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An Acrylic Angst Solution? Quite Possibly! My first steps in retraining my brain away from chemical sensitivities and toward bouncy good health (because all brains should really bounce back)

An Acrylic Angst Solution? Quite Possibly! My first steps in retraining my brain away from chemical sensitivities and toward bouncy good health (because all brains should really bounce back)

 

I’m fit to burst! (Which, in general, is not a good thing, but in this specific incident, is amazing. Life is burstworthy!)

A couple of weeks ago, I announced (with a rooster) that I’m over the hypothyroid drama-lama-ding-dong. Fatigue, muscle weakness, brain fog — begone!

Today, I’m thrilled to say that I just keep feeling better.

“You’ve looked different the past couple of weeks,” a friend of mine said to me today. “Your skin, your eyes — you just look really good, really alive.”

I feel it, too.

Between right-sizing my thyroid meds and taking a wee dram of zinc-with-copper (I took it for a couple of weeks and am on a break), I returned to full-fledged healthy humanhood.

But wait, there’s more!

Somehow, in my journeys across the vast Internet Sea, I came across a reference to retraining the brain. In that rooster-announcement post, I mentioned that I’m training my focus (“Good girl, here’s a treat!”) away from symptoms of illness and back onto what I truly love in this great big burstworthy life…

 

cats eye flourish

dogs cats

furballs fuzzytails

meowing woofing

puppytummies puppieschasing

catskillingtennisballs

brushonpaper brushoncanvas brushonanything

mysweetierussell beachbeachbeach greenflashsunsets

dogsrollingindeadthingswildjoy catsinvulturemodeonfridgetop

teaglorioustea didsomeonesaychocolate

quinacridonegold littleswarmsofbutterflies 

strawberriesthattheslugshavenoteaten blueberriesohfreshblueberries

whalesinthesurfzone

multicoloredpencils

goodcrunchywords softgooeywords saltytangywords

wordswithmangoandcoconutmilk

bbcmysteries longshaftsofsunlight bellyachinglaughter

purrpurrpurr

breakfastwithkitties allmyanimals

thegratuitouspurchasingofbooks

cats eye flourish 2

 

 

As I said, everything I love and then some.

"Indigona Jones," a heart-shaped detail from the painting by Harmony Harrison | from "An Acrylic Angst Solution?" | www.harmonywithanimals.com

 


 

All of this feels truly amazing. And, as it turns out, it can possibly heal chemical sensitivities, too.

Holy bovine, Batman.

Remember my life a year ago? Well, no, of course you don’t. Neither do I. So let me refresh both our memories:

I had to give up using my lovely acrylic paints because their barely-detectable fumes were making me sick.

A lot has changed since then. My response to acrylic fumes was a form of multiple chemical sensitivities, where a person has a hypersensitive reaction to tiny amounts of substances that others would not react to.

My chemically-sensitive response to acrylics launched me on a flight of artsy discovery as I searched long and hard for a new painting medium — one that would not make me sick. When I reached the apex of that flight and began to drift earthward, I fell softly in the world of watercolor.

I’m never looking back.

 

Loose, impressionistic watercolor dog by Harmony Harrison | from "An Acrylic Angst Solution?" | www.harmonywithanimals.com

 

 

I adore watercolor. I love the mysterious way that the pigments blend and blossom together. I love that the water is as much of an artist as I am, that the liquid is its own unpredictable force, creating a new and unexpected experience with each painting.

I love the way that my art style has changed since watercolor began to possess me. I have drifted further and further from cartoonification, now painting stylized cats and dogs that drip with brilliant color. (But who knows? I think cartooning will make a comeback tour soon.) :-)

Now, when I share my watercolor paintings of animals, I take joy in the quiet look of love that crosses my friends’ eyes.

 

 

Loose, impressionistic watercolor cat by Harmony Harrison | from "An Acrylic Angst Solution?" | www.harmonywithanimals.com

 

But wouldn’t it be nice to, you know, be in the same room as a large number of open pots of acrylics — say, in a friend’s studio — without the fear of keeling over and having to be dragged out by my toes? (I exaggerate… slightly.)

