Pawsome pals – you are not alone in this

You are not alone © Angela Porter 2019
You are not alone © Angela Porter 2019

Yesterday I had a pretty grim day after EMDR on Monday.

I really was down, miserable and feeling very, very alone in this world yesterday. A day where I felt I was unlovable. A day where I felt I didn’t belong anywhere. A day where all the past rejections and hurts were bubbling up without any specific memories attached to them, just the emotions, the emotional flashbacks that come with CPTSD.

These are feelings and beliefs about myself that I lived my whole life with. Life just added more and more of the same to them, reinforcing them, even when evidence came along to show it wasn’t true. It’s so hard when I’m stuck in these flashbacks, in this frame of mind to find let alone believe anything that is contrary to the old messages.

Those old ways of thinking about myself are familiar. Not comfortable, but familiar and more powerful than the more positive ones I’m working on replacing them with. It’s like they have a life of their own and pounce on me when I’m at my most vulnerable, and after EMDR on Monday and yesterday I was vulnerable.

I still am somewhat vulnerable to them today, as I am everyday to an increasingly lesser and lesser degree.

It’s on days like these, as I recover from them, I’m able to see a little of the progress I’m making through EMDR, something that makes me see it’s all worthwhile. Even on days like these when the old inner critic finds another bout of fading strength it’s worthwhile persevering with EMDR and working towards the maximum possible recovery from CPTSD.

I still haven’t learned that trick of reaching out to people on days like this. I still believe I need to struggle along alone and isolate myself. It’s I still think I’d be a burden to them and I don’t want to worry them and I don’t want people to think I’m an attention seeker or making it all up. I avoid phone calls, messages and I try to avoid social media as that can provoke the flashbacks or intensify them.

Most of the time, when I’m not stuck in the past, I’m actually quite content when I’m by myself. I draw and create with a gentle smile on my face and inside my heart. Life feels soft and gentle.

But on days like yesterday life seems harsh and hard. I’ve never learned to reach out to people for company or help on days like these. During days like these I never think to reach out either, not until the feelings and thoughts of the emotional flashbacks recede.

Then … then I start to wish I felt I could reach out. Which I now won’t do as the need has mostly passed.

I am still emotionally vulnerable and fragile, nowhere near as bad as I was, but still fragile. The flashbacks are receding. I may have some waves and ripples left from the storm that has almost blown itself out. I weathered the storm once again, I can weather the tail end of it now.

Yesterday I drew these pawsome pals. In the midst of emotional flashbacks I feel very, very alone, more so as I isolate myself at these times. For me, I think this is more of a goal. That I reach out and/or let people into my life. I learned how to put a brave, smiley face on at a very young age. Letting that face drop is not easy. Not easy at all.

Whiling away the time…

Whiling Away the Time (c) Angela Porter 2019
Whiling Away the Time (c) Angela Porter 2019

Yesterday turned out to be a different day than I expected.

The anti-stigma talks I was booked in to do didn’t happen. No one knew about them. So, I drove to some services not far away for a wee, tea, something to nibble and time out to relax and draw.

Then, I wended my way to Neath for lunch in forty-six, a cafe in Queen Street that I love for it’s quirkiness. I finished the drawing over lunch, and the result is above. I used various Pitt Artists pens from Faber-Castell, grey Uniball Unipin pens, and some coloured pencils. I wanted to work in monochrome, but I also wanted to experiment with scanning a monochrome drawing in and adding colour to it digitally. I tried that last night, but my mood plummeted and well, I abandoned the idea for now.

EMDR therapy followed lunch and then a drive back home.

I thought the therapy was quite gentle this week, though there was lots and lots going on in my body. We haven’t quite finished processing the memory I’m working on at the moment. Maybe next week will see it finished. I felt tired and a bit spaced out when I left EMDR, but positive and hopeful on the way home.

However, when I got home, after preparing a vegetable stew and putting it on to cook, my emotions crashed in on me.

I was so disheartened with myself, my art, my life. I felt so sad, so tearful. I was so tired too. Emotionally tired, mentally tired.

I didn’t know why I was bothering to do art, to draw coloring books, to write words, to speak up about mental health and my journey to achieve some measure of healing from CPTSD. I felt so lonely, so alone. I didn’t believe my own story, that I was making everything up as an excuse for being overweight, for being a failure, for being useless at everything I do.

I’ve not felt this disheartened for many weeks, time. The suddenness surprised me. No warning. No gradual decline that I could pick up on and work towards halting it.

I ended up going to bed early to escape these thoughts and feelings.

I woke up this morning feeling a bit better but with a horrible, horrible headache behind my eyes. I feel the pressure to complete the book I’m working on before the end of this month, but I’m not sure I’m in the right place to continue with it.

