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.
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 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.
Today’s Inktober prompts were rat skull, Lactarius indigo fungi, and the cubine tangle pattern from Instagram lists by @book_polygamist, @nyan_sun and @havepen_willdraw.
What did I end up with? A very stylised drawing that is rather Art Nouveau in style.
I have to say that I absolutely LOVE the rat skull. I also am rather enamored by the Art Nouvea-y fungi and fronds.
Simple colours were needed for this design, along with a texture overlay that makes it look a little less ‘digitally perfect’.
Yes, I did draw this digitally, again using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro and a Surface Pen and Surface Studio from Microsoft.
I may not get tomorrow’s Inktober done, as I won’t be home until quite late tonight I think.
World Mental Health Day 2019
I’m currently sat in a hotel in Llandudno, having breakfast and getting myself ready to go and set up a table and take part at an event in a different hotel.
I’m going to be at the Wales Health at Work Partnership Summit where I’ll be talking to delegates but also taking part in the ‘Open Minds’ workshops in the afternoon, which is all about taking positive action on mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
I’m there as a Time to Change Wales champion, and so will be giving a short version of my mental health story at the start of the workshops.
Time to Change Wales is an all-Wales campaign that aims to reduce, if not end, the stigma and discrimination around mental illness by getting people to have conversations about mental health.
I’ve suffered poor mental health all my life, having developed cPTSD in early childhood. The rest of my life, until the past few years, saw my mental health decline until I had two big breakdowns. EMDR therapy has been the ‘magic pill’ for me, that is helping me to process and release the traumas of my past and replace the negative beliefs I have about myself with more positive ones.
If I had known what good mental and emotional health was, as well as what it wasn’t, sooner in my life I may have sought help sooner. The self-stigma I have experienced around my own mental health prevented me from recognizing I had a problem and also made it difficult for me to seek help.
Indeed, my mental and emotional ill health would cause physical ill health in me when I was ignoring the stress, depression, anxiety, fear, hypervigilence, and other symptoms of cPTSD.
If I can change attitudes, make people more aware of what good mental health is, help people to recognise that they too may be suffering and then seek help, then I’m doing a good thing. Oh, and of course getting people to talk about mental health, thus beginning to break down the stigma.
So, today is a good day for everyone to ask those they meet not just to ask ‘How are you feeling?’ and accept the first answer given, but to repeat the question, ‘No, really, how are you feeling?’ to let them know you really are interested in them it’s ok for them to tell you that they’re not ok.
So, Angela, how are you today?
I’m tired. I never sleep well away from home and I did have quite a broken night’s sleep.
However, I am also quite pleased with myself. I managed to stop at a Starbucks on the 4 hour journey to Llandudno for something to drink and eat. I then had a good walk along the sea front and pier after booking into my hotel and having a mug of tea. Then, I actually went to an Indian restaurant by myself to have an evening meal!
Maybe it was out of sheer necessity I went out. However, I could’ve just picked sandwiches or some such at a Sainsbury’s local a short walk away. But I didn’t.
I also didn’t feel all that awkward in the restaurant. I did wish I’d brought my Kindle along so I could read while waiting to be served throughout my visit. I do have the Kindle app on my phone, but I didn’t have a good enough signal in the restaurant to download the book I’m reading.
I am also feeling a little anxious about today, which is only to be expected. I’m going to a strange place, talking to people I don’t know about something that is important but that also can provoke an emotional response in me.
Swallow skull, Clathus Ruber and Lola tangle pattern.
This one is a riot of colour and I’m not entirely sure it works. However, I took my colour inspiration from the Clathus ruber fungus and thought green would play nicely against the reds, oranges and yellows. I’m not at all sure about the end result.
The swallow skull was simple to draw, so I took the opportunity to try colouring and shading with it to gain some depth and dimension. I think I achieved it, though the contrast between shadow and light could be greater.
The skull was so small so it lent itself to being drawn in a mandala-style ring; that’s how I ended up drawing another mandala today.
