Can you believe that September is nearly over? I swear that the older I get the faster time seems to go.
Anyway, a new month on the horizon means a new colouring template for the members of the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans facebook group. There just has to be a Hallowe’en theme for October’s page, and you can see a sneak peek of it above. I couldn’t resist colouring some of it in as a way of trying out some new digital brushes and some ideas too.
I put some of my favourite All Hallows’ Eve motifs into the drawing, including a raven, skulls, fungi and a vampire cat! I always enjoy drawing stuff to do with Hallowe’en; it’s my favourite time of year because I don’t have any past traumas associated with it.
I used a combination of fountain pens and fine-line pens to draw the design on dot grid paper. I then scanned the drawing in and cleaned up smudges and smears digitally.
Then, I set about adding colour digitally using my usual tools – Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio. I also added a background and surface texture that I had purchased via Creative Market.
I am really quite pleased with how the colour is bringing the illustration to life, especially the skull in a jar. I hope to be able to continue to add colour as the month progresses, though I do know I have quite a bit of work to do and focus on.
To Inktober or not Inktober, that is the question.
Last year, I really enjoyed taking part in Inktober. Inktober has become a really popular social media event where artists and creatives use a daily prompt to draw (or create) something based on that prompt and share it on social media.
There is an official prompt list, but people do create alternative lists and I may look at some of them as there may be variations that might be less time intensive than last years’ was!
I shall see what I find and go from there I think.
So, Angela, how are you today?
Tired. However, I’m am quite content, my mood is good enough today. I do have EMDR later on, and I often feel ‘flat’ before my therapy session. I think my unconscious mind starts to bring stuff up in preparation for EMDR.
I know that the likelihood of me being exhausted later is rather high, so I’m not planning to do loads of stuff later on. Self care will be the order of the late afternoon and evening.
Another cute and whimsical drawing with some hand lettering this day before I start on work for the book and then off to EMDR.
Line art drawn with a Lamy Fountain pen, coloring done digitally with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.
My mood is back to being fairly content. However, the past week has been quite tough and emotional. It’s on days where I struggle to push the inner critic that tells me I’m stupid, horrible, unloveable, useless, a failure it can be hard to look for rainbows or stars. Yet, it’s on these days that it’s important to try to find just one spark of colour in the rainbow or just one teeny, tiny star that is barely visible to the inner eye.
I think I may need to make a list of things in my BuJo about myself that are small stars and little rainbows on my good days. A list that may bring little glimmers of light in the darkness that descends on my soul on the bad days.
Little reminders of the good things about me, the positive things I have done and do do, the kind words people have said to me. Little reminders that this dark time will pass. Little reminders that the inner critic hasn’t won, even though it’s trying to break me. Little reminders that I’ve survived time and time again. Little reminders of the progress I am making.
Little sparks to help ignite the light once again.
I officially have a post-therapy and post trio of antistigma talks emotional hangover/headache.
I’m so tired today. Headachy. Feeling quite sad. Finding focus is difficult.
A big, big mug of strong Yorkshire tea, clementine segments, banana and some French bread with butter and marmalade is being had for breakfast.
I was so tired when I got home yesterday from the last anti-stigma talk of this week that I ordered in pizza and garlic mushrooms. I watched most of Attack of the Clones while beginning to crochet a market bag. And when I felt I could sleep I went to bed.
To find that I couldn’t sleep, not straight away. My mind was still way too busy.
So, I thought I’d sit in bed and do a little drawing, which is the one above.
I knew today would be Friday, so I added some really simple dangles to the bottom of it for dangle day.
I used my R2-D2 Sheaffer fountain pen on some Claire-Fontaine mixed media paper. I have managed to smudge the ink in some places.
However, this did let me settle down to sleep. It was a meditative practice for me, if not mindfulness meditation itself. No matter what, it helped me calm and quieten my mind so I could sleep.
The anti-stigma talks have a part that is about Time to Change Wales, a bit about stigma and discrimination and mental illness, and the main part is my story of mental illness and how stigma and discrimination has affected me.
Self-stigma has always been the worst for me. What others would say to me such as ‘just pull yourself together’ or ‘don’t be such a misery’ or suggesting that I have a lot going for me in my life and I shouldn’t feel the way I was the same as I was telling myself. In fact, I talked to myself worse than what others could say.
I was really resistant to the idea that I had problems with mental and emotional wellbeing.
“It’s been a long, busy term. I’ll be fine after the holidays.” “We’ve got an inspection coming up, it’s really busy.” “I had that difficult pupil again today and it just wore me down, I’ll be ok”. “I’m not crazy.” “I’m not weak.” “I’m not mad.” “There’s nothing wrong with me that a weekend won’t fix.”
