Happy 2017, and a personal review of 2016

angela-porter-winter-2016_05_coloured
See the end of the post for the line art version if you’d like to download, print and copy for yourself!

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!

angela-porter-winter-2016_05

Dragonflies and the New Year

Dragonflies_AngelaPorter_Artwyrd_1 January 2015

It’s the first day of a new calendar.

Happy 1st of January 2015 to you all and may this day and all that follow be filled with all the love, joy, creativity and good things that each of you deserves so much.

This isn’t quite my first piece of art for this new year; I spent time today completing two pieces of Scandinavian art for Michael O’Mara Books.  I got the 1960s work for them done on Tuesday.  Yesterday was a day where I did some mandalas for the third ‘Color Me’ book to follow on from the huge success of Color Me Calm and Colour Me Happy.

I’m certainly being kept busy with art!

The winter break is nearly over, and all too soon.  It took me over  week to calm down enough that the palpitations from work related stress calmed down and for me to sleep properly once again.

No doubt the manic-ness that is teaching will have me stressed out again, especially as it’ll be crazy with an Estyn inspection in three weeks time.

Taking time to meditate, to create, to write will be so important for me, as it always is, but more so with this added pressure and the fact that I didn’t realise how stressed out I was with work, and how exhausted I was too.

I hope I can stave the exhaustion off for a longer time this coming school term …

Black and white mandala

CCI13092014

I returned to work at school two weeks ago and I have found it has resulted in a lot less time for me to indulge myself in my creative, artistic pursuits.  The evenings and weekends seem to disappear in sleep as I’m so tired.

I do seem to be coping a lot better with the stresses and strains of being a teacher, which is a good thing.

The mandala above was finished earlier this week.  I am debating whether to add colour and/or shadows or to leave it as it is.  I shall see how the fancy takes me over the weekend.

Half-term at last…pheweee!

It’s been a long half-term at school; eight weeks to be precise.  In that time there’s been two training days, a twilight training session. a memorial walk to raise money for school funds and the Senghenydd Mining Disaster Memorial, almost daily incidents of poor behaviour/attitude to deal with, lessons observations, book reviews (as in how well and regularly work is being marked), a consultation with my union representative, a stress-meltdown and hopefully the end of three year period of what feels like persecution/bullying in a particular situation at work (culminating in the union consultation and the stress meltdown).

I still have a pupil to be dealt with who has been making threats to physically attack me because I apparently ‘start on him’ by asking him to do his work.  How shocking is that, that I should request he stop shouting around the class, distracting others and to do his work?

Oh the joys of being a teacher.

Having said that, there are joys.  The shared smiles and laughter with pupils enjoying the lessons.  The ones whose faces light up when they see me and who never exhibit poor behaviour in my class, even though they may do in other lessons), the shared laughter with colleagues, morning breakfast with ‘the girls’, the helpfulness of the lab tech, the enthusiasm and questioning of pupils because they are interested in something, their kindness and thoughtfulness.  And so much more that it’s a shame it can become dominated by the negative things that occur and dominate my ruminating, over-analysing, over-thinking brain.

It’s been really busy for me with having to prepare work for a new course I’m running with my special needs classes, as well as teaching mainstream classes that I’ve not done for years.  It’s meant late nights at work and even bringing work home – something I avoid doing as I do not want to go down the route of being a workaholic as I was in the first decade or so of my teaching career.

This busy-ness has really eaten into my creative time.  Little art has been done, and I’m am doing my best to settle back into it in this half-term, especially as I have two contracts to create artwork for two books, though I have been waiting for direction for what the artwork is to be for a long while now.

I’ve barely stopped in the first four day so of the half-term.  I seem to be running away from time with myself.  I can struggle with being alone, feeling lonely and end up keeping moving, moving, moving to avoid it.  Today I am remaining at home and trying to get things out of the way so that I will settle to some arty pursuits, or de-stressing after the last half-term.

I do seem to be a lot more resilient than I was a year ago.  Though things can get to me (such as loneliness, lack of a sense of belonging, the constant worry I’m doing things wrong that have precipitated the situation at work that led to a stress-meltdown), I often find there’s a content ‘centre’ in me that I can access when I do things of a creative nature or things that focus my mind away from it’s rumination and negative thinking.  It’s a little easier to spot when this is happening, though I don’t always catch it in time to stop the tears, the self-loathing and the comfort eating.

I rejoined a choir I’ve been a member of since I was in school myself.  Sadly, I had to leave again once the stress levels rose as my voice was, and still is, affected by the stress.

Out of all of this, and at odd times during the last couple of months, I have managed to do some arty things.  Here’s two mandalas of mine.

Calmly Does It © Angela Porter 2013

Autumn Splendour ©Angela Porter 2013d

It’s been a while …

It really has been a while since I last posted – two months more or less.  And what I couple of months it has been.

