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Wow. Lots of stuff.

I seem to have been neglecting this journal lately. I glanced at it today, just because an old friend from Scotland mentioned that he'd discovered it & that always makes me curious about what I've written, since I tend to be pretty oblivious how I'm presenting myself, and I was shocked at all the stuff that's happened that I haven't written about. I've been focusing largely on nightmares and panic attacks, and all the other less dramatic stuff has been falling by the wayside. So I'm going to try to catch up.

Birthday

My birthday was March 28, so Shannon and I went out to dinner (I can't remember where! How weird is that? Obviously, very appropriately, evidence that I'm getting old!) & then the next day Lisa and I went to the Palace Hotel in SF for afternoon tea. It was a great, very relaxed birthday. The in-laws came up on the 30th to see Shannon & me for both our birthdays (since Shannon's was on the 24th), and it was nice to see them again, too.

It wasn't the flashiest birthday season I've ever arranged for myself, but it was wonderful and quiet and relaxing and mostly centered around food. Ha.

Art

I finished my "Giving Tree" collage the first week of April, but didn't post the completed piece, so I'll post it here now.
The Giving Tree
This is my take on a reversal of Shel Silverstein's story "The Giving Tree." In my version, the tree is giving, but no one and nothing is taking like the little boy does in the story. There is only giving. The tree expands both upward and downward, protecting the sleeping woman/insect/creature beneath, but without being in any way damaged or drained by this gift. I see every part of this piece as a reflection of some part of myself: the vulnerable part of me that needs and wants to be sheltered, the strong part of me that grows beneath the surface to ground me and keep me strong, the external growth I share with the world, and the infinite room for growth presented by the sky. Also, the sky involves both sun and moon, both day and night, as I once again feel a kinship with both. The piece is about giving, and it's entirely about me giving to myself. It was a very fulfilling project.

(The whole piece, again, is made entirely of cut-up pieces of a book, since books are still the foundation of how I define myself, even if that definition is currently very complicated.)

I submitted this piece, along with three others (including my self-portrait, part of which is visible in my current icon) in a call for art for an exhibition in the Berkeley Civic Center. I don't think I have a huge chance of having anything chosen, but it's worth sending my stuff in. Why not?

I sent my mom pics of some of the art I'm submitting, and she wrote back that she thinks my stuff is definitely good enough to compete with professional artists, and that encouragement felt amazingly wonderful. My mom hasn't shown a lot of interest in my art, so that acknowledgement and praise had a big impact on me.

I'm currently working on a complicated 3D interactive project involving small, flat, geometric tiles that fit within a frame and can be manipulated to form different visual and emotional combinations. The tiles are all decorated differently—some painted, some collaged, all in many different colors, some forming wave-like shapes that can fit together to form a continuing undulation across several tiles, etc.—and some are square, some triangular.

The tile project has been difficult to explain to people, so I figure I'll just have to wait until it's done. I'm having a display case built for it (not too expensive) and my father-in-law is going to help me jerryrig it to get a tilted effect I want.

It's an exciting project, because once the display case is built, the tiles are completely moveable and manipulable, so I can create as many future tiles as I want, and can add them or remove them whenever I feel like it. It's a piece of art that has the potential for infinite future growth and change, and that's neat.

I'll post photos when things are more developed. Maybe I'll take some tomorrow of the tiles & how they can relate to each other, even though it might be difficult to imagine the project as an eventual whole in its current neonatal state.

Writing

I've been doing a fair amount of fiction writing lately, which is quite new. I haven't written much fiction in years, so it's nice to be getting back to it. I'm only writing in my writing groups, and so it's very spontaneous, visceral, no-time-to-think-or-plan kind of writing, but that sometimes ends up bringing up interesting stuff.

For example, in today's writing group our prompt was to write a fairy tale, and I wrote about a girl who lives in a house shaped like a head. (This grew out of the headache I was having at the time.) At some point in the story, I described how the girl, when the weather was bad, would press the house's teeth together and pull the lips down like storm shutters & button them closed against the storm outside.

After I read it aloud to the group, we talked a bit about it, and I somehow ended up getting to a place where I was speaking in a very literal way about this character "buttoning her lips" to prevent getting "hit" by the violence of the weather. And then I heard myself & realized what I was saying, that I was describing a girl keeping her mouth closed to avoid getting hit. And it surprised me. It "hits" a little close to home.

I like it when my writing surprises me. And I like it that I'm writing a bit again.

Physical and Mental Health in General

I'm still concerned about the wavering kidney function numbers. I'm going to ask the new nephrologist to order some labs before I see him, so that we can have an idea of where things are now when I meet him for the first time. The last time they tested my kidney function, it was trending in a worsening direction, so I continue to be a bit anxious about it.

