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Monday, July 18, 2011

Jumping for Joy

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my dog Abbey has been staying close to my side while I've been spending most of my time in bed recovering from an inadvertent blow to the head that knocked my usual migraines into a whole new league. I've finally started to see some real progress after receiving a Vitamin B3 injection on Friday followed by acupuncture on Saturday. Good thing, too, because as of Thursday I was heartily miserable and had an emotional meltdown that so worried the dog that she refused to go in her crate that night, electing instead to keep watch outside my bedroom door.

Yesterday, however, I'm sure she was heartened to see that I was spending far more of my hours in bed reading than lying down with the lights off, but what prompted an ecstatic celebration on her part was something that resonated deeply on DOG level.

Dog & Girl back in June

A little background: when Abbey needs to, ahem, use the restroom, we walk her around to the side of the house where an area covered in bark is set aside for this purpose. It may seem funny to take a dog for a walk in its own backyard, but doing so enables us to immediately pick up after her, saving us from periodic unpleasant treasure hunts and keeping the area much more fresh, something that would no doubt be appreciated by the neighbors if they knew of the arrangement. So there are a few rules for Abbey that go along with this setup: one, that she must walk beside or behind us when we go to and from her area, and two, that she is to wait in the vicinity while we pick up after her.

Yesterday afternoon I took her out and she behaved properly on the way there and waited patiently while I did the cleanup, but when we started back toward the house, Abbey ran on ahead of me and was surveying the yard from the deck before I'd taken more than a step beyond where she'd been waiting. Well, that's against the rules, so I made her come back and assume the proper position beside me and walk nicely in step with me back to the house.

Once we were back inside, Abbey couldn't contain her excitement. She jumped for joy, she twisted and spun, she wriggled and waggled. My parents, who had been out of the house, arrived home shortly afterward and she invited them to celebrate, too, coaxing my dad into playing a game and twirling and bouncing with delight as she "brought" my mother upstairs to see me, her tail a blur all the while. The reason for all this happiness? That I was well enough to once again assert my authority, a mantle she had felt had been removed when I got too sick to behave normally, thus, in her mind, requiring her to step up and provide care, but one she was overjoyed to see me put on again. In other words, my dog is never happier than when I'm the boss. (I'm hoping she wasn't too disappointed that I got back in bed for a nap immediately after this explosion of delight.)

Abbey was much more interested in licking ears and asking for belly rubs than get her picture taken with her recovering owner, hence the no-look-this-way hand under the chin!

It's been a great comfort to me to have her beside me while I've gone through this ordeal, but I'm glad Abbey considers signs of improvement to be cause for wild celebration. I, too, am definitely looking forward to the day when she no longer needs to act as a caregiver and can resume the role of photographer's assistant, napping companion, and recipient of much petting!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Can't Regret What I Did For Love

I've always loved a line that comes at the end of the play "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" (I can't find my copy, so will have to paraphrase) when they are standing on the platform with nooses around their necks and one turns to the other and says, "There must have been a moment, in the beginning, when we could have said no, but we missed it." That's life: you answer a summons from the King and Queen of Denmark to hang out with your ol' buddy Hamlet because you have no way of knowing it will end with a betrayal by your friend that results in your hanging. Of course, sometimes you answer summons that lead to great things or others that simply go nowhere. You will always miss the moment when you could have said no. Furthermore, you must always risk on the side of saying yes. (I'm not talking about known risky behavior, I'm talking about living.) I could be spending my hours in the darkness fretting and regretting that I made the decision to photograph those beads last week, that the beads spilled, that I wasn't three inches to my left when I stood up after picking up the beads so that it would have been my shoulder that smacked into the handrail and not my head. I could have said no  But I didn't, and even though I am now coping with a minor concussion vastly magnified by my chronically inflamed migraine brain, I wouldn't undo the decision to photograph the beads. It was a good decision. To pick up the beads after they spilled was also a good decision. That I didn't realize I was directly beneath the point of the handrail when I stood up is simply chance. Once I'm back on my feet, I will continue to take photographs of interesting and unexpectedly beautiful things, some of which must be carried down the stairs and possibly spill, and when they spill, I will pick them up. (Though I will be much more mindful of making sure there is nothing overhead before I stand!) In life, we must answer the summons to go to our friend Hamlet, who has been behaving strangely as of late.  We might be able to do him some good. We cannot assume we will be hanged.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Loyal Mutt

