Tuesday, August 27, 2013

August Health Report...

I've caught up with work for today, so I thought I'd give you all a little health report update at the end of August.

August was very up and down for me. Settling into the degree properly and meeting the challenges set for me probably took more of a toll than I have given it credit for. Also becoming somewhat obsessed with painting probably didn't help. I do tend to become hyper-focused on new activities, so that's nothing new, but with painting being so messy, I did prefer to do it overnight while the kids were asleep.

With all the kids staying up later now - particularly Erik and Lukas - I find it hard to feel as if I get any down time. So, I fell into a pattern of napping in late afternoon then getting up and staying up late into the evening.

I started to forget to take my anti-anxiety medication (because I was usually asleep at the time I scheduled to take it), and after a couple of weeks of that I became overcome with anxiety. It was very depressing realising how reliant I still am on the medication for equilibrium.

Anyway, I ended up taking several steps to combat the insomnia which resulted from all the untimely napping. I've been on this new regime for about a week and half now, and I can report a great improvement. My anxiety has stabilised and I am feeling more cheerful again - despite knowing it is more chemical than anything else. I am getting to bed between 8-10pm and getting up between 7-8.30am - even on the weekend. I haven't done any exercise yet, but I was very generously given a treadmill last weekend and I plan to start using that soon.

I have to admit I still feel very tired a lot of the time, but not so much that I can't think - which was how I was feeling. I even managed to get some painting in during the day on the weekend.

On the whole I don't think my experience of seasonal affective disorder has been as severe this Winter. That is probably because of the medication, but other mitigating factors would include having a car and house with decent heating to fight against the miseries of the season. I just haven't been as exposed to the elements this season as in previous years. Also, this Winter in Melbourne just doesn't seem to have been as cold. We had a very cold snap in early July, but likewise, in late July we had a 23ºC day! Now at the end of August, we're experiencing a run of 20+ºC days.

So, I'm ending this winter on a high note.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Why a label is important to me...

Erik's (and my - she was mine first, but Erik sees her more than I do these days) psychologist asked me the other day why a label for Erik was important to me. It wasn't an accusing question, just one I needed to reflect on.

She is keen to emphasise that we do not need to label Erik as having Aspergers.

He is fourteen and at this tender age, he is keen not to stand out from his peers. He is afraid he will be 'dropped' by his friends if they think he is different - even though he has always been different, just not with a label attached to his difference.

I see his point and I understand why the psychologist is keen not to use the label.

It is quite common to hear people, particularly parents, referring to labels as a negative phenomenon. Labels categorise people and well, they are always imperfect because no two people are the same and categories, by their very nature, tend to want to make everyone within a category appear the same as everyone else within that category.

What I have noticed though is that most often the people who don't like labels are those who don't need them.

You see, having grown up with a disability - or for the politically sensitive, a set of special needs - I know what is to not have an accepted label.

In the same session where the psychologist was trying to convince me a label wasn't a necessity, she had to fill in a form on which she wanted to make special note of my vision impairment. So, she asked me, as so many have asked me before, 'What is the name of your condition.' And I answered, as I have before, 'It has no name, it is similar to De Morsier's Syndrome, but isn't De Morsier's Syndrome.'

'Oh.' she said, and wrote down 'legally blind'. Now legally blind is a label, but it isn't the correct label (even though I use it a lot myself) because it doesn't take into account my lack of a corpus collosum and how that impacts my short term memory or my under developed frontal lobe which affects my ability to control my impulses. Legally blind is a completely inadequate label, but in my case, no one ever got so far as to label my particular syndrome (of which there are at least 70 sufferers in Australia).

Okay, so not having a label makes filling out form tricky, so what?

Well, that's not the only downfall of not having an accepted label.

I've had many labels in my life; lazy, forgetful, disorganised, impulsive, rude, selfish, untrustworthy, careless, antisocial, weird - I could go on, but you get the picture.

Most of these labels refer - unwittingly - back to traits directly linked to my unnamed, unlabelled, condition. If I employ the label legally blind, some of these other labels disappear because people know better. If I also employ the label ADHD, most of the other labels disappear because people know better.