I definitely stylised the Clathus ruber fungus, with it ending up looking more like a holey autumnal leaf than the fungus itself. However, no one said the fungus had to be realistic!
The lola tangle pattern formed the two outer rings of foliage.
I worked digitally using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with a Surface Pen and Surface Studio from Microsoft.
I’m using Inktober 2019 prompts from these lovely people on Instagram – @book_polygamist (animal skulls), @nyan_sun (mushrooms) and @havepen_willdraw (tangle patterns).
A little later today I’m going to wend my way to Llandudno for an overnight stay in preparation for an event tomorrow, which is mental health day. I’m attending the Wales Health at Work Partnership Summit to set up a small stand and to take part in two ‘Open Minds’ workshops, which will focus on mental health and wellbeing in the work environment.
I’m feeling a bit anxious, which is normal. I’ve never been to Llandudno. I’ve not travelled further north than Llandridnod Wells (which is on my route). I’m travelling alone, overnight, for the first time in many, many years.
Challenges for me will be eating. I’m not good at going into unfamiliar places by myself to eat, especially at night. I’d also like to take a walk along the seafront and I’m hoping I’ll be able to manage that too. I also would like to stop along my way for a late lunch.
I’m feeling a bit tired. I had a really weird dream that relates to the anxiety I feel about the trip.
So, I’d better finish posting Inktober day 9 across my social media and then myself packed and sorted for my little trip.
A bit more done on this work today and yesterday evening. As usual my tools are Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.
So, how are you today Angela?
I’m tired. EMDR yesterday was very, very emotional and draining. The negative thought I started with was that I’m a failure. That went to I’m never good enough for anyone.
I was getting so emotionally upset (distressed) that my therapist voiced quite a bit of concern about me throughout the process and kind of called it to a halt to do something different, but still working with it all.
At the start of the session it was noted how well I was looking, and my therapist has a feeling she’ll be losing me soon … which is signs I really am making good progress. I also know that’s part of the therapy process, preparing the client for therapy coming to an end…
So, all’s good. I’m emotional today, but there’s that contentedness there, and not a lot of anxiety either.
I’ve had weird dreams overnight, and memories cropping up I thought I’d firmly locked away. They’re all connected to the negative belief, however. So, I suspect processing is still going on.
So onwards I go towards healing and being good enough. More importantly believing I am good enough.
Three years ago I spent time with friends from a school I’d taught at for 27 years. As I look back on my time there it mostly seems a distant memory.
My life has changed in so many ways.
Being self-employed as an artist, illustrator and author is a wonderful thing, it barely feels like work as it is something I love to do for pleasure as well as to contracts. I choose my own workload and what I wish to do for the day.
There’s no appalling attitudes or behaviour to deal with (well rarely).
Healing from CPTSD is continuing, and perhaps the source of so many, many positive changes for me.
Three years ago I wouldn’t have thought I would ever feel content with a really low level of anxiety. I rarely ever go to sleep wishing I wouldn’t wake up. That was a nearly daily occurrence in the several years marking my leaving teaching for good after two huge ‘breakdowns’ where I had nearly broken my mind and my will through struggling in work and with a sharply declining mental and emotional health.
Looking back on my life, my mental and emotional health were never good; it’s always been degrees of how bad they’ve been. The mask of smiling happiness and competence was constructed at an early age. I bought into the lie of that mask and it took my mind and emotions nearly breaking to make me face up to that fact that I had some serious problems mentally and emotionally.
I lost my ability to read. Rather, I lost my ability to make sense, process, and remember what I was reading. I could hear the words in my mind but they may just as well have been in an alien tongue. It’s only in recent months that my ability to read and take in what I’m reading has been returning. It’s still hard work, but I persevere.
For over two years I couldn’t drive past the school where I talked, even in night time. I now can. A sign of healing and progress I think.
