A colourful, small reef illustration

Reef Illustration ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
Reef Illustration ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

A little reef illustration.

Yesterday, I got round to colouring my little reef drawing. And it is a little drawing – the paper is just 4″ square (10cm square).

To colour it, I used my Chameleon pens – both the Color Tones and Color Tops. I finished the illustration off with some small dots from a white Uniball Signo gel pen.

What I didn’t expect was that the pigment from the Uniball Unipin pens bled somewhat. I don’t remember that happening before. Mind you, I usually scan and print my black and white line art and colour the print. I didn’t do that today — something to remember for future reference. This is why some of the colours look a little dirty.

All the same, it’s a colourful, happy little illustration. I also like the thickness of the main lines with the variation in line thickness in the details. Diversity in line weight is something I need to remember when I draw digitally. Looking at my latest colouring templates, I think I may have used a line that was too fine. Again, this is something that I need to consider in the future.

It’s always lovely to do artwork like this, using traditional media and working in a familiar, comfortable style. It gives me a chance to reflect on what I’m doing elsewhere and to adapt and change what I’m doing to improve it.

Creating this artwork has given me ideas for some projects in the future. More on that when they come to fruition.

So, Angela, how are you doing today?

I’m doing OK. I’m feeling a lot brighter as the aftermath of Monday’s bombshell fades.

I’m aware I really don’t get out of the house and move my body around much. I either get engrossed in art and the day slips past me quite quickly. Or, my anxiety rears up and try as I might to overcome it, I just can’t seem to make it out of the house.

After a conversation with a friend the night before, I remembered that I like to walk around cemeteries and that my local cemetery might be the perfect place to go for a stroll.

And I did. Go for a stroll.

My love affair with cemeteries started when I used to walk to and from school when I was 11 and 12 years old. Walking to school was always a bit of a dash. However, I could take my time on the walk home to wander and explore the cemetery.

Even on the gloomiest, darkest winter afternoons, I never got freaked out by the cemetery. The dead have never scared me. The living, however, are an entirely different matter. The living people around me were the source of my traumas and CPTSD. The dead could do nothing to me that was any worse than the living.

I found the variation in headstone styles fascinating. I found I could chart the change in fashions over time. I also found reading them fascinating as some of them could tell me about the deceased and their families. It was history related to real people and brought them back to life. It wasn’t the dusty, dry, uninteresting facts in the history lessons I had to endure in school.

And so began my love of wandering around cemeteries.

I find them soothing, calm places to be. They’re quiet, not many people visit them. And there’s plenty of wildlife in them if you’re quiet and take the time to look.

Perfect places for me to walk and explore. Even on the days when anxiety stops me going to more people-y places like towns or parks, a cemetery can offer me that quiet space I need to take a walk.

If you’d like to see some photos and read some words about my walk and the cemetery, then please visit my other blog, Curious Stops and Tea Shops.

Mandala WIP

Mandala WIP 31 July 2019 ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
Mandala WIP 31 July 2019 ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

I’m still in self-soothing mode after Monday’s emotionally draining trigger and EMDR session. I’m feeling a lot brighter, content, and not worried, but I’m tired as the stress from Monday is still affecting my sleep. It takes days for the stress hormones to leak away from me, bearing in mind I always have an elevated level thanks to the CPTSD.

Any way, back to art…

My self-soothing arty activity involved adding some patterns and motifs to my visual Zibladone (kind of a journal thingy). Always a soothing kind of experience for me. It also gave me the practice with pen on paper that I’ve discovered I need to do daily.

While drawing these patterns and motifs, I knew I wanted to try to create some of them in colour, with a lot of texture and dimension. So, the best way for me to do this is with a mandala. Well, that’s what I ended up starting work on. Originally I wanted to create a page similar to one in my Zibladone, with examples of motifs and patterns that are drawn/coloured digitally.

I may turn my attention to that after I’ve had some lunch. I’ll see.

