Over the last couple of days we’ve had some glorious late winter, sunny, mild weather. The kind of weather that can uplift my spirits.
It’s also lovely to see the late winter flowers bursting into bloom – snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils – and even celandines and daisies showing the heads in the sunshine. I also spotted the first signs of pussy willow about to burst into its furry delightfulness. The cascading catkins always lift my spirits. They’re all signs that winter is coming to an end and spring is waiting ready to burst forth.
I woke this morning with the idea of a simple monogram dangle design in my head. I knew it had to have a pusscat in it along with a snowdrops. It’s been a while since I included a cat in a dangle design, but today is the perfect day for that. Actually, every day is a perfect day to draw a cute, cuddly cat. A white cat to match the white snowdrops. I also included a paw print charm; my beautiful white cat, Cuffs, certainly left very deep paw prints on my heart and though I said goodbye to him last year after over 16 years with him as my companion he lives on in those paw prints and my memories of him.
The monogram had to be an S for snowdrops and spring. The monogram also had to have a spring flower as part of it’s design.
I’ve chosen quite a pastel and simple colour scheme for this dangle design to reflect the more pastel colours of spring. I also included a black and white chequerboard frame for the monogram, to add some contrast and some ‘weight’ to the design, grounding it onto the paper.
A sunny blue background with the cooler sky colours of winter but with the warmth of the sun seemed appropriate. It reminds me of these glorious days we’ve had that are presaging the coming spring.
I started by sketching my design out with pencil on paper. I scanned this sketch in and then re-drew the design with a technical pen ‘brush’ in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro using a Microsoft Surface Pen on the screen of a Microsoft Surface Studio. Then it was time to colour, again working digitally in this instance.
My final job was to choose a square background and I wanted one that spoke of sunshine and the threshold of spring, so I went for a soft yellow watercolour wash.
The whole task has taken me around 2 hours to do. It’s a simple design, with simple colouring.
If you like this dangle design and would like to learn how to draw your own then my book ‘A Dangle A Day’ takes you through the steps and has lots of dangles you can use to create your own designs as well as suggestions for where you could use them.
I created a really simple mandala for Valentine’s day. A day that is about love. A mandala that doesn’t have a single black line in it! That’s rather unusual for me!
Soft greens and pinks really speak to me about self-care – which is about taking care of oneself, treating yourself and speaking to yourself kindly and with compassion.
Compassion to oneself, that’s what ‘loving oneself’ is all about. Being your own best friend, speaking to yourself as you would a best friend in need.
This is one of the hardest things I have to learn as part of my cPTSD recovery.
I say learn, as it’s something I’ve never done or knew how to do, ever. Being kind to myself in words and deeds.
The inner critic is never kind, caring or patient and never ever has good advice. I think I’m a good friend to others, I try to be kind, caring and patient and if I’m asked I try to give good advice, even if that is ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer to that but lets see if we can find it together’.
I’m very, very rarely, if ever, kind to myself in that way. If anything, the emotional neglect and abuse I experienced from the earliest time I can remember taught me to hate myself, that I wasn’t worth anything. It’s hard to overturn beliefs from the past, beliefs about myself fostered by the attitudes and behaviours of others towards me when I have no point of reference to when I didn’t think about myself in this way. The inertia of the past, the power of the inner critic constantly wants to drag me back to how things always have been in terms of how I think and feel about myself.
However, every single time I manage to show myself some caring, some kindness, some patience, some compassion it’s a victory over the inner critic. And each little victory is vital as it is teaching me that I can learn to be that friend to myself that I so desperately need.
So, Valentine’s day is about love, we tell others we love them, but let’s make today also a day where we show ourselves some kindness, compassion, patience and caring, for the sake of our mental and emotional wellbeing. And lets not just do that on this one day, lets make it a part of every day of our lives. Lets learn how to befriend ourselves.
Yesterday was very much a quiet, self-care day. Today, I’m feeling better in terms of energy and concentration.
This mandala was a product of yesterday’s quiet downtime doing art for arts sake. Though it was this morning I thought I’d like golden outlines to the design rather than the usual black. It took me a while to get my head around doing that!
I like the way I’ve repeated the simple spiral pattern in three layers. Keeping the colour palette simple has also worked nicely for me, even though the combination of colours is an unusual one for me. The colours remind me of cacti with flowers and a soft, golden sun.
I could mention that green is about achieving balance, the red is the energy I need to stoke up on, but a softer, more gentle kind of motivational energy. Golden sunshine is the healing I see. The way the spirals flow outwards and are unfurling suggests growth , springing forth from seeds long lain dormant in the ground of my soul. There’s hints of buds ready to bloom there too. Maybe the golden background and lines are suggesting that I am worth more than I think I am, that I do deserve better.
