I drew this triangular design a couple of days ago and I knew I wanted to add some words around it, but I just didn’t know what I wanted to add.
Well, today was counselling/therapy day for me. A fair number of issues came up in the past week, connections/realisations being made, awareness of my negative self-talk, and awareness of me talking care of myself a little more than I have done.
So it seemed appropriate that I should add words related to today’s session :
Believe and trust myself
Have compassion for myself
Maybe not the best worded, but relevant to myself.
I drew the design and hand-lettered the words with Uniball Unipin pens on white acid-free paper. Shading was added to the design with a soft drawing pencil and a paper tortillon.
I’ve been quiet around ‘tinternet for a couple of weeks – problems with my mood, instead of starting many new things I’ve been spending time organising a reference collection of my favourite patterns and designs of things like fungi and buildings and creatures and so on and its very much a work in progress! The process of going through the familiar and organising them is comforting to me …
I have done some new drawings for the Eerie project for Dover – not many left to do for the book, then the hard work is deciding which two I would like to colour in the most, always a problem.
Plans are afoot for a change in my online presence too … more as that happens!
The above images show one artwork I started last night and finished this morning. Most probably about 8 or 10 hours of work. Distress Oxides, Cosmic Shimmer watercolours and a Sakura Glaze pen were used. When light strikes the artwork at just the right angle, the metallics and iridescents bring the artwork to life; it’s like it lights up all by itself. A joyful feeling for sure as I look at it.
It was nice to work with colour and the more traditional media rather than digital art, though, yet again, I noticed how drawing with the Surface Pen on my Microsoft Surface Book are having an effect on my work on paper.
One thing I did enjoy was adding the sparkle and shimmer to the artwork, something I’ve not found out how to do digitally (or even if you can!).
So, I now have satisfied a need in me to work with colour and pen and I can turn my attention back to the illustrations for the Eerie book, and on to other things after that is done.
For today, I head off soon for counselling/EMDR, and to have my acrylic nails removed once again as they really do get in the way of me typing, art-ing, using my phone…and no doubt I’ll do some drawing while I have a late lunch between nail removing and counselling.
This is a little bit of a different blog post from me.
As I’ve mentioned before, I experience CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder), which presents itself in many ways, including anxiety, depression, and a low self-esteem.
I’ve had lots of counselling over the past eight years or so, and for the last two and a half years I’ve had a lovely therapist who specialises in EMDR therapy. It’s taken a long while for me to get to the point where I believe that such a gentle kind of therapy works, and works for me. It’s still a slow process…but progress is being made. A major change in employment nearly a year ago seriously helped with that.
Last week, my counsellor suggested I read a book called ‘Tapping In’ by Laurel Parnell. In the book, Laurel Parnell describes how the process of bilateral stimulation by means of tapping the knees or outer thighs can be used to reinforce a safe place, helpful guardians and other tools to help during both therapy and everyday life. My own therapist has successfully used it to reduce anxiety during a dental appointment as well as aiding in sleep.
She suggested I read the book and we do some work on the resources I need before continuing with EMDR as the last few sessions have left me rather upset, fragile, and, unsually for me, unable to find my ‘safe place’ at the end of a session, so that I can leave the fragile and upset state behind.
So, yesterday we worked on my safe place, with me coming up with a new one and ‘tapping in’ the contentment, peace and safety I feel when I imagine myself there. The bilateral stimulation from alternating taps to the outer knees, helps to reinforce the feeling of the place, and actually helps to intensify it.
I have no problem imagining places I can go to in my imagination; I’ve used guided meditations over the years for various purposes. When it comes to me coming up with my own imaginary places, it never ceases to surprise me what these places are like!
The other thing that was suggested after I’d verbally described my place, was to spend time over the week drawing/painting/creating images of this place, as well as practicing the process of tapping in my safe place and using it to help me manage my current high anxiety levels. (My anxiety intensified greatly yesterday, not as a result of counselling, but by the decision to hold a ‘snap general election’ and my worries about what is happening in this country, in the world, which then gets transferred to worrying about finances as I’m now self-employed, and so on and the constant chatter of anxiety winds itself up if I’m not careful).
Me being me, I get to it almost straight away…starting with these mandalas
“My mandalas were cryptograms concerning the state of the self which was presented to me anew each day…I guarded them like precious pearls….It became increasingly plain to me that the mandala is the center. It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path to the center, to individuation. ” – Carl Jung
So, I started with some abstract, intuitive mandalas to try to express the feelings I have when I think of my safe place, when I remember the feelings I have when I’m there.
