Monday, May 31, 2010


Lithium is like a drop of dishsoap in greasy water.  It magnifies and cleanses everything around it as is spreads its way through the grease and gunk.   

I don’t know when I started it, sometime after the last blog entry.  The truth is that I was more suicidal and exhausted and hopeless in those last months of winter and early spring than when I entered the hospital.  It was a numb life.  There was nothing more to say, nothing more to do but take the meds and attempt to keep some sense of normalcy, eat, sleep, exercise.  I was existing.  Whatever projects I went after lay unfinished by day's end and I slept longer and longer nights and napped most days around the kids' school schedule. 

Dr. Moore prescribed an anti-depressant dose of lithium.  I was sick with terror.  Did she think I was bipolar?  Would I have to take it forever?  What were the side affects? My cocktail had grown to 9 pills each night and I felt completely unsure of my ability to heal with all these crutches.

For a week I had a splitting headache, nausea and horrible bowels.  It didn’t seem livable.  It thought I might prefer just wishing to die.  I drank so much water avoiding dehydration that I made myself sick.  Dismal.

And just as they came on, my symptoms abated, leaving my mind clear as if wiped clean by all that misery. 

For years I hadn’t been able to stand color.  I found it garish, distracting, attention getting and unnecessary.  Since I’ve been on lithium I’ve sought out the bright.  I put fresh flowers by my bed each week and painted the kitchen yellow.  I let Olive choose whatever color she wanted for her bedroom.  Purple.

I started showering and fixing my hair.  I started choosing what clothes I would put on, not grabbing the nearest thing off the floor. 

I got my professional life into semi-order, picking up where I had left clients hanging.  Going back to the drawing board, completing unfinished pieces and starting ones that haunted me through my sickness.

I put energy and attention into my insurance appeal.  It became a line in the sand.  It was a slim prospect that Premera would overturn its denial of my hospital stay - we did not have mental health coverage in the plan my husband’s company chose – but I felt my circumstances to be overwhelmingly clear.

After a few months I wasn't able to tolerate the lithium any longer but found a substitute that continues to give me life, let me feel and express joy and, mostly, want to live.  

I will know by June 15 the final details of my insurance appeal for something like $30,000 of hospitalization.  I have been winning incremental battles and have found the effort invigorating.  It is an advocacy I am blatantly passionate about. 

I've posted a blog on my website: "Hot off the Forge".  Follow me there.  I will update my ever-changing experience with and reflections on severe depression and major medication but mostly I will share my work and my life as artist, wife, mother, daughter, sister, woman, friend, neighbor...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Moving on...

It is time for me to put my depression aside.  The truth is too awful to give life through writing any longer.  It will always hover at some stratosphere in my brain - dark, heavy roiling clouds.  Sometimes menacing the hills, sometimes drenching my very soul.

This bout had me on my knees and now I will stand up and move on, even if on leaden legs.  The pain will ease.  I will forget it's intensity until it shatters me again.  Perhaps I'll be quicker to notice the signs, to seek medical and professional help.  Perhaps I will continue to be one tough, stubborn cookie until I am flattened.  But I will endure.

Thank you for your kind, encouraging, insightful remarks; and for listening (reading).  If just one reader is freed to seek help for mental illness or someone grew to accept with compassion a loved one's depression than I have done more than just alleviate my burden.  Writing has been cathartic and moving, if only to respect from arm's length what happens when the brain's chemistry is not right.

Please do not hesitate to comment here or reach me at  I am always willing to share my experience and would do anything to ease someone's suffering.  Spencer and I are going to be certified as a therapeutic pet partner team and I can feel it healing already.

                                                                 Living the dream...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

pearl for the day

Depression doesn't care if you hate it's guts and never want to see it again.  It doesn't care what you have planned for the day or the week or the month.  It doesn't care if you don't sleep well or have children or need groceries. It doesn't care if you have loftier pursuits; or lesser.  It doesn't care if your spouse and friends are patient or judgmental.  It doesn't care.

Monday, November 2, 2009

plumbing therapy

Halloween was all trick and no treat for me.  I'm troubled by a combination of things and find my fingers  raw from the death grip I've got on life.  My depression and anxiety are slipping and I'm under a lingering cloud of malaise about the jury trial.

Halloween night we suited up the kids - whose costumes were a complete success and an outlet for me for what was a long week of sad evenings.  We made rounds of the neighborhood depositing cold and tired kids at Owen's as they fell.  Olive might have gone on the whole night.