My vision in my left eye is now so bad that I often close my left eye when I need to see anything even remotely clearly. So, for example, I can't work on my computer anymore without closing my left eye. It's sometimes difficult to make both eyes focus on the same place, like I'm developing "lazy eye." It's all very annoying, and I'm extremely excitedly looking forward to the cataract surgery that is now less than a month away.

When I saw the neurologist today, he said not to worry about my numb toes. My lab results showed nothing to worry about excessively, but he wants me to put it on my extensive list of health issues we should "keep an eye on." He wants me to have it checked out every 6-12 months (but, obviously, sooner if anything changes). It's hard to keep track of all the things they want me to have checked on an ongoing basis. Sheesh.

The UCB study I"ve been participating in (have I even written about that here?) is nearly over. There is only one more meeting, Monday of next week, and then I can go back to my normal schedule of being at CWC doing art all day on Mondays. I've missed it terribly, but the stuff we've discussed in the UCB study has been useful, too. Maybe I'll write more about that next week, after our last session, as a way of wrapping it up & looking at what it may have taught me.

The intern I've been seeing at CWC for weekly one-on-one sessions for the past several months is leaving soon. Interns at CWC generally stay for a 12-month internship, then move on to something else. I don't think they ever get to stay longer than that, but some only get to stay a shorter period of time. At any rate, Teresa and I have built a great rapport & I think she's gotten to know me really well & calls me on my garbage really well. I'll miss her tremendously. Since my regular therapist and I will be returning to once-a-week sessions soon (after a few months of twice-a-week), I'll probably want to choose a new intern to see weekly.

Headaches and Tylenol Specifically

As I mentioned, today I saw the neurologist, and he said that I do have arthritis in my neck, but that the resultant bone spur is not bad enough to be likely the entire cause of the extremity of my headaches. He says that he thinks that the problem is a confluence of muscle contraction (causing occipital neuralgia by pinching the nerve in my neck) and muscle tension resulting from the cataract situation.

The immediate plan moving forward

1. Continue using the Tylenol #3 and Tylenol #4 as needed
2. Physical therapy (I have my first appointment next week on Tuesday)
3. Heat on the back of my neck
4. Massage on the back of my neck

My headaches have been much less severe in the past 2 weeks since I first saw the neurologist, and I think that has been because I've been taking Tylenol #3 more willingly than I had been previously. When I develop a significant headache, I take Tylenol #3, rather than waiting until it's debilitating. As a result, it rarely becomes debilitating, and I'm taking a lot less Tylenol #4.

The neurologist is quite certain that I am hooked on codeine and will need to eventually be weaned off slowly. Currently, I usually take 2-3 tablets of Tylenol #3 each day, and I take an additional Tylenol #4 maybe 2 times a week.

Some actual hard numbers

Tylenol #3 = 300 mg acetaminophen + 30 mg codeine
Tylenol #4 = 300 mg acetaminophen + 60 mg codeine

Maximum recommended dosage of codeine = 120 mg every 6 hours (480 mg/day)
Maximum recommended dosage of acetominophen = 4 g (4,000 mg)
My average daily usage = 900-1200 mg acetaminophen, 90-180 mg codeine

The codeine makes me very groggy, so I asked a pharmacist about the possibility of taking addiitonal acetaminophen without the codeine, and she told me that as long as I stay within the max of 4 g/day, that it would be fine. The neurologist has cautioned me about trying to wean myself off the codeine too quickly until the physical therapy has had some time to take effect, so I'm not going to try to do that right now, but I might try taking just some additional acetaminophen (regular OTC Tylenol) when I'm in a situation where I want to take Tylenol #4. I'm thinking I could replace that Tylenol #4 with a Tylenol #3 + 300 mg of regular acetaminophen, so I'd be getting the extra Tylenol without the extra codeine. It's worth a try, anyway. If the headaches don't respond, then I'll continue with the Tylenol #4, but I'm really trying to take as little codeine as is comfortably possible.


I can't think of anything else right now. I'm sure there's more I'm forgetting to write about, but it's bedtime very soon & I'm very tired, so I'll just post this and get mostly caught up for now. It's not like anyone wants this entry to get even longer, right?

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
undeny
Apr. 18th, 2014 11:57 pm (UTC)
I think that collage is amazing. And I love your explanation of it, too.
craig Sergeant
Apr. 19th, 2014 09:19 pm (UTC)
Old Scottish Friend
Happy belated birthday by the way, from your old Scottish friend:}
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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