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!
My previous blog post about a mixed media work in progress is still on hold, although I have added a crackle paint to it in places, which has added some texture to it. I’m pleased with the result, but I still am not sure what else to do to complete it.
I have completed a very textured background for some mixed media work; you can see it above. What I’m going to do with it I’m not quite sure, but I’m sure it will all come together at the right time.
Abstract Line Art
I’ve been drawing more ‘Doodle Worlds’ images from time to time and now need to gather them together to see if there’s enough for another ‘book’ for the Colorist app.
I also turned my attention to colour and pattern and the two images above are the results of around three to four days work.
I used A4 300g/m² smooth watercolour paper and applied distress inks to create the coloured areas. I wanted to create the illusion of shadow and light in these areas. Next, I used various drawing pens to add the patterns. On the green piece, I’ve added copper and gold coloured metallic highlights. The pink one isn’t quite finished yet.
Sketchbooks and my artistic journey
As the days are becoming lighter and warmer, my thoughts are going to getting out to visit places and to do some sketching/drawing (intense anxiety and intense self-consciousness allowing).
With this in mind, I’ve prepared pages in an A5 and an A4 sketchbook. I’ve used Distress and Distress Oxide Inks.
The image above shows the first page in my A4 sketchbook, a page full of daisies, worked using different media, trying out different styles and degrees of detail.
I like to work on a coloured background, I don’t know why, I just do. I think it may be that I like to add shadows and highlights to create and image from the colour on the page.
I’ve not done much in the way of sketchbook work for a long while, but the need to revisit and to continue to explore different ways of expressing myself artistically has surfaced. I think this is a much over-due response to the surfeit of work on colouring books in the past three or so years, as well as the struggle I’ve had with my mental health.
My energy, when mentally able, has been focused on completing the work I was contracted for with various publishers. I enjoyed the work, the subject matter pushed my boundaries in the subjects I tackled. I’m so grateful for that work as well as it allowed me to make changes in my working life that helps me to take care of my mental health. It was/is also an activity that helps me manage my mood. I lose myself in drawing/creating, finding myself ‘in the flow’ where my mind stills, or, rather, where I no longer pay attention to the inner critic.
However, the colouring book work was the focus of my artistic energies for much of that time, and I had little energy left to explore other areas of artistic expression. I didn’t mind that at all, as I’ve said, I enjoyed all the work I did, and I will continue to create templates. However, that is not all I want to do or to create.
I now have time to revisit ways of artistic expression I put to one side in my focus on the work for publishers, and I have the chance to see how my skills and expression have developed/changed. I also get the chance to explore and discover new ways of expressing myself, using new media.
In this way I can continue to discover, practice and refine my artistic voice and vocabulary. I still feel like a toddler in the world of art. I wonder if I’ll ever progress from that state.
The biggest obstacle to me doing this is the lack of belief and confidence I have in myself and my artistic abilities. I also have a problem in deciding on what to draw. Then, there’s also the issue of finding themes/styles/media to explore that will challenge me just enough that I feel I can make a good attempt at them and gain confidence in them, but not so much that it overwhelms me and I fail before even trying.
The most important thing for me, however, is to enjoy my artistic journey, no matter where it leads me. The pleasure and peace I get from creating will be something that will serve me extremely well throughout the rest of my days on this planet.