Blue-Violet Iris Interior

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Photographer's Assistant: Cranberries

Striking a pose.
I set out to photograph some cranberries this afternoon and when a weak bit of Halloween sunlight showed itself, I transported those berries to the one place where it was shining into the house: right in front of our cranberry-colored leather chair in the family room. Abbey, of course, came to see what I was up to, and after respectfully sniffing the plate of cranberries from a discrete distance, she put herself in a position where she could readily be of assistance. I had to back up to the other side of the room to get this picture since I was using my macro lens, but she held very still to make sure I got the image I was looking for. I get a kick out of her expression: that girl is striking a pose! With her help, I was able to get some great photos of those cranberries.

One of the shots from this photo shoot is now available for sale!  Click here to check it out!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fall on Fire

I particularly love red fall leaves. They have a luminosity to them that is utterly unique. I took a walk with my camera yesterday rather farther than was really wise considering my physical limitations solely to capture several red shrubs and trees. Here's some of what I saw:

This photo of burning bush leaves can be purchased in my shop!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Autumn in the Air

During this last week or so, the leaves have really started to change color. I've been inside unable to appreciate it since the latest round of rain and wind has worsened my migraines and joint pain, but riding in the car on the way to acupuncture, I was inspired by all the brilliant leaves to get out this afternoon with my camera. I only went as far as my yard today, but I still managed to capture some fun images of fall.

A toadstool topper
Rain collected on blue viburnum berries
Some great detail on a changing leaf
Some lovely little mushrooms 
A fabulous fungus
Golden leaves and maple keys all set to soar
I also have a new fall listing up for sale! I love the little gourds that appear this time of year with their fantastic stripes and lumps and warm fall hues. If you love them, too, check out this photo!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Day of Mourning: A Migraine Anniversary

The summer of 2009 seems particularly golden in my memory, but for good reason. With three years of difficult medication withdrawal finally behind me, I found myself in the best physical and mental health I'd been in my entire life. At long last, I was completely free of the suffocating bipolar II depression that had burdened me since I was ten. The general and social anxiety that had been eating me alive for even longer than that was gone, too. During the years when I was on Geodon, the slightest bit of physical activity could make me horribly sick for days, but with the Geodon completely totally out of my system at last, I found myself well enough to take the dog on several vigorous three- to four-mile walks every week and I'd started swimming laps, too. I'd voluntarily cut my hours at the flower shop when the economy tanked since I was the only employee who had no rent or mortgage to pay, so I spent my time exploring grad school options, photographing and writing a children's book, going to matinee plays, and exercising with the dog. It was a particularly hot summer and so to keep cool, Abbey and I had gotten into the habit of hiking in the various wonderful wooded parks that can be found around my suburban Seattle home. I'd never felt so great in my life. I even bought my very first car! I was incredibly excited about my future. During the past six and a half years, as I struggled first to get my bipolar II under control and then to get off the psychiatric medication Geodon, I'd had to abandon the idea of making future plans. There were so many unexpected twists and turns, especially with the medication withdrawal, where every time I made progress, some new monstrous side effect would rear its ugly head. I learned to be patient, to simply exist in the moment. But finally, finally I could chose how I wanted my life to look from here on out. I decided that acquiring some graphic design skills would be a definite asset to whatever creative shape my life's work might take, so I enrolled in classes in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and Flash at the nearby technical college. I really enjoyed the work. For the first time since 2003, when my life was virtually shut down when I lost all control of the bipolar II depression that I had coped with for so long, I was finally engaging every single part of my brain. It felt absolutely amazing.

On Monday, October 19th, 2009, around five in the afternoon, I was sitting on the couch in our family room doing some reading for my Flash class. The last week had been unusually stressful; I'd had 35 hours of work at the flower shop and projects due in three different classes. I'd submitted the last of those projects earlier in the day and I finally had a little breathing room. As I read, I realized that, out of nowhere, my mood had plummeted. I remember looking up from my book and quizzically examining this unexplained depression. Was my blood sugar low? Had I missed a medication dose? Was I overtired? I couldn't pinpoint the reason, so I chalked it up to some strange metabolic fluctuation and went back to my reading.