Yesterday, I also completed the August template for the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans facebook group. I’ll post an image of it tomorrow, but it’s up in the group already, along with a colour palette challenge for August. The template is exclusive to members of the group, and new members are always made welcome there. I’m always blown away by the beautiful and unique ways in which the members of the group bring my line art to life with the magic of colour.

Mandala WIP

Mandala WIP 03/07/19 ©Angela Porter|Artwyrd.com #createdonsurface #surfaceart #digitalart #mandala
Mandala WIP 03/07/19 ©Angela Porter|Artwyrd.com
#createdonsurface #surfaceart #digitalart #mandala

It’s coming along as I take a break from drawing coloring templates. Working on something like this clears my mind of the coloring template just completed and lets me start afresh on the next one.

I’m not entirely sure about the darker ring of motifs. However, I know there’s a point in creating art that things seem to be going horribly wrong. All that I need to do is to push through that, keep going, and it will turn out OK.

I am trying to work within a palette of greens, green-blues and golds. I want to keep my palette fairly simple. So far, it seems to be working out ok.

So, Angela, how are you doing today?

I’m doing fine, feeling quite content with that soft inner smile, though I woke with a horrible headache. I think that was due to an anxious time at a meeting last night. I often suffer something that is migraine-like as quite elevated anxiety gradually leaks away to return to my usual background level.

Oh! The joys of CPTSD.

Today, I’ve also noticed that I have a hair-trigger for increased anxiety. A knock at the door, voices outside have had me feeling very anxious and somewhat scared. Need to get my noise-cancelling headphones, I think.

I often listen to either music or an audio-book while I create art. I also love to listen to a book as I crochet.

At the moment I’m listening to “Revan”, book number 2 in the Old Republic series of Star Wars books, just in case you’re interested in knowing that.

Anyway, back to my emotional health.

Being able to cut out the noise of the scary world outside the relative safety of my home is something that I do need to do when my anxiety is provoked. I am aware that too much of that and I can have a strong startle response and even head off into the realms of hyper-vigilance.

So, my next task today is to go get those headphones and put a load in the washing machine before returning to do some more art today. I think I may need some lunch too.

Be Brave WIP 30 June 19

Be Brave ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
Be Brave ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

Another 6 hours work done on ‘Be Brave’ since I posted yesterday.

I rather like the ‘tubes’ arcing off to the top right. I love geometric patterns. I also love playing with light and shadow.

In my home I have quite a few pieces of artwork from my AS and A level art days, some 15 or so years ago now. Three of them are oil paintings. They’re abstract paintings of patterns taken from rusty worm screws from a steam locomotive, some kind of gear thingy from a diesel locomotive (also rusty) and detail from an angel from the tympanum above the door to Malmesbury Abbey. Each one is done in a simple colour palette – magenta, red, orange and yellow for the locomotive parts and blues and white for the Romanesque angel abstract.

I discovered I hated working with oil paints. They’re slimy and messy. I don’t like slimy nor messy (I think that’s why I’ve fallen in love with digital art!).

However, I remember the exhibition where these were show after the AS exam. I recall being puzzled why people were coming up and touching the paintings. So, I asked a friend who’d attended why she had felt my oil paintings.

She said they looked so three-dimensional she had to touch them to see how I’d achieved it and was amazed they were flat.

I hadn’t seen this 3D property of my artwork until someone pointed it out to me. Then, just like magic, I could see what others could see and why they were touching the paintings.

As I worked on the ‘tubes’ I remembered this experience. I know that I don’t see my work as others see it and it can often appear ‘flat’ to me as I know it really is flat! I don’t always see the illusions of depth that I create in my work, illusions I bring out mostly unconsciously as I add colour.

I think this memory cropped up as, like with the oil paintings, I’m working with pure colour – no black lines to outline the design elements.

As you can see, I am using a drawing of mine as the guide, the map for what I will produce in colour.

This is a difference in the way I usually work, that’s for sure.

