Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Going up!

Well, like I said in the other post, I can always count on my moods to pass. Today, I'm going up, surfing the internet and plotting my budget. Enhancing my disaster kit seems like an excellent idea, and it's not all wrong. Hurricane season starts next week and we are predicted to have a higher-than-normal chance of landfall along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Last night I had a lot of trouble sleeping. I may have to chase down my Valerian Root; that's good stuff.

Whenever I have a lot of trouble sleeping, tossing and turning, I can always count on Bubba. Bubba is my Baby Kitten - all 16 pounds of him. He's extremely independent and only likes petting when he's outside. I can forget about getting him in my lap - that's just his personality. But whenever I have trouble sleeping, he climbs into bed with me and curls up. I'll flop over in the middle of the night to discover him nestled by my pillow. Last night, when I did drop off, I had a hideous dream. I awoke to find my beloved Bubba licking my foot to wake me up. He's a sweet baby.

Tomorrow, he's getting extra wet food AND treats.

Monday, May 28, 2007

On Bad Thoughts

Last night was a bad one, as depressive episodes go. Thank God I do have my medication, and that it works so well. Today, everything is soft, foggy, and peaceful.

Whether I'm up or down, I tend to have trouble falling asleep. I take enough pills; I don't need or want any more. So as I lay awake in bed, I tell myself stories, plan projects, or write in my head. Last night I was thinking about today's post.

When things are bad, I try to think of myself in the third person. I am a horrible, worthless person (so the bad thoughts go). I use up oxygen, I am a parasite, etc. Hey, that's why I call them Bad Thoughts. When they're bad, I try to think of myself in the third person.

"Heather's having a bad day. What nice things can I do for her?" A monster movie on Sci-fi while working on "Happy" (the original brainless knitting project - garter stitch afghan - in bright reds and orange)? That's a good start. Then a nice bath with the rose-scented bubbles I got at Walmart (the Lander "Rose Petals" - excellent bubble bath and $2.28 for 2 quarts). I did the laundry with the "nice" detergent and used not only fabric softener, but a dryer sheet too. I remind myself, again and again, what I'm feeling are symptoms. I have an illness, this is just a symptom. No different than a runny nose and pretty soon I'll be chatting up complete strangers and wanting to buy half the store. Things will get better, they always have and they always do. I just have to take care of myself; do kind things and believe I deserve them.

I finished it all off with changing into the new nightgown, spraying my pillows with some rosewater, and writing this post in my head. I'm not ashamed to admit I sleep with a stuffed animal (Puppy), who's always there for me no matter what.

Today, things are better. Bubba the cat even brought me a gift - a lovely dead mouse. Better than a live one. That's who I am - an optimist who always looks for the positive in any situation.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

This weekend I wound up a mile of laceweight yarn. I got it from Knitpicks. Wonderful, lovely, laceweight wools and alpaca/silk blends. Tasty. I'm going to have loads of fun making it into gorgeous lacy shawls and scarves. The Depression (which should be in all caps) is sniffing and scratching at the door, and it helps to have a nice brainless project, (like yarn winding) to keep my mind and hands busy. I've never been so happy to have my hands shaking! Thank God for my pills and the side effects.

I'm practicing some lace stitches (psso, etc) with the natural lace yarn - at $4 a skein for half a mile's worth of yarn, I can afford to experiment. I've also been thinking about learning to spin my own yarn. With places like http://www.knitpicks.com offering insanely affordable yarn I don't NEED to learn, but I think it'll be fun.

I've been reading about drop spindles and fibers. I like to think I'm always stretching my brain. Just think, a llama blend hat for Ron (who was menaced by a Llama when he was little), or a camel-hair shawl for Mom (who hated the ugly camels in Petra!). I might even treat myself to a cashmere/silk blend hat or scarf.

Off I go to take my afternoon nap. The cats are waiting.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My favorite afghan

I'm a fairly advanced crocheter and an intermediate knitter. I have several stitch dictionaries with thousands of patterns and dozens of balls of yarn. I have only one afghan, though.

I made it myself. It's not very fancy but it's mine, and it's my favorite. I've made dozens of "nicer, better" afghans, but I love what it represents. I deserve something beautiful, in my favorite colors, in an interesting stitch pattern. I deserve to invest dozens of hours into something for myself.

Since I can remember, I could never measure up to the normal stick - all the things normal people were able to accomplish with such ease. Tying my shoelaces? Riding a bike? All that happened, with great difficulty years after all the "normal" kids could do it. I had terrible social skills and was socially immature. No one knew it, but these were all classic signs of my disabilities. I always had a tremendous creative impulse, though, and I loved expressing myself.

