No more Art for you!

January 29, 2009

So, I’ve decided to delete the Art and Excerpts/Quotes pages on the blog. The main reason for this is that no one ever really visits these pages, and also they don’t easily fit in with the content of the rest of the posts. But the immediate impetus for deleting the pages now as opposed to anytime before is that I’ve set up a Tumblr page. I’m still quite new there, but it seems to me that Tumblr is similar to the way I write this blog – it’s set up for posts speckled with photos, videos, and audio. It’s quite easy to post things there – anything I see or think of that inspires me or is interesting, so I’ve already got quite a stream of images, videos, and poems/quotes for you to peruse, along with occasional comments. If any of you also have a Tumblr, please follow me and I’ll follow you back!

Anytime you get sick of reading about FM or cooking, feel free to visit my Tumblr page! Yay. I’m excited to have a place that encourages me to think about art, writing, and music more.

I’ve called it Autobiography of Blue as well, to ease the move.

Empty Days, Nose Wrinkles

January 22, 2009

It’s cool and gray outside, with slight streaks of pale blue brightening the sky. There is some sort of bird chirping, and the sound of tires over pavement – it sounds like the morning, and I have images of myself bustling about my apartment, brewing coffee, showering, getting my things together, driving off to work.

What such a drive might look like:


(Also, it’s really amazing how many pictures people take of their morning commutes from inside their cars).

I miss that sort of purpose and movement that is pre-built into the day when one has a job or goes to school. You’d think it would be wonderful to have nearly everyday completely free and open, waiting for whatever you want to fill it with, and it can be, but when you see endless strands of these days stretching before you into forever they can start to feel empty instead of open.

It is 8am and I’ve been awake-ish for a couple hours. My sleep patterns for a month or so have been terrible – staying up into the wee hours, sleeping until 11 or noon. I’ve been occasionally taking FibroSleep from the enjoyable site ProHealth (they donate some part of their proceeds toward FM and CFS research and send out a newletter with useful info), which has melatonin & valerian in it and makes me sleepy 2/3 of the time, but I’m concerned about taking it regularly. So it’s a bit exciting to be unexpectedly awake so relatively early, but I dread the toll it will take on me physically later, as I didn’t go to bed any earlier than usual. My brain simply started chattering, and when it’s in such a mood there can be no fighting it.

Here’s a lime jello brain:

Yesterday I made a cake, so that’s exciting and should help with the probable misery I’ll be in later. (How could it not?!). I made the chocolate cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (which they easily could do),

but I made it as a cake instead because it’s slightly easier and I feel like it tastes different although clearly that is impossible. I also made the vegan cream cheese frosting recipe from the same splendid cookbook, with a slight change in vegan cream cheese to butter ratio.

Here’s the cake without the frosting (not terribly appetizing yet, p’raps I’ll post another picture when it’s prettier):

If you recall, many moons ago I wrote about my chocolate/sweet things cravings and how they increase exponentially when I’m in a lot of pain (which I feel like has psychological and chemical implications – after all, carbs/sugar increase serotonin levels). So, in the last year I’ve gotten really into *vegan* baking, in part because it seemed fun and interesting, but mostly because it was a way of indulging my cravings while knowing exactly what I was eating and not feeling gross about it. If you are unfamiliar with the magical world of vegan baked goods, let me assure you they can be even more delicious than what you’re used to, or at least comparable. You are missing out! Get yourself a cookbook!

Like this one!!

Or, just wait a little while for me to open an online vegan bake shop and I will mail you dessert!! This is something I’m seriously thinking about doing – I could share the sweetness with the world, have more excuses for baking, and have something to feel excited about/look forward to. I just need to bake lots of things I want to offer in the shop, photograph them, and then put the shop together. I’ll keep you updated! There may be cheesecakes and cobblers in your future!

Here, for instance, is a vegan raspberry cobbler I made (yes it’s the same pan):

I’ve been reading an excellent poet lately who I’d never heard of before – Lisel Mueller. My mum gave me the book for x-mas, and honestly I didn’t have much hope – usually when people give me poetry it’s rarely the sort of poetry I’d like to read (ie it’s truly awful). This time, however, I was shocked and delighted!

