This week’s offering is a mandala. I always find mandalas soothing to draw and colour. The circular form and repetitive nature are beguiling, relaxing, soothing and magical in some way.
This week’s is quite simple, as colouring templates need to be. It’s also quite botanical in nature. The colour palette I’ve chosen is full of sunshine, growth, peace, harmony and self-care. I haven’t quite finished colouring it, but that’s fine. It did what it needed to do for me.
I’m well out of sorts today. I really didn’t want to get out of bed. But I did, and showered.
I know what’s causing my emotional and mental turmoil at the moment. I just can’t seem to actually act to bring that to an end. Guilt, grief, and other emotions are causing me problems. I know I’ll act when I’m ready to do so, but it’s so difficult to let go. But I need to do so for my own emotional and mental well being.
Talking of emotional and mental well being, today is Time to Talk Day. It’s a day where Time to Talk Wales, along with sister organisations, encourage everyone to have a conversation about mental and emotional health. All to help to end the stigma and discrimination that exists around mental health.
This year’s theme is ‘Small things’. I’ve written on facebook about three small conversations I had that have led to me healing from complex post traumatic stress disorder. Not completely. I’m not sure you can completely heal as part of surviving complex trauma is hiding that trauma deep inside. I am, however, healed enough. I’m just waiting for the lockdown to end so I can start pushing my boundaries a bit.
Anyway, I’m going to finish all the social media stuff now and then I’ll be returning to arty pursuits. Maybe a nap too as I’m feeling so tired today. Emotional turmoil exhausts me. Also, sleep is one of my coping strategies when I’m stressed out in some way.
I’ve just managed to get today’s Inktober drawing mostly done. I’m now too tired to do any more work on it this night.
My prompts for today were an otter skull, Tremella mesenterica fungus and Diva Dance tangle pattern.
As otters are water creatures (and one my my favourite animals – did you know they have pouch of folded skin where they keep stone that is special to them?) I chose watery blues and blue-greens. I also kept the fussy drawing behind the skull monochrome. I’m too tired to work out what else I could do. I quite like that the background design is a tad etheral and ghostly.
I’m so tired now; it’s nearly 11pm here in the UK. I’ve spent the last two or three hours working on the illustration above.
So, Angela, how are you feeling?
My day began with getting myself sorted to give a Time to Change Wales anti-stigma talk to the CHAMPS Group based in Pontllanfraith. Champs stands for ‘Chartist Help 4 All Mental Health Peer Support Group.
I was invited to talk there by a friend of mine that is involved in CHAMPS and I met a fantastic group of people, all of whom experience mental ill-health. So, after telling them about Time to Change Wales and the story of my own mental ill-health, there were lots of conversations, some taking the chance to talk to me to say how my story mirrors theirs in many ways, or how something I said made a penny drop for them. I’m also an example of someone well on the way to recovery from CPTSD, and that shows people it really is possible to heal from a mental illness.
I think it was a positive experience for everyone, myself included. However, it did leave me drained and after having some lunch I retired to bed to sleep – all part of my self-care routine.
I woke in the early evening and had a long chat with a friend who is struggling with mental ill health, had supper and then turned my attention to Inktober.
I woke after my nap feeling quite awake and alert. I felt that way until just half an hour or so ago; my mind has become foggy, I’m tired and I will soon be back in bed to sleep.
I know the toll doing talks like this can take on my energy. There’s anxiety about a number of things – finding my way to the venue, meeting strangers, sharing my story to name the main ones. However, the Time to Change Wales campaign is a cause I feel strongly about and if by giving my talks I can help others to understand what it’s like to live with mental ill health and the impact of how they behave towards us as a result of stigma/discrimination, or help others to feel they’re not alone, or to consider other aspects of their mental health that they’ve perhaps not considered before, then my day or so of emotional tiredness is worth it.
Yes, for a day or so I may feel drained but I now know that this drained feeling doesn’t persist for long. Even though I’m tired, I can still sense that inner contentedness glowing warmly with in me as a smile in my heart.
Deer skull, Mycena interrupta and inaflux tangle pattern.
Digital drawing done using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro with a Microsoft Surface Pen and Surface Studio.
I’ve used a lot of geometric patterns in the skull to create depth and interest.
I kept the other elements quite simple and, for now, uncoloured. Mycena interrupta, the mushrooms, are a lovely blue colour.
