I’ve had a productive morning and early afternoon.
First, I revamped my anti-stigma presentation for Time to Change Wales. It now has nowt about my childhood and so on, just info about CPTSD, the stigma I’ve faced, and helpful/hurtful things said and done.
Of course I’ll give a bit of info about my life too and how CPTSD impacts me every day of my life so far, as well as how that impact is lessening thanks to the help and support I recieve via EMDR therapy.
Then, I turned my attention to these cute and colourful fish. I needed something cheery and happy after sorting the presentation out – it did have me feeling a bit emotional, and art is always a self-soothing, self-caring activity for me.
So, I’ve added some more fish to this illustration.
This is quite fun to do, as well as an experience where I can explore and learn more about how digital art can work for me.
I think I’m getting there, little by little, with the digital art.
My tools for digital art are a pencil sketch on paper, Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Studio and Microsoft Surface Pen.
I now need to go and do some ‘adulting’. I have to brave a shop to get some lunch!
I’ve had some fun this morning! I wanted to create a cute and whimsical dangle design for today. A cute fish came to mind, so I went with that. See, you can create a dangle using any kind of design elements!
I also thought that it would be fun as well as a bit of a challenge to use the digital art techniques I’ve been using lately.
If you just focus on the outline shapes, it’s not a complex design. There are many ways to fill a fish shape with pattern and colour and you can make it as simple or intricate as you like.
My love of bright, almost psychedelic colours, has also crept out for the fish and I love the happy smile on the fish’s face.
The shell is a bit out of place, perhaps. A bit too realistic in colour and so on. But that’s OK. It’s shown me that I can digitally paint more realistic, if quite stylised, designs. That’s going to be an interesting path to explore.
The seaweed forming the ‘string’ for the dangle is very stylised and I just thought some pearls would be in keeping with the ocean theme.
This isn’t a design in my book “A Dangle A Day“. However there are many, many other designs that I give step by step instructions for within its pages.
I used Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, a Microsoft Surface Pen and a Microsoft Surface Studio.
So, Angela. How are you today?
I’m fine today. Content. It’s warm here in the Valleys of South Wales so I think it’ll be a quiet day for me. I don’t do well in the heat; I wilt.
Nothing else about CPTSD, mental health, emotional health or EMDR today. Not after that humongous blog post I did yesterday.
I do need to sort out my anti-stigma presentation for Time to Change Wales as I’m giving a talk next week and it’s time to change things around and change the focus of my talk from my life story to ■ what CPTSD is ■ more about how CPTSD affects me ■ the stigma and discrimination I’ve faced ■ how people have supported, helped me ■ what support I would have liked to have from people
I’ve already created a CPTSD ‘graphic’ to use in the presentation. I do need to gather information together.
Ha! I’m glad I’ve written this as I now I have a clear outline to follow to create my presentation. I was fretting and worrying about that.
Before I do anything else, I need some tea I think.
I finally finished this mandala today. I think I’ve logged somewhere around 35 hours on this image. I think that makes it the longest I’ve spent on any art project.
I have learned so much about how I can work with digital tools. I’ve also learned far more about my abilities and how I can express myself, particularly through digital art.
Although I find looking at the mandala rather strange now. That may be due to the closeness that I’ve worked with it, or the combination of colours not being too pleasing to me at this time, or the choice of backgorund colour. I don’t know for sure.
I’m am pleased with myself for persevering with the project, even though there are parts I’m not at all sure about, as I’ve mentioned.
I never, ever thought I would turn my hand to digital art.
Yes, I enjoy digital drawing; the beauty of Microsoft’s Surface Pen and Surface Studio are that they make drawing digitally so similar to drawing on paper.
However, this is the first time I’ve really ‘painted’ digitally, where I’ve worked in colour without black outlines.
It marks a huge step forward for me, as well as a coming together of things I’ve learned along my way. Not just digital things, but my observational skills, drawing skills, general art skills.
