Nuts and Bolts. And Volts.

Well. One week to go with the ECT treatments, so maybe it’s about time I finally write the entry I’ve been meaning to write for ages?!

But first, some good news: I’m feeling somewhat confident that they have been helpful! By which I mean, I feel lighter. My boots aren’t as heavy. I’m not being shadowed by a dark cloud. It doesn’t feel like the ocean is living in my throat, tsunamis and all. And a multitude of other metaphors!

Am I anxious? Well. Yes. I’m honestly a little terrified to return to work. But it’s a fear that makes sense. I’ll have been off more than a month and a LOT can change in my field in that time. Not necessarily in the field, but with all of the individuals that I work with. Hell, a lot happens in the course of a day that can be hugely impactful on their lives. So. It’s an explainable nervousness. And I need to get a new car (by “new”, I mean “different” of course. I will never buy a brand new car again. What a waste of money…) Plus my laptop is dying a slow death and will probably need to be replaced in the next few months. My phone, also, seems to be crapping the bed. So, while I’ve managed to get/keep my finances into a more stable shape, I certainly don’t have any extra to drop on a car, laptop, phone or anything, really.

Other good things: September’s “First Friday” event at the gallery where my work is displayed honored the New Artists- of which I am one! It was the first 1st Friday I’ve attended and I was kind of in the spotlight with 3 other artists. I am not at all used to being in the limelight. Yes, I was a theatre kid but….TECH theatre! Darkness and shadows, that was my place!! And that’s just how I wanted it to be!! But the event at the gallery was fun (another sign the ECT has had an effect….in general, even when I want to participate in such events, they are still very difficult to get through mentally. But I did ok- even when I was informed the videographer was going to Facebook Live and interviewing me!!

Other Good Artsy Things: After a year of searching to no avail for some sort of storage solution for the mat board I inherited from Hil last year, I ended up with two suitable pieces of furniture and a ton of new-to-me mat board in the span of 3 days! And it was all super affordable! First, a local department store is closing and on a whim, after PK’s sister reminded us, we decided to go see if they had any fixtures for sale. They did! It seems to be what they stored their signage in and it is near perfect for my needs. The only issue was that full sheets of mat board would hang out a few inches on each side, but it was good enough!! So, PK’s son and grandson agreed to help us move it. PK decided to take the screws out to see if we could fit it in my car in pieces only to discover it was glued together quite solidly! So we put the screws back in and they heave hoed it into his truck. PK and I had taken several of the doors off the hinges at my house and removed the door stop strips from the art room door. Still, it was questionable right up to the end as to whether or not it would fit! It did!! I spent the evening finally sorting all of my mat board.

At some point, on another whim, I decided to search Craig’s List for anyone trying to sell more mat board, now that I finally had a place to store it. I happened upon a lady having an estate sale and getting rid of framing and embroidery stuff. I called and talked with her. The price was reasonable- for mat board, a mat board table that fit full sheets, AND some random framing stuff. The problem was, she lived quite far away and I’m still not allowed to drive. Also, I needed someone with a car big enough to be able to transport all of the mat board AND the table! (Another place where the shift in my brain is apparent…at this point- or before- I would’ve given up because I didn’t want to be an imposition. But I called Jenn and imposed! And she was able to pick me up and head over that evening. AND assisted in carrying a million loads of mat board and table pieces up a flight of stairs and through a relatively large house, and then helped me bring it all in to my house the next morning! It was not easy work, and she is a champ!!!

I spent the next day or two moving furniture, rearranging, and sorting, again, and being amazed at my luck and fortune. Just to get a random idea of what I had stumbled in to, I measured the amount of board and then counted how many pieces fit in an inch, then did some figuring. Although decent board costs more than $10 a sheet, I just used that as an easy figure. All told, I estimated that I walked away with at least $900 worth of materials (and realistically, probably closer to $1200 or more, since I got a table storage unit, too, and those are like, $700 alone- on the cheaper end- plus some random frames, too…) Trust me, I paid a fraction of that. A fraction of a fraction. I’m still in shock at the awesome deal. And Carol, the seller, was SO nice and helpful. She kept giving me little tips and tricks and hints. And. OMG. My excitement swelled over the next few days as I sorted and discovered, truly, how awesome I made out….the colors, textures, variety….and sheer AMOUNT. Not all full sheets, of course, and tons of scraps. But totally useful for me, since I can pick and choose how big or small I print things! It’s been super difficult to focus on things other than arting! I just want to start printing and matting and creating!

