Art and my healing journey

 

 

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A page of floral sketches from my sketchbook.

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

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Mandalas based on the feelings I get when I’m in my ‘safe place’.

Carl Jung used mandalas to represent/express the current state of the self:

“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!

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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!

Half term almost over … boo!

I spent the first half of the half-term week getting over ‘flu.  It took until Wednesday for me to feel even slightly alive, and until Thursday for me to feel like myself.

Wednesday saw my car pass it’s MOT with ‘flying colours’ – not a single advisory note, and just one bit of work that needed to be done before the MOT.  My bill was a massive £65 – which is a bit sarcastic as that’s the lowest bill I’ve had for a car that I own for a long time.  The Smart Car drained my resources frequently, but this battered, M-reg red Corsa is proving to be the most reliable and cheapest car to run (taking into account petrol, insurance, tax and servicing/repairs!  So a happy bunny, and even more so because the new mechanic is an absolute gem – thanks to my little sister Sara for recommending him.

Thursday was a weird day as I had to be interviewed as part of an inquiry into problems with a committee I’m a member of.  I’m not involved with the problems per se, but I am one of the witnesses to what occurred; not that I remember much as it was many months ago now.  So, we wait to see what happens as a result of the inquiry.

Friday saw a new shower fitted by a nice man from SWALEC at long last, but not without problems.  The main problem was that I couldn’t remember where the water stop cock was until water had sprayed over the bathroom and dripped through the ceiling downstairs and then my memory clicked in.  Everything else then went fairly smoothly.  After this, I had time to have a quick clean up before heading to Cardiff for an interview to start training as a hypnotherapist with Chrysalis.  That was easy, and though the nerves kicked in a little because it’s an unknown thing.  The actual interview wasn’t one really, more of a ‘this is what hypnotherapy is (I already knew that, but let them tell me again), I can see you have a lot of life experience (apparently important for any therapist), and do you want to ask any questions?’  It was a pleasant 30 mins or so.  I was told I could start the course the next day or wait until the next intake in the Spring.

Well, once I’ve made my mind up, I tend to do things as straight away as is possible, so I elected to start the course the very next day…

… and that’s how I spent yesterday! 10am to 5pm learning about the course, expectations, sorting out practice groups that meet outside of the monthly day courses, getting to know one another, and then actually experiencing and then practising a progressive muscle relaxation method.

The method was familiar to me as I use one very similar when I take a group of people for guided meditations on a Friday evening.  I cheated and didn’t use their script, but used my own … but I know I’ll have to follow more precisely in the future.  My partner was well pleased with the results, so that’s all that really, really matters.

I have a feeling I will instinctively know a lot of what is being taught, but the diploma will allow me to practice as a hypnotherapist, perhaps even start up a little business, which if it becomes successful and sustainable may allow me to change my career, even if only part-time.

I also have kind of decided that after this I’d like to do a degree in either psychology or forensic psychology and then use that to lead me to completely new pastures.  I’ve often thought about becoming a counsellor, but … there’s something that tells me not yet.  However, we’ll see!

I was totally drained in the evening.  It was a busy day, especially with so many people (26 including me and the tutor – Sue Preston).

I do plan to spend some time today completing another abstract artwork, that’s once I’ve sorted out all the notes from yesterday’s course.  I also have Pommes Dauphinoise, though my version has loads of garlic in it, parsley instead of thyme and no cheese on it.  However it is cooked it is a terribly indulgent yet scrummily delicious dish.  I will just have a variety of veggies with it…I think.  Though Quorn Fish-less Fingers may be speaking to me to eat them!