I've never known any different and I thank God. Like I tell my husband, it's hard to miss something you never had. I never drove a car, so I don't miss it. I was never a party girl, so I don't miss lots of lights and action and excitement. Ugh. The thought of going to a club gives me the cold chills and it always has. I don't miss it, but I never felt adequate.

All the "Normal" people could do this and that. I can't. All the normal people have lots of freinds and such. I don't. About 12 years ago, when I was manic, I started creating an afghan in fall colors. For myself.

Up to this point, I'd made three afghans for myself but I wasn't happy with them. The first two - lurid creations of clashing colors that would give a blind man nightmares. The third was made with "gift" yarn. I had asked for bright yellow, I got butter yellow. I made it anyway but everytime I looked at it I remembered it wasn't what I wanted. I wanted warm fall colors that reminded me of the flaming trees and crunchy leafy goodness of a Virginia fall.

I started it. I liked it but I wanted something - more. Wide swaths of crimson and (finally!) bright yellow were an excellent start, but I wanted something more evocative of fall. I'd add random rows of red, crimson, and various oranges as the muse struck. I bought mystery yarn in thrift-store baggies and felted it (oops!) into the afghan.

A decade later, the finished product is a somewhat itchy, pilly acrylic. I didn't weave in some ends and the cheaper yarns shed more than my cat. But it's mine, and I made it. I am a loving, lovable person who deserves the afghan she always wanted.

I sleep under it every night, even in the summer.

"I wish I'd brought my knitting"

I never realized how much knitting helps me to wait. I do a lot of waiting. I wait on our rides, everywhere. Getting into my car when I want, and driving in a straight line to my destination? That's as alien to me as the concept of you getting into your spaceship and flying off to Jupiter. You can envision it, but it isn't real.

Once I get to work, for instance, I have to wait on deliveries (junk food, soda, milk, sandwiches, donuts, and repairmen). Once I'm done with work, I have to go outside and wait some more on my ride (could be anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours). When I'm on the ride, I wait some more while the driver makes other drop offs and pickups. A "straight trip"? That's a treat. The drivers seem to enjoy us and we do a lot of witnessing so I know God's got us where He wants us. The largest part of witnessing, in my opinion, is showing God's love. Don't get ugly and then talk about Jesus! I digress.

I wait hours a week, and I do it well. Because I bring my knitting. The rare times I forget to bring "Knitty", my knitting bag (currently a lime green beach bag from Walmart, holding balls of wool yarn and my F&F shawl), I realize how much I hate waiting.

My knitting makes an otherwise intolerable and exasperating wait into a time of joyful creation and creative expression. I love that knitting can make me such a wonderful person. The person who can smile at a deliveryman who's half an hour late on a freezing cold day. When the milk crate I'm sitting on is digging into my butt, making my legs numb. I wave cheerfully, stand up, and smile. And I mean it.

That's the day he told me he knew I was a Christian. Why? I asked. "Because I can see God in your actions."

No one has ever given me a better compliment. I'm glad I brought my knitting.

Do you pay the mortgage?

I just sicced Ron on someone. Somehow, the sight of a blind man, wielding a long white cane like a sword, headed for their nice, shiny Stuck Up Vechicle bothers people, making them want to get out of his way.

After my last post, I got up to eat and take good old Big L(ithium). I saw someone parked at the foot of our driveway, blocking us in. We don't have a car, and I'm happy with that. We save buckets of money and we can afford to work part-time. But it's our driveway! Especially aggravating were the added facts that: 1. Plenty of room in front of our house and the other house they were waiting for, even room in their driveway. and 2. They saw me giving them "The Bad Eye" from my kitchen window for several minutes. They don't move? I don't want to pick a fight. I send Ron out there with the information and a question.

He walks out. It's obvious he wants to talk to them. They pretend they don't see him until he taps the wheel with his cane. All that nice shiny paint... a blind man. Bad combination.

They roll down the window and Ron asks a question. "Do you pay the mortgage?" The guy says no, because WE DO! "Well, then, you need to move. You're blocking my driveway."

"Oh, Oh-kay!" Then they move.

[rolleyes]

In Twenty Minutes...

I'm going to eat something and take my pills. I'm going to thank God with every swallow; thank God for a: dry mouth, indigestion, shaking hands, dizziness, giddiness, drowsiness, foggy thinking, postural hypotension (my blood pressure drops when I stand up quickly, causing me to almost pass out), ghastly metal-mouth taste (like I'm always sucking on a zinc lozenge), acne breakouts, and constant thirst.

It's better than being sick. Last night I realized depression was waiting to kick my butt again. ANYTHING is better than being sick, and battling constant suicidal impulses takes a lot more energy than I lose to the pills. No words can adequately convey the horror of a bipolar depression. I told Ron once "Even if we won the Lotto, I would still want to kill myself." That's the best and most concise way I can phrase it. Ugh. I've been sick long enough. Why wouldn't I happily tolerate all those side effects and more if it means I only suffer the echoes of my old symptoms?