This is a consummation devoutly to be wished. But with the brain retraining mentioned at the top of this post, I might just have it.

I’ve been practicing brain retraining diligently — specifically, a form that trains the brain’s limbic system out of fight-or-flight mode of chemical sensitivity and into a feeling of safety, pleasure, and joy.

While it’s too early to definitively tell how well this works, I will say this: I had a good amount of acrylic exposure recently when I used acrylic-based watercolor ground (a treatment that allows watercolor to sink into otherwise-unsinkable surfaces). I painted this stuff on seventy-some-odd sheets of paper to prepare for an art class that I taught this past weekend.

Did I have a reaction? Yes, I did: terrible fatigue, listlessness, weakness, irritability, and generally feeling that everything in all this great and glorious world was pretty damned crappy. In short: The lark was in a sling, the snail impaled on a thorn, and all was horrid with the world.

 

cats eye flourishBut when I finally realized that I was reacting to chemical exposure, and that all those symptoms, as oddly psychiatric as they sound, were

merely signs of chemical sensitivity,

I made a mental beeline for my brain retraining exercises. I hopped to those cranial calisthenics and set my head a-spinning.

 Within ten minutes of focused practice, I felt really, really good.

cats eye flourish 2

 

Actually, I felt fabulous. I felt like I’d:

  • taken a three-hour nap
  • had an hour to recover from my three-hour nap
  • and tanked myself up on spiced black tea with honey and cream.

In other words, I felt alive, vibrant, and cheerful. I overflowed with love. I felt so joyous and sizzly that I cracked jokes, slung puns, and otherwise made myself a nuisance to my own species. My sweetheart and I were heading out to an event — one that I’d thought I would barely drift through, fatigued and befogged — but I was engaged, alive, and filled with sensuous delight for the whole evening.

That night, I was too high on braininess to sleep! I finally conked out at oneish in the morning, at which point the little gray cells whispered a hearty thank you before they set to snoring.

All of this may sound ridiculously implausible. It does to me, too, except I was there for this entire episode and just so happened to have starred in it. In fact, this took place not just once but twice on two separate days, as I had broken apart my acrylic exposure over several days — thinking I’d be able to reduce my sick-in-bed time afterwards.

Sick-in-bed time? Begone!

This brain training stuff feels very, very real. And I believe that it is.

 


 

So right now, I’m hemming. I’m hawing. Here I go hem, there I go haw. I just can’t decide.

Should I share this brain retraining program with you now? While it’s still fresh and new for me? Before I’ve had a chance to test it exhaustively, to determine whether or not I’m sharing something of value? To truly ground myself in its approach before appearing to endorse it through a linky-linky-loo on this wee blog of mine?

Should I share it now before I know — from firsthand experience — whether this stuff really works in the long run, or whether it’s a flash-in-the-pan that will start a dismal and heart-sucking rush on gold that just ain’t there?

Oh, haw it.

In my recent obsession with research into brain retraining, I’ve discovered that there are lots of people — lots and lots and lots of people — who are suffering with chemical sensitivities in ways that are far more dramatic, damaging, and terrifying than my own.

People who are so sick from chemicals that they don’t merely have to give up paint — they may have to give up their homes. And go live in a tent in the woods. An off-gassed tent in the woods. In a clearing without wifi or mold.

My own sensitivities are so very mild compared to this, a flea bite against a shark chomp. When I think of others suffering through such a health horror, I start to cry.

On the very slim case that someone with such extreme chemical difficulties happens to read this post, I want to make sure that that person has access to the tools I serendipitously stumbled upon. So, despite my hemming and hawing, link-sharing it shall be.