Fifteen minutes later, the migraine began.

It had been a while since I'd had a migraine; other than one a few months before, I'd been migraine-free for three years after switching to continuous birth control pills, thereby eliminating the menstrual cycle that had been my sole trigger since the migraines began in 2002. There is no mistaking a migraine, though, and I took my Migranal nasal spray right away. I realized that the mood drop had been a prodromal, or pre-migraine, symptom, and was glad to have that little mystery cleared up. But what didn't clear up was the migraine. Two years later, the migraines remain.

I'd already had a difficult time with the migraines and had been ecstatic when switching to continuous birth control pills had ceased their attacks. I had my first migraine in July of 2002. Between then and 2006, I'd never gained much control over them. Triptan drugs, such as Imitrex, were relatively new at the time and had changed the life of many a migraineur for the better, but they never did a thing for me and I eventually tried eight or nine of them. The migraines were always the same: three days of haunting pain on both sides of my head, accompanied by nausea, light sensitivity, and noise sensitivity. I eventually found that DHE (ergotamine), as an injection or a nasal spray, was somewhat more effective, and sometimes receiving anti-inflammatory injections several days in a row could break a headache. As the Geodon withdrawal worsened, though, so did the migraines. Although the pain was somewhat less, three-day migraines were a thing of the past; I now had migraines that lasted nine days, fourteen days, or more. It was after I had a migraine that lasted for four weeks despite several days spent in the hospital infusion room receiving IV steroids that my neurologist suggested the switch to continuous birth control pills that proved so effective for the next three years. I sometimes had so-called ice pick headaches, little migraines that lasted for only a second or two, and I noticed they increased if I ate chocolate, so I gave up chocolate and otherwise did just fine on the headache front.

So what caused the migraines to start again and to never go away? The migraine I'd had back in August I'd chalked up to a combination of antibiotics decreasing the effectiveness of the birth control pills, a snack of dark chocolate, and the letdown (a fairly common migraine trigger) relief of an emotionally charged reunion. It lasted for about six weeks, once again impervious to treatment, including IV steroids, but it hadn't been too severe, not like the old migraines, and it seemed unlikely that those circumstances would ever happen again. So what happened on October 19th, 2009? The best explanation that my neurologist and I can come up with is that the initial triggers may have been the increased visual and intellectual stimulation of my graphic design studies plus the letdown after my busy week, but the fact that the migraines have never gone away, despite the cessation of all potential triggers for months following the onset, may very well be the work of my old nemesis, Geodon. Geodon has the nasty habit of rewiring the brain during withdrawal and my withdrawal had been far more awful and prolonged than most. There's no way of proving this theory, of course. And add to that the fact that this is exactly the kind of thing my brain WOULD do.

There's simply no getting around the fact that I have an extraordinary brain. How is it extraordinary? Well, it is incredibly sensitive to EVERYTHING. I've had a sensory processing disorder since birth that has gotten progressively worse (which is unusual) as I've gotten older. In essence, every single one of my five senses is way more sensitive than the average person's. For many years, other than in the realm of touch, it was to my advantage to see or hear as much as 75% more than other people. It helped make me a great writer, artist, and employee, for example. The chemistry of my brain proved to be incredibly sensitive, too. Bipolar II is the result of chemical imbalance; I would discover that correcting for this imbalance with various psychiatric drugs, including Geodon, proved to be a tricky business. I was prone to never-before-reported or unusually severe side effects when adjusting my medications by even the tiniest amount. (This is why it took me three years to withdraw from Geodon, versus one week, which is more typical.) I was sensitive to hormonal changes, too, which played a role in my migraines, my sensory sensitivity, and my bipolar II in addition to making my life more or less a living hell from the onset of menstruation at the age of eleven. Add to all this the fact that I'm incredibly creative and unusually intelligent. I have a brain that is far more active than the average person's, far more connected, takes in far more information, and is far more sensitive to every imaginable stimuli. This is what makes me a talented photography, artist, and writer, it helps me be both funny and wise, and it's also the recipe for a migraine disaster.

