Be gentle with yourself.

Artwork © Angela Porter 2019

About the artwork

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.

Exhausted I am…

©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

I am exhausted today. My EMDR session yesterday was extremely powerful and intense. I left feeling light headed, light-bodied and a bit off-with-the-fairies as well as rather tired. This feeling stayed with me all evening.

I woke exhausted but had to get some errands done. I’m now back home still exhausted.

I was hungry while out ( I didn’t have breakfast before leaving home as I had managed to get a cancellation appointment at the doctors’ surgery for an issue unrelated to CPTSD). So, while waiting for a prescription to be filled I went to have breakfast. As hungry as I was I could eat very little before feeling full. It was the same when I arrived home after EMDR yesterday.

I think my therapist has found the ‘magic formula’ for me and EMDR. It involves working with a negative belief I have about myself, imagining myself as a baby or small child and then working with the first image that pops up in my head to give the somatic (body sensations) and emotional feelings to focus on during EMDR.

Yesterday’s session resulted in some very powerful metaphors that resulted in powerful processing of trauma and negative beliefs. It’s not quite finished, there’s still some distress associated, but that level fell from a 9 to 2 during the session.

So, I’m too tired to do anything other than have some tea (Twinings Lady Grey, no milk – it has lemon and orange peel and oils in it and it’s deliciously bright and refreshing) and go back to bed to sleep some more.

Oh, the graphic above is one that I created for my anti-stigma talk presentation for Time To Change Wales. I’m giving a talk tomorrow and needed to revise my presentation.

I used Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio to create the digital art.

A few more fish.

A few more fish © Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
A few more fish © Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

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!

Summer Solstice Dangle Design

Summer Solstice Dangle Design © Angela Porter 2019 Artwyrd.com
Summer Solstice Dangle Design © Angela Porter 2019 Artwyrd.com

It is the Summer Solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere, the longest day of the year and from here on in the days will slowly get shorter. Still, it’s lovely to have daylight well into the evening with the sky still being fairly light at 10pm or so.

Yesterday evening I had a bit of an idea to try creating a dangle design on parchment, and this is the result. I needed a bit of a break from digital art after the hours and hours spent on my most recent mandala.

Parchment craft, or Pergamano, is an old craft and a lot of the work done, while beautiful, is really not my style. So I thought I’d try my style of art with it.

I used some ball tools to emboss the parchment with my design and then to add some shading. I drew the design directly onto the parchment with the embossing tools.

I started with the stylised flowers and worked out from there. Once I was happy with my design, I added a simple dangle consisting of round, heart-shaped and diamond shaped beads with a tear-drop bead to add some weight to the dangle.

I then added colour with some Kuretake Zig Writer pens on the reverse of the design. I chose colours that remind me of summer – the mature greens of summer foliage along with the bright colours of tropical flowers. I thought these would work well for the Solstice. Of course the hearts needed to be pink and I added some teal-blue to the small diamond beads for a bit of variety.

On top of the dots around the design I added tiny dots of gold glittery loveliness using a Uniball Signo glitter gel pen. I also added some tiny dots in the centres of the stylised flowers.

To give an idea of the size of this design, the black paper behind the parchment is A4 (approx US letter) in size.

Adhering the parchment to the black paper was a problem as glue shows through, so I had to use some tiny dots where the white lines were thick enough to disguise the glue.

I really think that the white lines of the parchment create something that is equally as lovely and maybe a bit more delicate than my usual black line art.

The uses of this design are many – greeting cards, note cards, framed artwork or used in Bullet Journals, journals, planners, scrapbooks, and more. In fact, I may replicate the design for my July cover spread in my BuJo.

If you’d like to learn more about drawing your own dangle designs, then my book “A Dangle A Day” is, perhaps, a good place to start.

So, Angela, how are you feeling today?

I’m feeling quite content today. Tired still, but content.

It seems the anti-stigma talk for Time to Change Wales and the anxiety I had around doing it on Wednesday has taken it’s toll on me just a bit. I do know, however, that I will recover in the fullness of time for sure.

This is part of the emotional/mental weather that is part of life. Beneath this weather is a calmer, more content Angela. I find this version of me from time to time; indeed I’m content in myself on many more days than I am discontented. Even with the bout of anxiety on Wednesday there was still a sense of being content.

It’s a strange thing to feel both at the same time. A bit like feeling the firm ground beneath my feet as a wild wind is buffeting me and trying to blow me down. I can feel that firm footing even when my emotions are a bit on the wild and windy side.

That’s progress on my journey to recover from CPTSD. Even more progress that I can recognise and describe this feeling.

This realisation makes me smile.

It’s progress, but it’s not where I want to be. I want to be able to go out and about without being scared of my own shadow. To be able to travel to unfamiliar places and actually get out of my car when I don’t have an appointment of some kind. To be able to go into an unfamiliar cafe or eatery when I’m by myself when I’m hungry and thirsty. To not go into full flight mode when something small has spooked me. To not be startled by loud noises. I want to be able to reach out to people without fear of rejection or to allow people into my home. To have all kinds of relationships with healthy boundaries where my needs and boundaries are respected by myself. To be able to go shopping without being overwhelmed by the choices available so I end up leaving without getting anything that’s needed.

These are but a few of ways that CPTSD affects my life and that I’d like to change through the healing journey I’m undertaking with the help of EMDR and therapy.

I’ve never been anything other than this permanently scared, extremely self-conscious person. Different events and places result in different levels of fear/anxiety in me. Even sat here, at my familiar desk, I feel anxious about writing about it.

The progress is that I recognise it now. I have identified it. Although it’s still there, it’s slowly being dis-empowered. Slowly means it’s being done properly and that I have time for the new level of anxiety or the increased self-awareness has time to become familiar to me before the next step forward is made. Familiar means it’s the more healed me. Healing bit by bit.