Gradually, I’m finding the strength and courage to leave my home more often by myself, not just for appointments but just because I can. It’s slow progress, but it’s happening. I get startled into hyper-vigilance still fairly easy, and panic attacks can ensue and I go into full flight mode back to the safety of my car or home. They seem to happen less often though, but they’re still there.
There are still many things that need healing or strengthening with me. Such as finding the confidence and belief in myself to sell my art and promote it.
I still carry many negative beliefs about myself; they’re like a many headed monster that when one head is slayed another becomes visible that was hidden in the crowd of faces.
However, eventually there will be no place these faces can hide, no places for the negative beliefs to hide, and the end will be in sight.
I will get there. It just takes some time.
Thanks to my fabulous EMDR therapist, I’m improving all the time. Even when what seems like a backwards step at the time seems to result in more forwards movement given enough time.
Yes, in three years my life has changed noticeably, and for the better, I think.
About the art…
The little bit of art above is my newest work in progress (WIP). I couldn’t find my ‘Be Brave’ art yesterday and thought I’d start a new one. Today, ‘Be Brave’ was very obviously in the folder for July’s artwork. I just couldn’t see it for looking!
The swirly bits will be changed on this one. They’re not working out for me the way I hoped they would. I will work it out though.
Of course, I’m using my trifecta of tools – Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Studio and Microsoft Surface Pen.
It’s coming along as I take a break from drawing coloring templates. Working on something like this clears my mind of the coloring template just completed and lets me start afresh on the next one.
I’m not entirely sure about the darker ring of motifs. However, I know there’s a point in creating art that things seem to be going horribly wrong. All that I need to do is to push through that, keep going, and it will turn out OK.
I am trying to work within a palette of greens, green-blues and golds. I want to keep my palette fairly simple. So far, it seems to be working out ok.
So, Angela, how are you doing today?
I’m doing fine, feeling quite content with that soft inner smile, though I woke with a horrible headache. I think that was due to an anxious time at a meeting last night. I often suffer something that is migraine-like as quite elevated anxiety gradually leaks away to return to my usual background level.
Oh! The joys of CPTSD.
Today, I’ve also noticed that I have a hair-trigger for increased anxiety. A knock at the door, voices outside have had me feeling very anxious and somewhat scared. Need to get my noise-cancelling headphones, I think.
I often listen to either music or an audio-book while I create art. I also love to listen to a book as I crochet.
At the moment I’m listening to “Revan”, book number 2 in the Old Republic series of Star Wars books, just in case you’re interested in knowing that.
Anyway, back to my emotional health.
Being able to cut out the noise of the scary world outside the relative safety of my home is something that I do need to do when my anxiety is provoked. I am aware that too much of that and I can have a strong startle response and even head off into the realms of hyper-vigilance.
So, my next task today is to go get those headphones and put a load in the washing machine before returning to do some more art today. I think I may need some lunch too.
My current work in progress is a mandala. Also, I’m using my line art as a guide for the coloured areas which is quite different for me to do. No black lines in the finished design. Not a one will there be.
I’m working digitally using my trusty trio of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio. I have also chosen a coloured, texture background for the design to sit/float upon.
Just as a guide, it took me an hour or so to draw out the mandala design. So far I’ve spent around 6 hours on adding the colour and so on – and that’s with the help of the symmetry tool in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. If I’d had to do each section individually it would’ve taken me eight times as long!
You can see I still have a lot to do, so it’s going to be a long term project for sure.
I’m actually enjoying this one. It’s been rather soothing to do given that I’ve not been feeling too well with some kind of upset tummy. I’m still not fully well today but I am feeling a fair bit better than I did yesterday, thank goodness.
So, how are you feeling today Angela?
Other than still feeling not too well physically with some kind of dodgy tummy, I’m quite contented.
Contented is good enough I think. I’m being creative, quietly so. I’m enjoying listening to Audible (currently it’s “Fatal Alliance” the first in the Star Wars Old Republic series of books. This one is authored by Sean Williams) as I’m being artsy. However, as I type I’m listening to the Maroon 5 station on Amazon Music. I can’t write and listen to a book!