Hopefully we'll get some action shots passed on from others taking photos that night...the kids were SO ready to go in these pictures...less than cooperative.

I was simply unable to contain myself at a really nice gathering of friends and had Mike take Spencer and me home for a good cry and sleep.  I realize the foolishness of dropping my doses of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety so I went back to the hospital discharge amounts of everything.  Dr. Moore is out of town then booked for two weeks so I'll have to give the heads up that I've gone rogue and would like to be worked in perhaps on a cancellation.  In the meantime, it made perfect sense to do what she would have me do if I had gotten in to see her this weekend.  LET THE MEDICATION TAKE EFFECT.  I do feel foolish and in the way of myself but I get scared and impatient and have a very strong need to FEEL in control (BEING in control being an illusion, of course).  So that's where I've been over the weekend.

Clearly things are improving in that yesterday we had 6-sinks in working order on the main level of our ridiculously fabulous house and today we have only two that run, the other four in various stages of removal or upgrade or repair.  It would be unheard of to take on one at a time...think of the trips to the hardware store.  I worked with what I had until I was too tired to work anymore last night then went at 6am this morning to Lowe's with my perfectly annotated list.  I don't think I got more than 2-pieces right.  We've had 2 of 6 sinks for 12 hours and I still have to go back to the hardware store.  Next time, one at a time.  But this evening, two will be in the back of the pickup, which hasn't sold, on their way to the dump, one will have been replaced, and the other has a brand spankin' new faucet to replace the leaky one with the hose that had no pressure.  Plumbing therapy.

Friday, October 30, 2009

snowy silence

I am sleeping long and fairly well under the influence of various and assorted prescription medications.  But sleep is sleep.

I awoke Wednesday to the first snow.  It has been a gloriously long, cool, sunny fall and I can't say that I'm not prepared for snow, but I can say that I'm not ready to be snow-bound.  Bound by snow,  as opposed to bound for snow.

A friend helped herf the remaining gems from my steel yard back into the garage so I can have all my muses shelved within site.  I have renamed the place I will be working, per Shake's artist friend whom I have never met but who now lives on in my "garagio".

The only relief I can see for me at present in to delve into work.  The logistics literally elude me.  I once saw a sign at a copy machine noting something to the effect that "this machine malfunctions relative to your degree of urgency."  HA!  In a herculean effort I got the garagio readied and finished a repair job.  (You may recall the triumphant blog.)  Next thing, a 15-foot trampoline in it's entirety is spread across the garage floor, drying.  That put away, all type of half empty flower pot, deck chair and mildewed pillows sprawl out,  because I cannot put them away without cleaning them, refinishing them, repairing them.  What a buzz kill that would be in the spring.  What havoc that wreaks on me now.  I have dutifully increased the anti-anxieties because it seems that a more balanced me could prioritize the urgent need for creative outlet and pass over the dutiful bleaching of flower pots and brightening of teak.  The backstory and pressure behind 'brightening' teak that must be exorcized.  However, aesthetically, bright teak will, in fact, look much better on present deck.  Silvered teak was quite fitting at the 'little yellow house on Turnagain Parkway" as the kids refer to it.

So I should sign off, RE-clear my garagio, and get to work.  But, alas, it is an in-service day and the children are home and wanting their very cool halloween costumes completed.  The truth is that I have gotten immense satisfaction out of making these costumes.  Olive could be Anne Boleyn, Margaret said.  Rennick was destroyed that his gun was so small and now has something that makes me nervous just looking at in on the kitchen table.  It's a big gun.  It's an oozy-meets-a-ground-to-air-missle thing.  There is no real magazine, so I guess the ammunition is electrical or maybe comes directly from Optimus Prime himself?  The characters never reload, so that's one less thing I have to worry about.  The gun, by the way, is made out of the insulating foam for water pipes.  I bought two 6' lengths from the hardware store because I love the hardware store and I knew Rennick wanted a big gun.  He also needs two smoke stacks mounted on his shoulders (as any Mac-truck-converting-to-walking-robot does).  So I'm making the gun and the rest of the Heatwoles are suddenly Stars Wars types using the damn tubing as light sabers.  Mike, quite pleased with himself, light-sabers me.  I think something came out of my eyes in defense.  Good to know the force is with me.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Weighty matters

Apropos of nothing, there are stick-on eyeballs lying around all around the house.