The chemical workings of migraines are not fully understood, but a migraine is, in simplest terms, an inappropriate reaction by the brain to ordinary stimuli. As with any type of defensive sensitivity, such as allergies, it can morph into a downward spiral: the first reaction makes the brain more sensitive, causing further reactions, causing the brain to be even more sensitive, making things worse still. My brain is essentially stuck in a loop of heightened sensitivity where virtually every type of sensory stimuli, but particularly visual and aural ones, is interpreted by the brain as an attack, resulting in more migraines. My body is locked in a permanent flight state; since the migraines started, my heart rate has seldom dropped below 90 beats per minute. It's a painful and exhausting and unfortunately, I've found only a modicum of relief from medication (which has been problematic for the usual reasons), acupuncture, and physical therapy, among other treatments. The single best way to keep the migraines at a manageable level is to avoid as much stimuli as possible. Being able to use the computer, which allows me to find happiness through working on digital photography and tethers me, thanks to social networks, to the outside world, is important, despite the fact that looking at a lit screen is a major trigger. I have a number of ways of reducing the impact of the screen on my brain, and one of them is limiting my exposure to just about everything else.

Despite the incredible smallness of my world created by my necessary isolation from almost everything, I find many reasons on a daily basis to be happy. The Geodon withdrawal years were great training for this, as was the excellent dialectical behavior therapy I received while working on my anxiety and depression. How I have become so skilled at finding satisfaction in my situation that I actually find it difficult to be unhappy is the subject for a different post; today, I am here to recognize what I've lost.

One of the things I miss the most? Being able to wear stylish clothes.

I've always enjoyed clothes, even during the years when my desire to dress well conflicted with my anxiety of being looked at, but from around 2005 or so, when my anxiety decreased, I really loved getting dressed up. I wore jeans and fleeces for my job at the flower shop, so on days when I went to get my hair cut or see my psychiatrist or my therapist, all located within blocks of each other right in the heart of downtown Seattle, I'd get all gussied up and take myself out to lunch at a nice restaurant and stroll through Nordstrom's to see what was new. I was such a regular there that they knew me by name! I saved most of what I earned, but clothes were one thing I spent money on. I have a particularly weakness for snazzy coats! Even when I was working less in 2009 and stopped taking myself out for nice lunches and buying new outfits on a regular basis, I still loved getting dressed up. I wear clothes well, being of a tall, slender build and I have a naturally dramatic look, with my short dark hair, fair skin, and large eyes. It was fairly common for me to be stopped in the streets by strangers who wanted to tell me I was beautiful.

Looking at me today, you would be unlikely to say, as many did in the past, that I should be a model. I wear a uniform of sweatpants and sweatshirts and a few funky T-shirts. Unless I'm leaving the house, I let my hair do whatever wacky bed-head thing it was doing when I got out of bed. I'd estimate that I actually style my hair with products fewer than half a dozen times per year; in the past, it was one of the first things I did every morning. I still clean up nice when I have a reason to clean up (Christmas dinner, for example), but it's exhausting now to even wear jeans, much less heels or makeup or anything less comfy than a T-shirt. Let me repeat that: it makes me physically tired to wear jeans. That is what my life has become. Just before the migraines started, I bought a pair of fabulous slouchy gray suede boots; I had to return them unworn. There's no point in buying nice clothes anymore because I am unable to wear them. Slouchy gray sweatpants? Yes. Jackets and shoes and cool tops? No. I miss that so much.

I also really miss being able to walk the dog. I've never been a particularly physically active person, between having short hamstrings since birth and inflamed growth plates in my feet while I was a kid and then the exercise-induced asthma and the weird exercise-makes-me-horribly-ill problem during the Geodon years, but walking a dog is such a nice thing to do. I was really getting into training her up and was even in the process of vetting potential dog companions to start going on walks with us so that she could build up her dog-dog social skills.  I've managed to walk her a few times now with Mr. Gorgeous, the collie, since the migraines started, but it's an exceptionally exhausting activity and often beyond my abilities. I miss walking with her in the woods and walking just around the neighborhood. It makes her so happy to go on a walk and it made me happy to make her so happy. I was also enjoying building up my strength and stamina. That's all gone now. Every few months or so I'm up for taking Abbey on a short walk, but it's hard work. Fortunately, she's a naturally low energy dog, so not going on walks hasn't impacted her behavior, but I miss being able to do that with her and for her.