That said, I offer these links with two caveats:

  • One, that I’m not professionally endorsing these programs yet, as I am not — yet — prepared to stand fully behind them in the public arena (though I do so in the privacy of my own sweet brain, and I expect that I’ll be able to stand publicly behind them with great confidence in the future),
  • And two, that I’m doing more than just a single brain retraining program — I’m focused primarily on one program (noted below), taking tidbits from others, and integrating more  healing tools such as shmeditation (meditation with a cat on your lap), good nutrition, and good medical care and therapeutic support.

 

So here’s the big link-o-rama:

 

Limbic Retraining

There’s that limbic word again. We’re talking about a specific region of the brain, say, a cranial neighborhood, where the retraining is focused. At this site, you can learn about multiple approaches to brain retraining for chemical sensitivities, electrical sensitivities, food sensitivities, and chronic fatigue. This site indexes several — some that cost money, some that can be accessed at least partially without payment — and the success stories listed are incredibly powerful. http://limbicretraining.com/

 

Dynamic Neural Retraining System (DNRS)

A brain-based, bright-hearted approach to healing chemical sensitivities, electrical sensitivities, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Many of the symptoms of chronic fatigue, by the way, happen to be the same as hypothyroid symptoms. Interesting, no? This is the program that I chose to try first. I ordered their DVDs, marinated in the material, and voila! The results that you’ve read about above are due to my diligent use of this system. I like. I like muchly. http://dnrsystem.com/

 

Gupta Programme

A brain retraining program based in England and available on DVD, this approach is geared toward chronic fatigue syndrome, but people seem to be using it successfully for chemical sensitivities as well. I haven’t had the privilege of reviewing this system yet, but have seen on many forums that it seems to work well for many people, so it’s made the linkworthy list. I’m eager to learn more about it in the future. http://www.guptaprogramme.com/

 

A Rational Approach, donation-based ebook by Loz Evans

Loz Evans, a writer in the UK, has put together her own program for healing from chronic fatigue (which I believe could help those with chemical sensitivities as well) and outlines it all in an ebook. She has generously made this book available to readers via email, and requests only a donation from those who can afford it. I am currently working through her book bit by bit, and am finding a great deal of wisdom throughout, and lots to integrate into my existing practice of DNRS, described above. http://www.arationalapproach.com

 


 

Well, darling readers, I’ve fairly bored you with text, with nary a coconut or mango to lighten this oh-so-wordy mood — and only a couple of animal paintings, too! Whatever is becoming of me?

But let’s be consistent. Words, words, words. In the spirit of loquacity, I’ll close with even more words. Here we go:

Wonder Twin powers, activate! Form of … a story! (Or maybe a pink ice unicycle!)

 

 

 

Picture it, Sicily, 1939… Uh, Oregon, 2015…

picture it sicily 1912

 

A lone watercolorist treads across the windswept dunes, clutching brush and paint to breast, as the sun slopes hot and hard against her skin.  She has beaten the many-headed hydra of hypothyroid symptoms, and arrives, ragged and weary, at the very doorway to her destiny. That destiny: an artsy classroom. The mission: Be bubbly and coherent, teaching watercolor goodness for two whole hours in a row.

Can this art class be saved?

Crowds across the world grasp at their theater seats, craning forward in suspense. Is it possible? Will this hypothyroid girl make it to the two-hour mark with energy to spare? Or will the last head or two of that hydra leap out to bite her, leaving her listless and limp on the couch for days and weeks to come?

She bellies up to the classroom table. Eyeing the hydra across the room, she draws her brush from its scabbard…

And she swashes! She buckles! One, two, one, two, and through and through, the vorpal brush goes snickersnack!

“Nailed it,” she says two hours later, blowing smoke from her brushtip. And she goes galumphing back.

 

To Translate from the Harmony-ese:

Can all this brain retraining help with lingering thyroid symptoms, like low stamina? Well, let’s see…

On Sunday, I taught (my first-ever) watercolor class to a small group of raucous artists (yes, you are artists!) at my local Unity church. Though dunes were not trudged to get there, I did go through days of painstaking preparation, including several afternoons of exposure to the acrylic watercolor ground mentioned above.

