Another mandala today, this time with my favourite Hafiz quote in the centre.
I wanted a mandala that seemed to be almost glowing for this quote. Also, I added a very subtle rainbow colouring to it too. I’m quite happy with this mandala, though some darker shading behind some of the parts, along with some subtle highlights, would’ve helped with the dimensionality of the design.
I didn’t hand-letter the quote; instead I used a clear and simple pair of fonts. I do want to learn how to create circles of typography; I think the quotes would then be more sympathetic to the circular geometry of mandalas. I’ll need a bit of time to play around in Affinity Publisher and Affinity Designer to see if I can achieve this. Mind you, I do need to practice my hand lettering a lot more too.
All the same, I’m still happy with this design. The lettering will do – for now.
I always enjoy drawing mandalas, and it’s nice to revisit the line-art style of mandalas with lots of intricate patterns in them once again. They are so delicate, airy, lacy in feel compared to my more arty, abstract, coloured mandalas. They’re also a lot quicker to create!
This is the same illustration I used for yesterday’s quote, however, after adding some textural lines to the drawing, I’ve coloured the design.
I decided to use flat colours as it brings a feeling of a coloured wood cut or lino cut print to the design. I used a grungy texture overlay to enhance the vintage feel of the coloured design.
The line art was drawn using Tombow Fudenosuke and Faber-Castell Pitt Artist pens on paper, but the colouring, textures and text have been added digitally. I used Affinity Publisher to produce the typography. A Microsoft Surface Pen and Surface Studio along with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro were used to complete the colouring
It’s always interesting how just small changes can make such a big difference to artwork.
So, Angela, how are you feeling today?
I’m feeling fairly content and quite optimistic. I am, however, still a little tired to say the least.
My trip to Llandridnod Wells yesterday left me exhausted. I went there to give an antistigma talk as a champion for Time to Change Wales. Telling my story of cPTSD still leaves me emotionally exhausted and vulnerable. This is, however, a small price to pay for giving people food for thought and getting people talking about mental illness.
As I was feeling so emotional after the talk I didn’t take a walk around Llandridnod Wells. When I’m feeling the way I was it’s all too easy for me to panic and enter flight-mode when I’m overwhelmed by noise or an unfamiliar place. The anxiety I feel about getting myself turned-about and lost and not able to find my way back to the car just adds to the vulnerability.
So, I thought I’d drive back and see if I could find the courage to stop at a cafe on the way. I’d passed a nice-looking one called the Wye Knot. However, I just couldn’t bring myself to stop there. I was still too overwhelmed.
My brain kicked in and I thought I’d head to Honey Cafe in Bronllys. I’ve been there a few times before and it’s a familiar setting to me. However, when I went in there were so many people milling around the counter and others coming in the door and pushing past me that I went into flight-mode and dashed back to the car in tears.
I just drove home then, doing a mental inventory of what I had in the way of food.
I had something quick to eat and a big mug of tea and then I curled up in bed to sleep; a nap is one of my self-care activities. I know that if I can sleep for a while I wake feeling refreshed and more resilient than I was.
The exhaustion comes not just from being emotionally overwhelmed and triggered but from the effort of keeping a happy smiling mask up. Yesterday the mask wasn’t as ‘solid’ as on Monday, but I knew it was still there. Once the talk was over, I let the mask drop and I was suddenly exhausted.
This is, as I mentioned earlier, worth getting the word out about the stigma and discrimination that surrounds mental illness, giving people some advice on what to and what not to do, and starting conversations.
I’m beginning to flag here; tiredness/exhaustion is catching up with me. I have managed to get some work done this morning. However, before I try to do anything else I need some more sleep I think.
So, I’m taking the advice of today’s quote – I’m going to be gentle with myself today.
I don’t know who said these words, but they resonated with me when I stumbled upon them. Not only did they resonate, but they also brought tears to my eyes and my heart too. I have words for one of my goals for recovery from cPTSD. This is why I had to do something with the quote in my own inimitable style.