That was, and still is me to a lesser extent. Always trying to put a brave face on how I’m feeling. Trying to hide behind a mask of smiles and laughter and competency. Doing my best not to be a bother to anyone, not to worry anyone. Not wanting anyone to think I was lying/attention-seeking/making a fuss over nothing.
Always denying I had a problem. Until I could deny it no more.
That happened in steps.
Being physically confronted by two pupils led to me receiving counselling for the first time and with me finally admitting some things about grooming in my past, not only to the counsellor, but to myself.
Counselling kept me in my job. When it ended, the decline in my mental health resumed and continued until I had to have 8 months off from work, accept anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication to give my brain a break from the constant worrying, thinking, panicking it was doing.
One of the hardest things I had to do was to admit to myself I needed help. Not just admit, but accept that help.
Talking about my childhood, where those patterns of thoughts, the very negative, critical thoughts and beliefs I have about myself have come from. Not talking in depth, mind you, just touching the surface of it. This is emotionally draining for me. It awakens emotions in me that are only just surfacing and being recognised through EMDR therapy.
Yesterday, I wrote a post about why I do these talks. Today, I’m writing about the aftermath of the talks.
The aftermath won’t ever stop me from doing the talks. I can cope with it. I need a day or two of self-care (and ice-cream).
Self-care is doing things that are familiar, that calm me and bring me pleasure. So that’s art, crochet, Star Wars, ice-cream with a friend. It’s quiet time for myself, without the pressures of people. It’s sleeping when I need to sleep. My body isn’t tired, but my emotions and mind are. They need time to rest and recuperate.
And that just doesn’t apply to me, a CPTSD survivor on a healing journey towards recovery. It applies to each and every single person.
Me. You. Everyone.
We all have mental health. We all have emotional health. We all need to take care of them as much as we do our physical health.
Just as we seek help if we have a problem with our physical health, such as taking a painkiller for a headache, surgery for appendicitis, dental work for teeth problems, a cast for a broken bone, chemotherapy for cancer, then we also need to seek help if we’re having problems with our emotional and mental health.
There’s no stigma attached to having a physical illness. But there is with mental and emotional illnesses and problems. There should not be.
It’s about being kind to ourselves. Learning how to be kind to ourselves. Taking that time to give our minds and emotions a break. That’s what self-love is. It’s kindness to ourselves.
Something I never learned in childhood. All I learned was that I was unworthy, useless, stupid, ugly, fat, unloveable, a failure, an embarrassment, the reason everything went wrong.
I’ve lived most of my life believing that was so, trying to prove it wasn’t and to earn the love and respect of someone who is incapable of love and respect – a narcissistic mother. Not only her, but so many others in my life.
It’s never too late to do something to help myself have a better relationship with myself in the first instance. That’s what EMDR is helping me with.
If my talks help others recognise some of the same things in themselves, workout that their relationship with themselves, that their mental and emotional health isn’t good, and they determine to seek help when they’re ready, then every day of this emotional tiredness/hangover/headachyness is absolutely worth it.
I thought I’d show you the progress I’ve made on this drawing. I hope you find it interesting to see how things are progressing with it.
Yesterday, I didn’t get much done as I was whacked out after EMDR therapy in the afternoon. It was very intense with some very powerful physical pains as well as some emotionally upsetting insights. Tears flowed. An hour of discomfort to help to release years and years of emotional/mental pain and suffering isn’t too bad is it?
Today I’ve not done anything. I did an anti-stigma talk to a group of health-care employees for the ABMU Health Board at Singleton Hospital in Swansea. This was on behalf of Time to Change Wales in my role as a champion.
The drive there was horrendous. The rain was absolutely hammering down. Then, it was really difficult to find somewhere to park. I did find somewhere eventually. Then, there was the walk to the hospital and the problem of finding my way to the Chapel/Multi-faith Centre. By that time, the stress of not finding parking easily had caused me to flip into hypervigilance mode and it wasn’t easy to see or decode information.
Eventually I must’ve looked totally lost, a nice man asked me if he could help. When I said the chapel, I noticed another chap had come over and he had a Time to Change Wales badge on and it turns out he was Martin, one of two new champions who had come to observe me.
We had directions to the chapel and the other champion was waiting outside.
I did my talk, became, for me, quite emotional, and left, after chatting with people and Martin and Connor, the other TTCW champion.