Another thing that's hard about being so disabled by the migraines is my inability to leave that house at will. I COULD leave the house, but so often it isn't worth it. I only had my car for a month and a half before I had to give up driving it almost altogether. I may go months without driving. Sometimes I feel like my medication has slowed my reaction time too much for it to be safe for me to be behind the wheel, but most of the time I don't drive because it's simply too demanding. If you're accustomed to driving all the time, there are all kinds of behaviors and decisions you make that have become automatic, but you are actually processing an incredible amount of information. For me, none of that information goes into the background. Having to pay so much attention to everything around you is exhausting, especially since all of it is MOVING. Being a passenger is hard work, too, because of all the moving, flickering light and the endless, overwhelming visual information of passing scenery. As a result, most often I only leave the house for medical appointments. It's just not worth it. That means even simple errands must go undone or be delegated to others. It's sad, too, because as a family, we always liked to go on evening drives for a little treat. I particularly liked doing the so-called Two Bridges tour at sunset, a 33-mile round-trip route that involved driving on both of the floating bridges that cross Lake Washington. If I'm not feeling well, especially if I seem a little depressed, my parents will offer to take me on a drive, but being out, especially when the sun is setting or after dark, when headlights and streetlights turn on, simply makes the headaches worse. In not being able to leave the house, I've lost not just a convenience, but a pleasure.

I've always been an introvert, thankfully, so not being able to see friends on a regular basis isn't hard, but it saddens me when a good friend visits from out-of-town and I'm not well enough to see them, or when I have to cut short my appearances at holiday dinners or other parties because the stress of being social has drained my tiny reserve of energy. Talking is tiring. Laughing is tiring. Being in surroundings where multiple conversations are going on at once is tiring. I find the world beyond my house, where there is so much noise and so much visual information, to be exhausting. Socializing is just too hard.

I miss being able to travel. I miss going to movies and plays or even being able to watch some of my favorite movies at home. I miss being able to listen to music. And I miss reading.

One of the things that I really miss, right up there with being able to wear fun clothes, is reading the New Yorker. Back when I was working at the flower shop, for several years I was on a schedule of working Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. (We worked ten hours days, allowing for three days off each week.) Sundays were spent with my family, Wednesdays were frequently spent in downtown Seattle, dressed to the nines, but Mondays were reserved for reading the New Yorker from cover to cover. The latest New Yorker would arrive on Friday, so when I had the house to myself on Monday morning, I'd curl up on the couch and read the magazine straight through, every single article, a process that took me until about 3:30 in the afternoon. I loved the complexity of the prose (though I did have a game called "Hunt the Palimpsest," since "palimpsest," a word seldom used in conversation, tended to turn up somewhere in almost every issue) and the complexity of the ideas. I considered it my duty as a citizen of both this country and the world to be well-informed and so was in the habit of thoroughly reading the newspaper as well, including boring-sounding articles, but the New Yorker was a more of an indulgence, despite the wealth of information it might contain. I've always been a prodigious reader, the sort that was actually glad to sit on the runway at O'Hare for an extra hour during a cross-country trip from Seattle to New York City because it gave me more time to read War and Peace, and I always was reading several books at a time from the genre known as literary fiction (as well as anything with writing on it that happened to be in front of me), but the New Yorker was a special weekly treat. When the migraines started, I had to give it up. The print was too small, for one. But also it became too hard to think about the ideas. It tired me to read that convoluted prose and I just didn't have the intellectual stamina anymore to keep up with an in-depth article. I've had to give up a lot of my reading, not just the New Yorker. I skim the paper now. I'm more likely to be reading young adult novels than literary fiction these days. The print is larger, the ideas are simpler, the vocabulary is smaller: those are my current standards for reading. I was the kind of reader who was tackling The Brothers Karamazov for pleasure at the age of 15, who always had a thing for 19th-century Russian literature and didn't bother to take classes on 19th-century British novels in college because I'd already read all the books on the syllabus; now, at the age of 30, I'm back to reading the books I put aside when I was 10.

