Sunday, August 29, 2010


Wow. It's Sunday and you're already getting a new blog post from me. Amazing, right? Yeah, we'll see if I can keep it up.

Anyway, I promised to write something more on-topic, so this is my medical update. Yes, I know that sounds boring. It might just be that, but if you are bipolar or even depressed, you might be having similar symptoms. You are not alone, which I have to remind myself all the time! I am not on here to provide medical advice. I am not a doctor and I hope I'm not pretending to be. I've learned a lot about my condition over the years that I've been treated, including about some of the medications I take and what they do. I want to be as informed as possible when I talk to my doctor. If I have a good one, they want me to be informed, too. The last doctor I had was not that type.

I don't want to give his real name, but Martinez is a very common name here and be aware that that is not his actual name. I don't give my name or my friends' names, so I'm not going to start now. If I have something good to say, I'll say it straight out, though. Anyway, now that I've explained that, I will say that he did not seem to like it that I wanted to be on certain types of medications or that I was aware of more recent research than he was. Keep in mind that I do not read medical journals and this was published in a book in 2004, so we're not talking cutting-edge. He told me that Lamictal and Seroquel were both anti-psychotics, too. I know that Lamictal is an anti-convulsant from just about every source I've read and the other doctors I've talked to. According to them, it works as a mood stabilizer in bipolar patients, which is not the same as an anti-psychotic. So he did not want to keep me on both medications. I stuck to my guns because that was the treatment that has worked the best, so far, as I'd been on the anti-convulsant alone and it did not correct all of my symptoms, including the hallucinations. I wasn't sure I liked the Seroquel because I'd been gaining weight. However, I wasn't sure if it was my diet (I do eat when I'm depressed), so I was willing to give it another chance. I had to argue and argue, but he gave me the prescription anyway, even though he grumbled about it. I didn't like his attitude (he was very abrupt and was just like every other doctor I'd had with the University Health System, which means I had to repeat myself over and over). I didn't have a choice on the next appointment. They just handed me a sheet of paper and that was it.

The next time I went, I was going to ask for another doctor. I did not like him and I didn't feel comfortable talking to him. My previous doctor, whom I liked a lot on a personal level (he was like a father figure for me in some ways, and we had all kinds of pleasant conversations when I came into his office, like similarities between ancient Rome and the United States, the history of art, our experiences in Paris, and any number of things). We had a lot in common and I could relate to him and he could relate to me as he had children my age that had similar interests. He is also the one that had me reading the research and explaining what my prescriptions did and how they worked, what the side effects were and how they would begin manifesting, and what to do if I had any of them. I guess I was spoiled. I will use his name because I think he is a good doctor and very easy to talk to. His name is Dr. Jacques Baillargeon in San Antonio, TX. He's just awesome, really. He is the one that first thought it might be bipolar disorder instead of post-traumatic stress disorder, which was my first diagnosis (another doctor). He doesn't take insurance anymore (he was tired of dealing with them and I don't blame him), but he is worth the rates he charges, which are reasonable for his profession. He could change his policy in the future, so it's worth it just to talk to him.

I went in to my new appointment and I was waiting quite a long time (always there--another reason I was spoiled as Dr. B. never made me wait) and another woman came out. She told me her name was Dr. Rodriguez (again, not her real name) and I could see her if I wanted to, or I could wait a little longer and see my regular doctor. I told her that I'd only seen him once before and wanted to change doctors. I guess she thought I would want some continuity, and ordinarily, I would. But, in this case, I was ready to switch. She was very nice and was new in the office (only her 3rd day there), which was why she didn't have as many patients assigned to her yet. She also seemed to understand exactly what I was talking about and knew all of the research I'd read and more (yea!). She was happy that I knew as much as I did and was actually pretty surprised about that, too. But she was really sweet and I would like to stay with her, given a choice. So they gave me the choice, and I'll be you know what I said. :) They also gave me a new appointment, and at least now, they let me pick the time. As she gets more patients, this may not always be possible, but it was nice this once.

