?A Birthday Gift to You!?
Hey babes, I’m doing a reverse gifting this year. 😉
If you go to my website, up until the end of Wednesday 6/19, you can signup for a free membership day pass. That means for 24 hours you can read whatever you want on my website for free.
You guys have been awesome, and this gig has brought me so much happiness and fun in my life. I want to be able to share that on my birthday. Please, enjoy. <3
Now, if you happen to be interested in getting me anything this year, can I make a suggestion? There is an amazing woman (an MM reader at that) raising money for the 3 teens she has taken in. These kids are from difficult circumstances and are at critical points in their lives where they need help to keep them from letting their traumatic pasts decide their future. Patricia is doing her best, but life cost $$. I would love anyone looking to pay their good fortune forward to pay it her way to help her and her family keep doing amazing work.
So I had to switch back to the previous membership software on my website. I really wanted the new software to work. I had put so much time and work and damn hope into it, but it just refused to live up to expectations. No one could sign up. It would be these bouts of Paypal refusing to work with the software, and it was crippling everything. Last week after being contacted by another individual trying and failing to be able to sign up, I realized this wasn’t going to change and I finally dealt with it.
You’re probably not going to notice much different with the fix. I had to rebuild the shop page and products from scratch, but it looks spiffy. A few visual differences mostly in the member’s area, and the auto-renew now works. The software has updated since the last time I had it installed and they now have a marvelous cancel auto-renew button so people don’t have to go to Paypal to figure it out. The last thing I want is for people to feel trapped in a subscription (and on an equal level, this avoids people having to hunt me down to get what should be a simple thing taken care of.)
It was kinda painful to let the dream go of the other software, but whatever. At the end of the day, shit needs to function. So sorry I took so long in addressing this.
Bright New Future
So as I hit my birthday (it was on the 12th) and look at another year of life, I’m happy to say I seem to have finally figured the health problems all out. *fingers crossed just in case* I’m finally feeling like myself, aka, I’m obsessing over projects and feeling the creative spark. It has been so liberating after having felt dead for so long.
I touched upon this a bit some weeks back, but it was a topic just so life-consumingly miserable, I didn’t want to talk about it. Or maybe who I was when like that made me less communicative? I don’t know. But I’m going to go into it now because I seem to have found a tentative answer when it comes to emotional flat lining, aka apathy, I was living in the last months.
A Chemical Girl In a Chemical World
The last months I have been consumed with the hard reality that I am a chemical being, and when those chemicals don’t spark, life is not interesting. We don’t notice it, mostly because our chemical reactions are so damn distracting. I’ve had problems since I started my latest Parkinson’s treatment experiment March. It wasn’t apparent at the time. I was focused on all the ways I was getting better—and I totally got better. No more weird claw hands, or pain everywhere, or bouts of narcolepsy/extreme exhaustion. I was spending a lot of time training myself in how to just live again, how to slowly start adding in aspects of life to juggle. It wasn’t until April I started to notice something was wrong.
My body was fine. Strong, no longer wheezing in response to allergies—I haven’t taken an allergy med in weeks and I stopped the shots months ago. But I couldn’t get myself to work. I couldn’t get myself to focus. I couldn’t get myself to care about things. I could see it, forever observing myself as I had to force my body to move, to do what should be so easy. I didn’t care about anything; not my health improving, not the art I love to create, not anything. Rationally, I knew not doing things was detrimental to life, and it was only through rationalizing that I could make myself act. But I wasn’t depressed—I had been depressed for long years and I damn well knew I wasn’t that. I wasn’t anything.
I started chasing down the usual suspects, certain in something was the answer to this weird apathy. Allergies, PTSD and dissociation, hormones, drug interactions with my supplements, food choices messing up my gut biome. And while doing that, I was training myself on how to do things while not caring. How to get up when I had to tell my body to move instead of my body just moving. How to clean when I didn’t care if things were clean. How to make myself write, even if it was just a couple hundred words and I didn’t feel inspiration or emotion in a single one of them.
I thought about what it is to live, and in lesser amounts, die. I was not alive as I know living to be. I was occupying a body that wasn’t responding to stimuli. I thought it was only emotional at first; I couldn’t feel joy. I couldn’t feel intellectual curiosity. I couldn’t feel. I would find myself staring at a painting or listening to a song and feel nothing, no spark of anything. It was so broken because I remembered what I was supposed to be feeling but I couldn’t reach that place. During this time I understood exactly what is was to be a chemical being that didn’t get feedback from stimuli, and it was robotic and lifeless. There was no reason to be around because this wasn’t living, and I kept wondering how long it would take for death to take me now that my body was strong. How many years would I have to live like this, not caring, not loving, not laughing, not wanting or responding? The misery of being ill seemed somehow better than whatever I had become because even in that insanity, I still felt alive.