So, I took the words and chose a pretty font for them, arranged them as I wished and then printed them out onto acid-free paper. I trimmed the paper to approx 21cm x 21cm and added some pencil guidelines for space around the quote and the edge of the paper.
Next, I used Tombow Fudenosuke and Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens to draw a design. I stuck to just a few motifs that I repeated to fill the space. I also let the design elements to spill over the pencil margins here and there to give a more organic feel to the artwork.
Finally, after erasing the pencil lines, I scanned the drawing in, increased the contrast a little to remove most of the remaining pencil marks. I then added a grungy, colourful, autumnal background.
I’m pleased with this one. I really like the way the Fudenosuke pens work for me now. I love the variation of line and the bolder line that I have used. I also think that using just a few design elements and repeating them to fill the space results in a more cohesive design.
I think I could have left a bit more space around the quote; however, it is good enough.
So, Angela, how are you feeling today?
And for me to say something is good enough is a sign that I am recovering from a bad day yesterday. I’m still somewhat emotionally fragile and vulnerable, but I’m able to see that my art is good enough.
Yesterday, nothing I did was good enough. I lost faith in my crochet, my digital art, my drawing. Nothing seemed to work out, and I really was doubting my abilities.
EMDR therapy for my cPTSD was rather distressing and left me exhausted. Mind you, I was exhausted to begin with. Monday I wore my protective mask as I had to go somewhere where I’d be with people I didn’t know, doing something I was really anxious about, and I didn’t know the place I was going to. I was exhausted after keeping my mask on for just four or so hours.
How on earth did I find the energy to keep the mask up for all those years?
One good thing has come from this experience – I can see how exhausting it is to keep up a mask for even a short time. I wonder how on earth I managed it for most of my life!
Anyway, after EMDR, I was more exhausted and came home and slept. In the evening, I thought I needed to be creative. It all led to me being hard and overly critical of myself. Little comments made to me just made it worse, even though the comments weren’t negative, my emotionally vulnerable and exhausted state twisted them that way.
Even though I was emotionally vulnerable and caught up in a storm of thoughts and feelings, I was still aware of this contentedness inside me, but I just couldn’t anchor myself fully to it. I was a little bit adrift in the turbulent waters of my emotions and thoughts.
I should know by now that I need to choose what activities I do carefully at times like this. Last night, I didn’t do that. However, I eventually got back to sleep, and I woke this morning feeling more content.
There’s not quite the sunshine within present today; there are still some emotional clouds covering it up. However, I know that they will not persist and will move along as I practice self-soothing and self-care and do creative activities that won’t push me too much and won’t engage the inner critics.
I’m still drained, physically, mentally and emotionally, but I am in a better place today. I think my drawing above shows that too.
I wanted to try to create a series of templates that could be used as frames for quotes. This is my first one. I remembered to save it as tiff file in layers so that I can easily change the background.
I didn’t start with the intention of creating waves filled with zentangle-type patterns, but that’s how it intuitively flowed from the tip of my Surface Pen onto the screen of my Surface Studio. So, I went with it.
It’s a very comfortable kind of art to create, whether you call it zentangle, zentangle inspired, entangled artwork, line art, doodled art. It’s just about filling space with patterns and lines, using them to add depth and dimension.
It was an enjoyable process that I could complete in a few sessions in-between a hectic few days.
The saga of the keyboard.
Saturday my Bluetooth keyboard decided to not connect to the Surface Studio. It had been finicky for a few days. I changed batteries, I tried disconnecting it and reconnecting it and following all the trouble-shooting processes I could find. All to no avail. This is why I’ve not done any blogs and been quiet around social media, along with life being a bit busy too.
It also worked out that the warranty on my Surface Studio and all it’s attendant bits and bobs had run out just over three weeks ago. Yes, I do have software I can use the Surface Pen with or a keyboard that pops up on the screen that I can tap with my fingers or mouse or pen, but they are so slow and frustrating to use in comparison to the speed at which I can type. I do love to handwrite, even on the screen. However, as I can’t turn the ‘paper’ or ‘writing window’ to an angle that makes it comfortable for me to write at I don’t do as much as I could.
