Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Brain Dancing

I'm remembering what I did yesterday, and it almost feels like someone else's day.
I have fibromyalgia, along with some other stuff, and one of the symptoms that is most irritating and life-changing for me is the brain fog. I have been used to being smart. My IQ comes in about 163 on a good day, if you believe in such things, but on a bad day it is not even close.

Last week I finished knitting the purple shawl from Knit Pick's Heavy Worsted (Aran) City Tweed, and had a bit more than a skein left from the yarn they sent me. I thought about it a day or so and decided to make a pattern for a cowl. The yarn is lovely and soft, and has good stitch definition, so a textured pattern to be worn close to the skin seemed appropriate. I spent a few hours on Wednesday going through my stitch dictionaries and found an unusual pattern by Barbara Walker.

Yesterday, I typed the stitch pattern out on a text document and worked a swatch with the stitch pattern as written to be certain I liked it's drape and appearance in real life rather than just it's photo in the stitch dictionary.
I did, so the next step was to convert the stitch pattern into one suitable for my cowl design.

First obstacle: The pattern stitch was worked beginning with the wrong side, and included a stitch called 'purl 5 together'. I wanted my design to be worked in the round, and it would be best if the right side is facing the knitter, so that meant I went through and flip-flopped the instruction rows, so that we began with the right side. 'Knit 5 together' just sounded easier, too.

Next Obstacle: The pattern was written back and forth, rather than in the round. This meant that I needed to translate every other row, so that the end of the row became the beginning of the round, and also change all those knits to purls and purls to knits, as it would be worked on the front side in my design. I also had to get rid of the extra stitch used when knitting back and forth so that the end of one round butted up smoothly with the beginning of the next.

Final Obstacle: Barbara Walker's books were written before the current standard knitting language and abbreviations were established. I translated her terms into 'modern' usage. When the design sample is complete, I will add in the abbreviations and a stitch key. And maybe make a chart, too.

It went like clockwork yesterday, I wrestled the stitch pattern into the form I wished it to be, and after an abortive attempt on needles too large, I am already well on my way in knitting the cowl.

Yesterday, I was smart, today, it's not there anymore. I had to think my way through making my coffee, step by step, to be certain I was measuring correctly. Don't get me wrong, I am very glad I had yesterday, but it sure shows today in a harsh light.
On the other hand, it means I can still have good brain days, and that is definitely something to appreciate and hope for.

On the bad days, I have learned a few tips which still help me to function. For example, re-reading my words on this blog is a GOOD thing. I've come back to edit it about 12 times so far today.
Also, if I need to do something accurately, I find thinking it out step by step, and sometimes making a list of the order of steps helps me accomplish almost anything. I at least list the steps in my mind. It usually works, but life is rarely linear.
It has been a challenge over the past few years to set frustration aside, and focus on accomplishing whatever task is next.

Here's an example. This morning Oscar got the dishwasher all loaded and ready to run, all I needed to do was hook up the water and turn the knob. It didn't work. I redid both steps about three times before realizing there had to be something wrong. (See what I mean about reduced brain function?)
I glanced into the utility room. The plug had gotten dislodged enough from the wall that the dishwasher was not receiving power.
There was something else I needed from the utility room, but I couldn't quite remember. Before heading in there, I thought for a minute and realized I needed the crock pot to make Senegalese Mafe for tomorrow.
So when I went in to adjust the plug, I was also able to grab the crock pot. (Triumph!)
I double checked the plug, then went back to the kitchen. The dishwasher worked, but the lid to the crock pot was missing. (all this time I was standing, which is verbotten, and added a time crunch element).
I sat on the stool, and looked around for the crock pot lid. I finally spotted it on a high shelf. I'll get it the next time I go into the kitchen.
Before I start cooking the Mafe, I will be organizing the steps in my mind again.
It helps immensely to have all the ingredients ready before I start combining them.
It takes about a billion times longer for me to make stuff as it used to, but I have more successes than disasters since I learned to just focus on the next step.
In fact, it is highly possible that I will only get the ingredients prepared, and not cook a thing until tomorrow. If so, so be it. It will still taste good :-}

As an unexpected bonus, my newish skills in step-by-step planning have made my knitting patterns much, much better.

(photo taken Sunday at Matthei Gardens)


Anonymous said...

Oooh, frustrating for sure. Is there a BULKY City Tweed?! I have used -- and am currently using -- the DK version. I like it. I want to try the worsted for a future project...

Karen said...

I'll bet the dinner was delicious! It's frustrating, having to think everything out so carefully--but doing things step by step is best for us all, I think. It always works!

Leslie said...

Dear Diana, I feel your pain. I have cognitive issues related to both chemo and West Mile Virus so I totally get what you are saying. It sure makes for some long days doesn't it? Hang in there and I bet the supper was delicious despite all. Love ya!

Kym said...

I'm sure the word "frustrating" doesn't even begin to cover it. . . but please know that the word "inspirational" also comes to mind! You inspire your readers with your dedication to figuring out how to overcome the frustrations!

Anonymous said...

Have you a food diary at all?

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia about a decade back. I had thought it'd be near impossible to heal till one day I had an impulse to record my eating habits for a couple weeks. After 3 months 90% of my symptoms (including brain fog) went away fully or almost completely after not eating wheat/milk products.

I'm not in 'tip top' shape YET but I'm definitely leaps and bounds better than I was before.

Not saying you're gluten or lactose intolerant, of course. But it's always good to rule out food allergies and intolerances.

Good luck!