Sunday, August 26, 2012


I took a photo class in high school, and had some interest in exploring it further in college, but didn't. It was always in the back of my mind, though.

I've always sort of snapped photos in my head of pretty things when I saw them, it was never anything I talked about or that even took more than a second, it was just a moment where I'd think something looked like art, so beautiful or ugly or interesting as to be visually compelling. Taking up a camera didn't even occur to me until I got sick. I think the compulsion came about because the beauty of the world was no longer presenting itself to me, being as confined and tortured as I was, so I had to go and find it, as a matter of survival.

My first couple of cameras were point and shoots, and they were brilliant. There was a Sony and a Nikon, and they both worked well until they didn't. The Sony got sand in it and died a quick and painful death but the Nikon is still working, save for the busted battery cover. Luckily, I've got no shame in using a duct-taped camera, it's just annoying having to disassemble the tape every time we want to transfer photos.

I've also been frustrated lately with the point-and-shoot because it seems to lack fine control over images. In good light, when a subject behaves, it works perfectly, and I've got a hundred pics on cafepress to prove it, but I lose a lot of gorgeous, interesting shots because I don't know how to compensate for light issues and can't control the actual capturing of the image as much as I would like.

Since my boyfriend has been getting more work in the photography and video industry, and I've officially become impatient with the capabilities of the point-and-shoot, he saved up for a DSLR, a Nikon D60.


Mostly, it's not a bad camera. It's user-friendly; as you're shooting, the screen shows all kinds of technical f-stop related numbers and information that I don't understand yet, but I'm sure will be fantastically useful once I do. Unfortunately, I don't really think I'm going to be able to use it. The display screen is so busy showing all those cool technical details, it doesn't show what the camera is pointing at. I have to look through the viewfinder.

Which means, I have to squint, bend, contort myself into whatever weird angle I'm trying to shoot while simultaneously struggling to figure out how the ding-dang-mother-brother thing works and what all those numbers mean and why can't I get it to focus properly, even with the fancy focusing brackets? It's a migraine every time I try to use it, and that's the opposite of what photography is supposed to do for me.

So, I hate it and have demanded it be replaced by something with a usable screen. I still have my duct-taped point and shoot, and though it's not returning the quality of images I'd like as often as I'd like, it's better than hurting myself every time I shoot.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Women in Sports

With the Olympics came a whole lot of sexism leveled at the females athletes, from commentators, news sources, and the general public. When I was faced with this sexism in real life, or on the internet, I tried to counter it with facts and pointed out the flaws in whatever was said, or photographed. I spoke to my friends and family when they'd listen, and even went on a rant on the internet. I don't usually confront the internet, it can be monolithic and intimidating, but I found that I was more passionate about this subject than I knew, so I'm reprinting my thoughts here.

Women are disadvantaged in sports, they have less sponsorship opportunities (and the ones they do get tend to be sexually exploitative, a la Danica Patrick for GoDaddy), less access to training resources, lower pay and less of a chance to play, because women's sports aren't considered interesting.

I think that part of the problem is segregation. Women should be able to play with and against men whenever they want, and I see no reason for them to be separate.

But, but! Upper body strength, muscles, center of gravity! I heard full paragraphs of bull supporting these phrases and I shall not type them out because rage isn't healthy. But, know that similar arguments were used to keep black people out of white sports back in the day, and it was determined then and is still true now that separate is never really equal. We all have different body types, we all have different strengths and weaknesses and that's why there are winners and losers in games, instead of everything always ending in a tie.

Yes, many women are physically weaker than many men. But some women are stronger, some women are faster and more agile and more talented than many men, than ALL the men, and they aren't being given the same opportunities, solely because they're women.

I do think that women should have the option of playing separately, if they want it. The world is so male-dominated, any place where it's okay to be a lady can be a rare sanctuary. But, if a woman wants to play golf, or tennis, or soccer, or football or ANY sport there is and she wants to compete with the men, she should be rabidly encouraged.

