Three years ago…

WIP ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
WIP ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

Three years ago I spent time with friends from a school I’d taught at for 27 years. As I look back on my time there it mostly seems a distant memory.

My life has changed in so many ways.

Being self-employed as an artist, illustrator and author is a wonderful thing, it barely feels like work as it is something I love to do for pleasure as well as to contracts. I choose my own workload and what I wish to do for the day.

There’s no appalling attitudes or behaviour to deal with (well rarely).

Healing from CPTSD is continuing, and perhaps the source of so many, many positive changes for me.

Three years ago I wouldn’t have thought I would ever feel content with a really low level of anxiety. I rarely ever go to sleep wishing I wouldn’t wake up. That was a nearly daily occurrence in the several years marking my leaving teaching for good after two huge ‘breakdowns’ where I had nearly broken my mind and my will through struggling in work and with a sharply declining mental and emotional health.

Looking back on my life, my mental and emotional health were never good; it’s always been degrees of how bad they’ve been. The mask of smiling happiness and competence was constructed at an early age. I bought into the lie of that mask and it took my mind and emotions nearly breaking to make me face up to that fact that I had some serious problems mentally and emotionally.

I lost my ability to read. Rather, I lost my ability to make sense, process, and remember what I was reading. I could hear the words in my mind but they may just as well have been in an alien tongue. It’s only in recent months that my ability to read and take in what I’m reading has been returning. It’s still hard work, but I persevere.

For over two years I couldn’t drive past the school where I talked, even in night time. I now can. A sign of healing and progress I think.

Gradually, I’m finding the strength and courage to leave my home more often by myself, not just for appointments but just because I can. It’s slow progress, but it’s happening. I get startled into hyper-vigilance still fairly easy, and panic attacks can ensue and I go into full flight mode back to the safety of my car or home. They seem to happen less often though, but they’re still there.

There are still many things that need healing or strengthening with me. Such as finding the confidence and belief in myself to sell my art and promote it.

I still carry many negative beliefs about myself; they’re like a many headed monster that when one head is slayed another becomes visible that was hidden in the crowd of faces.

However, eventually there will be no place these faces can hide, no places for the negative beliefs to hide, and the end will be in sight.

I will get there. It just takes some time.

Thanks to my fabulous EMDR therapist, I’m improving all the time. Even when what seems like a backwards step at the time seems to result in more forwards movement given enough time.

Yes, in three years my life has changed noticeably, and for the better, I think.

About the art…

The little bit of art above is my newest work in progress (WIP). I couldn’t find my ‘Be Brave’ art yesterday and thought I’d start a new one. Today, ‘Be Brave’ was very obviously in the folder for July’s artwork. I just couldn’t see it for looking!

The swirly bits will be changed on this one. They’re not working out for me the way I hoped they would. I will work it out though.

Of course, I’m using my trifecta of tools – Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Studio and Microsoft Surface Pen.

WIP – Monogram ‘A’

WIP Monogram A © Angela Porter |Artwyrd.com
WIP Monogram A © Angela Porter |Artwyrd.com

I’ve got a bit more work done on this entangled monogram. It’s coming along fairly well, though I’m still not at all sure about the colour choices. Mind you, that often happens with me and I persevere and it works out fine at the end.

As usual my trio of digital tools are : Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.

So Angela, how are you today?

I’m still really, really tired. I got to bed early-ish (for me). I had weird dreams again. That’s the third night in a row.

I could just go back to bed, but I can’t. I’m taking my sister out for lunch and she’ll be arriving soon.

I’m still content, but there’s a shadow there too. It may be tiredness. It may be the inner critic taking advantage of my tiredness. It may be that sense of deflation after EMDR. Or it could be any combination of these or something else entirely!

What I do know is that I’ll focus on that contented feeling that is there, if a little in the background today.

It’s not that long ago that this kind of tiredness would have me really down in the dumps, sad, miserable, fed up. I’m tired, but my lack of energy is due to tiredness, some of which is emotional tiredness after EMDR. It is taking a while for me to recover this week.

That’s OK though, for recover I will. I’ll soon be full of energy (relatively speaking) once again.

Another monogram A WIP

Another Monogram A WIP ©Angela Porter |Artwyrd.com
Another Monogram A WIP ©Angela Porter |Artwyrd.com

I was looking at the monogram I started a few days back and I’m really not happy with it at the moment. I don’t like the shape of the letter. So, I thought I’d try out a more ‘blocky’ letter. I also thought I’d try filling the letter with abstract patterns and shapes to see how that goes too.

You can see the result of my last two or three hours of work. I like what’s happening here, but I’m not too sure about my colour choices. Time to get limited colour palettes going again I think!

I’m perplexed as to how I can so easily create abstract mandalas that are really quite complex, but something like this seems to cause me no end of troubles.

I will persevere. I always do when it’s art.

As usual, I’m using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with a Microsoft Surface Pen and Surface Studio.

