“I can do this.” WIP

“I can do this.” wip ©Angela Porter 2019 – Artwyrd.com

“I can do this.” And I will…I will!

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.

I can do this. I can and I WILL.

‘I can do this’ WIP and a few words about my mental/emotional health.

'I can do this' WIP 15 May 2019 © Angela Porter - Artwyrd.com
‘I can do this’ WIP 15 May 2019 © Angela Porter – Artwyrd.com

EMDR therapy yesterday, and the aftermath.

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.

Mandala wip

©Angela Porter 2019
©Angela Porter 2019

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.

Cat-ion

Cation © Angela Porter 2019
Cation © Angela Porter 2019

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.

Friday Dangle Design, anti-stigma talks, CPTSD and emotional hangovers.

Dangle design 15 March 2019 © Angela Porter
Dangle design 15 March 2019 © Angela Porter

I officially have a post-therapy and post trio of antistigma talks emotional hangover/headache.

I’m so tired today. Headachy. Feeling quite sad. Finding focus is difficult.

A big, big mug of strong Yorkshire tea, clementine segments, banana and some French bread with butter and marmalade is being had for breakfast.

I was so tired when I got home yesterday from the last anti-stigma talk of this week that I ordered in pizza and garlic mushrooms. I watched most of Attack of the Clones while beginning to crochet a market bag. And when I felt I could sleep I went to bed.

To find that I couldn’t sleep, not straight away. My mind was still way too busy.

So, I thought I’d sit in bed and do a little drawing, which is the one above.

I knew today would be Friday, so I added some really simple dangles to the bottom of it for dangle day.

I used my R2-D2 Sheaffer fountain pen on some Claire-Fontaine mixed media paper. I have managed to smudge the ink in some places.

However, this did let me settle down to sleep. It was a meditative practice for me, if not mindfulness meditation itself. No matter what, it helped me calm and quieten my mind so I could sleep.

The anti-stigma talks have a part that is about Time to Change Wales, a bit about stigma and discrimination and mental illness, and the main part is my story of mental illness and how stigma and discrimination has affected me.

Self-stigma has always been the worst for me. What others would say to me such as ‘just pull yourself together’ or ‘don’t be such a misery’ or suggesting that I have a lot going for me in my life and I shouldn’t feel the way I was the same as I was telling myself. In fact, I talked to myself worse than what others could say.

I was really resistant to the idea that I had problems with mental and emotional wellbeing.

“It’s been a long, busy term. I’ll be fine after the holidays.”
“We’ve got an inspection coming up, it’s really busy.”
“I had that difficult pupil again today and it just wore me down, I’ll be ok”.
“I’m not crazy.”
“I’m not weak.”
“I’m not mad.”
“There’s nothing wrong with me that a weekend won’t fix.”

That was, and still is me to a lesser extent. Always trying to put a brave face on how I’m feeling. Trying to hide behind a mask of smiles and laughter and competency. Doing my best not to be a bother to anyone, not to worry anyone. Not wanting anyone to think I was lying/attention-seeking/making a fuss over nothing.

Always denying I had a problem. Until I could deny it no more.

That happened in steps.

Being physically confronted by two pupils led to me receiving counselling for the first time and with me finally admitting some things about grooming in my past, not only to the counsellor, but to myself.

Counselling kept me in my job. When it ended, the decline in my mental health resumed and continued until I had to have 8 months off from work, accept anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication to give my brain a break from the constant worrying, thinking, panicking it was doing.

One of the hardest things I had to do was to admit to myself I needed help. Not just admit, but accept that help.

Talking about my childhood, where those patterns of thoughts, the very negative, critical thoughts and beliefs I have about myself have come from. Not talking in depth, mind you, just touching the surface of it. This is emotionally draining for me. It awakens emotions in me that are only just surfacing and being recognised through EMDR therapy.

Yesterday, I wrote a post about why I do these talks. Today, I’m writing about the aftermath of the talks.

The aftermath won’t ever stop me from doing the talks. I can cope with it. I need a day or two of self-care (and ice-cream).

Self-care is doing things that are familiar, that calm me and bring me pleasure. So that’s art, crochet, Star Wars, ice-cream with a friend. It’s quiet time for myself, without the pressures of people. It’s sleeping when I need to sleep. My body isn’t tired, but my emotions and mind are. They need time to rest and recuperate.

And that just doesn’t apply to me, a CPTSD survivor on a healing journey towards recovery. It applies to each and every single person.

