Smartness and PTSD Memory

Most of my friends are smarter than I am. Some of them are very much, exceptionally, can’t fathom how smart they are, smarter than me. And that’s awesome. I don’t say this to put myself down, it’s simply a fact. I love having smart people around me, I’m always learning something. Well, as long as I can remember it all. I’ve had PTSD since I was 15 (which was “renewed” again at 31), and the memory loss that goes with it.

The inner workings of brains and memory and dreams, have always fascinated me. My friend Gordon posted a few times recently about it, and this blog post has been filling space in my head for months so it seemed like a good time to bring a few things to light.

Everyone has trouble from time to time, remembering a word, or why they walked into a room. Everyone experiences knowing a song title is “on the tip of your tongue” and other memory slips. For some people memory worsens with age, for some it doesn’t – I know some extremely sharp seniors. PTSD memory loss is not like any of these, although I also experience those slips like everyone else.

PTSD memory loss is very similar to concussion memory loss. I cannot stress to you enough, that it is very, very different. Two of my coworkers, unfortunately, have suffered a concussion in the past few years. One of them, while discussing her sudden memory impairment in tears, said to me, “It’s terrifying! It’s not like I’m just forgetting, it’s like it was never there!” And I will tell you, some moments are terrifying. It’s not a tip-of-the-tongue feeling, it’s a complete void, like a twilight Zone level of never there in the first place. She said, “It’s just… gone.” I have had moments where I went to introduce people I’ve known for over twenty years, and couldn’t. I looked at their face, and their name was completely replaced with the feelings their friendship, but the name was a total void. I stammered as I remembered moments camping, at parties, long talks… but their name was completely gone.

How? Here is a quick article that sums things up quite efficiently, and I’d like you to read it, please: PTSD MEMORY LOSS: 10 WAYS IT’S AFFECTING YOU. https://www.aprillyonspsychotherapyboulder.com/blog/ptsd-memory-loss

This is the first point: “According to recent research, the hippocampus, an organ in your brain, literally shrinks by 8 percent in the brains of PTSD sufferers. That’s a significant problem because the hippocampus is responsible for regulating emotion, storing long-term memory and sorting old and new memories.” That’s the HOW.

I’ll mention the last point about shame, as well. You see, I FELT stupid for most of my life, and that exasperated the problem. Information I should have known was not there. Learning new things is always a challenge. Depending on what I was trying to learn, some would stick beautifully, and others could be repeated over and over (and in different ways) and never stay. It has NOTHING to do with how important I find things, how interesting, or how meaningful. Unfortunately, PTSD memory is indiscriminate. Not being able to remember names, well that gets downright offensive, and fucking embarrassing. But I don’t back away from learning new things, I always welcome it! I try to come up with coping mechanisms. Making notes, filling my calendar, keeping the instruction books, needing pictures of students, writing on my hand, whatever it takes. It doesn’t always work, but it helps. I always appreciate your patience.

Y’know… I might have even written about this in my blog before. I didn’t go searching, and I’m posting now because I need to communicate it. Again. Anew? And that goes to say as well… If I tell you a story you’ve already heard, politely say with a smile, “Oh yeah! You told me about that one!” You see, I want to communicate with you, and I’ll forget I’ve done it. I just get excited when I talk with you, and I want to share things! (In this case, it’s my blog and there’s nobody here to stop me from repeating. LOL!)

I’m not stupid. I have a brain that was literally, physically changed for the worse, twice. I have limitations that I cannot fix. I have accepted that, and am finding new workarounds all the time.

But… Am I smart? That depends on how you’re measuring intelligence. Can I cite passages from literary books I read in University? Can I learn a language? Could I pass a Grade 11 Math test? Can I remember the plot of the book I read six months ago? How much money do I make? I suppose how smart I am, depends on how YOU judge it. I’m sure I’d fall short for many of you (perhaps shockingly), if you really tested me.

But please don’t. Don’t test me. I won’t engage with “testing” anymore. Try not to judge me, but if you do and decide I’m not smart enough for you, I can live with that. I understand. People who love me know I’m always giving my 100% and it’s good enough for them

Well, I guess my 100% minus the missing 8% means I give my 92% best?

92 will have to do. I’m okay with that if you are.

I’m Withdrawing

This is a serious post. I need to work things out. This is really not like me, and this new state has me befuddled. It may not be a bad thing, I don’t know. But, I’m withdrawing.

