Posted in Fiber, Pain, Psych meds

98% Of The World Is Not Accessible

If you have ever wondered just how accessible the world is, try getting into and out of a restroom without using your hands. Putting a blue sign outside a restroom does not make the restroom accessible. There is only ONE restroom I can use on the entire New Mexico State University campus. It’s on the first floor of Foster Hall. The handicap entrance to Foster Hall is on the second floor. I have to be careful how much water I drink and when I drink it. It can be a long walk to the only restroom that has a door opener. 

Sidewalks are death traps. Expansion joins that have moved will stop the walker’s wheels. Then I try not to go flying over the top of the walker. Elevators are death traps. There’s a gap between the elevator and the building. That gap also stops wheels. Area rugs are death traps. Try wheeling over the edge. The rug lifts up and refuses to lie flat. Throw rugs are death traps. They are worse than area rugs. Construction zones are death traps. A main road on campus is torn up. There’s an 8” drop to the exposed dirt that used to be under the pavement. I’m not supposed to try to use the walker on stairs. Getting across that road was a near death experience. 

For some reason, the handicapped entrances for buildings on campus are the farthest from the sidewalk. Go to the college book store? Nope. The parking lot is on one side of the building and the handicap entrance is on the other side. The curb cutout for the sidewalk that will take me around the building is on the far end. I’d have to wheel myself across the parking lot, walk along the entrance to the bookstore, walk down the side of the bookstore, turn the corner, and there’s the handy handicap entrance. 

I got a cup holder for my walker. That allows me to bring tea from the kitchen to the office. I have to put the tea in a travel mug, but at least I can have tea. I thought the cup holder would allow me to go to Starbucks by myself. I could order my drink, put it in my cup holder, and wheel myself to the table. That works if the Starbucks isn’t crowded. Not that Starbucks has a door opener. I’d have to wait for someone to come along and open the door for me. The never crowded Starbucks is on a road that has been ripped up for the last year. It’s quite the driving experience. That’s why that Starbucks is never crowded. I tried going to Starbucks without my walker. My leg feels better and I can walk short distances without the walker. I discovered that I can’t stand long enough to get my drink. I was in pain by the time I could hobble to the table. I had an hour in which I could drink my mocha and hope my leg recovered enough to get out of Starbucks. Fortunately, I could get back to my car. 

I wanted to go to Sprouts, a wonderful grocery store here. It’s got the best produce, a large organic produce section, and a large selection of fruit. Except I can’t push my walker and a cart at the same time. Yes, they have the little motorized things for people who have difficulty walking. I need the walker to get from the car to the store entrance. So what do I do with the walker if I use the motorized thing?

Taking the shuttle bus from the free parking lot to near where I have a class is…..interesting. The newer busses have a ramp that unfurls and makes it easy to roll onto the bus. The older busses have lifts. The bus this morning had a broken lift. My choices were: try to get up steep stairs (not in this lifetime) or wait for the next bus. I waited. Frequently, I have to tell the driver to unfurl the ramp. No, I can’t jump from the sidewalk to the bus while pushing a walker. 

I had a botany lab this morning. The lab isn’t designed for a walker. I managed to get around without the walker catching on a cord and knocking a microscope off the table. Getting prepared slides was easy. Prepared slides have the specimen and the cover slip permanently glued to the slide.  I got the slide, put it in my pocket, and wheeled my way back to my table. A slide I prepare by cutting a thin piece of fruit, putting it on a slide, adding a drop of water and putting a cover slip over the wet fruit required imagination to move from the counter to my table. Which is across the room. The ability to hold onto a slide and the walker simultaneously is a useful skill. I managed. I’m pretty proud of that accomplishment. 

This week, my leg is significantly less painful. I can take a shower standing up. I can get from the living room to the bathroom without using the walker. No, I can’t ditch the walker. I’ve tried. And regretted it each time when the pain returns. 

Three weeks down, three to go. I will be bitching a whole lot for the next three weeks. 

My psych meds have been tweaked so I can avoid serious depressive episodes. Last week, I had brain fog. This week, the fog is gone but I’m having a hard time remembering how to do things.

I finished another scarf. And I can’t stand long enough to block it and photograph it. And so it won’t go in my store for a while.

Having exhausted my supply of Shawl In A Cake yarns, I got out my hand dyed yarns. I did the hand dyeing. I knit a length of what looks like a scarf. Then I dye the length of what looks like a scarf. This requires measuring water, salt, dye and fixative and taking the bucket out to the back yard. Put the length of what looks like a scarf into the bucket and wait. Eventually, fetch the length of what looks like a scarf, rinse it, wash it, and let it dry. Then, I unravel the length of what looks like a scarf and wind it into a ball. 

