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.

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Here is my current scarf project.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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You can see the mistake if you look closely.

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Of course I had to use my fancy stitches.

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

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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.

Posted in Fiber

I needed a caftan

I wanted to make a caftan, but things didn’t work out as planned. First, I discovered my commercial pattern was for a size way larger than me. I couldn’t find a pattern for what I wanted. So I went online and found free caftan patterns. Still not what I wanted.

I took a pattern that wasn’t too bad, and started to tinker. I didn’t want just a rectangle with arm holes and a neck opening. I borrowed a bit from a free kimono pattern I had. I left 9″ for the sleeves, and removed 4″ from each side below the sleeve. I used a French curve to put in an 8″ x 5″ neck opening in the front and a 5″ x 2″ opening in the back.

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The caftan is ankle length. If I make another one, I’ll make the sleeves a bit deeper and take in the sides a bit more. I also will make the neck opening deeper.

Still, it’s easy to wear and comfortable.

I’m linking with Nina Marie here.

Interested in seeing some great art? Please checkout my online 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.

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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.

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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.

Buffalo Psych Center 20 8-3-18

Detail from the administration building.

Buffalo Psych Center 16 8-3-18

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 Fiber

What if………

When I was a kid, all girls had to take home ec. All boys had to take shop. No exceptions Any girl who wanted to learn how to fix a car or weld was out of luck. Any boy who wanted to learn to cook or sew was out of luck. Then along came Title IX, and we got some really good things – athletic scholarships for women, equal educational opportunities for women. Women, like me, went to law school or medical school. Men could become chefs or tailors without anyone questioning their sexual orientation. All good stuff.

But there is some bad stuff. No shop classes. No home ec classes. None trained in building trades. None trained in couture.

I was in Victoria’s Secret recently. I hadn’t been there in 18 years and I was shocked. Where are the pretty camisoles? Where is the silk lingerie? Instead, I saw cheap polyester, badly sewn items, serged hems rather than a rolled hem, straps attached to lace in such an incompetent manner that the straps were guaranteed to come apart from the lace. One style of panty had no elastic at the waist or the leg openings. Just unfinished edges. Victoria Secret prices for quality that isn’t even up to Walmart standards. If I want crappy underwear, I certainly don’t need to pay exorbitant prices.

I caught part of a PBS show about Donegal, Ireland. One segment was about a man who is the last weaver. There were blazers for sale in his shop and I could see the skilled tailoring just from looking at how the sleeve was attached to the body of the blazer.

Garments sold in the US are made in the Mariana Islands (so they can carry a “made in USA” label), Vietnam, and other Asian countries. The garments are badly sewn and the fabric thin and poor quality. People buy this junk because they don’t know better. They have no idea what a well-sewn garment looks like.

So lets have a quiet revolution. Any student can take a shop class. Any student can take a home ec class. Any student can learn building trades. Any student can study plumbing, electrical wiring or carpentry. Let’s learn what quality looks like. Let’s learn how to produce quality items. Let’s leave the crappy underwear on the racks at Victoria’s Secret. Let’s leave the badly sewn garments on the racks. Let’s learn to do for ourselves.

I’ve been learning my Pfaff Quilt Expressions 4.2 and making all sorts of garments.

Undies.

Panties 1 7-22-18Panties 2 7-22-18Panties 3 7-22-18Panties 4 7-22-18

Jim’s shirts. I haven’t put the buttons on them yet. Shirt 1 7-22-18Shirt 1 detail 7-22-18Shirt 2 7-22-18Shirt 2 detailShirt 3 7-22-18Shirt 4 7022018Shirt 4 detail 7-22-18

 

Shirt 1 detail 7-22-18Shirt 2 7-22-18Shirt 2 detailShirt 3 7-22-18Shirt 4 7022018Shirt 5 7022018

Another scrub top  for me.

Scrub top 7-22-18

A blouse for me.

Blouse 7-22-18

I’m linking with Nina Marie here.

Looking for a well-made gift? Please visit my store, Deb Thuman Art, here.

Posted in Fiber

Took a little break from writing.

It has been a while. We went on a tiny vacation the week before Memorial Day and both of us got food poisoning. We either got some bad lettuce or someone didn’t wash her/his hands after using the restroom. It took a week for me to feel human again.

My 15-year-old Kenmore Elite sewing machine crapped out in the middle of a blouse. After looking online and Jim telling me to buy local, I bought a Pfaff Quilt Expressions 4.2. I love the fancy stitches. I’ve been doing a lot of sewing so I can learn the machine.Blouse 1 7-15-18Blouse 2 7-15-18Scrubs 1 7-15-18Scrubs 1 detail 7-15-18Scrubs 2 7-15-18Scrubs 2 detail 7-15-18Scrubs 3 7-15-18Scrubs 3 detail 7-15-18

I’m linking with Nina Marie here.

If you’re looking for some cool art or a one of a kind gift, 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.