Withdraw:
1 – to take or move out or back, or to remove
2 – to stop talking to other people and start thinking thoughts that are not related to what is happening around you

Escapism:
1 – a way of avoiding an unpleasant or boring life, especially by thinking, reading, etc. about more exciting but impossible activities
2 – the activity of avoiding reality by imagining exciting but impossible activities

In 2020 I struggled between shutting down completely (feeling like not getting out of bed), to exploding into the world with the most pent-up energy I’ve had since the kids were babies and I couldn’t leave the house to do anything fun without assistance. When we shut down, many people could not function normally, myself included. Seemingly simple things like reading, writing, or other things that required focus and an attention span, became difficult or impossible. 

That’s not happening to me right now. I feel more functional, I can read, write, paint, I even sit at the piano on occasion. It’s been great. I don’t mind being in my own head, which was a very bad place for me to hang out during my younger years. It’s a more positive place. I’m enjoying it for a change.

Too much?

I currently suspect that I am protecting my mental health in a new way. But I’m not jumping to help people all the time in all the places. 

For example, I’m in a few Facebook groups. Often someone I don’t know will ask a question or have a problem, and I’ll sit and take the time to help if I can. Every time. The past couple of months, I’ve stopped doing that, and found others gave wonderful answers, too. I’m not needed ALL the time. And that was without anyone criticizing anything. This past year I’ve noticed more than ever before, it feels like everyone is sitting online, usually angry, and jumping all over posts to comment with either “you know what you should do” to “that’s just stupid” to “eat shit and die you fucking snowflake.” And I don’t need it. I can’t deal with it all. So I briefly hop on my socials, see if anyone tagged me or PMed me, maybe scan a few posts, and get off. That means I’m not checking Birthdays, either. I’m sorry if I missed yours. Happy Birthday this year, my friends. You look fantastic!

Another example was at work. For seven years I’ve been going for coffee runs for a handful of staff on my afternoon break, three times a week. Sometimes if I was busy, I’d feel stressed about finishing up/getting a class out to get out the door so I could go. If I made any order mistakes, I felt horrible. Sometimes, I didn’t even want a coffee. Deciding not to do it anymore kept me up at night. Literally. It was ridiculous. I had to stop. I know people were thankful, always said so because they’re all lovely. They also were very understanding that a good thing had to come to an end. Trust me, during February, not having to go out that extra trip made me feel much calmer. I had no idea it was having that effect on me. Just this year, though, just because the pandemic has been pulling me thin.

Also, I am an empath. I absorb EVERYTHING. As much as I want to be there for everyone all the time and listen to the problems and hear out the stresses, there have been so, so many… that I have been saving my emotional energy for very specific things I can actually help with. I can’t take it all in, my heart breaks, and I worry, and I want to help all my peeplez.

In a larger part of my life, this past year I felt pulled to fight when we were on strike. I felt pulled to fight for BLM but couldn’t go to the rally, scared of Covid – and that still bothers me. I felt pulled in June when Pride Month “issues” bubbled to the top. Again. But I can’t DO anything in most cases. A call to action in a Covid world is one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever felt, when your heart and logic split you down the middle. (And don’t get me started on politics.)

And I’m just done. I want to stay in my house, write, paint, read… escape. I absolutely understand that I say all of this from a position of privilege. I have heat, food, a paycheck, I’m able bodied, have a cool family, and the internet. I want to escape, and escapism is very new to me. I usually come at things head on, but the inability to act on things has thwarted all action. I usually seek the company of friends and people and life outside these walls. But I can’t have that, and this winter without outdoor visits (which I can’t do, please don’t suggest how I might), I’d rather just be alone.

Everything is a struggle to literally hear as well, even with my hearing aids. At lunch in our separated seats in the gym, I jack my hearing aids up to combat the echo and distance. All day long, I can’t read lips. It’s really fucking hard for me to talk to people. Last week I sat in the back corner with my phone, head down, mentally alone, because it was so much easier than straining and guessing what was being said and hoping I was answering correctly. Or asking them to repeat things over and over. I just want to sit and talk to my friends, and it’s too hard. So I withdraw.

When at home, I surf within a small range of websites I like, do some writing, make sure I lift some weights, and stick my face in a thick book. I’ve begun to feel ANGRY when I’m pulled out of, or denied these activities. If you’re going to break my attention from these things, it had better be for a reason. (I joke with the kids, “Are ya bleedin’?”) I’ve created a mentally safe place, a comfortable emotional space where I’m not pulled, absorbing, fighting, explaining, jumping to answer questions, or straining to hear. 

