Today it’s just a quick post, with a variation on yesterday’s art and a bit of a waffle about EMDR yesterday.
. I replaced the symbol with a quote about my journey to cPTSD recovery, something I realised in EMDR last week and talked about again yesterday before the EMDR session itself.
I have secrets. There are events in my life that have resulted in me not being honest with myself, telling myself a ‘story’ about them to avoid the painful feelings and thoughts that are associated with them, to turn the events into something pleasant, something I wanted it to be rather than the reality of it. I can’t speak about these events, but I can write about them and have started to do that.
The painful feelings I’ve kept secret from myself, and it’s now time to be honest with myself and to face the things I never have that are eating me up inside. The writing is to help me be open and honest with myself about the thoughts and feelings and the resultant behaviour and thoughts/beliefs about myself that I’ve pushed away by changing the story. The story is how i would’ve liked things to be, not how they really were for me. However, the emotional pain and mental torture was still there and not dealt with, just hidden away to continue to damage and cause suffering.
Writing itself will only help me bring to the surface and onto the light of the page that which I’ve hidden from myself so I can identify what needs to be healed and put right.
That’s what this quote is all about to me, and this is how EMDR has helped me to reach this point. As well as the final understanding and acceptance that I don’t have to tell my therapist everything, she facilitates the process, aids me where necessary, helps me to learn new tools, new ways of thinking, as well as helping me find the bravery to face these things and process them at long last.
This is a transition for sure. Not a transition involved in ‘finding myself’ but in losing all the ideas and beliefs about who I am, how I should think, how I should behave, that have been imposed by others throughout my life.
It is now me making the decisions to change these and to change my relationship with myself.
It’s growth. So green is a very apt colour scheme for that.
And growth did happen yesterday in EMDR. To both of our surprises, the cluster of memories I was working on in EMDR which Linda thought I may never clear was cleared. And the pennies dropped about how much metaphorical images are powerful for me and stand in perfectly for memories I don’t have, only the emotional memories and resultant/concurrent thoughts about myself. So metaphoric is the way to go for me!
This is a postcard sized drawing with some not very good hand lettering. The pens I used were a Schaeffer R2D2 pen for the broader lines and a Pilot Kakuno for the rest. Oddly, they both have medium nibs, but the width of medium nibs vary from brand to brand. Both pens are, however, smooth writers and a pleasure to hold and use.
Part of my self-care over the past week has been pulling together my favourite patterns and motifs into my visual dictionary. I find something soothing in repeating something that is familiar to me. Perhaps because I know I can do it. Perhaps because I feel I’m organising, taking control of something I can organise and take control of. Perhaps it is just the familiarity of the process and knowing the outcome will be a positive one.
However, in doing this, I rediscover patterns I’ve used in the past that I’ve forgotten about and it’s nice to use them once again.
Of course there are some of my old favourites in this drawing, but there are some that haven’t seen the tip of my pen in a long while, and couple that have only been added to my visual dictionary and not used in a piece of art by myself.
It’s very easy for me to fall into the familiar, especially when I’m having a bit of a tough time with my mental and emotional health, when EMDR or life has provoked a response in me that affects my ability to believe in myself and my art. These past six days have been a period of time just like that. I’ve gradually been recovering over the week, in general terms, but there have been some rather tough times too.
I think I’ve mis-written the quote from Christine Langley-Obaugh though, but the meaning is the same. I’m increasingly becoming aware of myself and the repetitions of feelings and thoughts and events in my life that cause me emotional and mental pain. Sometimes even physical pain when they’re revisited in EMDR or even in loving-kindness meditations too it seems.
This kind of reorganisation of my visual notes is just like how I used to write and rewrite and rewrite again and reorganise again and again my notes when I was in school, university and as a teacher. Trying to make things better, perfect and starting over again if I made a single mistake.
What I have noticed is that in my A5 dot grid journal from Claire Fontaine is that I’m not so ‘perfectionist’. I want to gather together my favourite patterns and motifs, doodles and alphabets in one place for a quick and easy reference, as a way to spark my creative juices when I feel I need that happening. There’s mistakes in them. They’re drawn with different degrees of precision and neatness. I’m working hard on not starting over, again, even though I know I’ve most probably got repeats of the same pattern or motif in there. But that’s fine. I’m telling myself that is perfectly fine.
That is a huge change in how I would call myself stupid and useless and a failure if I made one mistake in my pristine page of notes during my educational years or time as a teacher.
