, I’d go through cookbooks searching for interesting recipes to make for dinner. I’d carefully follow a recipe, make dinner, and wait for my mother’s drunken husband to come home. And wait. And wait. Finally, a few hours later, he’d stagger in and announce he had already eaten. He was drunk enough to forget I was at home. Then he’d stagger off to bed. I’d eat by myself. One week, I told my mother I wanted to go out to the cottage, too. “You’re not going.” No explanation. Not that one was needed. She hated me and didn’t want to be around me.

When I was in law school and after my mother and her husband moved to Florida, my siblings decided to have a day at the lake. I joined them. Before leaving, I sat in the middle of the living room floor and got hysterical. It was like going back into the most traumatic memory I had and having to relive the experience of that memory. I survived the day at the lake. My siblings could go out to the cottage any weekend of the summer. My mother and her husband’s hired help got to go out there one weekend a summer. My late sister’s soon-to-be-inlaws got to go out to the lake. I wasn’t allowed. Not even on father’s day.

I wanted to go to Rushford Lake, take a walk, and bury ghosts. As we approached the turnoff for the road the cottage is on, I felt my stomach tighten and the anxiety build. We drove down to the lake and were greeted by an assortment of signs demanding we not park near the lake. We drove to one of the trails through the woods that I used to walk down. It, too, came with signs demanding anyone who didn’t live there to keep out. Jim parked on the main road. I walked down the trail. I buried the ghosts.

Rushford Lake 2 8-2-18

The illusion of solitude. Oddly, I didn’t get bitten by mosquitoes.

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I buried the ghosts in an unmarked grave.

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Bright spots in a dark world.

I earned two undergraduate degrees in college, one in journalism and the other in biology. My interest in biology was plants. One of my favorite places to go was the Southpark Botanical Gardens renamed Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. The gardens used to be free. Now, the senior rate is $10. And someone decided to remove the citrus room. That room was my favorite. Filled with orange, lemon and grapefruit trees always in bloom. The scent of that room was wonderful. I would sit on the bench and just smell the room. There’s now a single lemon tree.

Koi 8-1-18More koi 8-1-18Yellow Flower 8-1-18

The Buffalo Psychiatric Hospital, renamed the Richardson-Olmstead Campus, was built by H. H. Richardson. It’s a magnificent, huge building. When it was designed in the mid-19thcentury, the idea was to cure mental illness. Wide hallways with natural light encouraged patients to leave their rooms and socialize. There were shops – wood and fiber – where patients could do useful work and a shop where the patients could sell their work. The original grounds, more than 200 acres, included wandering paths and a working farm where inmates could engage in worthwhile physical labor. Eventually, about 2/3 of the grounds were removed from the hospital and used as the Buffalo State College campus. Both Jim and I graduated from Buffalo State College. In the early 70’s, we lived near the hospital and that’s where our polling place was. Voting was interesting. I remember it being lots of tile and very bright.

The building itself consists of an administration building in the middle and a wing on each side. The men were in the east wing and the women in the west wing. Each wing was a series of 5 connected buildings. The farthest building was for the most violent patients. The patients would progress through the buildings until they could be released back into society. It was a humane, gentle, and dignified way to treat the mentally ill at a time when there were no psych meds and patients at other institutions were frequently chained to walls or isolated in cages that resembled boxes.

The building was designed to house 600 patients. By the mid-1960’s, the hospital housed 3000 patients. Patients were “housed” in the hallways and walkways between buildings in the wings. Bipolar patients were tied spread-eagle to their beds if they were having a manic episode.

Buffalo Psych Center as is 8-3-18

The administration building which is now a hotel.

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Detail from the administration building.

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Open balcony where patients could sit – now featuring a cage. Ostensibly, the cage is for the patients’ safety. In real life, it was to keep the inmates in and away from the rest of us.

Buffalo Psych Center 2 8-3-18

One of the curved connecting hallways between two of the buildings in the men’s wing.

In the 60’s, three of the buildings of the men’s wing were destroyed to make room for the new hospital. It’s the epitome of Communist Bloc Chic and damned ugly. As we drove by, we saw a basketball court and inmates playing basketball. The court was surrounded by a high chainlink fence as one would expect. The fence was surrounded by an fence impossible to penetrate or climb over. I did not take a photo. We are not animals. We are not freaks. I would not humiliate these people by turning them into a side show.

I thought about my growing up years.  Because I had junk for parents, I didn’t end up in a mental hospital. My mother and her husband were far too self-centered to even vaguely notice if any of us kids were having problems. Then I thought about how if I hadn’t had junk for parents, I wouldn’t be screwed up.

I buried ghosts. I brought new ghosts home.

I’m linking with Nina Marie here.

Looking for a great gift for a loved one or yourself? Please check out my store, Deb Thuman Art here.

Posted in bipolar disorder, Emotions, Fiber

There Are No Victims Here

I am not a victim.

