Go Go Jason Waterfalls!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Neuroplasticity Study

In September, I participated in a study at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) measuring brain plasticity in people with Asperger's (the full name of the study is 'Stabilizing Neuroplasticity in Adults with Asperger Disorder Using Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: A pilot study'). I had first heard about rTMS on a news segment describing its use in treating treatment-resistant depression. I asked my doctor about it, hoping that I could get into a clinical study going on at CAMH. I was excluded due to a family history of epilepsy (very disappointing), but I was offered the chance to get in on a similar study aimed at those on the spectrum. In July I went to Toronto for the screening process, which was basically just an IQ test.

The objective of the study is to compare brain cortical plasticity between neurotypical adults and adults with Asperger's. The theory, as I understand it, is that Aspies have hyperplastic brains, and with rTMS certain areas thought to be responsible for the perceived negative symptoms can be toned-down.

For three weeks in September I travelled to Toronto, for a total of four sessions. For the first session, we started with finding the right spot in my motor cortex to make my thumb (hooked up to electrodes) twitch 5 times out of 10 when hit with theta burst stimulation (TBS) to get my baseline. The TBS was delivered via a paddle with a figure-8 coil pressed onto my head. It made a CLACK! sound (like hockey sticks slapping together) when it fired, and made me blink, the muscle under my left eye twitch, and my jaw to move up and to the left, making my teeth smash together (along with the thumb twitch). After biting my lip during one of the bursts, I held my mouth open for all the following hits. After finding the right spot and marking my scalp with a bright pink marker, Dr. Desarkar, the head investigator, used either intermittent TBS or continuous TBS (I don't remember) to activate my motor cortex. This made my jaw move up and down rapid fire. I must have looked quite silly sitting there with my mouth open, chewing on nothing but air. The last part of this session involved the application of 10 hits of TBS in 5-minute intervals, up to 105 minutes after the activation. The reaction in my thumb was recorded on a computer. From what I could tell, the reactions were bigger, tapering off until eventually going back to the baseline we took at the beginning.

The second session, the following week, was fairly similar to the first, except that instead of activating, the TBS was used to inhibit. Again, from what I could tell from the computer screen, and the doctor's reactions, my thumb twitches were smaller, and gradually worked their way back up to the baseline.

The third session, the week after that, I received sham rTMS. I was both disappointed and relieved. Disappointed in that I was curious what it would do to me, if anything. I was relieved because I was afraid that if it did improve my social skills, it would so at the cost of my intelligence or memory. This would almost definitely not happen, especially after only one session, but I worried about it anyway. Even though I wasn't receiving rTMS, I still had to come in, lie down, and have the magnetic coil placed on my head (just at a 90 degree angle so the burst shot away from my brain) for a little over an hour, the machine clicking the whole time. No measurements were taken. Quite boring. I had trouble staying awake.

The final session occurred the next day. It was a repeat of the first session: activation (chosen at random).

It was all very interesting, though I've forgotten a bit, and probably got a number of things mixed up; too many acronyms. But it was worth the anxiety of travelling to Toronto by bus (2 things I dislike), and not just because I got paid for my participation, and had my travel expenses covered. I may do another similar study in November or December.

Friday, September 18, 2015

New York: Part 2 (Because I Forgot to Mention Some Things)

New York City is very clean (the areas I saw, at least). You can tell that they take pride their city. Every day I saw people sweeping up the leaves on the sidewalks, and hosing down sidewalks and buildings. There were very few cigarette butts littering the ground. Very unlike the places in Southern Ontario. It was refreshing. Toronto is a dump compared to what I saw in NYC.

The architecture was wonderful! Every building had style, had interestingly-carved edifices. Even the row houses had arches, and columns, and relief carvings of plants, dragons! Wrought iron gates! Tiny, but well-done gardens! I could really love New York, even live there, if it didn't have all the people.