This disease wants to kill me, as surely as any cancer. 50% of people with bipolar illness try to kill themselves, and 11% "succeed". What kind of side effects would I tolerate if I had cancer? I'd happily puke in a bucket and shave my head bald if that's what I needed.

This illness has a worse mortality rate than many cancers.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Where's the knitting?

Let's see. I've done the pilot and ranting on a few subjects near and dear to my heart.

So what about the knitting?

I don't have digital pictures yet (coming soon!) so I'll just have to describe my projects. I learned to crochet when I was 8 because someone gave me a "Knitting nobby". I couldn't figure it out. I tried so hard I ended up in tears! I asked my Mom and stepsister. No joy. So, they taught me to crochet instead.

I was definitely an on-again-off-again crocheter. When I'm manic, I tend to feel a tremendous flow of creative juices. Hundreds of color ideas and textural images stampede through my brain. I buy yarn, lots of it, and happily plan and execute, until... the crash. The depression hits and the poor sad yarn would languish in the closet for another few months.

After Ron's accident, I made dozens of 2 strand granny square afghans on a lovely N hook Ron bought me for a present. Pretty much everyone involved with his care got a handmade original. Crocheting really helped settle me out and smooth all the rough edges of my mood dramas.

Last year, however, my illness took an ugly turn and I became deeply and repeatedly suicidal. The only way I could talk myself out of it was by playing the what-if-I-don't-die game. What if I jumped, and survived with a broken neck? I thought life was hard before, try it as a quadraplegic! What if I took pills, and lived, but fried my liver and kidneys? Eeek. I became so depressed I'd sleep with my Bible. I was too exhausted to read it so I'd cling to it like a teddy bear every night.

The depression led to my diagnosis (actually, I was cycling into mania when I met the expert and it was fairly easy to slap me with the bipolar label) and medication, praise God. However, I had a hard time getting into crochet again. I'm sorry, but I just associate it with "Being Sick".

My illness and disability come with unique benefits, though, one of them being a tremendous creative impulse. I really enjoy pulling a couple balls of yarn into something spectacular.

Currently, I'm working on a worsted weight Feather-and-Fan shawl. My grandmother (now with Jesus) used the F&F pattern in all her afghans so I guess you could call it a tribute. I'm using Cascade 200, in Orange Heather, golden yellow, and an in-between yellow/orange. I also have a few little accent rows in Paton's Merino red. I love to take it along with me every where I go, and then I can whip out a few rows while I'm waiting on our ride. I'm working it on a 29-inch circular size 8 (5mm) needle, which makes it easy to stuff it into my bag at will. I've botched a few rows, missed yarn-overs and such, but I'm having a lot of fun. People who see it seem to love it, and I'll be so toasty this winter! I love warm fall colors.

It's two feet wide and I intend for it to be about 6 feet long.

Here's the pattern:
Feather and Fan
Mulitiple of 12 stitches (I don't know which multiple I used in the shawl, according to my notes it should be about 60 or 72)
Row 1: Knit
Row 2: Purl
Row 3: (P2tog) 2 times, * (yo, k1) 4 times, (P2tog) 4 times, repeat from * to end of row. You will end on 2 P2Tog (that scared me to death at first, so I'll state what I wish the pattern maker wrote).
Row 4: Purl.

The pattern is especially pretty if you end color A on row 4. I use a water splice (wet the ends of the yarn and rub together with my hands), so I don't have any ends to weave. Photo coming soon!

Are you ready?

Having survived a 7.1 earthquake in California (I never knew I could hide under a twin-sized pillow but I did an excellent job), severe weather, Hurricane Rita, and a disaster-area-proclamation flood, I am DISGUSTED, PEOPLE!

Why don't you have a disaster kit? I don't get it! Imagine: something terrible happens today, a earthquake, flood, or terrorist attack. You can't get to the stores. The roads are impassible. You have no electricity. Now what? We all saw how well that worked after Hurricane Katrina! People went LOOTING because they had nothing stored to feed their kids!

I'm getting out my disaster kit. I work part-time and make a part-time salary, and I think anyone with the means to own a computer and read this ought to have one. Here's what I've got:
  • Battery operated TV (10 C-cells) and extra batteries.
  • Canned food we both like for a couple weeks. Ron's into the canned pastas, I prefer canned meats and soups.
  • The means to store at least 40 gallons of water. 2 gallons per person per day, you decide how many days. Ron doesn't drink a lot of water but I do.
  • Hand-crank radio (for Ron), hand-crank lantern for me (got it at Walmart for less than $20). I also have some battery-operated lamps but I plan to phase them out.
  • One month's worth of medication for me, games, and knitting projects.
  • http://www.ready.gov/america/getakit/index.html

I ride paratransit. That means I can forget about evacuating, and I'm happy with that. I like things quiet and routine. I never want to experience the mayhem I saw when Hurricane Rita was headed for Houston.

When I was a cashier, I used to have a recurring nightmare that I couldn't get my break. I was told I could take my break when my line was empty. As I gazed at my line, I saw it stretched across the entire store! I actually saw my nightmare come to life at Sam's club before Hurricane Rita.

Maybe I am sick. I have brain damage. I'm 'crazy". But I don't want to run around in the mayhem and terror and children crying and people arguing and trying to find gas and all. I want to be sitting at home, with the contents of my freezer ready to go into my ice chest, smiling and going "I'm so glad I threw an extra couple cans of food in my cart every time I went to Wal-mart."

I have never met another Houstonian who admits to having a disaster kit.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

You should be thanking God we don't have kids!

Today on our ride home from Krogers (we use the paratransit shared-ride service because I can't drive, another post topic), an older lady asked us several very intrusive questions. She had a difficult time believing we didn't have children and even more trouble with the concept that we don't want them. I have to say, you should all get down on your knees and thank God we didn't.

What is it with this whole societal concept that I'm not a "real" woman until I have kids? I have regular cycles, not that it's anyone's business. My life is difficult enough managing my disabilities. And my husbands? Now, add a perfectly healthy child into the equation - a lot of work and buckets of money. No thanks. Children take a tremendous amount of time and energy, time and energy I don't have. I need to take a nap most days and so does my husband! I have a healthy ego that does not need an infant to complete.

Now, let's take a look at the fruit of my womb. Most likely, it will have a mood disorder. My medications cause birth defects so I'd have to go off my known-to-work drug cocktail and go on something else. I'll probably get sick again from that (my main goal in life - not getting sick again with bipolar freakouts). It could have the Bubble boy disease (what possibly killed my brother at age 3 weeks). And my husband's DNA needs to be taken out and shot! He has congenital glaucoma (50% odds of his child having it), nerve deafness, etc. When he learned that, he got fixed. I think it's wonderful. So why do people get an attitude when we say, we're not having children because we'd never bring them home from the hospital? What is the deal? They should be thanking God that we're not costing the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars! Instead, they get angry at me. I'm baffled.

I happily pay my school tax. I enjoy the neighbor children. Now that I'm taking my pills, I like kids in an abstract way. I think they're cute. But when I want something to lavish with love, I'll go pet my cats. Suck it up.

Pilot

Today I'm very happy that my hands are shaking. Why? Well, for most of my life I had undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Knowing me was not fun. Being me was even worse. Last year I finally (Praise God!) got diagnosed and medicated. I also learned to knit.

Once I just said Yes to drugs (Lithium, Lexapro, Risperdal) my life improved dramatically. I had wanted to learn to knit for years. However, my illness made it so tough for me to focus on anything that I gave up trying. I was very worried about the shaking hands side effect from the Lithium so I asked God if he could make it possible for me to do my needlework (I crochet too). Even when my hands are shaking enough that it's tough to type, I can still do my knitting.

I love how knitting makes me a better, more wonderful person. I'm a lot more patient when I've got my knitting in hand, and when I'm done making stuff for myself and my very dear Husband, I've got plenty of friends and relatives. Currently ...

A momentary break to talk to DH - he'd like me to help a fellow paratransit passenger with some shopping. Ron (DH) is blind from birth and had a bad head injury 4 years ago. He is a blind vendor with the federal/state program and we have 12 vending machines. I take care of the deliveries and snack machines, he manages the soda, cold food, and coffee machines. He was hit and dragged by a truck while walking to work over 4 years ago. The driver was one of our customers. The guy was in a hurry, night shift zombie, cell phone.. and very repentant. Ron suffered a hemmorhagic stroke as a result of his injuries and has "Hemiparesis" (severe weakness and numbness) on his entire right side. Ron's recovered amazingly well and not only takes care of himself, but supports me too. I know God used us both tremendously during the entire drama but I'm glad that's all over and done with. If neither of us ends up in the hospital again I'd die a happy woman.

In addition to bipolar disorder (type one, psychotic features - not a happy place!) I also have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. My mother also had bipolar illness and self-medicated with alcohol, during her pregnancy with me. I have some brain damage but nothing I can't live with. I can't drive, and I prefer a quiet environment. That's about it. Ron and I balance each other amazingly well, we're definitely symbiotes.

Knitting is great for me on public transit. I'm at the point where I can knit while riding in a vehicle, and I get a lot accomplished while I'm waiting on our rides. When my hands shake, I keep on knitting, thanking God I got diagnosed and treated before I did kill myself.

Consolation

Ron needs to realize, not everyone is consoled by his "Don't worry, the end of the world is coming soon" speech.  Agh.