Next, I wanted to draw some kind of representation of a view from one of the windows of my place. And this is what I came up with, though the view changes all the time!
Yes, I know water isn’t yellow, but in my inner world it can be! It also shimmers with gold and has lots of shining gold and blue ‘dots’ in it. Lots of happy creatures and colours there, all entertaining me … diverting my attention away from my anxiety.
Yes, I use art to help me manage my mental health. When anxious, doing art helps me become less so; when depressed, art lifts my mood. I’m sure the inner critic chatters away even when I’m ‘arting’, but the art takes my attention so the critic’s voice can be ignored.
Oh, before I drew anything, I took time to write a clear description of my safe place, as words are how I build up mind images.
I’m looking forward to ‘tapping in’ help for creativity, amongst other things… I’m also looking to intuitively drawing and creating some more of the living things that I can see from my safe place – all friendly and protective of course, nothing scary allowed there! Which suits my tendency to rather whimsical, cutesy, artistic style.
So, I’ve shared a little of my ‘safe place’, but I’m keeping a lot of details to myself – no offence, but I don’t want any gate crashers there!
I know, it’s a little early, but I thought I’d post this today, as well as a bit of a personal review of the past year.
2016 has been an interesting year for me, one of some major changes in my life.
It started with me being a science teacher, off again on long-term sickness due to a recurrent bout of intense anxiety and depression. I was so distressed about having to return to work as a teacher, about what else I could do. I couldn’t think straight. My capacity to read and understand what I was reading or remember it was severely impaired. I had trouble going out of my home. Anything to do with my job caused me an intensifying of these symptoms and the most distressing nightmares I’ve ever had.
Teaching has changed so much in the 28 years I was a science teacher. The pressures have increased, both in terms of workload and behaviour/attitudes of the students that is a reflection of how society has changed too. All of this resulted in triggers for my depression/anxiety/low self-esteem/low confidence.being overwhelmed by even little things. No matter how well people told me I was doing as a teacher (senior teachers, colleagues, inspectors (I never had less than outstanding in the last two inspections I was seen teaching in), I never believed them and thought it was just a fluke.
Because of this, I kind of knew that I’d have to leave teaching, but didn’t know if I could do so financially. I’m single, responsible for all my bills and so on, so whatever I did I had to make sure I had some kind of financial security.
Eventually, I made the decision to leave teaching and to become a self-employed artist/illustrator based on the success of the adult colouring books I’ve done (of which there are now many – listed on my amazon author page), and that happened in the early part of the summer, officially.
This was, arguably, the best decision I’ve made for a long time. The difference it is making to my mood/mental health, as well as progress in counselling is quite remarkable. My only worry at the moment is my first tax return and tax bill in the early part of next year!
I know I have a lot to do to create a portfolio and to come up with projects that will keep contracts coming my way, but I do have some breathing space at the moment, with just one book to be completed asap.
On the back of this decision, my home had a major clear out, again in the early summer. Though it’s not entirely finished, enough progress has been made for now. I now need to have a major de-stash of art materials to make space for either new, or just easier organisation of the materials i use most often.
I also discovered I have quite strong views politically about how our society should be a lot more caring of those who need help, for whatever reason, and how important the British NHS is and how much more it should be valued by those in power in the country, and not just seen as a cash cow for their buddies and supporters. It took me a long time, but I finally worked out that my beliefs/views politically mostly aligned themselves with the traditional Labour Party (not ‘new Labour’, which seems to me just a lighter shade of blue than the Conservative Party). So, I joined the Labour Party. Yet to make it to my first meeting, but no doubt I will do.
I also have become involved with Time to Change Wales as a Champion. This is an organisation whose campaign is to end the stigma and discrimination that surrounds mental illness. I’ve yet to tell my story at an event, but that’s on the cards for sometime in the early part of 2017. Again, this is something I have strong feelings about, especially the self-stigma that prevented me from recognising and accepting I had a mental illness (complex post traumatic stress disorder(cptsd)) and seeking help.
I am really grateful that I did recognise the cptsd, and have made the major change of going self-employed as a way of looking after myself and being happy in how I earn a living, and it doesn’t even seem like work most of the time!
I’m grateful for those who have stuck with me through thick and thin, offering me the support and encouragement that they are able to.
I’m grateful to those who have created difficult circumstances for me, and those circumstances have either shown me how far I’ve come along in healing, or where I need to focus some attention on as my counselling continues.
So, thank you 2016 for moving me forward in my life with the challenging events, for showing me how far I’ve come along in my healing journey, and for the fun and laughter that have helped me keep going.
