Phew! It’s been a week!

©Angela Porter 2019

It really has been a week for me. I seem to have dashed from one thing to another, sometimes seemingly without time to catch my breath. I’m still feeling dazed, mentally drained and emotionally fragile after it all, particularly the events of yesterday’s ‘Time to Talk Day’.

I do have, however, lying beneath all of this a sense of a gentle smile, a soft calmness that I have been aware of since starting loving kindness meditations to help me with self-compassion. It is this presence that I’m trying to focus on and find when I feel overwhelmed by tiredness and fragility.

The tiredness, the fragility will pass. Some of the fragility and the deafening shouting of the inner critic will need some help to dispel, and that’s where EMDR comes in. Bit by bit it seems EMDR is helping to disempower that inner critic, the beastie on my back.

Time to Talk Day – a review

It was good yesterday to be able to help out on Time to Talk Day as a champion for Time To Change Wales, draining as the anti-stigma talk in the morning was for me. I spoke to a lovely group of police officers from the South Wales Police at Ton Pentre Police Station. They even gave me two rounds of applause at the end of the talk.

Part of the anti-stigma talk is sharing my story of my mental illness, cPTSD, my life, how cPTSD has affected my life and the stigma and discrimination I’ve faced as a result of it.

The biggest stigma I’ve had to contend with is self-stigma. It was that which stopped me from acknowledging the thoughts and feelings I had about myself were not healthy and it stopped me from seeking help for a very long time – nearly 50 years of my life.

It is draining to tell my story. I get some emotional flashbacks. I’m letting people know some of the most difficult times of my life in terms of what I was thinking and feeling at that time, though I don’t share everything that has happened to me in terms of trauma. I still can’t talk about some of it, and some of it I have amnesia about – a coping strategy for those like me who have traumas they can’t speak about. There were traumas that were horrifying to me at the time and I had no one to speak to about it. I didn’t think anyone would believe me. That inner critic still tells me I’m making it up, attention seeking, swinging the lead, pathetic, weak, useless, and more ugly words it has about me. I sometimes feel a total fraud when telling my story, doubting what few memories I have of my past, wondering if people actually believe me.

The evidence of the trauma is there in the way I think about myself and the way I speak to myself however. The trauma is also stored in my body and that comes out during EMDR, sometimes with a memory of something I had no recollection of until that time. That is extremely uncomfortable when it happens and it can challenge my view of my childhood experiences.

Why do I do this when it causes me some difficulties post-talk?

I want people to know what is mental health and what is not.

If I had known at a younger age that how I thought and felt and behaved wasn’t healthy maybe I would have sought out help sooner and maybe my life would have been different. I can’t do anything about that, though. I am doing my best to recover from all of this trauma and cPTSD. But if me talking about how my thoughts and emotions were helps them gain a better picture of good mental health vs poor mental health and perhaps even recognise in themselves that they’re struggling even a little and they get help, then that is a good job done.

That’s why I do this.

I want people to know that they are not alone in their struggles. Because mental health is something we don’t talk about, that people fear and fear talking about, it’s all too easy to feel that we’re alone. By talking about mental health, our own mental health, bit by bit we can change fear into understanding, stigma into acceptance and recognise that our mental and emotional health is as important as our physical health.

That’s why I do this.

I want to help break the stereotype of what someone experiencing mental ill-health looks and acts like.

That’s why I do this.

I battle with the shame of trauma that has been inflicted on me in my past, trauma that the perpetrators should feel shame about NOT me! I felt so shameful about struggling with my mental and emotional health as well. It’s enough to fight being ashamed of things others did to me without the shame of the stigma of mental illness too.

That’s why I do this.

I want people to know that it takes a lot of strength to live life when you’re not feeling well mentally or emotionally. It takes a lot of effort to do life’s daily tasks when you’re well, when you’re battling yourself, your mind, your emotions it takes a lot more energy and strength to do that. It takes a lot of energy to hide what goes on under the surface, what people can’t see – the storms in the mind and emotions – to appear that you’re coping well and can do everything. Doing that for too long and not recognising that I was struggling was what nearly broke my mind totally. I don’t want other people to experience that

That’s why I do this.

I am on the road to recovery from cPTSD. I want people to know you can recover. I want people to know that it is ok to ask for help.

As I explained to someone yesterday that if you want to learn to drive a car you seek out someone who can teach you and we’re not ashamed about this nor do we feel week about it either. However, if we’re struggling mentally or emotionally we don’t want to ask for help because of the fear of how people might view us – that’s the stigma and discrimination that exists. But if we need help and don’t know how to help ourselves we should feel able to ask for help for someone to help us learn the tools we need, tools we can add to our mental and emotional wellbeing kit, whatever those tools may be – medication, counselling, advice, help to see things in a different way, and so many more I’m sure.

That’s why I do this.

I’m sure there are many other reasons, but my brain is still tired and a bit addled from EMDR on Monday, which left me tired and drained and I hadn’t quite recovered from that for yesterday’s anti-stigma talk and then the stand at the ABM Trust Headquarters in Port Talbot.

Self Care Day

I do know that today I need to do a lot of self-care activities. That means doing things that are familiar to me. I think in artsy way I’ll be adding things to my visual reference Leuchtturm. I may also spend some time knitting and watching Star Wars. Again, these are familiar to me, there are no surprises waiting for me and I can just relax into them, and that is soothing to me when I’m emotionally drained.

