I’ve spent a little time this morning working on this rather sunshiny mandala. It’s not finished yet and I’ll think I’ll keep the sunrise (or sunset) colour theme for the rest of it.
Digital art using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.
So, Angela, how are you feeling today?
I am feeling tired today. I woke with a headache and tried to sleep it off and woke again with it still there. I’ve taken some Anadin extra, but it’s still faintly there.
I’m feeling tired emotionally too. I’ve had a couple of things happen this past week that have caused some quite visceral emotional reactions. Some of these events I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, others I’m not at all comfortable to share, not even with my therapist, not yet that is.
I constantly feel on the point of tears, and I know what has been the trigger for that. I also thought I’d got past it, but obviously not. That disheartens me a little. It may be there are different facets to this particular collection of relatively recent events.
Oh, the joys of living with CPTSD. It’s not described as complex for no reason at all.
Despite the tearfulness and some fearful anxiety, I can still touch that inner contentedness that I have cultivated. The contentedness is the ocean; the tears, anxiety, fear, the stupidity I feel, as well as other emotions I can’t label yet, are the waves on the surface.
Waves come and go. Sometimes the ocean surface is as calm as a millpond on a still day. Sometimes it’s as turbulent as tsunami rising onto a beach.
The surface of my ocean of contentedness is somewhat choppy, perhaps verging on stormy, but far away from being at the level of a tsunami.
I do have EMDR therapy soon; there’s a very good chance it’s going to be a rather emotional session. I just hope it doesn’t add energy to the waves that are currently forming upon my inner ocean. Given how emotionally fragile and vulnerable I feel at this time, I won’t hold my breath!
This is definitely a ‘not sure about it’ verging on the ‘I hate it’ work.
It was doing great until I added that grey area, and it all went to pot I think. I do struggle with colours at times that’s for sure, and it’s gone downhill from there.
I’m kicking myself for combining all the layers at that point. I’m working digitally, as is my preference for mandalas. I could leave the various ‘rings’ as separate layers until I’m finished. Or I could just save versions of the work as I go along. However, I didn’t. Maybe I’ll remember to do this in the future. Mind you, I won’t be holding my breath on that one.
I don’t want to go and change the grey areas; I really don’t have the motivation to do so. Also, to edit that digitally would be really fiddly and awkward and I know I’ll just get myself into a bit of a state. I’m frustrated with myself for being a twit and not saving the mandala in layers.
On reflection, I now know that my emotional state last night affected my work.
The bright purple, pink, yellow and green central section really reflected my contented, optimistic mood rather well. Then, I went out to visit friends in the evening, and something happened that triggered me into full flight mode. I almost ran (and I don’t do running, ever), straight to the safety of my car and I drove away.
One of them phoned me as I was driving home and persuaded me to return. I had to sit in my car for a long while, just crying until I was ready to return. When I did return to them, floods of tears happened again.
I’m self-aware enough that I now understand what my flight was all about. Also, I’ve gained an insight into what I’m processing in EMDR, which is going to be of value in next week’s session.
I can’t believe how suddenly I flew away. I had no chance to ground, breathe, think through things logically. It was a very visceral reaction.
An hour or so later and I was laughing and smiling once more. However, I can see from this mandala that my mood was severely affected as I worked on those grey areas last night before bed.
I don’t think I can save this mandala now.
Whatever I have added to it just doesn’t work. I’ve tried changing the background colour and darkness/lightness with no luck as well. So, it’ll be one of my rare pieces of art that won’t be finished.
Working on the mandala did help to soothe my emotions before I retired to bed, so it’s not all negative. I think that’s why I can now leave this as it is. It’s served its purpose for me.
Actually, thinking about it I have quite a few pieces that I’ve not finished and am now not likely to do so for various reasons. This particular mandala, however, is one that shows me just how much my art can reflect my emotional state.
That is something new for me; it’s not often, if ever, my emotional state is reflected in my art. Looks like that’s changed! Or, at the very least, I’m just aware of it now.
So, I’ll start with a clean state, metaphorically speaking. I also think I’ll create a limited palette to use with the next mandala. That may help me with my colour issue at the moment.
Also, I’m awaiting delivery of my Chameleon Fineliner pens in a couple of hours. So, I know I’ll want to ‘play’ with them. I suspect some art with pen and paper will be appearing on the blog tomorrow, even if it’s just a sheet of experiments with the fine-liners both in drawing and hand-lettering and handwriting. Maybe there’ll be a dangle design too. At the moment I don’t really know myself.