Pizza in New York is disgustingly greasy. I ordered a plain pepperoni pizza to my hotel room one night, just to try it. The grease literally drips off of it. Still tasty, though!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

New York

I visited New York City at the beginning of September. This trip had been in the works for nearly a year, after discovering that the John Singer Sargent exhibit in London would be coming to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I later learned that the Neue Galerie was to hold an exhibit on Gustav Klimt at the same time. Two of my favourite artists! The plan was to go with a couple of friends, but they had to cancel, so I went solo. With hotel reservations made, and bus tickets purchased, I set out for the Big Apple.

The bus ride, despite being a 12 hour trip, wasn't too bad, especially with a lovely young man named Emmett in the seat next to mine to chat with. Emmett was from Ireland, and was visiting NYC for a few days before moving to Brussels for school! [If you ever read this, I hope you had a good time]. The route took us from Toronto, across the border to Buffalo, then to Rochester, Syracuse, possibly through Pennsylvania, into New Jersey, and finally to New York. We arrived a little after 9 PM, where I hailed a cab (for the first time ever) and made it to the hotel. After surveying my new home for the next 3 nights, I went to bed, exhausted.

My first two mornings consisted of eating breakfast a place called Zabar's, which is like a convenience store/grocery store/cafe which takes up a city block on Broadway, and has these wonderful 1950's department store-sounding announcements on the PA. After breakfast, I walked a few blocks to Central Park, as the museums were directly on the other side. Central Park was nice: wide paths, lots of trees, beautiful ornate bridges. I had completely forgotten about it, and was happy to stumble upon, Cleopatra's Needle. I love obelisks.

Suddenly, obelisk!

On my second day (I'm doing them out of order, because I can), I went to the Neue Galerie to see the Klimt exhibit. The lineup to get in was literally around the block. A lot of people had seen the film The Woman in Gold...The painting, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, was brilliant of course. The exhibit itself was a bit pathetic, however; it consisted of 2 small rooms, one with 7 or 8 Klimt paintings, the other with photographs and some jewelry. The Cafe Sabarsky had a nice spring pea and mint soup, though.

On my first full day in the city, I went to the Met to see the John Singer Sargent exhibit. I started off in the Egyptian wing, but was feeling a little melancholy (seeing the statue of Hatshepsut as a female pharaoh helped a bit), so I decided to go straight to the Sargents. So many paintings by my absolute favourite artist! I don't think there has ever been so many of his works brought together in one place before. I was truly amazed at what they had on display, so many of the paintings I've only seen in books, and some I'd never seen at all before.

Violet Paget (Vernon Lee), 1881 [My best friend says I look like her; what do you think?]

Dr. Samuel Jean Pozzi at Home, 1881

The scandalous Madame X, 1884

The eerie Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth, 1889

Mrs. Hugh Hammersley, 1892-93 [In my Top 5, though I never remember this until I see it]

The man himself, Self Portrait 1906

The only thing thing that could have made this exhibit better would be the inclusion of Lady Agnew of Lochnaw, El Jaleo, The Daughters of Edward D. Boit, and Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose.

It was a very good trip, and a big accomplishment for me (even if I can't feel it right now).

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Vampire Chronicles

I've just finished reading Blood Canticle by Anne Rice.

The Vampire Chronicles, my favourite series of novels, by my favourite author, is over. I've completed the story. The tale of my beloved immortals has come to an end. I'm...sad. I want to say unbearably so, but that would be far too dramatic, wouldn't it? I never wanted it to end.

I've always gotten this way after completing a book, but this time it's deeper. I could feel it coming on whilst reading the second-last book of the series the week before. I'm not sure that I can fully convey what these books have meant to me. Of course they're about vampires; I love vampires, that's what drew me to read them in the first place. But they're so much more. I've never found more perfect descriptions of human emotion. I've always had difficulty in recognizing/experiencing my own emotions; perhaps Rice's writing allowed me to emote vicariously.