I also need plenty of tea today. I have run out of milk though, so I’m going to have to brave the heavy rain and wild winds to pop out to get some, and some food that doesn’t take much in the way of preparation today as well. I think cooking, though it can be soothing could be annoying today.

The arty stuff

Usually on a Friday I’d post a dangle design. Today, I wanted to post a quote about mental health, and I decided to have a play with a similar very graphic style of art to place behind it. I’m not entirely sure the art works. No doubt I’ll have a go at another version later on today, perhaps.

For this one I sorted out the words and black boxes in Publisher and exported the page as a jpg file. I then used this file in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with my Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio to add the artwork behind the quote.

February dangle design

©Angela Porter 2019

Friday is dangle day here in my arty world, and as it’s the first day of February the dangle needs to relate to that!

I created this design for members of the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans facebook group (where today is furbaby friday). If you pop over then, join, then you can download the template to colour yourself.

The world is still in the grip of winter; I woke up this morning to a coverlet of snow covering everything. Yet again, I’m am so grateful that I work at home and don’t have to go out until it clears, even if that takes a day or so.

I wanted the colours in the dangle to reflect winter, but I also made Valentine’s Day a focus for the design, and I used that as an opportunity to include some more bits of hand lettering.

I did sketch the design out on Rhodia dot grid paper then scanned it in. I then re-drew the design digitally using my usual trio of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Book.

Today, I have a template or two to create for a colouring day at the Welsh Office in Cardiff on Time to Talk Day next Thursday. Time to Talk Day is the day where we’re encouraged to talk to people about mental health and well being. I don’t have anything to do on this day for Time to Change Wales, yet, or at any point in the week. I do have other projects to work on as well.

My own anxiety seems to have slid back to it’s usual constant background level after a stressful time earlier this week. It takes time. Mindfulness meditation helps somewhat, but it does take time for those stress response chemicals/hormones to leach out from my body even when I calm myself down.

Doing art does help too.

My book that takes you through drawing and designing dangles step by step – A Dangle A Day – is now published. Lots of ideas and examples of dangle designs are included in the book.

Inktober 2018 Day 20 ‘Breakable’ and Day 21 ‘Drain’

Angela Porter Inktober 2018 Day 20 Breakable and Day 21 Drain

Yesterday’s prompt ‘breakable’ got turned into ‘broken’ as that’s how I felt yesterday and still feel today in terms of creativity and inspiration.

Drain definitely became drained as that is how my brain feels at this time. I’ll be fine soon enough.

I don’t know what’s caused this, other than the icky-sickyness I’ve had for a day or two. Not as bad as Thursday night, but it seems to have left me shattered and more than a little bit ‘meh’. I seem to have slept well, but I still feel incredibly tired at the moment. Me being tired for no particular reason usually means something has overwhelmed or stressed me in someway that causes my mood to plummet which results in me feeling tired and usually tearful.

So, today I wanted to catch up on yesterday’s Inktober prompt and do a quick one for today.

And they were quick. Hand lettering practice. Making a list of things I can do for self-care when I feel this way. For me to recognise that I need some time out is a step forward in terms of me looking after myself and my mental and emotional health. Making a list  of things I can do for self-care is also a first I think.

For ‘drained’ it almost counts as a dangle design. I did draw some cute monsters and my white cat there with expressions that show I feel (even though I have a smile on my face and a bright and sunny disposition when engaging with people). I’m not sure the drunk looking skull applies to me – I just think he snuck in there just to lighten the mood a tad.

Sheesh, I really do need a lot of practice with hand lettering! However, these are just quick ‘sketches’. No colour. No fancy-schmancy designs or line patterns. Just the basics, including smudges, mistakes, pencil guide-lines that haven’t been fully erased…

Now, if I were to adapt/edit these to include in my Bullet Journal I would add colour, a few more dangles to the drained design…and perhaps a border full of intricate designs based on flowers and hearts.

It’s a big if though…maybe I will, when I feel up to it.

Today, though, I’m working through my directory of reference designs and patterns seeking out inspiration for the work on my latest Entangled book for Creative Haven. I’m also editing the collection and redrawing them so they can be housed in a new folder as the A5 filofax I was using is now full and I really want to put them on A4 sheets in a ring binder in poly pockets.

Doing familiar work like this is soothing to me. It also has the benefit of allowing me to practice my drawing skills. It lets me workout which patterns I really am likely to use and which can be left to one side in the A5 filofax. As I go through them, one by one, some jump out as being good ones to use in a template for the Entangled book, others for a different project. It also gives me a chance to try out different pens, or use pens I’d not use for any art/illustration/drawing project but I like to write with or use for things like this.

That nasty inner critic tells me I’m wasting my time. My kinder, gentler voice to do with self-care tells me I’m not as it’s helping stir up the cauldron of creativity inside me. As I re-visit and re-draw patterns/design elements they float to the surface and the potential for variety in my work is re-charged as a result.

The kind inner voice, self-talk, tells me if it soothes me when I need soothing, then that’s good.

The nasty inner critic says I’m procrastinating. Maybe that’s true, to a degree. But I’d rather take some time out to do something different, something that will stir up my creativity and recharge inspiration rather than plod on with unsatisfactory work for the book.

The kind inner version of self-talk is winning out, and that is a good thing for me! And a positive change.

What do you do when you need some time out to take care of your emotional and mental well being?