I was reading ‘Your Soul is a River’ by Nikita Gill this morning and this particular poem struck a chord with me. I thought it would be nice to use it to create some art to frame it.
It’s taken me a few attempts to get this far today; and I’m not entirely happy with what I’ve produced. However, I shall persevere later today; first I need to go out to do some provisions shopping and to have a very late breakfast. Actually it’s more like a very late lunch!
I produced the words with the border in Publisher. I’m using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, a Microsoft Surface Pen and a Microsoft Surface Studio to do the artwork.
So, Angela, how are you today?
The poem reflects rather well how I’m feeling about myself in the moments when my emotions overwhelm me. I am rather emotionally fragile and vulnerable at the moment.
I am exhausted – emotionally and mentally. I’ve had a heck of an emotional week and yesterday was perhaps the most emotional day of all. No EMDR was done in therapy, but lots of tears were shed as I tried to work my way through what has caused the upsets.
Some of it is very obvious. But some of the triggering events have no apparent link to the past.
No apparent link; there’s something there which I can’t bring up or face at the moment. I’m fearful of it because it is something either unknown or something I have to face the truth of. It’s a difficult truth as I’ve told myself a story to deal with the painful experiences I’ve had throughout my life. Discovering I’ve been lying to myself is not easy, even though it has been a coping strategy, trying to make things more pleasant than they really are.
It’s a common coping strategy amongst survivors of trauma.
It’s a necessary process, for how else can I heal from the past?
It’s another one of those processes that is like surgery, but instead of removing or fixing a physical part of oneself that is damaged or broken it’s all about the mental and emotional processes that are damaged by trauma in the past.
No surgery is without some kind of pain, but the pain is endured as the result will be a better life with less pain.
Therapy is surgery for my damaged emotions and beliefs about myself; this surgery is necessary for me to heal from CPTSD.
Yesterday, I talked about a lot of things with my therapist. One of those things was the recognition that I now have a mental and emotional state that I know I can return to. It’s that state where I feel content and optimisitic, a state of mind and emotions that I’ve not really experienced much in my life.
I know how that feels; even though my emotions are all higgledy-piggledy at the moment I can still sense that inner contentedness and hints of that optimism.
Where do I go from here?
Self-care and self-soothing is the order of the day today. I do need to sleep, but I don’t know if a nap will help or just throw my sleep out tonight.
I know this will pass; it has before, it will again.
It’s all just a bump in the road I’m travelling in my journey to recovery from CPTSD. This is NOT my destination; it’s just the wrong leaves on the tracks.
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.
Another 6 hours work done on ‘Be Brave’ since I posted yesterday.
I rather like the ‘tubes’ arcing off to the top right. I love geometric patterns. I also love playing with light and shadow.
In my home I have quite a few pieces of artwork from my AS and A level art days, some 15 or so years ago now. Three of them are oil paintings. They’re abstract paintings of patterns taken from rusty worm screws from a steam locomotive, some kind of gear thingy from a diesel locomotive (also rusty) and detail from an angel from the tympanum above the door to Malmesbury Abbey. Each one is done in a simple colour palette – magenta, red, orange and yellow for the locomotive parts and blues and white for the Romanesque angel abstract.
I discovered I hated working with oil paints. They’re slimy and messy. I don’t like slimy nor messy (I think that’s why I’ve fallen in love with digital art!).
However, I remember the exhibition where these were show after the AS exam. I recall being puzzled why people were coming up and touching the paintings. So, I asked a friend who’d attended why she had felt my oil paintings.
She said they looked so three-dimensional she had to touch them to see how I’d achieved it and was amazed they were flat.
I hadn’t seen this 3D property of my artwork until someone pointed it out to me. Then, just like magic, I could see what others could see and why they were touching the paintings.
As I worked on the ‘tubes’ I remembered this experience. I know that I don’t see my work as others see it and it can often appear ‘flat’ to me as I know it really is flat! I don’t always see the illusions of depth that I create in my work, illusions I bring out mostly unconsciously as I add colour.
I think this memory cropped up as, like with the oil paintings, I’m working with pure colour – no black lines to outline the design elements.
As you can see, I am using a drawing of mine as the guide, the map for what I will produce in colour.
This is a difference in the way I usually work, that’s for sure.
The amazing mandala I completed a week or so ago now opened the door for this way of working. I did start with an outline drawing for the mandala, and it really was a basic line mandala. It gave me the basic forms and shapes. I then started to go to town on embellishing that basic design.