The new plan is to put me back on Geodon as my anti-psychotic since it helped my symptoms better than the Seroquel (and, yes, it was actually making me gain weight). Indeed, my hallucinations had been worse than ever before, by a long shot, and were much more negative and disturbing, and they were never like that before. My concentration and memory were worse on it, as well. Unlike the doctors at the hospital, she wanted to make that change not quite so suddenly, so I'm on a slightly lower dose of the Geodon, and she will raise it the next time I see her. She did raise the Lamictal to 200mg.

I'm not as depressed as before exactly. I think I always get a little optimistic after I see a doctor. I think, "this is going to work this time." But then, later on, I start feeling that familiar refrain of, "Everyone is better off without me." It's a dangerous thought to have and it scares me quite a bit. Usually, it seems like my symptoms are worse at night. Maybe you've had similar problems. But with me, I guess, I'm just doing things during the day and it isn't until I'm trying to sleep that I have time to think...really think. That's when the crying spells happen most. That's when I ended up in the hospital. But with this disorder, at least in that mood, thinking isn't what you need to be doing because your thoughts are controlled by the disease, not you. But I've fallen victim to them many times and probably will continue to do so for, at least, a little while longer. I can tell, after last night and the night before, that the dosage still needs to be adjusted. I had thought that I was feeling sort-of "in the middle", not really badly depressed, but not really happy, either. But I think that was just because I had a doctor's appointment. Now that some time has passed, I can tell I'm still depressed. I'm better than before, no doubt, or I'd still be in the hospital (although I will admit that my acting got me released, not the alleviation of symptoms). If they'd known I had done some acting and taken acting classes, they probably would have seen through it!

But, I also knew that my family were pissed at me for putting them through that when they knew themselves that I wasn't that depressed (yeah, they know me so well). So, I put on a happy face and tried to go on with my life. I tried to enjoy every minute I was out of that place. At first, it did feel great, but not as great as I would have liked. It was nice to see trees, really. I missed them so much. I didn't think 3 and a half days would be that long, but it was. It was worse because I'd been hiking every day before that. I'd used that as a stress reliever. When I couldn't do that, or paint, or draw, or any of the things I normally did when I felt unwell, that was worse than my symptoms at that time (probably not literally, of course). If I'd had insurance, I would have gone to a different hospital. Other people who were there with me said the others were better. Hell, even if I was on Medicaid, I probably could have gone somewhere else. But I'm not working (and I probably wouldn't be here right now if I were), and so I had no choice. However, I will say that I will probably call the crisis line again if I need to. It's better than the alternative, although it won't feel that way at the time. Hopefully, a little cool-down time is enough to get me through another few days, y'know? But the worst thing was really the boredom. If we'd had counseling and other things to do, it would have helped more, I think. So, if I win my case and still need it, I can call someone else. I hope I won't need it.

That being said, I am hoping that I will be okay and that I will be able to go back to work in the not-too-distant future. I don't know when that will happen. It's like there's a light at the end of a tunnel in that I feel some relief from the worst symptoms, but the light gets farther and farther away the more I travel through the tunnel. I keep thinking that it will not be much longer, but it is taking longer than I expected it to to finally get better. Really, when I saw my first doctor, I believed her when she said she thought I could be back to work in 3 weeks. Seems really naive of me now, but at the time, I really did think that I would be cured by a magic pill and everything would be perfect in no time at all. I know that's unrealistic now, but I had no clue back then. I wish I'd been better informed, and I wish I'd had someone be honest with me. So, I'm telling you. It might take longer than you think, but it's possible. I have a friend who was just diagnosed with clinical depression. She's doing wonderfully right now. It helps to talk to her because she's where I want to be, and I see that it's possible to feel better. I know it. I don't know how long it will take me to get there, but I want to know what that feels like. I do. I want to know what it's like to be truly happy for a change. Happy, without the black cloud over me, you know? To quote one of my favorite bands, a-ha, "Make it soon."