I suspect EMDR has shaken some stuff loose… and I need to give it time and space to be processed and released. I’ll have to see how I go with drawing later on, when the headache tablets kick in, to see if I can do anything today.

I need to tell myself I have time to complete the requisite number of illustrations, plus a couple extra so choices can be made. That it may be better to take a day to find my balance again.

Cat-ion

Cation © Angela Porter 2019
Cation © Angela Porter 2019

Another cute kitty-cat cartoon, this time drawing on my previous life as a science teacher, chemistry was my speciality along with curious facts and random bits of knowledge.

Drawn and hand lettered with a Sakura Pigma Sensei 04 pen on Rhodia Dot Grid paper. Digitally coloured using a Microsoft Surface Pen, Microsoft Surface Studio and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro after removing the dot grid and cleaning up the image using GiMP.

I’ve just realised I’ve not added shadows beneath the objects! Oops. Oh, it’ll do for now.

I’m starting to recover from all the anti-stigma talks last week, though I’m still feeling rather tired and yesterday I was overly emotional. I didn’t sleep too well last night as today I have two more Time to Change Wales anti-stigma talks to give this morning followed by therapy this afternoon. Not sure what is causing me some anxiety – the talks or EMDR therapy!

Both are emotionally draining. Telling a small part of my story relating to my CPTSD is always draining these days as I become more and more in touch with emotions I’ve suppressed all my life. EMDR is emotionally draining as it involves processing thoughts and emotions that were suppressed at the time a trauma happened, trauma being a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.

Friday Dangle Design, anti-stigma talks, CPTSD and emotional hangovers.

Dangle design 15 March 2019 © Angela Porter
Dangle design 15 March 2019 © Angela Porter

I officially have a post-therapy and post trio of antistigma talks emotional hangover/headache.

I’m so tired today. Headachy. Feeling quite sad. Finding focus is difficult.

A big, big mug of strong Yorkshire tea, clementine segments, banana and some French bread with butter and marmalade is being had for breakfast.

I was so tired when I got home yesterday from the last anti-stigma talk of this week that I ordered in pizza and garlic mushrooms. I watched most of Attack of the Clones while beginning to crochet a market bag. And when I felt I could sleep I went to bed.

To find that I couldn’t sleep, not straight away. My mind was still way too busy.

So, I thought I’d sit in bed and do a little drawing, which is the one above.

I knew today would be Friday, so I added some really simple dangles to the bottom of it for dangle day.

I used my R2-D2 Sheaffer fountain pen on some Claire-Fontaine mixed media paper. I have managed to smudge the ink in some places.

However, this did let me settle down to sleep. It was a meditative practice for me, if not mindfulness meditation itself. No matter what, it helped me calm and quieten my mind so I could sleep.

The anti-stigma talks have a part that is about Time to Change Wales, a bit about stigma and discrimination and mental illness, and the main part is my story of mental illness and how stigma and discrimination has affected me.

Self-stigma has always been the worst for me. What others would say to me such as ‘just pull yourself together’ or ‘don’t be such a misery’ or suggesting that I have a lot going for me in my life and I shouldn’t feel the way I was the same as I was telling myself. In fact, I talked to myself worse than what others could say.

I was really resistant to the idea that I had problems with mental and emotional wellbeing.

“It’s been a long, busy term. I’ll be fine after the holidays.”
“We’ve got an inspection coming up, it’s really busy.”
“I had that difficult pupil again today and it just wore me down, I’ll be ok”.
“I’m not crazy.”
“I’m not weak.”
“I’m not mad.”
“There’s nothing wrong with me that a weekend won’t fix.”

That was, and still is me to a lesser extent. Always trying to put a brave face on how I’m feeling. Trying to hide behind a mask of smiles and laughter and competency. Doing my best not to be a bother to anyone, not to worry anyone. Not wanting anyone to think I was lying/attention-seeking/making a fuss over nothing.

Always denying I had a problem. Until I could deny it no more.

That happened in steps.

Being physically confronted by two pupils led to me receiving counselling for the first time and with me finally admitting some things about grooming in my past, not only to the counsellor, but to myself.

Counselling kept me in my job. When it ended, the decline in my mental health resumed and continued until I had to have 8 months off from work, accept anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication to give my brain a break from the constant worrying, thinking, panicking it was doing.

One of the hardest things I had to do was to admit to myself I needed help. Not just admit, but accept that help.

Talking about my childhood, where those patterns of thoughts, the very negative, critical thoughts and beliefs I have about myself have come from. Not talking in depth, mind you, just touching the surface of it. This is emotionally draining for me. It awakens emotions in me that are only just surfacing and being recognised through EMDR therapy.

Yesterday, I wrote a post about why I do these talks. Today, I’m writing about the aftermath of the talks.

The aftermath won’t ever stop me from doing the talks. I can cope with it. I need a day or two of self-care (and ice-cream).