The amazing mandala I completed a week or so ago now opened the door for this way of working. I did start with an outline drawing for the mandala, and it really was a basic line mandala. It gave me the basic forms and shapes. I then started to go to town on embellishing that basic design.

I discovered I really enjoyed working this way, not least because I realised my digital art skills had progressed enough for me to succeed.

Mandalas are one thing, but working on a drawing like this is a bit different for me. It’s full of self-doubt and worry it’s not going to work out. Because it’s not so symmetrical it requires thinking about what order I complete each design element.

It is, however, turning out ok. And I’m really learning a lot more about my favourite digital brushes, and new ones, and how I can get the effects I want.

I use a Microsoft Surface Pen, Microsoft Surface Studio and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro to create my digital art.

So Angela, how are you today?

I’m feeling content and I can feel a gentle smile inside me and a slight smile on my lips. Yes, I know that sounds weird, but it’s the only way I can describe how I feel today. Also, my digestive system has settled down as well.

Yes, there’s still the background ‘noise’ of anxiety, but it’s not as vociferous as it was just a day or so ago, and one heck of a lot quieter than it was last Monday post-EMDR.

I do have EMDR again tomorrow. The same thing may happen in terms of heightened anxiety and upset digestive system.

I have to say to gain days like today – days where I have that contentedness, that inner gentle smile – are more than worth the days of feeling not so well both physically and emotionally.

Even my bad days are nowhere near as bad as they were in the years leading up to my first serious ‘breakdown’. That is an excellent thing. I am progressing along slowly but surely on my journey to recovery from CPTSD.

July 2019 Dangle Design

July 2019 Dangle Design © Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
July 2019 Dangle Design © Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

July Dangle Design

July is nearly upon us. It seems hardly anytime at all since June started! So, close to the eve of a new month it’s time for a dangle design.

This month I wanted to do a floral wreath with a little hand lettering. As I live in the Northern Hemisphere July means summer. So, my charms are a glowing sun, an ice cream cornet, and a tiny feather. I chose colours that remind me of summer too.

Now, for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere where winter has begun, feel free to substitute different charms – perhaps a snowflake instead of a sun and a steaming mug of hot chocolate instead of the ice cream cornet. Of course, a more wintry colour palette would be lovely.

I designed this to be A5 in size so that it would fit nicely in a BuJo, but equally it would look lovely in any planner, journal, diary or scrapbook. Of course the sentiment could be changed too.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the wreath has a seven-fold symmetry. Well, July is the seventh month after all!

If you’d like to learn more about how I design and draw dangle designs, along with plenty of designs to use or adapt, then my book “A Dangle A Day” is a good place to look.

I did create this dangle design digitally, using my trifecta of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio. It would be quite easy to draw with pen on paper and then use any media you like to add colour.

So Angela, how are you today?

I’m feeling quite content today within myself. I seem to have rested quite well. My digestive system still doesn’t feel quite right, but it’s certainly a lot better than post-EMDR on Monday.

In my blog yesterday, I wrote about my CPTSD and the prejudices I seem to face for having therapy. I’m amazed at how that post garnered a lot of interest on twitter; a lot of interest for a tweet by me that is, the most I’ve ever had.

I was humbled by this, but the best thing for me was someone letting me know my blog post had helped them.

That’s why I write about my CPTSD, mental health and emotional health. It’s not for attention (I don’t deal well with being shown attention of any kind – all part of the CPTSD). I share my story and journey so that it may help others.

It took me nearly 50 years of life to work out that I had a problem, and a couple longer to work out that it wasn’t just anxiety and depression, that it was something more, that it was CPTSD.

This is a label I needed to have. As I learn more about CPTSD it helps me accept that I am stuck in the past; not in terms of reliving memories and events over and over, but in the way I behave, feel, react to life.

Being traumatised means continuing to organise your life as if the trauma were still going on – unchanged and immutable – as every new encounter or event is contaminated by the past.

