Monday, February 7, 2011


"Sign sign everywhere a sign
Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign"

- Five Man Electrical Band

Funny how time flies and drags at the same time. Two and a half months have already gone by since my last blog post, yet the road to healing seems to drag on.  January 9 was the six month anniversary of my surgery, or when the air hit my brain. It seems like only yesterday I was having staples removed from my scalp. In December I read this amazing book:

It's written by a neurosurgeon and it describes the process of becoming a brain cutter and his experiences treating a variety of patients. The title comes from something he was told by one of his mentors that "when the air hits your brain, you'll never be the same".  I'm not a big reader these days but I plowed through this book in two days. I recommend it to anyone who has been a patient or is considering going into medicine. Or anyone who likes to read a compelling and well-written book.

As for me, I'm still dealing with some anxiety/panic/depression and insomnia issues that I mentioned in my last post  in November. After meeting with my GP several weeks ago, we decided I should try some therapy so he recommended a psychologist that he likes. I had my first meeting with Dr Z January 10 and have been seeing her weekly. I am optimistic so far. I've never done any formal therapy before, so this is new ground for me. We are working on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which "is a form of psychotherapy that emphasizes the important role of thinking in how we feel and what we do." In other words, learning techniques to deal with anxiety (and other psychological issues) through how you think rather than just tamping it down with meds. I still have Xanax on hand as a backup, but am using it only when absolutely necessary. I am also taking a low dose of Wellbutrin to help with depression. This is a drug I used successfully about five years ago with no discernible side effects. I didn't realize how the depression had been affecting me since I've been so focused on the anxiety issues. I've only been on the Wellbutrin for a couple weeks, but it seems to be moving me in the right direction. Here's a sign:

That black stuff on my fingers is silver nitrate, the tell-tale sign that I've been making photographs using my beloved wet plate collodion process. This past weekend was the first time I've had the desire to do this process that I dearly love since September. Here are a couple of the results:

Carol and Tikis
The Scary Uke Duet (Sarah and her buddy Alana)

So the fact that I wanted, née neededto do this is a good sign that at least the dark cloud of depression is beginning to lift. The anxiety comes and goes. Sometimes it is like a low-level hum of feeling on edge and anxious for no apparent reason. Sometimes it presents itself like a panic attack with chest pain and other unpleasantness (my heart is fine and I have the pictures to prove it). In psycho-babble it's not clear if I have a panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder, but what it is is less important than learning how to deal with it.

Of course it is possible that these events are temporal lobe seizures although they are different than what I was experiencing prior to surgery. My neurologist tells me it's hard to say for sure, but the surgery may have altered but not "fixed" the problem. On the other hand, anxiety issues are very common for people who've gone through they type of surgery that I had and it can take a year or more for the brain to complete the healing process. Those little neurons and dendrites grow very slowly I'm told...

So for now, we will go on with the CBT therapy, anti-depressant medication and the occasional Xanax. If there is no perceptible improvement when I hit my one-year anniversary, we may consider going back on anti-seizure meds to see if that makes things better.

Another day at a time...

And now for your viewing pleasure, a few more recent pictures that I like: