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 Fiber

A Bit of Shameless Self Promotion

Art heals. The day before Thanksgiving, I started having breakthrough bleeding. I’m well past menopause and I knew this was serious. I did the research. I knew the incidence of cancer for each of four typed of hyperplasia. I was terrified enough that even after 40 years of insisting I’d never see another male gynecologist, I agreed to see a male gynecologist. I would have been put on a waiting list if I had insisted on a woman gynecologist. On December 20, I had a biopsy. Although I had two indicators and four risk factors for uterine cancer, the cheap bean counters at my HMO waited until December 19 to authorize the biopsy. On December 28, I learned I didn’t have cancer. On January 20, I finally stopped bleeding.

Through all that, I chose to knit. And knit. And knit. So far, I’ve finished 8 scarves and sold 2. Knitting helped.

Last week, I went to a funeral. He had committed suicide. I bought three more balls of yarn.

I have an online store, and I’ve put the finished scarves in my online store Deb Thuman Art http://debthumanart.com

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

Posted in Emotions, Grief, Judiasm, Suicide

Post Funeral Thoughts

A deputy I knew and worked with committed suicide. I don’t know why, but this has hit me incredibly hard. I spent much of Tuesday and Wednesday crying. I wasn’t sure I would attend the funeral because I didn’t think I could hold myself together. I’ve still got that memory in my head where my mother yells at me to stop crying. Didn’t take me long to learn I needed to keep my feelings to myself.

I ironed my funeral clothes and figured that was a sign I should go to the funeral. The visitation was before the funeral and I arrived at the start of the visitation. Fortunately, or probably as a practical matter, the casket was closed. A US flag covered the casket. I had planned on having a private chat with the late deputy. Most of the chat took place in the car while I was waiting for the viewing to start. I said things in my head that I couldn’t say aloud. Things from deep inside of me. So deep light rarely reaches them.

When I got up to the casket, I put my hand on the casket and gave a silent wish…. Shalom. It’s a Hebrew word that means peace. Not just the absence of war, but an all encompassing peace that reaches to the depths of your soul. I had tried a couple times the days before the funeral to say kaddish. I couldn’t get through the prayer.

A cruel cosmic joke would be that after suicide, we’re just as depressed and hurting as before we pulled the trigger.   

I patted the casket and heard a clank. Metal casket and I must have brought my hand down too hard. Per the obit, he’s going to be cremated. I hope that casket was a rental because buying a casket for someone who is to be cremated is silly.

I wonder if the casket is empty. Just for show and the body is about to be cremated.

As we waited for the funeral to begin, we could watch a montage of photographs of his life. One photo was of a younger version of him with his very young daughter. The love he had for her was obvious. 

You had the world by the ass. You obviously loved your daughter and granddaughter. You had friends. You had a life outside of work. You had work you loved. Why did you kill yourself?

So many smiles in the photos. Every time I saw him, he was smiling. He was always so nice to me.

Why didn’t you let one of us know you were hurting?  

Actually, I know why he didn’t let anyone know.

Or did you leave me a clue when you asked me, “Don’t you just love our fucking society?” I’m so sorry; I never understood it was a clue. Please come back and let me make it up to you.

Suicide, when you’re that depressed, seems rational. Why ask for help with a rational decision?

I could have helped you. I’ve danced on the same road. It hurts so much knowing I could have helped you and I never had the chance. 

I held myself together through the funeral. I fell apart during the last radio call.

Goddamn it! Why did you do this? 

The piper, who played the bagpipes particularly well, played Amazing Grace and I composed myself. Kind of like composing a song only different. I was fine until deputies started hugging me and I started crying again.

If you’re reading this and thinking suicide is a rational option, please do a favor for the people who know and love you: TELL SOMEONE. Thinking death is a good idea means something is very wrong. Go to the hospital. If no one offers to take you, go by yourself. Proper medication gave me back my life. Proper medication will do the same for you.

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

Posted in Emotions, Grief, Judiasm, Suicide

And so it goes…..

“One day Richard Cory went home and put a bullet through his head.” 

A deputy I knew, worked with and liked killed himself last Friday. Baruch dyan ha’emet. Blessed is the true judge. 