To go back to my mental and emotional health, I feel quite content and my anxiety levels are at the manageable background levels, which is barely noticeable unless I focus on them. That is good enough for me, though I do know that it doesn’t take much for them to be triggered.
The CPTSD hair triggers that lead to emotional flashbacks. Not clear memories of a traumatic event, the emotional memories of a series of similar events that tapped into the stored trauma of the first traumatic event, reinforcing the trauma again and again and again.
That’s one way in which CPTSD is different to PTSD.
As I become more aware of my emotions and what can trigger an emotional response I’m more able to manage how I interact (or not) with the world until that trigger no longer affects me.
All part of self care which is so important.
My recovery from CPTSD is a work in progress, something I won’t stop until I’m good enough in terms of my mental and emotional wellbeing as well as my relationship with myself.
I drew the design on Winsor and Newton Bristol Board using Unipin pens and then I’ve added colour digitally, as well as a rose gold coloured and textured background.
I chose pink as a fairly dominant colour as Brett loves pink so much.
Oh, to colour I used Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.
So Angela, how have you been?
I’ve been quiet on social media over the past few days. I’ve needed some quiet time to myself, which has involved an awful lot of crocheting. I’ve not even done anything much that has been arty either.
The reason for this is that I’ve not been feeling all that well. Nothing serious. just not well. I had a migraine on Sunday that took all day to go and left me exhausted.
Also, I’ve not been feeling right in my digestive system/stomach for a few days. This happens on a fairly regular basis (monthly) but this time it was rather unpleasant.
Last night, it hit new highs as I woke hot, sweaty, nauseous and headachy. Thank goodness it was rather chilly here in the UK and I had the windows open. The cool air was pleasant as I lay uncovered. It all passed eventually without me being sick, however I still feel yeuchy today and very, very tired.
Yesterday I had EMDR and that was an interesting session that left me rather tired later in the day. Another inner child made their presence known and I had help to communicate with them, which was so much easier after last weeks session. This child was all to do with loud voices, arguing voices and being startled and upset by them. So, we did some EMDR work with the emotions that came up from that child. A lot of body work was being done with pains around my body as the trauma was being processed with EMDR. Also, lots of memories of raised voices, harsh voices, argumentative voices…and just noisy environments.
I’ve known for a long while that I can be triggered into startle or panic mode when I hear a sudden loud voice or noise around me. I try to remember to take noise cancelling headphones or earphones with me so I can listen to music and not hear such sounds when I’m out and about, especially when I’m feeling rather fragile.
Saturday I flinched and became a bit panicked as I was talking to someone while waiting for a meeting outside a building in my local town. Sunday evening someone spoke quite harshly to me. I don’t think they realised it, but the response in me was one of upset and to withdraw from the situation, permanently.
So, we work with this in EMDR to heal those traumatised parts of me represented by these children.
Hmm, I wonder if these different aspects of me from times when I’ve been traumatised are coming forward so easily because I have so few concrete memories of events.
Either way, as crazy as it may seem to you, it seems to be helping me, and that is all that matters as far as I’m concerned.
Three more hours work done colouring this drawing in digitally. Slow process, but an engaging one, especially as I’m still exploring how different brushes and effects work. Slow but I think it’s coming along quite nicely.
I do need a bit of a break from it now for a little while, however. More tea is needed and it’s about lunchtime.
Drawn with Tombow Fudenosuke and Lamy fountain pens on Winsor and Newton bristol board. Digitally coloured using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.
So, how are you today Angela?
This section is becoming a regular feature on my blog, isn’t it?
It’s important for us to talk about our mental and emotional health and recognise how they are in the way we do for our physical health. I hope that when I share little bits of my continuing tale of recovery from CPTSD it may help to break down the stigma and discrimination that there is around mental health and wellbeing.
Today I’m feeling ok, content. That’s all I have to say about my emotional and mental state today – contented.