Me. You. Everyone.

We all have mental health. We all have emotional health. We all need to take care of them as much as we do our physical health.

Just as we seek help if we have a problem with our physical health, such as taking a painkiller for a headache, surgery for appendicitis, dental work for teeth problems, a cast for a broken bone, chemotherapy for cancer, then we also need to seek help if we’re having problems with our emotional and mental health.

There’s no stigma attached to having a physical illness. But there is with mental and emotional illnesses and problems. There should not be.

It’s about being kind to ourselves. Learning how to be kind to ourselves. Taking that time to give our minds and emotions a break. That’s what self-love is. It’s kindness to ourselves.

Something I never learned in childhood. All I learned was that I was unworthy, useless, stupid, ugly, fat, unloveable, a failure, an embarrassment, the reason everything went wrong.

I’ve lived most of my life believing that was so, trying to prove it wasn’t and to earn the love and respect of someone who is incapable of love and respect – a narcissistic mother. Not only her, but so many others in my life.

It’s never too late to do something to help myself have a better relationship with myself in the first instance. That’s what EMDR is helping me with.

If my talks help others recognise some of the same things in themselves, workout that their relationship with themselves, that their mental and emotional health isn’t good, and they determine to seek help when they’re ready, then every day of this emotional tiredness/hangover/headachyness is absolutely worth it.

Coloring nearly done …

©Angela Porter 2019 - Artwyrd.com
©Angela Porter 2019 – Artwyrd.com

I’ve had a quiet morning at home today and have taken the opportunity to have some self-care time, which for me means adding more colour to this design.

I’ve had three emotionally tiring days in a row; EMDR on Monday and anti-stigma talks on Tuesday and Wednesday. I also had two longish trips on Tuesday to Swansea and then Hereford in absolutely horrid weather.

I had a good sleep last night, but I still feel exhausted and I have one more anti-stigma talk to do in Cwmbran this afternoon. All done in my role as a champion for Time to Change Wales.

I could just curl up in bed and sleep again now, but the shower is calling me and I need to sort myself out for that trip to Cwmbran.

Some might say I’m doing too much. Possibly. But it’s important stuff talking about mental health in the aim of raising awareness, understanding and reducing the stigma and discrimination that exists around mental illness.

Yes, I may be exhausted afterwards. Yes, I may need self-care time for a day or so. But it’s important to do this. It’s important to me.

If I’d known more about what a healthy mind and healthy emotions are when I was younger maybe, just maybe I could’ve sought out help and it may have been easier to achieve recovery.

Maybe I would’ve been more self-aware and able to make better life choices so I didn’t add to the trauma I already carried within me. Maybe I would’ve been wiser and cared a little more about myself and not given so much of myself.

If I can help people to recognise that their mental or emotional health isn’t as it could be and to find a way to change that without fear of stigma or discrimination then I think it’s worth it.

That’s why I do it. Even when I myself am emotionally drained from it. I know I’ll recover. I know that on my way home today I’m likely to get some nice food to cook this evening, maybe even some Ben and Jerry’s Karamel Sutra, and I would like to settle down and watch some Star Wars.

I also want to get some cotton yarn. I had a book in the post at the weekend that has crochet patterns in it for what the American’s call ‘market bags’ and we in the UK call ‘shopping bags’. Crocheted, netting, pretty, reusable, personalised in terms of colour and embellishments.

I shall look forward to an evening of such self care tonight. A chance to properly stop, breathe and relax.

And the color goes on … and on …

© Angela Porter 2019 Artwyrd.com
© Angela Porter 2019 Artwyrd.com

The work in progress so far. I am definitely learning new tricks, though I’m not quite sure if they’re all easily visible in the reduced sized image for the interwebs.

A nice way to spend an hour or two after an anti-stigma talk this morning to a group of South Wales Police officers. I’m emotionally whacked out. I do have to go out to an appointment shortly, however, otherwise I’d definitely be asleep before too much longer if not already!

I am noticing that as I tell my story of my mental illness I’m getting more in touch with some of my emotions. It used to be that I would just tell my story with little emotion being visible to anyone else. I seem to be getting more emotional about my story, sometimes almost overwhelmed by it.

The ice-maiden melteth, mayhaps.

I do know that when I get emotional I get so tired afterwards.

I just hope that telling my story helps people in someway and goes some way to helping end stigma and discrimination around mental illness.

That is why I’m a champion for Time to Change Wales.