When I read the article in the paper this morning, my first though was had I known, I could have helped him. Except that’s not how suicide works. Jim and a close friend didn’t know I was suicidal until I told them I had a detailed plan to kill myself. 

The problem with suicide is it feels normal. It doesn’t feel like depression. It feels like a rational decision. Now, the decision to kill myself feels terrifying. Then, it felt normal. 

I don’t know any of the private parts of this man’s life. I know he loved the work he was doing. Doing work one loves is rare and wonderful. I know he was full of a high-power, fast oscillating energy. It’s hard to explain, but I could feel this energy when I worked with him. It didn’t feel like a negative energy. It felt more like it was a part of him – something that made him who he was. I’ve never met anyone else with that kind of energy. Now, that energy is gone. He’s gone. I feel like he threw his life away.  Except I know that’s not how suicide feels. Suicide feels right. Rational.

I want to hold on to the stupid generalities people have about suicide; except I can’t.

“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” No, suicide is larger than that. 

“He had his whole life ahead of him.” Someone who is 95 has her whole life ahead of her. 

“He threw his life away.” No, he made a rational, or what felt to him like a rational decision. 

Oddly, I don’t feel plagued by why. Why did he kill himself? I know when I was suicidal, I thought killing myself was a good decision. I put several weeks of thought into killing myself. I suspect he did, too. Why? Because life was too painful to be lived. Because suicide felt like a good decision. Because he couldn’t find the door. That’s what I mourn. That I never had a chance to help him find the door. 

Oseh shalom bim’romav hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu v’al kol Yis’ra’eil v’im’ru, Amein.
He Who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace, upon us and upon all Israel. Now say: Amen.

Shalom, John. 

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

Posted in Baking, Photography

Round Bread With Seeds & Croissants

I’m from western New York and now live in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I miss good baked goods. If I want a really good bagel, I have to make it myself. If I want really good rye bread, I have to make it myself. If I want really good sourdough, I have to make it myself. If I want to keep the anxiety level down to manageable, I bake.

This weekend’s baking included sourdough bread with King Arthur Flour Harvest Blend seeds. Jim had asked me to make “the round bread with seeds” because he bought a life-time supply of tuna fish on sale. I’m allergic to seafood, so he has to not only eat all the tuna fish, but also make the tuna fish spread. I can’t tolerate the smell. He’s partial to tuna fish sandwiches.

Finding a good croissant in New Mexico isn’t easy. So I made croissants this weekend. I learned how to make the multi layers of dough and butter. I sort of learned how to cut the dough to shape into croissants. I rolled the triangles of dough up and gave them a bit of a bend. I took them out of the oven, and discovered the richest croissant I’ve ever had. I’ll put that in context. I’ve eaten croissants in Quebec City. I’ve eaten croissants from Wegmans where the store recipe won over other croissants in Paris. I’ve eaten croissants in a French pastry shop in Miami – French enough that I could order my food in French. None of them, although tasty, were as rich as the croissants I made. I used the recipe in my pastry chef book. This is the first recipe I’ve tried from this book and if all the baked goods are this rich, I’ll have to have at least two weeks between pastry explorations.

For my next batch of croissants, I’ll have them proof longer. I let them proof for an hour, which is the time I use for all my breads. Alas, I neglected to factor in time for the croissants to come up to room temperature. Croissant dough has to spend quality time in the refrigerator between each turn and before shaping. I had some butter leakage which indicates I didn’t let the croissants proof long enough. I had thought I didn’t roll the dough thin enough, but the videos on youtube show croissant dough about as thick as mine. I’ll also lower the oven temp a touch and I’ll bake them for a bit shorter time. The bottoms were a bit over done. And maybe I can even learn to take better food photographs by the time I make the next batch although it’s difficult to concentrate on photography while smelling right from the oven croissants.

img_0020

Looking for something unique? Check out my store, Deb Thuman Art, here.

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

Posted in Baking, Emotions, Fiber

Of Many Things…..