Despite all of this, throughout the class, I felt amazing. I was filled with fizz and pop. Zero symptoms. No fatigue, no brain fog, nothin’.

The first thing I asked the group to do, when the necessary pre-class chatterwauling spun down, was stand up and learn a ridiculous dance. It was laughter yoga, with a bit of clapping, cheering, and yes, even woohooing thrown in. (I adapted this from the DNRS brain retraining program I’ve recently been studying — the laughter yoga is one of my favorite bits — and yup, I credited the program for this.)

To do this silly dance, you have to have one thing: energy. And dagnabbit, I had it!

(Dagnabbit squared: my friend Kimberly caught it all on her phone. Here you have it, for your viewing pleasure.)

 

 

 

I stayed on my feet throughout most of the class, teaching with energy and vitality — a kind of life force that was not available to me just a few weeks ago. I was astounded by my own stamina. I was amazed that my voice carried so well. I was even snort-laughing at my own jokes. In public!

 

 

art workshop

I’m third from the right,
and yes, that’s an orange kitty doodle I’m holding in my right hand.
photo credit: Amy W.

 

After class, I stayed on, packing everything up in my higgedly-piggedly way while continuing to chatterwaul with friends. I arrived home, had tea with my sweetheart and his truly awesome sister, and continued to effervesce in joy — then we all hightailed it to the beach with the dogs for some serious dune-walking and low-tide slime patrol.

On Monday, the day after the class, I wrote the rough draft of this post. In the past, I would have required nearly a full-day’s rest after an event like teaching that watercolor class. I would have required quietness and solitude, a lack of simulation, and a great deal of peace.

But instead, what did I do that day? Well, I wrote these two-dang-thousand-plus words for a starter — while walking three-and-a-half miles at my treadmill desk. And I fairly frothed with happiness throughout. Callooh! Callay! She chortles in her joy!

This is a remarkable transformation. I credit a great deal of it to the brain retraining, as well as good medicine, good food, and quite frankly a good imagination capable of seeing a bright and brilliant future.

Hold on tight now, folks — I can see that brilliance for all of us. It’s gonna be a magnificent ride.

 


 

Pop (and un-pop) culture thanks to:

Golden Girls, Robert Browning (Pippa Passes), Lewis Carroll (Jabberwocky), Batman, Wonder Twins, and the wonderful creators of these brain retraining programs, who probably should have their own sitcom and/or BBC mystery series by now, because I love them all so much.

 

 

 

Cheeky Rooster (and Cheeky Me): A Finally-Feeling-Good Update (and a barnyard fowl to boot)

Cheeky Rooster (and Cheeky Me): A Finally-Feeling-Good Update (and a barnyard fowl to boot)

 

Happy Health Update: I feel great!

(And I’m saying it with roosters. Well, one rooster. A roostette.)

 

Cheeky Rooster, watercolor on canvas by Harmony Harrison | from Cheeky Rooster (and Cheeky Me) | www.harmonywithanimals.com

Cheeky Rooster
watercolor on canvas board
8 x 10

 

Thanks to good medicine, good nutrition, and good thinking, I am back to feeling fabulous. I’m strong and energetic and capable again. That thick mental fog is gone, and once more my great brain is noggin-ensconced, fizzing and popping with neural verve.

Thank goodness for that! You have no idea how much the brain can change until your own brain takes a change for the worse – and then the better.

I mentioned that good thinking has been part of this grand health switcheroo, and it’s true: I’m learning, tiny bit by tiny bit, to challenge my automatic reaction to any symptoms that waggle their heads at me. Rather than allowing the guard dog in my brain bark up a storm of fire and fear, letting loose the slavering pack of symptoms, I’m paying attention to that guard dog’s alerts, and then making conscious decisions based on multiple factors. The result? I’m starting to be able to dodge those symptoms before they can bowl me over.

Hellooo, prefrontal cortex. I love you.

This new practice, as well as good nutrition and supplementation (did you know that zinc deficiency and hypothyroid go hand in hand? Look here, here, and here), have rocketed me out of the doldrums of dysfunction.