A child tantruming in a shopping mall because their sock is twisted in their shoe, is quickly labelled difficult, disruptive, annoying or spoiled. If, however, it is known the child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder, the behaviour is more readily accepted and dealt with much more compassionately and to the benefit of the child.

Erik is and will always be Erik. He is quirky and yet he has many friends - I'm quite envious of his plethora of friends. Trying to get the assistance he needs at school by telling his teachers, 'He just needs more time, you may have to repeat the instructions, you may need to break things down for him a bit more.'  will come across as precious and excuse making. However, if we go to the school and say, 'Erik has been diagnosed with Aspergers, he needs X, Y, Z.' They are far more likely to take us seriously and meet his special needs.

Without the label, he still has special needs, so he is a kid with special needs. His special needs fall into the category (the very broad and varying category) of ASD.

The label says, 'We're not making this up, we're not being precious or asking for a foot up, we're advocating for our child so he can have equal footing with his peers from the get go.'

That is why a label is important to me.

PS. Also, I won't let Erik buy into the bullcrap that a label makes him different or less than. The label does not change who he is, it is merely a shorthand tool for getting him what he needs.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

New Works...

I'm thinking of setting up a gallery of my paintings here on the blog. I know they're pretty rough and probably not commercially appealing but I'm gaining so much joy from the process of working with paint - especially pouring paint and it would be nice to have one place where I can review my progress.

The other day I gave this painting to mum for her birthday. It makes her think of a particular volcano in Iceland with a glacier in front of it and so it appeals to her.

Anyway, then s-dad pointed out that if you turn it on it's head, it looks like a different landscape altogether and the glacier becomes the sky...

The lighting for the second photo isn't very good, but you get the idea.

Another painting I recently did, turned out to be upside down - at least people prefer to look at the other way up from how it was painted.

This is how I painted the painting. It's an abstract - it isn't supposed to be anything, except perhaps a play with colour and texture.

And this is how people prefer to look at it, because they think it looks like tree trunks in a swamp, or boats moored on a harbour...

It's human nature to try to identify something recognisable in the abstract. In many ways, I think how I prefer to paint - abstract - reflects how I prefer to think, in the abstract, I like to let ideas flow and mix in unconventional ways and see what my subconscious comes up with. It relates well back to the article I read the other way about creative thinkers. My blog stats have blown right out of proportion in the past couple of days with people coming to check out the crazy lady from a particular thread on a parenting forum. There is no doubt I think differently to other people. I question the seemingly, unquestionable, I extrapolate from one topic - which seems related to me - to other which seems unrelated in the view of normal people. Because my view is unconventional, I am judged as being wrong, being crazy, being stupid. I cannot defend my stance. However, I am no more at liberty to adopt someone else's because they would want me to, than they would be to adopt mine.

Ooops, emotional segway... Back to the paintings.

Here is another painting I did in the same painting session last weekend.

I'm quite happy with this, the break up of colour is pleasing to me with large patches of pure white and black, and I think the blue around a couple of the edges lifts the image just enough to draw the eye. This is more what I'm aiming for...

I have also taken up the fine art of tatting.

It is really very simple, though I have found it to be rather unforgiving if you make mistakes. I'm looking at tatted squares and motifs at the moment (I'll be sure to post photos when I've actually taken up the challenge of producing some of my own) - I may use this on my poor, neglected George project.

Remember George? He's still waiting for a bit of tender loving care - I'm getting there I just need to let ideas crystallise in my head a bit more...

Poor Neglected George...

As you can see, I've been busy. What I haven't been busy doing in the past two or three weeks is some serious work on my PhD. So, that is what I'm going to go and do now - for the next five hours - I swear! No, really! I'm going to read articles and summarise them and be very, er... studious starting in four minutes time...

Have a good day everyone!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Days that don't pan out as you thought they would...

Today, I'm having one of those days which hasn't panned out as I thought it would.

It started out okay. I went to bed at 8pm last night and got up just before 7am this morning, which is a major win for me on the sleep front. I took my iron and vitamin B, got dressed, packed my lunch and was ready for a day at work (Uni). The plan was to read and summarise at least two new articles, possibly three.