Alas, other duties are also pressing….such as pulling up the last layer of carpet upstairs and scraping up the backing that was glued to the floor.

Well, the above part of this entry was written a week ago on September 9th. I got side tracked and never finished, so instead of ditching it and starting over, I’ll just continue from here….

I had my last ECT treatment today. This is good and also terrifying. Mostly because the last few days have been really difficult, emotionally. I’m feeling more than a little overwhelmed with all that still needs to be done before I return to work next week, as well as the impending lack of car situation. Not to mention, next week somehow marks a year since MM died. That’s been hitting especially hard. All of this combined has me worried that the ECT hasn’t worked as well as I thought it had. But. I guess if I were to compare how I likely would’ve handled all of this last month, a few months ago, last year, a few years ago…I’m still managing better than I probably would have. Life is hard, that won’t change. I never expected it to. I just need to try to hold on to the feeling of wanting to keep going even when the going gets tough.

Also, I will admittedly miss some of the people at WPIC, where I had the treatments done. I am SO BEYOND IMPRESSED with my experience there. From start to finish, there was only one “major” issue, with one of the lab techs due to some inaccurate coding and even then- ladies from a totally different department went out of their way to get the issue solved for me ASAP. Without me even asking, and without making me feel like I was imposing on their entire day. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time dealing with medical and mental health facilities- for myself, my mum, my clients over the years- and I can honestly say, I’ve never had a more pleasant experience. Everyone, from the nurses to the techs to the security guards, was just…nice. Amicable. Friendly. Patient. Kind. No one made me feel like I was imposing on them just for trying to obtain services or get questions answered (a rarity in many places, at least in my dealings with doctors, hospitals, facilities, etc.) And more than that, the general attitude of the employees was just positive. Anyone who knows me knows I am an observer. I notice things. I pay attention to details. It wasn’t just that the staff was kind to the patients, but they also were respectful and kind with each other. Perhaps not all of the time, perhaps not when they were out of my view or hearing, but the general aura was just calm and courteous. Even when they were “bitching” about other coworkers or departments to each other (mostly out of range, usually) they still dropped in GOOD things to counter balance whatever they were griping about!! I was just really impressed. There were patients who were in much more severe states than I, who were probably more difficult to manage but still….I witnessed them being met with patience and civility. It can be easy to just go about your duties and still get your job done without being mean or abrasive or anything…to go through the motions without too much effort. For instance, several other people receiving treatment appeared pretty much catatonic- non verbal, non responsive. But even they were met with cheerful greetings and inquiries about how they were doing, and asked permission before things were done even though they didn’t have the where-with-all to necessarily give it, and had the processes explained to them even though they very well may not have even been able to hear it. It made me happy that they were still treated like the humans that they are and not just shoved through on an assembly line like some places do with such clientele. And, even when patients who weren’t necessarily of sound mind voiced concerns or refused…their treatment was put on hold until someone spoke to them (several someones!) to, I assume, make further determinations about things. But despite having consents on their charts (cuz they clarified and made note of having them every time), they weren’t forced to have the treatment. It just all appeared to be so very humane. I mean, honestly, it appeared to be what mental health treatment (and medical treatment in general) SHOULD be, but so often isn’t.

I guess my point is…because of the staff, I came through it all feeling respected, heard, and non-stigmatized. And perhaps I am lauding them so much because this has not been my general or common experience when dealing with the mental health field as either a client or service provider. I’m just in awe at how well I, and everyone I witnessed around me, was being treated. (I’m a little angry, too, because this should be the norm not the exception…) Anyhow. I would 10/10 recommend WPIC for all of your ECT needs!

