mhaw2018

Angela Porter mhaw18 16 May 2018Today sees me do my third anti-stigma talk for Time to Change Wales as part of Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) 2018.

I am tired this morning.  Each talk I do is emotionally draining. It also takes a lot of energy for me to keep up a happy, smiley and laughing mask when in public and not to get overwhelmed by my story and allowing aspects of it to re-traumatise me.

I put myself through this for some good reasons, and one of them is NOT attention seeking (which is what my narcissistic mother would say).

I really do believe it’s time for the stigma and discrimination that surrounds mental illness comes to an end.  I know it’s not going to happen overnight, but little by little.  I tell my story to give people an insight into what it’s like to experience depression, anxiety, hyperperfectionism, hypervigilance, emotional flashbacks, being overwhelmed by choices in a supermarket, not being able to get out of my car when I go to somewhere I want to visit, being in fear of going to do a job I used to love when I was a teacher, and more, CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) is so complex.

I also want people to know that little changes in the work place can help people remain in work.

I want people to know that the social stereotypes of depression, anxiety and so many other mental illnesses are incorrect and that they lead to be people being stigmatised/prejudged and treated differently/discriminated against as a result of the urban myths that exist.

The more we can have conversations, the more people open up about what it’s like to experience mental illness, the more people will, hopefully, have a better understanding and the urban myths will lose their power.

Not only that, the self-stigmatisation that results in people not seeking help, acknowledging they are not thinking well of themselves, will result in people seeking that help and advice they need earlier.

On a more personal level, telling my story is helping me ‘own’ it, and though I still minimise the traumas I’ve experienced from a very young age, it’s helping me understand that they are not small little things that everyone goes through, as well as me understanding that it’s profound effect they’ve had on me that is the important thing as well as having counselling/therapy to help me heal from my past and have a healthier way of thinking about myself and living my life without avoiding all kinds of things for fear the same things will happen again and again.

I come home from a talk emotionally drained and tired; I either want to nap or just draw, or both, but not at the same time!

When I draw I like to just draw intuitively, drawing on my visual vocabulary of favourite shapes and patterns, and just let them flow onto the page. I can lose myself in that flow, I’m able to enjoy drawing familiar motifs and patterns and the intricacy of my work. Just letting things flow, drawing for the pleasure and contentment it brings me, the calmness that results, lets me put to oneside the anxiety I can feel when I’m creating for a particular contract, to put aside my hyperperfectionism and just go with the flow in a way that can be difficult when I’m drawing for a publisher and can add anxiety and frustration when I need to draw for peace and calm.

And that’s what this drawing helped me to do. Today, I hope I’ll be able to draw again, however after the talk today I’m taking a friend out for ice-cream and I think I have something occurring this evening too.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2018

Angela Porter mhaw18 14 May 2018

This year, in my role as a champion for Time to Change Wales, I’m giving (at the moment!) four anti-stigma talks to various organisations this week.

The aim of the Time to Change Wales campaign is to help to bring about an end to the stigma and discrimination that surrounds mental health.  In my anti-stigma talk, I talk about the campaign and tell my own story of my mental health issues.

It’s not a secret, I have complex post-traumatic stress disorder (cptsd) that has resulted from constant trauma from emotional neglect, emotional and mental abuse from a very young age and that persisted throughout my life until the past two or three years.

EMDR therapy with a fabulous therapist is really helping me and my mental health is so much better than it used to be.

If I help just one person through my talks, then it’s a worthwhile exercise.

For myself, it’s helping me to ‘own’ my own story and to not minimise the effect the traumas of my life have had on me, on the way I think about myself, about how I behave to avoid triggers or more trauma, and to begin to live a healthier more rewarding life.

Art is not only how I make a living now, but it is also my therapy, my way of helping myself when I’m anxious or depressed or stressed. It helps me to find my balance again, even if temporarily.