Today it’s just a quick post, with a variation on yesterday’s art and a bit of a waffle about EMDR yesterday.
. I replaced the symbol with a quote about my journey to cPTSD recovery, something I realised in EMDR last week and talked about again yesterday before the EMDR session itself.
I have secrets. There are events in my life that have resulted in me not being honest with myself, telling myself a ‘story’ about them to avoid the painful feelings and thoughts that are associated with them, to turn the events into something pleasant, something I wanted it to be rather than the reality of it. I can’t speak about these events, but I can write about them and have started to do that.
The painful feelings I’ve kept secret from myself, and it’s now time to be honest with myself and to face the things I never have that are eating me up inside. The writing is to help me be open and honest with myself about the thoughts and feelings and the resultant behaviour and thoughts/beliefs about myself that I’ve pushed away by changing the story. The story is how i would’ve liked things to be, not how they really were for me. However, the emotional pain and mental torture was still there and not dealt with, just hidden away to continue to damage and cause suffering.
Writing itself will only help me bring to the surface and onto the light of the page that which I’ve hidden from myself so I can identify what needs to be healed and put right.
That’s what this quote is all about to me, and this is how EMDR has helped me to reach this point. As well as the final understanding and acceptance that I don’t have to tell my therapist everything, she facilitates the process, aids me where necessary, helps me to learn new tools, new ways of thinking, as well as helping me find the bravery to face these things and process them at long last.
This is a transition for sure. Not a transition involved in ‘finding myself’ but in losing all the ideas and beliefs about who I am, how I should think, how I should behave, that have been imposed by others throughout my life.
It is now me making the decisions to change these and to change my relationship with myself.
It’s growth. So green is a very apt colour scheme for that.
And growth did happen yesterday in EMDR. To both of our surprises, the cluster of memories I was working on in EMDR which Linda thought I may never clear was cleared. And the pennies dropped about how much metaphorical images are powerful for me and stand in perfectly for memories I don’t have, only the emotional memories and resultant/concurrent thoughts about myself. So metaphoric is the way to go for me!
I love the combination of teals and coppery tones so I chose to use them as part of the colour scheme in this mandala. A simple black outline mandala with no crazily intricate detailed patterns included. I’m not so sure about the purple-ish I used for the ‘crystals’ in the other most rings of the mandala though.
Drawn and coloured in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro using a Microsoft Surface Pen on the screen of a Microsoft Surface Studio very, very late last night and into the wee small hours of this morning.
Today is likely to be another self-care day. I thought I was in a place where I could do loving kindness meditations again this morning. I’m not. So much emotional distress and even physical pain during the part of the meditation that involves bringing loving kindness to myself. I have no problem sending loving kindness to another being I feel love for. I have no problem sending it out to all of the Earth. Still, the nasty messages of the inner critic are fodder for EMDR. And it’s such a lovely sunny, late winter day here in the Welsh Valleys.
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.
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!
“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.
I’ve left teaching to set sail on a new career as a freelance illustrator/artist and whatever else happens along my way. It’s both exciting and scary.
A lot of things came together at once to get me to start a new path. Another bout of long-term illness being one, a good look at the amount of work available to me from existing editors/publishers being another.
I think the financial aspect of the change is the biggest scary thing I have to face. For 28 years I’ve been a teacher with a permanent contract that has a regular monthly salary attached to it.
Now, there’s no regularity in income, which is a tad scary when I stop and think about it in connection to my past. However, I am doing my best not to do that, to think positively about my future, a future that is so good for me in so many ways.
One excellent thing about it is being able to choose as and when I work. After 28 years of dancing to a regimented timetable and day the freedom is bliss! I can make use of when I’m inspired and full of energy and motivation. The deadlines I have to work to help with the focus, but I know that I do have a lot of flexibility in how I work to meet those deadlines. I also love the ability to have energizing afternoon naps when I need to!
Working from home is another plus. It’s been my refuge and place of safety and security for so long that it’s nice to be here. My cat really appreciates me being home too; at 14 years of age and a clingy pusscat with some health problems I’m happy to be with him. He’s good company and makes sure I go to bed at a sensible time; simply because he wants to cwtch up to me for his big nights sleeps.
Of course, the biggest wonderful thing about changing career is that I am doing something that I’m passionate about, that brings me joy and pleasure.
Not that teaching didn’t. It did, for a long time, but it’s time for me to change. I’m sure I’ll use my teaching skills in other ways as time goes on, but not in a school environment. However, for the foreseeable future I’m going to be focusing on my arty pursuits, as well as learning about a lot of things such as accounts and accountants (I have one, I just have to collect together all that she needs from me …) and get into a routine of keeping receipts and a log of journeys made in connection with my business.
My home as had a HUGE clear-out to make space for me to work in comfortably as well as to store all my arty crafty supplies and completed artwork and various forms of paperwork and so on. Eighteen years of accumulated stuff had to go as well as stuff I no longer need, value or find pleasure in. My niece helped, rather, did most of the work, and between us we were ruthless! There are still bits and bobs to sort out and do, but deadlines take precedence for the next couple of weeks or so! The clear out has me behind, eek! Luckily I have so good and understanding editors who always build wiggle room into contracts for me without telling me what that wiggle room is.
The process is mostly finished, but a deep clean is on the cards for soon, and some repairs need doing so I need to find reliable tradesmen who charge fair price and do a good job, something else I need to learn about!
It is all exciting.
Add to that there’s more colouring books and stamps coming out that I’ve done the designs for.
I’m currently working on a Tropical Rainforest themed colouring book for Skyhorse Publishing and the sixth in the series of the Color Me books along with Lacy Mucklow. The sixth book is appropriately named ‘Color Me Grateful’, and grateful is something I really am of my new career, my cleared out home, my family and friends who have helped in so many ways, and the many experiences from my past life as a teacher that have helped to get me to this point in my life, both good, indifferent and bad.
Friday last, I met up with a small number of colleagues from the school I taught at for 27 years for high tea in a local country house hotel. There was lots of laughter as we remembered the good times over those many years, not a lot of mention was made of the not so good times. All the characters we’ve worked with and known, both staff and students! It was good to do. I couldn’t go into the school for the official farewell gathering as my emotional/mental health isn’t strong enough for that yet. But a quieter gathering away from the school was perfect!
One other thing I do hope to do is to make more frequent blog posts once I find my ‘voice’ for my blog. I’m thinking of adding some tutorials to do with the arty stuff I do, maybe. Feedback or ideas are always welcome, whether for blog posts or ideas for future books, artwork themes and so on.