So, I’m going to get myself another mug of tea and ponder what I want to do artistically/creatively for the rest of the day. I also need to write about last night’s flight and process it as best as I can.
Oh, I used my favourite digital art tools for this – Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.
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.
I’ve mostly been away from social media, and art, this weekend. Sometimes one just has to have a break from it.
This morning I discovered that July is ice-cream month, so I thought I’d do something quick, fun, and whimsical with an ice cream mandala.
Not happy with much of the mandala. I can’t put my fingers on why;maybe it’s the seemingly childish nature of the art, the lack of complexity, the colour choices, or something else.
It did seem like a good idea at the time, and even though I wasn’t happy with it, I was determined to work with it until it was finished.
It was, however, mainly a practice in using layers and different digital brushes. It also helped me get back to digital art after a weekend of mostly crocheting.
As usual, I used Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with a Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.
So Angela, how are you today?
Just like the previous days, including Saturday and Sunday, I’m feeling content. I’m tired after not a good night’s sleep with weird dreams I can’t now remember.
I needed a break from social media this weekend; too much doom and gloom in the goings on around the world. I also felt I needed a bit of a break from art. I wasn’t happy with whatever it was I was doing (colouring the design for the cover of a colouring book I’m working on). So, I spent much of the weekend crocheting the big scrapbusting blanket I’ve been working on.
Well done me for recognising I needed to do some self-care!
The blanket is nearly finished, and my wrists and fingers are aching from the weight of the blanket as I join pieces in. However, I do think it’s working out just fine.
Crocheting is soothing for me – its repetitive nature is calming. Mind you, I also watched a few films while doing it. That was soothing too.
Today is EMDR day and I’ll soon have to sort myself out to head out for my weekly session. I know we need to finish off what was being worked on in the last two sessions. I then think I know what needs to be worked on next.
I do have to say that despite my tiredness, I think I’ve had a week of contentment and positivity and few moments of upset in one way or another. I can’t remember a whole week like this, with the level of contentment that I’m aware of and what I think is a reduction in the background level of anxiety.
Progress is progress. Sometimes it comes in tiny amounts. Occasionally, progress comes in larger, more noticeable amounts. At other times it’s noticed only when enough tiny amounts have accumulated for me to see progress has been made.
I’m not sure which of those applies at the moment, maybe all of them. But it’s still most welcome, and also a sign that I’m increasingly self-aware compared to the person who would ignore emotions, distress, dangerous situations all to keep other people happy to my own detriment, even though I wasn’t aware of that at the time.
I am now aware of it and I feel embarrassment and shame. I feel stupid for allowing myself to do such things.
I am, however, determined to heal and move on to become a person who considers my own feelings, emotions and safety is as important and to learn to feel safe in this world, in my body.
A cute and simple mandala today with a little bit of hand lettering in the centre.
I used a Microsoft Surface Pen on the screen of my Microsoft Surface Studio in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro to create this mandala.
So, Angela Porter, how are you today?
I’m a lot less exhausted than yesterday. I slept, lots. I’m still feeling a bit light headed and tired, but I am able to mostly function this morning, as evidenced by the cute mandala.
I have to get my self sorted soon to head off out to give an anti-stigma talk for Time to Change Wales. I’m sure I’ll be able to do it and I can take time to recover afterwards if I need to.
I’m still quite surprised about how deeply the last EMDR session has affected me. Not only tiredness, but my digestive system is again a bit out of kilter. It will all settle down again given time, just has it always has in the past. It’s all just part of the healing process. It’s the after effects of ‘surgery’ to release the trauma. No surgery is without unpleasant after effects and time needed to heal.
I found this wonderful poet the other day and I have ordered three of her books. She so eloquently creates poems that describe aspects of my CPTSD, trauma and my healing journey too.
On the days when you feel ashamed of your scars, your mind only registering how ugly they are rather than the beauty they prove of you having survived, remember that there is an entire art form dedicated to filling the cracks of broken things with lacqurered gold.
An entire art form that proves that even the broken and damaged history of an object is beautiful and should be treasured.
Remember how much more you are than an object. Remember your survival, your journey, your scars deserve to be treasured too.
______________________ Nikita Gill
That is just one of so very many poems that spoke to me. I look forward to the delivery of the books so I can read through many, many more.
I was up until nearly 3am talking with a friend in need of listening and some help to make sense of what’s happened in their life.
I did get a few hours sleep, but I am now flagging just a tad and I’m really not up to doing some ‘adulting’ before going to therapy. I know if I’m over-tired then I get overly anxious all too easy. I can do without that kind of flare up before EMDR.
So, I thought I’d look for some words to do with therapy and healing and I found these by Yasmin Mogahed.