In addition to things that I used to do that I can't do any more, there are things that I'm unlikely to be able to do in the future because of the migraines.

Writing is one of them. I've written this long post, obviously, but that's not the kind of writing I'm talking about (though I frequently go through periods where this sort of thing is absolutely beyond my capabilities as well). I'm talking about creative writing. Even before I knew how to write, I was a teller of stories. Since the age of six, when I at last had the necessary skills to put my thoughts on paper, it was my firm belief that I would be a writer when I grew up. Over the years, I won a number of writing awards, including on the national level, and every single creative writer teacher I've ever had considered me to be one of the most talented students they'd ever had the pleasure of teaching. I had decided to commit to being a writer after I graduated from college and was in a MFA writing program when my mental health collapsed in 2003. During the Geodon years, my mind was too cloudy to write much of the time (creative writing requires a clarity of thinking and articulation far beyond what is required to write an email or even a blog post), but during that golden summer of 2009, I was ready to take a story I had been working on for years to the next level and turn it into a novel. I was seriously engaged in doing the formal research that would be necessary to flesh out the story. There I was, doing the groundwork for A NOVEL. That's a momentous step for a writer. And then the migraines began, my thinking clouded once again, my basic ability to articulate often faltered, and the verbal branch of my creativity sank into dormancy. Maybe things will change, but it's hard to imagine my mind become nimble enough to write fiction as long as the migraines last. Also, there's the practical aspect of not being able to tolerate looking at black text on a white background of any kind for very long. I still think about the plot of my novel and perhaps it will eventually get written, but there's no guarantee. For nearly twenty-five years, being a writer was part of my identity; there days, I'm just a migraineur.

I do have some concerns about ever living independently; it's not easy to be 30 and to know that your best bet for succeeding on your own is to live in subsidized housing for seniors. (Most also allow people with disabilities and have the advantage of providing transportation to grocery stores, etc.) But what saddens me more is the fact that I'm likely to spend my life alone.

Thankfully, I was deeply ambivalent on the subject of having children long before it became absolutely essential from a medical standpoint that I do not. I was, however, looking forward to spending my life with someone. I had no doubt that I would eventually find a man with whom I would like to share the rest of my life. I was particularly looking forward to being in a relationship, at long last, as an individual without significant anxiety issues! I know of people with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and other debilitating disabilities who have found love, but it's just so hard for me to imagine such a thing happening for me. Who, honestly, would want to spend all of their time with someone who needs so much care, who can't do any of the shopping, the cleaning, the cooking, or other domestic activities, who can't go to movies or shows or sporting events or virtually anywhere out in public, who can't tolerate seeing friends or going to parties or even having the radio on around the house, whose needs and limitations must always take precedence? I'm a likable person, but I just can't see all that work being worth someone's while. There'd be no PARTNERSHIP. Oh, and thanks to medication side effects, it'd have to be platonic relationship, too. On the off chance that there is some guy out there, who, in addition to being the sort of person I would like to have around, is prepared to devote his life to taking care of me, how on earth would I connect with him? The internet, presumably, is how you might find such a person, but how would I get to know him well enough to throw my life into his hands when I can barely tolerate spending time in the company of my closest family members? Maybe things will change, maybe I'll get better, but the cold hard truth is that it's extremely unlikely that I'll ever be able to marry or enter into some similar sort of domestic partnership and that's just depressing.

It simply has to be said: a truly terrible thing has happened to me. Oh, I make do alright, I'm a champion when it comes to coping, I'm great at living in the moment and finding happiness within my limitations, but that doesn't change the fact that being afflicted and disabled by chronic migraines is an awful way to have to live. After I post this, I'll take a long hot shower in the dark to help quiet my overstimulated migraine brain and then I'll go back to enjoying my dog and my camera and my family and living to the best of my ability. The summer of 2009, that particular golden era of my life that ended around five o'clock two years ago today, is gone. I've lost a lot. But my life is now and my art is calling and I keep on moving forward.

Friday, October 14, 2011

More Listings!