In similar news, I’ve been writing more, which is fantastic and makes me feel more like myself, makes the world feel less heinous, and makes my life feel more like my own. Not that any of the writing’s any good, but I try to remember that’s not the main point and it’ll happen on its own when it damn well wants to, probably when I’m not trying so hard and am just engulfed in the process. Kind of like looking at certain stars, how you can’t see their light if you look directly at them, but if you look just off to the side as though you’ve forgotten about them you can see the smudge of brightness.

Also, the way Whitney Port (from the questionable tv show The Hills) genuinely smiles, causing her nose to wrinkle considerably, makes me swoon. I will try to find you a picture of this phenomenon. OMG I found one!! Not the best example, but still, the lovely Whitney with her cute nose wrinkles!!
(Please ignore the girl on the left):

Impending Resurrection!

January 12, 2009

Hello blog readers! (Or, people who randomly find the blog when searching for various pictures that happen to be posted here). As you may have noticed, this blog of mine has been rather dead for quite some time (about a year and a half, WHOA).

/

I’m going to try to go from dead-fly-blog to something more alive and vibrant, like the Resurrection Lily:

/

Right now the process feels a bit like this:

/

While I’ve written countless blog posts in my head and thought of hundreds of things I wanted to share with you, alas none of them made it to this screen. Often when I feel like I’m falling really behind in something, I tend to become overwhelmed and unable to move forward, paralyzed with guilt and worry. My blog post ideas just kept piling up, with no outlet.

/

Many things have taken place in my life since I last posted here, and although I’d like to update you on *every* single one of them, we both have to accept that I can’t do that. What I’d really like to do, dear blog readers (accidental or not), is start up this blog again as though no time has passed. So, that is the plan! If anyone has any specific questions about my life during the lengthy silence please ask them! Meanwhile, I shall attempt to resurrect Autobiography of Blue! I’m really glad to be back.

Resurrection Bay, in Alaska:
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Sickness, Aliens, Romance Novels

May 9, 2007

My life has been quite odd lately. I feel a bit as though I’ve slipped into an alternate dimension where all elements are decidedly different — light, sound, time, speech, matter. Everything has been too bright or too shadowy, time has been thick and slow or breathtakingly quick. Sometimes I don’t recognize my own body. Chronic illness transforms your body into the unknown, feared enemy, yet it is essential to approach that “enemy” with compassion and kindness, as though it is indeed your own. I’ve talked about this before.

I have a list of things I’ve wanted to share with you, but for the moment at least I’m figuratively throwing out the list (figuratively because the list is hibernating at the bottom of an unsteady pile of many other neglected items). Various things have occurred in my life in the last month-ish, including a lovely visit from my mother. Here is a picture of my mother and me making cupcakes long ago (I am the small child with the strangely droopy-eyed expression…also I seem to be wearing a ribbon of some kind…why am I wearing a ribbon?!):

hannahandmom1.jpg

I don’t know what other word to use to describe how I’ve been the last week or so other than sick. Several unpleasant symptoms arose simultaneously, which is always terribly exciting. I won’t go into completely lurid detail, because I must maintain some semblance of not being 75 years old. Okay, I wanted to give you a picture of a 75 year old woman at this point in the post, and although I found several worthy candidates, I realized how ageist and unfortunate I’m being, and could not bring myself to implicate some unsuspecting elderly woman in my stereotyping. So, instead, here is a close-up of the border of a 75 year old certificate from an MIT fraternity, depicting a woman and an eagle. Enjoy!

sort of a 75 year old woman

I will tell you that I’ve had a few migraines (or perhaps one lengthy migraine which took a short vacation in the middle). I’ve had migraines many times before but these were much worse than usual, spanning quite a few days each, and were accompanied by other unsettling symptoms. I had a fever for a couple days during the migraine, along with stomach issues and a complete lack of appetite. It can be quite frustrating when things like this happen, because it is virtually impossible for me to determine what is causing the symptoms or what will alleviate them. I wondered if I had some kind of flu, or if it was all related to the migraine, or something else entirely that just crashed the migraine party. Normally, with a little reassurance from Rob, I can assuage my worries about new symptoms (do I have meningitis, are aliens infecting me through my dreams, am I secretly an alien, etc…).

aliens!

