Quote about therapy

Artwork © Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

Trigger Warning – the following words contain some references to my past mental and emotional ill health.

I’ve begun to realise that I am as recovered from CPTSD as I’m going to be for now. So, yesterday, I made the decision, after lots of thought, that it was time to leave a month or so until my next session. The longest I’ve been without therapy is three weeks. This time it will be five weeks. It’s a test for me to see if I am as resilient as I think I am. Still, there’s also that little bit of a safety net that if I have issues I know, I’ll have a therapy session to sort out what to do next.

I know that in the future, as life experiences trigger some CPTSD reaction in me, I may need some more EMDR sessions to help me resolve the issues. Leaving therapy, for now, is necessary, but not without the possibility of returning as I need to.

How did I know I’d reached that point? Well, I recovered well from my hiccough, emotionally and mentally, over Christmas and New Year. Surprising well, actually. Even my therapist said that!

Nothing new has come up that needs to be processed it seems. I’ve had the feeling I’ve been groping around for issues to work on in therapy for a long while. Maybe I was ready a while ago but wasn’t quite prepared to leave that safety net of that one person who has always been there to listen, question me and help me to understand and heal myself. I feel I am ready to cut loose now, but suddenly, but gradually.

The soft inner smile, feeling of contentment and ease is present most days. I also have a feeling of what I can only describe as hope and optimism.
These feelings are my touchstones, the way I want to feel most of my days of the remainder of my life.

It still saddens me that it’s taken me until I’m 56 years old to discover them, to heal enough of the traumas of the past to allow them to be fully present nearly every day. I lived my life believing the way I thought and felt was ‘normal’ and that everyone was like this.

It took an emotional and mental breakdown to get me to accept that I was in a severe amount of emotional and mental pain and to seek the help I needed to heal that pain. EMDR has been that help, that therapy has allowed me to heal those wounds.

Sometimes things happen, and my emotions can overshadow the contentment and smile. However, I can still feel those touchstones, reminders that the emotional storm will pass and the smile will shine out once again. This emotional weather has happened a few times since I first discovered my touchstones, but the weather has always passed. Sometimes with the help of therapy, but more often by itself, given self-soothing, self-care and self-reflection.

I am so grateful to have had such a skilled therapist. Still, it’s now time for me to find new ways to engage with like-minded people, not in huge groups, as that would really cause problems for my introverted nature.

I’ve been having EMDR therapy for nearly five and a half years. It seems a long time, yet it’s not that long, really. A lot of commitment and work has been needed, but I’m reaping the rewards of my efforts.

The quote epitomises the way I feel about therapy now. In my darkest days, when I started EMDR. Linda, my therapist, has been that one person who has consistently been there to accompany me on this journey of healing and recovery from CPTSD. She has helped me discover that part of me that wants to experience life my own way, that part which is content, gently smiling, resilient, optimistic, more accepting of myself, kinder to myself, and much more I can’t yet put into words.

I’m not perfect; no one is. However, I’m as emotionally and mentally well as I’m going to be without living life. Only the ups and downs of life will reveal triggers for the remaining CPTSD. Some may never be revealed and not be an issue. Others I may be able to deal with myself, some I may need help from EMDR to process them and heal that still wounded part of myself.

It’s actually quite exciting. All I need to do is to transform that feeling of excitement and optimism into action such as a couple of nights away by myself and finding groups to join where there are like-minded people to begin with.

#Inktober52 – Week 1 ‘Flight’

‘Flight’ #Inktober52 ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

Jake Parker, the originator of Inktober, has come up with #Inktober52 – a year-long series of weekly drawing prompts.

I’ve completed Inktober in the last two years and really enjoy having a prompt list to work to, all for fun. It is crazy, full-on for that whole month. I most probably will do Inktober again this year, in October.

#Inktober52 will be less pressured as the prompt lasts a week, so plenty of time to think and draw. Of course, it could result in a series of drawings on the same theme each week.

The first prompt of the challenge is ‘Flight’. It took a little while, but then a flash of inspiration came, and I wanted to draw seeds that fly!

I do like botanical things a lot. And though this may not be way outside my usual themes of drawing, it’s still a good one to do. I also thought it would be nice to do a sketchbook page of drawings of these seeds, trying out slightly different ways of drawing with different scales and so on. Oh, and I got a little bit of hand lettering practice in as a bonus!