School started this past Wednesday. There’s a whole lot more in a single plant cell now than there was when I was in college. Thank the scanning electron microscope. I’m taking two botany courses, and all this new to me stuff in the cell is making these two classes reminiscent of my cell biology class in college. I very badly wanted to go to college, but wasn’t allowed to. College makes you stupid. That’s what my mother and her husband insisted. I started college shortly after my 25thbirthday. With no high school math and no high school science, I struggled. A lot. Now, I’m struggling. A lot. Fortunately, the grade doesn’t matter. I’m still studying, though.

Baking helps with my anxiety. Fortunately, college kids will eat anything so I have an audience for extra baked goods. I’ve been wanting to learn piping. The Food Network shows make piping look so easy. It’s not. I gave it a try this morning. I’ve discovered if I want to fill in the outline with royal icing, I need to dilute the royal icing so it will flow better. I discovered the clip I used to keep the top of the pastry bag closed didn’t do such a good job and I ended up with frosting bulging out the top of the bag. I discovered some tips are only for buttercream frosting. They don’t work well with royal icing – the shaping doesn’t hold up and everything looks like it came out of a round tip. I’ll keep trying and eventually will get better. I love the look of fancy frosted cookies and some day, my cookies will look like the photographs. I used a rum sugar cookie recipe and I put some lime juice powder in the icing to cut the sweetness of the icing. I think next time, I’ll use more lime juice powder. You can order lime juice powder here.

royal icing 1-20-19

My pastry chef book finally arrived on Friday. You can see the book here. I had ordered it on December 16. I love the book, but I dislike the vendor. I have my mail sent to a post office box. The vendor ships via UPS which wasn’t indicated when I ordered the book. There was no tracking number provided so I had no idea the book wasn’t shipped until I sent an email complaining that I never got the book. Per the vendor, they tried three times to get my physical address. Nope. Not even once. Ellenbooks was the vendor. Don’t buy anything from them. I didn’t bother to look at their ratings before I ordered the book. I’m not the only frustrated customer. In fact, less than 50% of the customers had anything good to say about them.

The book has recipes given in weight rather than volume. Fortunately, I already had a food scale. The recipes tend to be for huge portions but the author suggest the recipes can be cut in half or in quarters and they will still work. Jim looked though the book and picked out pies for me to make. On the baking agenda is sweet potato pie. I have my eye on pear upside down cake. I went online to find a recipe for a small batch of royal icing. The recipe in the book makes 6 cups of icing. I couldn’t bake enough cookies to use up 6 cups of icing if I baked all week.

Reading through the book, I discovered how all the contestants on Holiday Baking Championship are able to make all that good stuff without a recipe. Turns out there are basic recipes for pastry that can be tweaked and adapted a zillion ways.

I’m still working my way through the yarn I bought to keep the anxiety level sort of down. I’m nearly finished with one scarf and I have one ball of yarn to go. Oddly, while I had so much stress waiting for a biopsy then waiting for results, I made few mistakes in my knitting. This scarf has caused me to rip out rows at least twice each knitting session and usually 3-4 times.

We’re binge watching NYPD Blue. The law is a tad loose – in NY, once the right to counsel has been invoked, it cannot be waived except in the physical presence of an attorney. The script ignores that. One thing that may not be well known is that the antics and forced confessions on the show really were being done in the mid-90s when the show was first aired. Since then, the police have been steadily recording more and more encounters and confessions. This has led to better policing and fewer confessions tossed out by the judge.

I’m linking with Nina Marie here.

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

Posted in Emotions, Fiber

Cosmic Joke That Isn’t Funny

I’ve long said that the ultimate cosmic joke would be for me to discover, after all the effort I put into not having children, to learn I couldn’t have had children anyway. My uterus has a birth defect called a septate uterus. There’s a piece of tissue connecting the back of my uterus to the front of my uterus. While it doesn’t effect conception, it significantly (20% – 40% and as high as  70%-90% depending on which article you read) increases the risk of miscarriage. For women who don’t wish to have children, the treatment is to do nothing. The only thing this septum effects is the ability to carry a pregnancy to term.  For women wishing to have children, there’s a minimally invasive procedure to remove the septum. The defect occurs in only 3%-7% of the general population so maybe I should buy a lottery ticket.   The only way a woman would know she has a septate uterus is if she has recurrent miscarriages. My congenitally defective uterus in not the cause of the bleeding. Said bleeding started the day before Thanksgiving and is continuing. I’ve got an appointment with a female gynecologist the end of this month. 