I listed quite a few things this week, hoping to get a lot done before making a change in my medication that might cause cloudiness of the mind and a subsequent inability to list. Truth be told, though, I've added three of these since making the medication change. We'll keep our fingers crossed that I'll continue to be able to get some things done.

Also, I don't remember if I posted these here because I put them in my shop primarily so I'd come up in Halloween searches and haven't taken them very seriously. They're very cute, though!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Brown-Eyed Girl

My brown-eyed girl, perfectly captured in this portrait taken with my new camera.
It's the second week of October, which means that we have entered Abbey's adoption anniversary week. The date itself did not seem important at the time and even if it had been, I was so out of it from medication and mental health trauma that I probably couldn't have remembered it if I tried. But I do know it was right around this time of year seven years ago when we brought home our beloved brindle beauty.

I have written previously about the many positive changes Abbey has brought to my life, especially from a mental health standpoint, but I can't let this anniversary go by, arbitrary as it may be, without singing her praises once again, especially since she's been so important these last few months following my concussion.

Snug as a bug in a rug.
From the time we brought her home until I hit my head in early July, Abbey had always slept--quite happily--in a crate in my parents' bedroom. There were occasional slumber parties brought about by  anxiety-producing incident like fireworks or thunderstorms, but I'd say she slept in my room fewer than half a dozen nights a year. That's all changed now. Two weeks ago we moved her crate from my parents' bedroom into mine, acknowledging the new reality. Abbey went into care-taking mode after I got the concussion and would lie across the threshold of my door at night, refusing to come to bed. When I started sleeping with my door open because I was overheating in the night, there was no keeping her out. She was adamant: she would be sleeping with me, keeping watch over her girl. I had kicked my comforter off my bed because I was too hot and she made a little nest in it at night and has been sleeping there since. That is, when she's not sleeping ON my bed. Two years ago she wasn't allowed on the bed at all; the onset of the
Abbey her bedspread nest.
migraines and my need for companionship during the long, painful hours eliminated that rule. Now sometimes she sleeps there at least part of the night, though she often abandons me for her nest in the comforter at some point. (Soon it will be cold enough for the bedspread to go back on the bed; I'm not sure what she'll do then.) I've grown to derive a lot of pleasure from the warm solidity of her body pressed against my leg at night or the purry, snorty little snores she makes when she's sleeping hard in her nest, perhaps with her paw over her nose. I like listening to her dream, too. It's very soothing to have someone sleeping so soundly in your company. And now that the moving of the crate has made it official, it looks like I'll have the comfort of having her near me (and she'll have the comfort of having me near her) for the rest of her life.

A super-sleepy Abbey wraps
 a paw around her nose.
I've had to remove Abbey's collar when we're at home (I do put it on when we leave the house) since the concussion because my increased noise sensitivity has made the jangle of her tags unbearable. The flapping of her velvety ears when she shakes herself, however, is an extraordinarily pleasant sound. Aside from occasionally barking at dogs that relieve themselves on our front lawn, Abbey is very quiet. Her pleasure is manifested in a wagging, swishing, thumping tail and in hops and twirls. Her ears, eyes, and eyebrows ask questions and communicate emotions. This silent language is perfectly suited for my sensitive ears. It makes her company easier for me tolerate when I'm not feeling well than the more noisy communication of my fellow humans. Being with Abbey causes no stress. She does not make me tired, except when she wants to play a game that involves being chased, and if I don't want to play that sort of game, she will always accept my decision with equanimity. My health is such that I seldom leave the house for anything other than medical appointments and socialize only with immediate family members, and sometimes even being around them is too much. Having Abbey around, with her warm, soft fur, her eager interest in whatever I'm doing, her deep contentment when sleeping away the days on my bed, keeps me from feeling isolated. These days, it's preferable for me to have most of my human social contact over the internet, but thanks to Abbey, I never feel like I'm alone.

My best friend affectionately nibbles on my earlobe, giving me the giggles!

