A few more hours work on this entangled art. In the past day or two I’ve done an additional 6 hours, so I think that takes me to around 21 hours or so in total. It’s a long job, a big job, but an enjoyable one.
I’m definitely getting my head around working in layers, though I need to work on one motif at a time before combining the layers into one image and carrying on.
Now I know that you can have many, many layers open at once, but my brain just can’t cope with that. I can do one thing at a time, and that suits me just fine.
It does make it a bit more awkward if I want to go back and alter the colour, shape, pattern or something else on a particular design element. However that’s not an impossibility, just a tad more awkward.
I am, however, quite pleased with how it’s working out.
There are some colour choices I’m not all that happy with at the moment. However, I will let them be until more of the art is done. Also, I think they represent how I’m feeling on that day, and as this is along term project that’s likely to happen quite a bit.
Last night I was feeling a bit subdued, so some subdued, vintage-ish colours crept into the design. As doing art, being creative, soothed my not quite right emotions, the colours brightened. The elements I’ve added this morning are much brighter in colour, which reflect my current quite content emotional state.
Well done me for spotting this. I’d not really noticed how my emotions influence my colour choices before!
My tools for digital art are Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.
Be Brave Angela Porter
Finding that bravery to live my life as I’d like to and to know who I am without the effects of trauma is one of my goals.
I have enough courage to go to each EMDR appointment, even though I know how it could affect me for a few days afterwards. The effects pass and are part of the healing process.
This is a small price to pay to be able to what I’d like to do, such as go out drawing, walking, having lunch in a cafe.
I find these things hard to do as nowhere is safe for me except home. Rather, that’s what the CPTSD caused by repeated trauma has me believing.
Processing that processing the trauma, replacing the negative beliefs about myself with more positive ones will allow this to happen.
I’m trusting that there’s a watershed in my healing journey where I’ve processed enough trauma that I can overcome what anxiety remains.
I think I’ve had one watershed in my journey – the one where I now feel content on most days. That’s progress!
It’s no secret that I have Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, CPTSD. It has stemmed from being ignored, put down (“You’re stupid, fat, ugly, no one wants to be your friend”), and bullied daily inside and outside the home from a very young age.
I was groomed by a family member when I was around 7 or 8 years of age. I had other traumatic experiences of a sexual nature then too.
I had no one I could turn to talk to about this as the person you’d usually turn to for help, the mother, was one of the people perpetuating this. There’s so much more I could tell you, but I think you get the gist.
I continuously lived, and continue to live, feeling unsafe in the world. I’m constantly anxious. I used to rarely notice this anxiety as it’s the ‘normal’ background level I know. Nowadays, thanks to therapy and EMDR I’m more self-aware and recognise it’s there.
I had to admit to myself that I needed help with this when I was away from work for nearly a year with severe anxiety and depression. An occupational health nurse, who worked with people with PTSD, said I was a classic case of CPTSD and suggested EMDR.
I realised I couldn’t live my life the way I was. I had become too scared to go out of my home except when I had appointments or at night to go shopping. I was hiding away from the world, staying in my house where I felt relatively safe.
I am still like that many days. However, I have more days where I can get out and about. Not only that, but I have more content days than days of discontent and sorrow.
EMDR therapy is helping me to recover, slowly but surely.
I’ve had people questioning me, yet again, whether EMDR therapy is any good for me because of the upset tummy I get after it, as well as the exhaustion. They questioned, whether I really needed it. This annoyed me as I yet again had to explain what my life is like daily and why I no longer wish to live with the constant fear and anxiety that limits what I can do.
I wear a well practised mask of confidence and strength that belies what lies underneath. I think this is why people try to tell me that therapy isn’t doing me any good and I don’t really need it. I think they think I’m lying about my past, the trauma I’ve experienced and how deeply it’s affected me and the way I live my life.
Can you all stop trying to tell me what I need and what I don’t need?
You aren’t walking in my shoes, with my inner critic repeating the constant criticisms given from my mother and others. You aren’t living with my emotional fragility or the constant increased anxiety, even fear, I feel when around people.
When I have bad days you think it’s the therapy that causes it. It’s not. It’s that therapy opens up trauma that I continue to process in the hours or days afterwards. Sometimes that processing is via an upset digestive system, sadness, increased anxiety, emotional exhaustion and fragility.
The thing is, that these bad days are a small number of the totality of the days of my life and they lead to a greater number of days where I am content.
