Sunday, April 15, 2018

Deviation

Today's blog is going to be a bit different. We're going to chat about why mental health awareness, knowledge, and support is important for all human beings.

I don't normally talk about my background at all because, well, it's personal. But in the last few years lots of things have happened thanks to said background.

I am a survivor of repeated exposure to abuse. Mostly emotional and mental abuse (by my parents) but also sexual abuse (former babysitter's husband, an ex-brother-in-law, and classmates) and a bit of physical abuse (again by my mother)... which caused me to develop a condition that is called complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It's different from the usual PTSD because the symptoms can be vastly different. In fact only a few are common to both. In fact it's most often misdiagnosed and therefore mis-treated and can cause further problems for patients. That can be a big problem, depending on the quality of doctor who's treating you and what pills they decide to pump into you. Did you know that some anti-depressants used for treating bi-polar can make a person with PTSD psychotic? Yeah. Not useful. So like with physical health, getting a proper diagnosis is extremely important.

There's a tome of mental health definitions called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) that's in it's 5th iteration. It's an interesting thing because one would think that such a work would be definitive, but it's not. Science is still learning about the brain and how it works.. and how it breaks. So unless a patient happens to find a psychiatrist that hasn't stopped reading new publications, they might just get stuck with someone who is a believer in only what the DSM-5 says. In fact my condition isn't even recognized by said tome, according to my symptoms. But I am lucky that my doctor keeps current with new research. He was able to tell the difference between my complex-PTSD and something that I don't have: bipolar disorder.

If I'd been misdiagnosed, I have no clue where I'd be right now. None. The various drugs used to treat the bipolar spectrum (yes, it's really a spectrum) can be bad for patients like me. Not all of them, but definitely some of them. Again the importance of having a knowledgeable doctor is key.

Then if you add in the societal stigmas surrounding mental health, the lack of understanding that the majority of people have about various mental illnesses, and a lack of availability for treatment you get a perfect storm of effluvia that can make a person feel like they're drowning.

So here's where I'm lucky:


  • - I have health insurance that covers mental health. It's not great, but it's better than nothing. Nevermind that we went from paying $40 a month for me to stay alive (more on that in a bit) to $145 a month. I don't pay a thing for therapy and doctor's visits.
  • I have a doctor that uses the gray matter in his skull for more than calculating his golf handicap. The man listens and will key in on any small detail. He's very thorough and if any patient needs him, his staff will work them in.
  • I have a therapist that specializes in working with PTSD patients. He's fantastic. I am able to see him weekly, or more, as needed. 
  • I have a husband who truly sees my condition as an illness (which it is) and sees me fighting to keep it under control on a daily basis. He respects me for the effort I put in and supports me when I need it. 
  • I have friends who accept and understand me because of their own experiences with various illnesses, physical and mental. Knowing that I'm not alone helps so much.


Here's where I'm not lucky:


  • I have this bedamned condition in the first place, and with it: night terrors, depression with suicidal ideations, anxiety (at time crippling), agoraphobia, sometime uncontrollable anger, and hypervigilance.  
  • I've had to eliminate relationships with people who did more harm to my condition than good. Because of my background, I've cut out all but one member of my surviving immediate family and a couple of aunts and cousins. 
  • Forming relationships with other people is hard when they are supposed to fit into "family slots," as I call them. It's difficult to relate to my perfectly sane, kind, and wonderful in-laws because they don't have any kind of abuse in their backgrounds. Also "family" leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. 

All in all it's way better than some people have it with their conditions. But that's what bothers me. Everyone deserves to have their ills treated. Just like a cancer patient has no choice in their condition, a person with anxiety or depression didn't choose to live that way. But the person with cancer gets sympathy. The other people are called "crazy."

We're told to: "just smile more," "just snap out of it," "stop being dramatic," "just pray about it," and worse... like my personal favorite, "you can't have PTSD unless you were a combat veteran." Bollocks to that. A person can have PTSD from being mugged, being in a car crash, being raped, having a traumatic birth experience, loosing a loved one, and more.