I suspected it was Parkinson’s related. Apparently apathy hits about 40%, and with it, for those with caretakers, it is probably the hardest aspect of the illness because the individual doesn’t care, doesn’t feel, isn’t motivated. They literally can’t engage in life and their caretakers have to endure it all. Here I was with early onset Parkinson’s, having found a way to cure every fucking symptom placed in front of me, but with one aspect so damning, I could easily see myself leaving my family to spare them the person I was becoming.
Then I got a new symptom, one that forced me to not give up, to work around my apathy and seek an answer. I started losing physical sensation.
A Little Background On My Wild Parkinson’s Experiment
So some months back in March I took a leap and tried something creative when it came to the Parkinson’s. I couldn’t find any info of anyone else trying it for a treatment, but I figured I’d see what it might do. I decided to make my gut bacteria work for me by seeding it with probiotics that produced dopamine. I wasn’t sure if it was going to work, but it did, beyond any expectation I could have expected. It was practically overnight, and I kept waiting for it to go wrong, but it didn’t. My body moved again, my brain functioned again. I could interact on levels I hadn’t been able to in years. You know how I was talking about the website fix? That took 1/2 a week when the fix before took 4 months. My brain and body were working and it was a freaking rebirth.
But something wasn’t right. One day I found myself standing with my hands in scalding water wondering why it didn’t burn, why I wasn’t moving away like the instinctual base animal I was. My tongue and throat had bouts of numbness. My fingers lacked sensation. My sense of smell was weakened. I would repeatedly poke myself with toothpicks to see where the numbness was, if it was getting worse, because all of a sudden it wasn’t just my emotions but my senses that were failing to get information to the brain.
I of course thought tumor or brain damage from the mold exposure. Combined with the lack of emotional response, I was suddenly seeing an alarming image of potential brain deterioration in aspects not linked to cognition. I looked into hormones (perimenopause was a suspect) and other neurotransmitters imbalance potentials like serotonin. Allergies too–numbness is connected there even if I hadn’t experienced that symptom before. Something wasn’t registering in the brain, wasn’t reaching where it needed to get.
I tried a few different experiments: eating spicy food until my numb senses would suddenly scream in reaction, same with hot water on the skin (not damaging levels) trying to stimulate a response, trying to see if whatever neurons were failing were still there to react or not. They were, and sometimes I would wake out of it, the same way I would wake out of my bouts of Parkinson’s before.
That’s when it clicked. It was just like the Parkinson’s, but new symptoms. Not an excess of pain but a lack, not an exhaustion or a weakness in the body, but not any excitement either. No cognitive issues but clearly some sort of brain hiccups where emotions and sensations failed to register.
I first tried increasing the dopamine, going back to my old standby of Mucuna just in case the probiotics and kombucha (made with neurotransmitter rich probiotics) weren’t doing the job. Then, after feeling just brief moments of humanity only to lose it, the desperation that came with being numb again inspired me to be more extreme and go off all dopamine support for a day to see if it was some sort of overdose. I had heard that schizophrenia was too much dopamine but none of my symptoms matched that, but I figured just in case, just to see. Really, what did I have to lose?
I started getting subtle emotions and sensation back, but at the same time, the Parkinson’s symptoms flared up again. I decided to compromise and just lower the dose. When I first started this experiment, I had looked at probiotics and probiotic drinks like a medicine, yet here I was drinking it like a staple now. I cut the dose and made sure I didn’t sip through the day, but instead had measured amounts at predetermined times. The Parkinson’s symptoms again alleviated (thank fuck) and I started getting trickles of me back.
I found myself staring at a vibrant blue, outdoor wall a few days after I cut my dopamine dose down. I couldn’t even tell you why, exactly, because it wasn’t a shade of blue I could even say I like when in my normal state of mind. But there I was staring, straining for something familiar. The entire day I had been out in the world and had felt nothing, but this blue wall had garnered some sort of reaction. Something in the color sparked me. That evening, I had two arguments. Full out shouting matches. I hadn’t realized I hadn’t been feeling anger either until I found my emotions turning on. By the second argument, I was actually feeling something in my body during the experience.
If you think that sounds weird, the previous months when I smiled— well, when my body smiled… My body would have an impulse reaction to a joke or familiar happy setting and I would smile, sometimes laugh, and then stop. My face felt like a mask, fleshy and stretched, and that was it. I was observing myself wondering why the chemicals weren’t flowing. There was no feedback, no reward to the action of laughter or smiling.
Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for motivation. Now when you hear motivation, you might think big things, like having the grit to go after a life goal, or get a master’s degree, or what it takes to crawl out of a cozy bed to go to a crappy job every day. But chemical motivation is happening in every single thing we do. When you taste something, the chemical reaction is your motivation. You may not know it because you’re already trained to the Pavlovian response to expect a reaction as normal, part of the process. But if you had spent the last months the way I did, you would see that without a response to taste—be it registering taste, salivating, having hunger—you wouldn’t eat.