I am not a survivor.

I am a fighter.

I think that’s my super power. It’s not a bad super power to have. It’s pretty good, actually. This thought train, complete with dining car, observation car, and caboose, left the mental station shortly after reading an email inviting me to a play reading at New Mexico State University that was written by students about reporting sexual assault on campus. I won’t be there. I’m pretty sure I’d want to throw something large and heavy if I were to attend. I’m disgusted enough about how NMSU handled my complaint about sexual harassment. The university’s position is that forcing students to read stories that glorify date rape, gang rape (that wasn’t really rape because the victim enjoyed it) and pedophilia isn’t sexual harassment, it’s protected speech under the First Amendment. Mind you, this decision was made by someone who is NOT an attorney. Getting legal advice from someone who is not an attorney is like having your mechanic do a root canal on one of your teeth.

I’ve been worried about how I didn’t realize how depressed I was until about a month after I had formulated a plan for killing myself, decided when and where to do it, and reminded myself to tell Jim not to accept the body so the state would get stuck with the cremation bill. What if next time, and I’ve no illusions about there not being a next time, I don’t stop myself in time? This is the fourth time in my life, and the third time in 10 years, that I’ve been suicidal. Each time is more serious. So I went back into therapy. Jim will be going to some sessions with me. He needs to understand what’s going on in my head when I get depressed – especially if I don’t realize I’m depressed. You’d think I’d know if I were depressed, but I don’t. The slide down into the black hole is so subtle and slow that I’m usually pretty far down before I realize I’m depressed.

I’ve had little bouts of depression. During one bout, I decided to do therapeutic shopping. I bought pre-cut strips of fabric to make a rag rug. Turns out I need a whole lot of strips of fabric – way more than I bought. Jim offered to cut strips out of any leftovers I happen to have hanging about. I’ll be looking for some solid color fabrics so I can have him cut strips. I’ll use what I’ve made so far as the middle of the rug.

IMG_0738

I looked out the back window the other day and discovered that the huge agave in the back yard is about to bloom. The plant will die after it blooms. Too bad because it’s huge and lovely.

I’m doing okay. Most of the time – probably 90% of the time – I’m not depressed. I’ve got end of the semester burnout, but that’s not uncommon after a difficult semester. My last neurobiology class, and last class of the semester is on Thursday. I am looking forward to not having deadlines for a couple months.

I’m linking with Nina Marie here.

If you’re looking for a cool art, please visit my store, Deb Thuman Art here.

Posted in bipolar disorder

Things I’d Like To Tell My Neurobiology Class

You can learn a whole lot more about how a brain functions if you pay attention to those of us who are mentally ill.

We’re not listened to.

I’ve had a psychiatrist tell me the drug that was causing me all sorts of problems was a “very good drug.” I was thrilled when he got his license pulled for overprescribing meds. I’ve had another psychiatrist who, after I told her the med I was on was working really well, increase the dose. I’ve had friends tell me I’m on the wrong medication when it was clear to me that my meds were working well.

I can’t always tell when I’m in crisis.

You’d think having a mixed episode – simultaneously manic and depressive – would cause me to think something was wrong. It didn’t. I don’t follow the stereotypical manic behavior of spending well more than I can afford during a manic event. I get manic, I cook. I brought to class King Cake cupcakes on Mardi Gras. I brought in sourdough crumb coffee cake cupcakes when I was having major anxiety. I showed the class my first nerve quilt and when I explained the real name was: Get back her motherfucker, sit your ass in that chair, shut the fuck up and listen to me, I could hear the manic in my voice. I’m pretty sure my classmates did as well. They saw the manic. They didn’t see the depressive part. The part where I had formulated a really good, effective plan to kill myself and had decided when and where to do it. I didn’t want to shoot myself in the house because I didn’t want my husband to have to clean up the mess. I even wanted to tell my husband to refuse to accept the body so he wouldn’t have to pay for a funeral.

The class didn’t see that it took me a couple weeks to realize this wasn’t an ordinary depression and that I needed to go back on an antidepressant. They didn’t see that I went through a complete personality transformation about 20 minutes after I took the first pill.

I had to do a short presentation for my neurobiology class. I explained, prior to starting my presentation, that I had my meds tweaked and today’s med adjustment deficits were: balance and coordination problems, memory, and emotional control so don’t be alarmed if I start crying in the middle of the presentation.

My brain works differently from yours.

My moods have little to do with what’s going on in my life. I can feel calm, but then open my mouth to say something, and cranky crap comes out. My brain has a mind of its own. It does stuff without asking first. Like when I have a brain dropout. I’ll be saying something, and the next word I want is no where to be found. My brain goes dark. Literally. I have to put the word together little bit by little bit. Each tiny concept that I grab makes finding the next tiny concept easier. When I was on Lexapro, words would hide in my brain about an inch behind my right eye. I’d have to physically move the word to the left side of my brain to be able to say the word. Psych meds cause brain fog. I’m pretty sure I lose 20 IQ points every time I go on a psych med. I miss my fog free brain. There’s weird stuff I can’t explain. Sometimes people appear taller or shorter than the last time I saw them. I once watched a person’s eyes change from light blue to deep blue and back again. It was fascinating.