Nobody says anything like that to diabetics (unless they happen to be fat diabetics... don't get me started on my hatred of body size shaming), cancer patients, folks with broken limbs... Nope. Not to any of them. That would be cruel and rude. Well it's cruel and rude to speak to people with mental health diseases that way too. In fact it can damage us further, undoing the hard work that we do with our therapists and doctors. That kind of talk reinforces the dark parts of our brains that whisper to us that we're not worth peoples' time. That we are horrible drains on society. That we should be denied love. That we don't deserve to live.

When I was younger (think elementary school age) there were times I wanted to crawl away, fall asleep, and never wake up. When asked if I wanted to hurt myself, I'd truthfully say no. Why would I want to hurt myself? Other people hurt me enough already. Those feelings never went away. As I got older, I always called it "bunny under a bush," because that's what happens when rabbits are sick. They crawl away to die alone.

Despite knowing my background and being excellent at what they do, the plan my doctor, my therapist, and myself made for my treatment went awry. Like any battle plan it is only good until the first encounter with the enemy. In this case the enemy was a combination of dealing with my mother and depression.

If you're squeamish, having a bad day, or easily upset please skip the next part. I'll tell you when it's safe to read again.

In the back of my mind I decided I was done. Just done. Many of my friends were dying (screw you, cancer), I'd lost pieces of my heart when Confetti, Castor, and Pollux died, I didn't have much of a family anymore, and I felt so worthless and that I was a burden on FH. So I started making arrangements like figuring out where my surviving pets would go, ways for FH to dispose of my crafting stash, getting rid of things that he didn't need to be bothered with, making lists of bills that need paid and when.... Thanks to my mother's pettiness (sister wanted one thing of our granddad's and mother wouldn't give it to her because, well mom's just a tantrumming 3-year old in an old woman's body) I had access to a large caliber handgun that would leave little chance in removing a good chunk of my chest. And because of the age of our home: a cast iron bathtub. Perfect for containing fluids, making clean up an easier task for the coroner and FH.

Yep. I had it all figured out. Because I didn't want any kind of margin for error. I meant business. No messing around with pills or blades. Too messy and unpredictable. So I had a plan. I just needed to figure out when was the right time to leave.

It's safe now, except for a possible swear word or two.

And then, somehow, I had a brief moment of clarity. I'm really not sure how or why, but the rational part of my brain finally got through by mentally screaming "what the actual fuck do you think you're doing!?!" I remember I was standing in the kitchen talking to FH when it happened. It was a Sunday. I know because I had a therapy appointment the next day. I think I interrupted him, but I'm not sure. I told him that I needed to tell him something important and everything came spilling out.

Here's what's really important. If I didn't have that solid trust and respect with FuzzyHusband, I don't think I'd have told him. Even in that moment of clarity. If I didn't have a good therapist (who saw me twice that week) and a good doctor (who worked me in right after the therapy appointment the next day), I am quite certain the feelings of mentally drowning would've taken over yet again and I'd not be sitting here typing up my story. Because that's how it feels. Like you're drowning. And that's WITH the advantages of good medical care and a support network. I cannot begin to think what it's like for someone feeling the same way without what I have.

Now I'm fairly stable. Meaning I'm not actively planning on killing myself and I'm mostly mentally strong enough to tell the dark parts of my brain to pee up a rope when they come calling. There are still changes I've had to make to try and help myself recover. Dropping the blog to weekly was one of them. Having a weekly record of what I've working on is helpful because memory lapses are part of my new normal. Plus it allows me to stay connected to people I care about. Both of those are positive things. Walking away from toxic people, no matter their relation, is another thing. And man is that difficult to do. Particularly when you were groomed to behave a certain way towards people.

