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.
Monday is EMDR therapy day for me and my mind seems to go towards finding relevant quotes and then doing my usual thing of adding patterns around them.
This one has what seems to me to be rather heavy handed patterns around the quote. I drew the patterns with a broad nib Faber Castell fountain pen filled with Diamine Jet Black ink. I may have chosen too broad a nib for this illustration; the artwork is slightly less than A5 in size.
I enjoyed the process of creating this, however, and some quiet, calm, self-care time is needed this evening.
I had a yet another draining EMDR session today, one that had some insight for me. There were plenty of quiet tears too. I suspect that tomorrow will be a quiet self-care day also.
I’m used to this happening now and tend to plan my working time around the need for self-care. I’ve learned that self-care is important. I’m also learning not to be surprised at how something that seems as gentle as EMDR has such a profound effect on myself.
It’s a good thing I had quite a busy morning prior to heading off to my appointment and got a few templates sorted out for the coloring book I’m working on.
I’ve worked on this design over the past three days. I wanted to do another version of this particular quote in my more characteristic pen and ink, intricate, entangled style of art.
I used various pens to draw this on recycled copy paper (I know, but it’s preserved for posterity as a digital file now). The quote and the boundary lines were printed out on a laser printer. I could have hand lettered it, but I wanted a typewritten look for the quote.
I did add colour and texture to the background using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with a Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio, but the drawing was all done traditionally with various black pens.
This is so characteristic of my work from quite a few years ago, before I worked on colouring books. I think last week’s stresses and strains – EMDR, Time to Talk Day – had me wanting to escape into the familiar, the comforting, the easy (for me at least) which is why I defaulted to this style of art.
I do have to push myself out of this very comfortable art zone to work on templates for my next coloring book, one which could have an added bit of stress for me concerning its theme. I’m determined to do it though!
It’s taken me until today to fully recover from all of last week’s emotionally tiring events, just in time for my weekly EMDR session! So, I plan to get some drawings done for the book this morning before I head to Neath in what looks like it’s going to be a sunny late winter day. I also really need to get a brisk walk in nature in today. My fragile state has had me remaining in the safety of my home or car. Today, I feel the need to move my body a bit more.
I found this lovely quote a couple of days ago and knew I wanted to add entangled patterns around it.
About the art.
Rather than hand letter, I decided to print the quote by J.M. Storm out, along with the outlines to the boxes. I do very much like a well defined space to work within. I know I’ve done art where I’ve left an organic, uneven edge in the past, but I still like those clear boundaries.
To draw the patterns I used a Sheaffer fountain pen along with 06 and 04 Pigma Sensei pens from Sakura. The 06 led to me using some heavy lines to define the patterns and sections, something I’ve not often done for a very, very long time and I find it pleasing. Again, clear boundaries. I also like when art like this is coloured; it looks like stained glass and I love stained glass.
I may spend time colouring this today. I woke with a terrific headache this morning. Although it’s mostly passed, thanks to some Anadin Extras and copious quantities of tea, I still feel kind of spacey and tired and not able to focus much.
Why I like this quote.
She is a beautiful piece of broken pottery, put back together by her own hands. And a critical world judges her cracks while missing the beauty of how she made herself whole again. – J.M. Storm –
I like it because it almost perfectly describes how I think about what is happening to me during therapy, about my journey to recovery.
The traumas of my life, right from a very young age, left me cracked and over time those cracks led to my mental health and emotional health breaking into pieces.
I’m the one who has to put the pieces back together, however I don’t have the skills and tools to do that. That’s where my therapist, my counsellor comes in. EMDR therapy helps to reprocess the traumas that led to me developing cPTSD and helps me to change the old, unhealthy, harmful thoughts and behaviours that I have into healthy thoughts and behaviours. My therapist helps me learn the tools I need to do this as well as to be more resilient as my life progresses, and so much more I’m sure.
I don’t know if it’s possible to make myself whole. My aim, though, is to be whole enough to have a life where I can do what I currently am unable to do – set healthy boundaries, be confident in myself, be less scared of the world around me, and so on.
I’ll always have cracks – evidence of the life I have led – but I want those cracks to be filled with gold or silver or copper so that they are things of beauty in themselves. They are evidence of where I’ve come from and what has led me to be the person I am.
I’m well aware that as I heal I won’t be quite the same person I was and many people won’t be happy about that. But those are the people who have wanted me to fit into their image of how they have thought I should be for their own ends, not least of which is my narcissistic mother.
No doubt my becoming the person I was meant to be, a mentally and emotionally healthy, resilient, self-aware, self-compassionate woman would be a source of great criticism for those who don’t like the changes in me as I heal the mental and emotional wounds.
Part of the process is learning from the past and freeing myself from the limitations placed upon me in the past by others with their own agenda, whether conscious or unconscious.
I’m sure there’s a lot more reasons why I like this quote, but the fluff-filled post-headache spaced out mind just can’t focus just now.
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.