Now I am effervescent, spritely even, so bubbly I might make your sinuses ache. I even walked two miles while editing this post. And I’m celebrating this new dawn of well-being with, as mentioned, a rooster!

 

Cheeky Rooster (detail) watercolor on canvas by Harmony Harrison | from Cheeky Rooster (and Cheeky Me) | www.harmonywithanimals.com

 

(What? Not a kitty? Not a dog? I have recently discovered, much to my amazement, that there are animals beyond cats and dogs. I know – completely shocking. This painting is my first attempt to chronicle my new multi-species awareness.)

Big love and big thanks and big dog kisses to everyone here who wrote, commented, and gave me hugs of support while I healed. (I will withhold the rooster pecks of adoration, though.) I’m so grateful for you!

 


 

P.S. Notice how I didn’t mention much about the symptoms that had been plaguing me? That’s part of my International Love-Your-Prefrontal-Cortex Celebration. I’m deliberately moving my attention beyond symptoms to other, greater things. This is not your barnyard-variety positive thinking — it is a deliberate choice for training my attention, and thus my brain and my life. It seems to stop many symptoms before they can bite.

(And no, I’m not covering up any symptoms or suffering — far be it from me to hide my angst from the world. I actually do feel great — as cheeky as a rooster, my dears.)

 

 

Swimming Brains and Journal Pages: A hypothyroid update and a peek inside my art journal

Swimming Brains and Journal Pages: A hypothyroid update and a peek inside my art journal

 

Hello all! I’ve been quiet around here lately, mostly because I’ve hit more storms and swells in my hypothyroid voyage.

One of the many lovely results: Brain Overboard. I could hear the ker-splash as the little gray cells hit water. Fortunately, my brain knows the doggie-paddle and can steer with its stem till I fish it from the deeps.

Aside from the inability to think clearly and more bouts of fatigue than I care to swat at, I am on the mend. Witness me standing at my computer and typing: this would not have happened mere days ago. I think my sweet cerebellum is shouting instructions from the gurgling depths, and the rest of me, in neuro-wireless mode, is sailing along as best as can be, hollering, “What?” now and then when brain sinks beneath sea.

Good thing brains are made of fat — they operate as their own flotation devices, and up my bean comes bobbing once more.

In far less nautical terms, I’m practicing a lot of self-care lately, resting and reading ridiculous books starring kitties (Spam the Cat, anyone? It’s really cute), and of course making art. In fact, art and salads are the only things I’m making these days. The art appears mostly in my journal, whereas the salads appear mostly in bowls. The former I will share with you now, the latter having been munched.

 

pawprints

 

Of all my journal pages, this is the one of which I’m most proud, because I’m wired to be proud of all corgis everywhere.

 

Corgi journal page by Harmony Harrison | from Swimming Brains and Journal Pages | www.harmonywithanimals.com

 

 

Not to be dog-centric, here’s a rough cat sketch.

 

Kitty journal page by Harmony Harrison | from Swimming Brains and Journal Pages | www.harmonywithanimals.com

 

 

Continuing the non-dog-centric theme, the following was an experiment in the Lost Ark’s effects on kittykind.

 

Lost Ark Kitty journal page by Harmony Harrison | from Swimming Brains and Journal Pages | www.harmonywithanimals.com

 

 

In addition to these journal doodles, I have also been drawing on the right side of my brain (my earlier post about it is here, and the wonderful book by that title is here).

Doing this process takes a lot of focus, which is not always available to me at the moment. I have been intrigued to discover that my drawing skills are actually improving even when I’m not able to string words into sentences or do math outside my head, let alone within it. I want to share more about this drawing process soon, but will wait till my cranial roommate drips dry and is seated once more inside my skull.

But here’s a dog-centric peek…

 

 

Drawing on the Dog Side of the Brain? by Harmony Harrison | from Swimming Brains and Journal Pages | www.harmonywithanimals.com

 

 

Till next week, then, ahoy and et cetera. Thanks for sailing alongside me. May all of our brains swim in peace.