However, I know it’s important to rule out the possibility of something other than FM or dysautonomia when completely new, inexplicable symptoms appear. Clearly I need to find a general practitioner so I have someone to help me rule out alien influence. The last two GPs I had did not believe FM was a legitimate condition, and since I left them I haven’t had the energy to find a new doctor.

doctor!

The migraine, etc was also upsetting because I experienced a new kind of pain with it. I think I had forgotten an important truth, which is that unless you are dead it is always possible to feel worse than you currently feel. I’d thought I’d experienced some version of every kind of pain my body could produce, but that is clearly not true. Along with the migraine, there was what felt like a tiny, intricate net of extremely sharp pain imbedded in the muscles of my arms, neck, shoulders, and legs. I’ve experienced sharp pain in these areas before, I think almost everyone with FM has, but for me pain at its worst can be near-constant, but there are always breaks, even if only for a few hours. This weird net-like pain was constant, which made me feel a tad crazy, even while lying in bed with the lights out.

net

Thankfully, this specific species of pain gradually left me yesterday, and I am now left with just remnants of the last week’s experiences — a slightly throbbing jaw/headache, mild stomach problems, exhaustion.

My dysautonomia (which I’m going to try to call DA from now on) has also been in an uproar lately, probably exacerbated by all the other excitement. I can go from shivering cold to soaked with sweat and back again in 5 minutes. I’ve been incredibly light-headed, dizzy, and out of breath just from basic movement.

If I’ve had enough symptom-ing, you probably have too. Moving on, here is a book I recently read, recommended to me by my brother Boris (who has introduced me to many of the authors and musicians I love):

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let me Go is the first book by Kazuo Ishiguro I’ve read, and I found it to be incredibly moving. It snuck up on me — I was about 2/3 of the way through it, feeling mildly intrigued, enjoying myself, but a bit distantly, when I realized I was engaged in something much more powerful, real, and immediate than I’d thought. If you’ve read it, please share your thoughts, even if (especially if!) they differ from my reactions.

I’m now re-reading Pride and Prejudice (I watched the 5 hour BBC film version for the millionth time in my recovery period of being ill — it’s my comfort film, clearly) while I wait to read Haruki Murakami‘s new book (I am enormously excited!).

I’ve also begun a new jewelry project, inspired tangentially by my lovely friend Clare, which involves cutting out the scandalous phrases from romance novels and making things out of them (pendants, bracelets, rings). It is all very amusing.

romance novel!

Wow, clearly I need to read this, and/or hang it on my wall:

CUPCAKE ROMANCE NOVEL

In closing, I would like to express my fervent desire that the producers of the american version of Iron Chef create a vegan version of the show, or at least a vegetarian one, so that Rob and I can stop watching delicious things like cilantro and tofu

cilantro! yum!

tofu!

marred by things like duck fat, fried claws, and snail shavings (none of which I made up, unfortunately, or will be providing a picture of (you’re welcome)).

teaser

April 27, 2007

For those of you still stopping by, I wanted to reassure you that I have not fallen off the face of the earth. I will, in fact, reappear shortly and update you on biofeedback appointments, medications, cupcakes, visitors, gardening, and the general state of my life with FM/dysautonomia. I can sense your excited anticipation through the screen, even across all these miles. I will not disappoint you!

Here is a picture of anticipation:

anticipation

and here is a picture of disappointment, which I hope you will not feel upon reading my upcoming posts:

disappointment

College program for Chronic Illness

April 4, 2007

DePaul University in Chicago is, I believe, the only university or college in the country to have a specific program designed to help students with chronic illnesses finish their degrees. I think this is a very exciting, necessary program! I only wish there were more programs like this one, and that universities were more aware of the unique hurdles students with chronic illnesses face when trying to earn a degree.

DePaul’s program has no minimun course load requirement, no limit on the length of time needed to complete a degree, and they allow students to be inactive for a quarter or more if necessary, without losing their enrollment standing. I think this is so fantastic and wonderful, and I can imagine that it would make attending classes infinitely less stressful. Although I know very little about the university otherwise, I really respect DePaul for opening up doors to students like me that were previously quite bolted shut (and you can imagine how difficult it is to pry doors open when you are already exhausted).

Here is information about the program, from DePaul’s website.

Here is a brief article about a symposium DePaul is having about college and chronic illness.

DePaul University

Spaghetti Squash, Cupcakes, Ultram

March 31, 2007

To balance out the seriousness of the previous post, I’d like to share with you two food-related excitments in my life recently.

food!

It is often really difficult to prepare easy, quick, appetizing, and nutritious food when my energy level is exceptionally low or my pain level is high (or other myriad FM and dysautonomia symptoms are present). Perhaps I will write more about this in a future post. I often wish there was a cookbook written specifically for people with chronic illnesses. Maybe I’ll have to write one myself.

cookbook!

Rob and I often cook together, and having his help sometimes makes the difference between eating a good meal or not attempting it at all.

So, we’ve had a lovely golden spaghetti squash sitting on our counter for too long, and a few days ago I did a little online recipe research to figure out how to make the spaghetti squash appealing (I am a butternut squash person generally).

spaghetti squash

butternut squash!

None of the recipes really spoke to my diet or energy level, however. I ended up piecing a few together, adding some of my own ideas, and somehow managed to create the Most Delicious spaghetti squash dish! It’s pretty simple, but I was still impressed.

One thing I did that made a huge difference was to repeatedly stab the enormous squash with a knife (and a fork, because it made an interesting pattern) instead of cutting it in half before baking it. This was fun, and eliminated the excrutiating task of wrestling the hard squash in half. After it was baked, cutting it in half was almost effortless. Also, I was able to rest while the squash was baking, before I made an enjoyable sauce. The sauce consisted of a large onion and garlic sauteed in a little olive oil, 4 tomatoes chopped up, vegetable broth, lots of herbs (basil, marjoram, oregano, chili powder) and pepper, a little salt, and of course nutritional yeast, which I always use lots of because it is good for you and I LOVE its taste. I scraped all the spaghetti squash into a large bakeable dish (spaghetti squash is so weird!!),

whoa

poured the sauce on top of it, grated some parmesan cheese on top, and baked it for about 15 minutes. It was So Delicious. I used pre-chopped garlic, because I reached my chopping limit (cue hand/arm pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, etc) after dicing the large onion and the tomatoes. While I prefer fresh garlic, this is the kind of adaptation that is necessary in order to get through daily life with a chronic illness. Doing less in this way allows me to do more.

tomatoes!

parmesan!

Also, to depart momentarily from vegetables, I have recently discovered a heretofore hidden love of CUPCAKES.

CUPCAKES

Aahh! Why don’t I live in Chicago?! http://chicagocupcakes.com/

I tried to make some from The Joy of Cooking a little while ago, and somehow managed to create the antithesis of a cupcake, which was quite sad. I want to make a cupcake recipe from Vegan With a Vengeance,

Vegan With a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

which I love reading but wish there was an FM-friendly version of (sigh). Meanwhile, I’m going to use a mix (but! calm down, it is filled only with non-hydrogenated oils and no gross chemicals!).

CUPCAKE

For now, I’m dealing with my chocolate/sweets issue (detailed in the post Gluttony vs. Pain) by making sure that the majority of said sweets are as healthy as possible (made with whole grains, healthy fats, no high fructose corn syrup or preservatives, etc). However, my cravings for sweet chocolatey-ness when I feel like I’ve been repeatedly run-over are still not ideal. At least I am not craving Vicodin, right? This is what I tell myself.

Speaking of pain pills, I would like to share with you my experience with Ultram, or Tramadol, keeping in mind that people react to medications differently. Dr. Silverman first prescribed this for me almost 2 months ago.

Ultram!

