Entangled art, mental health quote.

©Angela Porter 2019

The Art…

Yesterday, I stumbled upon this quote before I headed off to my EMDR therapy session. I decided I wanted a fairly simple pattern around/behind it, and just simple colours, though I’ve played around a little with adding patterns to the sections.

I printed out the quote and the borders. I Used a Pentel Sign pen to draw the bold, black lines of the design. To colour the design, I used a Microsoft Surface Pen, a Microsoft Surface Studio and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. Behind the design I added a paper texture which, with some wizardry of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, I was able to add to the design to add some texture and imperfection.

Walks, EMDR and being brave…

I had a lovely drive to Neath for my EMDR therapy and I arrived with enough time to go seek out some yarn to buy for my knitting/crochet stash as well as have a walk around Victoria Park in the winter sunshine.

The first blooming daffodils were proudly holding their bright yellow heads up for all to see, and there were signs of plenty more to follow. Snowdrops, crocuses, pansies were all there to be seen too. Lichens on the bark of trees created a beautiful natural tapestry of colour and pattern. It really was lovely to see.

Without the leaves on the trees to muffle the songs of the birds it was quite raucous at times, but raucous in a beautiful way. The birds didn’t quite drown out the sound of traffic, people or the tinny sounding music coming from the speakers in the bandstand, but they were loud enough that I could listen to them and filter out the other sounds.

It was nice to be out in the fresh air after a few days of barely leaving my home as I recovered from the emotionally draining days of last week. It was nice to take a space to breathe before going in for therapy.

The quote above was a starting point for my session, during the usual reflection on how last weeks EMDR had affected me and how I’d been through the week. One of the weeks sticking points that cause me some discomfort was the many people telling me I’m brave for telling my story, for going to therapy and how good it is that I’m showing people that it is possible to recover from mental illness.

Brave? Me? Surely not! That goes against everything I was led to believe about myself from as young as I could remember.

“You’re fat, thick, stupid, ugly. No one loves you. No one will love you. No one will be your friend. You’re useless. You’re a failure. So and so is much better than you at everything. Don’t bother me. You’re making it up. You’re’ to blame for all of this. Why do you want to bother doing that?”

If I asked for help I was either made fun of, dismissed or ignored. Me and my feelings weren’t important.

No matter what I did to try to please or make people proud of me or to acknowledge how well I had done it was never good enough. There was always a put-you-down.

The only time my narcissistic mother ever expressed any pride in me wasn’t really pride in ME.

My daughter has graduated.” ” My daughter has a PhD.”

She has three daughters. I was never mentioned by name, not even if I was stood next to her. It was all about her. I was only useful for what could make her look better, for her to be the centre of attention.

These messages were taken up by other people around me. They became ingrained in me as the view I had of myself. I still speak to myself using these phrases when I’m in a fragile state mentally or emotionally.

I’ve known about the way I think about myself and where it has come from long while. However, the realisation that my feelings have never been important to anyone, not even to myself. I’ve pushed my feelings, my needs away so that other people don’t get upset or angry with me, so I make sure they’re always happy, even if inside I’m suffering in some way. This was something that came out of the very, very painful, emotional and frustrating EMDR session that followed.

Frustrating as I have very, very few memories of my past. I was made aware I was trying to hard to find a memory and reminded that part of cPTSD is hiding painful memories away, forgetting about them as a way of coping. I was told it’s ok not to have any memory. That I just need to let things be as they are in EMDR.

I think I’m trying so hard to ‘succeed’ at finding a memory, not to disappoint, the harder I try, the less likely it is for a memory to appear. The funny thing is, that once I accepted that through all the tears and anger and frustration with myself, the memories just appeared. There were so many that we just bundled them together as a ‘cluster’ and worked with them.

Then, through the tears and the pain in my throat and heart, a quiet, small voice told me that I had done nothing wrong and I did not deserve any of this. That I deserve better.

We tried working on me believing that through EMDR techniques. That caused me more tears and upset and emotional pain. So we called an end to the EMDR and talked a little about things.

Through EMDR I’m revealing more and more of my story. It causes me pain when new parts are discovered or insights are gained. But without that revealing taking place there is no hope of me healing. My aim is to tell my story without feeling any pain.

I was very tearful with weird memories cropping up as I drove home and through the evening. I had weird and disturbing dreams through the night. I woke with a blinding headache, which is still with me despite some painkillers. I feel so tired, weepy. However, I know there’s been a breakthrough, more than one actually, through yesterday’s therapy session.

The last words my therapist left me with were that she thinks I am very brave. Brave for telling my story. Brave for seeking out therapy to help me heal. Brave for persevering with EMDR when it can cause me a lot of distress and upset. Brave for showing people that recovery from mental health problems is possible. Brave for telling people that seeking therapy/counselling is a strong thing to do as we are helped to learn the skills we need to regain our mental and emotional wellbeing.