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.

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.

The difference colour makes …continued

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

I thought I’d show you the progress I’ve made on this drawing. I hope you find it interesting to see how things are progressing with it.

Yesterday, I didn’t get much done as I was whacked out after EMDR therapy in the afternoon. It was very intense with some very powerful physical pains as well as some emotionally upsetting insights. Tears flowed. An hour of discomfort to help to release years and years of emotional/mental pain and suffering isn’t too bad is it?

Today I’ve not done anything. I did an anti-stigma talk to a group of health-care employees for the ABMU Health Board at Singleton Hospital in Swansea. This was on behalf of Time to Change Wales in my role as a champion.

The drive there was horrendous. The rain was absolutely hammering down. Then, it was really difficult to find somewhere to park. I did find somewhere eventually. Then, there was the walk to the hospital and the problem of finding my way to the Chapel/Multi-faith Centre. By that time, the stress of not finding parking easily had caused me to flip into hypervigilance mode and it wasn’t easy to see or decode information.

Eventually I must’ve looked totally lost, a nice man asked me if he could help. When I said the chapel, I noticed another chap had come over and he had a Time to Change Wales badge on and it turns out he was Martin, one of two new champions who had come to observe me.

We had directions to the chapel and the other champion was waiting outside.

I did my talk, became, for me, quite emotional, and left, after chatting with people and Martin and Connor, the other TTCW champion.

I was glad to find my way back to my car, and started to feel a bit spaced out as I drove home. Thankfully the rain had mostly stopped though the spray was horrible.

I’ve eaten and had some tea but I still feel drifty and floaty and I really, really could do with a long nap now. It’s taken nearly 4 hours for me to feel ready to nap. However, I can’t take a nap as I have to drive to Hereford this evening for around 7:15pm. My sat nav said it would be an hour and a half journey there. Perhaps I could have a quick nap …

I know tomorrow I have another anti-stigma talk to do – this time with a group of police officers at Ton Pentre police station – and a medical appointment later in the day. Thursday I’m doing another antistigma-talk to a group of trainee nurses and midwives over in Abergavenny.

I foresee some early nights ahead of me, though most probably not tonight!

The difference colour makes…

The difference colour makes © Angela Porter 2019 - Artwyrd.com
The difference colour makes © Angela Porter 2019 – Artwyrd.com

This morning, I wanted to do a small drawing (the bristol board is approx. 10cm x 21cm) and try not to get overly fussy and trying to fill every space in. I used fountain pens to draw the line work, and I’m using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, a Microsoft Surface Pen and a Microsoft Surface Studio to add colour to the design.

I’ve often said it on the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans facebook group that the members work some fantastic magic in using colour to bring my drawings to life. And they do.

So, I’m working a little of my own magic here!

I don’t often colour my own art in – time constraints can limit me in this. Also, I love drawing so much and it takes me a lot less time to draw a design than it does to colour it. I can safely say I’m quite prolific when it comes to drawing, not so when it comes to colouring.

I’m also colouring this relatively small and less detailed design to fathom out the mysteries of the synthetic brush setting. I think I may be getting the hang of it and how I can make it work for me.

I actually like the less than perfect finish I’ve achieved, which has surprised me for sure. I actually really like the slightly battered feel to the orange pods in the artwork.

I’m usually obsessed with perfectly smooth colour gradients, whether achieved by digital tools or by more traditional methods of blending (whether working with traditional or digital media).

A good friend of mine (yes, you know who you are if you read this) did tell me when I bought my first Microsoft Surface a couple of years ago that it would open ways for me to create art and develop my artistic skills. It certainly has, and continues, to do that for sure.

I am aware that it’s quite a slow process where I’m concerned. Yes, I could go and watch and read tutorials on how to use the various brushes and settings.

I’ve tried that. The information given totally overwhelms me.

Being easily overwhelmed by information or sensations is something that is part of my cPTSD. If I get too overwhelmed, I tend to either walk away, end up in a panic or become fearful to face something again.

However, I do get a sense of satisfaction out of working out or discovering something for myself, when I actually need that something. Once I’ve become confident and comfortable with a particular skill, I’m then ready to discover more add more skills to my personal skill/tool box.

I never stop learning, discovering, and finding new ways to express myself creatively. I may no longer try to use a huge range of different media – my default these days is definitely digital. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in that. No doubt I will dabble with new kinds of media or creative skills from time to time (such as my toe-dipping into paper quilling; it’s not at all my kind of thing, but I had to try it to find out).

I still love drawing with pen on paper, but being able to scan that in and add colour digitally means I can make the best of both worlds. I can also keep all the little imperfections and smudges that result from drawing with pen and ink on paper, that add that more human touch to them, if I wish. Or I can draw digitally, keeping things clean and a bit more perfect. Either way works for me.

And so I finally overcome my own personal stigma concerning digital art vs traditional.

Therapy day!

It’s Monday so it’s EMDR day for me. I have no idea what the session will bring for me.

What I can say, though, is that though last week’s session was rather emotional and distressing, I seemed to recover quite quickly from it. By Wednesday I’d returned to a state of some contentment and that has mostly stayed with me since then.

I do know I have a busy week with anti-stigma talks for Time to Change Wales being given tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday, and then a double talk next Monday. As well as working on templates for the newest coloring book for Dover Publications Inc, I need to make sure I have time to look after myself and not avoid the feelings I may have after EMDR today.

I also know I have a busy week with other commitments too…

At least there’s some sunshine today, even though there are some big, puffy, grey and white clouds mostly covering the sky. There’s plenty of breaks in the clouds.