I remind myself every day that I'm worth the air I breathe. That there are people who love me and cherish me. Because there are and they do. Some days are easier than others. Some days it's all I can do to put on a clean pair of underwear. I really loathe those days...

A while back a friend of mine ran a live-streamed fundraiser for the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. I donated in the named of a friend who'd taken his own life. What bothered be about that situation was: he never asked for help because of the stigma and when our mutual friend wrote the obituary, she wrote that he'd died of heart problems. We read the letter and in fact we found his body.... a day I'll never forget. And she covered up his pain because of stigma. If we as a society refuse to educate ourselves regarding mental illness, how many more people we take their own lives?

Anyways, when I made that donation, I was entered into a drawing for a giveaway. Many artists from all over had donated items for my friend to use as incentives to donate. As it happens, another dear friend was one of those artists. And suddenly I found myself the proud owner of a paracord bracelet woven in teal and purple, the colors of the suicide awareness and prevention ribbon. I started wearing that thing daily after it arrived because it served as a physical reminder of my worth to someone. I told FH that I was afraid of what would happen if I ever lost it or if it broke.

Then my brain remembered something I'd read about a few years ago. Project Semicolon.

And then the idea for this was born.


My chosen artist used a photo of my bracelet to create the design. Now I will always have that reminder that my story isn't over. No matter what my brain tries to whisper in the dark moments. Incidentally, my friend who made the bracelet cried when he saw the photo.

So. If you or someone you care about is struggling, please encourage them to ask for help. Make them understand that there's no shame in being sick and no shame in asking for help. We aren't weak for asking for help. We ask for help because we've been strong for too long and need to rest. But that rest does not have to be permanent.

American Foundation of Suicide Prevention

National Alliance on Mental Illness

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Suicide Prevention Resource Center

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Disappointment

I've mentioned before that I'm going to be finishing the last quilt that my late friend was working on before she passed away. When her husband and I initially looked at it, it was brief but I noticed a couple of places where the seams weren't holding.

On Tuesday I thoroughly examined all the seams and found that I could see my friend's decline as her disease progressed. The blocks themselves are perfect. But she didn't get them pressed well before starting the sashing. The short sashing is mostly well done, but about a quarter of the seams show signs of her becoming unsteady and possibly loosing the ability to see well. On one row, you can see that her seams were too large because the row is shorter than the two on either side of it.


The long sashing strips were cut completely wrong. I.e. along the selvages inside of the width of the fabric. This makes the fabric more easily warped and harder to keep your seams straight... which is a total rookie mistake. She was most definitely not a quilting rookie. And on top of all this were places where the seams weren't holding or would not continue to hold.

After talking with another quilting friend, I knew what I had to do. I called my friend's husband and explained the situation. He and I agreed that I would disassemble the quilt top, after labeling the blocks so I can put them in the order she had them in, and completely redo the sashing. Then I would finish the borders as planned. He's checking her stash for fabric for the new sashing. That way I'm at least using her fabric for the new work.

On one hand I'm really upset about taking apart something that she put together. On the other hand, I want to ensure that her eventual great-grandchildren can enjoy this quilt and her all about her from their parent, aunts, and uncles... and hopefully pass it on to their children.

Tomorrow afternoon I'll hopefully be picking up the fabric substitute. If there's nothing in her stash, I'll do some quick math and run by the quilt shop on Tuesday. Then I get to label the blocks and start picking apart the weak seams.

This quilt will be done the way she would be proud of. Even if I have to stop and cry once in a while.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Happy Easter!


No, Artie wasn't too pleased about the bunny ears. ;-)

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Snow? Really?


That was yesterday. We had about 7-9 inches in places. Worst storm of the season... after the season was technically over. Gotta love the midwest!

I did get some work done on the memorial room. It needs some wall art and a chocolate Labrador puppy. It also needs me to redo the wallpaper as it didn't stick well the first time. Hopefully I won't have to use a different paper. I really like this one.