I’ve done a very simple mandala-like design/frame around the words. Just simple shapes and shadows. Nothing fancy. I used Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with a Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio (no surprises there!).
I thought the spirals would represent the traumas slowly unfurling and flowing away, the darkness being transformed into light. The green leaves represent that new growth and healing. The smaller purple leaves I thin represent the poison, the stored trauma that still exists, but they are reducing in size.
I don’t know. I may be trying to put an interpretation onto the design that isn’t needed. I’ll let you be the judge of that.
It’s been a nice way to spend an hour or two. I do wish I had time to sleep some more, but I do have to do an errand on my way to therapy.
I have no idea what therapy will bring with it this week. I never do know. Little by little the traumas are being identified and processed.
My mind isn’t finding the words I need now, so I’ll potter along to sort myself out for my trip to therapy. Another mug of tea I think (caffeine is likely to be my pal today) and a gently drive westwards in the cloudy sunshine.
Warning – there are triggers in the CPTSD section of my blog today.
A little more work done on this mandala before I start back on a colouring template or two today.
It’s progressing quite nicely, though colour choice for latest ‘ring’ was an issue for the ‘shell-like’ green arc. It was a blue, but that didn’t seem qutie right, so I changed it for a green with a hint of blue. I’ve not quite finished with this section yet, but I want to let it ‘sit’ for a while and I can come back to it with fresh eyes.
I had thought the previous, darker ring was going to be a mis-fit. However, now I’ve added this latest ring, the darker one gives some much-needed contrast, and a bit more dept too. The inner part of those pointy arches makes me think of windows with a view out on the starry sky. Of course, the pointy arches make me think of gothic arches in churches and abbeys, with a more modern, sci-fi feel perhaps.
It’s not quite finished yet. But working on it one section at a time and then taking a break really helps me to see what I’m trying to do.
As usual, my tools are Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with a Surface Pen and a Surface Studio from Microsoft.
So, how are you doing today Angela?
I’m doing ok I think. I am feeling tired though due to not quite a long enough night’s sleep. I have that gentle contentedness with me again today, which is a good thing.
See, EMDR can cause upset, but all of these days of that quiet contentedness and a greater self-awareness are very much worth the difficult minutes, hours, days or even weeks after sessions.
This too shall pass.
Quite true. The fallout from EMDR does pass as processing continues or as my body needs to come down from an emotionally distressing time in some way. Sometimes that takes just a few hours or overnight. At other times it may take a couple of days or longer.
A small price to pay for days like today where I have that gentle contentedness. I’ve had precious few of them throughout the entirety of my life, most of them have been in the past few months or so thanks to the work being done in EMDR.
Warning – The following sections may contain triggers concerning abuse, narcissistic abuse, childhood abuse
Just forget about your past.
I don’t know how many times I’ve been told this by well-meaning people who have no understanding of CPTSD at all. I try to explain why it’s not possible, but they just seemingly don’t get it.
I think people think I spend all my time replaying my past memories over and over and over. Nothing is further from the truth.
Yes, I make statements about what has happened to me. That doesn’t mean I constantly play the events over and over again.
What plays over and over again is the anxiety, the fear, the feeling of being unsafe that these traumas have created in me, that live in me still. Various events can trigger an emotional, behavioural and/or thought-process responses from the anxiety, fear and unsafe feelings I carry all the time.
Also, I have very few memories from my past, particularly my childhood. I’m aware of some of the negative beliefs I have about myself. I get emotional flashbacks. But I have very few memories of situations that have contributed to these things.
How can you forget about a past you can’t remember?
With CPTSD the body, feelings, thoughts and behaviours are stuck in the past. Even now, no part of me feels safe in this world very often. Maybe when at home. Sometimes when I’m out and about with a companion. Rarely when out and about by myself.
Everyday life is fraught with danger for me. Maybe the danger is not real, but my body, my emotions believe it is and so my mind reacts accordingly.
Every single day of my life for as long as I can remember, right the way back to the few earliest memories I had as a child.
One of my earliest memories is of being a toddler and living in Cheshire. The back garden of the house backed on to a wheat field. I can remember going through the fence or hedge into the field, just to the edge where I actually was quite safe, to watch the combine harvester in action. As it was moving towards me, I became so scared I was frozen to the spot and was screaming in fear. My mother shouted at my older sister for not watching me, she came and shouted at me for daring to leave the garden. I can’t remember if my mother and sister argued, but I remember a lot of anger and fear with me. I have a memory of being told to stop screaming and crying or I’d be in trouble.