In other art news, but also ECT related…last year I was so unwell that I didn’t even enter the annual art show that takes place during the fall festival here. That was the first time in probably more than 5 years I hadn’t entered. Even when I do enter, it’s generally a rushed, last minute, scrambling to get things in on time ordeal. This year? I entered my form early enough to get the early bird lower entry fee AND my pieces are printed, matted and framed. They’re not due to be turned in until Saturday. That’s 5 days, and all that’s left to do is put paper backing on them, install eye hooks and attach wire!

Which reminds me, I ALSO managed to remember to that I had a coupon for Michael’s and today I got a tape dispenser gun and the stuff I’ll use for paper backing ALL for half the price of the dispenser alone. Bit by bit….

I’ll leave you with some photos of some of the other things that’ve been occupying my time lately….

Time Will Tell

How does anyone know what “normal” feels like?

Who defines “normal”?

I don’t hate being asked how I’m doing- I hate not knowing how to answer this increasingly common question. I’ve obviously spent a significant amount of time doing seriously unwell. When every third thought involves ways to cease existing, I can say with confidence that I am doing poorly. But is a lack of those thoughts an indication that I’m doing well…or just that I’m doing better than I had been? And isn’t that sort of the same thing?

One might say that it doesn’t really matter…just be grateful for the reprieve. And I am grateful, so fiercely grateful I want to shout from the rooftops. But. I also want to know how to maintain this improved level of functioning or even increase it. To me, that means examining it. Figuring it out. Understanding it. But hereinlay the issue: my tendency to over-analyze. To pick a thing apart into unrecognizable bits. To mess up the process with my need to stare it in the face until it collapses in a pile of self doubt. Ironically, I’m super bad at finding the fine line between things. Somehow I look so hard I just miss it, every time. I can’t just simply recognize it, or quietly sit with it because then it just slips through my fingers and into the infinite abyss quicker than it came. Yet, trying to hold it tight, squeezing it to me with white knuckles seems to suck the life right out of any goodness that manifests. I really need some lessons on balance…

At any rate. I’ve completed 8 treatments of ECT and have, in theory, 4 more to go. Other than intense headaches, I hadn’t noticed much change. Until the last week or so. In which I’ve experienced a….lightening of mood? I struggle to find words to describe it, because it is subtle and not really very tangible. Just minuscule changes that would most likely go un-noticed if I weren’t so damned hyper-aware on purpose. Seriously small things like, I caught my reflection in the mirror yesterday and thought “aww, my hair is super curly, yay!” Typically my first reaction to seeing myself in a mirror is more along the lines of “ugh. frizzy hair. need to pluck. ewww, how long has that crusty been on my eyelash?” etc. Thus, I typically avoid mirrors! And I was hanging out with a friend the other day…instead of constant doubt about whether they wanted me around or not, I was just….enjoying myself. Unworried about if they would rather be doing something else, be spending time with someone else or hanging out by themselves. Now, don’t get me wrong- rarely do people give any indication that they’d rather not be spending time with me. I’m aware that the doubt is 100% a creation of my own brain. But that doesn’t make it any less difficult to ignore or deal with. Even if it should! But lately I’ve noticed a quiet kind of calm in my interactions. An inner voice less critical of my every move.

Telling me I’m beautiful…

Of course, this both comforts and terrifies me. Because just about when I let my guard down is when everything usually gets blown all to hell and back. But honestly, I’m too tired to maintain the walls. I just want to relax in the arms of the people that I love and find comfort in their company without clauses. And I’m going to try and take that opportunity now, while I can breathe without feeling as if I’m inhaling a lungful of ocean water. I’ve been treading so long, it feels really nice to just float for a minute. Soon enough I know I have to get back to the work of coordinating my strokes, if I want any chance of making it to the shore. But I think I recognize hope on the horizon now, I can finally see through the salt of the sea. Sure. it still stings when it hits my eyes…there are still stretches of time when I can’t breathe around the pain of the past year (and years before…) I don’t expect that to ever go away. But for a change, that hope doesn’t feel out of range.