Oddly, the knowledge of my defective uterus is…..depressing. Why that should be is a mystery to me. This is the same feeling I had when I thought I would need a hysterectomy. I never wanted to use my uterus, but its potential absence is oddly depressing. 

I’ve been knitting to help keep down the anxiety. It kind of works. Here are the scarves I’ve made.

img_9234img_9233img_9232img_9231img_9230img_9229img_9228img_9227

Here is my current scarf project.

img_9226img_9225

And there are two more balls of yarn waiting to be made into scarves. Yes, they are all for sale. I haven’t gotten them into my store yet, but the price will be $30 which includes shipping within the US. If you’re outside the US, please email me at debthuman@zianet.com and I’ll research prices for you.

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

If you’re looking for one of a kind gifts, please check out my store, Deb Thuman Art, here.

Posted in Photography

It’s not cancer. It is a mystery.

I finally got the pathology results. It’s not cancer. It’s not hyperplasia. It’s a mystery. While I’m happy I don’t have cancer, I’m not happy to have a cause for breakthrough bleeding.

The results were supposed to be ready on Wednesday. They weren’t. So we went to JoAnns where I bought medicinal yarn. Enough medicinal yarn to make four more scarves. I had put the crappy photos of the first two scarves on my Facebook page, and one sold the first day. Yes, there will be more photos as I get the scarves done and all will be for sale. $30 includes shipping within the US. I’m having fun using the Lion Brand Yarn Shawl In A Cake. I like how the colors variegate and how I can make a good size scarf with just one “cake.”

We went to Sam’s Club earlier this week and came home with an Instant Pot. I had been looking at Instant Pots, comparing features, reading reviews, and finally bought an Instant Pot. It was on sale. Now, I have to learn how to use it. Before we moved to New Mexico, we had a huge vegetable garden. The garden started as 30’x90′ and got bigger each year. I canned everything and used a pressure canner. I’m acquainted with the inherent dangers of a pressure cooker – which is what an Instant Pot is.

Several years before I was born, my grandmother and her sister were canning peaches. I am sure my grandmother had a death wish on that day. She was married to a violent drunk who beat her on a regular basis. My grandmother went through life insisting she was stuck, she had no where to go, and on and on. It was how my grandmother avoided taking responsibility for her life. Eventually, my grandmother’s husband died and she remarried a few months before I was born. On the Death Wish Day, my grandmother used a pressure canner as a hot water bath canner. She had the lid partially on. Right. So partially that it was locked on and she had put the petcock on the lid. Pressure built up. It required considerable strength for my grandmother to get the lid off that pressure canner. When she did, 7 quarts of peaches flew up to the ceiling causing glass shards and hot peaches to fall on my grandmother, her sister, and her sister’s twin toddlers. My cousin still remembers that day although it was more than 60 years ago.

It snowed over night and the snow was melted by 10:00 AM. That’s how snow in southern New Mexico works. We get one or two days like this each winter. I’m trying to learn how to photograph snow in flat light. If you do outdoor photography, you get the light nature supplies. If you wait for perfect light, you will only have, at best, 3 hours in which to shoot. Learning to work with less than perfect light seems a better use of my time than waiting for perfect light. Although I had the camera set for auto exposure, I found the early morning shots to be under exposed. There’s some secret trick to photographing snow and I have yet to learn that trick.

Snow 1 12-29-18

Snow 2 12-29-18

These shots were taken during the brief time between the sun coming out from behind a cloud and the snow melting.

Snow 6 12-29-18

Snow 5 12-29-18

Snow 4 12-29-18

Snow 3 12-29-18

Snow 7 12-29-18

Tinker has a new toy. It’s the box the Instant Pot came in. He let me take his photo – something he’s never done before. He must have really impressed with that box to let me photograph him.

Tinker 2 12-29-18

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

Looking for cool stuff? Check out my store, Deb Thuman Art here.

Posted in Baking, Emotions, Fiber, Judiasm, Quilts

Scared, Terrified, Anxious

Who’s on first?

Where am I?

What day is it?

The day before Thanksgiving, I began to have breakthrough bleeding. I went through menopause 16 years ago, so this is serious. This is scary.