So, tell me Angela, how are you today?

I’m tired. I’m content but feeling ‘flat’ at the same time. The ‘flatness’ is draining some of the contentedness away from me today. I don’t feel as ebullient as I did in the last week.

EMDR yesterday was puzzling, confusing and overwhelming. I also think I went with the expectation of the same kind of thing happening as last week.

It didn’t.

Last week, we worked with one negative belief about myself and the image that popped up when I thought of myself as a baby or child while holding that belief and the feelings it generated inside me.

This week I went to therapy with an image of a ‘monster’ that had cropped up this week.

While processing in EMDR, the negative thoughts just kept coming and coming. The pain and sensations in my body were quite overwhelming.

At the end of the session, my therapist said we need to go back to how we’d worked in the last couple of weeks.

I agreed.

I’m so glad that despite the tiredness and flatness, the contentedness is still there, despite me feeling deflated from EMDR yesterday. Me being overly tired isn’t really helping things either.

I left the session feeling tired and I wanted to sleep. I couldn’t, however, as I had a commitment in the evening. That left me more tired. I really haven’t slept enough overnight to overcome the tiredness. It’ll soon be time to nap I think!

However, I did wake up with an idea about what I could do about a monogram, and wanted to explore that.

I also have to remind myself that yesterday in EMDR wasn’t a step backwards. It was finding out that the way to work is with a negative belief, just one, to prevent overwhelming, confusing sessions. Maybe not a lot of processing was done yesterday, but a lesson was learned.

On a positive note, I did some ‘adulting’ yesterday that involved going into a branch of my bank to pay a couple of cheques in and to enquire as to whether I’d received a payment, and to get the online banking thingy sorted it. It won’t let me log on. I can’t log on until I recieve this card reader thingy, but it should be a lot easier to do so in the future – woohoo!

I also had lunch in the park in Neath. Eating while out and about can be a huge problem for me, but yesterday I had the courage to do this again.

So, when I see those two things, I can see how much progress I have made, even though the tiredness and deflation are sapping me of a little bit of positivity today.

It’s only temporary, the tiredness and deflation. A nap could seriously help me out!

A bit of whimsy – ice cream mandala

A bit of whimsy - an ice cream mandala ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
A bit of whimsy – an ice cream mandala ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

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.

Sending Love – A Dangle Design

Sending Love - A Dangle Design ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
Sending Love – A Dangle Design ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

For today’s whimsical and cute dangle design, I used one of the designs from my tutorial book “A Dangle A Day”, altered the hand lettered sentiment and changed the colour scheme.

I used just five colour schemes in the design itself – blues, yellow-orange, pinks, peachy-orange and yellow-greens. I used a blue and green from the design to create the background colour gradient.

By using the same colour gradients throughout the design it brings the design together.

I added a simple drop shadow to the whole design to give it a little dimension. I could have added drop shadows to the lettering and the flowers in the rectangular charm, but I chose to keep it quite simple today.

I think this would make a lovely note card or greetings card. I also think, perhaps with a different sentiment, make a lovely page for a BuJo, journal, diary, planner, and it would be lovely as part of the design of a scrapbook page.

How would you use a design like this?

I drew, handlettered and coloured the design digitally using my Microsoft Surface Pen on the screen of my Microsoft Surface Studio as if I was working with pens on paper. My preferred art software is Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.

So Angela, how are you today?

I’m content with that background level of anxiety. I feel motivated to work even though I’m really tired again. This time it was from a late night conversation with a friend in need. I can nap later if I need to. The tiredness is actually giving me a headache.

My Nikita Gill books of poetry arrived yesterday and I spent some time reading one, “Wild Embers” from cover to cover.

I cried at some poems as they really touched something inside me, when she describes in words things I’m only beginning to recognise within me.

With other poems it was like a light bulb came on as understanding was ignited within me.

Yet others highlighted the difference between how girls and women are viewed to boys and men, and treated differently, and brought up to believe different things about themselves.

You can tell in her writing she has survived some serious trauma; she writes not just from her heart and soul, but from experience.

I can recommend her work to anyone who has experienced abuse, trauma and who, like me, struggles to describe what is emerging from the Pandora’s box of the past as the healing progresses.

It helps to show I am not alone. It helps to show other survivors of abuse that they are not alone.

I felt alone as I had no one to turn to when I needed someone most. I withdrew within myself, isolating myself, being lonely even when surrounded by a loud, extrovert-filled family. Desperate to join in, to be part of it, but scared to be noticed as that left me open to being the one who was made fun of, blamed for anything and everything. It was horrible to be ignored too when I’d spoken; that happened often. I never learned to speak up for myself, to ask for help, to say what I needed. I suffered long in silence.

I make no apologies for speaking up now. For talking about what happened to me, not in any great detail as I don’t have that myself.