I drew the seeds with a mixture of Uniball Unipin, Faber-Castell Pitt Artist and Tombow Fudenosuke pens on ClaireFontaine dot grid paper.

After scanning my illustrations, I removed the dots, added a kraft paper background, and used a rough chalk brush to add some shadow and light to some of the seed pods. Add that hint of shadow and light does seem to bring them to life for sure.

I enjoyed creating this page of illustrations. I needed some time to relax and destress today. Yesterday turned out to be a bit of a day. The engine warning light went on in Binky, my SmartCar along with a quick flash of a malfunction warning when I turned the engine off. Luckily I wasn’t far from home and managed to get back quite safely.

A call to Mercedes, then to Smart Assist and within an hour, an AA patrol was at my home to see if they could find and rectify the issue.

It turns out there’s an error in the turbocharger (yes, I have a turbocharged SmartCar).

The patrolman did his best to work out what the problem was, but with no luck. So, he towed Binky to the Mercedes dealership and garage in Cardiff to be fixed. Luckily, Binky is still under warranty, so it should be repaired free of charge.

Before doing that, the Smart Assist cover also provides me with a hire car for three working days, and he arranged for that for me too.

So, by around 4:30 pm, I’d been given an almost brand new hire car to use until late on Tuesday at least, and I was on my way back home to try to breathe, calm and destress.

I worried about driving a car that is much bigger than my SmartCar. However, I surprised myself at how confident I was. Mind you, I’ve not been anywhere where I have to park the hire car in limited space!

Unfortunately, the anxiety this caused is causing me to worry and get scared of all kinds of random stuff. I woke up stupidly early worrying about things I don’t need to worry about!

When this happens, it shows me just how far I’ve come in my CPTSD recovery. So, despite the elevated anxiety, it is already fading as the day proceeds. Creating art has helped with that.

Monday Mandala

Monday Mandala ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

I actually drew this one last night. My emotions were overwrought and I needed something that was calming and relaxing.

I used a digital equivalent to scratchboard art. I used my digital brushes to remove areas from the upper black layer to reveal the lower, coloured layer.

To create the more geometric areas I used the digital equivalent of fineliner pens. For the more organic lines, I used a flexible nib digital brush.

There is a kind of magic in revealing the colour hidden by the black darkness. I found myself working in a quite different way to recent mandalas; it’s going to be a technique I return to again and again I’m sure.

Digitally created using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.

Monday musings

Monday is still EMDR therapy day for me. My emotional and mental health is generally the best it’s ever been. However, I’ve discovered that I’m still a bit too close to the edge of the abyss within which I was trapped for most of my life. I wore a well practiced mask so that few people really knew the inner struggles I had on a daily basis.

It was such a good mask that I mostly fooled myself, until I could no longer do so around ten or twelve years ago.

I thought everybody thought and felt the same way I did; I never knew any different. Now, however, I know what contentment is and what feeling happy is too.

Last week’s EMDR session floored me for around three days. I didn’t expect it to do so. Memories surfaced that I’d pushed away and they distressed me greatly. The emotional exhaustion was intense; all I wanted to do was sleep. That wasn’t possible – as well as having the Spectacular Sea Life colouring book to finish I’m involved in an intense project which requires a lot of focus and concentration of a different kind. It’s also provoking emotional responses in me that are causing me some difficulties. One of those emotional responses resulted in me running away from the internet to watch Star Wars and then to create this mandala.

I have learned how to self-soothe!

The realm of emotions is really tricky for me. For most of my life I numbed my emotions. It was a strategy that helped me to survive as a child and the unhealthy strategy continued into my adult life.

Through EMDR, I’ve discovered that I have emotions, some I never knew existed in me and I had no names for them. Which is odd, as I could always recognise those emotions in others!

Anyway, by becoming more self-aware of my body and emotions and dropping the protective mask I’m having to learn to put boundaries and barriers in place to protect myself. Learning to say no, or the clear equivalent of that little word, is not an easy task. However, I am learning.

Healing from CPTSD is a tricky process, but it really is possible! It takes time though. Well, in my case it has.

Evening Mandala

Evening Mandala ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

Yesterday afternoon, I arrived home from EMDR therapy feeling very emotionally drained, fragile and vulnerable. Creating art is one of my self-soothing activities, particularly mandalas.

I’d downloaded a pile of new backgrounds in the past couple of days and wanted to make use of a chalkboard background. It was so dark I knew I needed to make the mandala full of light and colour.