Lots of different aspects of my artistic/creative journey seemed to have gelled together in the past week or so, and I am really pleased about that. I’m more pleased that I’ve recognised this and gone with it.
About me and art
What I’ve come to realise more and more lately is that I like to create art that is pretty, beautiful even maybe. That is my whole drive in being creative. I enjoy making art that is pleasing to the eye, colourful, and full of intricate details that fascinate and call upon the viewer to spend time looking carefully at all the sections of the artwork.
There’s no hidden messages in my art. You don’t need to ‘understand it’. All I’d like it to do is to make you smile, to bring a little bit of colour and beauty into your life. I’d like it to be something that can give you a break from the harshness of life. I’d also like it to be something that you never tire looking at.
That may not be what many people think art is, but that’s what it is for me. Adding a little more prettiness, maybe beauty, colour and smiles into the world.
Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so.
So, Angela, how are you today?
I’m fine today. A bit tired, but fine. It’s been a warmish sunshiny day and I’ve been out to Cowbridge with my friend Liz for icecream at Fablas. And fabulous it was too! A well earned treat I think.
Yesterday I had my Time to Change Wales champions hat on as I gave a talk to around 100 people from Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) at the University of South Wales in Treforest as part of the pledge signing ceremony.
An anti-stigma talk involves relating information about mental illness, stigma and discrimination and then I tell my story of mental illness (CPTSD) and the stigma and discrimination I’ve faced. Mostly it’s been self-stigma, telling myself I’m weak, pathetic, useless for having anxiety and crying and being depressed or having panic attacks and absolute dread and so on.
Yesterday, I noticed how anxious I was before I left home to go to give the talk. I’d not really noticed this before and it kind of jolted me a bit. Either I’m becoming more self-aware or my daily background level of anxiety is diminishing. I do hope it’s both, but particularly the latter!
These talks leave me rather emotionally exhausted and a nap was required yesterday. I could do with a nap now, but that would really mess up my sleep tonight as it’s early evening here in the UK as I type this.
I’m still tired today, despite sleeping well last night.
I do these talks as the I think it’s important to lead by example and open up about the struggles I’ve faced. I hope that it will encourage others to be brave and open up, or even admit to themselves that they’re struggling with their mental and/or emotional health.
I also hope it helps to increase understanding and awareness of what it’s like to have a mental illness, what poor mental health is.
If only I’d known more when I was young, maybe I would’ve sought help sooner and I wouldn’t have ended up having two really bad and lengthy bouts of severe anxiety/depression.
There are quite a few of us champions, all with different stories to tell around our experiences of mental illness and the stigma and discrimination that goes with it.
It’s always nice when people come up to me to share their stories, often quite shyly, or to ask more questions. It always amazes me that people think I’m really brave in telling my story.
Maybe it is brave. But if I don’t tell it how can things change if people are unaware of how mental and emotional ill-health affects us? I’ve lived it. I still am living it. All the champions have lived it and many still are.
Telling our stories is powerful; not just for the audience listening and perhaps getting an insight into mental health they’d never had before, but also for us.
We should never be ashamed of having mental or emotional ill health. Yet many of us are or have been. I’m not ashamed that I’ve broken bones or had the measles or mumps or chicken pox or other illnesses. I’m not ashamed I have asthma.
It’s high time we stop being ashamed that we have a mental illness. It’s high time society stopped being afraid of people with mental illnesses or judging people unfairly because of them. It’s high time that mental and emotional illness are viewed in the same way as physical illnesses.
I’m now tired and have lost my train of thought, and so this blog post comes to an end.
What a busy week last week was for me. It’s taken a while for me to add any significant work to this wip, but it’s beginning to become a bit more ‘fleshed’ out. My challenge is to leave some white space in the design. We’ll have to see if I can actually manage that!
This is being drawn with a combination of Tombow Fudenosuke and Uniball Unipin pens on Winsor and Newton Bristol Board. The paper is A4 in size (approx US letter), just so you have an idea of the size of the design.
