I don’t know about you, but watching a beautiful sunrise or sunset lifts my spirits somewhat. Sometimes the experience makes me cry, sometimes with the beauty of it, sometimes releasing some of the stuff going on inside of me. Either way, I find myself relaxing and breathing more easily as I watch the sun set or rise.
It’s something I don’t do often enough. Not just watch the sun rise or set, but spend time in nature. Walking where I can hear birds sing. Paddling in the surf where sea meets land. Feeling the wind in my hair.
When I need to do it most is when I’m least likely to do any of these things. People scare me. Being on my own with people around when I’m emotionally and mentally vulnerable scares me. Being on my own where there’s no people around scares me. Growing up I was always scared and anxious. I always tried to get away from family to somewhere where there was no one who could pick on me. Yet when I got somewhere I’d be so nervous and anxious and scared that I’d end up returning home and then usually hiding away in my bedroom.
If I think about going out to watch a sunset, walk along a beach, sit in nature and draw/write when I most need it to soothe my emotions and mind, the inner critic pipes up in my mother’s voice saying ‘why do you want to bother to do that? what’s the point of it?’ That voice still has power at these times, the times when I really do need to ignore it but don’t have the strength to do so.
I need to fight back. I’ve never fought back, well rarely. I have rarely had ‘no’ in my vocabulary. After over fifty years of life, that voice still has power over me, still robs me of what strength I have.
It’s on notice though – I’ve just recognised you and have worked out what you are doing and your time in my head and heart is now limited.
It’s Friday, so today is both furbaby friday and dangle day, so it’s quite fitting that I have, once again, combined a furbaby and a dangle in one design. I drew the design on Rhodia Dot Grid paper using Uniball Unipin pens and then digitally coloured it using the usual Microsoft Surface Pen and Studio along with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.
Looking at it now, I think I missed an opportunity to attach the dangle to the cat’s tail. I also didn’t add shadows, and I’m not too sure about the circles on the cat’s coat. Also, the cat looks rather ‘flat’.
‘A Dangle A Day’ is a tutorial book I wrote and illustrated to show how you too can create dangle designs and was published earlier this year.
A cute kitty to start the day with a bit of advice for self-care.
More of something for me to work towards – reaching out to a friend when I’m having a tough time with my mental/emotional wellbeing. Still a valid bit of advice.
I’m still not quite right today, feeling emotional and fragile still. I still need to get some work done, after an errand or two this morning. I think it’s a day for lots of tea and also drawing with pen and paper so I can sit in/on bed and work.
I still don’t know how EMDR could’ve floored me this week. It all seemed so gentle and nothing much came up during the session. Lots of body stuff for sure, but no memories or insights at the time. I seem to be stuck in emotional flashbacks and all I can do is hope that it’s processing trauma as part of it all.
I know this will all pass in time. I know I’m working towards healing myself with help from Linda, my EMDR therapist. I know that there are steps backwards which are really steps forward as trauma is released and processed outside of the EMDR session.
So, today it’s errands then it’s settling down to be creative and to take care of myself. Lots of tea. Lots, and lots of tea.
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.
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.
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.
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 work in progress so far. I am definitely learning new tricks, though I’m not quite sure if they’re all easily visible in the reduced sized image for the interwebs.
A nice way to spend an hour or two after an anti-stigma talk this morning to a group of South Wales Police officers. I’m emotionally whacked out. I do have to go out to an appointment shortly, however, otherwise I’d definitely be asleep before too much longer if not already!
I am noticing that as I tell my story of my mental illness I’m getting more in touch with some of my emotions. It used to be that I would just tell my story with little emotion being visible to anyone else. I seem to be getting more emotional about my story, sometimes almost overwhelmed by it.
The ice-maiden melteth, mayhaps.
I do know that when I get emotional I get so tired afterwards.
I just hope that telling my story helps people in someway and goes some way to helping end stigma and discrimination around mental illness.