I could go on and on about the difference between how something is and how something feels. But if I think too long on the fact that maybe I had this hope in me all along…well, that will only lead to an internal ass kicking for not getting my shit together so much sooner than this. I’m just gonna attribute most of it to the jolts of electricity being sent through my brain bi-weekly for the past month. And, of course, to the amazing support from the people who love me. If I’ve done anything to assist in the changes, I would say it would be not holding so tight to the things I’ve always held to. Not a letting go, exactly. But giving things room to breathe, some space to flourish. I wouldn’t say I’ve changed my inner voice/critic. But maybe I’ve allowed myself to acknowledge that she, too, can have multiple points of view.

I want to also acknowledge that these subtle changes couldn’t have happened without an army of support. But it’s not that anyone else’s stories have changed. Rather, they’ve had the patience to keep repeating themselves until their truths could get through my thick skull! And I’m not trying to give my power away. But truly, it has been such an intricate simplicity at play. So many pieces snapping in to place at just the right moments. Cogs and gears changing speeds and direction as necessary to keep up. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t really believe in blessings. But. I do feel blessed in many respects. And a month ago, I would’ve berated myself for being so contradictory. For giving credence to ideas I’ve never a day in my life believed in. But today. Today it just is as it is. Today I am allowed to be malleable. It’s not me taking advantage of ideologies just because they suit my purpose. It’s not jumping on bandwagons or redefining who I am for the sake of the situation I’m in.

It’s just how it is. What will be, will be. I don’t know how anything actually works. I don’t know what makes a person well or the magic formula for being less depressed. I just know that, for the first time in a long time, my heart and my mind are in agreement about how I feel. I’m arguing less with myself about how I should feel and relaxing more in to how I do feel.


Well. I’ve been on a bit of a writing hiatus. Not for lack of words…I’ve actually started at least 2, maybe 3, blog posts over the past few months. 1 I just never finished and the other two got deleted before I had a chance to publish them and WordPress doesn’t have the best auto-save function. Lesson learned (I’d like to think.) The problem with me is that I tend to put a lot of thought in to the sentences and paragraphs that I write and find it very difficult to recapture the same intensity or intention in re-writes. I get frustrated at my inability to recreate the exact thoughts I was having in the moment and then give up altogether. (Reasons why I’ll never be a professional writer, perhaps…) Then, of course, so much time lapses between posts that I I’m overwhelmed at where to start with a new entry. So, I’ll jump right in…

Art stuff: I, along with several other artists, will be recognized at the Gallery’s “First Friday” event in September. I’ve been there a year but hey, better late than never! I have not done even CLOSE to what I intended still, in part because of also starting a new job at the same time but mostly because people and pets kept dying, It’s been a rough year, to say the least. My art room is currently (again) in usable condition, but I still have a pile of mat board that I’ve found impossible to sort through. I’ve tried, occasionally, but by the time I get 4 or 5 pieces down in the pile, it becomes unwieldy and I can’t maneuver anything around to see what I’m looking at or looking for. I’ve been trying to find a suitable solution for storage, but oddly such a thing doesn’t seem to exist in this area? At least, not for less than $1,000 which is way out of my price range. So, while I’ve printed several pieces and had grand plans of matting and framing them…until I can get to the mat board, that’s on hold still.

In other news…I’ve been off work for about 2 weeks and am not scheduled to go back until mid-September. I briefly considered not telling people or explaining why but then I realized that that only perpetuates the stigma and increases my feelings of isolation. I mean, I have no need to necessarily make daily FB posts about it, but I also am not someone who likes to have secrets. It’s obviously no secret that I have suffered from depression for decades. I wasn’t diagnosed until my early 20s, but chances are it started in my late teens. I’ve seen multiple therapists over the years and have a handful of hospitalizations under my belt. I’ve been playing the med game since my mid 20s, with little to no success, especially not long term. The only med I’ve not been willing to try is Lithium and that is mostly because I know myself well enough to know I can’t maintain the diet or hydration necessary to not end up with toxicity from it. I’ve discussed this with my physicians and medical providers who, for the most part, agree with me. I’ve made lifestyle changes and have tried really, really hard for many many years to just…be ok. With varying levels of success.