Of course, I’d forgotten I still have, and use my Surface Book. However, when something goes wrong, my mind goes into instant ‘oh my gosh, I’ve got to sort that out as there’s no other way to get things done’ overwhelmed and panic mode. It’s only after I have solved the problem and calm down that I can see that I had alternatives open to me.
So, my brain told me my only option was to buy a new keyboard. Then I had a decision to make. Should I go for a wireless one or a wired one?
I decided on a wired one as that should always connect to the ‘puter. I also was beguiled by a keyboard that has pretty rainbow lights beneath the keys. Sparkly and colourful always attracts me.
So, I now have a keyboard and can email and write and do everything else that requires words from me quickly once again.
World Suicide Prevention Day 2019
Warning – this may contain emotional and mental health triggers.
The World Health Organisation says that one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds.
In the UK, two people take their own lives every day.
In the UK, men account for approximately 75% of all suicides.
In the UK, suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20 to 49.
They also say that one of the biggest obstacles to overcome in suicide prevention is the stigma and taboo that surrounds suicide and mental health problems.
The stigma and taboos that surround talking openly about suicide leads to a lack of awareness about suicide, and also about mental illness.
I am a champion for Time To Change Wales, a campaign whose aim is to get people talking about mental illness to break down the stigma that surrounds it. This also includes suicide.
As a champion, one of the things I do is to go to organisations and other groups to talk about my experience of mental illness and the stigma and discrimination I have faced. This includes self-stigma.
Thanks to self-stigma, I was in denial that I was experiencing mental and emotional ill-health for many years. It led to me not seeking help until I had nearly broken my mind. I ended up being off work as a teacher for almost a year. I went back to work for just eight months before I had another ‘breakdown’ for want of another word.
What I don’t often mention, and what I think also needs to be discussed here, is suicidal ideation or suicidal thoughts. These are thoughts about wishing to die, wanting life to stop, hoping that one would not wake up in the morning. Not actively planning suicide, but wishing that life would end to bring the mental and emotional pain to an end.
For a long as I can remember, right back to being young, I can remember wishing this upon myself. I often wanted to die in my sleep and not have to face another day like the one I just had. I didn’t feel loved or valued in any way, and the constant bullying, name-calling, being ignored and neglected. I felt a burden, a bother, a nuisance, an irritation, a problem to my family. I thought they would be happier without me. That the world would be a better place without me. I never thought of actively taking my own life, but I certainly wished to die.
That belief about myself has followed me throughout my life. Sometimes it would be quiet, at other times it would be shouting through a megaphone in my head.
I remember driving to work most days in the last few years of my teaching career wanting to just keep driving and never come back to my life as it had become so very, very painful for me and I could see no way out of the pain.
I never did drive off towards the horizon as I didn’t actually know what I would do. Also, the thought of my cat and how he’d not cope without me would pop into my head. And so I would get myself to work so I could look after my cat.
At the time, it felt my cat was the only living thing that was consistently and unconditionally there for me, sharing love and affection with me. I still miss him now, a bit more than a year when I had to say goodbye to him.
I owe my life to my cat, and to the one friend (now my brother of the heart/choice) who kept nagging me about getting help, and the GP who knew the right words to say to me to get me to understand I needed help and a break from work and also from my mind. Now, I am also so grateful to my EMDR therapist for persisting with me.
I have tears flowing down my face as I write about this. The tears represent the sadness that I feel that I was ignorant of what good mental and emotional health is and of the stigma I held about it in regards to myself. Oddly, I never had those thoughts about others who were experiencing mental illness, having helped others during their own crises. I feel sad that I have lived most of my life with poor mental and emotional health, thinking that was how everyone else was. I feel sad that only now am I learning what it is like to have a touchstone of contentment and optimism to hold onto when times get tough.
