World Suicide Prevention Day 2019

World Suicide Prevention Day 2019 © Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

The artwork.

I wanted to try to create a series of templates that could be used as frames for quotes. This is my first one. I remembered to save it as tiff file in layers so that I can easily change the background.

I didn’t start with the intention of creating waves filled with zentangle-type patterns, but that’s how it intuitively flowed from the tip of my Surface Pen onto the screen of my Surface Studio. So, I went with it.

It’s a very comfortable kind of art to create, whether you call it zentangle, zentangle inspired, entangled artwork, line art, doodled art. It’s just about filling space with patterns and lines, using them to add depth and dimension.

It was an enjoyable process that I could complete in a few sessions in-between a hectic few days.

The saga of the keyboard.

Saturday my Bluetooth keyboard decided to not connect to the Surface Studio. It had been finicky for a few days. I changed batteries, I tried disconnecting it and reconnecting it and following all the trouble-shooting processes I could find. All to no avail. This is why I’ve not done any blogs and been quiet around social media, along with life being a bit busy too.

It also worked out that the warranty on my Surface Studio and all it’s attendant bits and bobs had run out just over three weeks ago. Yes, I do have software I can use the Surface Pen with or a keyboard that pops up on the screen that I can tap with my fingers or mouse or pen, but they are so slow and frustrating to use in comparison to the speed at which I can type. I do love to handwrite, even on the screen. However, as I can’t turn the ‘paper’ or ‘writing window’ to an angle that makes it comfortable for me to write at I don’t do as much as I could.

Of course, I’d forgotten I still have, and use my Surface Book. However, when something goes wrong, my mind goes into instant ‘oh my gosh, I’ve got to sort that out as there’s no other way to get things done’ overwhelmed and panic mode. It’s only after I have solved the problem and calm down that I can see that I had alternatives open to me.

So, my brain told me my only option was to buy a new keyboard. Then I had a decision to make. Should I go for a wireless one or a wired one?
I decided on a wired one as that should always connect to the ‘puter. I also was beguiled by a keyboard that has pretty rainbow lights beneath the keys. Sparkly and colourful always attracts me.

So, I now have a keyboard and can email and write and do everything else that requires words from me quickly once again.

World Suicide Prevention Day 2019

Warning – this may contain emotional and mental health triggers.

The World Health Organisation says that one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds. 

In the UK, two people take their own lives every day.

In the UK, men account for approximately 75% of all suicides.

In the UK, suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20 to 49.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says suicides are a serious public health problem. They also say that suicides are preventable and give a list of some of the measures that can be taken on their webpage about suicide – https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/suicide

They also say that one of the biggest obstacles to overcome in suicide prevention is the stigma and taboo that surrounds suicide and mental health problems.

The stigma and taboos that surround talking openly about suicide leads to a lack of awareness about suicide, and also about mental illness.

I am a champion for Time To Change Wales, a campaign whose aim is to get people talking about mental illness to break down the stigma that surrounds it. This also includes suicide.

As a champion, one of the things I do is to go to organisations and other groups to talk about my experience of mental illness and the stigma and discrimination I have faced. This includes self-stigma. 

Thanks to self-stigma, I was in denial that I was experiencing mental and emotional ill-health for many years. It led to me not seeking help until I had nearly broken my mind. I ended up being off work as a teacher for almost a year. I went back to work for just eight months before I had another ‘breakdown’ for want of another word. 

What I don’t often mention, and what I think also needs to be discussed here, is suicidal ideation or suicidal thoughts. These are thoughts about wishing to die, wanting life to stop, hoping that one would not wake up in the morning. Not actively planning suicide, but wishing that life would end to bring the mental and emotional pain to an end.

For a long as I can remember, right back to being young, I can remember wishing this upon myself. I often wanted to die in my sleep and not have to face another day like the one I just had. I didn’t feel loved or valued in any way, and the constant bullying, name-calling, being ignored and neglected. I felt a burden, a bother, a nuisance, an irritation, a problem to my family. I thought they would be happier without me. That the world would be a better place without me. I never thought of actively taking my own life, but I certainly wished to die.