Hard at work in her crate
I have taken to spending my days in my parents' bedroom, which is darker and cooler than my own, and Abbey has been keeping me company.  She's not allowed on my parents' bed, so she's been spending the long hours in the dark, closed-up room lounging in her crate.  She's come to accept this arrangement as the new normal and will suggest that we head in that direction when we go upstairs together (by going ahead of me and then stopping and looking back over her shoulder to see if I will follow) and wriggles with joy and licks my toes when I enter the bedroom.  You'd think she was going to get treats and belly rubs or a special game or maybe even a walk, not an opportunity to spend an afternoon in her crate looking at the closed bedroom door.  The thing is, unlike me, Abbey is not whiling away those hours in a state of boredom and discomfort.  She is, in fact, engaged in the important and deeply satisfying job of Being With Her Girl.  I'm not making this up.  She knows I'm not feeling well and has naturally stepped into the role of keeping vigil.  I'm sure her little border collie genes are just as pleased as punch to have an opportunity to watch over something valuable!  I must say that she is doing an excellent job and her willingness to forsake the sun by the front window cheers me a great deal, as does the fact that she hasn't complained once about the bedroom door being closed (she really hates being in a room with a closed door, so this is a big deal).  I'm very grateful to have a silent companion during the long nauseated hours of the afternoons and can attest, again, that there is no medicine quite like that which is provided by a loyal mutt.

Monday, July 11, 2011

On Point

This is the nefarious stair handrail corner that has brought my world to a halt.  After many hours of icing my head in the darkness, I've had some marginal improvement, but I'm still terribly queasy, very light sensitive (though I would say there has been a bit of progress on the noise sensitivity front), decidedly worn out, subject to shooting migraine pain when exposed to the slightest trigger, and, I must confess, starting to see my mood slip.  I shouldn't be on the computer at all, but it's hard to spend so many days in bed doing nothing (I'm awake for most of the time, unfortunately), so I'm getting a few minutes of socialization, etc., while wearing my darkest sunglasses before I start up the next round of ice.  I've put a call into my neurologist to see if there's anything else I should be doing, but I don't have high expectations that they have any magic solutions; they never have, when it has come to my headaches, so it's unlikely they can do much to break this cycle.  Anyway, time for me to go back into the darkness so my brain doesn't have anything to get stimulated by.  If you want me, that's where I'll be, waiting and hoping (but mostly just waiting).

Friday, July 8, 2011


I'll definitely discuss DBT in detail on other occasions, but have to make sure this link makes it into my blog even though I'm not well enough to write at any length today.  (Migraines, migraines, migraines.  Blah.)  At any rate, I credit DBT with saving my life and it is the main reasons I am able to remain positive and functional despite the new challenges represented by the migraines.  Its positive effect has spread beyond me and through my family, making all of us better at coping and communicating.  I can't say enough good things about dialectical behavior therapy and so owe an incredible amount to the woman who developed it.  In this article, Dr. Marsha Linehan reveals her own very serious mental health struggles.  It turns out her approach to therapy is so effective because she created the one that she needed herself.  It also goes to show (and this is one of my hot buttons, more later, I'm sure) that even those with severe mental illnesses are not lost causes and can, in fact, make tremendous positive contributions to the world when given the tools to cope successfully.

For the Love of Dog...

I got to hang out with this sweet and beautiful mastiff on the 4th.  It would be criminal of me not to post pictures of this magnificent beast.  We shall call her "Miss Georgia" to protect her from overzealous fans.

Her noble profile

I love that little underbite!

A deeply soulful gentlewoman, she of the velvet eyebrows.

Life is good for Miss Georgia!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Blasted Beads!

Today my intended blog post must be called off on account of beads.

I was hustling downstairs with an armload of things to photograph when I discovered that the bag containing the beads was not fully closed.