After trauma … the survivor’s energy now becomes focused on suppressing inner chaos, at the expense of spontaneous involvement in their lives. These attempts to maintain control over unbearable physiological reactions can result in a whole range of physical symptoms including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and other autoimmune diseases.

“The Body Keeps the Score” Bessel Van Der Kolk

Today, as I read a little of “The Body Keeps the Score” this quote really struck me.

If I think back to the weeks, months and years before my first bout of serious anxiety and depression, I can see how I was trying to control the inner chaos during my daily life. I struggled every single day with exhaustion, fear, fighting back the tears and wanting to hide away or run away. I also hoped I would die in my sleep so I didn’t have to continue with this.

I certainly had physical symptoms of illnesses for which there were no physical causes – upset stomach, losing my voice, problems with my lungs, outbreaks of weird spots on my skin. I’ve also developed a couple of chronic illnesses along the way too.

I don’t lose my voice anymore, but I certainly still get a dodgy digestive system and asthma attacks when the lightly napping anxiety monster is provoked and awakens. Oh, and I still get weird flare-ups of skin problems.

It’s taking me quite a while to read this book. I lost my ability to read during my first big ‘breakdown’; I still have problems retaining what I read. Sometimes I even have trouble making sense of what I’m reading. I used to be an avid reader. I miss that. However, I am aware that my ability to read is returning… slowly. In the meantime, audiobooks are a great source of pleasure for me.

CPTSD and me #PTSDAwarenessDay

PTSD Awareness Day ©Angela Porter|Artwyrd.com
PTSD Awareness Day ©Angela Porter|Artwyrd.com

It’s no secret that I have Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, CPTSD. It has stemmed from being ignored, put down (“You’re stupid, fat, ugly, no one wants to be your friend”), and bullied daily inside and outside the home from a very young age.

I was groomed by a family member when I was around 7 or 8 years of age. I had other traumatic experiences of a sexual nature then too.

I had no one I could turn to talk to about this as the person you’d usually turn to for help, the mother, was one of the people perpetuating this.
There’s so much more I could tell you, but I think you get the gist.

I continuously lived, and continue to live, feeling unsafe in the world. I’m constantly anxious. I used to rarely notice this anxiety as it’s the ‘normal’ background level I know. Nowadays, thanks to therapy and EMDR I’m more self-aware and recognise it’s there.

I had to admit to myself that I needed help with this when I was away from work for nearly a year with severe anxiety and depression. An occupational health nurse, who worked with people with PTSD, said I was a classic case of CPTSD and suggested EMDR.

I realised I couldn’t live my life the way I was. I had become too scared to go out of my home except when I had appointments or at night to go shopping. I was hiding away from the world, staying in my house where I felt relatively safe.

I am still like that many days. However, I have more days where I can get out and about. Not only that, but I have more content days than days of discontent and sorrow.

EMDR therapy is helping me to recover, slowly but surely.

I’ve had people questioning me, yet again, whether EMDR therapy is any good for me because of the upset tummy I get after it, as well as the exhaustion. They questioned, whether I really needed it. This annoyed me as I yet again had to explain what my life is like daily and why I no longer wish to live with the constant fear and anxiety that limits what I can do.

I wear a well practised mask of confidence and strength that belies what lies underneath. I think this is why people try to tell me that therapy isn’t doing me any good and I don’t really need it. I think they think I’m lying about my past, the trauma I’ve experienced and how deeply it’s affected me and the way I live my life.

Can you all stop trying to tell me what I need and what I don’t need?

You aren’t walking in my shoes, with my inner critic repeating the constant criticisms given from my mother and others. You aren’t living with my emotional fragility or the constant increased anxiety, even fear, I feel when around people.

When I have bad days you think it’s the therapy that causes it. It’s not. It’s that therapy opens up trauma that I continue to process in the hours or days afterwards. Sometimes that processing is via an upset digestive system, sadness, increased anxiety, emotional exhaustion and fragility.