Mental health awareness week and an example of stigma I’ve experienced
What a week it was. I wasn’t as busy this year as last year, but it still took it out of me. I find looking after stands for Time to Change Wales a lot more stressful than doing the talks about my CPTSD and how stigma and discrimination has affected me.
By Thursday afternoon I was absolutely and totally poleaxed. So tired and exhausted in a way I haven’t been since, most probably, I was teaching! Mind you, I suspect I’ve been that exhausted since, but not for such an extended period of time.
It all started with the lead up to EMDR therapy last Tuesday. EMDR was quite distressing and left me exhausted emotionally and physically. I then had no time to recover before the stands on Weds and Thurs.
Friday I had to prepare for something I was doing on Saturday and that took every little bit of strength I’d recovered to do that. I enjoyed the preparation, but I didn’t take much time out to rest and recuperate from the previous days.
I woke at stupid o’clock (aka 3.30am) on Saturday fretting and worrying about my task for the day. So that had me exhausted yet again. The task worked out well, thankfully, but I was even more exhausted on the way home. I managed to throw some food together, which I didn’t really eat as I was too exhausted to eat. I slept for three hours, woke for a couple of hours (long enough to watch Return of the Sith) and then went back to bed and slept through until nearly 9am.
I did feel a lot better and had it in my mind to visit the National Museum in Cardiff to spend sometime with rocks and fossils in the Evolution of Wales exhibition with my sketchbook. I was all fairly excited about this and made my way there. I had a lovely couple of hours observing and drawing. I then realised how tired I was again. So, I thought a cup of tea and a little something to eat may be needed. I drank the tea but couldn’t bring myself to eat anything. I went back to the galleries, wandering around the natural history galleries. I suddenly started to get all emotional at the sight of animals stuffed and on display, and the gallery where the whale and leatherback turtle are finished me and I thought it was best I went home.
Which I did, cooked myself a relatively healthy meal, which I managed to eat and then just flopped in front of the TV until it was time for me to go out in the evening for a kind of meditation class.
And something happened in the evening that triggered a visceral and emotional response, something totally unexpected. I couldn’t stop crying for a good two hours. I definitely have food for thought. One of the things that got to me was the statement ‘you don’t need therapy, you just need to get out of your head and into your heart’. This from someone who knows nothing of my life story. Then it felt like people I’d known for a long while and who know my story were agreeing with this statement and that person.
Added to that was I was told I should trust to the love of my family.
Really? Just further proof they know nothing of my life and the family I was born into. Love? Well, if you mean destroying someone’s sense of self, their confidence, everything about them is love, well then I guess they were right.
They have no idea that I’ve tried self-help program after self-help program in the past 20 years or so, to very little positive effect. I was told I can do the work by myself. So no, I can’t. I’ve tried again and again and finally I had to accept I needed help in the form of therapy.
I’m actually feeling quite angry about this, I really am.
I got quite vocal when I told the person they knew nothing about me, about the abuse I’d suffered as a child. When I said that they said ‘I knew it, I just didn’t want to say’. Then, they went on to say ‘but you don’t need therapy for that, you just need to trust yourself’.
How? HOW? How the feck can I do that when all my life I’ve been told i’m wrong, I’m thick, I’m stupid, I know nothing, I’m useless, I’m an embarrassment, everyone else is better than me, I’m unloveable, I’m ugly, and everything else.
The whole message of my childhood is that I shouldn’t trust myself, that I’m always wrong and stupid.
Another example of the way mental ill-health is stigmatised by those who think they understand but don’t really. There’s so much prejudice about having therapy or counselling in society, even from people you’d expect not to have that prejudice.
This has shaken me somewhat, but my resolve to continue with EMDR is stronger now, this morning. I realise that people don’t want me to change, for whatever, that they think I’m good enough and ‘lovely’ just as I am.