Sometimes, my brain makes no sense.

I’ve never had a brain dropout in court. This amazes me. Court happens at the speed of sound, there’s no script, and the person sitting next to me is facing prison time. I’m able to think fast. I’m able to formulate responses fast. I never struggle for words. I’d love to know why this is.

I don’t like the idea of having a brain disease.

Long ago, I learned from my clients that I cannot ever have anything remotely like a normal life if I do not accept my diagnosis. I’m bipolar. Not accepting the diagnosis won’t make me not bipolar. It will make me out of control bipolar. Still, I don’t like the idea of a brain disease. That sounds so permanent. I know I’ll never be able to function without psych meds. I just don’t want to be reminded of that.

I wouldn’t want to not be bipolar.

Some people who are bipolar wouldn’t give up being bipolar because they like their manic episodes. I hate manic episodes. If I have to be not at center, I want to be depressed. Depressed feels natural to me. It feels comfortable. I withdraw inside myself and pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist. The reason I wouldn’t want to be not bipolar is more complex. I was better able to help my clients because I truly do understand mental illness and psych meds. I’m able to do good work with my bipolar disorder – work like educating people so they aren’t afraid of mental illness. Work like being out of the closet and letting people know it’s not so scary here in the middle of the room. I’d lose all that ability if I weren’t bipolar.

Don’t feel sorry for me and above all, don’t tell me I’m courageous.

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t bipolar. I’ve no idea what it’s like not to be bipolar. Bipolar to me feels normal. I have the same two choices everyone else has: keep going forward or jump off a cliff. Suicide scares the snot out of me. By choosing to keep going forward, I’m choosing the less terrifying option. Courage has nothing to do with it.

Does anyone have any questions?

Nerve Quilt 1 3-19-18

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

Looking for one of a kind jewelry? Please stop by my shop, Deb Thuman Art here.

Posted in bipolar disorder, Pain, Peripheral neuropathy, Photography

Photos, Meds, And Secrets

More med adjustment. Wellbutrin is now replaced by Cymbalta. The point of Cymbalta is to relieve the neuropathy pain. It’s an antidepressant which, for some odd reason, helps with nerve pain. Sort of. It sort of helps me. I’m still having to take gabapentin and still having to sleep with a TENS unit attached to me. Cymbalta is acting like Prozac. I can only take it every other day and I have no appetite. The no appetite part is difficult because I have to take antibiotics for another week and I have to take them with food.

I make no secret about being bipolar, and I’m finding people who have mental illnesses are willing to ask me about medication. While I don’t mind the questions, I do mind that these people are firmly in the closet. I never have and never will out anyone. Still, the stigma of mental illness isn’t going to go away until we all come out of the closet. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 26% of the population in the US has a diagnosed mental illness. This doesn’t count the number of people who haven’t been diagnosed. The next time you are in a room with 4 or more people, do the math. I’m in a class with 20 other students. Per the math, at least 4 other students have a mental illness. We are everywhere. Even if you aren’t aware of our mental illnesses, we are everywhere.

Jim and I did some hiking during spring break and went to Bosque del Apache on the “spring holiday.” Spring holiday is the politically correct version of Good Friday. Oddly, the spring holiday falls on Good Friday every year. Funny how that happens.

I bought a new lens for the Canon. Tamron 18-400mm. I wanted an all-in-one lens because changing lenses in the field when one is in a desert is not a good thing to do. Sand, dirt, dust, and crud aren’t good things to have inside your camera. I also didn’t want to schlep lenses every time I go hiking. The more I use this lens, the more I like this lens. Jim kept borrowing my camera so I have no idea who took what shots. Here’s the best of the lot.

Jim and I did some hiking at Aguirre Springs and White Sands during spring break and went to Bosque del Apache on the “spring holiday.” Spring holiday is the politically correct version of Good Friday. Oddly, the spring holiday falls on Good Friday every year. Funny how that happens.

Aguirre Springs.

Aguire Springs 14

East side of the Organ Mountains. Aguirre Springs 7

Bunny Ears of the Organ Mountains.

White Sands National MonumentWhite Sands 1

Where the white gypsum sand meets the desert. The white part in the middle is a dry lake. White Sands 3

It’s amazing how much grows on the white sand which is really powdered gypsum.

White Sands 7

Once vegetation takes root, the dune becomes solid.

Bosque del Apache.

Bosque del Apache 1 3-31-18Bosque del Apache 3Bosque del Apache 4 3-31-18 Cropped

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

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

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 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.