I was glad to find my way back to my car, and started to feel a bit spaced out as I drove home. Thankfully the rain had mostly stopped though the spray was horrible.
I’ve eaten and had some tea but I still feel drifty and floaty and I really, really could do with a long nap now. It’s taken nearly 4 hours for me to feel ready to nap. However, I can’t take a nap as I have to drive to Hereford this evening for around 7:15pm. My sat nav said it would be an hour and a half journey there. Perhaps I could have a quick nap …
I know tomorrow I have another anti-stigma talk to do – this time with a group of police officers at Ton Pentre police station – and a medical appointment later in the day. Thursday I’m doing another antistigma-talk to a group of trainee nurses and midwives over in Abergavenny.
I foresee some early nights ahead of me, though most probably not tonight!
This morning, I wanted to do a small drawing (the bristol board is approx. 10cm x 21cm) and try not to get overly fussy and trying to fill every space in. I used fountain pens to draw the line work, and I’m using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, a Microsoft Surface Pen and a Microsoft Surface Studio to add colour to the design.
I’ve often said it on the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans facebook group that the members work some fantastic magic in using colour to bring my drawings to life. And they do.
So, I’m working a little of my own magic here!
I don’t often colour my own art in – time constraints can limit me in this. Also, I love drawing so much and it takes me a lot less time to draw a design than it does to colour it. I can safely say I’m quite prolific when it comes to drawing, not so when it comes to colouring.
I’m also colouring this relatively small and less detailed design to fathom out the mysteries of the synthetic brush setting. I think I may be getting the hang of it and how I can make it work for me.
I actually like the less than perfect finish I’ve achieved, which has surprised me for sure. I actually really like the slightly battered feel to the orange pods in the artwork.
I’m usually obsessed with perfectly smooth colour gradients, whether achieved by digital tools or by more traditional methods of blending (whether working with traditional or digital media).
A good friend of mine (yes, you know who you are if you read this) did tell me when I bought my first Microsoft Surface a couple of years ago that it would open ways for me to create art and develop my artistic skills. It certainly has, and continues, to do that for sure.
I am aware that it’s quite a slow process where I’m concerned. Yes, I could go and watch and read tutorials on how to use the various brushes and settings.
I’ve tried that. The information given totally overwhelms me.
Being easily overwhelmed by information or sensations is something that is part of my cPTSD. If I get too overwhelmed, I tend to either walk away, end up in a panic or become fearful to face something again.
However, I do get a sense of satisfaction out of working out or discovering something for myself, when I actually need that something. Once I’ve become confident and comfortable with a particular skill, I’m then ready to discover more add more skills to my personal skill/tool box.
I never stop learning, discovering, and finding new ways to express myself creatively. I may no longer try to use a huge range of different media – my default these days is definitely digital. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in that. No doubt I will dabble with new kinds of media or creative skills from time to time (such as my toe-dipping into paper quilling; it’s not at all my kind of thing, but I had to try it to find out).
I still love drawing with pen on paper, but being able to scan that in and add colour digitally means I can make the best of both worlds. I can also keep all the little imperfections and smudges that result from drawing with pen and ink on paper, that add that more human touch to them, if I wish. Or I can draw digitally, keeping things clean and a bit more perfect. Either way works for me.
And so I finally overcome my own personal stigma concerning digital art vs traditional.
It’s Monday so it’s EMDR day for me. I have no idea what the session will bring for me.
What I can say, though, is that though last week’s session was rather emotional and distressing, I seemed to recover quite quickly from it. By Wednesday I’d returned to a state of some contentment and that has mostly stayed with me since then.
I do know I have a busy week with anti-stigma talks for Time to Change Wales being given tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday, and then a double talk next Monday. As well as working on templates for the newest coloring book for Dover Publications Inc, I need to make sure I have time to look after myself and not avoid the feelings I may have after EMDR today.
I also know I have a busy week with other commitments too…
At least there’s some sunshine today, even though there are some big, puffy, grey and white clouds mostly covering the sky. There’s plenty of breaks in the clouds.
Yesterday I had some fun drawing some postcard sized pieces of Entangled art. Especially fun as I stumbled across a book I’d bought some years ago and had forgotten about. The book is “Zibu – The power of angelic symbology” by Debbie Zylstra Almstedt.
As it says, the book contains loads of symbols with different meanings and I think that’s what drew me to the book in the first place. It was nice to stumble upon it and it seemed to be a moment of synchronicity as I was thinking about what I could put on the postcards, so this was perfect!