My enjoyable things have become hard things. Work. Joking with a student. Grabbing a coffee for/with a workmate. Socializing with friends, too. Having a conversation. Sitting beside someone, and hugs, and even a lighthearted punch in the arm. If I can’t have all of it, then dammit, leave me alone? How fucking WHINY is that of me to say? I’ve never met this side of me coming out now. This anger, these feelings of a heart-weary foot-stomping, door slamming, took a fukkittall pill, done with all the bullshit attitude, can be overwhelming. But I can’t seem to stop it. Do I want to? How much of this is healthy? I’ll be talking to my Psychologist in a week, so I’ll have some actual doctor’s answers to these questions soon. This was not covered in any of my Psych classes when I was in Uni, that’s for sure.

One of my Library Clerk friends noticed I hadn’t been posting to our group, not jumping in to help, not even to joke around. She emailed me, “Dean, are you okay? You’ve been quiet.”

I’m trying not to disappear. Because the truth is I DO care about all of it, everything, and all of you. I’m trying to stay visible, and available-ish? I’ve never pulled back like this before, it may be helping me, a lot. I hope it’s not hurting any of you.

What I am able to give of myself, please know it’s the best I’ve got right now. I appreciate your patience, especially if you’ve felt like you had to “deal with” me at all, or if I’ve pissed you off in any way, please tell me.

I’m just getting incredibly prickly with our presently overly-prickly world. Now… where’s my book?

Pricing a Painting

I have been taking art lessons since I was ten years old. I took art courses in University. I took art lessons at The Button Factory here in Waterloo with instructors like Nancy Peng, and more art lessons with Albert Casson when he was in Cambridge. Money and many, many pleasurable hours have been spent over the years, and I’ve learned a lot of new skills. Some I have polished, others I still need to practice. There is ALWAYS more to learn, an endless sea of brain candy. But for many years I never shared my work with people. It wasn’t until friends and family talked me into it, did I enter The Button Factory’s sidewalk art show, I think it was called Art on the Streets? Damn my terrible memory.

They asked me the price so they could print the tag. I had no idea. Maybe …$30? *shrug*

NO. I was told in no uncertain terms was I ever to sell an original work for such a low price. NEVER. But, I was a nobody, why would it be worth more than that? This goes back to an argument I also had MANY years ago, and it still goes on, about writing. It should not be given away for free.

And it all comes down to RESPECT.

Do you respect the business? Businesses need money. Do you respect other artists? Don’t undercut them. Do you respect the time and skill involved? Dedication and talent are worth something. Do you realize that many artists *live off of their work* and need to make an income? That’s what being a professional means. And I agree 100%, so my $30 slough-off price was an insult. Shake the Etch-A-Sketch, start over. So, how DO you price a painting?

There are a number of different ways to calculate a price.

I was originally told to take my hours put in, multiply by what I make hourly at work, plus supplies, plus courses recently taken that helped me produce the work. Hourly rate, plus. Woah. That seemed like a LOT, but I trusted them, and compared to the other pieces in the show, mine was on the low side. (My hourly rate at work doesn’t make me rich. LOL!) That’s what I did at the time in 2014.

Other people charge per hour according to their years of experience, $10 added per decade, per hour. I started when I was ten. I’m approaching 50, and when the FUCK did THAT happen? So right now I’m looking at $30 per hour spent. You get three more years at this rate! Plus supplies, plus courses if applicable.

Then I got to wondering, how many other ways are there to price a painting? I found this article at Artistsnetwork.com by Lori Woodward. She prices per square inch, the dollar amount set my your reputation. She charges $6/sq/in, plus canvas and framing *doubled*. Her 16X20 oil painting is $1,900, rounded down.

Some Bob Ross paintings sell for $8,000-$18,000. They’re rare, and we know how long it took him to paint those. WHOOSH, done. Auctions are a completely different animal. Let the customers decide what it’s worth! Could you make a killing on Ebay? Where is your audience? Bob Ross is famous. I, am not.

Another tricky element is commissions. How do you create a set price for something you haven’t made yet? If someone wants to commission a painting of yours, chances are, you’ve been painting long enough to make a very close guestimate on how long it will take, and what you’ll need. If you underestimated and go a lot over that, then that’s your problem.

Many artists also have friend/family pricing. I do. But it’s not that $30 astronomically low price, either. It’ll be a $50 or $100 discount, depending on the piece.

And how much I like you.

No, I’m kidding. Mostly. But I have learned to respect the industry, respect the decades of honing my skill, and honour the time, and sometimes blood sweat and tears, I put into each piece. I’ve junked a lot of stuff over the years, too. Friends have saved some of them from the garbage bin, such as “A Sky Built for Two” and “Bee to Flower”, they bought them as the canvas hovered over the garbage. Who’s to say what a painting is worth? Not even me, sometimes.

