I was looking through a book given to me in Spring of 2009 when I had my first flare-up of lupus, or something “lupus-like,” called New Hope for People with Lupus by Theresa Foy DiGeronimo, M.Ed.  I’m particularly interested in a passage about stress: “STRESS ALERT.”  Especially coming out of the holiday season when stress is running at a high, this passage seems useful, but also unrealistic.

“While you’re learning to recognize and release the body’s negative physical responses to stress, you should also help your body avoid this tension to begin with by learning to reduce the amount of stress you expose yourself to each day.  No one can eliminate stress completely (and who would want to live such a boring life!), but you can be on the alert for situations and people who tend to fill you with stress.  If you know that trip to the amusement park with your kids and their four friends will push you over the edge, don’t go!  If you know that a coworker’s constant complaining and negative attitude make you feel tense, avoid her!  If your job is so hectic and pressured that you feel you’re about to explore every day of your life, think seriously about finding a new job.

As someone with lupus, the quality of your daily life can be severely affected by the amount of stress with which you have to contend.  So take an inventory of where excessive stress may be coming from and do something to change the situation.  This is one area of your treatment plan that you have the power to control.  Take a deep breath right now and promise yourself that you are going to do yourself the favor of avoiding stressful people and places.” (187-188)

The letter from my last rheumatologist visit describes my “increasing anxiety and depression, a lot of pressures since she is applying for a PhD program.”  Should I not be doing this for my education and career because I have an autoimmune disease and “shouldn’t” put myself this stress?  Am I choosing to do something that is bad for me?

Image found at

Nightshades, Migraines, Gluten…

I decided to go gluten-free a few weeks to about a month ago.  I started feeling great – well, better – about a week or so after.  Now, I’ve been getting headaches almost everyday.  Apparently, it might be because I’ve increased my potato consumption too much.  Many gluten-free food items use potato flour or starch as a substitute for wheat, and since I haven’t been eating wheat, I’ve increased my intake of whole potatoes as well.  Potatoes are a nightshade food along with tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.  Supposedly, these foods can increase inflammation and release toxins into the body.  Since I have increased inflammation due to my autoimmune conditions, it seems like an increase in these foods could be harmful for me, but my rheumatologist has claimed that it wouldn’t affect me that much.

It is hard to know what to eat anymore – what is especially good and what may be potentially harmful.  It seems that everyone has a different opinion.  Am I supposed to be gluten-, soy-, nightshade-, dairy-free?  It is a struggle to control one’s own body in light of autoimmune conditions in the first place.  Is a stricter control of diet too stressful?  I’m not one to be pro-pills for bodily/mental control, but this is getting quite difficult.

To read up on nightshades and their affects, click here.

ELIZA: How may I help you?

In the late 1960s, Joseph Weizenbaum wrote a program at MIT that would mimic natural language. He called this program ELIZA, and it was modelled on Rogerian psychotherapy.  This type of therapy is person-centered, meaning the client talks through his/her own issues while the therapist responds to the statements or concerns without necessarily answering or giving advice.  This method is meant to help the client find his/her own way towards understanding and solving problems.

Weizenbaum’s ELIZA stirred things up a bit.  It begged questions of human vs. artificial intelligence – what does it mean to have language – who or what has the ability to engage in language.  Weizenbaum noticed that people reacted very emotionally to ELIZA, depending on the program as a therapist.  In response, he wrote Computer Power and Human Reason:  From Judgment to Calculation in 1976.

If you would like to try out ELIZA, try these websites:  here.1 and here.2.

double scar

Front and center scar = dysplastic tissue excision 1.5 weeks after procedure, 3 days after stitches removal

Top right corner scar = scleroderma scar tissue

The similarities between both of these:

Both scars are results of excessive collagen building.  Collagen being a protein complex in the skin; however, the cause of growth of collagen in both these scars is different.

The excision scar is producing collagen to make up for the removed tissue – my dermatologist said that my body would produce collagen at this site for about 6 months after the procedure.  When he did the procedure, he had to stretch the skin some to allow for the closing of the wound.

The scleroderma scar is result of an autoimmune response that triggered my body to explosively start producing collagen, or the formation of scar tissue (fibrosis).  It involves a hardening of the tissue, thus the name scleroderma:  “sclero” (hard) + “derma” (skin) = scleroderma (hard skin).  I have linear scleroderma with a morphea patch, so only my skin and direct underlying tissues are affected, and not my organs like with systemic sclerosis.

For more information about this disease, click here for the Scleroderma Foundation.

By the way, Paul Klee, the modernist painter, had scleroderma.  Read an article about his practice and his disease here.

Paul Klee, Angelus Novus, 1920

Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard

an excerpt from Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard (A throw of the dice will never abolish chance) by Stephane Mallarmé – to read the entire poem visit this link – it has Mallarmé’s introduction and English translations.

in French:


de la mémorable crise
où se fût
l’événement accompli en vue de tout résultat nul

une élévation ordinaire verse l’absence

inférieur clapotis quelconque comme pour disperser l’acte vide
abruptement qui sinon
par son mensonge
eût fondé
la perdition

dans ces parages
du vague
en quoi toute réalité se dissout

à l’altitude
aussi loin qu’un endroit       fusionne avec au-delà
hors l’intérêt
quant à lui signalé
en général
selon telle obliquité par telle déclivité
de feux
ce doit être
le Septentrion aussi Nord
froide d’oubli et de désuétude
pas tant
qu’elle n’énumère
sur quelque surface vacante et supérieure
le heurt successif
d’un compte total en formation
brillant et méditant
avant de s’arrêter
à quelque point dernier qui le sacre

Toute pensée émet un Coup de Dés
in English – condensed:

NOTHING of the memorable crisis where the event matured, accomplished in sight of all non-existent human outcomes, WILL HAVE TAKEN PLACE a commonplace elevation pours out absence BUT THE PLACE some lapping below, as if to scatter the empty act abruptly, that otherwise by its falsity would have plumbed perdition, in this region of waves, in which all reality dissolves

EXCEPT at the altitude PERHAPS, as far as a place fuses with, beyond, outside the interest signalled regarding it, in general, in accord with such obliquity, through such declination of fire, towards what must be the Wain also North A CONSTELLATION cold with neglect and desuetude, not so much though that it fails to enumerate, on some vacant and superior surface, the consecutive clash, sidereally, of a final account in formation, attending, doubting, rolling, shining and meditating before stopping at some last point that crowns it All Thought expresses a Throw of the Dice

I ask, how can we read this poem in light of the body and its vulnerability to chance?  Disability can happen at any moment.  Accidents happen.  The body, because of an exposure to a virus, can turn on itself and produce autoantibodies – antibodies that attack the self rather than a pathogen.  Are we ever in complete control of our own bodies, or are they, and we, just subjects to chance?