I’m so very grateful to have a trifecta of providers who listen to me and who let me make my own decisions as much as possible instead of forcing me to do one thing or another. They trust me to keep them in the loop as far as my mental status goes and in turn, I am able to trust them enough to be honest about my thoughts and emotions. This has prevented probably more than a few 302s…. But any how. That’s all a story for another day. The point of this story is that, in 2017, I was threatened with 1. taking Lithium 2. going to State hospital or 3. doing ECT (electro-convulsive therapy). At the time, I had no health insurance but also had no plans of going to state or taking Lithium, so I said “sure, sure…ECT it is!” Of course, no one does much follow up once you’re discharged and because I had no insurance at the time the social workers didn’t even bother looking in to or setting up any kind of consultations for ECT. So, life went on. It got worse, it got better. I took the combo of meds that seemed to work well enough to keep me out of the pits of despair for a while. I had quit my super high-stress job in 2017 and although I jumped from job to job for a year after that, things were looking up. Not financially, but in other areas of life, I felt I had more control and was doing better at balancing work and life and such.

Things were going swimmingly. My art got accepted in to the gallery in DuBois, which felt like a huge accomplishment. I got a new job that seemed to have me doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. I joined a new circle of friends who were positive and uplifting and like-minded. And then…well. September 23 happened. (well, I guess if we’re technical about it, September 22-24?) If I’m being honest, I still don’t understand, I still haven’t come to terms to grips to whatever…with Mel’s death. But it didn’t stop there. Somehow, that was apparently just the beginning. Mum’s health continued to decline and she lived with me for a very long, stressful week before demanding to return home. That week included everything from projectile vomiting to awful accusations to having to call friends in to help me get her off the floor after she’d fallen out of her wheelchair. Then, at the beginning of March, my beloved kitty Zelda died suddenly and unexpectedly. Almost 6 months to the day Mel passed, my father died. About a month later, a kiddo I had worked with completed suicide.

Things were not improving. I hadn’t been able to keep meds, or anything else, down since about October thanks to a probable ulcer. (Complete with stress hives!) I lost about 15 pounds in 3 months but couldn’t afford the tests necessary to verify the diagnosis and the ulcer meds seemed to exacerbate my symptoms. I visited my PCP at the end of June and she brought up the possibility of ECT again. This time I had insurance and, really, nothing left to lose. So. I started the ball rolling and had a consult on July 18 at the nearest clinic that my insurance covered. Which happens to be about an hour and 45 minutes away.

This has not been an easy process. It has involved many phone calls to my insurance company as well as to the clinic. Not to mention trying to get things situated with work and short term disability stuff. Of course, I’m not covered under FMLA until the beginning of September but putting things off another month just was less and less feasible. So. Long story short, I started treatments on August 5th. At some point, I’m sure I’ll write an entry dedicated to all of that but suffice to say for now, I have to travel about 2 hours to the clinic twice a week, get an IV and anesthesia, have electricity sent through my brain, hang out in recovery until I’m awake and mobile, and then travel the 2 hours home. I’m not allowed to drive during the acute phase of treatment, which lasts a minimum of 6 weeks (or operate heavy machinery, or make important decisions….) I’m also not allowed to take any of my usual meds except synthroid and ativan for anxiety. So. That’s been…fun. The treatments (or the lack of other meds) has caused a significant increase in brain shattering headaches. The first 2 treatments were fine, but the 3rd and 4th have been much harder in terms of side effects. Not having too many memory issues, but the headaches, acheyness, and exhaustion are starting to take a toll. Generally, people start to see improvement around the 3rd week so…fingers crossed things start to shift next week. I’m not sure what I’ll do if this doesn’t help, as I feel like I’m basically out of viable options….

So. I realize that this particular blog entry wasn’t well written or even super informative, and also in no way follows the general gist of the blog in any way. But, I needed to get it down before moving on to other entries, which will hopefully occur in the next week or two. Because there have been good things dotting the horizon, of course. I’ve been able to go to several concerts (Indigo Girls, The Town Pants, Dar Williams, Abbie Washburne, Ingrid Michaelson to name a few), I’ve taken several wonderful camping trips that really helped me to regroup and carry on with the day to day, and I’ve managed to foster some amazingly healthy friendships despite the ever-present terror involved with friendship/abandonment issues. I guess my point is…I’m trying. And I’m so grateful to everyone who has been so supportive of me in my efforts.