The tears are also ones of gratitude that I’m still here. I have come through the darkest days of my life. My career has changed, and my life is gradually changing for the better, as is my mental and emotional health.
I rarely have suicidal thoughts now. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I did. That says something about how far along my healing journey I have come.
If someone had told me in my darkest days that my life would be as it is now, with that contentment within me, an optimism for my future, I might not have believed them. In fact, I most probably wouldn’t have.
However, I am here to say that I made it through it all. Through my childhood and adulthood and now into middle age.
I wish I’d known what I know now as a child. Maybe I would’ve sought help sooner in my life.
What I wish for everyone is that every person on this planet is given the information about what good mental and emotional health is. I want mental and emotional health to be seen as important as physical health with the links between them fully recognised, and support is available to all who need it.
No matter how bad life seems, there are always options to improve it. This is something I’ve had to learn. In fact, I’m still learning about it. When I get overwhelmed, or something goes wrong, I tend to slip into the black and white thinking mode.
That’s what the black and white borders to today’s art is about. The complexity shows just how crazily my mind was working during the darkest days.
For the space between them, the background on which the quote sits, I chose colours that remind me of a sunrise. A new day, with a fresh mind and eyes always comes with new options, if only we can see them.
My story has not ended. It will not end until my life is naturally completed. For the first time in my life, I have a feeling of optimism for my future. It may have taken me two severe episodes of mental ill-health and several years of EMDR therapy and counselling to get to this point. But I’ve got there.
No matter how much of my life I have left, it will be lived with some contentment, peace and hope for my future. I wish the same for each and every person.
I was up until nearly 3am talking with a friend in need of listening and some help to make sense of what’s happened in their life.
I did get a few hours sleep, but I am now flagging just a tad and I’m really not up to doing some ‘adulting’ before going to therapy. I know if I’m over-tired then I get overly anxious all too easy. I can do without that kind of flare up before EMDR.
So, I thought I’d look for some words to do with therapy and healing and I found these by Yasmin Mogahed.
I’ve done a very simple mandala-like design/frame around the words. Just simple shapes and shadows. Nothing fancy. I used Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with a Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio (no surprises there!).
I thought the spirals would represent the traumas slowly unfurling and flowing away, the darkness being transformed into light. The green leaves represent that new growth and healing. The smaller purple leaves I thin represent the poison, the stored trauma that still exists, but they are reducing in size.
I don’t know. I may be trying to put an interpretation onto the design that isn’t needed. I’ll let you be the judge of that.
It’s been a nice way to spend an hour or two. I do wish I had time to sleep some more, but I do have to do an errand on my way to therapy.
I have no idea what therapy will bring with it this week. I never do know. Little by little the traumas are being identified and processed.
My mind isn’t finding the words I need now, so I’ll potter along to sort myself out for my trip to therapy. Another mug of tea I think (caffeine is likely to be my pal today) and a gently drive westwards in the cloudy sunshine.
Today it’s just a quick post, with a variation on yesterday’s art and a bit of a waffle about EMDR yesterday.
. I replaced the symbol with a quote about my journey to cPTSD recovery, something I realised in EMDR last week and talked about again yesterday before the EMDR session itself.
I have secrets. There are events in my life that have resulted in me not being honest with myself, telling myself a ‘story’ about them to avoid the painful feelings and thoughts that are associated with them, to turn the events into something pleasant, something I wanted it to be rather than the reality of it. I can’t speak about these events, but I can write about them and have started to do that.
The painful feelings I’ve kept secret from myself, and it’s now time to be honest with myself and to face the things I never have that are eating me up inside. The writing is to help me be open and honest with myself about the thoughts and feelings and the resultant behaviour and thoughts/beliefs about myself that I’ve pushed away by changing the story. The story is how i would’ve liked things to be, not how they really were for me. However, the emotional pain and mental torture was still there and not dealt with, just hidden away to continue to damage and cause suffering.