Instead, of adding colour I used a copper background and added my drawing on top of it using the screen option. This has resulted in it seeming to glow a little. I quite like this effect.
There’s a very good reason I’ve not coloured this drawing yet. I am absolutely bushwhacked. I had a busy, nervy day yesterday followed by a long drive home mostly in the dark, heavy rain and high winds. I was too tired even to eat when I got in and was glad to go to my bed and sleep.
The Wales Health at Work Partnership Summit proved to be an interesting time. I was there to chat to people, along with Russell, the community outreach officer for Hafal who also works with Time to Change Wales to organise us champions, amongst other things, and Nicole, a newly changed champion from North Wales. I was also there to give a ten minute talk about my experience of mental illness while at work and the stigma, discrimination I faced as well as the helpful and not helpful things that were said or done. Russell said I did great, as did the other panel members.
So, I did more than my bit for World Mental Health Day.
I’m feeling really dozy again now, so I think I’m going to go and sleep for a while. It’s not just the two four and a half hour drives, not sleeping well away from home that has tired me out. It’s also the anxiety and stress and being with lots of people in noisy environments that has tired me out. It’s going to take today, maybe tomorrow, to recover fully. So, self-care is the order of the day for me.
This tiredness is worth it though. Plenty of people came to tell me how helpful they found my talk and how well I had spoken and I had given them things to think about.
Raising awareness of mental illness and that sometimes it’s the littlest things that can make the biggest difference to someone experiencing mental illness.
Swallow skull, Clathus Ruber and Lola tangle pattern.
This one is a riot of colour and I’m not entirely sure it works. However, I took my colour inspiration from the Clathus ruber fungus and thought green would play nicely against the reds, oranges and yellows. I’m not at all sure about the end result.
The swallow skull was simple to draw, so I took the opportunity to try colouring and shading with it to gain some depth and dimension. I think I achieved it, though the contrast between shadow and light could be greater.
The skull was so small so it lent itself to being drawn in a mandala-style ring; that’s how I ended up drawing another mandala today.
I definitely stylised the Clathus ruber fungus, with it ending up looking more like a holey autumnal leaf than the fungus itself. However, no one said the fungus had to be realistic!
The lola tangle pattern formed the two outer rings of foliage.
I worked digitally using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with a Surface Pen and Surface Studio from Microsoft.
I’m using Inktober 2019 prompts from these lovely people on Instagram – @book_polygamist (animal skulls), @nyan_sun (mushrooms) and @havepen_willdraw (tangle patterns).
A little later today I’m going to wend my way to Llandudno for an overnight stay in preparation for an event tomorrow, which is mental health day. I’m attending the Wales Health at Work Partnership Summit to set up a small stand and to take part in two ‘Open Minds’ workshops, which will focus on mental health and wellbeing in the work environment.
I’m feeling a bit anxious, which is normal. I’ve never been to Llandudno. I’ve not travelled further north than Llandridnod Wells (which is on my route). I’m travelling alone, overnight, for the first time in many, many years.
Challenges for me will be eating. I’m not good at going into unfamiliar places by myself to eat, especially at night. I’d also like to take a walk along the seafront and I’m hoping I’ll be able to manage that too. I also would like to stop along my way for a late lunch.
I’m feeling a bit tired. I had a really weird dream that relates to the anxiety I feel about the trip.
So, I’d better finish posting Inktober day 9 across my social media and then myself packed and sorted for my little trip.
This is the same illustration I used for yesterday’s quote, however, after adding some textural lines to the drawing, I’ve coloured the design.
I decided to use flat colours as it brings a feeling of a coloured wood cut or lino cut print to the design. I used a grungy texture overlay to enhance the vintage feel of the coloured design.
The line art was drawn using Tombow Fudenosuke and Faber-Castell Pitt Artist pens on paper, but the colouring, textures and text have been added digitally. I used Affinity Publisher to produce the typography. A Microsoft Surface Pen and Surface Studio along with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro were used to complete the colouring
It’s always interesting how just small changes can make such a big difference to artwork.
So, Angela, how are you feeling today?
I’m feeling fairly content and quite optimistic. I am, however, still a little tired to say the least.