 

 

 

 

“Shadow”: A New Watercolor Dog and the Search for My Blue Heaven

“Shadow”: A New Watercolor Dog and the Search for My Blue Heaven

  A couple of weeks ago, back in the dark ages when I had not yet crossed into the light that is forty, I posted a few watercolor-washed backgrounds that were just itching for a dog, cat, or marsupial to inhabit them. Among them was the bare beginnings of a pup, picked out in goldContinue Reading

Happy Birthday to Me, and to All You Lovely Glaciers Out There: In which, you will be relieved to know, my life wisdom is not shared

Happy Birthday to Me, and to All You Lovely Glaciers Out There: In which, you will be relieved to know, my life wisdom is not shared

    Today, I’m leaping out on a limb to publicly wish myself a Happy Birthday. And happy it is: I’m turning forty!       Though I am tempted to proselytize my profundity with deep and moving thoughts on the past four decades, not to mention the four-plus to come, I’ll rein myself in withContinue Reading

Some Background and Some Backgrounds: Where I’ve been, how I’ve been, and a little bit of paint swished on paper

Some Background and Some Backgrounds: Where I’ve been, how I’ve been, and a little bit of paint swished on paper

        For all those who are following my thyroid saga (here and here), thank you for all the great words of support. I’ve gotten emails and comments from so many wonderful people I’m grateful to call friends. I’m savoring all your comments one by one right now. Thank you. ♥ Soon we’ll haveContinue Reading

The Dog Blog Clowns Ride Again! While My Thyroid and I Sneak Off to a Corner to Sleep

The Dog Blog Clowns Ride Again! While My Thyroid and I Sneak Off to a Corner to Sleep

    Every now and then, something happens in my life or on this blog that requires the presence of clowns. Not just any clowns, but Dog Blog Clowns.         The Dog Blog Clowns are like rodeo clowns, but for bloggers. When things fall apart, they ride in to distract us while I call for a clean-upContinue Reading

Oh No! Another Nameless Dog! (a.k.a., Name That Pup) (A post in which I am not as wordless as I make myself out to be)

Oh No! Another Nameless Dog! (a.k.a., Name That Pup) (A post in which I am not as wordless as I make myself out to be)

    My last week has been packed tight, which earned me the American Badge of Honor for Extraordinary Busyness. (Note: apparently, you’re no one in our culture if you do not bear this badge. Want mine?) The result has been odd — a strange, burbly wordlessness — the feeling that, at the end of theContinue Reading

Intuition and Paint and Birthdays, Oh My! Exploring the connection between intuition and art (with our party hats firmly in place)

Intuition and Paint and Birthdays, Oh My! Exploring the connection between intuition and art (with our party hats firmly in place)

  It’s birthday season here. A couple of weeks ago, I painted Two for You — two loose watercolor dogs on canvas — for my sweetheart to celebrate his birthday. Just this past weekend, my sister-in-law’s birthday popped up — and my own (fortieth!) is soon to come. (Want to see what I made my sweetie’s sister lastContinue Reading

“Two for You”: Celebrating my Sweetie’s Birthday with Two New Dogs (of the painted variety) and a Tropical Storm Named “Carrot Cake”

“Two for You”: Celebrating my Sweetie’s Birthday with Two New Dogs (of the painted variety) and a Tropical Storm Named “Carrot Cake”

    This week was my sweetheart Russell’s birthday. My gift to him was dogs. Watercolor dogs, of course.       He unwrapped his gift on the couch before a recently-blazoning carrot cake (more on the carrot cake later). When he pulled the canvas from the gift bag (more on the gift bag later), his faceContinue Reading

 
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The Beginner's Guide to
Animal Wisdom

is a little ebook that will help you listen to your animal pals.
Want the book & occasional newsletter? Sign up below.

(Or visit this cute little page to hear me fizz about why this book is fabulous!)

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