Working digitally allows me to achieve a level of perfection in my drawings as any ‘mistakes’ are easy to change.
Working with pen and ink on paper, with few pencil lines, means I have to live with the ‘mistakes’ or adapt them to be part of the design. I can edit out smudges if I scan the artwork in, but I rarely make changes to it unless it is at the behest of the publishers.
I think shows how I have a bit of a healthier relationship with myself now.
It’s always good when I can make connections between present behaviours and those in the past and to see how they have helped me but also how I have healed and made positive progress in my journey to CPTSD recovery.
I thought I’d dig through my image archives today and I found this charming butterfly, or flutterby as I sometimes refer to them.
It’s one of my early pieces of digital drawing that I was happy with and it was done on my first Surface – a Surface Book – back in 2016, I think it was.
I drew the flutterby using a Microsoft Surface Pen and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro and the original image is black and white with some greyscale shading. Today, I thought it would be nice to add some rainbow colours to the butterfly and a textured background too. So I have done.
I also have realised that this flutterby would make a nice focal point for a dangle design. Maybe I’ll have a go at doing that later on.
I’m still reeling from EMDR on Monday, still not found my balance point. It’s been a week of self-care. I am getting better, bit by bit, but this was a surprisingly tough session.
As I reflect on it, it’s interesting that I chose to post a butterfly today as butterflies are seen symbolic of transformation. But it’s also interesting that I chose to take a greyscale drawing and add a brightly coloured rainbow to it, as well as adding a textured and slightly coloured background.
I think I’ve lived my life mostly in greyscale. Not my art, though I do tend to enjoy drawing black and white line art a lot, but when I do use colour I do tend to go for really bright colours.
No, I mean my life, my emotional life particularly. All shades of grey and black.
I am in my fifties now and I’d like to think that I’ll be able to live a more colourful life for the rest of my human existence.
Perhaps this butterfly is one of those intuitive messages that’s telling me I am transforming into someone who does have a rainbow of emotions, is able to see them now. Maybe it’s telling me I’m transforming as I heal from cPTSD too.
EMDR does turn me into a chrysalis from the caterpillar I’ve been in life – a chrysalis that needs rest and time to complete that transformation, and when ready, the butterfly emerges, colourfully resplendent, able to fly and soar… the potential that was inside the caterpillar all the time now realised.
Today’s morning warm up art – a mandala, drawn digitally. I added the colour with a gradient tool. Maybe I’ll go back and add colour section by section at another time.
I used my usual tool trifecta – Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface studio.
The soundtrack to my work has been The Killers Station on Amazon Music.
My mood isn’t wonderful today. Seems the effects of EMDR on Monday are lingering still. I do need to write about some thoughts I had while doing this mandala. Complex swirls and circles of my life, but also how throughout my life I’ve been conditioned to think and feel as someone else has told me to think and feel. Started early in life, an easy pattern for others to make use of later in life. A pattern that has led to repeated trauma time and time again.
I’m now aware of it though. So it’s something to be processed and released in EMDR and replaced with a better way of thinking and acting. That’s not easy as it’s a totally new way to be learned, not just a reinstatement of an old, healthier way of being. That’s the problem with childhood trauma; it’s the way I’ve forgotten much of my early life, even the good bits. I’ve realised that I’ve never known anything other than constant anxiety and depression, amongst other things. I don’t remember any times where I was genuinely happy and at peace.
Each time I recognise something in me, a way of thinking and acting that is not healthy and bring it to the light and the ‘magic’ of EMDR, the closer I get to that tipping point of having dealt with more trauma from my past than the trauma left to deal with. The problem is the stuff that’s left is the seriously tricky icky stuff.
Any way, it looks like today is the fourth self-care day in a row. Not sure what I’ll do today, though I do have some errands to run this morning.
Francine Shapiro is the person who developed EMDR therapy and this quote from her exemplifies what I’ve becoming more and more aware of through my three and a half years of EMDR.
Today, I am really ‘not with it’ and feeling quite spacey and vague and very tired. I had a broken night’s sleep with very, very weird and disturbing dreams. This often happens after EMDR.
I know that I need some self-care time today, and maybe tomorrow given how I’m presently feeling. I’m also in need of a walk outside, but I’m awaiting a delivery from Amazon. I hope it arrives soon so I can get a walk in early this afternoon.
There were two particularly significant moments during my session yesterday.