Work has been tough at times as respect has noticeably diminished along with good behaviour and attitudes.  I lost my voice for a week, a regular thing with me it seems.  The good news is that the ENT consultant put a camera up my nose to look at my vocal chords/throat and there were no problems at all.  I’m now awaiting speech therapy as it seems to be an occupational hazard and they can help me to use my voice without stress or strain.  I know of two, no, three ways my voice could be looked after while I still work.  One is to change my job/career.  The second is for the school to actually get the microphone/speaker system installed in my room so that the speech therapy can be focused on teaching me to talk at a healthy level.  The third is for the decline in behaviour to be managed and turned around so that I didn’t have to raise my voice so much, or even shout to be heard by the person two feet away from me.

A good point looks like I’ve finally achieved my aim of someone actually admitting that I’m right that the GCSE equivalent course I’ve been expected to deliver to my SEN classes isn’t actually possible for them to do the controlled assessments.  I do have to search out an alternative qualification that would give a GCSE equivalent qualification that I can deliver for part of the time while I continue to deliver the Entry Level science course.  I think I’ve done that, but it has to be sold to ‘the man’.

Outside of the world of work things have been strange.  It seems that a move away from a spiritual pathway I’ve been wandering along has finally happened. The signs have been there for a while, my unhappiness with it has been present for a while.  As nasty as the ending got (I vow to do my best to never become involved with committees with ego issues every again!) it showed that there was no way of mediating the schism.  I just hope the half-truths, rumours and downright lies about me don’t cause problems elsewhere.  All could have been avoided by effective, polite, even-tempered communication, or just a politely stated desire that the class I have run for a couple of years needs someone other than me to run it.

I’m finding that so many people who claim to ‘know’ me really don’t know me at all.  I really dislike confrontation, but am willing to listen to calm requests, well reasoned and logical arguments backed up with actual evidence, even if that is someone’s opinions.  I’d much prefer someone to ‘man-up’ and state their opinions rather than sneaking around behind my back, getting people to ‘spy’ on me with a remit to dig up dirt and if there is no dirt to dig up to manufacture it.  I’d much prefer someone to be open and honest, even if their version of truth hurts, for them to admit it’s all their own perceptions.

The result of all this was a rather nasty meeting with the committee members with confrontational attitudes and no desire to mediate, just to attack.  I think the members of the group I lead sent letters with their observations in that caused some level of guilt and/or jealousy somewhere as they were asked to explain why ‘she’s a credit to us’, she being me.

That means, to me, that I’m not a credit.

In the end I quietly stood up and politely said I’d had a day of managing confrontational behaviour in work that I didn’t expect it from adults in this kind of setting, that no matter what I said I’d not be believed, that I was obviously in the wrong and that the faults lie with me as a person for caring about others, for being welcoming, for giving my time to those who need it, for losing sense of time as I got lost in long discussions about things that were relevant to the purpose of this group.  I kept my voice quiet (mainly because the stress of the situation had caused my throat to constrict) and my demeanor non-confrontational, yet the attacks continued.  So I left.

I left with tears in my eyes for the pain caused to myself and others.  Tears of disappointment that those who proclaim so loudly to be spiritual aren’t.  Tears of disappointment that my involvement in a certain part of this organisation will also have to come to an end.  Tears of frustration.  Tears of anger.  Tears of embarrassment, humiliation.  However, there were also tears of relief among them too, and tears of grief, tears of letting go.

I hadn’t wanted to go, knowing exactly how it would be; knowing that someone had an axe to grind because they disagreed and disapproved of me and my ways and they wouldn’t be happy until they had not just put the knives against my back but driven them deeply in.

I’d felt the knives there for a long time, but there was no way they were going to puncture me, and I don’t think they did.

They will believe they are victorious, but it is a false image or at best a Pyrrhic victory, but they will not see that.

I’m the true ‘winner’, if there is a win anywhere.  I am now free of the rules and regulations.  What I do and how I do it is now up to my own personal sense of ethics and morals.  I would never treat someone the way they have and revel in the glory of it.  I’m sure the gloating will go on for a long time by some.

As for me, it’s time for me to decide where I go with this next, or rather how the decisions that have been made need to be developed.  It’s kind of exciting yet scary as it’s very much me breaking new ground for myself in some respects.

Another ending has been hypnotherapy.  I’ve had problems getting people to be guinea pigs for my case studies.  I’ve also become very jaded with the course and the practice.  I realised I had got from the course what I needed, realised that I didn’t really want to start up my own hypnotherapy practice.  Taken together, I decided that I had what I needed and wouldn’t complete the course.

Arty things have taken a bit of a back seat lately.  My half term break seemed to be filled with errands and appointments and trying to rest, relax and restore myself.  In the evenings when I return home from work I’m often too tired to do anything much, emotionally and mentally drained that is.  The weekends are often a washout for me as I sleep a lot of the time as my sleep in the week is disturbed (and has been this weekend as part of the fallout from the above mentioned meeting which was Friday night).