What followed was a not very fun game called Pick Up 500 Beads.  Even worse, when I had finished, I smacked my head against the corner of the handrail (not visible in this picture) as I stood up.  It was a while before I could even stand up straight.  I didn't exactly see stars, but I had to hold on to the walls for a minute.  Now, despite the application of an ice pack, I've got a big goose-egg and a headache to go with it.  Ouch!

Considering how much pain I had to go through to get these photographs, I figured I should at least show a few off.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

...Or Not

I had a big, important, meaningful, and deeply personal post I wanted to write in honor of July 5th, my personal mental health equivalent of Memorial Day.  However, my physical therapy session this afternoon really knocked me out and I am just now, at 9:00 in the evening, waking up from a hard nap.  There will be no long, intense posts tonight!  Looks like I'll have to settle for sharing this photo from my 4th.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Accidental Photographer

I have to say, it comes as a bit of a surprise that photography is the medium that has propelled my art out into the world because photography is a very new venture for me.  My two principle creative avenues were always drawing and writing. I drew and wrote as a child, I drew and wrote my way through college, I was drawing and writing in grad school when my mental health collapsed.  I explored all kinds of media along the way, of course.  
A clay boy I made when I was 8 and wire sculpture that represents my sister and me.
I thoroughly enjoyed working with clay when I was younger, for example, thought very seriously about going into architecture from the ages 9-20 and so was always designing floor plans, had a wire sculpture phase when I was in my teens, played lead guitar in a rock band in high school, fiddled around with paints and so forth, but it always came back to writing and drawing.  I particularly liked to work with pen and ink with the occasional incorporation of pastels.  I enjoyed the tiny, precise, controlled, meditative aspect of putting black ink on white paper.

This drawing is part of a series I was working on in grad school.
It's kind of funny, because I really haven't drawn at all since I had my initial total mental health collapse back in 2003.  Something was turned off.  The medication changes I underwent robbed me of all my creativity for several years, but the writing came back.  The desire to draw didn't.

I was ripe, I suppose, for stumbling into a new mode of visual creative expression and while I had been focusing my efforts elsewhere, camera technology had evolved to meet my secret photographic desire.

My first attempt at macro photography.
The image above was on the first roll of film I had developed after receiving a camera for my 12th birthday.  I had spied a little brown spider on the brown shag carpeting that covered our stairs at the time and I thought, wouldn't it be cool to take pictures of unexpected things camouflaged by their surroundings?  This was to be the first in the series.  Except it didn't turn out.  You couldn't focus in close enough.  I had several cameras over the years, but even the more sophisticated one I had when I was in college still needed to be at least four feet away from the subject.  My interest was always in the tiny details and textures, the things that needed to be seen in close-ups, so it simply wasn't worth my while to pursue photography from an artistic standpoint.

When I was in college, the first digital cameras were coming out.  I remember someone I knew who spent a semester in Japan had one, but I was unimpressed by the picture quality.  I didn't take them very seriously.  However, the technology approved quite rapidly, as I was to discover when I picked up my dad's digital camera for some reason in the fall of 2007 and discovered that while I wasn't paying attention, ordinary point-and-shoot digital cameras had developed a macro setting!

My father's camera and I swiftly became inseparable as I started taking macro photos of a little wooden mouse all over the house.  By my current standard, most of the pictures are very poor, but at that time I wasn't thinking they'd be seen by anyone but me.  I'm someone who is compelled to create and taking macro digital photos perfectly fit my abilities at the time.  It didn't require a lot of planning, a lot of mental agility, a lot of precision, a lot of focus.  The digital nature allowed for an enormous margin for error.  I didn't expect this new hobby to go anywhere in particular, but I did invest in a new computer shortly afterward and ordered it with double the standard memory and RAM with digital photography in mind.  I received my own version of my dad's camera for Christmas that year and my macro photography hobby began to evolve into something bigger. 

Today I took 175 photos, including this one of a red cabbage.
My ability to take macro digital photos has become even more important with the onset of the migraines.  Unable to keep working as a floral designer, continue my studies in graphic design, or do what I consider "serious" writing (and frequently this sort of writing as well), photography must now serve as the sole outlet for my sometimes uncomfortably urgent need to create.  I believe that one day I will be able to write again and draw again, but until then, I am so glad to have found a means for creating within my limitations.