The first one was a result of a suggestion by my therapist that I’m keeping secrets about things that have happened to me, particularly in my adult life. There are things I’m too, too ashamed and embarrassed about to talk about even with her. My throat closes up and becomes painful. I feel burning in my cheeks. There’s terror and huge anxiety in the pit of my stomach. She went on to say that in the article she had read it was suggested that clients write about these experiences. She suggested I do that. She added she did not need to read them or be told about them, that she can act as a ‘blind therapist’ where we just assign a code to the particular traumatic event and work with it that way. She even suggested I can burn the things I write after writing them so no one else can ever read them.
The relief I felt with this suggestion and discussion was immense. The discussion that ensued was enlightening in another way. That I’ve never ever really spoken to anyone about my feelings, especially when I was the one upset, hurt, abused in some way. I always put a smiley, brave face on and brushed all the emotions to one side, defaulting to the happy, funny, quick to laugh, person who chatters about faff and fluff.
By pushing away all that hurt and upset and so on I’ve also tried to tell myself that it’s ok, I can cope with this, that I’m incredibly caring about other people and their feelings and want them to be happy. Scared that if I spoke truly about how I was feeling that I would be rejected or that the other person(s) would become angry and would hate me and think badly of me.
So, instead, I brushed it all aside and swallowed it down, often with food, using the food to fill the emptiness within me, to hide the feelings of shame and fear and more. I’ve done this so much in my past that I’m having to learn what emotions feel like and what they are called as they crop up during EMDR.
I was with my older sister and younger brother visiting the British Museum and we stumbled upon the Sutton Hoo treasures. I was entranced by them, only having seem them previously in books. It was hard work to drag me away from the to go visit the mummies in the Egyptology section. My older sister said she’d never seen me so emotional and excited about something; she actually called me an ice maiden as I rarely showed any emotion at all, other than the happy, smiley, funny persona I put across. I was in my twenties then. No idea of emotions or how to express them, swallowing them down all the time.
So, writing about these experiences now, from a position where I understand more about myself, am more aware of emotions and feelings will mean that they are no longer secret, it doesn’t matter that others don’t know about them, but it’s important that I don’t keep secrets from myself and face up to the traumas and feelings I have suppressed from these events.
The second insight was during EMDR when I had a vision of myself looking into one of those mirrors that reflects things to infinity, but in this case it was like the reflections went around and around in a circle. The insight was that this is what has happened to me. I’ve got caught in a cycle of the same kind of things happening again and again – different but the same effects on me, the trauma they’ve caused me and continue to cause me as instead of knowing how to process them in a healthy manner I learned from a very young age to suppress anything I needed to talk about or needed help with because I was upset as no one wanted to know. I was bothersome. A whiner. An attention seeker. A liar. When I was upset the people supposed to care got angry with me. Or just ignored me. Or sent me away.
I am unaware of much of my past, particularly my childhood. I have few memories at all. That bothers me, but my therapist tells me I need to let it just be. People like me, who’ve had quite traumatic lives, often forget what has happened to them as a way of protecting themselves from that particular trauma, especially when there is no one they can talk to about it to help them work through it.
My past really does affect my present. However, I’m becoming more aware of the ways in which it has affected me, more aware that I do have emotions, and I’m trying to believe I deserve to think better of myself, that maybe I didn’t deserve any of this, and that although I’ve allowed things to happen to me I shouldn’t be so hard on myself as I need to understand why, what brought me to that point, why I can’t say ‘no’ easily.
So the quote is very appropriate.
About the art
This is very much a work in progress at the moment.
I printed out the quote and borders on Bristol Board. The design is a little less than A5 in size (4.5″ x 7.25″ approx). Then, I added the patterns around it using two Pilot Kakuno fountain pens – one with a medium nib and one with a broad pen.
After scanning the design in, I wanted to add colour to it, so I used my trusty trio – Microsoft Surface Pen, Microsoft Surface Studio and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.
I think the dark stars at the top could symbolise those parts of me I’d like to ignite after they were extinguished a long, long time ago – confidence, self esteem, the ability to say no, valuing myself, being a good friend to myself, and more …
The tangled nature of the design, with many parts seeming to blend one into another, sometimes not in a very comfortable manner, is like all the trauma and experiences I have had – a tangled mess where I pull on one thing in EMDR and a whole host of others come along with it, all linked by a common effect or effects they had on me.
Flowers blooming, leaves all signs of growth though, even if some are hidden at the moment.
I’m sure there’s more that could be said about it in terms of my journey of recovery from cPTSD along with developing mental and emotional wellbeing. However, not today as the chap from Amazon has delivered the parcels to me. In them are some basic things for me to try my hand at paper quilling.