This was a somewhat symbolic choice as my long journey to recovery from CPTSD has been about bringing light into the dark places of my trauma damaged psyche. EMDR has helped me turn the dark into light in terms of my mental and emotional health.

I really enjoyed creating this mandala. Usually, I work with black on white; here I started with colour – the abstract ‘flower’ ring close to the centre. I wanted the colours to glow against the darkness, so I chose lighter shades of aqua and violet. I even added some glowing golden seeds or pollen grains, which is also metaphoric for the personal growth I’m going through in my healing journey.

I then used a white, chalky pen ‘brush’ to draw patterns inside this ring and around it. I decided the white was too plain, so, to break up the white, I blended soft colours into it.

Finally, I added the ring of mushrooms. These had to be my favourite colour – purple. I added some dots to the mushroom caps in lime-green, which is kind of a complementary colour to purple. My last step was to add the stylised foliage behind the mystic mushrooms.

This mandala really helped to soothe me, and it was a pleasure to create. It gave me a break from Inktober and other work that’s ongoing too.

Talking of Inktober, I will be getting Day 29 done later today; I have some things that need doing first.

Oh, the mandala was created digitally using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro and a Microsoft Surface Pen on the screen of a Microsoft Surface Studio (the digital analogues of pen and paper).

I am content!

Raven Mandala ©Angela Porter 2019 | Artwyrd.com

I need to be very clear about something.

I share memes about mental and emotional health, not because I’m struggling myself at this time, but because in the past, I either have or would have found the words and information useful and I know others will find them helpful in their now. I still find them interesting, useful and helpful myself too.

At present, my mental and emotional health is the most resilient it has ever been. I have discovered what inner contentment feels like for the first time in my life. I’m also starting preparing myself to leave EMDR therapy in the coming months.

I have emotional weather like every human being. Some days I’m chatty and smiling and laughing. Other days I’m quieter and more subdued. Those days have always been there, but I wore a mask as a way of protecting myself. The mask wasn’t the authentic me. Very few people have got to see the authentic me, especially on my bad days. If you have seen me like that, then it is because I have trusted you to see me as I am at that time.

I rarely wear that mask any more. It’s exhausting to keep on. However, people who are used to interacting with me only via that mask think there’s something wrong with me, or that I’m experiencing mental ill-health.

That is not the case.

Now I rarely put that mask on. The introverted part of me, the part of me that is happy to sit and listen and observe what is going on and being said. Not the mask that talks and talks, barely pausing for breath, all to avoid questions being asked of me that could lead to me being upset. The mask I wore to try to stop people working out that I had very poor mental and emotional health.

People are making assumptions that because I’m quiet and attentive that I must be mentally ill again. There’s going to be a lot of challenges for me as I leave the mask on going forward. It’s already started to be an *interesting* time.

I am not mentally or emotionally un-well. In fact, I am the most well, mentally and emotionally, than I ever have been in my life.

That doesn’t mean I will never experience emotional weather and tough times again; the shifting sands of emotional and mental wellbeing are all part of being human. 

What it does mean is that I no longer feel the need to wear that mask all the time. That I feel able to let it drop where I feel safe, secure and comfortable. 

It also means that I am able to prevent my gloomy days from spiralling down into a dark pit of deepest despair.

I also am more aware of the person I really am; not the mask I wore to try to fit in, be noticed and survive around others from a very young age.

It’s not easy to let that mask fall. It confused people who have only known the mask, they think I have changed. I am the same person. I just no longer want to wear that mask now that I’ve discovered the parts of me that were buried way, way back in my life.

That I feel safe enough in this word to remove that mask, to show myself and my emotions to others is a testament to how far along my CPTSD healing journey I have come.

Inktober 2019 Day 15

Day 15 #Inktober2019 #Inktober ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

This morning has been getting the day 15 of Inktober 2019 drawings done, but also catching up on those I didn’t get done yesterday.

I’ve gone, yet again, for a sketchbook style montage; focusing on line and pattern is something I enjoy. I’ve even managed to create a stylised motif from the cap of Lactarius resimus.

As before, I drew the mushrooms and tangle patterns on Rhodia dot grid paper with a Sakura Pigma Sensei 04 pen. After I’d scanned the page, I increased the contrast to remove the dot grid.

I drew and coloured the cat skull digitally in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. I just copied my illustration and made it greyscale for the smaller drawing. I thought purple would be a fun way to colour the skull in; cats are my favourite animal and purple is my favourite colour.