Then the Grumpy Old Man tells me Rudd has announced that if elected he will legislate that parents who do not vaccinate will not receive Family Tax Benefit A. Now, this is a huge part of our overall income, so I got straight on the net to find out exactly was said. Lucky I did, because it turned out to only be the end of financial year supplement we stand to miss out on. (if you want to skip where I rant about this issue, go past the green text to the next lot of black text ~ you're welcome)

Then, as described in this article, I found that it is possibly only for the years the children are one, two and five - there was no mention of the same supplement amount which is paid in other years. So, it may not affect all our supplement income, possibly only one amount for Ari and only next end of financial year. Time will tell.

This move from the Rudd Government will be very popular amongst the majority of vaccine-invested voting adults (i.e. those whose children and grandchildren are vaccinated). Whether or not it will actually be an effective motivator to those who choose not to vaccinate remains to be seen. As already mentioned in the media in the last couple of days, many non-vaccinators do not rely on Family Tax Benefit part A supplement because it is means tested and they earn too much - many non-vaccinators, contrary to popular opinion are well educated and therefore often high income earners.

Some of us - though well educated - are, nevertheless, reliant on the supplement in question - we are the manipulatable poor. For my family that $726 per child per year is a great boon. To live without it in our current economic state will be a great hardship. The children will doubtlessly miss out in some way, which is very sad.

The thing is, our (meaning mine and the Grumpy Old Man's) choice not to vaccinate is not based on a whim. We do not make this choice lightly. We are not attempting to subvert the Government or be 'alternative' just for the fun of it. We truly believe vaccinations can, and have, harmed our children. We believe the medical profession does not take our concerns seriously and we believe they go to lengths to hide vaccine damage in children when presented with it because it does not suit the agenda of the pharmaceutical companies which profit from these drugs. 

This (hiding negative outcomes from medication use) has been seen to happen with a great range of other drugs and people are often mistrustful of medications for mental health issues or for conditions such as ADHD, and yet our society steadfastly refuses to demand higher standards of testing for vaccines. 

I think the Government might find that neither bribery nor punishment can force parents to go against their better judgement when it comes to the health and well being of their own child.

So, anyway, we will not sell our children's health for the price of $726 or $2000 or even more than that if all supplement payments are to be withheld if a child is not vaccinated.

Back to how my day didn't pan out as expected.

After doing a bit of media research this morning, I headed off to work. First we dropped Ari at kinder. This is when I was reminded that I had put myself down to do kinder duty today. So, instead of going to work this morning, I got to spend the morning with twenty delightful four year olds! I have to say, it put all the stress regarding Rudd's announcement right out of my head for those three hours. It was also nice to get back into the kinder environment and put some of my Certificate III in Children's Services skills to use, I must check and see if they need parents again at some point in September, I really enjoyed my morning!

After coming home at lunch time the plan was to go to mother-in-laws and while Ari and I visited, the Grumpy Old Man would do her grocery shop for her. As it turned out, she hadn't written her shopping list (on purpose, I suspect) and so we just had a nice relax and chat, and I showed her photos from the house, which she hasn't seen yet.

We really need to spend more time just being with her, rather than doing for her. We're really her only social contact that isn't a paid service person (she has a hairdresser, gardener, and cleaner who come around regularly, but all of her friends live too far away and are, like her, too frail to travel).

So, no articles were read and summarised today, but maybe I just needed something completely different anyway!


Sunday, August 18, 2013

What goes up, must come down...

I was feeling so boyant in June. I started this year on a real low - after many years on a real low, actually, but by June I was feeling really good about life again.

I thought it was because we moved house. I thought it was because we'd finally sorted out our finances to a place where we weren't constantly chasing our tails (so long as we were very conservative with our spending). I thought it was because we had a car.

Now I know it was because I was on anxiety medication.

That was quite a depressing realisation when it finally dawned on me. I can't help but feel incomplete as a person because I need medication to feel like living. I know I'm not alone, but still...

You see, I had gotten into a poor pattern with sleeping and in doing so, I had let taking the medication slip. At first it was a day here and there and then it was every second day until finally I realised one day I hadn't taken it in a week.