The thing is, that these bad days are a small number of the totality of the days of my life and they lead to a greater number of days where I am content.

They are a small price to pay for a future life where I live a mostly content life with no anxiety, except in appropriate situations. A life where I and my body have learned I am safe, that my past is finally my past and not being relived everyday through that constant anxiety and fear.

Why would I not want to go through the bad post-EMDR days to get to the life I’d like to live?

EMDR is working for me, even though there are times when I’m not too good after it.

Think of it as surgery. If you have surgery you’re not very well for a while afterwards. EMDR is surgery on the trauma of the past. The processing is the healing taking place, although its painful, it’s necessary.

You wouldn’t tell someone who needed an appendix removed not to go through with it as they’ll hurt as the wounds heal would you?

You wouldn’t tell someone with cancer not to go through with chemotherapy as they’ll feel awful afterwards, would you?

Trauma, whether a major event or the constant day to day trauma of abuse and neglect damage us on an emotional mental and even physical level with chronic illnesses being linked to long term stress. EMDR is the surgery that helps to release, process and heal the effects of the traumas I’ve experienced in my past so that I can move forward rather than stuck in the past.

Does that make it clearer?

I need EMDR therapy to heal from my past and gain the life I would like, a life where I’m not ruled by the constant fear and anxiety that developed as a response to never feeling safe anywhere from the time I was born.

My therapist often tells me I’m brave for coming back to EMDR again and again when I know what I’m likely to experience. She wonders after each extremely emotionally painful session if I’ll return.

I always do.

I’m prepared to put the work in and to accept the days where I feel poorly after EMDR as I can see they are part of the journey to a better life for me. A life where I have a better relationship with myself and the world around me.

I’ve lived my whole life in emotional and mental pain. I want to live as much of the life that remains to me without that emotional and mental pain.

Can I make it any plainer than that? I don’t think so.

About the art…

Art is often very soothing for me, especially when I’m feeling fragile or distressed. Today’s art certainly has soothed me. I woke with a dreadful headache. The headache is now easing off somewhat; it’s leaving me rather tired though.

I thought I’d do a little something for #PTSDAwarenessDay, so I made use of my Microsoft Surface Pen and Surface Studio along with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.

Now I’m working out which tools I like, what effects I can get and the settings I like to use my digital art is speeding up just a little. Mind you, this is simpler than the ‘Be Brave’ wip I’ve shown in previous posts.

Be Brave – Entangled Art WIP 25/06/19

Be Brave WIP ©Angela Porter 2019 | Artwyrd.com
Be Brave WIP ©Angela Porter 2019 | Artwyrd.com

A bit more done this morning. Another 2.5 hours today for a total of 15.5 hours. Some hand lettering has been done today as well.

It’s coming along, slowly but surely.

I don’t think I’ll be doing much more today. I’m not feeling too well. More about that below though.

As usual, my tools for digital art are Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.

So, Angela, how are you today?

I’m not feeling too well. I woke up in the night all hot and sweaty with a very upset tummy again.

I was ok before my weekly EMDR therapy session. I think this bout of illness is linked to EMDR. It turned out to be a rather surprising session.

I had a bit to talk about with my therapist, Linda, to do with interesting bits of the book I’m reading “The Body Keeps The Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk who is one of the foremost experts on traumatic stress.

For real change to take place, the body needs to learn that the danger has passed and to live in the reality of the present.

“The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk

Linda and I had a little chat we had about how important she thinks it is that I blog and talk about my CPTSD and how trauma in my life has affected my life so much.

Our scans had revealed how their dread persisted and could be triggered by multiple aspects of daily experience. They had not integrated their experience into the ongoing stream of their life. They continued to be “there” and did not know how to be “here” – fully alive in the present.