That belief about myself has followed me throughout my life. Sometimes it would be quiet, at other times it would be shouting through a megaphone in my head.

I remember driving to work most days in the last few years of my teaching career wanting to just keep driving and never come back to my life as it had become so very, very painful for me and I could see no way out of the pain.

I never did drive off towards the horizon as I didn’t actually know what I would do. Also, the thought of my cat and how he’d not cope without me would pop into my head. And so I would get myself to work so I could look after my cat.

At the time, it felt my cat was the only living thing that was consistently and unconditionally there for me, sharing love and affection with me. I still miss him now, a bit more than a year when I had to say goodbye to him.

I owe my life to my cat, and to the one friend (now my brother of the heart/choice) who kept nagging me about getting help, and the GP who knew the right words to say to me to get me to understand I needed help and a break from work and also from my mind. Now, I am also so grateful to my EMDR therapist for persisting with me.

I have tears flowing down my face as I write about this. The tears represent the sadness that I feel that I was ignorant of what good mental and emotional health is and of the stigma I held about it in regards to myself. Oddly, I never had those thoughts about others who were experiencing mental illness, having helped others during their own crises. I feel sad that I have lived most of my life with poor mental and emotional health, thinking that was how everyone else was. I feel sad that only now am I learning what it is like to have a touchstone of contentment and optimism to hold onto when times get tough.

The tears are also ones of gratitude that I’m still here. I have come through the darkest days of my life. My career has changed, and my life is gradually changing for the better, as is my mental and emotional health.

I rarely have suicidal thoughts now. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I did. That says something about how far along my healing journey I have come.

If someone had told me in my darkest days that my life would be as it is now, with that contentment within me, an optimism for my future, I might not have believed them. In fact, I most probably wouldn’t have.

However, I am here to say that I made it through it all. Through my childhood and adulthood and now into middle age. 

I wish I’d known what I know now as a child. Maybe I would’ve sought help sooner in my life.

What I wish for everyone is that every person on this planet is given the information about what good mental and emotional health is. I want mental and emotional health to be seen as important as physical health with the links between them fully recognised, and support is available to all who need it.

No matter how bad life seems, there are always options to improve it. This is something I’ve had to learn. In fact, I’m still learning about it. When I get overwhelmed, or something goes wrong, I tend to slip into the black and white thinking mode.

That’s what the black and white borders to today’s art is about. The complexity shows just how crazily my mind was working during the darkest days.

For the space between them, the background on which the quote sits, I chose colours that remind me of a sunrise. A new day, with a fresh mind and eyes always comes with new options, if only we can see them.

My story has not ended. It will not end until my life is naturally completed. For the first time in my life, I have a feeling of optimism for my future. It may have taken me two severe episodes of mental ill-health and several years of EMDR therapy and counselling to get to this point. But I’ve got there. 

No matter how much of my life I have left, it will be lived with some contentment, peace and hope for my future. I wish the same for each and every person.

Hope is rekindled – mandala WIP

Hope is rekindled Mandala WIP ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
Hope is rekindled Mandala WIP ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

I need some quietly creative, self-care, self-comforting time today. What is more perfect for doing this than creating a mandala?

I turned to my digital tools to do this – Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio. I also wanted to work with just colour – no black outlines and no sketches to start me off. I just wanted to let the design flow and unfold as it needed to. And it did.

This mandala isn’t finished, it is a work in progress. The outer ring may disappear as I work on it more; it seems to help to create a finished mandala at this point in time.

I knew the mandala needed to titled ‘Hope is rekindled’. That seems to be quite apt for me at the moment.

So, Angela, how are you feeling today?

I’ve had a heck of a busy couple of days. Monday I popped in to see Russell at the Time to Change Wales offices to pick up some resources for an upcoming stand. Then, I had therapy followed by an extremely late lunch and a slightly late tea before going to something in the evening. I eventually got home less than an hour before midnight feeling exhausted.