The realisation came as I sat in tears at 4am feeling completely at a loss as to why I felt so goddamn awful when nothing had changed. We were still in the same beautiful house, the car was in the driveway and running smoothly (relative for her age), and we had money in the bank, but I felt awful. I had had nightmare after nightmare for weeks on end. Really horrible nightmares like Bryn drowning - where I felt the full gamut of grief from denial through to guilt and despondency. I woke up no longer wanting to live.

In fact, I've had that feeling of no longer wanting to live a few times in the past couple of weeks.

Yes, it had truly been a sucky time.

The insomnia has been horrendous. I was not sleeping at all at night and then either trying to catch an hour or two before going to work, or giving up completely and sleeping 10 hours throughout the day.

I cannot keep doing this.

So, I have devised a six point plan to sort myself out.

The Six Point Plan ~

  1. Anti-anxiety medication: I've filled a new prescription for the anxiety medication and will take it every night at dinner time, so I don't forget. When I started taking the meds in Jan/Feb I found they helped to regulate my sleep, so I'm hoping they will do this again, but I won't rely solely on them.
  2. Melatonin: I have some Melatonin from the US - both a rapid action form and a slow release form and I will take both at the same time I take the anti-anxiety meds. Hopefully these will make me feel sleepy by about 9pm at night - which is usually the time I'm starting to wake up.
  3. Iron: I think my iron levels are low and this is part of the reason I feel so sleepy throughout the day and why I am prone to craving a nap mid-afternoon, which then feeds the insomnia during the night and causes me to feel tired through the next day (such a vicious cycle). So, I'm taking liquid iron to try and build up my iron stores.
  4. Berocca: A friend of mine told me recently that she takes Berocca regularly to help with her energy levels. I thought it was really only for hangovers (which I almost never suffer). So, anyway, I've decided to give Berocca a go as well to help keep the energy levels up throughout the day.
  5. Exercise: I'm going to start going for a daily walk again. I used to do this all the time to lose weight. The goal isn't to lose weight this time and I probably won't walk very far, rather it is to get some fresh air and use my body in the hopes that it will help to regulate my hormones and help me sleep more soundly at night and maybe use up some built up tension in my muscles. At the end of the day, I have one of those bodies which - naturally - has a fair bit of (well hidden) muscle and which feels tense and tight when I don't use those muscles. I suffer from restless legs - and arms for that matter - and I often feel like punching something just to dispel the built up tension in the muscles. So, I'm going to walk that tension out.
  6. Sunlight: As a side effect of walking I'm going to get some more sunlight. This is a more natural way of activating the body's melatonin production than taking tablets but I'll take the tablets as well, for now.

It has been nice to be up in the middle of the night and to get painting done and tatting (my newest obsession), but my head is foggy and I feel unable to concentrate enough to get work done for the PhD during daylight hours.

I'm going to see how this goes over the next month.


Tuesday, August 06, 2013

There is no pleasing some people...

I'm still painting... These are the paintings I did in the first week. Yes, I'm an all or nothing sort of person. I personally think that is a good thing; the amount I learned over that one short week was phenomenal. I'm very excited about doing a painting for exhibition later this year! Watch this space, guys, watch this space!

I hadn't posted the following two paintings on the blog yet. Honestly, they don't even really look like this anymore because as the paint dries it becomes transparent in places; changing some of the colours. They mostly looks like this, but is different at the same time.

Psst... This one is actually upside down...

Erik and I had a bit of a chat about my paintings. He's absolutely not a fan of abstract art, it's too abstract for him. He likes paintings to be recognisable - landscapes, faces, bowls of fruit... He doesn't want to examine his emotional response to paint on a canvas. He's a fourteen year old boy with Aspergers, LOL.

I thought I'd help him out a bit and did a painting with a bit more structure. It didn't engage him.

You can't see it in this photo, but the background is an iridescent copper.

So, I tried again and did something a bit more 'realistic' - this is where I want to emphasise that I am not at all talented in representing realism in paint...

I call this 'Dying' and it's sort of, kind of, an aerial shot of birds clustered on the ground - one is dying. Hey, I don't choose the subject of my paintings, they choose me, this started out as a space scape...

Erik conceded that he saw 'feathers', that was it... His enthusiasm was wholly underwhelming.