Rice's novels are filled with beauty, love letters to the city of New Orleans, to art, music, history, literature, architecture, fashion, culture, flowers...So many of the lovely, interesting thing in this world.

I wonder...where I'm going with this. Gah! Something to do with indecision about whether to read any of her works which came after, if I could stomach the hyper-religiousness of them. But will I ever find another author like her?

I'm certain I'll come back to the ones I have read again and again, regardless.

...I want to be a vampire. Good night.

Monday, February 10, 2014

I'm alive. Still trying to live life. Where does one find a hypnotist? Your Ex-Lover Is Dead  by Stars is running through my head...I've been reading Blackwood Farm by Anne Rice; it makes me want to love, makes me want to learn. I need to be always learning; I don't know why I'm not. I've moved back in with my mother. I've been thinking that eventually the cats will die, and it brings me to tears. I think about all the annoying things Mom does, and how once she's gone, I'll look back on them fondly. Winter is so beautiful: the ice, the snow, the cold. I love this country; I wouldn't trade its terrible winters for the world.

These earplugs in my head make it difficult to type...

I'll write a real post soon.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Two Goblets

I've been reading Jewel Staite's food blog ( lately, and it's inspired me to try something I've been toying with since I started this blog: writing a restaurant review. And so, I'd like to introduce you to my favourite restaurant: Two Goblets.

Two Goblets is a tiny Austrian establishment in the Downtown Core of Kitchener, taking up the main floor of a house. They are open for lunch and dinner, and it is a good idea to make a reservation, due to the limited seating. The walls are frescoed with scenes of the wine-making process: planting, harvesting the grapes, etc.

The menu consists of various European dishes, especially schnitzel; they have a million different kinds of schnitzel. Slices of delicious marbled bread are provided while you wait for your meal. Most meals come with your choice of either the salad or the soup of the day. The soups are always incredible, with lots of dill. The meatball soup is my favourite. The salad, simply made of iceberg lettuce with tomato and cucumber slices, is divine thanks to to the dressing; they won't tell me what it is, but I suspect it's just oil, vinegar, and sugar...

Portions are generous here; you'll often end up with leftovers. Aside from all the schnitzels (I haven't yet tried them all), they do some great perogies. My favourite dish there, however, is definitely the Hungarian goulash: a mild (or spicy, if you like) meat sauce poured over delicious spaetzle.

Yummy bread.

So good!

The 'Prague' schnitzel, a classic schnitzel covered in scrambled eggs and ham.

Monday, January 28, 2013

New Plan

I get crazy ideas. I plan too big, too far into the future. This has not worked well with regards to combating my depression. So now I'm trying a new track, making tiny goals, before building up to larger ones. All I'm focusing on is getting up in the morning, showering, and getting out of the house. Each day.

I'm also quite impatient, and so this new plan is killing me. I want to be in school. I want to not have to say the same pathetic thing every time someone asks me what I'm doing with life. I want to be accomplished enough to be worthy of another's love -of my own love.



Monday, December 3, 2012


Oma's funeral was last Tuesday. I had been at Opa's most of the days before, just being there for him, helping out around the house.

The wake was the day before. Everyone went up to the open casket, to say goodbye, I guess. I didn't. It's not that I was afraid to see her body lying there, lifeless; I just didn't feel that was her. It was her body, yes, but the thing that made Oma, Oma, the soul or whatever you want to call it, that was somewhere else. I already said goodbye, in my own way, at the hospital as she died. I'm not religious, but I do hope that there is some sort of afterlife, where our souls can meet again, and continue to experience things, to learn.

The funeral itself was interesting. I tried very hard not to cry. I wanted to stay strong for everyone else, but it was difficult, especially seeing gruff family members cry for the first time; it was odd. I didn't much care for the pastor who spoke, but I'm proud of the speeches my family gave.

At the end of the service, I, along with my cousin and uncles, carried the coffin to the hearse.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Last Friday, my grandmother passed away.