They are a small price to pay for a future life where I live a mostly content life with no anxiety, except in appropriate situations. A life where I and my body have learned I am safe, that my past is finally my past and not being relived everyday through that constant anxiety and fear.
Why would I not want to go through the bad post-EMDR days to get to the life I’d like to live?
EMDR is working for me, even though there are times when I’m not too good after it.
Think of it as surgery. If you have surgery you’re not very well for a while afterwards. EMDR is surgery on the trauma of the past. The processing is the healing taking place, although its painful, it’s necessary.
You wouldn’t tell someone who needed an appendix removed not to go through with it as they’ll hurt as the wounds heal would you?
You wouldn’t tell someone with cancer not to go through with chemotherapy as they’ll feel awful afterwards, would you?
Trauma, whether a major event or the constant day to day trauma of abuse and neglect damage us on an emotional mental and even physical level with chronic illnesses being linked to long term stress. EMDR is the surgery that helps to release, process and heal the effects of the traumas I’ve experienced in my past so that I can move forward rather than stuck in the past.
Does that make it clearer?
I need EMDR therapy to heal from my past and gain the life I would like, a life where I’m not ruled by the constant fear and anxiety that developed as a response to never feeling safe anywhere from the time I was born.
My therapist often tells me I’m brave for coming back to EMDR again and again when I know what I’m likely to experience. She wonders after each extremely emotionally painful session if I’ll return.
I always do.
I’m prepared to put the work in and to accept the days where I feel poorly after EMDR as I can see they are part of the journey to a better life for me. A life where I have a better relationship with myself and the world around me.
I’ve lived my whole life in emotional and mental pain. I want to live as much of the life that remains to me without that emotional and mental pain.
Can I make it any plainer than that? I don’t think so.
About the art…
Art is often very soothing for me, especially when I’m feeling fragile or distressed. Today’s art certainly has soothed me. I woke with a dreadful headache. The headache is now easing off somewhat; it’s leaving me rather tired though.
I thought I’d do a little something for #PTSDAwarenessDay, so I made use of my Microsoft Surface Pen and Surface Studio along with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.
Now I’m working out which tools I like, what effects I can get and the settings I like to use my digital art is speeding up just a little. Mind you, this is simpler than the ‘Be Brave’ wip I’ve shown in previous posts.
A bit more done this morning. Another 2.5 hours today for a total of 15.5 hours. Some hand lettering has been done today as well.
It’s coming along, slowly but surely.
I don’t think I’ll be doing much more today. I’m not feeling too well. More about that below though.
As usual, my tools for digital art are Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.
So, Angela, how are you today?
I’m not feeling too well. I woke up in the night all hot and sweaty with a very upset tummy again.
I was ok before my weekly EMDR therapy session. I think this bout of illness is linked to EMDR. It turned out to be a rather surprising session.
I had a bit to talk about with my therapist, Linda, to do with interesting bits of the book I’m reading “The Body Keeps The Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk who is one of the foremost experts on traumatic stress.
For real change to take place, the body needs to learn that the danger has passed and to live in the reality of the present.
“The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk
Linda and I had a little chat we had about how important she thinks it is that I blog and talk about my CPTSD and how trauma in my life has affected my life so much.
Our scans had revealed how their dread persisted and could be triggered by multiple aspects of daily experience. They had not integrated their experience into the ongoing stream of their life. They continued to be “there” and did not know how to be “here” – fully alive in the present.
“The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk
She said she thinks its particularly important as people assume that PTSD/CPTSD can only come from major traumas in life, sexual abuse, physical abuse. We talked about how neglect from birth – emotional and physical – can be traumatic and can cause problems with relationships with others and the self, and how it sets up the patterns for the negative beliefs about oneself.
I certainly did experience emotional and physical neglect and I never really had somewhere that was safe. I do now. I live alone. My home is my sanctuary, my safe place, and I rarely invite people into my home. Even though my home is safe for me, noises outside – doors slamming, car horns beeping, loud voices (even happy ones) can provoke a startle response in me. This is relevant to what happened in EMDR this week.
Scared animals return home, regardless of whether home is safe or frightening. I thought about my patients with abusive families who kept going back to be hurt again. Are traumatised people condemned to seek refuge in what is familiar? If so, why, and is it possible to help them become attached to places and activities that are safe and pleasurable?
