Mandala 26 Feb 2020

Mandala © Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

About the mandala

This morning, after a couple of topsy turvy days, I managed to get some art done before I get sorted for the day.

It’s always lovely to return to art after a little break from it. Today, I used a photograph I took last August while visiting the National Botanic Gardens of Wales. Gorgeously coloured flowers were blooming in the great glasshouse, and this stylised flower is based on some of them, including the colour palette.

A bright, sunshiny, warmly glowing flower is just what I needed to paint this morning. I think I’ve chosen a background colour/texture that allows those colours to shine too.

Digital art created with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Studio and Microsoft Surface Slim Pen.

Leaving therapy…

Monday was a crazy kind of day. In the morning I got sidetracked by a friend, all while I was trying to pack gifts up for my therapist before I headed to my last appointment, for the foreseeable future anyway.

That’s right. I’ve finished with EMDR therapy, for now. I feel I’m good enough learn to fly through life without the support net of my therapist. My wings haven’t spread much, and though weak, they’re strong enough for me to take my first bumbling, solo flights in life (solo as in not with therapy). I’m going to crash onto the ground, bump into trees and obstacles, even get tangled up from time to time in branches and brambles. I do feel, however, that I can cope with the bumps of my flight through my post-therapy life.

Getting tangled up may result in me needing help to untangle myself as something happens in life that triggers a part of the cPTSD that is still hidden and causes it to rise up to the conscious mind where it can be dealt with. This may mean a return to EMDR to deal with that particular set of traumas.

It was both a little sad and a fairly exciting and happy time too. My therapist and friends are proud of me for the work I’ve put in, as well as the perseverance and courage I’ve shown in facing some of the traumas that have resulted in the cPTSD.

New Camera!

I’ve had a need floating around my head for a little while – to buy a DSLR camera. I’ve looked at them, read about them, tried to decode the technical blurb, and finally found myself drawn to one particular model time and time again.

Rather than purchase it online, I steeled myself yesterday to take a trip into Cardiff to visit Cameraland. I’d looked at various shops where you can buy cameras, but this one really ‘felt’ right. And I have to say, it was the right choice.

So, after breakfast, I headed off to Cardiff, parked up, and walked from the Museum to Cameraland through the town. For many years I’ve not been able to go into Cardiff. Loud voices, noises and the high number of people ramp anxiety in me up to a level of startle and hyper-vigilance. So, I used noise-cancelling earphones and upbeat music to help me cope.

And I did! This wouldn’t be possible to do if I was with someone or people, but on my own it’s completely do-able.

Anyways, the chap I talked to in Cameraland was very helpful, knowledgeable. I explained what I’d like a camera for, my experience with SLRs in the past, and the model I’d had my eyes on. He did say there were other options, but none as good as the one I’d chosen.

He showed me around the camera, let me hold it, use it, and then when I’d decided it was the one for me helped me with a uv lens filter, memory card and a camera bag that is spacious enough for me to use as a handbag too.

This camera is a celebration gift to myself for completing therapy, to mark a kind of rite of passage for me. It’s also a way for me to encourage myself to explore the world a bit more. I’ve invested a fair bit of money in the camera and I really don’t want to see it sitting in the bag, being unused.

I still can’t just go out because I’d like to go out. I still need a reason to leave my home. Going out to use my camera is a good reason in my mind.

It also means that when I’m with Liz, or others, on days out, I can record things that catch my attention that I’d usually sit and draw. Yes, I can use the camera on my phone, which is a good phone camera. However, the images aren’t as clear or colour-faithful as I’d like.

So, I may be sharing particularly nice photos I’ve taken too, of all kinds of things that I find interesting, fascinating.

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.

Calming Mandala

Calming Mandala ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd

A bit of a calming time was needed this morning before attending to my business of the day. I thought a mandala in blues, greens and purples would hit the mark.

I enjoy using a flexible ink pen ‘brush’ to achieve the varying line widths. This allows me to build up abstract patterns and textures quite nicely I think. I have a way to go to find my ‘voice’ with this style of art. The more I do, the more will become clear to me I’m sure.

I’m not sure that the design flows as much as in yesterday’s mandala. I wonder if that’s because I only put one rather geometric series of rings in the centre of the design.

So, Angela, how are you feeling today?

I had a tough EMDR session yesterday. Today, I feel content and upbeat but I’m realising just how tired I am mentally, despite 10 hours sleep. Yesterday’s session had a lot of body processing going on. That means stored trauma is processed via physical sensations. Yesterday those included electric shocks in my leg/foot, side, arm, pains like hooks in my shoulders, a blunt pushing/stabbing force from my stomach up towards my heart, pain in my eye. Those are just a few I remember. The pain/sensations weren’t more than I could bear, though some came close to it!

30 or 40 minutes of this is enough in a session I find, and that little amount of time out of my day is worth it for the long term benefits it brings of helping me recover from CPTSD. The tiredness I feel will pass in a day or so.

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.

