Valentine’s Day 2019 – a mandala

©Angela Porter 2019

I created a really simple mandala for Valentine’s day. A day that is about love. A mandala that doesn’t have a single black line in it! That’s rather unusual for me!

Soft greens and pinks really speak to me about self-care – which is about taking care of oneself, treating yourself and speaking to yourself kindly and with compassion.

Compassion to oneself, that’s what ‘loving oneself’ is all about. Being your own best friend, speaking to yourself as you would a best friend in need.

This is one of the hardest things I have to learn as part of my cPTSD recovery.

I say learn, as it’s something I’ve never done or knew how to do, ever. Being kind to myself in words and deeds.

The inner critic is never kind, caring or patient and never ever has good advice. I think I’m a good friend to others, I try to be kind, caring and patient and if I’m asked I try to give good advice, even if that is ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer to that but lets see if we can find it together’.

I’m very, very rarely, if ever, kind to myself in that way. If anything, the emotional neglect and abuse I experienced from the earliest time I can remember taught me to hate myself, that I wasn’t worth anything. It’s hard to overturn beliefs from the past, beliefs about myself fostered by the attitudes and behaviours of others towards me when I have no point of reference to when I didn’t think about myself in this way. The inertia of the past, the power of the inner critic constantly wants to drag me back to how things always have been in terms of how I think and feel about myself.

However, every single time I manage to show myself some caring, some kindness, some patience, some compassion it’s a victory over the inner critic. And each little victory is vital as it is teaching me that I can learn to be that friend to myself that I so desperately need.

So, Valentine’s day is about love, we tell others we love them, but let’s make today also a day where we show ourselves some kindness, compassion, patience and caring, for the sake of our mental and emotional wellbeing. And lets not just do that on this one day, lets make it a part of every day of our lives. Lets learn how to befriend ourselves.

Entangled art, mental health quote.

©Angela Porter 2019

The Art…

Yesterday, I stumbled upon this quote before I headed off to my EMDR therapy session. I decided I wanted a fairly simple pattern around/behind it, and just simple colours, though I’ve played around a little with adding patterns to the sections.

I printed out the quote and the borders. I Used a Pentel Sign pen to draw the bold, black lines of the design. To colour the design, I used a Microsoft Surface Pen, a Microsoft Surface Studio and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. Behind the design I added a paper texture which, with some wizardry of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, I was able to add to the design to add some texture and imperfection.

Walks, EMDR and being brave…

I had a lovely drive to Neath for my EMDR therapy and I arrived with enough time to go seek out some yarn to buy for my knitting/crochet stash as well as have a walk around Victoria Park in the winter sunshine.

The first blooming daffodils were proudly holding their bright yellow heads up for all to see, and there were signs of plenty more to follow. Snowdrops, crocuses, pansies were all there to be seen too. Lichens on the bark of trees created a beautiful natural tapestry of colour and pattern. It really was lovely to see.

Without the leaves on the trees to muffle the songs of the birds it was quite raucous at times, but raucous in a beautiful way. The birds didn’t quite drown out the sound of traffic, people or the tinny sounding music coming from the speakers in the bandstand, but they were loud enough that I could listen to them and filter out the other sounds.

It was nice to be out in the fresh air after a few days of barely leaving my home as I recovered from the emotionally draining days of last week. It was nice to take a space to breathe before going in for therapy.

The quote above was a starting point for my session, during the usual reflection on how last weeks EMDR had affected me and how I’d been through the week. One of the weeks sticking points that cause me some discomfort was the many people telling me I’m brave for telling my story, for going to therapy and how good it is that I’m showing people that it is possible to recover from mental illness.

Brave? Me? Surely not! That goes against everything I was led to believe about myself from as young as I could remember.

“You’re fat, thick, stupid, ugly. No one loves you. No one will love you. No one will be your friend. You’re useless. You’re a failure. So and so is much better than you at everything. Don’t bother me. You’re making it up. You’re’ to blame for all of this. Why do you want to bother doing that?”

If I asked for help I was either made fun of, dismissed or ignored. Me and my feelings weren’t important.

No matter what I did to try to please or make people proud of me or to acknowledge how well I had done it was never good enough. There was always a put-you-down.

The only time my narcissistic mother ever expressed any pride in me wasn’t really pride in ME.

My daughter has graduated.” ” My daughter has a PhD.”