I don’t feel brave. I don’t understand how people think that I am. I do know I want to tell what I feel able to do so of my story to let others know they’re not alone. I do want to tell people about my journey to recovery so they can see that recovery is possible. I tell it to try to help others.

I don’t do it for attention. I don’t do it to have people feel sorry for me. That is my narcissistic mother, and others, still putting me down via the voice that is my inner critic.

Entangled Quote

©Angela Porter 2019

I’ve worked on this design over the past three days. I wanted to do another version of this particular quote in my more characteristic pen and ink, intricate, entangled style of art.

I used various pens to draw this on recycled copy paper (I know, but it’s preserved for posterity as a digital file now). The quote and the boundary lines were printed out on a laser printer. I could have hand lettered it, but I wanted a typewritten look for the quote.

I did add colour and texture to the background using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with a Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio, but the drawing was all done traditionally with various black pens.

This is so characteristic of my work from quite a few years ago, before I worked on colouring books. I think last week’s stresses and strains – EMDR, Time to Talk Day – had me wanting to escape into the familiar, the comforting, the easy (for me at least) which is why I defaulted to this style of art.

I do have to push myself out of this very comfortable art zone to work on templates for my next coloring book, one which could have an added bit of stress for me concerning its theme. I’m determined to do it though!

It’s taken me until today to fully recover from all of last week’s emotionally tiring events, just in time for my weekly EMDR session! So, I plan to get some drawings done for the book this morning before I head to Neath in what looks like it’s going to be a sunny late winter day. I also really need to get a brisk walk in nature in today. My fragile state has had me remaining in the safety of my home or car. Today, I feel the need to move my body a bit more.

Entangled art

©Angela Porter 2019

I found this lovely quote a couple of days ago and knew I wanted to add entangled patterns around it.

About the art.

Rather than hand letter, I decided to print the quote by J.M. Storm out, along with the outlines to the boxes. I do very much like a well defined space to work within. I know I’ve done art where I’ve left an organic, uneven edge in the past, but I still like those clear boundaries.

To draw the patterns I used a Sheaffer fountain pen along with 06 and 04 Pigma Sensei pens from Sakura. The 06 led to me using some heavy lines to define the patterns and sections, something I’ve not often done for a very, very long time and I find it pleasing. Again, clear boundaries. I also like when art like this is coloured; it looks like stained glass and I love stained glass.

I may spend time colouring this today. I woke with a terrific headache this morning. Although it’s mostly passed, thanks to some Anadin Extras and copious quantities of tea, I still feel kind of spacey and tired and not able to focus much.

Why I like this quote.

She is a beautiful piece of broken pottery, put back together by her own hands. And a critical world judges her cracks while missing the beauty of how she made herself whole again.
J.M. Storm

I like it because it almost perfectly describes how I think about what is happening to me during therapy, about my journey to recovery.

The traumas of my life, right from a very young age, left me cracked and over time those cracks led to my mental health and emotional health breaking into pieces.

I’m the one who has to put the pieces back together, however I don’t have the skills and tools to do that. That’s where my therapist, my counsellor comes in. EMDR therapy helps to reprocess the traumas that led to me developing cPTSD and helps me to change the old, unhealthy, harmful thoughts and behaviours that I have into healthy thoughts and behaviours. My therapist helps me learn the tools I need to do this as well as to be more resilient as my life progresses, and so much more I’m sure.

I don’t know if it’s possible to make myself whole. My aim, though, is to be whole enough to have a life where I can do what I currently am unable to do – set healthy boundaries, be confident in myself, be less scared of the world around me, and so on.

I’ll always have cracks – evidence of the life I have led – but I want those cracks to be filled with gold or silver or copper so that they are things of beauty in themselves. They are evidence of where I’ve come from and what has led me to be the person I am.

I’m well aware that as I heal I won’t be quite the same person I was and many people won’t be happy about that. But those are the people who have wanted me to fit into their image of how they have thought I should be for their own ends, not least of which is my narcissistic mother.

No doubt my becoming the person I was meant to be, a mentally and emotionally healthy, resilient, self-aware, self-compassionate woman would be a source of great criticism for those who don’t like the changes in me as I heal the mental and emotional wounds.

Part of the process is learning from the past and freeing myself from the limitations placed upon me in the past by others with their own agenda, whether conscious or unconscious.

I’m sure there’s a lot more reasons why I like this quote, but the fluff-filled post-headache spaced out mind just can’t focus just now.

Phew! It’s been a week!

©Angela Porter 2019

It really has been a week for me. I seem to have dashed from one thing to another, sometimes seemingly without time to catch my breath. I’m still feeling dazed, mentally drained and emotionally fragile after it all, particularly the events of yesterday’s ‘Time to Talk Day’.