If you’d like to take a peek at my stuff, with prices, you can take a peek at the Art page on our website: picpublishing.ca

Which reminds me, when life opens up again I should get my talented Photographer friend Suzanne Loving to take some professional pictures. A photographer I am not.

I hope you found this little blog post interesting. It spawned from a conversation on FB about my current WIP, and friends joking about buying/auctioning for my very unfinished piece. I will do commissions, but it’s gunna cost ya. 😉

Year-end workout results = happy Dean

Since shutdown, my workouts haven’t been as measurable. I used to post more about workout routines because they WERE a routine that I could track on an app. Neat and tidy. I like neat and tidy, I like routine. It makes my OCD very happy. Buuuut the world went to shit and I didn’t give up. I struggled to adjust, kept my physical health a priority, and I’d like to share my progress as I’ve continued to learn more about bodybuilding, working out, and (usually) eating properly.

* With the exception of not knowing about my bloody food sensitivities I mentioned in my previous post.

I used more bodyweight exercises, we added to our home gym when items were cheap and available, and we got creative. I’ve also made an effort to increase cardio this year. Heart health and all, but it also helps slow the mind.

Now for some numbers, if you’re interested. I’ve accomplished/gained (in inches because I’m a bad Canadian) this year:

Waist +2
Hips/butt +1
Thighs (combined) +2.5
Calves (combined) +1
Neck +0.5
Chest +2.5
Biceps (combined) +2
Forearms (combined) +1

Total inches gained as tracked on my Body Measurement app +12.5 this year, and 23 inches total since I started in July 2019. Also since July 2019, I put on 30lbs and got up to 170, where 15 of it happened this year, and then I dropped 5 really quickly in November due to aforementioned food allergy discoveries. So, by the final numbers: 10lbs this year equaled 12.5 inches… and a much happier me.

I’m proud of my progress. I like the mix of hard muscle and soft belly. 🙂 I’ve tried my best to work hard, work smart, and gave myself breaks when I really needed to rest. This is my lesson this year. I can take breaks, it isn’t going to crash all of my plans or take away from my progress, and taking a rest – even for a couple of weeks or more – is just as important.

I plan to continue down this road, and I hope by next year at this time I’ll have similar progress that makes me equally happy.

What ya put in yer yipper

I got the results from the blood tests and ultrasound. Turns out, I have to make some adjustments to what I put in my yipper.

After eating whatever I wanted and as much as I wanted for almost two years, my body has told me to fuck off. LOL! What started with bloating and discomfort, has become a need to focus on my ingestive habits. I thought I was being smarter about making sure I had enough protein, sufficient calcium, staying hydrated etc… while that’s all good, I did not take everything into account. However in my defense, I had no idea about a lot of this… so here’s the quick and dirty.

Blood sugar is a touch high. I can fix that, no prob. My history with Gestational Diabetes was far enough behind me to forget to curb sugar intake a tad.

Mild fatty liver is new, the two usually go hand in hand. B12 was low, vitamin D was low, and iron was on the low side. I have supplements now.

But here’s the REAL kicker. I did a food sensitivity blood test, RMA FST. In hindsight, taking Claritin all summer for seasonal allergies, curbed effects of foods my body didn’t like. I stopped Claritin, and blammo. So I have a list of food sensitivities with numbers showing intensity of reaction (and one anaphylactic allergy, cashews, which I already knew) in yellow to avoid and red to take out of my diet. Here’s where the fun begins.

RED

130 — egg whites (yolks are fine)

75 — cashews — thaaaat’s right, #2 to egg whites, and I’ve been eating eggs *every morning* for two years

75 — pistachio

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November 1, 2020: Health and Wellness Update

October was a long-ass month full of sadness and stress. My dear friend Paula passed away. (Fuck Cancer.) I won’t discuss other things going on that are not my story to tell, nor specific work situations, but one of them made me angry, and one of them left me deeply saddened.

October also had some highlights, all involving people we love (at safe distances). Oktoberfest with buddies, Thanksgiving with my Mother-in-Law, Flag Football for the boys, my first video Friday Fun Art Night (FFArt Night), and Halloween with neighbours. These highlights were very different from years before, we were thankful for all of them.