And, I'm not the only one who thinks so.

Female Athletes' Endorsement Opportunities Hindered By Sexualization And Lack Of Visibility, Say Researchers

Men vs. Women in Athletics

"By directly challenging and dispelling misconceptions about women’s capabilities, integrated sport programmes help to reduce discrimination and broaden the role prescribed to women." From this amazing, and hugely long study: Women, Gender Equality and Sport.

Here's an article about a female weightlifter who outranked ALL the men and still had trouble getting any scholarships: Why doesn’t Sarah Robles, the highest ranked American weightlifter, have all the athletic sponsorships?

"Because females have historically faced athletic disadvantages, they should be able to play on all-female teams if they choose. But they shouldn't be barred from playing on traditionally male teams.", from Women and Men in Sports: Separate is not equal

Feminism has become a part of my life since my bubble of able-bodied privilege was broken, and I'm probably going to start writing about it more here. Hence, new tag!


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Other Drugs

Having a migraine that I can't cope with is a rare event nowadays. The pain comes, but it's generally not as severe as what I used to face daily, and I tend to live in a more emotionally stable frame of mind than I once did, thus making pain much more dealable. Yesterday, however, I had a throwback migraine and it was brutal.

The morning sun in the kitchen made me a little twitchy, then I talked to a neighbor for a minute over the roar of his diesel truck, and then I got into a brief spat with my honey, and then I had a little coughing fit when my attempt to medicate revealed a weakness in my lungs that would forbid me from smoking for the rest of the day. I had chronic bronchitis as a kid, and still get painful bouts of pleurisy occasionally, so I don't screw around with my lungs. There would be no weed for me.

So, after the light, the noise, the stress, the coughing, then a whiff of cigarette smoke, and some bending over to pick up stray laundry for good measure, I tried to take the dog and the man for a little walk and whammo-blammo surprise! I'm finding myself sitting in the middle of the road because my legs cannot possibly carry me and my massively engorged head any further. I rested for a minute or two, realized it wasn't going to pass, then left the dog to my boyfriend and hightailed it back inside, into the dark.

Without the option of smoking marijuana, I struggled. Regular readers may remember that triptans and other abortives have never worked for me, so when I have a migraine, I focus more on accepting and riding out the pain than on stopping it because that has been historically futile. So, I pulled out my dusty bottle of soma and took a couple halves throughout the day. That didn't do much for my head, but it really helped when my neck, shoulders and back started scrunching themselves into painful, knotted ropes of tortured muscles. I also had to take a valium when my anxiety started to skyrocket. It's not my favorite, but it works in a pinch.

To minimize the drugs I take, I prefer to try to dissociate from the pain. I was in too much pain to meditate very effectively, so instead I watched Doctor Who for hours. It was a wonderful escape until the Dalek episodes, those guys are shrill.

I usually go to bed between 9 and 11, any later and I tend to suffer the next day. So, at 11:30, when I was still awake and felt strung so tight I could snap into a million pieces, I threw caution to the wind, took a whole soma and slept all the way through the night.

I woke stiff and achy, but that full night's sleep did some serious magic, and as the morning progressed, I slowly started feeling more normal. By the time some friends stopped by for an after-lunch visit, I was ready for some socializing.

And socialize I did. We were actually going to go hiking, but I was in no shape for any kind of physical activity, so we sat in our front yard and chatted for HOURS. I love my friends.

After they left, I had the standard let-down. When I'm having fun, actively engaged in a pleasurable activity, my adrenaline or serotonin or whatever keeps my head a bit lower than it really is, because once the good time is over, the ache sets in hard. But after all that fun and talking and laughing, the pain is ok. The pain is there, and it's distracting, and it's certainly disabling, but it's ok.