I’ve been fascinated with some youtube videos on paper quilling, particularly the more modern forms and I was also struck at how some of them seem to be similar to my kind of drawing that has lots of spirals and swirls in it. So, I thought I’d have a go and see what I can do with it!
But first, it’s time for a walk … to see if that can help clear my head a little. I think a little trip to Barry Sidings is in order.
Monday is EMDR therapy day for me and my mind seems to go towards finding relevant quotes and then doing my usual thing of adding patterns around them.
This one has what seems to me to be rather heavy handed patterns around the quote. I drew the patterns with a broad nib Faber Castell fountain pen filled with Diamine Jet Black ink. I may have chosen too broad a nib for this illustration; the artwork is slightly less than A5 in size.
I enjoyed the process of creating this, however, and some quiet, calm, self-care time is needed this evening.
I had a yet another draining EMDR session today, one that had some insight for me. There were plenty of quiet tears too. I suspect that tomorrow will be a quiet self-care day also.
I’m used to this happening now and tend to plan my working time around the need for self-care. I’ve learned that self-care is important. I’m also learning not to be surprised at how something that seems as gentle as EMDR has such a profound effect on myself.
It’s a good thing I had quite a busy morning prior to heading off to my appointment and got a few templates sorted out for the coloring book I’m working on.
I created a really simple mandala for Valentine’s day. A day that is about love. A mandala that doesn’t have a single black line in it! That’s rather unusual for me!
Soft greens and pinks really speak to me about self-care – which is about taking care of oneself, treating yourself and speaking to yourself kindly and with compassion.
Compassion to oneself, that’s what ‘loving oneself’ is all about. Being your own best friend, speaking to yourself as you would a best friend in need.
This is one of the hardest things I have to learn as part of my cPTSD recovery.
I say learn, as it’s something I’ve never done or knew how to do, ever. Being kind to myself in words and deeds.
The inner critic is never kind, caring or patient and never ever has good advice. I think I’m a good friend to others, I try to be kind, caring and patient and if I’m asked I try to give good advice, even if that is ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer to that but lets see if we can find it together’.
I’m very, very rarely, if ever, kind to myself in that way. If anything, the emotional neglect and abuse I experienced from the earliest time I can remember taught me to hate myself, that I wasn’t worth anything. It’s hard to overturn beliefs from the past, beliefs about myself fostered by the attitudes and behaviours of others towards me when I have no point of reference to when I didn’t think about myself in this way. The inertia of the past, the power of the inner critic constantly wants to drag me back to how things always have been in terms of how I think and feel about myself.
However, every single time I manage to show myself some caring, some kindness, some patience, some compassion it’s a victory over the inner critic. And each little victory is vital as it is teaching me that I can learn to be that friend to myself that I so desperately need.
So, Valentine’s day is about love, we tell others we love them, but let’s make today also a day where we show ourselves some kindness, compassion, patience and caring, for the sake of our mental and emotional wellbeing. And lets not just do that on this one day, lets make it a part of every day of our lives. Lets learn how to befriend ourselves.
Yesterday was very much a quiet, self-care day. Today, I’m feeling better in terms of energy and concentration.
This mandala was a product of yesterday’s quiet downtime doing art for arts sake. Though it was this morning I thought I’d like golden outlines to the design rather than the usual black. It took me a while to get my head around doing that!
I like the way I’ve repeated the simple spiral pattern in three layers. Keeping the colour palette simple has also worked nicely for me, even though the combination of colours is an unusual one for me. The colours remind me of cacti with flowers and a soft, golden sun.
I could mention that green is about achieving balance, the red is the energy I need to stoke up on, but a softer, more gentle kind of motivational energy. Golden sunshine is the healing I see. The way the spirals flow outwards and are unfurling suggests growth , springing forth from seeds long lain dormant in the ground of my soul. There’s hints of buds ready to bloom there too. Maybe the golden background and lines are suggesting that I am worth more than I think I am, that I do deserve better.
Oops, I have mentioned that! But somehow this mandala seems to show how I’m progressing in my recovery from cPTSD.
Now how’s that for an insightful piece of art?
No matter whether you agree with the interpretation of the mandala or not, it was definitely a calming and soothing experience, both the drawing and colouring.
It is a piece of digital art. I used my usual Microsoft Surface Pen, Microsoft Surface Studio and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro to create this mandala.