So, I painted this - it's called 'Living'. Obviously, this one was somewhat planned, though it took on a life of it's own as creativity always seems to do for me. He really doesn't like this one at all.

I guess it's a good thing I'm painting for myself and not for him, huh?


Thursday, August 01, 2013

Painting, painting, painting!

Painting, painting, painting...

I've been doing a lot of it recently. Doing it and thinking about it - I'm constantly in the land of paint and mediums in my head at them moment, I feel driven to do this right now!

I've always been attracted to painting, but have lacked the confidence to tackle it. On the rare occasion I attempted to pick up a paintbrush in the past, I inevitably was left feeling embarrassed by my feeble results. I just don't have a lot of hand-eye co-ordination. I'm very much the same with drawing.

I'm very attracted to colour and light, though. My mum calls me a colourist, though possibly that is too grand a term for my interest.

So, recently I came across some videos on You Tube about fluid acrylic pouring, and they appealed to me a lot. Here is an example.

This kind of art really speaks to me - I love to study busy paintings, I love to see colour blend and seemingly move on a canvas...

So, I've given it a go with mixed success...

I already had some paints and canvases, so first I tried using some Liquitex Pouring Medium mixed with the acrylic in shot glasses...

This ended up being far too busy for my liking. Too many colours! Also, it wasn't fluid enough, so I ended up with that grid effect from tilting the canvas in various directions - not the effect I was aiming for.

I quite liked this one.

Love the colours here, but again, too busy, too bitsy.

Better flow here, but too muted.
Then I thought squeezy bottles might be less messy, and I also gave Liquitex Gloss and Varnish medium a go. The set up looks nice, doesn't it...

I quite likes the results... Though a lot of paint ended up on the table and I need to think about ways to catch it because newspaper just disintegrates and makes an unholy mess everywhere.

Nice flow, good colour combination. It dried rather flat, but once I gave it a couple of coats of varnish these paintings came up lovely.

I liked the marbling effect here.

This one ended up being an accidental landscape - wholly the doing of the paint itself.
Then I learned about black gesso, and how it doesn't blend with other colours - particularly yellow - the way black paint often does (creating a horrid green effect). Also, being a fan of texture, I thought perhaps the gesso might add another facet to the painting, creating crevices for the paint to pool and blend in...
This stuff can take a while to dry, so the hairdryer comes in handy for impatient people like myself...

I played with a range of textures...

Unfortunately, I had been watching videos where people were extending their fluid acrylics with water as well as medium (medium is pretty expensive, in relative terms), so I tried doing the same thing. What I didn't realise was that not only did I need a 1:1 ratio of medium and water, but a 1:1 ratio of paint and medium. I didn't have enough paint in the mix. Also, I blended too many colours and that always results in a kind of muddy, khaki effect, which is fine if that is what you are looking for, but it doesn't appeal to me.When the paint dries, it puckered up something terrible, and cracked badly on one canvas in particular - way too much water evaporation!

This is all fail, and I have two more like this - all destined to be painted over one of these days...
It is worth mentioning here that another thing I have learned is that you need to stop blending colours before you get to the point you're happy with because the colours will continue to blend and mix while they dry, and this is how they become muddy. Blending fluid acrylics is a bit like cooking fish - it'll continue to cook after you take it off the heat, so don't overdo it!

Feeling a bit disheartened, I thought I'd try something completely different. So, I gave painting clouds a go. I'm slightly obsessed with cloud formations at the moment, so expect to see more of these... Hopefully, my technique will improve somewhat a lot with practice...

Are they colours or some sort of alien flora?

Still, I couldn't resist a bit of pouring... This time I used Atelier Liquefying Medium. I suspect the fact this stuff dries translucents might irritate me in the end because I use a fair bit of metalic paint, which is suspended in a clear medium, so it'll all end up looking a bit sweaty. We'll see. So far, I think I may be happiest with the Liquitex Pouring medium.

This is not a great photo, and the paint is still wet, so it'll dry flatter than this, but I love these colours!

 There you go! This is helping me get over myself and giving painting a go even though I have no artistic talent for painting to speak of! I'll probably spam you with more paintings in time - you have been warned!


Good Job!