Without a chemical reaction in the brain, a sunset can’t be beautiful. Without the chemical reaction when meeting people, you might as well be alone. I found myself talking to someone who I usually enjoyed seeing, remembering how hyped up our conversations would get, but I was forcing myself through the motions, not feeling anything. Even something as simple as picking up an object: there is a reaction, a sensation, something that sparks in your brain to reward with information about the object, sensation, texture, pleasure if it’s soft and soothing, or pain if it’s sharp and bitey. As biological beings, everything we do is in reaction to real world stimulation, or the thoughts in our heads—and if a happy thought can’t make you feel anything, you’re not going to have happy thoughts. You’re not going to have any thoughts after a while because why bother? Without a chemical response, life is a big bowl of who gives a fuck.
Cutting the dose worked. I can’t say for certain why it worked but I have numerous theories. I didn’t realize dopamine couldn’t cross the blood/brain barrier when I first started the probiotic experiment. That means the dopamine being produced in my gut (although perfect to fill all the dopamine receptors in the body) couldn’t reach my brain. Only the dopamine precursors (amino acids from protein) could, and then the brain had to convert it to dopamine to then transport through the brain to utilize.
My initial theory is that by lowering the gut dose to ensure all the dopamine receptors in my body weren’t full, it allowed my body to send a signal to my brain to start producing dopamine there, which in turn started to reignite my senses and emotions once the dopamine receptors were receiving again. My second theory, after having read some interesting information about the thalamus in regards to Parkinson’s, makes me wonder if it’s not the dopamine in the brain itself that excites things into normal activity, so much as the signal that dopamine is low.
We are biological beings that need dopamine to function in basically all aspects of our bodies. You are looking at your screen right now because you get feedback from it that your brain uses to make dopamine. It’s why the phone is so addictive, why it’s so hard to put down little video games or how you can get lost in social media for hours without realizing it. When we don’t have dopamine, our bodies seek to create it. How? Through seeking stimulation and food that will lead to the chemical reactions that create dopamine. When dopamine levels drop, hunger kicks in. It may not be the dopamine itself that gets people motivated to act, but the lack of dopamine which then pushes people to seek out things that stimulate production of it.
A Sensory Obstacle Course For Life
So I figured out this ‘cure’ last Sunday, and although everything feels amazing atm, I’m afraid I’m wrong about it all and I could slip right back in to that terrible state of being. I’m working to stimulate my brain to ensure that it’s producing dopamine properly, because once you lose those receptors in relation to Parkinson’s, they’re gone. It’s been an interesting challenge (now that things can interest me.) I feel like I’m setting up an obstacle course for my life while totally trying not to look at it as recovering from brain damage. I’m trying essential oils for the olfactory senses, music for the ears, I plan on digging out my acrylic paints for visual stimulation, and at the core, brain puzzles and challenges to stimulate my intellectual curiosity. That one has been the easiest to feed now that it works again (fuck, I missed my curiosity T_T ) and I’ve been wonderfully frustrated as I try to teach myself Blender for 3D modeling.
Ha, that has been a total revelation! The battles I constantly have with my creativity— the neurotic, obsessive insanity I fall into as I slam against a wall trying to understand something new— that’s not just a habit of who I am; that is how my brain has adapted to produce dopamine. It liked clawing through tough challenges because that gave it chemical stimulation in reward. The insanity I put myself through as an artist is solely because my brain wants the best hit of dopamine it can get.
The body doesn’t care if it’s positive or negative stimuli; it just needs stimuli to have essential chemical reactions for life. Which probably explains why I’ve been snappish lately too. >_> Did you know anger addiction is a thing all because of dopamine? (This is probably why the world is so fucked. Anger is a chemical rush, and some people feed off of it. Talk about drama.)
Getting Back To Living
Long ass story short, I’m back, peeps. Mostly. (I fucking hope this is permanent. >_<) I’m still not 100% with some things, a lot to do with my drives and curiosity and ability to feel joy or even sensations. My time is going to be focused for a while on habit forming for stimuli in my life until I feel safe that my senses aren’t dying on me. It hasn’t even been a full week since I got myself back—it has felt like the longest week in some ways, though. When the senses kicked back on, it was so easy to just sink into experiencing life.
I expect once the newness of returning wears off and I have a positive set of habits to ensure I’m getting needed stimuli, I’ll be back to my proper writing schedule. I spent the first half of the week fixing the website and now just indulging in getting my ass kicked by inanimate software. I’m learning the 3D model stuff because I want an easier solution to make a fuck ton of gorgeous art so I can try my hand at a visual novel. It’s damn exciting to finally feel like I’m moving forward on that.
I’m already getting a feel for the tools and vocabulary of Blender 2.8 (free, btw, if you ever want to go play around with this stuff,) and I’m pretty sure my background in digital painting is going to translate well once I get this all figured out. There are even animation aspects I could utilize, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. XD I’m having fun (I can actually have fun!) and it’s just great to be alive again.
I hope you all enjoy this marvelous week. Even when things feel tough, remember that every challenge you face is also something that stimulates your body/brain to be able to experience life fully. Chemical beings live off of the downs just as much as the ups. There’s value in it all.