But it was still a long-ass month. I enter November exhausted, somewhat drained, and ready for a quieter thirty days. On the flip side, it will soon be too cold to meet with friends on the deck, and my social life is about to come to what feels like a screeching halt in the upcoming darkness. This is already bothering me as most of Covid times have been during nicer weather months, and I have truly heart-sinking moments when I think about it.

Sigh.. In other news, some health-wise things were set in motion in October. I know a few people were concerned when I asked about recommendations for a Naturopath in town. Here’s the reasoning and here’s the plan for November…

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When Feeling Big is Good

You’ll have to excuse my my, what-feels-like-constant-but-isn’t-really, posting. But transformation can be a fascinating, thrilling thing. There’s a lot to explore, to unpack, to share. There are a number of people I know in person or online who have undergone major physical transformations, who, I think, already understand what it’s like to continually look in the mirror and reacquaint yourself with who you see. It can be wonderful.

And I’m *still* evolving. (I imagine I’ll be forever evolving, but let’s stick with the present. LOL!)

I’ve had a lot of thoughts tumbling around in my head, and to line them up and lay them out on the table often really helps me, like a kid yelling STAMPED IT on what they know is true. It’s harder to do with your own truths. Let’s see if laying these out will help me this month…

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Health and Fitness Update

OK here we go… Health and Fitness update time. Keep scrolling if you’re bored already.

I’ve reached some goals, and I have a new plan.

Last month I had blood work done. My slim, athletic doctor wishes his cholesterol was as good as mine. Yay! My blood sugar is on target, and other than slightly high blood pressure, I passed the test. I was going to post back then, but I wanted to wait until I could update everything at once.

This past weekend I reached my first ever “Bulking” goal weight, and I’ve managed to put on 20lbs since August. I’ve gained 14.5 inches (body total), since I started. I use the Body Measurement Tracker app, and input every Thursday morning. I’m not extremely accurate, but I look for the trend lines on my various body parts, which are all going up.

Yes, that means my belly has rounded out, too, and when I sit there’s a bit of a righteous spare tire which I’m sure you’ll see in upcoming March Break pics. LOL! But that makes me a hard and soft combo, which I’m digging! I’m like a taco. 😉  What I *like* is that the weight is going to the RIGHT places now, the proper shape for me. Not perfect, but proper. “It’s unfortunate what we find pleasing to the touch and pleasing to the eye is seldom the same.” Fabienne – Pulp Fiction

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From reverse to drive

I was born n the 70’s. Twiggy was big in the 60’s and a new movement started. By the 80’s Anorexia was all the buzz. Those were my formative years. I’ve battled that monster myself, too many times. It was usually when I felt most out of control. I felt I had to desperately throw everything in reverse, grab control and make the numbers go down. I eventually pulled out of it and maintained a healthy diet, which only got better and cleaner as I got older. I found a happy neutral that worked well for me for years! Yay!

But what I ate five years ago will not suit my needs now. Not only because my body is changing, but because I have been consistently working out. After talking to my RMT today and reviewing workouts from the last couple of weeks, I’ve somewhat unofficially crossed into bodybuilding territory. This means what I ate before will definitely NOT suit my needs. I need to make a change. A lot of mental and emotional work has gone into this. You see, I’ve been gaining weight. Some muscle for sure, and some belly.

Fat is not a bad thing. Most of us have some. And to be honest, I think bellies are awesome. I like both kinds of gains I’ve had, and I’ve never felt proud of my body like this before. So, this has all made me feel very much in control.  I’ve also been educating myself and reading up on balancing exercise and nutrition (let’s not use the word diet, eh?) because the more we know, the sea of info online becomes less scary and overwhelming.

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I’ll be your Boyfriend

I’ve had a few conversations with good friends in the past few months that have led in similar directions. So I’d like to have this little “chat” with everyone who considers themselves my girlfriends.

Throughout the past couple of years, some of you might have felt a little angry, or perhaps rejected. (If you haven’t, great!) You might have told me things that you would ONLY have told a woman, and perhaps I’ve broken that confidentiality or bond, by not being who you thought I was at the time.

We shared a journey, heartaches, and experiences that most guys just don’t have. While fighting for rights, equality, respect, and breaking the gender-role rules… I left you. I could not be the strong woman to fight by your side because I could not be strong as a woman. I did the best I could.

However, I realize I had also subscribed to toxic masculinity all too often, using it to reinforce, or punch through my exterior wall. I hope I didn’t offend or hurt too many people along the way, and I am truly sorry for each and every one of those moments. That was not strength, that was weakness and a struggle to draw a deep line in the sand, and then straddle it. I tried to be tough, but tough doesn’t always mean strong.

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