Self-care is doing things that are familiar, that calm me and bring me pleasure. So that’s art, crochet, Star Wars, ice-cream with a friend. It’s quiet time for myself, without the pressures of people. It’s sleeping when I need to sleep. My body isn’t tired, but my emotions and mind are. They need time to rest and recuperate.

And that just doesn’t apply to me, a CPTSD survivor on a healing journey towards recovery. It applies to each and every single person.

Me. You. Everyone.

We all have mental health. We all have emotional health. We all need to take care of them as much as we do our physical health.

Just as we seek help if we have a problem with our physical health, such as taking a painkiller for a headache, surgery for appendicitis, dental work for teeth problems, a cast for a broken bone, chemotherapy for cancer, then we also need to seek help if we’re having problems with our emotional and mental health.

There’s no stigma attached to having a physical illness. But there is with mental and emotional illnesses and problems. There should not be.

It’s about being kind to ourselves. Learning how to be kind to ourselves. Taking that time to give our minds and emotions a break. That’s what self-love is. It’s kindness to ourselves.

Something I never learned in childhood. All I learned was that I was unworthy, useless, stupid, ugly, fat, unloveable, a failure, an embarrassment, the reason everything went wrong.

I’ve lived most of my life believing that was so, trying to prove it wasn’t and to earn the love and respect of someone who is incapable of love and respect – a narcissistic mother. Not only her, but so many others in my life.

It’s never too late to do something to help myself have a better relationship with myself in the first instance. That’s what EMDR is helping me with.

If my talks help others recognise some of the same things in themselves, workout that their relationship with themselves, that their mental and emotional health isn’t good, and they determine to seek help when they’re ready, then every day of this emotional tiredness/hangover/headachyness is absolutely worth it.

Coloring nearly done …

©Angela Porter 2019 - Artwyrd.com
©Angela Porter 2019 – Artwyrd.com

I’ve had a quiet morning at home today and have taken the opportunity to have some self-care time, which for me means adding more colour to this design.

I’ve had three emotionally tiring days in a row; EMDR on Monday and anti-stigma talks on Tuesday and Wednesday. I also had two longish trips on Tuesday to Swansea and then Hereford in absolutely horrid weather.

I had a good sleep last night, but I still feel exhausted and I have one more anti-stigma talk to do in Cwmbran this afternoon. All done in my role as a champion for Time to Change Wales.

I could just curl up in bed and sleep again now, but the shower is calling me and I need to sort myself out for that trip to Cwmbran.

Some might say I’m doing too much. Possibly. But it’s important stuff talking about mental health in the aim of raising awareness, understanding and reducing the stigma and discrimination that exists around mental illness.

Yes, I may be exhausted afterwards. Yes, I may need self-care time for a day or so. But it’s important to do this. It’s important to me.

If I’d known more about what a healthy mind and healthy emotions are when I was younger maybe, just maybe I could’ve sought out help and it may have been easier to achieve recovery.

Maybe I would’ve been more self-aware and able to make better life choices so I didn’t add to the trauma I already carried within me. Maybe I would’ve been wiser and cared a little more about myself and not given so much of myself.

If I can help people to recognise that their mental or emotional health isn’t as it could be and to find a way to change that without fear of stigma or discrimination then I think it’s worth it.

That’s why I do it. Even when I myself am emotionally drained from it. I know I’ll recover. I know that on my way home today I’m likely to get some nice food to cook this evening, maybe even some Ben and Jerry’s Karamel Sutra, and I would like to settle down and watch some Star Wars.

I also want to get some cotton yarn. I had a book in the post at the weekend that has crochet patterns in it for what the American’s call ‘market bags’ and we in the UK call ‘shopping bags’. Crocheted, netting, pretty, reusable, personalised in terms of colour and embellishments.

I shall look forward to an evening of such self care tonight. A chance to properly stop, breathe and relax.

The difference colour makes …continued

©Angela Porter 2019 Artwyrd.com
©Angela Porter 2019 Artwyrd.com

I thought I’d show you the progress I’ve made on this drawing. I hope you find it interesting to see how things are progressing with it.

Yesterday, I didn’t get much done as I was whacked out after EMDR therapy in the afternoon. It was very intense with some very powerful physical pains as well as some emotionally upsetting insights. Tears flowed. An hour of discomfort to help to release years and years of emotional/mental pain and suffering isn’t too bad is it?

Today I’ve not done anything. I did an anti-stigma talk to a group of health-care employees for the ABMU Health Board at Singleton Hospital in Swansea. This was on behalf of Time to Change Wales in my role as a champion.