Tuesday was an early start to get myself to Llantrisant Leisure Centre by 9:30am to set up a Time to Change Wales stand at Rhondda Cynon Taff Council’s corporate induction day. That lasted until nearly 4pm, so it was a mad dash home to get something to eat and to warm up. I was cold and chilly. I was also feeling quite low – mental exhaustion does not help with my emotional resilience. I’d not had time to recover from therapy on Monday nor the rest of the busy day.

I was glad to look after the stand, but interacting with strangers, as lovely as that was, took it’s toll on me emotionally and energetically. Not only do I have CPTSD but I’m also an introvert so a double whammy! My protective mask of jolly, happy, extrovert Angela during the stand; keeping that mask in place is exhausting. Yesterday I got a glimpse of just how exhausting it is to keep the mask raised.

Yesterday, I also realised how I don’t raise that mask too often nowadays.

After something to eat and a hot drink, I had a meeting to go. The meeting had some parts that had me quite fraught. I was glad to come home, deal with bits and bobs of emails and then go to bed, snuggled up under the comforting weight of my weighted blanket.

I’m tired today. However, later this afternoon I’m on the go yet again. My sister has asked me to accompany her to an appointment. I then have something on this evening too, if I have the energy to go there!

Time to get another big mug of tea and start to get myself ready for this afternoons outings.

You Matter by Nikita Gill – Artwork WIP

You Matter by Nikita Gill | Artwork by Angela Porter

After a few very tricky days with emotions and time away with a friend and his partner I finally got some work done on this, and also another project I have on the go.

Digital art – Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen, Microsoft Surface Studio.

I’m really very emotionally fragile at the moment. Lots of things have stirred up things and it’s taking time for a settling to happen and me to find the new place of balance. The contentment is still there, but the waves on the surface are strong at the moment. Changes are happening and it takes time to settle into the new state of things emotional and mental. But settle they will, as will I. I have EMDR therapy tomorrow …

You Matter – a poem by Nikita Gill

You Matter by Nikita Gill; Artwork by Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
You Matter by Nikita Gill; Artwork by Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

The poem.

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.

My touchstone.

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.

Monday Mandala

Or, mandala Monday?

Monday Mandala 19 August 2019 ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

I’ve spent a little time this morning working on this rather sunshiny mandala. It’s not finished yet and I’ll think I’ll keep the sunrise (or sunset) colour theme for the rest of it.

Digital art using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.

So, Angela, how are you feeling today?

I am feeling tired today. I woke with a headache and tried to sleep it off and woke again with it still there. I’ve taken some Anadin extra, but it’s still faintly there.

I’m feeling tired emotionally too. I’ve had a couple of things happen this past week that have caused some quite visceral emotional reactions. Some of these events I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, others I’m not at all comfortable to share, not even with my therapist, not yet that is.

I constantly feel on the point of tears, and I know what has been the trigger for that. I also thought I’d got past it, but obviously not. That disheartens me a little. It may be there are different facets to this particular collection of relatively recent events.

Oh, the joys of living with CPTSD. It’s not described as complex for no reason at all.

Despite the tearfulness and some fearful anxiety, I can still touch that inner contentedness that I have cultivated. The contentedness is the ocean; the tears, anxiety, fear, the stupidity I feel, as well as other emotions I can’t label yet, are the waves on the surface.

Waves come and go. Sometimes the ocean surface is as calm as a millpond on a still day. Sometimes it’s as turbulent as tsunami rising onto a beach.

The surface of my ocean of contentedness is somewhat choppy, perhaps verging on stormy, but far away from being at the level of a tsunami.

I do have EMDR therapy soon; there’s a very good chance it’s going to be a rather emotional session. I just hope it doesn’t add energy to the waves that are currently forming upon my inner ocean. Given how emotionally fragile and vulnerable I feel at this time, I won’t hold my breath!

Mandala – 18 Aug 2019

Mandala ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

I enjoyed creating this simple, for me, mandala; I am pleased with the result.

It’s not been without the need for editing along the way and changing some of the design elements. That’s the beauty of working digitally; being able to change the design when I realise that some parts just aren’t working.

Of course, it helps if my mood is in the right place too. Last night and today I’ve found my balance once again and the oompf to create. This mandala is a reflection of that.

I also reset the colour palette I’d been using in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro and created one with a limited palette.