I’ve also included a little more hand lettering on this page than in the past. I know my hand lettering needs regular practice, and I do tend to neglect it.
I’m using Inktober 2019 prompts from three Instagrammers:

  • Animal skulls from @book_polygamist
  • Mushrooms from @nyan_sun
  • Tangle patterns from @havepen_willdraw

So, Angela, how are you feeling today?

Today I’m feeling tired and have a rather tender digestive system. I had a really upset stomach yesterday afternoon and through the night, which disturbed my sleep.

Yesterday I was really upbeat, ebullient even. However, that drifted away as I drove home, my head full of the thoughts that I’ll soon be finishing therapy. Today, I feel content, a bit weepy, but the dull grey, dampness of the weather is having its effect. I really do need to get one of the SAD therapy lamps to help me on gloomy days.

I had therapy yesterday, but no EMDR. Instead, I talked about my trip to Llandudno last week and how proud I was of myself for walking in a strange town and going out for a meal by myself.

I also needed to talk about the flash of anger that rose up in me when I saw my narcissistic mother at a family thing on Friday. My therapist was pleased when I told her I felt anger; that is a perfectly healthy response to someone who has abused and neglected you. That I didn’t express that anger in a negative manner, such as screaming, shouting, abusiveness, was also a healthy thing to do.

My therapist was also pleased that I was self-aware enough to recognise this. We had a conversation about how far I had come since I started seeing her over six years ago.

Then, I talked about how I thought it would soon be time for me to end therapy, for now. I got all emotional and tearful about that. I still am as I type it.

I’m working on one trauma in EMDR at the moment, so I’d like to finish that. Also, a couple more have come to mind that need processing. Still, it won’t be long until I leave therapy.

First, I need to complete processing the trauma I’ve been working on, and there are another two that I need to process. But shortly I will be leaving therapy feeling I am good enough for now.

I need to continue with the positive steps made in being out and about by myself with some confidence and not much in the way of fear/anxiety, particularly when I am at home. I am, however, going to plan a short trip away over one or two nights in November, most probably to West Wales. I first need to finish my contracts and commissions.

I need to remember that I can always return to Linda should I have problems in the future. I don’t know what my life is going to bring me and what interactions with people there will be that may bring up a trauma response. Linda will always be there for me to go back to help process the traumas.

So long September

October Coloring Template for the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans facebook group
© Angela Porter

October-eve

Can you believe that September is nearly over? I swear that the older I get the faster time seems to go.

Anyway, a new month on the horizon means a new colouring template for the members of the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans facebook group. There just has to be a Hallowe’en theme for October’s page, and you can see a sneak peek of it above. I couldn’t resist colouring some of it in as a way of trying out some new digital brushes and some ideas too.

I put some of my favourite All Hallows’ Eve motifs into the drawing, including a raven, skulls, fungi and a vampire cat! I always enjoy drawing stuff to do with Hallowe’en; it’s my favourite time of year because I don’t have any past traumas associated with it.

If you’d like to colour this template, pop over to the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans facebook group and become a member; each month I do one drawing exclusively for group members (terms and conditions of use and sharing apply).

About the art

I used a combination of fountain pens and fine-line pens to draw the design on dot grid paper. I then scanned the drawing in and cleaned up smudges and smears digitally.

Then, I set about adding colour digitally using my usual tools – Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio. I also added a background and surface texture that I had purchased via Creative Market.

I am really quite pleased with how the colour is bringing the illustration to life, especially the skull in a jar. I hope to be able to continue to add colour as the month progresses, though I do know I have quite a bit of work to do and focus on.

To Inktober or not Inktober, that is the question.

Last year, I really enjoyed taking part in Inktober. Inktober has become a really popular social media event where artists and creatives use a daily prompt to draw (or create) something based on that prompt and share it on social media.

There is an official prompt list, but people do create alternative lists and I may look at some of them as there may be variations that might be less time intensive than last years’ was!

I shall see what I find and go from there I think.

So, Angela, how are you today?

Tired. However, I’m am quite content, my mood is good enough today. I do have EMDR later on, and I often feel ‘flat’ before my therapy session. I think my unconscious mind starts to bring stuff up in preparation for EMDR.

I know that the likelihood of me being exhausted later is rather high, so I’m not planning to do loads of stuff later on. Self care will be the order of the late afternoon and evening.