I do have, however, lying beneath all of this a sense of a gentle smile, a soft calmness that I have been aware of since starting loving kindness meditations to help me with self-compassion. It is this presence that I’m trying to focus on and find when I feel overwhelmed by tiredness and fragility.

The tiredness, the fragility will pass. Some of the fragility and the deafening shouting of the inner critic will need some help to dispel, and that’s where EMDR comes in. Bit by bit it seems EMDR is helping to disempower that inner critic, the beastie on my back.

Time to Talk Day – a review

It was good yesterday to be able to help out on Time to Talk Day as a champion for Time To Change Wales, draining as the anti-stigma talk in the morning was for me. I spoke to a lovely group of police officers from the South Wales Police at Ton Pentre Police Station. They even gave me two rounds of applause at the end of the talk.

Part of the anti-stigma talk is sharing my story of my mental illness, cPTSD, my life, how cPTSD has affected my life and the stigma and discrimination I’ve faced as a result of it.

The biggest stigma I’ve had to contend with is self-stigma. It was that which stopped me from acknowledging the thoughts and feelings I had about myself were not healthy and it stopped me from seeking help for a very long time – nearly 50 years of my life.

It is draining to tell my story. I get some emotional flashbacks. I’m letting people know some of the most difficult times of my life in terms of what I was thinking and feeling at that time, though I don’t share everything that has happened to me in terms of trauma. I still can’t talk about some of it, and some of it I have amnesia about – a coping strategy for those like me who have traumas they can’t speak about. There were traumas that were horrifying to me at the time and I had no one to speak to about it. I didn’t think anyone would believe me. That inner critic still tells me I’m making it up, attention seeking, swinging the lead, pathetic, weak, useless, and more ugly words it has about me. I sometimes feel a total fraud when telling my story, doubting what few memories I have of my past, wondering if people actually believe me.

The evidence of the trauma is there in the way I think about myself and the way I speak to myself however. The trauma is also stored in my body and that comes out during EMDR, sometimes with a memory of something I had no recollection of until that time. That is extremely uncomfortable when it happens and it can challenge my view of my childhood experiences.

Why do I do this when it causes me some difficulties post-talk?

I want people to know what is mental health and what is not.

If I had known at a younger age that how I thought and felt and behaved wasn’t healthy maybe I would have sought out help sooner and maybe my life would have been different. I can’t do anything about that, though. I am doing my best to recover from all of this trauma and cPTSD. But if me talking about how my thoughts and emotions were helps them gain a better picture of good mental health vs poor mental health and perhaps even recognise in themselves that they’re struggling even a little and they get help, then that is a good job done.

That’s why I do this.

I want people to know that they are not alone in their struggles. Because mental health is something we don’t talk about, that people fear and fear talking about, it’s all too easy to feel that we’re alone. By talking about mental health, our own mental health, bit by bit we can change fear into understanding, stigma into acceptance and recognise that our mental and emotional health is as important as our physical health.

That’s why I do this.

I want to help break the stereotype of what someone experiencing mental ill-health looks and acts like.

That’s why I do this.

I battle with the shame of trauma that has been inflicted on me in my past, trauma that the perpetrators should feel shame about NOT me! I felt so shameful about struggling with my mental and emotional health as well. It’s enough to fight being ashamed of things others did to me without the shame of the stigma of mental illness too.

That’s why I do this.

I want people to know that it takes a lot of strength to live life when you’re not feeling well mentally or emotionally. It takes a lot of effort to do life’s daily tasks when you’re well, when you’re battling yourself, your mind, your emotions it takes a lot more energy and strength to do that. It takes a lot of energy to hide what goes on under the surface, what people can’t see – the storms in the mind and emotions – to appear that you’re coping well and can do everything. Doing that for too long and not recognising that I was struggling was what nearly broke my mind totally. I don’t want other people to experience that

That’s why I do this.

I am on the road to recovery from cPTSD. I want people to know you can recover. I want people to know that it is ok to ask for help.

As I explained to someone yesterday that if you want to learn to drive a car you seek out someone who can teach you and we’re not ashamed about this nor do we feel week about it either. However, if we’re struggling mentally or emotionally we don’t want to ask for help because of the fear of how people might view us – that’s the stigma and discrimination that exists. But if we need help and don’t know how to help ourselves we should feel able to ask for help for someone to help us learn the tools we need, tools we can add to our mental and emotional wellbeing kit, whatever those tools may be – medication, counselling, advice, help to see things in a different way, and so many more I’m sure.

That’s why I do this.

I’m sure there are many other reasons, but my brain is still tired and a bit addled from EMDR on Monday, which left me tired and drained and I hadn’t quite recovered from that for yesterday’s anti-stigma talk and then the stand at the ABM Trust Headquarters in Port Talbot.