“The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk
It’s not just having a safe home that’s important for me. I can feel safe here. However, leaving my home can mean I feel unsafe, anxious, on edge and this prevents me from doing things that I’d like to do. Simple things like going into a cafe for a cup of tea, or into an unfamiliar shop, to get out of my car in an unfamiliar place and walk around, to name just a couple.
I never felt safe at home or anywhere else for as long as I can remember.
That one thing has had a huge impact on my life, and though I now have a safe place, there’s still so much to work on when I attempt to venture into the world and interact with it and with the people that inhabit it.
Anyway, back to yesterdays therapy session.
We went on to continue EMDR processing of the traumatic event that we were working on last week.
Lots of pain/feelings in my body as the trauma was being processed. The front door to the building was slammed and the noise caused me to become startled. Linda was really surprised at how strong my startle response to the noise was, especially as this hadn’t happened before. She asked how long I’ve had startle responses; I informed her for as long a I can remember. She checked back on a PTSD questionnaire (not the right word but I can’t think of what that is now) I’d done a number of years ago now and the startle response was there.
I was instantly on edge, anxious, wide eyed and hypervigilant and we did some calming and grounding exercises before going back to the orginal memory.
It was obvious that the memory we were working on was being flooded by the startle response. So the EMDR was brought to a close for this week.
We did some calming and safe space work before I left.
Apart from feeling a little more anxious than usual, I felt ok on my drive home, other than I was aware that my body was still processing trauma in the way I experience it during EMDR – so odd aches, pains, sensations. Linda did tell me to be prepared for this happening as the startle response had really upped the ante on the processing and has brought forward new stuff to work with, even if I don’t know what it is at the moment.
However, as time went on I started to feel more anxious, extremely exhausted, and rather teary.
I still feel that way now, even though I also feel quite content at the same time.
The contentedness is that ocean that is me, the other feelings are the weather that causes waves on the surface of that ocean. The weather is rather stormy today.
Doing art helps me to be more aware of that contentedness, that’s for sure, which is why I focus on doing art on days like this, or at least on creative ventures.
Having an an upset stomach after therapy is quite a common occurrence for me, and Linda tells me it happens to a lot of her clients. It’s part of the continuation of the processing and/or the heightened anxiety that I experience in EMDR and in the startle response and I feel that anxiety in my stomach/abdomen strongly.
It’s always there and it’s part of the reason I tend to overeat; if I’m overly full I feel uncomfortable from food not from the anxiety I feel.
So, I’m feeling exhausted today, my digestive system is feeling tender, fragile, and still a little (maybe more than a little) yeuchy. A quiet self-care day is in order I think with light food for sure. I suspect a good sleep will be on the cards too.
As much as I find comfort in doing art, there comes a time when I become dissatisfied with all that I do, and I reached that point with my ‘Be Brave’ WIP. I think a day of crocheting hexagons and adding them to the blanket I’m making for a friend may be in order, and watching something on TV or DVD that soothes me, so that may be Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter or the like. It may be that I listen to an audiobook, though I tried doing that earlier and I kept having to rewind as I couldn’t pay attention to it in the way I’d like to.
It is the Summer Solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere, the longest day of the year and from here on in the days will slowly get shorter. Still, it’s lovely to have daylight well into the evening with the sky still being fairly light at 10pm or so.
Yesterday evening I had a bit of an idea to try creating a dangle design on parchment, and this is the result. I needed a bit of a break from digital art after the hours and hours spent on my most recent mandala.
Parchment craft, or Pergamano, is an old craft and a lot of the work done, while beautiful, is really not my style. So I thought I’d try my style of art with it.
I used some ball tools to emboss the parchment with my design and then to add some shading. I drew the design directly onto the parchment with the embossing tools.
I started with the stylised flowers and worked out from there. Once I was happy with my design, I added a simple dangle consisting of round, heart-shaped and diamond shaped beads with a tear-drop bead to add some weight to the dangle.
I then added colour with some Kuretake Zig Writer pens on the reverse of the design. I chose colours that remind me of summer – the mature greens of summer foliage along with the bright colours of tropical flowers. I thought these would work well for the Solstice. Of course the hearts needed to be pink and I added some teal-blue to the small diamond beads for a bit of variety.
On top of the dots around the design I added tiny dots of gold glittery loveliness using a Uniball Signo glitter gel pen. I also added some tiny dots in the centres of the stylised flowers.
To give an idea of the size of this design, the black paper behind the parchment is A4 (approx US letter) in size.