I did research. I learned about epithelial glands. I learned about tissue types: simple typical, complex simple, simple atypical, and complex atypical. I learned the incidence of cancer if the tissue is simple atypical is 3% and the incidence of cancer if the tissue is complex atypical is 29%. I learned there’s a 30%-40% chance of pelvic organ prolapse following hysterectomy. I learned about the four major types of uterine cancer. Three are easy to treat; the fourth is aggressive. I learned what the stages of cancer are. This is terrifying.

I asked a friend who had uterine cancer who her surgeon was and why she chose that surgeon. I learned there are gynecologists, oncologists, and gynecologic oncologists. If you have uterine cancer, you want a gynecologic oncologist – someone who specializes in cancer of female reproductive organs.

I had an ultrasound and learned my uterine lining is 5.7 mm thick – .7 mm thicker than it should be.

I had a biopsy on December 20. I won’t have the results until December 26. After I get the results, I will do more research.

I haven’t been sleeping well. Last night, I was watching television when I looked at the clock. It was nearly 1:00 AM and I wasn’t sleepy. I needed anti-anxiety medication to go to sleep. That’s been happening a lot since the day before Thanksgiving.

I’ve found ways to sort of keep the anxiety level down. I’ve gotten on my elliptical machine and rather than pedal for 20 minutes, I’ve been routinely pedaling for at least 40 minutes. I’ve been binge watching baking television shows. I’ve been baking. I’m about to learn how to do piping. I’ve ordered a pastry chef text book so I can learn the correct way to bake.

I’ve been knitting.

I’m still anxious. I’m still scared. I’m still not going to be calm again until I read the pathology report. Reality I can deal with. Not knowing is unbearable.

I found some nice yarn at Joann’s. It’s made by Lion and is called “Shawl In A Cake.” I gotta knit yarn with a cool name like that. So I’m working on scarves. Two are done, one is in progress, and one has yet to be started.

IMG_9163IMG_9164IMG_9161IMG_9162

The scarves are approximately 10” wide and approximately 60” long. Cotton and acrylic blend, and an open stitch is remarkably warm. Air is a great insulator – think of plastic sheeting over windows in the winter – and the open stitches trap air. Eventually, I’ll get the scarves into my web store, Deb Thuman Art. If you are interested in buying either scarf and prefer not to wait for me to list them, they are $30 each which includes postage. Email me at debthuman@zianet.comand I’ll send you instructions for paying through paypal.

I’m also working on a quilt in memory of the congregants murdered at the Tree of Life Synagog in October. I finally got around to putting the blood spatter on the background fabric. I’m happy with the spatter pattern, but I’m not enamored with the shade of red. It’s tough to come up with a true blood red. And so I will have cherry blood spatter.

IMG_9160IMG_9159

Jim used push pins to attach the fabric to a piece of cardboard and we took the fabric outside. Blood spatter is messy.  I took a paint brush, some fabric paint, and made blood spatter. I need to set the dye by ironing the fabric. The Hebrew word for life will be superimposed on the blood spatter. People have been trying to obliterate us since the time of Abraham. We are still here.

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

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

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.

IMG_9141

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

IMG_9139IMG_9143

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.

IMG_9067IMG_9069

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.

Posted in Fiber

A Different Halloween Costume

My animal physiology teacher said we could come to class in costume on Tuesday if the costume had something to do with animal physiology. My costume is a mitochondria quilt.

fullsizeoutput_ec5

We learned that both sides of the lipid bilayer don’t have to match, so I embroidered each side in a different color thread. There are pores and ion channels in the lipid bilayer, so I used beads to represent them.

fullsizeoutput_ec9

My quilts the past couple years have been autobiographical. Mitochondrial DNA is used to trace a person’s ancestry back several thousand years by determining the hapolog. Mine is U3b. The Hebrew letters dalet and lamed are my initials and it’s how I sign my artwork. By Jewish tradition, if your mother is Jewish, you’re Jewish. That has nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with pograms.

fullsizeoutput_ec8fullsizeoutput_ec7fullsizeoutput_ec6

Now, I need to figure out how I’m going to quilt it. I have considered swirly lines to show the liquid cytoplasm in the background. I’ve considered quilting “K” in several places on the background. I have a potassium deficiency which contributes to the peripheral neuropathy and K is the symbol for potassium. I’ve considered just doing meandering quilting.