I worked out a lace pattern and I’m now knitting a for real scarf with one of my hand dyed yarns. Yes, this scarf will be priced accordingly. 

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

Looking for cool, one of a kind fiber art or jewelry? 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 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 Psych meds

It’s Not Easy Being Crazy

We could learn so much about brain function if we looked at what psych meds do to the brain and listened to those of us who have to take psych meds.

I went on Cymbalta because I was having severe pain from the neuropathy. I had read about the miserable time people had getting off Cymbalta. I should have listened to what I read. While Cymbalta did help alleviate the pain in my feet, it sucked the joy out of life. I didn’t feel like going to class. I didn’t feel like reading. I didn’t feel like doing my homework. I didn’t feel like making art. And so I decided to go off Cymbalta. I tried just stopping the medication and went into a serious withdrawal. This was the sixth time I’ve gone through withdrawal when I’ve needed to get off a medication. Each time, withdrawal is different. This was the worst I’ve ever been through. At one point, I thought I was going to have to be hospitalized. I drafted a mental health proxy giving Jim the right to veto any meds, to demand to visit me, to refuse to allow electric shock treatments, refuse to allow a decidedly incompetent psychiatrist to treat me,  and to refuse to allow me to be restrained. I’ve visited friends who were in locked, mental health wards and I’ve listened to the horror stories my clients told. I learned that it’s not uncommon for families to be denied the ability to visit patients.  I learned that psychiatrists don’t listen to patients when patients complain about their meds. I learned that psychiatrists don’t allow patients to be discharged until they are med compliant.

Cymbalta comes in capsules.  I tried emptying out the capsules, diving the little balls inside the capsule in half, and then putting the little balls back into a capsule so I could take a half dose. The half dose sort of relieved the withdrawal. I tried taking a supplement that is supposed to increase the serotonin in the brain. Didn’t help.

I could feel electrical currents beneath the skin on my face. I had cognitive deficits. I would walk out of the bathroom and not remember if I used the toilet. I would read my animal physiology textbook, and have no idea what I read. I couldn’t understand the words. I couldn’t put bits of learning together into a comprehensive whole. I forgot that I’m an artist and that making art helps me heal. Although I’ve been walking from the parking lot to my class for months, I forgot which road I needed to turn down to reach the building that houses my classes.

I had Jim take me to see my primary care physician and to be in the examination room with me. I brought along a bag packed with what I needed if I had to be hospitalized. I packed my sketchbooks and sketch pencils and then feared they would be taken away from me at the hospital because the pencils were sharp. I didn’t pack a toothbrush. Or deodorant. Or a hairbrush.

Rather than send me to the hospital, my doctor put me on Prozac, lowest dose, to be taken every other day. I don’t like Prozac. It takes away my ability to feel emotions. Prozac has an extremely long half life and Cymbalta has an extremely short half life. My psychologist explained that it was the abrupt drop in serotonin in my brain that was causing all the problems. Cymbalta and Prozac are SSRIs – selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. The theory is the reuptake inhibitors allow for serotonin to be in between the axon and dendrite for a longer time.

My first day on Prozac left me stoned. Jim had to drive me to school and to see my psychologist. Then we went to the county government building to vote. New Mexico has early voting and we voted on the first day of early voting. Yes, I was stoned when I voted.

I wanted to be off Prozac as soon as possible. The point of taking it was to have enough serotonin floating about my brain and to have the Prozac half life give me time to complete withdrawal. After two weeks, I tried not taking Prozac. I lasted 4 days before the withdrawal came back. I took another Prozac which helped with the withdrawal. That was the last Prozac I took. I’m back on Wellbutrin.

Unfortunately, my brain isn’t back. I have severe deficits in my short-term memory. Yesterday, I studied for a test in my plant taxonomy class. I’ve no idea what I read when I studied. This morning while taking the test, I had difficulty spelling words. I had difficulty remembering how to write the letters of words. And today, I feel the best I’ve felt in months. I feel good good enough that I thought I was through with withdrawal. Until I embarrassed myself taking a test. I’m not working towards a degree, I won’t be going to grad school. The grade doesn’t matter. I’m fortunate to be able to take classes that interest me and not worry about the grade. Except I do worry about the grade. I’ve no doubt I will fail both my classes – animal physiology and plant taxonomy. I want to do well in these classes. I’ve missed more classes this semester than I missed in college and law school combined. I’ve missed classes because I wasn’t functioning. Or because the room wouldn’t stop spinning and I was pretty sure I shouldn’t drive.

I want my brain back. I want my memory back.

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

Looking for unique jewelry? Please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art, here.