I discovered I really enjoyed working this way, not least because I realised my digital art skills had progressed enough for me to succeed.
Mandalas are one thing, but working on a drawing like this is a bit different for me. It’s full of self-doubt and worry it’s not going to work out. Because it’s not so symmetrical it requires thinking about what order I complete each design element.
It is, however, turning out ok. And I’m really learning a lot more about my favourite digital brushes, and new ones, and how I can get the effects I want.
I use a Microsoft Surface Pen, Microsoft Surface Studio and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro to create my digital art.
So Angela, how are you today?
I’m feeling content and I can feel a gentle smile inside me and a slight smile on my lips. Yes, I know that sounds weird, but it’s the only way I can describe how I feel today. Also, my digestive system has settled down as well.
Yes, there’s still the background ‘noise’ of anxiety, but it’s not as vociferous as it was just a day or so ago, and one heck of a lot quieter than it was last Monday post-EMDR.
I do have EMDR again tomorrow. The same thing may happen in terms of heightened anxiety and upset digestive system.
I have to say to gain days like today – days where I have that contentedness, that inner gentle smile – are more than worth the days of feeling not so well both physically and emotionally.
Even my bad days are nowhere near as bad as they were in the years leading up to my first serious ‘breakdown’. That is an excellent thing. I am progressing along slowly but surely on my journey to recovery from CPTSD.
This morning I’ve done a little more work on this artwork. I’ve spent around 2 hours, so that’s a total of around 13 hours so far.
As usual, I’m using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio to complete this work digitally. As always, they’re a pleasure to use.
So, Angela, how are you doing today?
I’m ok today. I slept well last night and woke feeling refreshed. I’m about to get myself sorted to head out for my weekly EMDR therapy session.
I’ve not done the adulting I need to do sooner rather than later. I’ll sneak up on myself to do it soon, just not NOW.
Other than that, I’m quite content and wondering what EMDR will bring today. I know we’re working on a memory from my childhood and the emotions and beliefs about myself from then. It seemed quite an innocuous memory, but it was a lot more distressing than I thought. Not the single memory but the layers and layers of repeated incidences of a similar kind of thing throughout my life.
It’s part of the tangled web entangled around my painful self-conscious ways.
It’s always surprising to me how I’ve minimised how events have affected me and pushed them aside into the big box full of unprocessed traumas.
That box is gradually emptying. As this memory may be the root of many other instances where it’s emotional trauma has been re-experienced and reinforced then processing this one means the rest are as well.
I’ve been working on this one over the past couple of days, when I’ve felt up to it.
I’m fairly pleased with it, though I’m not sure I should’ve added the upside down mushrooms. I guess if they really don’t work with fresh eyes then I can always remove them using some digital wizardry.
I wanted to use the words ‘The magic of colour’ as a nod towards my coloring books and the people who bring my drawings to life by adding colour; they really do work some magic!
As lovely as the black and white line drawings are, even with shadows added, it is colour that really brings them to life for sure.
But there’s another kind of magic that goes on when people lose themselves in coloring or creating, and that’s the magic of relaxing and giving the brain a break from thinking.
I get that when I draw or colour.
My challenge to myself in this one is again to leave some white space.
The drawing and hand lettering has been done with Uniball Unipin pens on Winsor and Newton Bristol Board (A4 in size, roughly US letter size).
There’s more to be done with this drawing yet; I particularly want to incorporate some of the patterns and textures I’ve observed and recorded during my visits to the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff and Kilpeck Church near Hereford.
How am I feeling today?
I’m flat. Tired. Lacking oompf. Part of me is content enough but part of me is sad. It’s weird, but that’s how it feels.
I’m still experiencing the ripples/waves from the tsunamis of therapy and the person trying to tell me I don’t need therapy last Sunday. I really don’t want to leave my home today.
If that’s what I need to do to look after myself, then I need to accept it’s ok to stay at home.
I am tired as well as I had an evening out with some friends – a pub meal and chitter chatter until nearly midnight. Even though it was with a small group of people and it was a nice evening I’m absolutely drained today.
So, to take care of my emotions and mental health I need that quiet time again. I may play my flute, crochet, draw, read. I may also nap later on as I’m so tired. I’ll see. Napping may make me be up until the wee small hours.