It is the most widely-prescribed pain pill for FM patients, because it affects the opioid receptors in the brain (as opposed to reducing non-existent swelling, which is all that over the counter pain meds do for most FM sufferers). Also, it has a low risk of dependence, it’s not a narcotic, and it has the side-effect of increasing levels of seratonin, which are almost always low in people who have FM. At first I was quite skeptical of its eficacy, as I’ve never been given any medication that has affected my pain in any way. However! While Ultram does not eliminate my pain by any means, it does seem to file down the sharp edges of the pain, and has often allowed me to have active, enjoyable days with little focus on pain.

Ultram!

It has been quite exciting! I do notice that I take about half as much as the doctor prescribed, which is evidence of my lingering societally-influenced belief that medication is negative and a sign of weakness. I am fighting this belief, because I also know that the kind of pain I am chronically in can actually change the structure of my brain, causing damage to a variety of areas. (I try not to think about that too much however, as it is distressing).

Okay, I’m about to venture into my kitchen and attempt to construct something edible, simple, and healthy. Wish me luck!

Kitchen, by Banana Yoshimoto

Illness as Metaphor, or Befriending the Enemy

March 31, 2007

Without the imposed structure of work or school,

work

school

there are times when I forget everything I love about my life and buy into the societal belief that a lack of structure equals incompetence, laziness, and worthlessness. I’ve worked very hard to move away from this negative belief, and to realize that whatever I am excited about, whatever makes me momentarily forget about FM and dysautonomia is worth pursuing. This leads me to a string of cliches, all of which, however, are relevant: who are you living for? follow your bliss, etc.

follow your bliss!

follow your bliss!

My health issues add another element to the search for what I want to “do.” It becomes harder to clearly look inside myself and know what direction I want my life to take when my health issues limit the possibilities.

I used to want very strongly to be a neuropsychologist and work with children on the Autistic spectrum. While I am still deeply fascinated by Autistic disorders, the classes/degrees required to get to that point are currently out of my reach, not to mention the fact that even a part time job (especially in a situation where I could get physically injured) is currently too much for me. Also, my very brief stint at the Lovaas Institute showed me that not all Autism treatment is equal or in agreement with my philosophies. Despite its successes, I know I never want to have anything to do with ABA (applied behavior anaysis) or DTT (discreet trial training). I’d really like to learn more about Floortime techniques, as it sounds more like the kind of treatment I’d like to be a part of. Some Austic individuals who have undergone ABA have written about the negative impact it can have. Here’s one such person disputing the neutrality of wikipedia’s entry, complete with an excerpt from his autobiography. Jasmine Lee O’Neill (who I mentioned in an earlier post) is also Autistic and anti-ABA.

Through the Eyes of Aliens by Jasmine Lee O'Neill

Okay, thus ends the Autism tangent.

Although I’ve had FM for years, obviously I still struggle to integrate my old self and goals with my current reality. Although I realize it directly contradicts what I’ve written in the previous paragraphs, I try to think of FM and dysautonomia as opening up possibilities in my life as opposed to limiting them. Every legitimate treatment plan I’ve come across emphasizes this paradox in some way — that FM/chronic illness will derail your previous assumptions about your self, your plans, your daily life, but the only way to successfully live with it is to fully accept that everything has changed, and to adapt, make new plans, to move forward without dwelling on regrets, resentment, disappointment.

Here is Robert Pepperell’s painting “Paradox:”

http://robertpepperell.com/

For me, there is a huge difference between knowing this intellectually and believing it emotionally. I’ve come a long way in the last year and a half or so (with the help of my therapist who has sadly since moved) towards truly accepting my chronic illness and changing my life in ways that help me. I used to view FM as a separate entity, something I was always fighting against, always hating, always trying to act like I didn’t have it. This attitude, which felt like strength, like “not giving up,” actually made my symptoms and my emotional state worse.

Now, more and more often I’m able to see my chronic illness not as an enemy but simply as the state my body is in, as something that I need to help it with. My body and I are friends now (with an occasional spat or misunderstanding, but these are present in any friendship), and I’ve started listening to it and adapting my behaviors in response.

I used to want to tread upon the neck of FM (and by extension, my own body) like Naram-suen trod upon the necks of his enemies:

Tread upon the neck of your enemies!

But now my body and I are

BFF!

BFF!