Adhering the parchment to the black paper was a problem as glue shows through, so I had to use some tiny dots where the white lines were thick enough to disguise the glue.
I really think that the white lines of the parchment create something that is equally as lovely and maybe a bit more delicate than my usual black line art.
The uses of this design are many – greeting cards, note cards, framed artwork or used in Bullet Journals, journals, planners, scrapbooks, and more. In fact, I may replicate the design for my July cover spread in my BuJo.
If you’d like to learn more about drawing your own dangle designs, then my book “A Dangle A Day” is, perhaps, a good place to start.
So, Angela, how are you feeling today?
I’m feeling quite content today. Tired still, but content.
It seems the anti-stigma talk for Time to Change Wales and the anxiety I had around doing it on Wednesday has taken it’s toll on me just a bit. I do know, however, that I will recover in the fullness of time for sure.
This is part of the emotional/mental weather that is part of life. Beneath this weather is a calmer, more content Angela. I find this version of me from time to time; indeed I’m content in myself on many more days than I am discontented. Even with the bout of anxiety on Wednesday there was still a sense of being content.
It’s a strange thing to feel both at the same time. A bit like feeling the firm ground beneath my feet as a wild wind is buffeting me and trying to blow me down. I can feel that firm footing even when my emotions are a bit on the wild and windy side.
That’s progress on my journey to recover from CPTSD. Even more progress that I can recognise and describe this feeling.
This realisation makes me smile.
It’s progress, but it’s not where I want to be. I want to be able to go out and about without being scared of my own shadow. To be able to travel to unfamiliar places and actually get out of my car when I don’t have an appointment of some kind. To be able to go into an unfamiliar cafe or eatery when I’m by myself when I’m hungry and thirsty. To not go into full flight mode when something small has spooked me. To not be startled by loud noises. I want to be able to reach out to people without fear of rejection or to allow people into my home. To have all kinds of relationships with healthy boundaries where my needs and boundaries are respected by myself. To be able to go shopping without being overwhelmed by the choices available so I end up leaving without getting anything that’s needed.
These are but a few of ways that CPTSD affects my life and that I’d like to change through the healing journey I’m undertaking with the help of EMDR and therapy.
I’ve never been anything other than this permanently scared, extremely self-conscious person. Different events and places result in different levels of fear/anxiety in me. Even sat here, at my familiar desk, I feel anxious about writing about it.
The progress is that I recognise it now. I have identified it. Although it’s still there, it’s slowly being dis-empowered. Slowly means it’s being done properly and that I have time for the new level of anxiety or the increased self-awareness has time to become familiar to me before the next step forward is made. Familiar means it’s the more healed me. Healing bit by bit.
I’ve started colouring “Inspiration”, the drawing I completed yesterday.
The drawing was done with a Tombow Fudenosuke and a Lamy medium fountain pen on Winsor and Newton Bristol Board. I’m colouring it digitally using my favourite trio of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.
So far, I’ve spent 3 hours colouring, so it’s going to take me a while longer to complete.
To be honest, it would be a lot quicker to colour using Chameleon markers or other traditional media. Weird, when computers make doing other tasks so much quicker and easier.
That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy adding colour. I mean, I could do that a lot quicker if I chose to use gradient fills. However, this time I wanted to add colour as if I was using traditional media, being able to follow the shapes of the design more closely, having more control over where I add shadows and highlights.
So, I’ll take the time over this one, like I do with many of my artworks.
So, how are you today Angela?
EMDR yesterday was a little different. We didn’t do any EMDR but we worked with my inner child on helping her to heal from past traumas.
I felt silly and daft initially. I didn’t have a clue what I was being asked to do, but my therapist guided me through the process, and eventually I relaxed a little and tried.
I was surprised. Emotional too. It’s not something that I’m comfortable sharing other than in general.
After EMDR I spent sometime in a Starbucks drinking tea, eating a piece of chocolate truffle cake and drawing. Partly this was to wait out the rush hour, mostly it was to give myself a treat after sticking with a therapy session that seemed silly and turned out to be an emotional, insightful and helpful process.
So, the healing journey from CPTSD continues, taking an unexpected turn.
Yesterday, as the sun came out as the day waned my mood brightened a little from just about content to a little more on the happy side. Today I’m a bit tired after a broken night’s sleep with weird dreams but I’m quite content.
What a busy week last week was for me. It’s taken a while for me to add any significant work to this wip, but it’s beginning to become a bit more ‘fleshed’ out. My challenge is to leave some white space in the design. We’ll have to see if I can actually manage that!