Transition was the first symbol I turned to, particularly symbolic for me as I’m going through a transition via my CPTSD healing journey. And in the book, the author suggests aquamarine and green are colours that go with this particular symbol, so that’s the choice of my colour scheme.
I drew the design on an A6 sized piece of Bristol Board using Sheaffer and Pilot medium point pens. After scanning the design in I coloured it digitally using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, a Microsoft Surface Pen and a Microsoft Surface Studio.
I found both the drawing and colouring rather peaceful processes, the colouring made more so as I wanted to stick to the green and aquamarine colour scheme, though I did sneak in some greyish blue and greenish yellow.
It won’t be long before I head off to Neath for my weekly EMDR session. The day is gloriously sunny and is due to be rather warm for a late winter day. I’ve a window or two open to let the fresh but cool air into my home. This weather certainly does lift my spirits somewhat. I plan to go early so I can have a walk around before my appointment later this afternoon, as well as a leisurely lunch with some journaling and drawing too.
Francine Shapiro is the person who developed EMDR therapy and this quote from her exemplifies what I’ve becoming more and more aware of through my three and a half years of EMDR.
Today, I am really ‘not with it’ and feeling quite spacey and vague and very tired. I had a broken night’s sleep with very, very weird and disturbing dreams. This often happens after EMDR.
I know that I need some self-care time today, and maybe tomorrow given how I’m presently feeling. I’m also in need of a walk outside, but I’m awaiting a delivery from Amazon. I hope it arrives soon so I can get a walk in early this afternoon.
There were two particularly significant moments during my session yesterday.
The first one was a result of a suggestion by my therapist that I’m keeping secrets about things that have happened to me, particularly in my adult life. There are things I’m too, too ashamed and embarrassed about to talk about even with her. My throat closes up and becomes painful. I feel burning in my cheeks. There’s terror and huge anxiety in the pit of my stomach. She went on to say that in the article she had read it was suggested that clients write about these experiences. She suggested I do that. She added she did not need to read them or be told about them, that she can act as a ‘blind therapist’ where we just assign a code to the particular traumatic event and work with it that way. She even suggested I can burn the things I write after writing them so no one else can ever read them.
The relief I felt with this suggestion and discussion was immense. The discussion that ensued was enlightening in another way. That I’ve never ever really spoken to anyone about my feelings, especially when I was the one upset, hurt, abused in some way. I always put a smiley, brave face on and brushed all the emotions to one side, defaulting to the happy, funny, quick to laugh, person who chatters about faff and fluff.
By pushing away all that hurt and upset and so on I’ve also tried to tell myself that it’s ok, I can cope with this, that I’m incredibly caring about other people and their feelings and want them to be happy. Scared that if I spoke truly about how I was feeling that I would be rejected or that the other person(s) would become angry and would hate me and think badly of me.
So, instead, I brushed it all aside and swallowed it down, often with food, using the food to fill the emptiness within me, to hide the feelings of shame and fear and more. I’ve done this so much in my past that I’m having to learn what emotions feel like and what they are called as they crop up during EMDR.
I was with my older sister and younger brother visiting the British Museum and we stumbled upon the Sutton Hoo treasures. I was entranced by them, only having seem them previously in books. It was hard work to drag me away from the to go visit the mummies in the Egyptology section. My older sister said she’d never seen me so emotional and excited about something; she actually called me an ice maiden as I rarely showed any emotion at all, other than the happy, smiley, funny persona I put across. I was in my twenties then. No idea of emotions or how to express them, swallowing them down all the time.
So, writing about these experiences now, from a position where I understand more about myself, am more aware of emotions and feelings will mean that they are no longer secret, it doesn’t matter that others don’t know about them, but it’s important that I don’t keep secrets from myself and face up to the traumas and feelings I have suppressed from these events.
The second insight was during EMDR when I had a vision of myself looking into one of those mirrors that reflects things to infinity, but in this case it was like the reflections went around and around in a circle. The insight was that this is what has happened to me. I’ve got caught in a cycle of the same kind of things happening again and again – different but the same effects on me, the trauma they’ve caused me and continue to cause me as instead of knowing how to process them in a healthy manner I learned from a very young age to suppress anything I needed to talk about or needed help with because I was upset as no one wanted to know. I was bothersome. A whiner. An attention seeker. A liar. When I was upset the people supposed to care got angry with me. Or just ignored me. Or sent me away.
I am unaware of much of my past, particularly my childhood. I have few memories at all. That bothers me, but my therapist tells me I need to let it just be. People like me, who’ve had quite traumatic lives, often forget what has happened to them as a way of protecting themselves from that particular trauma, especially when there is no one they can talk to about it to help them work through it.