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Considering how bad I've been about writing on here consistently, I am giving any readers out there a little bonus. I am still trying to find a style that works with acrylic paints. I'm not used to the medium. The stuff I did in oils was much more polished and realistic-looking. The problem with acrylics is that they are somewhat transparent, and so any mistakes you make will show through any corrections you try to make. So, since I am new to this medium, I figured I would work on some stylistic changes that might work better with it. This is still, obviously, a work-in-progress (See "Limited Artistic Ability"). But I have made changes since the last posting of it. It looks more like a dog, but his face still looks a little crooked or something. Hmm. Not sure what to do about the ears.
Thought they looked a little too much like Doritos before. Not happy with them now, either, though. : (

Ancient Sunrise Yemen Henna

Yes, I know I promised something on-topic, but that post will follow soon. I just wanted to put something positive on here, and I was pretty excited about hennaing my hair. I always like to use natural henna since regular hair color doesn't last very long. For the price, natural henna is the better buy, even if it costs more to start with. The color is permanent and does not wash out. So it can last a year or more. Mine was last done about 2 years ago or more. Probably more like 3. Anyway, my natural color is odd and hard to describe. It did not look natural, but looked like a bad dye job. It was dark at the roots, red in the middle, and blonde on the ends. I always got nasty comments made about how horrible my hair looked, sometimes to my face and not behind my back. So, I started coloring my hair a darker color, since people have a stereotype about Mexicans that they have dark hair. Maybe that's why they didn't think it was natural, but probably not the only reason. Now all I get are compliments. Of course, I originally used regular dye, which only lasted about 4 weeks, if I was lucky. I usually picked a dark red (which is closer to my natural color, but darker) or else a dark brown. However, the chemicals were very harsh (I'm lucky that I'm not allergic because I didn't burn, but it was hard on my sinuses, etc.). Plus, I was doing it so often that it began to cost quite a bit. I heard about natural henna and wanted to try it, but the henna itself was a little expensive. Plus, I had to buy stuff to put in my mix (you want to pick all natural products and no chemicals, since that can make the color more unpredictable--or you can have your hair turn green or something). I usually put tea, wine, coffee (something acidic), then a scented oil. Usually people use tea tree oil, since this makes the dye release faster. I use lavender oil, since the smell isn't as off-putting. But I believe there are other oils that are okay as well (not all oils make the dye release faster). I also add pectin, since that thickens it up and makes it not so runny.

I always get my henna from as Catherine always has the best quality hennas. If possible, you want to use body-art quality henna (boxed henna made for hair color usually has chemicals added). She usually only had one kind and I always bought it because I knew it was good. It's been a while since I did this, so when I looked recently, she had a whole selection. In the forums, the one people liked the most was the Yemen henna as it was supposed to mature to a deep ruby or burgundy color. Since my problem is that my hair is usually brassy or fairly golden, this appealed to me, so that's what I bought. It came to $14.75 with shipping, however that could change depending on what she has to do to get the next shipment. It varies. She also had a henna that was similar called Celebration, which I almost chose, but the Yemen henna ended up being cheaper this time, so that's the one I chose. Every now and then she gets one called Dark of the Moon, but it is much more expensive.