So that’s how I am this day. A weird mixture of contentedness and sadness. This healing journey from CPTSD is full of weird twists and turns, ups and downs, but on the whole it’s definitely moving forwards and upwards. EMDR is really my panacea for CPTSD.
This morning, I’ve spent a pleasant four hours or so drawing this A5 design for the month of May.
It combines some hand lettering along with my signature style of entangled art. I’ve included plenty of floral motifs as here in the Northern Hemisphere the world is filled with flowers, especially on the trees.
Of course I’ve included more abstract motifs that are inspired by seedpods and patterns found in nature and architecture and so on.
I drew the design on white Bristol Board by Winsor and Newton. My pens of choice today were Tombow Fudenosuke, Sakura Pigma Sensei 04 and 0.1 Unball Unipin. Also, I’ve used some digital wizardry to add coloured paper as the background, along with my watermarks.
This would be lovely in a BuJo I think. I think it would be lovely in a planner, a journal or diary.
It’s perfect for colouring, as long as you’d be happy to colour across sections that have fine lines in them.
I think if I was more confident with metallic inks and either dip nib pens or fine brushes I’d’ve liked to do the lettering in metallic gold or copper. Of course, I could’ve done the lettering, scanned, laser printed it and then added the patterns around the lettering. I didn’t think of that until now though! Duh!
I’m fairly happy with adding ‘auras’ around the lettering to separate it from the entangled design around/below it.
I’m not sure I’m happy with the design spilling out over the edge as it has done; it doesn’t feel balanced to me, but other than that I’m quite happy with the design. Of course I could edit the image to even up the edges, but it is what it is for now.
EMDR was quite gentle yesterday but lots of body work occurring. During EMDR stored trauma is released through pains and other sensations in the body. Yesterday I had eyes that hurt, part of my head, my throat, my thumbs and wrists. I had a lot of pain where I broke my leg when I was six. Lots of prickling as well as electric shocks in various parts of my body.
I actually felt quite upbeat, if a little tired, when I left the session. But by late evening I was really tired and feeling a bit teary and lonely.
I’m tired today. I didn’t sleep too well last night. I had hoped to go out for the day today, but I really wanted to stay home and draw and I think I’ll be back in bed before too much longer. I really am tired.
One thing that I was asked about, without me mentioning it first, was what I was going to do about getting out and about a bit more! I’m sure my therapist must read my blog. Just joking, I know she doesn’t!
I need to make a list of places I’d like to visit. Familiar places to revisit to ease me back into getting out and about by myself. Then ones not so familiar that could involve some time away from home too.
I will be going out later this week. I have something to do this evening and tomorrow, however. Another reason I am having a quiet day today. I’m not just tired; I know that I’m also emotionally fragile still.
I am determined to heal as much as I can from the CPTSD and to do the things I’d like to do that the inner critic sabotages way too often.
Another lovely day or so spent hand lettering and drawing the etntangled designs around the monograms.
I used Tombow Fudenosuke, Uniball Unipin and Sakura Pigma Sensei pens on 15cm x 15cm pieces of Winsor and Newton Bristol Board.
The Tombow Fudenosuke pens are giving me a much thicker line than I’d usually use, along with variable line width too. I must admit I rather like the bolder lines as they really define the designs. What do you think about my use of bolder line?
I have scanned these, and yesterday’s A and B monograms, so I can add colour digitally, should I choose to do so. At the moment I’m really just enjoying the graphic quality of the black and white line art.
Today is EMDR therapy day for me. My appointment is mid-afternoon and it’s been almost a fortnight since my last one as there’s been a Bank Holiday in between.
I must say that I’ve had quite a contented fortnight. The last session was rather disturbing and distressing and though I was absolutely exhausted emotionally, mentally and physically after it for the rest of the day and part of the next, I think I found my balance much quicker than I expected.
I’ve had my moments, hours, mind you. Often when I’m tired and need a nap. So, I take a nap if I can. That’s one of the fab things about being a self-employed/freelancing artist/illustrator/author. It’s a lot easier to do self-care things when self-care is needed. If I need a nap, I can often take a nap. If I need a day or three to recover from EMDR I can take that time, or at least break the time up so I have chunks of self-care in amongst the work I need to do to fulfil contracts.
I really am grateful for this flexibility, a flexibility that is in sharp contrast with the very structured, timetabled, hamster-wheel existence of my life as a teacher.