The drive there was horrendous. The rain was absolutely hammering down. Then, it was really difficult to find somewhere to park. I did find somewhere eventually. Then, there was the walk to the hospital and the problem of finding my way to the Chapel/Multi-faith Centre. By that time, the stress of not finding parking easily had caused me to flip into hypervigilance mode and it wasn’t easy to see or decode information.

Eventually I must’ve looked totally lost, a nice man asked me if he could help. When I said the chapel, I noticed another chap had come over and he had a Time to Change Wales badge on and it turns out he was Martin, one of two new champions who had come to observe me.

We had directions to the chapel and the other champion was waiting outside.

I did my talk, became, for me, quite emotional, and left, after chatting with people and Martin and Connor, the other TTCW champion.

I was glad to find my way back to my car, and started to feel a bit spaced out as I drove home. Thankfully the rain had mostly stopped though the spray was horrible.

I’ve eaten and had some tea but I still feel drifty and floaty and I really, really could do with a long nap now. It’s taken nearly 4 hours for me to feel ready to nap. However, I can’t take a nap as I have to drive to Hereford this evening for around 7:15pm. My sat nav said it would be an hour and a half journey there. Perhaps I could have a quick nap …

I know tomorrow I have another anti-stigma talk to do – this time with a group of police officers at Ton Pentre police station – and a medical appointment later in the day. Thursday I’m doing another antistigma-talk to a group of trainee nurses and midwives over in Abergavenny.

I foresee some early nights ahead of me, though most probably not tonight!

The difference colour makes…

The difference colour makes © Angela Porter 2019 - Artwyrd.com
The difference colour makes © Angela Porter 2019 – Artwyrd.com

This morning, I wanted to do a small drawing (the bristol board is approx. 10cm x 21cm) and try not to get overly fussy and trying to fill every space in. I used fountain pens to draw the line work, and I’m using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, a Microsoft Surface Pen and a Microsoft Surface Studio to add colour to the design.

I’ve often said it on the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans facebook group that the members work some fantastic magic in using colour to bring my drawings to life. And they do.

So, I’m working a little of my own magic here!

I don’t often colour my own art in – time constraints can limit me in this. Also, I love drawing so much and it takes me a lot less time to draw a design than it does to colour it. I can safely say I’m quite prolific when it comes to drawing, not so when it comes to colouring.

I’m also colouring this relatively small and less detailed design to fathom out the mysteries of the synthetic brush setting. I think I may be getting the hang of it and how I can make it work for me.

I actually like the less than perfect finish I’ve achieved, which has surprised me for sure. I actually really like the slightly battered feel to the orange pods in the artwork.

I’m usually obsessed with perfectly smooth colour gradients, whether achieved by digital tools or by more traditional methods of blending (whether working with traditional or digital media).

A good friend of mine (yes, you know who you are if you read this) did tell me when I bought my first Microsoft Surface a couple of years ago that it would open ways for me to create art and develop my artistic skills. It certainly has, and continues, to do that for sure.

I am aware that it’s quite a slow process where I’m concerned. Yes, I could go and watch and read tutorials on how to use the various brushes and settings.

I’ve tried that. The information given totally overwhelms me.

Being easily overwhelmed by information or sensations is something that is part of my cPTSD. If I get too overwhelmed, I tend to either walk away, end up in a panic or become fearful to face something again.

However, I do get a sense of satisfaction out of working out or discovering something for myself, when I actually need that something. Once I’ve become confident and comfortable with a particular skill, I’m then ready to discover more add more skills to my personal skill/tool box.

I never stop learning, discovering, and finding new ways to express myself creatively. I may no longer try to use a huge range of different media – my default these days is definitely digital. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in that. No doubt I will dabble with new kinds of media or creative skills from time to time (such as my toe-dipping into paper quilling; it’s not at all my kind of thing, but I had to try it to find out).

I still love drawing with pen on paper, but being able to scan that in and add colour digitally means I can make the best of both worlds. I can also keep all the little imperfections and smudges that result from drawing with pen and ink on paper, that add that more human touch to them, if I wish. Or I can draw digitally, keeping things clean and a bit more perfect. Either way works for me.

And so I finally overcome my own personal stigma concerning digital art vs traditional.

Therapy day!

It’s Monday so it’s EMDR day for me. I have no idea what the session will bring for me.

What I can say, though, is that though last week’s session was rather emotional and distressing, I seemed to recover quite quickly from it. By Wednesday I’d returned to a state of some contentment and that has mostly stayed with me since then.

I do know I have a busy week with anti-stigma talks for Time to Change Wales being given tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday, and then a double talk next Monday. As well as working on templates for the newest coloring book for Dover Publications Inc, I need to make sure I have time to look after myself and not avoid the feelings I may have after EMDR today.

I also know I have a busy week with other commitments too…

At least there’s some sunshine today, even though there are some big, puffy, grey and white clouds mostly covering the sky. There’s plenty of breaks in the clouds.