She has three daughters. I was never mentioned by name, not even if I was stood next to her. It was all about her. I was only useful for what could make her look better, for her to be the centre of attention.

These messages were taken up by other people around me. They became ingrained in me as the view I had of myself. I still speak to myself using these phrases when I’m in a fragile state mentally or emotionally.

I’ve known about the way I think about myself and where it has come from long while. However, the realisation that my feelings have never been important to anyone, not even to myself. I’ve pushed my feelings, my needs away so that other people don’t get upset or angry with me, so I make sure they’re always happy, even if inside I’m suffering in some way. This was something that came out of the very, very painful, emotional and frustrating EMDR session that followed.

Frustrating as I have very, very few memories of my past. I was made aware I was trying to hard to find a memory and reminded that part of cPTSD is hiding painful memories away, forgetting about them as a way of coping. I was told it’s ok not to have any memory. That I just need to let things be as they are in EMDR.

I think I’m trying so hard to ‘succeed’ at finding a memory, not to disappoint, the harder I try, the less likely it is for a memory to appear. The funny thing is, that once I accepted that through all the tears and anger and frustration with myself, the memories just appeared. There were so many that we just bundled them together as a ‘cluster’ and worked with them.

Then, through the tears and the pain in my throat and heart, a quiet, small voice told me that I had done nothing wrong and I did not deserve any of this. That I deserve better.

We tried working on me believing that through EMDR techniques. That caused me more tears and upset and emotional pain. So we called an end to the EMDR and talked a little about things.

Through EMDR I’m revealing more and more of my story. It causes me pain when new parts are discovered or insights are gained. But without that revealing taking place there is no hope of me healing. My aim is to tell my story without feeling any pain.

I was very tearful with weird memories cropping up as I drove home and through the evening. I had weird and disturbing dreams through the night. I woke with a blinding headache, which is still with me despite some painkillers. I feel so tired, weepy. However, I know there’s been a breakthrough, more than one actually, through yesterday’s therapy session.

The last words my therapist left me with were that she thinks I am very brave. Brave for telling my story. Brave for seeking out therapy to help me heal. Brave for persevering with EMDR when it can cause me a lot of distress and upset. Brave for showing people that recovery from mental health problems is possible. Brave for telling people that seeking therapy/counselling is a strong thing to do as we are helped to learn the skills we need to regain our mental and emotional wellbeing.

I don’t feel brave. I don’t understand how people think that I am. I do know I want to tell what I feel able to do so of my story to let others know they’re not alone. I do want to tell people about my journey to recovery so they can see that recovery is possible. I tell it to try to help others.

I don’t do it for attention. I don’t do it to have people feel sorry for me. That is my narcissistic mother, and others, still putting me down via the voice that is my inner critic.

Entangled art

©Angela Porter 2019

I found this lovely quote a couple of days ago and knew I wanted to add entangled patterns around it.

About the art.

Rather than hand letter, I decided to print the quote by J.M. Storm out, along with the outlines to the boxes. I do very much like a well defined space to work within. I know I’ve done art where I’ve left an organic, uneven edge in the past, but I still like those clear boundaries.

To draw the patterns I used a Sheaffer fountain pen along with 06 and 04 Pigma Sensei pens from Sakura. The 06 led to me using some heavy lines to define the patterns and sections, something I’ve not often done for a very, very long time and I find it pleasing. Again, clear boundaries. I also like when art like this is coloured; it looks like stained glass and I love stained glass.

I may spend time colouring this today. I woke with a terrific headache this morning. Although it’s mostly passed, thanks to some Anadin Extras and copious quantities of tea, I still feel kind of spacey and tired and not able to focus much.

Why I like this quote.

She is a beautiful piece of broken pottery, put back together by her own hands. And a critical world judges her cracks while missing the beauty of how she made herself whole again.
J.M. Storm

I like it because it almost perfectly describes how I think about what is happening to me during therapy, about my journey to recovery.

The traumas of my life, right from a very young age, left me cracked and over time those cracks led to my mental health and emotional health breaking into pieces.

I’m the one who has to put the pieces back together, however I don’t have the skills and tools to do that. That’s where my therapist, my counsellor comes in. EMDR therapy helps to reprocess the traumas that led to me developing cPTSD and helps me to change the old, unhealthy, harmful thoughts and behaviours that I have into healthy thoughts and behaviours. My therapist helps me learn the tools I need to do this as well as to be more resilient as my life progresses, and so much more I’m sure.