My past really does affect my present. However, I’m becoming more aware of the ways in which it has affected me, more aware that I do have emotions, and I’m trying to believe I deserve to think better of myself, that maybe I didn’t deserve any of this, and that although I’ve allowed things to happen to me I shouldn’t be so hard on myself as I need to understand why, what brought me to that point, why I can’t say ‘no’ easily.
So the quote is very appropriate.
About the art
This is very much a work in progress at the moment.
I printed out the quote and borders on Bristol Board. The design is a little less than A5 in size (4.5″ x 7.25″ approx). Then, I added the patterns around it using two Pilot Kakuno fountain pens – one with a medium nib and one with a broad pen.
After scanning the design in, I wanted to add colour to it, so I used my trusty trio – Microsoft Surface Pen, Microsoft Surface Studio and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.
I think the dark stars at the top could symbolise those parts of me I’d like to ignite after they were extinguished a long, long time ago – confidence, self esteem, the ability to say no, valuing myself, being a good friend to myself, and more …
The tangled nature of the design, with many parts seeming to blend one into another, sometimes not in a very comfortable manner, is like all the trauma and experiences I have had – a tangled mess where I pull on one thing in EMDR and a whole host of others come along with it, all linked by a common effect or effects they had on me.
Flowers blooming, leaves all signs of growth though, even if some are hidden at the moment.
I’m sure there’s more that could be said about it in terms of my journey of recovery from cPTSD along with developing mental and emotional wellbeing. However, not today as the chap from Amazon has delivered the parcels to me. In them are some basic things for me to try my hand at paper quilling.
I’ve been fascinated with some youtube videos on paper quilling, particularly the more modern forms and I was also struck at how some of them seem to be similar to my kind of drawing that has lots of spirals and swirls in it. So, I thought I’d have a go and see what I can do with it!
But first, it’s time for a walk … to see if that can help clear my head a little. I think a little trip to Barry Sidings is in order.
Yesterday was a day where I was out of sorts for some unspecified reason. Drawing little, intricate bits of art was the only thing that helped to soothe me and calm me. Along with comfort eating, which was not good way to cope.
I get days like this. I have no idea what triggered this response. It may have been a visit to my accountant on Tuesday and the tax bill to pay – I have absolutely nothing to worry about with either, but dealing with finances is a trigger for the anxiety and depression that are part of my cPTSD.
I know I was on edge about the meeting, even though I knew there would be nothing to worry about. The anxiety had been gradually growing through the previous few days. This anxiety provoked the warning signs of an incipient migraine/stress headache on Tuesday morning. Luckily I caught it in time with painkillers so that it didn’t develop into a full blown migraine and after the meeting I was left tired but feeling more at ease.
Yesterday, the anxiety ramped up again as I went to get the paperwork and bank card to make the payments. So, yesterday I needed to manage my anxiety and tiny, intricate drawings were what was needed.
Today, I know I have to do these things, and I will. I don’t have the anxiety I had about them yesterday. I think yesterday was just too close to a few days of spiralling anxiety as accounts day approached closer and closer.
cPTSD can make doing the simple things in life far more difficult to do. I do get things done, though I do have to be kind to myself at times, making sure I have plenty of time before the deadline.
I used fountain pens on white paper to draw the designs. The M is on paper that is around 4″ x 4″, the G is a little narrower than 4″ for some reason.
After scanning them in, I did a bit of digital wizardry to fill the letters with a gold foil texture, just to see what it would look like, and they look OK to me. I’m not too keen on the black line around the G though. I do like the contrast of the golden letters and the black and white designs around them.
Today, I have to colour the cover for my next book for Dover Publications Creative Haven series. And keep warm and safe. I woke up to a lovely sunrise with a frosty world – everything was covered with white. I know the temperature was down to -3ºC last night as I came home around 10:30 pm, and it would only have got colder as the skies were clear and starry. It’s beginning to go now, but clouds have covered the sky.
The frost is beginning to disappear now, but clouds have covered the blue skies. Snow is forecast for a bit later on today. I like to see snow. I like the way the world falls silent in heavy snow as it seems to muffle the usual background noise of modern times. I’m wise enough to know that for me to go out in snow is never a wise idea; I tend to slip and slide and fall and hurt myself. So, as I have nothing pressing that requires me to leave home, I’ll be staying safe and warm indoors! Once the cover is coloured, my attention will go to February’s templates for the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans Facebook group. Someone there has asked for some simpler templates like my dangle designs, so I think that’s exactly what I’m going to do!