I bought my henna and had a bottle of wine that was beautifully-colored, but didn't taste very good (way too bitter for me). I didn't quite have enough wine for my mix, since you need 2 full cups. One cup you add the day before (just anything acidic--you can use lemon juice or something if you want), plus the oil. The next day, I boiled the last 1/2 cup of wine and made a strong raspberry hibiscus tea (2 tea bags for the 1/2 cup of water). I bought the wrong pectin, or this would have worked perfectly. But I bought the regular pectin instead of the no sugar needed pectin. Stupid of me. So, it didn't set properly and was very clumpy and runny. If you use the other pectin, add it to the boiled liquid and stir, then mix it into the henna mixture. Wait about 20 minutes, then apply to your hair. It didn't work for me, so the mixture was very runny and clumpy. I left it on for 3 hours and that was about as long as I could stand. The longer you leave it on the better. It makes you hot because you have to wrap your hair in cling wrap or something (I use 2 processing caps that are the type for relaxing your hair). As I sweated, though, the mixture was dripping down my face, and I had to wipe it off immediately. If I left it just a few seconds my face was stained a little yellow. This particular henna has a VERY high dye content, which I was not used to. So, I had to stay by the mirror and the bathroom, which made finding things to do a little difficult. Instead, I put down a length of canvas under my easel and worked on a painting that I'm having a difficult time finishing. I also answered some e-mail and that seemed to take most of the time. I rinsed in the sink for a while, until most of the large clumps were gone, then rinsed in the shower and shampooed and conditioned until the water ran clear. The color I got was still a reddish brown, but was less golden red than my natural color and was very pretty. Today it has oxidized a little, and it is a little more ruby red than yesterday. Tomorrow will let me see what the color will stay like, if it isn't the same as today. I wore a dark teal silk top today, which seemed to bring out the redness in my dark hair and I got loads of compliments on how I looked. I don't get a lot of compliments, so this made me feel great. I have low self-esteem, but you can imagine me wearing that top a lot from now on! : )

I will have to write at one point on how my moods are now and what my prescriptions are. They are changing a lot very quickly and I am seeing a new doctor now. There are more changes coming. Our request for review (on my disability case) was denied. I'm not terribly surprised, but extremely disappointed that they didn't even consider it. Really, I got screwed big time, considering how the "experts" and the "judge" treated me during the hearing, and now they won't even review it. Our only chance now is to file a civil suit against them. Not sure if my lawyer will want to do that, considering how low our chances are of winning. If it hadn't been for the judge we ended up with, she said we had a good case and would have won. However, I don't think another judge will want to go against the other guy. If I don't win any back pay, however, I do not have to pay her, so I know she will want to do whatever she can. Will talk to her Monday.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Might be a while before I can post again. I want to try to keep this up, and I have been doing a pretty poor job of it. Obviously, I am still depressed, and this affects my ability to write (and even get out of bed). But now, a button came off of my computer keyboard. Unfortunately, it was the apostrophe, which also makes quotes. I tend to not notice how often I use that key, but it is quite a bit. I cannot use contractions now, which is not how most of us speak (at least here in the US). I also realize that I type quotes a lot. Either I am quoting someone else, or I am typing the name of a song or something. Obviously books and movies would be in italics, which is not affected, but nevertheless, I am hampered by this. I have tape over a few of my keys to keep the contacts under the missing key free of dust. Therefore, those keys are hard to hit as well. They do not move as freely as they would normally. So, I will actually give you a heads-up that it will be at least a week before this is fixed, possibly longer. Will try to post up something interesting after that (or at least something on topic) and not just about my computer problems. The THs seem gone and my computer error-free so far, so that part is good. I have ordered the apostrophe key from a retailer and will hopefully get by with only replacing the one key and not the whole keyboard. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Trojan Horses

Found TWO Trojan Horses on my computer today. Somehow, the anti-virus software on my computer became disabled. This is NOT something I would ever do, so I have no idea how that happened. This is my personal computer and is at my home. No one ever uses it but me. I live with my 69 year old mother. This is not something she would ever do, either. She is not malicious toward anyone, not even when she is angry. That's just not her style. Plus, we haven't fought in ages. Anyway, so I was going to run a scan, and when the window came up, it said it was disabled. I turned it back on, and of course, I was alarmed. So I set it up to run a detailed scan. It found the Trojan Horses, and I told it to delete them. However, I don't know how long they've been on here. I don't know if anyone got the information on all my accounts, or what was going on with the THs. So, today, I've been updating all of my accounts, and even changing my e-mail address. Yes, this seems drastic, but it was time to switch anyway. I was getting to where I hated Hotmail with a passion, and you shouldn't hate your e-mail provider. So, I'm now on Google, and it seems much better. So, I created a couple more passwords (well 3, actually), which I will use for all of them. I especially wanted to change the most at-risk ones, so I did those. But, even here, I don't want anyone sending Spam or anything from me, or posting something indecent and saying it was me. No, no, no. Hopefully this will take care of the problem. Only time will tell (and possibly my browser crashing over and over again, which is what alerted me this time). : )