My brindle baby is getting a little bit older now. We don't know her exact age, since she was brought to the shelter as a stray with no known history. She was, according to their
Getting up there in years has not
abated Ab's love of playing a jolly
game, riding in the car, or basking
in the summer sun!
best guess, a young adult, likely somewhere between a year and a half and two years old. That means that Abbey is in the neighborhood of nine years old now. At nine, a dog is considered old. All the known breeds that went into making Abbey have an average life expectancy of twelve years, so while technically she may be past her prime, don't tell her that! I've detected a few gray hairs on her muzzle and her eyes have developed a slight bluish cast that the vet says is caused by changes in the shape of her lenses as she ages, but otherwise her energy and agility and zest for life remains unchanged!

There has been one recent wrinkle in Abbey's health. For a little more than a year I've been keeping an eye on a lump on Abbey's left flank. The vet judged it too small to effectively biopsy last summer, but at her most recent checkup in September, it had grown to roughly the size of a marble. A needle biopsy was performed and according to the cytology report, the lump was a mast cell tumor. These are one of the most common tumors found in dogs and most are benign. Nevertheless, since it was growing, it was important to have the tumor removed. Abbey was booked for surgery the next week. She had a sense of foreboding when finding herself back at the vet's office so soon, but being the uncomplaining sort, when I held her so the vet could stick the needle containing the anesthetic into her foreleg, she did not fight or flinch. She was ready and raring to go when I picked her up that afternoon, seemingly unmindful of the large shaved portion and seven stitches in her flank. I convinced her to snooze away the rest of the day in her bed and while she spent the next week wearing my tank tops to make sure she stayed away from the surgery site (she's very good at leaving things alone when told and was spared the humiliation of the cone!), she's healed rapidly and without fuss and has particularly enjoyed receiving her antibiotics hidden in marshmallows! In fact, she's enjoyed wearing a tank top so much that I think a coat or sweater of her own might make a good Christmas
Abbey has not only tolerated but ENJOYED wearing
the tank tops I've put on her to protect the surgery
site. She looks particularly fetching in this panda tank.
present. She does love being cozy, after all! The only bad moment happened when I found myself a little rattled to learn that the pathology report determined that the excised tumor was malignant. For some reason, I'd never had any doubt in my mind that it would be benign, but since it was of a low grade and the tumor had been encapsulated, allowing the vet to remove it completely, Abbey should fall in the category of the 95% of dogs who need no further treatment for this type of tumor beyond the surgery. I'm not worried. The sutures will come out in a few days and her fur will grow back over the next few months and then the episode of Abbey and the Mast Cell Tumor will be over. I have to say, though, I've rather enjoyed caring for her since she's done so much caring for me lately!

Dog and Girl
And life goes on, dog and girl deeply contented with each other's company. I've been teaching her a few new commands (nine is certainly not too old to learn some new tricks!), including "look," which came in very handy in keeping her focused on me and lessening her anxiety at the vet, and "say hello," which will hopefully make her feel more at ease greeting guests. I'd love to be able to do more to help her work through her anxiety about strangers and her problem with dog-dog eye contact, but that would require repeated exposure and repeated exposure would required physical effort that is beyond my capabilities at this point. I will never be able to give her everything she deserves--daily walks and regular opportunities to socialize with other dogs, for example--but I can give her love, structure, games, rules, belly rubs, dinner, and the chance to sleep near me during the final years of her life.

She's snoozing in a patch of near my desk while I write this and now and then having little dreams. She continues to inspire me daily with her abundant joy in the simplest of pleasures: getting her belly rubbed, going for a ride in the car, eating her dinner, playing a game, lounging in the sun, being with her family. She thinks little pieces of a plain rice cake are manna from heaven! It is essential that I find happiness in seemingly small satisfactions that can be found on a domestic scale because that is what I have access to. But why should being warm and loved and fed and entertained be taken for granted? These are all marvelous, deeply satisfying things, and as long as I am able to appreciate what I have--including my wonderful dog--I can never be truly unhappy, no matter how much my world has been constrained by a painful disability.