Maybe that’s the case. But EMDR for me is more about helping me to find that courage and confidence that I want to have to continue to go to museums and abbeys and cathedrals by myself to just draw and enjoy the sights and sounds. To be able to walk in nature alone. To not feel that I’m putting my life on hold for someone who will ‘rescue me’ and do these things with me.
I’ve put my life on hold for way, way too long hoping someone will come and ‘rescue me’.
I’m the only one who can do that. But I need help to learn how to do that. If I can’t drive a car, I find someone who can teach me. If I can’t learn how to trust myself, to become confident and so on then I need to find someone who can help me learn. That person is my lovely EMDR therapist.
I’m typing all this with tears in my eyes as it really did upset me, and still does, and I’m a bit angry about it too.
I will continue with EMDR. I will continue healing, little by little, even if part of that process are the days of absolute emotional exhaustion and the pain that comes along with realising how I’ve been hurt in the past. The pain is because I never processed the hurt properly, believing it was all I deserved, that it was ok to be spoken to or dismissed or ignored as that’s all that I knew growing from the earliest days I can remember.
I have to do what is right for me. Not do what other people think I should do for whatever reason they think that. I’ve lived my life through the messages drummed into me by those who were supposed to love and care and nurture and those messages have stopped me from being the person I would now like to be and have led to some severe episodes of deep depression and anxiety so bad I was off work for nearly a year in the first instance, and after several months the second time I never returned, a decision I do not regret as I can focus on recovery from a lifetime’s CPTSD and also focus on art and learning to live the life I’d like.
“I can do this” – reprise
So the message hand written on my artwork is so appropriate given the events of yesterday evening.
It makes me more determined to continue EMDR, which is the only therapy/counselling that really works.
I’ll do my best to push last night aside and continue to move forward now, which I have to do soon as I have therapy this afternoon!
Just like I will show my mother and others that they are wrong about me I will show others the same.
This morning all I want to do is stay in bed. I’ve had to get up though; I’m looking after a stand for Time to Change Wales at the Engineering Department in Swansea University later today. All part of World Mental Health Awareness Week, you know.
I’m absolutely shattered. Drained. Emotionally whacked out. Emotionally fragile. So tired. So very, very tired.
I want to curl up in bed and either draw or read or crochet or just watch faff on YouTube or sleep.
However, I won’t let anyone down and I will wend my way to Swansea to take care of the stand for a while today.
Yesterday’s EMDR session focused on the content of my blog post yesterday about my own body image and how I think and feel about myself. I had a particularly distressing time of it, so much so my therapist said ‘enough for today, I’m bringing this session to an end’ when we’d barely started the EMDR part of it.
The lump in my throat that was stopping me breathing, talking was painful, as was the literal pain in my heart. I get a lot of somatic responses during EMDR. Often quite painful, but bearable in order to release the stored trauma.
Yesterday, though, the pain was almost unbearable, probably unbearable.
Leaving the session, though, after some work on grounding and spending time in my safe place I felt ok.
When I got home though, I just wanted to curl up in bed as I was exhausted. And that exhaustion intensified through the evening.
Along with that I got a seriously upset stomach, which can happen after EMDR where I quite literally am expelling the faeces of my life after expelling some of the emotional and mental trauma during EMDR.
I had a really poor nights sleep even though I was shattered.
My tummy/digestive system is still tender and unsettled this morning.
All this occurred as a result of one memory I have as a toddler.
So, I’m fair reeling from it all and so sad about so much. So, so much.
I know this is all part of the process to release and heal the traumas I’ve had that have led to CPTSD. I know it won’t last for ever now and these feelings will pass in the hours and days that follow.
I know a day of self-soothing, self-care would be ideal, but I have a commitment to Time to Change Wales today and I don’t break commitments lightly. Indeed, it may do me some good as it looks like a sunny day and out and about in the sunshine does help my mood for sure.