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Good Day

As anyone who reads this knows, I haven't been doing too well lately. I've been depressed a lot, and when I'm not I'm just "okay". I'm not happy or anything. I've been having trouble creating art, which doesn't make me feel too great, since that's one of the things I've always done to cope. If I can't do that, I'm not myself. It takes quite a lot to cheer me up or make me anything other than just "in the middle". But the last couple of weeks have been great.

My sister came to visit. She brought my nephew, who, for some reason, isn't scared of me, even though I'm grumpy quite a bit. I always feel like I'm nothing to want to visit, but it was good to see them and go out and do tourist things. We went out to eat a lot and did some shopping
(low-cost shopping, since none of us really has a lot of money--I'm talking Goodwill and Ross and whatnot). We went to the zoo and fed the lorries. For one week, we went up to Fort Worth to visit my sis' in-laws. There, we did more shopping, since there's not a whole lot else to do, except go out to eat. One day, the in-laws watched little E, so sis and I could go to a concert. We drove to Dallas (about an hour away) to the House of Blues to see Crowded House. I'm pretty petite (I'm only 4'9"), so I wanted to get there really early since the floor, where our tickets were, was general admission. If I'm not in front, I can't see a thing. Even if that person were only 5' tall, that's too much for me. However, it was 107F and we really didn't want to wait outside. One woman told us, when we walked in, that if we spent $15 in the restaurant or shop, we could wait inside and skip the line. That was fine with us as we would have probably spent that in the shop anyway. So, we bought a couple of things in the shop. I bought a travel mug with the House of Blues logo and a keychain. It was only around 3:30 pm, so we had a long wait since the doors didn't open until 7. The good part about that was that we could hear the sound check through the open doors of the room where the show would be.

A little while later, a couple of other women joined us, and we had fun talking about music and TV shows and such. When the doors opened, we all ran down to the front of the stage and had perfect viewing, except for the speakers that were in front. The stage was exceptionally high, so these blocked my view of the back of the stage. However, I wouldn't complain, since it was a great place regardless. The band were awesome, as usual. They were funny and had us laughing and smiling the whole way through. Also, they let us bring cameras in (no video or flash photography), and my camera has a low-light setting that doesn't use the flash. So I got some great shots, and we all traded the camera around every now and then to get some different perspectives. At the end of the show, as the staff were clearing the stage, they handed out guitar picks, etc., and I got one of Mark Hart's guitar picks, which even had his name on it.

Afterwards, we went out to the back door, and we were able to meet the band and get autographs. They were exceptionally sweet and really funny. Nick Seymour even let us take a photo with him (I'm sure the other guys would have, too, but we didn't get to ask, however, they did sign autographs and chat with us). When we walked back to our cars, we were all screaming and jumping up and down like teenagers. I haven't felt that happy in a long time.

Sis and I also saw a-ha in LA in May, which was my birthday present to myself, to go on a trip out there. I hardly ever get to go to concerts, and this one meant a lot to me, since a-ha were the first concert I'd ever been to, and this was the first time they'd toured the US since 1986. It's also their last tour EVER, since they are breaking up after this. I have been a fan of theirs since the beginning and it was great to hear all their newer songs live, since I'd never heard them live before. It was hard not to cry, knowing it would all end, but it was amazing. So, for me, that's two great concerts in one year, which is rare for me. I just wish I could feel that way all the time.