Friends are magic, I tell you.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On the Uphill

I went for a hike with some friends last week. We probably only walked about 3 miles, but the remarkable thing about this hike was the hills, and mainly, how I didn't migraine myself into oblivion by climbing them.

When we first moved from the city into our little forest cabin, the hills were a struggle for me. We're on the side of a mountain, so the road past our house is an incline, the trails around our house are all fairly hilly, and even doing the laundry involves hauling my butt up and down a small hill.

When we first moved, I was so out of shape that the smallest exertion could flatten me for a week. My head would throb, my body would feel heavy and tired, my mind would become confused and irritable, and I would walk so slowly, the banana slugs were all, "Speed it up, sister."

But I kept trying. In the quiet of the mountain, without cars, sirens, the sun, or strange men to fend off, I found going for walks easier, even with the hills. So, I kept walking, my stamina grew, and my muscles woke back up.

It's taken eight months for me to get here. I can touch my toes, which I've never been able to do in my life, I can hoof it up our road and make it to the top without stopping constantly or feeling like I'm dying from the head. I've been using hand weights, too, and my arms are starting to look like a feature at the gun show. I've lost at least ten pounds, and several inches around my waist, bringing me back to nearly my pre-depakote weight. The progress is visible, and it is encouraging.

So, I went for a hike with friends last week, and it went so much better than I could have hoped for. Sure, I whined a bit, and towards the end, I had to stop every twenty feet to rest on the uphills. My head seems to be directly tied to my blood pressure, and when my blood starts pumping hard, my head becomes difficult to tolerate. But, tolerate it I did, with plenty of help from the old Mary Jane and lots of encouragement and laughter with friends.

When I got home, I was exhausted, and my head felt the affects for a few days. However, I was still able to function somewhat and the expected spike in pain was only about half of what it used to be.

The most amazing part of this bodily turnaround, for me, is that a lot of this progress is taking place in the summer. It's not as hot, and not nearly as bright as it was in the city, which is definitely making it easier on me, but maybe my sensitivity is decreasing, too, and maybe the healthier my body is, the healthier my head will be.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Unharmed Jellyfish Extract for Migraine

For a while now, I've been thinking to myself, "What's next for me and my migraines?" I didn't like where the migraine specialist wanted to go (hospitalization, lots of pills I'd mostly already tried, and some I hadn't), and I can't afford to go to a practitioner of more natural methods because medicare simply won't cover it. As far as treatments, I've been at a bit of a standstill.

So, I was very interested when I received an email from Quincy Bioscience alerting me to an online migraine trial they are putting on.

Quincy Bioscience has recently launched a distance trial to study the effects of apoaequorin on migraines after hearing several anecdotal reports that the use of a popular over-the-counter supplement reduced the symptoms of migraines.

The Online Migraine Trial is a double-blind, placebo-controlled study that is conducted online using migraine assessment surveys. All study supplies are shipped directly to participants. The trial will last 90 days. There is no travel required or samples to collect. You can complete your testing from the comfort of your own home!

HOPE Trials is the research arm of Quincy Bioscience and has pioneered a form of trial research called ‘patient reported outcomes’ testing. You can read about our work here:

Visit for more information and to apply.

I did some pretty basic google research and came up with the interesting info that apoaequorin is a humanely-extracted, jellyfish-glow-magic supplement that does things to calcium on a cellular level that I do not understand.

It allegedly (per google) improves memory, helps migraine, and can also be useful for MS and Parkinson's. I looked hard, but couldn't find a single peer-reviewed study that says apoaequorin has any effect on the human body.

So, my inner skeptic was on the lookout for signs of scamminess, because why isn't there a peer-reviewed study anywhere if this stuff works likes they claim it does? Besides the random, super-ebullient forum posts touting apoaequorin's phenomenal effect on their [insert neurological disease here], I thought it was odd that Prevagen's website (who are the makers of an apoaequorin supplement and are related to Quincy) promotes that apoaequorin won a nobel prize in chemistry. That's true, but it didn't get the prize for it's health benefits, just for being discovered in jellyfish, as the glow magic. I thought that was rather misleading.