My trip to Llandridnod Wells yesterday left me exhausted. I went there to give an antistigma talk as a champion for Time to Change Wales. Telling my story of cPTSD still leaves me emotionally exhausted and vulnerable. This is, however, a small price to pay for giving people food for thought and getting people talking about mental illness.
As I was feeling so emotional after the talk I didn’t take a walk around Llandridnod Wells. When I’m feeling the way I was it’s all too easy for me to panic and enter flight-mode when I’m overwhelmed by noise or an unfamiliar place. The anxiety I feel about getting myself turned-about and lost and not able to find my way back to the car just adds to the vulnerability.
So, I thought I’d drive back and see if I could find the courage to stop at a cafe on the way. I’d passed a nice-looking one called the Wye Knot. However, I just couldn’t bring myself to stop there. I was still too overwhelmed.
My brain kicked in and I thought I’d head to Honey Cafe in Bronllys. I’ve been there a few times before and it’s a familiar setting to me. However, when I went in there were so many people milling around the counter and others coming in the door and pushing past me that I went into flight-mode and dashed back to the car in tears.
I just drove home then, doing a mental inventory of what I had in the way of food.
I had something quick to eat and a big mug of tea and then I curled up in bed to sleep; a nap is one of my self-care activities. I know that if I can sleep for a while I wake feeling refreshed and more resilient than I was.
The exhaustion comes not just from being emotionally overwhelmed and triggered but from the effort of keeping a happy smiling mask up. Yesterday the mask wasn’t as ‘solid’ as on Monday, but I knew it was still there. Once the talk was over, I let the mask drop and I was suddenly exhausted.
This is, as I mentioned earlier, worth getting the word out about the stigma and discrimination that surrounds mental illness, giving people some advice on what to and what not to do, and starting conversations.
I’m beginning to flag here; tiredness/exhaustion is catching up with me. I have managed to get some work done this morning. However, before I try to do anything else I need some more sleep I think.
So, I’m taking the advice of today’s quote – I’m going to be gentle with myself today.
I wanted to try to create a series of templates that could be used as frames for quotes. This is my first one. I remembered to save it as tiff file in layers so that I can easily change the background.
I didn’t start with the intention of creating waves filled with zentangle-type patterns, but that’s how it intuitively flowed from the tip of my Surface Pen onto the screen of my Surface Studio. So, I went with it.
It’s a very comfortable kind of art to create, whether you call it zentangle, zentangle inspired, entangled artwork, line art, doodled art. It’s just about filling space with patterns and lines, using them to add depth and dimension.
It was an enjoyable process that I could complete in a few sessions in-between a hectic few days.
The saga of the keyboard.
Saturday my Bluetooth keyboard decided to not connect to the Surface Studio. It had been finicky for a few days. I changed batteries, I tried disconnecting it and reconnecting it and following all the trouble-shooting processes I could find. All to no avail. This is why I’ve not done any blogs and been quiet around social media, along with life being a bit busy too.
It also worked out that the warranty on my Surface Studio and all it’s attendant bits and bobs had run out just over three weeks ago. Yes, I do have software I can use the Surface Pen with or a keyboard that pops up on the screen that I can tap with my fingers or mouse or pen, but they are so slow and frustrating to use in comparison to the speed at which I can type. I do love to handwrite, even on the screen. However, as I can’t turn the ‘paper’ or ‘writing window’ to an angle that makes it comfortable for me to write at I don’t do as much as I could.
Of course, I’d forgotten I still have, and use my Surface Book. However, when something goes wrong, my mind goes into instant ‘oh my gosh, I’ve got to sort that out as there’s no other way to get things done’ overwhelmed and panic mode. It’s only after I have solved the problem and calm down that I can see that I had alternatives open to me.
So, my brain told me my only option was to buy a new keyboard. Then I had a decision to make. Should I go for a wireless one or a wired one?
I decided on a wired one as that should always connect to the ‘puter. I also was beguiled by a keyboard that has pretty rainbow lights beneath the keys. Sparkly and colourful always attracts me.
So, I now have a keyboard and can email and write and do everything else that requires words from me quickly once again.
World Suicide Prevention Day 2019
Warning – this may contain emotional and mental health triggers.
The World Health Organisation says that one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds.
In the UK, two people take their own lives every day.
In the UK, men account for approximately 75% of all suicides.
In the UK, suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20 to 49.
They also say that one of the biggest obstacles to overcome in suicide prevention is the stigma and taboo that surrounds suicide and mental health problems.