This is being drawn with a combination of Tombow Fudenosuke and Uniball Unipin pens on Winsor and Newton Bristol Board. The paper is A4 in size (approx US letter), just so you have an idea of the size of the design.
Mental health awareness week and an example of stigma I’ve experienced
What a week it was. I wasn’t as busy this year as last year, but it still took it out of me. I find looking after stands for Time to Change Wales a lot more stressful than doing the talks about my CPTSD and how stigma and discrimination has affected me.
By Thursday afternoon I was absolutely and totally poleaxed. So tired and exhausted in a way I haven’t been since, most probably, I was teaching! Mind you, I suspect I’ve been that exhausted since, but not for such an extended period of time.
It all started with the lead up to EMDR therapy last Tuesday. EMDR was quite distressing and left me exhausted emotionally and physically. I then had no time to recover before the stands on Weds and Thurs.
Friday I had to prepare for something I was doing on Saturday and that took every little bit of strength I’d recovered to do that. I enjoyed the preparation, but I didn’t take much time out to rest and recuperate from the previous days.
I woke at stupid o’clock (aka 3.30am) on Saturday fretting and worrying about my task for the day. So that had me exhausted yet again. The task worked out well, thankfully, but I was even more exhausted on the way home. I managed to throw some food together, which I didn’t really eat as I was too exhausted to eat. I slept for three hours, woke for a couple of hours (long enough to watch Return of the Sith) and then went back to bed and slept through until nearly 9am.
I did feel a lot better and had it in my mind to visit the National Museum in Cardiff to spend sometime with rocks and fossils in the Evolution of Wales exhibition with my sketchbook. I was all fairly excited about this and made my way there. I had a lovely couple of hours observing and drawing. I then realised how tired I was again. So, I thought a cup of tea and a little something to eat may be needed. I drank the tea but couldn’t bring myself to eat anything. I went back to the galleries, wandering around the natural history galleries. I suddenly started to get all emotional at the sight of animals stuffed and on display, and the gallery where the whale and leatherback turtle are finished me and I thought it was best I went home.
Which I did, cooked myself a relatively healthy meal, which I managed to eat and then just flopped in front of the TV until it was time for me to go out in the evening for a kind of meditation class.
And something happened in the evening that triggered a visceral and emotional response, something totally unexpected. I couldn’t stop crying for a good two hours. I definitely have food for thought. One of the things that got to me was the statement ‘you don’t need therapy, you just need to get out of your head and into your heart’. This from someone who knows nothing of my life story. Then it felt like people I’d known for a long while and who know my story were agreeing with this statement and that person.
Added to that was I was told I should trust to the love of my family.
Really? Just further proof they know nothing of my life and the family I was born into. Love? Well, if you mean destroying someone’s sense of self, their confidence, everything about them is love, well then I guess they were right.
They have no idea that I’ve tried self-help program after self-help program in the past 20 years or so, to very little positive effect. I was told I can do the work by myself. So no, I can’t. I’ve tried again and again and finally I had to accept I needed help in the form of therapy.
I’m actually feeling quite angry about this, I really am.
I got quite vocal when I told the person they knew nothing about me, about the abuse I’d suffered as a child. When I said that they said ‘I knew it, I just didn’t want to say’. Then, they went on to say ‘but you don’t need therapy for that, you just need to trust yourself’.
How? HOW? How the feck can I do that when all my life I’ve been told i’m wrong, I’m thick, I’m stupid, I know nothing, I’m useless, I’m an embarrassment, everyone else is better than me, I’m unloveable, I’m ugly, and everything else.
The whole message of my childhood is that I shouldn’t trust myself, that I’m always wrong and stupid.
Another example of the way mental ill-health is stigmatised by those who think they understand but don’t really. There’s so much prejudice about having therapy or counselling in society, even from people you’d expect not to have that prejudice.
This has shaken me somewhat, but my resolve to continue with EMDR is stronger now, this morning. I realise that people don’t want me to change, for whatever, that they think I’m good enough and ‘lovely’ just as I am.
Maybe that’s the case. But EMDR for me is more about helping me to find that courage and confidence that I want to have to continue to go to museums and abbeys and cathedrals by myself to just draw and enjoy the sights and sounds. To be able to walk in nature alone. To not feel that I’m putting my life on hold for someone who will ‘rescue me’ and do these things with me.