Even though I’d limited my colour choices to twelve colours plus greyscale, I think that may still have been too many. So, the next mandala I create will have a smaller palette.

I particularly like how I’ve created texture and dimension in the ‘rings’ and also the central circle. It’s subtle but effective, I think.

One thing I would, perhaps, change if I was super-critical, are the leaves and the background to them. These seem brighter than the rest of the design. However, part of me likes that contrast.

I’m pleased with myself for persevering with this and changing colours that didn’t work as the design unfolded. I think I’m achieving a more coherent design as a result of using a limited palette.

Every time I create digital art, I learn new things and develop accordingly. Today, I have found it a satisfying experience. Even swapping colours hasn’t been the frustrating experience it often is.

So, onwards I travel on my journey of discovery and development as an artist working with digital media. If I look back, I can see how far I have come in the past three years since I bought my Surface Book. Acquiring a Surface Studio and its large screen has allowed me to explore and develop my art even more.

Mandala 15 August 2019

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

This is definitely a ‘not sure about it’ verging on the ‘I hate it’ work.

It was doing great until I added that grey area, and it all went to pot I think. I do struggle with colours at times that’s for sure, and it’s gone downhill from there.

I’m kicking myself for combining all the layers at that point. I’m working digitally, as is my preference for mandalas. I could leave the various ‘rings’ as separate layers until I’m finished. Or I could just save versions of the work as I go along. However, I didn’t. Maybe I’ll remember to do this in the future. Mind you, I won’t be holding my breath on that one.

I don’t want to go and change the grey areas; I really don’t have the motivation to do so. Also, to edit that digitally would be really fiddly and awkward and I know I’ll just get myself into a bit of a state. I’m frustrated with myself for being a twit and not saving the mandala in layers.

On reflection, I now know that my emotional state last night affected my work.

The bright purple, pink, yellow and green central section really reflected my contented, optimistic mood rather well. Then, I went out to visit friends in the evening, and something happened that triggered me into full flight mode. I almost ran (and I don’t do running, ever), straight to the safety of my car and I drove away.

One of them phoned me as I was driving home and persuaded me to return. I had to sit in my car for a long while, just crying until I was ready to return. When I did return to them, floods of tears happened again.

I’m self-aware enough that I now understand what my flight was all about. Also, I’ve gained an insight into what I’m processing in EMDR, which is going to be of value in next week’s session.

I can’t believe how suddenly I flew away. I had no chance to ground, breathe, think through things logically. It was a very visceral reaction.

An hour or so later and I was laughing and smiling once more. However, I can see from this mandala that my mood was severely affected as I worked on those grey areas last night before bed.

I don’t think I can save this mandala now.

Whatever I have added to it just doesn’t work. I’ve tried changing the background colour and darkness/lightness with no luck as well. So, it’ll be one of my rare pieces of art that won’t be finished.

Working on the mandala did help to soothe my emotions before I retired to bed, so it’s not all negative. I think that’s why I can now leave this as it is. It’s served its purpose for me.

Actually, thinking about it I have quite a few pieces that I’ve not finished and am now not likely to do so for various reasons. This particular mandala, however, is one that shows me just how much my art can reflect my emotional state.

That is something new for me; it’s not often, if ever, my emotional state is reflected in my art. Looks like that’s changed! Or, at the very least, I’m just aware of it now.

So, I’ll start with a clean state, metaphorically speaking. I also think I’ll create a limited palette to use with the next mandala. That may help me with my colour issue at the moment.

Also, I’m awaiting delivery of my Chameleon Fineliner pens in a couple of hours. So, I know I’ll want to ‘play’ with them. I suspect some art with pen and paper will be appearing on the blog tomorrow, even if it’s just a sheet of experiments with the fine-liners both in drawing and hand-lettering and handwriting. Maybe there’ll be a dangle design too. At the moment I don’t really know myself.

So, I’m going to get myself another mug of tea and ponder what I want to do artistically/creatively for the rest of the day. I also need to write about last night’s flight and process it as best as I can.

Oh, I used my favourite digital art tools for this – Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.