Thanks to the snowstorm, we didn't get to go to the alpaca show yesterday. And since the wind was coming from an odd direction, I couldn't spray sealer onto any wallpaper. So my backup plans for fun were out the window.

But today it's gorgeous, if a bit chilly, and we made it to the show!






And I found a new friend!

That's all for today.I need to get back to cleaning. FuzzyHusband was sick all last week, so not much got done. He was so sick that he actually stayed home for a bit. Poor guy. Now we're playing catch up... and by "we" I mean "me" because he still can't catch his breath.

See you next weekend!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Printed Mini Books

Last week was really busy. Ellie had to be put on a course of oral steroids to combat the current outbreak of "rodent ulcers," aka eosinophilic granulomas on her mouth and left hind leg. She's not thrilled about being pilled twice a day, but I'm just happy the medicine is helping. She's still on the smaller side size-wise. Not even 5.5 pounds, so her doses are small too.

I was also fighting my way back into my miniature studio space. I managed to get lots of things properly put away and a couple of boxes that "belonged downstairs" sorted through and dealt with properly. Only a few more of those to go, which is nice. I"m refusing to ignore them during this round of studio reclamation.

One of the unexpected and time eating things I had to deal with over the previous weekend was the aftermath of Artie knocking my possessions off shelves. Several cherished stuffed toys from my childhood ended up on the floor... where Ellie peed on them. Repeatedly. Lots of soaks with enzyme cleaner and rinses in cold water later and I managed to save them all. I was less than pleased though. With Artie around, merely keeping things where they belong (not on the floor) is difficult on a good day.
The naughty duo!


Oh and did I mention that I irritated my left knee, probably whilst dodging around things trying to get into the studio area. I'd built a wall of tubs to keep a certain dog out of there un-supervised because at one point she was having issues with housebreaking. Apparently my wall was trying to keep me out too! So I'm moving slow as I get things done.

Anyways. On to the fun things!

Miniature club members, myself included, went back to our late friend's home to go through even more of her mini supplies. I came away with a tidy haul of "printies" (printable miniatures) and found several pages with items I wanted to use in my memory scene.

A Mother Goose book that came out of a NAME Miniature Gazette and a sketch pad, with some drawings, from a Dollhouse Miniatures magazine.



This one I had a bit of fun with. It's a coloring book from a printie page in Dollhouse Miniatures. I decided it should have some color added to a few pages. Good thing I didn't need to worry about staying in the lines!





I still need to make the inserts for the walls in the room and glue the carpet in place. Also there's a duffel bag kit that I plan on putting together. Then I'll find (or make) a pet of some sort that will be lounging amongst the disturbed bedding on the sofa bed. Probably right around the squished up
pillows.


I need to get back to work on regular laundry and clearing accumulated stuff from the desks in the studio. Hopefully I'll have this room finished next week. See you then!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Whoops! Blame Daylight Savings Time!

And also a busy weekend. Here's a disgruntled Artan to make it up to you!


Sunday, March 4, 2018

Bittersweet

On Friday most of the surviving members of our local miniature club met at our recently departed friend's home to sort through her supplies, stash, and tools so we could purchase what we'd like from her husband. There were many tears and lots of laughs during the hours we spent combing through her treasures. Lots of memories were traded back and forth too. And lots of questions like, "what do you suppose she saved THIS for?" 

Honestly the whole day was overwhelming and I didn't make it through every section and bin before my brain was totally numb. We're talking about decades of collecting that was extremely well-sorted in labeled bins. And that wasn't even her quilting supplies. Those were on a different floor. On and the needlework supplies. Sometimes we'd find something that we knew should stay with the family, so we made room on a shelf for all those things.

These are a few of the treasures that came to live with me. I could spend all day photographing what I brought home, so these are just the highlights. 










I'm already putting together things of hers to build a scene around the sofa bed. I'll have to clean my studio (don't even get me started on that fresh hell) so I can supplement with things from my stash. I've also got some rough plans for the Japanese miniatures. I've been collecting some similar pieces over the years and will be combining them. Somehow. No clue how yet.