“The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk

She said she thinks its particularly important as people assume that PTSD/CPTSD can only come from major traumas in life, sexual abuse, physical abuse. We talked about how neglect from birth – emotional and physical – can be traumatic and can cause problems with relationships with others and the self, and how it sets up the patterns for the negative beliefs about oneself.

I certainly did experience emotional and physical neglect and I never really had somewhere that was safe. I do now. I live alone. My home is my sanctuary, my safe place, and I rarely invite people into my home. Even though my home is safe for me, noises outside – doors slamming, car horns beeping, loud voices (even happy ones) can provoke a startle response in me. This is relevant to what happened in EMDR this week.

Scared animals return home, regardless of whether home is safe or frightening. I thought about my patients with abusive families who kept going back to be hurt again. Are traumatised people condemned to seek refuge in what is familiar? If so, why, and is it possible to help them become attached to places and activities that are safe and pleasurable?

“The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk

It’s not just having a safe home that’s important for me. I can feel safe here. However, leaving my home can mean I feel unsafe, anxious, on edge and this prevents me from doing things that I’d like to do. Simple things like going into a cafe for a cup of tea, or into an unfamiliar shop, to get out of my car in an unfamiliar place and walk around, to name just a couple.

I never felt safe at home or anywhere else for as long as I can remember.

That one thing has had a huge impact on my life, and though I now have a safe place, there’s still so much to work on when I attempt to venture into the world and interact with it and with the people that inhabit it.

Anyway, back to yesterdays therapy session.

We went on to continue EMDR processing of the traumatic event that we were working on last week.

Lots of pain/feelings in my body as the trauma was being processed. The front door to the building was slammed and the noise caused me to become startled. Linda was really surprised at how strong my startle response to the noise was, especially as this hadn’t happened before. She asked how long I’ve had startle responses; I informed her for as long a I can remember. She checked back on a PTSD questionnaire (not the right word but I can’t think of what that is now) I’d done a number of years ago now and the startle response was there.

I was instantly on edge, anxious, wide eyed and hypervigilant and we did some calming and grounding exercises before going back to the orginal memory.

It was obvious that the memory we were working on was being flooded by the startle response. So the EMDR was brought to a close for this week.

We did some calming and safe space work before I left.

Apart from feeling a little more anxious than usual, I felt ok on my drive home, other than I was aware that my body was still processing trauma in the way I experience it during EMDR – so odd aches, pains, sensations. Linda did tell me to be prepared for this happening as the startle response had really upped the ante on the processing and has brought forward new stuff to work with, even if I don’t know what it is at the moment.

However, as time went on I started to feel more anxious, extremely exhausted, and rather teary.

I still feel that way now, even though I also feel quite content at the same time.

The contentedness is that ocean that is me, the other feelings are the weather that causes waves on the surface of that ocean. The weather is rather stormy today.

Doing art helps me to be more aware of that contentedness, that’s for sure, which is why I focus on doing art on days like this, or at least on creative ventures.

Having an an upset stomach after therapy is quite a common occurrence for me, and Linda tells me it happens to a lot of her clients. It’s part of the continuation of the processing and/or the heightened anxiety that I experience in EMDR and in the startle response and I feel that anxiety in my stomach/abdomen strongly.

It’s always there and it’s part of the reason I tend to overeat; if I’m overly full I feel uncomfortable from food not from the anxiety I feel.

So, I’m feeling exhausted today, my digestive system is feeling tender, fragile, and still a little (maybe more than a little) yeuchy. A quiet self-care day is in order I think with light food for sure. I suspect a good sleep will be on the cards too.

As much as I find comfort in doing art, there comes a time when I become dissatisfied with all that I do, and I reached that point with my ‘Be Brave’ WIP. I think a day of crocheting hexagons and adding them to the blanket I’m making for a friend may be in order, and watching something on TV or DVD that soothes me, so that may be Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter or the like. It may be that I listen to an audiobook, though I tried doing that earlier and I kept having to rewind as I couldn’t pay attention to it in the way I’d like to.