Thank you to all those who have believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, who have given me amazing opportunities to create and share art with others via the medium of adult colouring books, and I look forward to all the opportunites that come along in 2017 for me to continue to create and share with others.
Here, as promised, is the line art for the image above. If you’d like to download/print and colour, please do so. All I ask is you respect my copyright, you use it just for personal use, not for commercial gain, and if you share your coloured image, please link back to my blog.Enjoy, and thank you!
I have to admit that I, like so very many others, spent the Christmas period alone (except for a couple of hours playing Trivial Pursuit at my little sisters on Christmas night). It’s not the first Christmas that this has happened, but it’s one in a very long succession of solitary Christmases.
I feel the pressure from society and the media greatly at this time of the year; the pressure to be in a happy family, showered with gifts and food and company and loving intimacy.
The image we’re sold that we can’t possibly be happy unless we’re part of a big, loving, happy family and in a meaningful, happy, loving relationship is a trigger point for my mood, for unlocking the kennel of the black dog that can nip at my heels all too often.
This year, though, I’m happy to say that the black dog didn’t visit as often or as long as it has in the past many, many years. Oh, I’ve had my moments, but I’ve survived better than I have for a very long time, most probably 20 years or so.
What helped is indulging myself in my coping strategies – creating art, making music, reading, cat cuddling and generally being creative (which currently means knitting baby blankets for my neice who is expecting twins in 3 to 4 months time). Also, avoiding social media – facebook especially – has helped too.
Reminding myself that I’m not at the point in my healing journey from the cptsd (complex post traumatic stress disorder) that I experience that I feel able to have healthy relationships has also helped. It’s a work in progress, the healing that is.
Another sign of my recovery from the trials and tribulations of the cptsd that I experience is that I made a little effort to add some ‘decorations’ for the Winter Solstice/Yule/Christmas season, which include a trio of small, knitted christmas trees, which kept me a little occupied in the days/weeks leading up to this time, as well as knitting and needle felting some bacteria and viruses for a pharmacist I met at an event I attended as a Time to Change Wales champion.
So, now the next event that can cause the black dog to find some strength is New Year’s Eve…
…which I can survive by using my super-power of being creative to help me cope.
The piece of art above has been done over the past 3 days. The black outlines were drawn first, followed by a base layer of Ranger’s Distress Inks applied with Clarity Stencil brushes.
I then used the Distress Inks as watercolours to intensify the colours in various places as well as to add the colour to the berries/seeds/buds.
Next, I used Cosmic Shimmer’s Iridescent Watercolour paints to add some shimmer in large areas, before adding detailed patterns using coloured pencils (I chose to use my Mitsubishi Uni Pencils for this).
Finally, I added metallic and ‘glittery’ sparkle using Sakura’s Gold Gelly Roll Metallic pen and a Clear Star Gelly Roll pen.
I was rather restrained for me by leaving areas just coloured, not embellished to high heaven and back! The areas I have added texture/pattern to stand out more and it’s not quite so overwhelming.
This could mean my artistic skills are maturing a little.
The most important thing, however, is that I enjoyed the process of creating this large (for me) piece of art. The paper I used is A3 in size, and the drawing is approx 9.5″ x 14.5″.
When I finally figure out how to price my art (any one wishing to offer help/advice/suggestions on this, then it will be gratefully recieved) I may put it up for sale on Etsy.
“Changes are good. Changes are good. Believe this, Angela.” Some of the self-talk I’m directing my mind to doing. Trying to give it a positive job to do instead of the “What have you done now, I knew it was going to be awful” type of negative thinking.
I am generally very positive about all that is happening, I really am. However, very sneaky grey clouds seem to find their way past the horizon to circle around my head.
Neighbours sparked not just one grey cloud but a whole storm of black ones a week or so ago. I won’t go into the details, they’re not that important. However, a grim couple of days ensued. Days that concerned me as they reminded me of the weeks, months, years I spent in that kind of state and scared me in case I ended up back there. I didn’t. A day or two of self-care, distraction with art, and finally one and a half Star Wars films and some Ben and Jerry’s Karamel Sutra really helped to shift the darkening mood, thank the powers that be. Must remember to add “Watch Star Wars, eat Karamel Sutra” to my self-care tool box!
Good things have come from this episode.
Firstly, a reminder of how I was and how far along I have come in my journey to heal from my past traumas, and how much more resilient I am. Yes, I had a couple of very grim days, but it was just a couple, not an every decreasing spiral into the pit of darkness and despair. That’s progress!