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

If you’re looking for a great gift for yourself or a loved one, please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art here.

Posted in Uncategorized

Learning to view the world differently

         I’m taking animal physiology this semester. I’ve reached a stage of life where learning is purely for enjoyment. I’m not working towards a degree. I’m not going to be going to grad school. I don’t need a PhD.

         One of my undergraduate degrees is in biology (the other in journalism) and most of my work was with plants or microbiology. I graduated 37 years ago and there have been a couple advances since then. There are a few more women biology professors. They are addressed as Dr. rather than Mrs. In my class, the professor is a woman, there are 7 female students and 17 male students. This is an improvement. When I worked towards my biology degree, I don’t recall an upper division class with more than 5 female students.

         Something else has changed. Working towards my degree, I fought against the notion of evolution. I could not and still cannot comprehend a big bang accidently leading to a single cell and then accidently morphing up the phylogeny tree to eventually create a human with not only an opposable thumb, but also the capacity to think, create, and have a sense of right and wrong. Life is far too organized and far too complicated to be nothing more than an accident. This belief caused much consternation between myself and my professors.

         I did, and still do, believe in natural selection. With natural selection, you don’t end up with something you didn’t have before; but the population of what you had before is now a bit different. Consider the tomato and tobacco mosaic   virus. There is a natural resistance to TMV, but it’s not a complete resistance. In the lab, tomatoes are grown and TMV is introduced. This kills almost all of the plants which had no resistance. Then, the temperature is raised and TMV is introduced again. This time, almost all of the plants with only one resistant gene died and the plants with two resistant genes lived. You still have tomatoes, but more of the tomatoes are resistant to TMV than before “naturally” selecting for the resistant varieties.

         Physiology includes change over time. As the environment of a given animal changes – hotter or cooler ambient temperature, more or less participation, change in the abundance of preferred food – those animals in the population that have the genetic ability to adapt will live and reproduce. Those without that genetic ability die off. There’s no accident here – merely cause, effect and natural selection. The complexity and amazing organization of life remains.

         And that’s what I learned in my animal physiology class.

I’m linking with Nina Marie here.   Stop by and see what other artists have been doing. If you’re looking for one of a kind jewelry or other art, please stop by my store, Deb Thuman Art  here.

Posted in Fiber, Quilts

Getting Back My Desire To Make Art

Although Cymbalta sucked all the joy out of life, I have managed to do a tiny bit of art. When I realized that I had no desire to go to class, no desire to read, no desire to do my homework and, most telling, no desire to make art, I knew it was time to come off Cymbalta. I’m now going through withdrawal. Withdrawal sucks. If I were coming off heroin, I’d puke and poop for three days and be done. With psych meds, it’s a minimum of 6 weeks of misery and I’ve had withdrawal last as long as 12 weeks. So for the duration, I’ll be having hot flashes, balance problems, daily surprises. Like the surprise I got yesterday when I woke up, sat up, and watched the room spin. Clockwise. I’m in the northern hemisphere so rooms only spin clockwise.

Anyway, I did manage to make some boxers. I took leftover fabric and cut out legs. If there was enough fabric for both legs to match, that’s what I did. If not enough fabric for both legs but enough fabric for one leg, then there’s a leg of this and a leg of that.

The first pair, I made some mistakes because I had forgotten how to put the boxers together. I got better with each pair, and now I can’t remember what I did so I get to go through the learning curve yet again when I start using up leftover fabric for boxers for Jim.

IMG_8842IMG_8843

You can see the mistake if you look closely.

IMG_8844

Of course I had to use my fancy stitches.

IMG_8847

I wasn’t trying to match the print. If I had tried, it wouldn’t have matched.

IMG_8848IMG_8849IMG_8846IMG_8837IMG_8838IMG_8854

For the first time in a long time, I want to make art. I’m working on finishing up the nerve regeneration quilt and I’ve got a mitochondria quilt designed. I need to pick out fabric for that quilt.

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

Looking for art to buy? 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.