My Abbey: she is the essence of all that is joy, all that is love, all that is contentment, all that is soft, all that is family, all that is acceptance. I will have many wonderful dogs in my life and in the future I will carefully assess the temperament and energy level of all canine candidates before I adopt to ensure that I have a pet that can meet my special needs as well as the criteria for a certified assistance animal. When we chose Abbey, we based it upon the way she just sat so patiently in her kennel at the shelter, not barking, just waiting, and that she seemed friendly, if slightly shy, and her fur was so very very velvety. We had no way of knowing that, seven years ago, we were bringing home the dog that I would need--and come to love--so dearly.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Latest Listings

I haven't been feeling as well over the last couple of weeks, so the number of new items I've put up in my stores has dropped significantly. That's why I push myself to the limit making new listings when I'm able. Last winter there was a period of several months where I didn't feel up to writing the copy, so I try to jump on every opportunity I get. I'd hate to have the new shop stall! I have few more listings that are mostly done that I hope to get up in the next day or two, but this is what is new now:

c. creativity macro photography store:

c.creativity mouse photography store:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Three Months

It has been three months now since I concussed myself on the handrail when standing up after picking up 500 beads that I'd accidentally dropped on the stairs. There has been a great deal of progress, but I'm still shy of a full recovery.

Noise sensitivity remains an issue. Music in particular bothers me more than it used to. I'd already pretty much stopped listening to music over the last year or so because it had become too much for my migraine brain to process, but now it's gone from overwhelming to excruciating. I'm constantly having to change the volume when watching movies because the moment the music swells, I have to duck and cover. I find myself grumpily wondering why people feel like they have to put music in TV shows or play it on radios or in offices. Times sure have changed since the days when working without music was nearly impossible!

My eyes are more light sensitive still, too. It's not something I notice so much on a day-to-day basis, but as the light has changed with the seasons, I've noticed, as I mentioned in this post, that my eyes are as sensitive with my light sensitivity glasses on as they were without them last year. It's a serious enough problem that I'm going to look into getting a darker tint for my light sensitivity lenses. I suppose I also have less cushion for the amount of visual work I do, but that's something I've adapted to.

And while I have been able to get some great work done over the last month or so, like opening my macro photography shop, I'm nowhere near ready to getting back to work on my ABC book. Before the accident, I was thinking I might be just a few weeks away from starting to take the photos. Now, when I look at the boxes holding the props, I just feel tired. There are definitely limits to my energy and enthusiasm. I have been able to leave the house now and then for reasons other than medical appointments, though, and I even drove once a few weeks ago. That was a matter of necessity: if I didn't drive, Abbey wasn't going to get to go swimming this summer! I'm in no hurry to get back behind the wheel for less essential errands, however. Pre-concussion, it wasn't unusual for me to go weeks or months without driving, so it's more like I'm mired in one of my not-feeling-as-well periods.

I worry, too, that I'm more susceptible to feeling lousy because of weather changes, but truth be told, I have no evidence. I felt lousy all last spring because of the weather, so feeling crummy when the wind blows or the pressure drops isn't a new phenomenon. I had a respite during August and September from weather-related illness thanks to relentlessly fine weather, so the latest days of feeling wiped out are signs of changing seasons and may or may not have anything to do with the head injury or may have happened anyway, but it just seems like exactly what my brain would do.

One of the biggest lingering differences, though, supported by plenty of evidence, is that the migraines are worse. The entry-level pain, so to speak, is always higher now. Previously, the migraines would start out at a 4 out of 10 on the pain scale (my version, at any rate) and build from there. I would say that the starting point for pain is much closer to 6 out of ten. There have only been a few days since the concussion when I haven't taken acute prescription medication for headaches. By being smart (usually) about my limitations, I used to only need acute prescription meds three or four times a week. The headache threshold is so low now that getting migraines that require treatment on a daily basis is essentially unavoidable. Again, this is something that I've gotten used to, but it's a change.

It's possible that all of these things could improve over the next months or years. I have to say, though, that I no longer feel like I'm actively dealing with the concussion the way I was six weeks ago. Things have been static long enough that it just feels like the new normal. My migraines tend to change over time, so while it was a blow to the head and not some unexplained shift in internal chemistry that brought on the latest developments, this feels like just another chapter in my life as a migraineur, not the ongoing trials of a head injury patient. And it can't be undone. So, three months post-concussion, while my brain may still be healing, it's the usual stuff--art, dogs, family, the day-to-day state of my health--that's on my mind.