Writing itself will only help me bring to the surface and onto the light of the page that which I’ve hidden from myself so I can identify what needs to be healed and put right.
That’s what this quote is all about to me, and this is how EMDR has helped me to reach this point. As well as the final understanding and acceptance that I don’t have to tell my therapist everything, she facilitates the process, aids me where necessary, helps me to learn new tools, new ways of thinking, as well as helping me find the bravery to face these things and process them at long last.
This is a transition for sure. Not a transition involved in ‘finding myself’ but in losing all the ideas and beliefs about who I am, how I should think, how I should behave, that have been imposed by others throughout my life.
It is now me making the decisions to change these and to change my relationship with myself.
It’s growth. So green is a very apt colour scheme for that.
And growth did happen yesterday in EMDR. To both of our surprises, the cluster of memories I was working on in EMDR which Linda thought I may never clear was cleared. And the pennies dropped about how much metaphorical images are powerful for me and stand in perfectly for memories I don’t have, only the emotional memories and resultant/concurrent thoughts about myself. So metaphoric is the way to go for me!
This is a postcard sized drawing with some not very good hand lettering. The pens I used were a Schaeffer R2D2 pen for the broader lines and a Pilot Kakuno for the rest. Oddly, they both have medium nibs, but the width of medium nibs vary from brand to brand. Both pens are, however, smooth writers and a pleasure to hold and use.
Part of my self-care over the past week has been pulling together my favourite patterns and motifs into my visual dictionary. I find something soothing in repeating something that is familiar to me. Perhaps because I know I can do it. Perhaps because I feel I’m organising, taking control of something I can organise and take control of. Perhaps it is just the familiarity of the process and knowing the outcome will be a positive one.
However, in doing this, I rediscover patterns I’ve used in the past that I’ve forgotten about and it’s nice to use them once again.
Of course there are some of my old favourites in this drawing, but there are some that haven’t seen the tip of my pen in a long while, and couple that have only been added to my visual dictionary and not used in a piece of art by myself.
It’s very easy for me to fall into the familiar, especially when I’m having a bit of a tough time with my mental and emotional health, when EMDR or life has provoked a response in me that affects my ability to believe in myself and my art. These past six days have been a period of time just like that. I’ve gradually been recovering over the week, in general terms, but there have been some rather tough times too.
I think I’ve mis-written the quote from Christine Langley-Obaugh though, but the meaning is the same. I’m increasingly becoming aware of myself and the repetitions of feelings and thoughts and events in my life that cause me emotional and mental pain. Sometimes even physical pain when they’re revisited in EMDR or even in loving-kindness meditations too it seems.
This kind of reorganisation of my visual notes is just like how I used to write and rewrite and rewrite again and reorganise again and again my notes when I was in school, university and as a teacher. Trying to make things better, perfect and starting over again if I made a single mistake.
What I have noticed is that in my A5 dot grid journal from Claire Fontaine is that I’m not so ‘perfectionist’. I want to gather together my favourite patterns and motifs, doodles and alphabets in one place for a quick and easy reference, as a way to spark my creative juices when I feel I need that happening. There’s mistakes in them. They’re drawn with different degrees of precision and neatness. I’m working hard on not starting over, again, even though I know I’ve most probably got repeats of the same pattern or motif in there. But that’s fine. I’m telling myself that is perfectly fine.
That is a huge change in how I would call myself stupid and useless and a failure if I made one mistake in my pristine page of notes during my educational years or time as a teacher.
Working digitally allows me to achieve a level of perfection in my drawings as any ‘mistakes’ are easy to change.
Working with pen and ink on paper, with few pencil lines, means I have to live with the ‘mistakes’ or adapt them to be part of the design. I can edit out smudges if I scan the artwork in, but I rarely make changes to it unless it is at the behest of the publishers.
I think shows how I have a bit of a healthier relationship with myself now.
It’s always good when I can make connections between present behaviours and those in the past and to see how they have helped me but also how I have healed and made positive progress in my journey to CPTSD recovery.