In the past, if I was engaged in something and my body complained, I would ignore it and continue doing whatever it was I was doing, because I thought that kept me from being weak or letting the illness “win”. I think it was also because I didn’t want to look it in the face, to accept what I’d lost and to start the hard work of finding a new life. I’ve met many FM sufferers who share this maladaptive view, that pushing their physical limits and ignoring the symptoms is a way of “fighting back,” of not giving up. I’m incredibly glad that it didn’t take me longer to shed this way of thinking.

In honor of this post, I’m going to begin reading Illness as Metaphor by Susan Sontag. I started this text a few years ago, but I think that at the time I was still judging myself from the standpoint of those metaphors, and I wasn’t really ready to emerge from them.

Ilness as Metaphor by Susan Sontag

What kind of reader are you?

March 26, 2007
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader
 

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
 
Literate Good Citizen
 
Book Snob
 
Non-Reader
 
Fad Reader
 
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Dwarf sunflowers, seitan, bad days

March 24, 2007

I just wrote a post, complete with illustrations, and through a series of absurdly frustrating events it has been lost.

sigh

However! Instead of throwing myself to the floor and forsaking my computer, I am going to re-create the post for you. Let’s hope that the parts I forget needed to be edited anyway.

Despite my previous assertion that summery weather increases my mood, yesterday’s blue skies and a world full of palm trees and sunlight found me feeling hopeless, scattered, and stuck. My physical pain was increased, caused by a variety of factors, some of which remain a mystery. I also missed my nightly dose of Rozerem the previous night (because I had been too exhausted to pick up my refill). I wonder if there is a correlation between the missed Rozerem and the increase in pain, but it is impossible to be sure.

I wanted to share my day with you, but I was afraid that anything I wrote would be overtly negative and in all caps (I HATE EVERYTHING TODAY, etc), and I didn’t want to subject you to that. (You’re welcome). However, in the absence of articulation I was able to find some images that reflected how I was feeling. Here are those images, only slightly belated:

Jan Koepper
http://www.jankoepper.de


Dying Amazon, Franz von Stuck, 1905

http://www.chocolatespoon.com/musings/index.html

I am feeling a bit less stagnant today, although I am still skeptical of the day’s ability to keep me afloat. To increase my chances of floating, and to remind myself of the positive occurrences in my life lately, here is a list of them:

1) Rob and I are going to a film premiere tonight, at which a short film he scored will be screened. This is exciting in and of itself, and it also means that I get to dress up (my black opaque striped tights will make an appearance, as will my black velvet jacket!). Perhaps you will have the honor of viewing a photograph of the two of us looking dashing.

red carpet

2) I finally made an appointment with the biofeedback for heart rate variability person that Dr. Silverman referred me to in order to treat my dysautonomia. His name is Dr. Kassel, and I spoke briefly with him on the phone — he sounds quite promising — warm and amusing, like a real person as opposed to a Doctor. I am cautiously hopeful about the appointment, and I’ll let you know how it goes. It will be fun to be hooked up to machines and covered with electrodes and wires!

biofeedback

biofeedback

3) One of the dwarf sunflowers that I grew from seed has bloomed as of today! It is so valiant with its small stalk and rich yellow petals. I think I shall plant many more dwarf sunflower seeds so that I can have a miniature orchard of them!

dwarf sunflowers

4) Yesterday I took the 2 doggies to the dog park, and despite Artie’s incessant, remarkably sonorous barking (my FM makes loud noises painful for me), it was a successful outing. Olive and Artie were delighted to explore sans leashes, and taking them made me feel more like a real person, despite the otherwise gloomy nature of my day.

5) Rob and I made seitan burritos/tacos last night, and they were scrumptious! I made mine with garlicky spinach, soy cheese, and tons of cilantro and salsa. If it weren’t for the scurvy, I could live on mochi, seitan, and artichokes. Which reminds me of a game my father and I used to play — we’d pick a few food items and (mentally) determine whether you could nutritionally survive on only those. There was also another game in which I’d have to decide whether the various parts that made up our meal were old world food or new world food. Linguistic anthropologists can make amusing fathers.

6) I wrote this post twice, despite being hungry and having low energy, which is officially impressive.


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