Secondly, it highlighted, with the help of my trusted counsellor, the fact that the one place I really should feel safe and secure in – my home – I didn’t feel that way after this episode. That surprised me as I hadn’t realised that. And that was part of the reason I took my work-space upstairs to my bedroom.
After a week or so of being up there working, yesterday morning I woke thinking that was a bit of a daft decision. With my front room now cleared out of clutter, my meditation table and space set up, time spent watching Star Wars with the company of Ben and Jerry in the light of plenty of candles, that the room really needs to be used for relaxing in all kinds of ways, including creating art, even art that is earning me a living. That may be ‘work’, but it’s always a pleasure, sometimes a little bit of a frustrating pleasure, but still a pleasure.
So, by 8am yesterday morning, the table, chair, art materials and so on had been moved down to a rearranged front room! I was drinking a big mug of hot tea and getting myself into the mental state to go do some work in the front room, making it my own space.
The table is one that has panels that fold down so it takes up a tiny bit of space when that way – maybe 7″ wide by 32″ long, which can be cwtched away to make more space as required, or to turn the room into a purely relaxing or room for receiving guests.
Sometimes it really does take me a long time to figure out how best to use a space, to make the changes. However, the best thing is that when it’s your own home, you decide how to use the space, and those decisions can, and do, change.
The only problem I have, is that the table is in front of the window which a particular nosy neigbour has been caught staring through; he does it to everyone, not just me. So, I feel a bit exposed. I really don’t want to go down the road of net curtains, but it may be something I have to do so I feel secure. I’ll see about that though, I’ll give it a bit longer or see if I can come up with a different, more creative solution to the nosy neighbour.
Self-love, journal writing and letter writing to heal.
It’s been a while since I last blogged something.
Life has been both interesting and uninteresting. I’ve had a lot of thinking to do, a lot of ‘down time’ has been needed to recover from the emotional stresses and strains of my working life.
I’ve spent a lot of time reading, the latest books are about using a journal as a method of self-love and healing oneself from the events of the past. Something I need to do.
I have kept a journal for many years now, and I do vent and rant in it and find my way to some kind of clarity. I have become a little disheartened at times as I seem to end up ranting about the same things over and over. The books I have read ( Writing to Heal by Jacqui Malpass and Journalution: Journal writing to heal your life and manifest your dreams by Sandy Grason) have shown me that this isn’t a problem, that it may take many times through the same thing to come to clarity, forgiveness (of self and others) and to let go and move on. In other words, I need to be kinder to myself and not be such an overachieving perfectionist! And I mean that kindly
My plans for my journal today are to make a list of people who I need to write letters to for the hurts done to me in the past (even if such hurt and pain was not their intent) and to people I’ve not had ‘completion’ with. These letters that will never be sent but will allow me to let out of myself the anger, fear, hate, upset, disappointment and so on, and work my way towards forgiving them and myself.
I’ve swallowed down hurt and upset and anger and fear and so many more emotions with copious quantities of food. The emotional reactions have been locked away, though they burst out at times, quite explosively at times, and it scares me that this ‘ice maiden’ has such energetic emotions. I’ve spent a lifetime of nearly fifty years suppressing my feelings, not sharing how I feel with others for fear of rejection, embarrassment conflict, hatred. I’m not good at putting into words what I think and feel if I’m upset in anyway. I am, however, much better at writing things down, as shown in my journaling of the past decade or so.
I won’t keep the letters either. I’m going to burn each one as it’s finished. If I need to return to the same person or group of people over and over again to clear things up for me, then I will do so. I will keep doing this until I can write a letter that forgives them, and one that forgives me too.
Some of the letters may be apologies for the way I behaved. I do have a tendency to cut people off, dead, if they upset me or betray me in any way. To keep myself safe, I walk away, ignore them when they are around. If I’m expected to work with them I can be cold and short with my words, protecting myself with such a thick wall of icy feelings and icy words.
This is kind of a scary thing to do. It’s not the first time I’ve tried this, but this time has the feeling of ‘the time is now’ about it. Pennies have dropped about the purpose of the letter writing, of letting out all the things I’ve kept bottled up for years inside me in a controlled manner, the writing being the control.
Art has been pretty much on hold as I struggle with the idea that I deserve to love myself, finding out what self-love and self-esteem are all about, and just letting ideas filter through the conscious to the unconscious mind. Inspiration for art has been, maybe not lacking, but put on the back burner for a while. However, there are some creations, some that are works in progress, others that are finished pieces.