I don’t know if it’s possible to make myself whole. My aim, though, is to be whole enough to have a life where I can do what I currently am unable to do – set healthy boundaries, be confident in myself, be less scared of the world around me, and so on.

I’ll always have cracks – evidence of the life I have led – but I want those cracks to be filled with gold or silver or copper so that they are things of beauty in themselves. They are evidence of where I’ve come from and what has led me to be the person I am.

I’m well aware that as I heal I won’t be quite the same person I was and many people won’t be happy about that. But those are the people who have wanted me to fit into their image of how they have thought I should be for their own ends, not least of which is my narcissistic mother.

No doubt my becoming the person I was meant to be, a mentally and emotionally healthy, resilient, self-aware, self-compassionate woman would be a source of great criticism for those who don’t like the changes in me as I heal the mental and emotional wounds.

Part of the process is learning from the past and freeing myself from the limitations placed upon me in the past by others with their own agenda, whether conscious or unconscious.

I’m sure there’s a lot more reasons why I like this quote, but the fluff-filled post-headache spaced out mind just can’t focus just now.

Happy Lunar New Year!

©Angela Porter 2019

In the space of 24 hours I’ve managed to:

  • get the sat nav on my car, Binky, sorted out
  • designed a template for Time To Talk day which is 7th Feb 2019 – a day where people are asked to start a conversation about mental health
  • designed and coloured a dangle design for the lunar new year
  • got my emotions, feelings, thoughts somewhat back into near balance after a brutal EMDR session yesterday for my cPTSD; as is often the case the session appears gentle, but it’s not till afterwards I feel the exhaustion, upset, and so on of the traumas being processed
  • get my Instagram account disabled for a breach of their rules, guidelines or something.

I’m not sure which is the most noteworthy or the biggest success!

I have no idea why Instagram have disabled my account. I’ve tried to contact them but the email address just bounces back, though the Messenger message has gone through. I suspect it may be to do with my rant about copyright infringement, but it was never directed at Instagram or anyone on instagram that I know … sheesh.

So, I guess if Instagram no longer want me there, then so be it. I shan’t be setting up another account with them that’s for sure if I don’t get some idea about what it is I’m supposed to have done!

Anyways, it’s Lunar New Year and the lucky colours for the year are red, green and purple, so that’s why that’s the colour scheme for the dangle. I thought a gold background would go with the opulence of the colours; I’m not so sure about that now!

It was a very quick drawing and colouring session for the dangle design.

Now, I have made the template available for you to print, should you wish to, on my own facebook page – Angela Porter Illustrator @artwyrd and in the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans facebook group. There are a couple of terms and conditions relating to their use.

Talking of dangle designs, my book A Dangle A Day is now published. In the book I show how to create dangle designs, one step at a time and there’s a whole host of different dangle designs you can use for various celebrations and events throughout the year.

Letter mandala

©Angela Porter 2019

This mandala grew from a letter A, and just a letter A. I extended the letter ends to create an interesting shape that filled much of the space. Then, I spent a lot of time removing parts of the shape and adding patterns and so on. When I was happy with the result, I added shades of the teal colour I’d used for the letter.

I’m fairly happy with this, though there are things I’d want to look at doing again or changing. Luckily, I thought to save the very basic letter A before starting to mess around with it.

Now I’ve done one, however, I wonder if I’ll manage to create a mandala for each letter of the alphabet…maybe, maybe.

Very soon I’ll be heading off to Ton Pentre to give an anti-stigma talk to a group of South Wales Police officers in my role as a Time to Change Wales Champion.

Time to Change Wales is all about ending the stigma and discrimination that surrounds mental illness. My talk covers some aspects of stigma and discrimination and the main part is me telling my story of my mental illness and the stigma and discrimination I’ve faced.

I have cPTSD and it’s taken me a long time to recognised I have problems with my mental health as cPTSD is all I’ve ever known.

I never know how I’ll feel after one of these talks. Often I’m emotionally exhausted and in need of self-care, which often involves a good nap. So, I wanted to make my daily blog post before the talk, just in case I’m out for the rest of the day.

Being self-employed means I can schedule a quiet day so I can look after myself should I need to.

And on that note I’d better get this posted and get myself sorted to head up to Ton Pentre.