Other than that, the rest of the week seems pretty mild. Mercedes got a bath and I baked cookies.


That's all for today. I need to go try to be useful somehow. See you next week!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Monday, February 12, 2018

Whoops!

I missed yesterday because I lost track of time. We hosted some friends for brunch and the day just flew past.

Firstly, Ellie is doing very well. Her sutures have been removed and she'd put on 5 ounces in the week in between getting fluids and the removal.  Now if we can just get her intestines to work properly so she stops having diarrhea.



Here's the current progress on The Wolf. Almost done with his neck. That will leave the border and a smidgen of blue background on the other side of the border.

That has to be all for today. Monday's my busy day! See you next weekend!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Update on Ellie Bean

Haven't had time for much in the last week. Miss Ellie did in fact have her procedures last Monday. She was spayed, microchipped, and multiple biopsies were taken. We added a second antibiotic to her meds list because the vet found blood in her urine as well. She was already on one to help calm down her guts, along with a probiotic.

Honestly we were torn about doing the spay when we did, but we needed samples for biopsy and she kept trying to sneak outside and meet up with a couple of local tom cats. Knowing that an adventure like that would definitely kill her, we opted for spaying her while she was under for biopsies.

She spent her first night home in Mercedes' kennel after she irritated her sutures by crawling inside the box springs of the guest bed. Also she didn't do well in the donut thing. At all. We decided it was because she was too weak to mover her head while wearing it.


So I modified a onsie to see if that would protect her sutures.... that didn't last long.

Ultimately it was decided that I would just move into the guest room and be with her 24/7 for a couple of days because gentle redirection kept her from messing with her stitches. And all she wanted to do was snuggle anyway. We did block her access to the box springs before allowing her back in there. She wouldn't even look out the window until Friday. She was too tired and weak to care. I thought I'd have to syringe feed her if she didn't perk up soon.

We ended up back at the vet's on Thursday because she was still so lethargic and not eating/drinking well. She got some fluids and another shot of pain medicine, which helped immensely. While we were there, her biopsy results came in. In layman's terms, all of the strange swelling, the weird ropy scarring on her back leg, her inability to gain weight, is all because her system was strained for so long due to the parasites. She's so weak that it takes a lot for her to fight off anything and quite frankly she's lucky to be alive.


Our new plan of action is to get her to eat any way we can and once the sutures are removed, we'll start a course of steroids to give her a boost. FuzzyHusband produced cans of tuna in water and chicken legs to roast. Those have gone over very well with herself.

She's looking much better now. (Yes I still need to put away the Christmas tree. Been too sick to bother with it.) She's still not very energetic, but she'll come out of the room and inspect things on the main floor. No access to stairs just yet. I want those sutures out first.

That's all for now. She's doing well enough that I can actually get some housework done, so I"m off to do that. See you next week!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Really, Universe? Really?

That cold I had after the holidays stuck around and turned into bronchitis. I've been coughing all week because apparently I warranted antibiotics and oral steroids, but not an inhaler or cough suppressant.

Ellie is supposed to have her spay and at least 2, maybe 3, biopsies tomorrow.. along with getting microchipped and her rabies shot. However. Let's play "what's wrong with my kitty's face?" again!

Her left upper lip is swollen and hard and there appears to be an abscess on the left side of her lower jaw, right up against the teeth. So that's going to be a "fun" reveal to the vet in the morning. She was totally fine Thursday. I saw a bit of swelling Friday, but figured she'd gotten tagged in a disagreement with Pixel. And now it's atrocious. I'm hoping we go forward with the spay anyway. Her hormones are just going to keep getting her into trouble otherwise. Might have to hold off on the biopsies though. Dangit.

At least being sedentary this week has been good for critter snuggles and stitching.

See you next weekend, hopefully with good news.