Even now, I get anxious at the thought of that memory. I can feel the fear of that younger me; not just the fear of a big, noisy machine heading towards me, but the anger around me. I don’t remember being comforted, reassured, calmed. I just remember anger from those present.
I do know that there have been many other instances in my life where I’ve been in that kind situation again – where I’m scared and I freeze, but don’t scream or speak out. I learned at a young age not to speak up or scream as that just made the people I looked to for caring or safety angry.
I remember a small number of these instances, but so many more have been ‘forgotten’ by locking them away where I can’t access the memory itself. It’s a self-protection strategy that happens. It’s not a deliberate action. It’s what the mind does to protect itself.
However, the conscious mind may not be able to access them, but the body, emotions, instinctive reactions, behaviours certainly do remember them.
So, does this explain, a little, why I can’t just forget about my past and move on? I hope so.
The stigma surrounding mental and emotional suffering.
Would any of us tell someone who has broken a leg to just forget about it, not get any treatment, and continue to go about their lives as if nothing has happened to them?
Of course we wouldn’t.
Well, not unless you’re someone like my mother who wouldn’t believe I’d hurt my leg and made me walk around for three days before calling the doctor. I remember the doctor yelling at my mother that I should have been taken to the hospital A&E straight away as I’d broken my leg. I seem to remember being in trouble for breaking my leg and getting her into trouble with the doctor.
Oh, I was blamed for her being shouted at too. Everything was always my fault. That’s what happens when a narcissistic mother makes you a scapegoat.
Anyway, caring, compassionate, loving people wouldn’t hesitate in taking a child for medical treatment or encouraging an adult to seek medical help if they needed it.
Yet some of the same people who’d encourage medical treatment for a physical illness somehow think that with an injured mind or emotions you should just get along with life as if nothing has happened.
The emotional distress through anxiety that I feel daily doesn’t go away just because I ignore it.
Anxiety stops me from doing things I want to do because I get so scared that I just can’t do it. I freeze. I need to retreat to my safe place which can be my home or my car.
Putting a brave face on is like putting a sticking plaster over a manky, infected wound. The wound now looks better, but underneath it’s festering.
Emotional and mental damage done by trauma is the festering, infected wound that hasn’t been treated properly. They don’t go away on their own, in the same way a broken leg won’t heal properly without treatment.
It’s not the memories themselves that are the problem. It’s the behaviours, feelings, responses that come from trauma damaged mind and emotions that are the problem.
I wasn’t ever helped through any trauma in my life, ever, as I was a child and into adulthood too. I was never helped to learn healthy coping strategies, to understand what happened, how to feel safe again. I was never helped to be resilient.
I learned unhealthy coping strategies that I still use. I also learned to wear a protective mask of happiness, confidence that belied the very scared, insecure, unloved, self-hating person within.
EMDR therapy is helping to undo the trauma and replace it with healthier ways of thinking about myself and living my life.
EMDR isn’t a sticking plaster for me, it’s like the hip-height plaster cast that I needed for three months to help the broken bone in my lower leg to heal. It would’ve taken less time and a shorter cast if I hadn’t been forced to walk on my leg as if there was nothing wrong.
I absolutely believe it is time that society starts to change the way they think about mental and emotional illnesses. The suffering they cause to the people who experience them is no less great than for physical illnesses.
This is one reason I include my journey to CPTSD in my blog, along with my art. I tell my story to help some people gain understanding. I tell it to let others know they’re not alone. I tell it to let people know it’s not just the big traumas in life that can affect someone – war, major accidents, life threatening events, rape, sexual abuse, physical abuse.
The constant daily actions of emotional neglect, emotional and mental abuse, bullying, scapegoating, an environment full of conflict and drama, can all take their toll on a person, especially a child who hasn’t had the help to learn the tools to be resilient.
It wears away at a person like the gradual drip, drip, drip of water on stone can wear a hole in it over time.
A child being abused by it’s parent(s) doesn’t stop loving it’s parent(s), it stops loving itself. – Shahida Arabi
I’m guilty of minimising the effects my upbringing has had on me. Until fairly recently I thought everyone was brought up in a home just like mine and I was weak, pathetic, useless, a whinger, a complainer, for thinking it had affected me, and a liar for thinking this had really happened.
I’m only just becoming aware of the gas-lighting done to me. Recognising the ‘you’re a liar, you’re just attention seeking, don’t bother me with your nonsense’ self-beliefs created in me has having come from another isn’t easy.
We need to stop categorising some traumas as worse than others.
What is important is how deeply a person has been affected by the trauma producing experiences, experiences where they feel unsafe.