Shades of pinky-red mandala

©Angela Porter 2019

I created this mandala after I returned home from EMDR therapy yesterday. I knew that my time today would be limited, so thought a bit of chill-time would be good for me before heading out for another commitment in the evening.

As is my way, I sat down with a blank concentric circle grid for mandala drawing on the screen of my Microsoft Surface Studio, Surface Pen in hand, and chose a colour to draw with. I had no idea how this mandala would unfold as I started to draw the first shape at the centre of the mandala.

As always, the lines and shapes just flowed from the centre out, one by one. In this case interlocking in a way that is a first for me.

I drew the whole design in one colour, before adding lighter and darker shades and blending them out to give some interest and dimension to the design.

As I worked, as the lines and colours flowed, even where I had to make adjustments or erase and start again, I could feel myself relax and my whole body started to breathe.

The whole mandala took a little less than 2 hours to complete, thanks to the magic of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro which does the work of repeating my motifs around the circle and makes it so easy for me to fluidly, organically develop and adapt the design elements as I go.

I firmly believe that digital art is allowing me to create art I wouldn’t have created for a very long time, if ever, if I were still using pen and paper. I’ve said it before, I say it now and no doubt I will say it again – digital art is opening doors to my creative expression I never thought would be possible, especially with the styles of mandalas I’ve been creating of late.

Drawing really does help me to relax, except when I’ve become overwrought as last Saturday and then nothing I do seems good enough to me and just serves to compound the unsettled nature. Finally, I’m aware of this part of my cPTSD and in future I can, hopefully, manage it better by doing something other than art to help to shift the mood.

Therapy yesterday was a combination of a loving-kindness meditation so my therapist could see what happens to me during one and then we used the physical pain I experienced to do an EMDR session. Lots of body stuff went on during that session – lots of pain and sensation. But by the end of the session I wore a gentle smile – not just on my face but throughout the whole of my being.

I felt content, at ease, for the first time in a few days.

I still feel that way this morning.

I had recommendations from my therapist for some loving kindness meditation cds to try by Tara Brach. So, two are downloaded into Audible for me to use later today!

Monday Mandala

©Angela Porter 2019

Monday morning.

I am so grateful that I work at home and don’t have to face the rush hour traffic any more. Rush hour traffic? That’s an oxymoron if ever there was one! Anyways, I digress.

Working at home means that I can take my time to come around, organise my days as I need to in order to satisfy the needs of contracts, appointments and self-care for myself. Including taking my time to fully wake up in the morning. I do wonder when was that point when I no longer woke totally alert and dashing to the shower was replaced by a slow, gradual ascent from sleep to awake enough to find my way to the bathroom. I

Today is one of those days where my day is peppered with things – my weekly therapy appointment, a commitment this evening, a prescription to pick up and have filled – that the day seems broken.

On days like this there are some things I do to help me balance myself. I sort out my BuJo for the day. I catch up in my journal. I do some art for the sake of doing art, for pleasure, for relaxation, for peace and calm.

Over the past week I’ve been doing loving kindness meditations at 11am. However, given the way I reacted to the last couple and how they affected my mood for the whole day I’m going to try scheduling them at the end of my day when all I need to do without being affected by any triggering of the cPTSD inner beasties is done and I have time to sit with the results of the meditation rather than try to fight them so I get done what needs to be done.

Talking of cPTSD, my mood is ok this morning, though I do have my EMDR therapy in a little while. That can unsettle me so I’ve decided to put off the loving kindness meditation until later today.

Art really can help me manage my mental health. Art can soothe me when I’m having a troublesome day. When it doesn’t, like on Saturday, I know that there’s stuff there that needs to be worked with. And that’s difficult because it’s difficult for me to even think about these things let along talk about them. However, I do know I can do ‘blind’ processing where my therapist doesn’t need to know what has triggered me, just what I’m noticing during the therapy.

So, that’s ahead of me in a little while.

This morning I felt I needed to create a mandala. So I did. Soft purples, lilacs, lavenders and a grey-ish blue. Not sure the colours work, but I enjoyed the process of creating this one, as I do all my mandalas.

Mandalas do seem to be one of my ‘things’ when it comes to creating stuff.

Of course, my Microsoft Surface Studio screen as my paper, Microsoft Surface Pen as my drawing tool and Autodesk Sketchboook Pro as my source of colour and texture media are more of my ‘things’ that help me to express my creativity. And they were used to help me create this mandala.