I have been struggling with weighty matters these past few days.  Primarily, 5-yards of dark purple velvet and pink satin for the aforementioned medieval princess dress.  The dress has a gored (is that a word?) skirt and bell sleeves that one could smuggle a small child in.  I opted at every measurement for extra fabric because I am a classic cut-it-too-short-enougher.  Plus, figuring the time commitment and general yardage involved, I thought this should be something that could be worn for many halloweens and proms to come.  I will see to it.  Prom dresses are getting so small these days that we should be able to work something out.

The lady at the fabric store suggested I make a size 12 for my size 8 daughter in order to fit over the snow suit this year and allow for growth.  I could NOT make sense of all the little ticks and marks on the pattern so I cut the whole thing out at the maximum size (14) plus left a little for seam allowance.  A microscopic seam allowance is allowed in the pattern but the few of you who have seen me attempt anything with a sewing machine know that I require several inches.  I now have a dress that would fit me nicely with the waist of a child.  It's grotesquely Barbie in that way.  I'll be taking several yards out of the armpits and a foot or two off the length.

I would post a picture for your entertainment but Miss O has been with her Nanny Margaret this week while I've been in jury deliberations and therefore has not been available for a fitting or photo op.  I have harassed Rennick into the dress for gross measurement purposes the few times I found him willing.  Fearing my own brother's lingering (and justified) resentment toward the wearing of nightgowns and dresses and wigs and such, I backed off after a quick glance at the overall misfit of the thing.  Back to sewing machine to wrestle ten pounds of slinky, slippery fabric.

The weekend thusly had me weighed down by fabric in lap and court case on the brain. My anxiety was amuck and when I don't get the pills just right I am very uncomfortable; edgy, fuzzy, nauseous, somnolent.  By Monday I had settled my mind and body enough to calmly observe that our jury would not end in agreement. As today drew to a close, our peers had begun to press one another.  Judgements were asserted and voices raised.  Members spoke in absolutes over the top of one another until several were admonished to say nothing more at all.  Tonight, we left, having reached only impass - a hung jury of tears, shouting, finger pointing, and generally poor behavior.  We had been consumed with avoiding judging the lifestyles and morals and actions of the defendant and the alleged 'victim'  - that was not our place and we had very specific directions about the decisions we were asked to come to, how and why.  Yet our lofty and esteemed jury fell victim to it's own fears.  One member, slamming a document shut, declared the whole thing shameful and wished nothing more with any of us.

I walked to the car slowly and alone.  I went to the gym and left as much of it there as I could.  I wept for the rest of it in the car on the way home.

Friday, October 23, 2009


I heard a new 'new age folk' group play for a packed house at Vagabond Blues in Palmer Sunday night.  (I know you're thinking how good can a gig be at a coffee house in Palmer on a Sunday night?)


I became immediately obsessed with the voice and lyrics of Cindy Bullens.  Any of you who knew me when the movie 'Elizabeth' (about the queen) came out know how I can get.  Maybe only Michael knows this about me?  I have read Cindy's entire web page, including press, road diary, ALL lyrics, looked at ALL photos and sent fan email.  I listen over and over and over and over to several tracks on the CD all day everyday.  I do this for several weeks, usually.

I put the links to the group, The Refugees, and my own personal obsession, Cindy Bullens at the top of this site.  If you like Bonnie Raitt, Indigo Girls, Wailin' Jennys, check these women out.  (They give one helluva live performance and are very, very funny women.  And I mean women.  Two of them have grandchildren and, well, here's the ADN review:

Vocals at the heart of Refugees' Americana sound

EXPERIENCE: Trio players have sung with, written for many well-known artists.
You can't call the three women who performed at Sydney Laurence Theatre on Saturday night a novice act. They have about a century of major league professional work among them. Their resumes include Grammy nominations, backing up stars like Bob Dylan and Bonnie Raitt, penning hits for other singers.
On the other hand, Cindy Bullens, Wendy Waldman and Deborah Holland only recently came together as The Refugees and their first album just came out this year -- so you can accurately describe them as a startup group. Maybe the most experienced startup group ever.
The experience showed in their tightly coordinated vocal harmonies -- the heart of the band's sound -- and the ease with which they comported themselves on stage. They made their compelling blend of voices, accuracy of pitch and clear enunciation of the lyrics seem effortless.  (etc. etc.)

They are on iTunes if you simply cannot live without 'oriental silk', 'jellico highway' (cindy's version), 'unbound', 'house of love', 'you plant your fields', or 'all my angels'.  I certainly cannot, but I already bought the CDs and had them autographed.