Oops, I have mentioned that! But somehow this mandala seems to show how I’m progressing in my recovery from cPTSD.
Now how’s that for an insightful piece of art?
No matter whether you agree with the interpretation of the mandala or not, it was definitely a calming and soothing experience, both the drawing and colouring.
It is a piece of digital art. I used my usual Microsoft Surface Pen, Microsoft Surface Studio and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro to create this mandala.
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.
I’ve created two coloring templates for Time To Talk Day, which is tomorrow, and the art above was created using one of them, but more about that later in this wittering.
Time to Change Day and mental health
The whole idea of the day is to get people talking about mental health. Mental health problems affect 1 in 4 of us, yet people are still afraid to talk about it. There’s still a huge stigma surrounding mental ill-health and that leads to discrimination of those experiencing mental illness.
I’m one of the 1 in 4. My cPTSD means that I am constantly anxious and it’ doesn’t take much of a trigger to get me into a full state of panic. I can have bouts of depression, nowadays not as deep or dark as they have been in the fairly recent past. I get emotional flashbacks to times of trauma. I don’t remember many traumatic experiences, but my body remembers the feelings associated with that trauma and I experience them yet again, retraumatising me.
Thanks to EMDR, however, these emotional flashbacks are less common and sometimes aren’t quite as intense, sometimes just as intense.
I have a whole host of other issues related to cPTSD and a quick google will bring back lots of information if you’re interested.
Tomorrow I will have my champions hat on for Time to Change Wales as I go to give an anti-stigma talk to a group of police officers in Ton Pentre and then on to man (woman?) a stand in Port Talbot after that. That means I won’t be parking in the police station car park again after my last experience there!
The anti-stigma talk has me telling people a little about Time To Change Wales, the statistics for mental illness, what stigma and discrimination there are and then I tell my story of my mental illness.
The talks wipe me out emotionally. I end up exhausted and often with what I call an emotional ‘hangover’ – I feel headachy and spaced out, sometimes quite upset too.
However, I consider that a small price to pay if my talks (and my blogs) help one person to recognise their mental health isn’t what it should be, or to find the courage to seek help as they know they are struggling.
It’s also important as meeting champions who have experienced or are experiencing mental health problems helps to break the stereotypes of what people with mental illnesses look like and behave.
I’m well on my path to recovery. I don’t know if that will be a full recovery from cPTSD or whether it will be a good enough recovery that I’m resilient to lifes ups and downs, that I’ll be able to form meaningful relationships, trust people, be able to travel by myself, be able to go places because I can go there not because I have to have some reason…and more.
I know that crowded, noisy places are always likely to be a no no – I don’t appear it, but I am an introvert. I learned to wear a mask of extroversion (among other masks) when I was very young and that mask kind of protects what is beneath it. Wearing that mask is exhausting.
So, back to the art.
I’ve created two coloring templates for Time to Talk Day 2019. Originally they were for the colouring day being run as part of Time to Talk Day at the Welsh Office! I’ve also made the templates available to Time to Change Wales and Mind have copies of them too, so they’ll be available over social media.
To create the art above I used one of the templates as a basis for the art. I think you’ll agree that this is a very different piece of art from me. It’s rather graphic and quite 1960s psychedelic too!
I had a lot of fun doing this artwork and I’m surprisingly happy with the result.
It is digital art; I used my usual trio of Microsoft Surface Studio, Microsoft Surface Pen along with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro to create it, along with my creativity.
designed a template for Time To Talk day which is 7th Feb 2019 – a day where people are asked to start a conversation about mental health
designed and coloured a dangle design for the lunar new year
got my emotions, feelings, thoughts somewhat back into near balance after a brutal EMDR session yesterday for my cPTSD; as is often the case the session appears gentle, but it’s not till afterwards I feel the exhaustion, upset, and so on of the traumas being processed
get my Instagram account disabled for a breach of their rules, guidelines or something.
I’m not sure which is the most noteworthy or the biggest success!
I have no idea why Instagram have disabled my account. I’ve tried to contact them but the email address just bounces back, though the Messenger message has gone through. I suspect it may be to do with my rant about copyright infringement, but it was never directed at Instagram or anyone on instagram that I know … sheesh.
So, I guess if Instagram no longer want me there, then so be it. I shan’t be setting up another account with them that’s for sure if I don’t get some idea about what it is I’m supposed to have done!
Anyways, it’s Lunar New Year and the lucky colours for the year are red, green and purple, so that’s why that’s the colour scheme for the dangle. I thought a gold background would go with the opulence of the colours; I’m not so sure about that now!
It was a very quick drawing and colouring session for the dangle design.
Talking of dangle designs, my book A Dangle A Day is now published. In the book I show how to create dangle designs, one step at a time and there’s a whole host of different dangle designs you can use for various celebrations and events throughout the year.