I did buy a book – Knitted Dinosaurs by Tina Barrett – on a visit to the National Museum Cardiff.  I have a lovely pterodactyl knitted with sparkly purple wings and a lilac body, head, legs and arms.  Some friends have fallen in love with him and have asked for ones of their own!

Yesterday evening, after a lunchtime outing to The Skirrid Inn in Llanfihangel Crucorney with one of my pals, Wendy.  I really didn’t want a dissection of the previous evening’s meeting, and so did my best to turn the conversation to other things, which we mostly did.  The little conversations about the meeting did help to bring some clarity that may be related to jealousy, guilt, and some evidence of absolute hippocracy in at least one ‘complaint’ that was levied by the committee.

The previous Saturday we’d been to Glastonbury for a nice wander around the shops and a leisurely lunch in the Cafe Galatea, where I had the nicest cheesy garlic bread and homemade coleslaw I’ve had for a very long time.  I had a good look around Starchild and stocked up on candles and incense – I just love that shop and always have since my first visit to Glastonbury some 11 or so years ago.  A new favourite shop is The Crystal Man‘s shop where I picked up pieces of spirit quartz and botryoidol lepidolite mica, which is shiny and silvery-pinky-lavender in hue.  The chap who owns/runs it is hilarious and friendly, which encouraged us to have a good look around and to rummage in his drawers – drawers of crystals/minerals.

This has been a bit of a random ramble, admittedly.  However, it does give an idea why there’s been little art or blog entries of late (not that I’m consistent in doing entries anyway).

My main problem at the moment is that I’m happily ensconced in bed tapping away at this on the laptop given to me by a friend when they bought a new one.  It’s comfortable here, safe too, warm as well.  My only problem at the moment is that I want a cup of tea and I’ll have to get out of bed to go get it!  That’s one of the main downsides to being single!

Synchronicity

Synchronicity 1

Synchronicity 1 © Angela Porter 2012

Approx. 16cm x 12cm

Rotring pen, Sakura Glaze pen, Derwent Inktense pencils with water wash on heavy watercolour paper.

Small, intricate, full of spirals and swirls.  Typically me when in a fussy, detailed mood.

Many of the patterns and shapes are inspired by ammonites, nature, cells, Romanesque architecture, Prehistoric pottery and rock art.

Synchronicity because there have been a lot of  ‘coincidences’ noted in my life recently.

Back at work

Oh the joys of teaching!  There is an element of sarcasm there.  The lack of respect, manners and cooperation seems to have increased over the summer – either that or I’m getting old, having passed the 49 year mark during the long holidays.

I find myself emotionally drained at the end of each day after the constant hard work to get pupils to stop making assorted weird noises, disrupting the lesson in a myriad of ways, and just trying to bet them to be polite.  I feel ‘battle weary’.  Yet, teaching should not be such a battle.

The worst thing for me, however, is the effect this has on my creativity and the time to create.  I miss the hours I could spend creating art during the break.  If only I could earn enough from art reliably and sustainably to become a full-time artist…or writer…or or or…

Hypnotherapy

Well, yesterday, the Autumnal Equinox, saw the end of the hypnotherapy course.  I have an extension to complete the case studies, so the work isn’t quite over for me.  I managed, finally, to get a merit in one essay – hurrah!

Not sure if I’ll be able to start a hypnotherapy practice up for a few years for various reasons, but I’d like to keep my hand in and practice the skills I have learned until I’m ready to take that plunge.

Endings

Yesterday, in fact the past week or so, have been rather weird.  I’ve found myself very emotional, on the point of tears or past the point of holding them back on a number of occasions, including today.  I have no idea exactly what is the problem.  I thought it was hormonal, but I’m not too sure about that now.

Anyway, the hypnotherapy wasn’t the only ending this week.

I resigned from a committee that I perhaps have stayed on for a few months too long.

I’ve had various bits of a jigsaw puzzle about a friendship that ended a few months ago.  I’ve spent most of this time blaming myself as I was made to feel it was my fault.  However, the jigsaw pieces show that it isn’t my fault at all!

All this is quite apt for the equinox I think.

Lost…

… one voice.  Stolen sometime last night.  If found please return.

Yup, I have acute laryngitis yet again.  My voice has completely vanished.  I discovered this when I got into work this morning, went to say ‘morning’ to a colleague and all that came out was a random squeak.

A two hour wait in the doctor’s surgery to be seen and I’ve been told to stay off work for at least a week, possibly two.   Total voice rest – no whispering, as that’s worse than talking.  I’m a teacher, so no voice means no can do my job…not unless they’d let me teach via Tweets or text messages – which I very much doubt!

Ho hum…what to do that doesn’t involve my voice…art…hypnotherapy script creating and essay writing…reading…film watching…practising my listening skills…