Self Care Day

I do know that today I need to do a lot of self-care activities. That means doing things that are familiar to me. I think in artsy way I’ll be adding things to my visual reference Leuchtturm. I may also spend some time knitting and watching Star Wars. Again, these are familiar to me, there are no surprises waiting for me and I can just relax into them, and that is soothing to me when I’m emotionally drained.

I also need plenty of tea today. I have run out of milk though, so I’m going to have to brave the heavy rain and wild winds to pop out to get some, and some food that doesn’t take much in the way of preparation today as well. I think cooking, though it can be soothing could be annoying today.

The arty stuff

Usually on a Friday I’d post a dangle design. Today, I wanted to post a quote about mental health, and I decided to have a play with a similar very graphic style of art to place behind it. I’m not entirely sure the art works. No doubt I’ll have a go at another version later on today, perhaps.

For this one I sorted out the words and black boxes in Publisher and exported the page as a jpg file. I then used this file in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with my Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio to add the artwork behind the quote.

Monday motivation

Angela Porter 2 July 2018

I had a lovely, artsy, creative, relaxing time drawing the bottom design for this quote yesterday evening and this morning. It’s kind of a throwback to when I started drawing this kind of intricate art before I started doing all the work for colouring books, where the images have to be a fair bit less complex.

Unipin pens from Uniball, along with a blue-grey coloured pencil and a blender pencil from Derwent were the tools I used to create this.

I didn’t hand-letter the quote; I chose to use Serif’s Affinity Designer to add it instead, though I’ve not worked out how to get the text to follow a curve…yet. I will.

The quote is something I try to apply in my life. I’ve struggled with being a hyper-perfectionist all my life; learning to accept that something I produce is ‘good enough’ is something that is easier for me, though still not easy.

I cringe when I look back on earlier work.

Recently, I was approached by a lovely lady about using some old artwork of mine for her business branding logos and so on. I looked at it and knew I just had to re-work it; I recognised that my skills and style have developed and evolved a little, and I wanted to do the best I could now.

She seems to be really happy with the artwork, and I’m much happier with it too.

It’s not just in art that these words have meaning though.

It’s no secret that I am working in therapy (EMDR) at healing what I can from the CPTSD I’ve experienced all my life, especially the way it limits my life. Learning to accept that I’m good enough as a person is very difficult. Progress is slow, but it is progress.

 

Tuesday Tip

Angela Porter 24 April 2018 small watermarked

My #tuesdaytip is to do just this – create every day!

It doesn’t matter for how long – 5 minutes, 10 minutes, an hour, longer.  Just take time to create.

You can create something new.  You can work on practicing, say, your hand lettering. You could re-work or add to something you thought was finished.  You could try a new skill or technique or medium. You could doodle aimlessly.

There’s just so many possibilities, so many ways to be creative – art, crafts, cooking, gardening, wood-turning, sculpting, decorating, sewing, colouring, are just a few of the possibilities.

Just create.  Have fun.  Play. Relax.

Take a break from the worries, stresses and strains of everyday life by focusing on being creative.

I use art to help me find my inner calm and stay there.  My whole body exhales, calms and relaxes when I ‘art’. It’s a daily practice for me that has a similar effect as meditation and mindfulness does. Even if I don’t meditate every day, I ‘art’ every day, just for pleasure (as well as for my work).

When the days are very trying for me, as they have been lately due to a nightmare of a car breakdown and recovery that took 8 hours Saturday night into Sunday morning, I find creating collections of doodles and patterns for my BuJo or hand-writing quotes or words really soothing, especially if they are familiar to me.  That’s what I needed at that time, something I could do automatically, that didn’t cause more stress for me.  The rhythm and flow soothed. Just the process of repeating the drawings and drawing of letters involved practice and improvement of my favourite motifs, patterns, words; and when calm, I could move on to create something new.

Being creative isn’t just about making great works of art or craft, or any thing else.  It’s also about feeding your heart, your soul, your being and finding calm and joy in what you do.

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom

Angela Porter 18 April 2018

What does research mean for you?

For me, it’s trying out new materials, new methods, new styles of drawing, colouring, lettering, using my art in different ways, most recently that includes Bullet Journals (BuJo) and these little quote illustrations.

It’s looking at how other artists and illustrators work and letting what I see spark creativity in me, not to copy them, but to inspire myself to broaden my artistic ‘vocabulary’, to try those new things that develop my skills, to still do things in my own way but adding techniques to my toolbox of artistic expression.

This quote is also a work in progress, I’ve yet to work out what to do with the entangled drawing at the bottom – to leave it as it is in plain black, to add shading, to add colour.  At the moment I don’t know what to do with it, but I suspect it will come to me eventually.

Talking of work in progress wednesday, it’s the day the members over at the facebook group ‘Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans’ share their wip’s.  Why not pop along and join in? They’re lovely people, very friendly.