But, you know what? It was free and that's my favorite price, and what else do I have going on? So, when I got the package, I tore into it like it was full of possibilities and looked over the contents carefully, to make sure I was going to do everything perfectly. The package contained three bottles of capsules, a folder with more details of the study and a stack of migraine diary pages to fill out while taking the supplements.

Over the next three months, I took my pill almost every morning (I missed nine, total). I dutifully filled out their diary pages, completed their online evaluations once a month, and spoke with an endlessly polite and helpful representative on the phone several times. (Taylor, you're awesome!) By the end of the trial, I couldn't help but be a little disappointed that it did nothing for me. I waited not-so-patiently for the mail to bring me news of whether I'd been taking the actual supplement or a placebo and was happy to find that I'd been taking the placebo.

What happened to my inner skeptic? She was tired of nothing helping her aching head.

But, the cool thing about this study is, at the end of it, if you find out that you didn't get to try the real thing, you get to try the real thing! For free! I love free stuff so much!

So, I got my real 90-day supply of jellyfish magic, and took it daily, as directed.

I started getting more and more depressed right around this time, so at about the one-month mark, I called up Taylor and asked if that was a side effect that had been reported. She said that people have actually reported apoaequorin helping their depression symptoms. She offered to call me back in a week and we could talk about adjusting my dosage if I was still having trouble. I think Taylor has been my favorite part of this experience. Quincy, or Prevagen or whoever, you hold on to that lady, she's a good one.

The depression ebbed back and didn't resurface again too strongly during the trial, but I've just started month three of the three-month supply and my migraines remain unaffected. I'll finish it up, it doesn't appear to me harming me, at least, but I have to admit that I'm disappointed. Stupid hope gets me every time.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Head Status

I haven't done a proper migraine update in a while.

The unprovoked nausea, it comes and goes, but the motion sickness still hits every time I get in the car, so I've become Canada Dry's biggest customer in the past months.

My worst triggers are still light, sound, and smells, but I also continue to be sensitive to simple activities like bending, reaching, talking, listening and concentrating.

The head pain is less constant and less severe than it was last summer, thanks be to the quiet country life. When I'm at home, and can pace myself and control my environment, I can do almost anything and recuperate at least somewhat within a day. I've gotten great at anticipating and avoiding migraine triggers, so I've been able to go up to several days at a time without a significant neurological event. That's huge for me! Of course, when I leave the safety of our secluded woods and venture into the wilds of town, all bets are off and I'm back to my super-sensitive, hardly-functioning self. It just takes a whiff of perfume, or an unexpected motorcycle or the sun glinting off the back window of the car in front of us to turn me back into a feeble, mumbling, twitching, confused mess of a person. I still recuperate faster than I used to, though, and can expect to be back to semi-active much sooner than I used to.

I've been exercising a few times a week, sometimes every day; walking, hiking, yoga and/or 3-pound free weights, depending on what I feel up for. I've lost a little bit of weight and gained a good bit of muscle, and it feels so good to be strong again.

I've been able to get out more, too, since I only act like a social pariah about 30% of the time, instead of my previous 70%. I've spent quality time with friends and family and have felt more in control of my relationships and behavior.

My depression seems to be staying away for now. I had a sad day right around when my period started, but it coincided with migraine activity and a heatwave, and didn't leave me anywhere near as bad off as the depression I've come to fear, just a little melancholy, tired and lethargic, so I'm sticking with calling it a sad day and enjoying the depression sabbatical.

Oh, and my menstrual cramps also seem to have died back remarkably since I cut way back on the dairy. It's a huge difference, and I never would have believed it if I weren't living it, that's how dedicated I was to cheese. But, my body has spoken and I'll be sticking with my new diet. The dairy industry will suffer, I'm sure.