I’ve put my life on hold for way, way too long hoping someone will come and ‘rescue me’.
I’m the only one who can do that. But I need help to learn how to do that. If I can’t drive a car, I find someone who can teach me. If I can’t learn how to trust myself, to become confident and so on then I need to find someone who can help me learn. That person is my lovely EMDR therapist.
I’m typing all this with tears in my eyes as it really did upset me, and still does, and I’m a bit angry about it too.
I will continue with EMDR. I will continue healing, little by little, even if part of that process are the days of absolute emotional exhaustion and the pain that comes along with realising how I’ve been hurt in the past. The pain is because I never processed the hurt properly, believing it was all I deserved, that it was ok to be spoken to or dismissed or ignored as that’s all that I knew growing from the earliest days I can remember.
I have to do what is right for me. Not do what other people think I should do for whatever reason they think that. I’ve lived my life through the messages drummed into me by those who were supposed to love and care and nurture and those messages have stopped me from being the person I would now like to be and have led to some severe episodes of deep depression and anxiety so bad I was off work for nearly a year in the first instance, and after several months the second time I never returned, a decision I do not regret as I can focus on recovery from a lifetime’s CPTSD and also focus on art and learning to live the life I’d like.
“I can do this” – reprise
So the message hand written on my artwork is so appropriate given the events of yesterday evening.
It makes me more determined to continue EMDR, which is the only therapy/counselling that really works.
I’ll do my best to push last night aside and continue to move forward now, which I have to do soon as I have therapy this afternoon!
Just like I will show my mother and others that they are wrong about me I will show others the same.
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.
Today, I’ve settled down to colour the templates for my latest book for the Creative Haven series published by Dover Publications Inc. And here’s a sneaky peeky teaser of the image I’ve just finished colouring not many minutes ago.
If you do a search on Amazon you’ll find out the theme of the book, but can you guess what the theme of this template is?
I’m feeling better emotionally, but I’m still very, very tired today. Processing emotional trauma through EMDR is surprisingly exhausting. After a lot of emotional distress yesterday, I’m feeling content at the moment.
Coloring and art-ing is usually soothing for me, and I have to say I enjoyed colouring this template in. I am going to have a bit of a break before I tackle the next one.
Drawn and coloured digitally using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro with a Microsoft Surface Pen with a Surface Studio.
I’ve really not been myself the past few days. With a couple of busy days this week, the emotional fallout from EMDR on Tuesday finally caught up with me as I slowed down Thursday afternoon. I’m so tired, and my mood isn’t the brightest to say the least.
It’s always a sign that even when I’m tired I can usually draw and create, but not much this week. I haven’t been able to find the inspiration to draw, nor have I found the interest or energy.
Today, around a meeting, I managed to draw this.
It’s a throwback to the more familiar art of earlier days. It has given me a chance to use some new motifs, as well as some favourite ones that crop up often.
The process of drawing was soothing, and I did my very best not to be too judgemental, though I did want to throw it out and restart several times as I wasn’t at all happy with what was coming out of the nib of my fountain pens or Uniball Unipins.
I switched to the Uniballs as the fountain pen ink was smudging lightly. I’ve fixed that, mostly, by digital wizardry. I also added the Distress Ink background digitally.
I know my inspiration and energy to draw will return, I’m just not feeling at all myself at the moment.
I do have a new self-care activity, which is sitting in/on the bed, crocheting shawls and listening to audiobooks – currently working my way through the Harry Potter series.
The rhythmic nature of crocheting is soothing. The familiarity of the Harry Potter story is also soothing. Being upstairs makes me feel safe, secure and it’s also comforting.
The memory being worked on in EMDR certainly has stirred some stuff up. I’ve had some very upsetting insights into how I’ve viewed myself. Releasing the trauma associated with this particular memory will be accompanied by a better view of myself. I may not fully believe it, but if I can believe a little of it then that is good enough for now.
I have to believe that with each memory and its associated traumatic experiences that are processed via EMDR I’ll believe the healthier, more positive statements about myself more and more.
These are some quotes I’ve found recently that are helpful to me in understanding me, helping me through this.
Trauma creates changes you don’t chose. Healing is about creating change that you do choose.
What happened to you was not your fault. The struggles you have today, like your cPTSD symptoms, are a normal response to abnormal events. So, please be kind to yourself.
The poison leaves bit by bit, not all at once. Be patient. You are healing.