I make no apologies for trying to raise awareness about the damage that emotional neglect does, how worthless being ignored and uncared for made me feel, and has made and does make others feel. How it grinds a person down day after day after day…

I make no apologies for doing what I can to help others to not minimise the effect these things have had on them. To stop telling themselves, like I did, that I was weak, an attention seeker, a whiner, a whinger, a liar when I was in need of help or support.

Someone made me believe that was what I was as children are not born believing that of themselves.

I make no apologies for writing about these things if it helps people understand that someone made them believe these things about themselves and they can unlearn them and replace them with more positive beliefs.

A thought just came to me then. As I teacher I focused on teaching students with additional learning needs. My first focus was to build their self-esteem and self-belief, always. I was shocked at how little so many of them thought of themselves and I found that incredibly sad.

I could see that in them and I could see how I helped them believe in themselves more, one tiny step at a time.

I can see now how I knew I too felt the same way about myself but believed myself too damaged to be healed or not worth thinking better of myself.

Now, with the help of EMDR, I am changing those beliefs about myself little by little.

That inner critic is mostly silent these days, I think. I still suspect it is still creating a very quiet susurrus deep in the depths of my conscious mind. However, it’s malignant murmuration becomes louder when I’m overly tired, emotionally drained, or my anxiety is increased by some trigger.

However, I have to say it’s power over me seems to have diminished.

That’s not to say I’m healed enough yet. I still have those negative beliefs about myself – ugly, unloveable, self-loathing of myself and my body – and of course there’s the inability to feel safe a lot of the time, sometimes even in my own home.

Of course there may be other things that arise during EMDR.

However I do think I have made a lot of progress over the years. Slow and steady for sure, but progress all the same.

Anyway, back to Nikita Gill.

I can recommend her work to those who are friends, partners, family members of those who have been abused to help to understand what someone is going through.

I can recommend her work to all, for her words are thought provoking in a gentle but descriptive manner.

I think I may be lending this book to my therapist…that’s how valuable I think it is.

Monogram Idea

Monogram Idea ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
Monogram Idea ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

I had an idea yesterday for a different way of creating a monogram. This is my work on it so far. The green-grey background is just to show the letter shape. I did hand letter the outline of the A.

I wanted to try this out with the way I’ve been creating digital art of late. I’m trying to keep the motifs simpler just so I can see how, or if, this will work out. So far i’m really not all that sure about it. As I’ve put a few hours into it so far, I’ll keep going and see how it progresses.

I’m wondering if using flowers may be the wrong kind of idea and I should’ve stuck to my more abstract patterns, arches and so on.

I’m really not sure about my colour choices either.

However, as it is a test piece of an idea that popped into my head I do need to work with it some more.

My mood isn’t helping me today, more about that further along this blog post.

As usual, I’m using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with my Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.

So, Angela, how are you today?

I’m fecking shattered. I hadn’t fully recovered from EMDR on Monday and doing an anti-stigma talk drained me more than I thought it would, even though I focused on what CPTSD is, how it affects my life, the stigmatisation I’ve experienced, and both the helpful and unhelpful things people have said and done.

After the talk I was absolutely ravenous and rather than go home before going out again to something I had on in the evening, I thought I’d eat out.

So, I went to a pub/restaurant I’ve been to before and bravely went in and had a meal! All by myself! Whether this was out of sheer hunger and desperation, or whether I really was feeling brave and more confident I don’t know. But I did it!

I didn’t get home until late after the evening meeting, and though I slept long and well I am still tired now.

I have that weird double, or even triple, feeling inside me. I can sense the underlying anxiety, though it does seem to be diminished a little since EMDR on Monday. I can also feel that contentedness that seems to have taken up residence in me. However, I’m overly emotional, tearful, and sad in waves.

My therapist has said that it’s a very Western thing to think that we can only experience one emotion at a time. In the East they accept that we can feel multiple emotions at a time.

For some reason that helped me to accept that this is what is happening in me, and that I’m more aware of my emotions and thoughts after a lifetime of avoiding/ignoring them and pushing them away.

I think my mindfulness training with a Buddhist tutor really helped in accepting this too. One of the metaphors he used is that we are like the sky. The sky it’s self is calm, still, peaceful. However the winds and clouds move through the sky and they are like our emotions, the come and go in different amounts and strengths.

The contentedness I feel is that sky within. Today I have multiple clouds scudding through and circling around. Just like the clouds in the sky above me today, they will float on by.

These moods and tiredness don’t help me at all with my confidence in my creativity. When I’m emotionally exhausted I do find it hard to find the good in anything I say or do.

However, I know that in time my exhaustion is healed and my confidence increases once again.

Today is another day where I need to be kind to myself. And that kindness will begin with another mug of tea and then a good long nap. After the nap, I may feel refreshed and ready to tackle colouring a template for the cover of a book. If not, there’s tomorrow to do so.

Wednesday

Wednesday ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
Wednesday ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

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.

Nikita Gill – poet

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.

Kintsugi

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.