The stigma and taboos that surround talking openly about suicide leads to a lack of awareness about suicide, and also about mental illness.
I am a champion for Time To Change Wales, a campaign whose aim is to get people talking about mental illness to break down the stigma that surrounds it. This also includes suicide.
As a champion, one of the things I do is to go to organisations and other groups to talk about my experience of mental illness and the stigma and discrimination I have faced. This includes self-stigma.
Thanks to self-stigma, I was in denial that I was experiencing mental and emotional ill-health for many years. It led to me not seeking help until I had nearly broken my mind. I ended up being off work as a teacher for almost a year. I went back to work for just eight months before I had another ‘breakdown’ for want of another word.
What I don’t often mention, and what I think also needs to be discussed here, is suicidal ideation or suicidal thoughts. These are thoughts about wishing to die, wanting life to stop, hoping that one would not wake up in the morning. Not actively planning suicide, but wishing that life would end to bring the mental and emotional pain to an end.
For a long as I can remember, right back to being young, I can remember wishing this upon myself. I often wanted to die in my sleep and not have to face another day like the one I just had. I didn’t feel loved or valued in any way, and the constant bullying, name-calling, being ignored and neglected. I felt a burden, a bother, a nuisance, an irritation, a problem to my family. I thought they would be happier without me. That the world would be a better place without me. I never thought of actively taking my own life, but I certainly wished to die.
That belief about myself has followed me throughout my life. Sometimes it would be quiet, at other times it would be shouting through a megaphone in my head.
I remember driving to work most days in the last few years of my teaching career wanting to just keep driving and never come back to my life as it had become so very, very painful for me and I could see no way out of the pain.
I never did drive off towards the horizon as I didn’t actually know what I would do. Also, the thought of my cat and how he’d not cope without me would pop into my head. And so I would get myself to work so I could look after my cat.
At the time, it felt my cat was the only living thing that was consistently and unconditionally there for me, sharing love and affection with me. I still miss him now, a bit more than a year when I had to say goodbye to him.
I owe my life to my cat, and to the one friend (now my brother of the heart/choice) who kept nagging me about getting help, and the GP who knew the right words to say to me to get me to understand I needed help and a break from work and also from my mind. Now, I am also so grateful to my EMDR therapist for persisting with me.
I have tears flowing down my face as I write about this. The tears represent the sadness that I feel that I was ignorant of what good mental and emotional health is and of the stigma I held about it in regards to myself. Oddly, I never had those thoughts about others who were experiencing mental illness, having helped others during their own crises. I feel sad that I have lived most of my life with poor mental and emotional health, thinking that was how everyone else was. I feel sad that only now am I learning what it is like to have a touchstone of contentment and optimism to hold onto when times get tough.
The tears are also ones of gratitude that I’m still here. I have come through the darkest days of my life. My career has changed, and my life is gradually changing for the better, as is my mental and emotional health.
I rarely have suicidal thoughts now. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I did. That says something about how far along my healing journey I have come.
If someone had told me in my darkest days that my life would be as it is now, with that contentment within me, an optimism for my future, I might not have believed them. In fact, I most probably wouldn’t have.
However, I am here to say that I made it through it all. Through my childhood and adulthood and now into middle age.
I wish I’d known what I know now as a child. Maybe I would’ve sought help sooner in my life.
What I wish for everyone is that every person on this planet is given the information about what good mental and emotional health is. I want mental and emotional health to be seen as important as physical health with the links between them fully recognised, and support is available to all who need it.
No matter how bad life seems, there are always options to improve it. This is something I’ve had to learn. In fact, I’m still learning about it. When I get overwhelmed, or something goes wrong, I tend to slip into the black and white thinking mode.
That’s what the black and white borders to today’s art is about. The complexity shows just how crazily my mind was working during the darkest days.
For the space between them, the background on which the quote sits, I chose colours that remind me of a sunrise. A new day, with a fresh mind and eyes always comes with new options, if only we can see them.
My story has not ended. It will not end until my life is naturally completed. For the first time in my life, I have a feeling of optimism for my future. It may have taken me two severe episodes of mental ill-health and several years of EMDR therapy and counselling to get to this point. But I’ve got there.
No matter how much of my life I have left, it will be lived with some contentment, peace and hope for my future. I wish the same for each and every person.
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.