Flexibility and freedom – a double edged sword
It’s really difficult for me to make full use of the flexibility and freedom I have. I often have an urge to go out somewhere, but I can never decide on where to go, or when to go, or whether I should even bother going as really, what do I want to go there for. Telling myself it’s to sketch, draw, photograph, gain inspiration, for the experience, because I like to walk when I do go and walk, because being in nature is good for my emotional and mental wellbeing, or just because I CAN just doesn’t cut it with the problems that arise from the CPTSD, especially anxiety and social anxiety that forms part of the experience of being a survivor of trauma.
Sometimes I manage to sneak up on myself and surprise myself and get out and about and visit somewhere either familiar or new to me.
More often than not the inner critic manages to talk me out of it.
I think I need to make a list of places close to me, and a bit further away, that I’d like to visit. A list that contains both familiar and unfamiliar places.
Familiar places are less stressful for me to visit on my own. Knowing my way around, knowing where I can enjoy lunch or tea, knowing where I can park my car and knowing I can find my way back to the car, and so on and so forth makes it a much easier experience for me.
Going somewhere unfamiliar increases stress for me as simple things like going into an unfamiliar cafe for some tea or lunch causes me huge anxiety when I’m by myself. The worry about not being able to find my way back to my car is another added source of anxiety too. Even going into unfamiliar shops, cathedrals, museums and so on provokes anxiety in me.
It’s that old fear from being a bullied, abused child that rises up where I worry if I’ll get hurtful comments from people, if I’ll make a fool of myself in some way and people will laugh, if they’ll pass comment about my choice of food or tea.
None of these things have happened to me as an adult, yet the anxiety that lurks within me rises up and tells me again and again that these things may happen. The voice of my anxiety, of my inner critic, can paralyse me or cause me to flee back home without even getting out of my car, that’s if I even manage to drive to where I’d like to go.
If I have company I’m really brave. I’m often the first to enter a cafe or similar and ask for a table and so on. I’m the one who will bravely explore a new cathedral or museum or place quite eagerly.
On my own though, the inner critic is way too strong as I feel vulnerable. As vulnerable as I did when I was a child and all the way through my adult life.
I can overcome this vulnerability, the anxiety, if there is a purpose to my trip, such as giving an anti-stigma talk for Time to Change Wales. I do it because I don’t want to let others down (as well as because I believe in the mission of Time to Change Wales).
Part of my anxiety is that I never, or rarely, ask anyone to go out with me (not go out in a romantic sense, just go out as in a jolly day out visiting somewhere of mutual interest and enjoying pleasant company). The fear of rejection is still too huge. I’m also very much aware that people I’d call friends and family are busy with their own family and work and so on, and I never, ever, want to become a burden to anyone.
That’s something that I learned early in my life – not to bother anyone with my needs or problems or issues. It’s something as an adult I’ve not gotten over yet.
I also am aware that there are trips I need to make solo. I like to sit and draw and write in places I visit. I can lose myself in this for a long time, I can take as much time as I need to look at . If I’m with someone I don’t want to spoil their day by indulging myself in such an activity. If I’m by myself I don’t have to worry about them not enjoying themselves as much as they could, so I tend to put my needs completely to one side to make sure they’re happy.
Being a people pleaser is part of the CPTSD. It’s what I did to try to gain approval of people who would never approve of anything I did or said or how I looked. Rejection, ridicule, being put down was par for the course no matter what I did. That didn’t stop me trying to please others, to make sure they were happy as if they were happy then perhaps I’d have an easier time of it and wouldn’t be pushed away yet again.
CPTSD sure messes a person up.
I know that there are plenty of people who experience anxiety who are able to do these simple, everyday, taken for granted things like going into a cafe for a cup of tea. They’re able to overcome that anxiety and don’t buy into it’s messages.
I’ve not learned to overcome it or have disempowered the inner critic enough that I can do these simple everyday things, well not yet. I think the critic has a way to go to be disempowered first.
Still, there are days when I’ll be able to sneak up on myself and head out and actually visit places, sketchbook and visual BuJo in my bag, and take that time and will wonder at how I don’t do things like that more often as it’s really not that bad.
I hope those days will eventually outweigh the days where the inner critic wins out.
Until that days comes I just need to be kind to myself and not beat myself up about giving in to the inner critic once again and remind myself a day will soon come where through sneakery or just disempowering the inner critic enough that I can go out.