Thursday night, I got the call that Oma was in the hospital and it was serious. I was at the hospital by 2 AM; Most of my family was there. The staff had just given her heavy-duty painkillers and she was asleep.

I found out that the week before she had been in the hospital for a few days, but was released home. On Thursday she had severe pain and was readmitted. She was diagnosed with ischemic gut, which basically means that her intestines had shut down due to blood-deprivation; her other organs would follow suit. Surgery was proposed but cancelled because her condition had progressed too far, I guess. At first, my family was told she only had a few days left - soon after, this was reduced to a few hours. I was told later that while she was still conscious, she had stoically told everyone she knew she would not make it.

Opa was devastated, obviously. Every so often, he cried briefly. The rest of the time, he sat beside the bed, hand shaking, in a daze. Most everyone was visibly upset. I think I was numb. I kept thinking about my uncles and Opa, feeling sad for them, that they were losing their mother, his wife. I couldn't think of my own loss.

Oma moaned softly in her sleep, and her legs twitched every once in a while. Various family members took turns holding her hand. I was terrified of holding her hand, in case she died while I did so.My aunt played a recording of of her grandson, who lives in Alberta, singing; it was the last song Oma heard, if she could hear anything.

Eventually, her legs stopped moving. Her fingernails had turned blue. My mother was holding her hand, when Opa broke down again. She couldn't take it, and left the room. It seemed like an eternity that Oma's hand was empty, but I found myself ignoring my fear and taking her hand in my own. I watched as her breaths became weaker and farther apart...And then she was gone. I felt her die, felt her hand go limp.

I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to say anything, so I tried to tell my aunt with my eyes. I looked at my  sister, who was wide-eyed, and I think she said something like, "That's it, then?" I nodded. I got up and went out to the hallway to tell the rest of the family, then I went to inform a nurse.

The nurse did an excellent job of looking after Oma, and the rest of the family. She explained Oma's condition as best she could when asked, and even told us how it could progress. She even cried and gave each of us a hug.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Final Frontier

Many years ago, I developed a phobia of outer space. It just sort of happened...I looked up into the night sky, and felt terror. It provoked a visceral response in me, similar to the feeling I get in my core from heights and roller coasters.

It has something to do with the sheer distance between myself and the stars, moon, and planets. I look at these celestial bodies and feel as though I will "fall" all the way out to them, like if I'm not careful, gravity may lose its hold on me. The longer I look, the more I focus on the feeling, the more panicked I become.

Sometimes I freak myself out by thinking of what it would be like if the Earth fell off its orbit. The world is plunged into darkness as it falls farther and farther from the sun. Would we feel anything?

A couple years back, I thought I had gotten over my phobia, but it came back. The feeling is not so strong as it once was, but it's still there.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Recap of the Past Year

Last March, I moved out and lived on my own for the first time. I had been doing fairly well, wasn't on any medications. It felt like something I had to do. My first apartment (a one-bedroom) was in an old, 15-unit building. It was quite large for the amount of rent I paid. There was coin laundry in the basement.

At first, I was anxious, worrying that I had made the wrong decision, but I started to feel more comfortable the more I figured out which things go where. The anxiety didn't go away, though, and my mood started to sink. The stress of trying to survive on my own, loneliness, and a multitude of other problems, like my neighbour constantly yelling at her dog, was really getting to me. I started on a new medication and made plans to move.

I now rent a room in the gorgeous 1920's house of a member from my mother's church. Having other people to say "hello" to at least, has been nice. My mood had been improving on the new meds, to the point that I attempted taking a chemistry course. The drug's effects seem to be wearing off, though, and my mood has plummeted again. I dropped out of the course and am now generally miserable. I feel useless and have started to hate myself (something I've never experienced before). I've been having suicidal thoughts; I worry I may act on them. I promised myself I'd never attempt suicide again...