Mandala

Mandala 9 Nov 2019 ©Angela Porter |Artwyrd.com

This morning, I needed the calming and soothing process of drawing a mandala.

The last few days have been manic, tiring and emotional. I’ve also had to use a lot of mental concentration on a project that involves me. All this has resulted in evenings filled with headaches and emotional vulnerability.

I’m aware of what’s happening to me, and I do take steps to make sure that I practice self-care and self-soothing.

Drawing mandalas is always self-soothing for me. The abstract nature of them means anything goes, within the foundation of rings and angles. Drawing repeating patterns and shapes is also a soothing activity.

Today, I chose to draw in black and white and add a grey, textured background. Some subtle shading in greys helps to add the illusion of dimension to the mandala.

I drew this mandala digitally, using my favourite tool triad of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio. This made it easy to alter what I wasn’t happy with as I worked on the mandala. This removed a source of potential stress and upset and allowed the perfectionist in me to smile.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t any imperfections in the design; there are plenty of them! It just means I can fix the big mistakes quickly. I wish it were as easy to do that in life, for myself but also for others.

I enjoyed drawing the mandala. It has helped to soothe my fragile head and heart and has set me up for the rest of my arty, creative day.

So, Angela, how are you feeling today?

I’ve not written much about my mental and emotional health lately. It’s mostly been good. However, I’ve had some challenges with it and have had some weepy, teary times.

Previously, I’ve mentioned that I was looking at leaving therapy soon. I still think that will be the case, but these challenges have caused some flotsam and jetsam from my past to surface. They need to be processed and released before I consider leaving therapy.

I have so much to do in terms of work and other commitments that I really do need to schedule in that self-care time. Also, I’m aware that the challenges I’m currently facing could, potentially, harm my mental and emotional health. All the work of the past five years in therapy could, possibly, be undone. I can’t allow that to happen.

During the recent difficulties, I’ve found my emotions and thoughts harking back to the dark days of my poor mental and emotional health. I managed to stop myself falling into the bottomless, dark pit of despair and anguish. I recognised it was happening. Also, I recognised the trigger for this. It was strong enough to breathe some life into the pale ghosts of my past. Those ghosts have now been dispelled, but I know they can rise to haunt me at my vulnerable moments.

What scared me most was that I lost that awareness of inner contentment that has been present for many months now. It’s now back, once the ghosts had been returned to their realm – the past.

I’ve said it before, and no doubt I’ll say it again – emotions are the weather of my inner being. Things happen or are said that can stir up a storm. The storm opens a portal to the past and ghosts can find their way to trouble my mind and feelings. I’m now more aware of myself, my emotions, and how to cope with this weather. I’m back to a calm sea where the contentment isn’t shrouded by the shades of the past.

Being able to banish these ghosts myself shows how far I’ve come since my darkest days.

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).

Inktober 2019 – Day 23

Inktober 2019 Day 23 ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

Today’s prompts are cockatoo skull, Marasmius (parachute mushrooms) and Pixiose tangle pattern. I’m using Inktober 2019 prompt lists by Instagrammers @book_polygamist, @nyan_sun and @havepen_willdraw.

I’ve returned to the woodcut style of illustration for the cockatoo skull; the contrast betwixt the bone and beak made it a natural choice for me. Also, I do like drawing in this kind of style.

As my emotional weather is on the drizzly and gloomy side, I opted for the soothing qualities of mandala drawing for today’s illustration. I don’t know why I chose to have four skulls as part of the mandala; it just seemed a good idea at the time. However, it does work out quite nicely. The spacing means I can still draw the skulls fairly large, yet have plenty of space fo the mandala to show through.

Today’s tangle pattern is a filler design, so I thought adding it in panels would work well and this formed the first ring. I also wanted to add in some tropical flowers, so the second ring has stylised flowers forming it. It was then I remembered about the fungi and so added them as the outer ring.

For now, I’ve left the design in black and white with a coloured background. I may return to this mandala at another time and add colour and more line work. For now, it’s good enough.

To create the artwork, I used Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with a Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.

So, Angela, how are you today?

I said that my emotional weather is still gloomy and drizzly. I really don’t feel I have the oompf to do anything much today. All I want to do is sleep, and when I want to sleep all the time, it’s one of my warning signs that something’s not right emotionally. I’ve also had some of the old inner critics and thought patterns rearing their heads once again, causing a lot of tears. It seems I’m not as resilient as I think I am when doing what I can to help others.

I can still sense that contentment within, but the emotional weather seems to be clouding it somewhat today. I have used my light therapy lamp, which helped a little, especially as the weather outside is mirroring my emotions today.

I know what’s caused this change in my inner weather: therapy and a couple of recent events.

I managed to put a smiley face on to go to a meeting last night, but I was so tired after it, even though I’d slept for a couple of hours in the afternoon.

I do know this is not permanent. I’m processing some recent and less recent traumatic experiences.

So, I will do what I can to get some work done today, work that doesn’t require much in the way of focus. I do believe I have some sketches for my Spectacular Sea Life Designs colouring book scanned in ready to be inked. I think I can manage that today.