‘I Can Do This’ WIP
I started this one late last night when I was tired but couldn’t settle down at all. I did a bit more when I woke this morning.
I hand lettered (not very well) the words ‘I can do this’ to remind myself that I can do this work in EMDR, that I can release trauma and face things that I’ve avoided much of my life, or not told hardly anyone about how I feel about myself, my body, always trying to put a brave face on things.
It’s tiring to wear that brave face and I’m not sure I can today, I’m already way too exhausted. Time to let the mask down again perhaps.
Anyways, the WIP has the hand lettering on it as a message to me that I am capable of doing the work in EMDR, but also as a message to any one of you who may read my words that each and every one of you is also capable of doing what you need to do to find mental and emotional well-being, a well-being that is at least good enough.
I’m drawing this on A4 (approx US letter size) bristol board using a mixture of Tombow Fudenosuke, Sakura Pigma Sensei and Uniball Unipin pens. Unusually for myself I’m actually pencilling in the basic outlines of shapes! How strange…
However, that pencilling in the scaffolding for my drawing may be symbolic that I also need some scaffolding and support in terms of my mental and emotional well-being at this time.
I have no idea how this will turn out yet – both the art and the EMDR – but I will persevere as and when I have the energy and time to do so. I don’t know if I’ll pack it up to take with me to the event today or whether I’ll take my crochet. Either drawing or crochet does help soothe me.
Some self-soothing drawing and coloring is being done and this mandala is the work in progress. Digital art using Microsoft Surface Pen and Studio along with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.
I’m exhausted. Emotionally fragile. Feeling very sad too. Instead of EMDR yesterday, the session was talking about and around the emotionally fragile week I’d had after the previous session. I came home absolutely shattered and soon crawled into bed.
Today, I had a Time to Change Wales anti-stigma talk to do at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend to a group of well-being champions.
For the first time I can remember I’ve had trouble putting a smiley, happy face on in public. Even my neighbour Anne asked if I was ok as I was looking sad. And I do feel sad.
I feel so sad about a life I never had. About the fact that it took 50 years of life and a serious burnout/breakdown/episode of deep anxiety/depression to learn about what mental and emotional wellbeing isn’t. About the desire to change the life I have in terms of what I’m able to do. And other things too.
After the chat in therapy yesterday I do know this is part of the healing process. Stored trauma/emotions are being released. Yes, it’s painful, but it’s necessary. I want to heal. I want to feel safe in this world. I want to feel that I belong. I want to feel comfortable in my own skin. I want the inner critic to be silenced. There’s more than this, so much more.
I will get there. I’ve come a fair distance on this journey to heal the damage my past has done to my emotional and mental wellbeing. I will continue with it.
Even when I’m emotionally exhausted, I still can create and creating and arting soothes the fragile emotions and mind. My go-to self-care activity.
Another cute kitty-cat cartoon, this time drawing on my previous life as a science teacher, chemistry was my speciality along with curious facts and random bits of knowledge.
Drawn and hand lettered with a Sakura Pigma Sensei 04 pen on Rhodia Dot Grid paper. Digitally coloured using a Microsoft Surface Pen, Microsoft Surface Studio and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro after removing the dot grid and cleaning up the image using GiMP.
I’ve just realised I’ve not added shadows beneath the objects! Oops. Oh, it’ll do for now.
I’m starting to recover from all the anti-stigma talks last week, though I’m still feeling rather tired and yesterday I was overly emotional. I didn’t sleep too well last night as today I have two more Time to Change Wales anti-stigma talks to give this morning followed by therapy this afternoon. Not sure what is causing me some anxiety – the talks or EMDR therapy!
Both are emotionally draining. Telling a small part of my story relating to my CPTSD is always draining these days as I become more and more in touch with emotions I’ve suppressed all my life. EMDR is emotionally draining as it involves processing thoughts and emotions that were suppressed at the time a trauma happened, trauma being a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.