I’ve mostly been away from social media, and art, this weekend. Sometimes one just has to have a break from it.
This morning I discovered that July is ice-cream month, so I thought I’d do something quick, fun, and whimsical with an ice cream mandala.
Not happy with much of the mandala. I can’t put my fingers on why;maybe it’s the seemingly childish nature of the art, the lack of complexity, the colour choices, or something else.
It did seem like a good idea at the time, and even though I wasn’t happy with it, I was determined to work with it until it was finished.
It was, however, mainly a practice in using layers and different digital brushes. It also helped me get back to digital art after a weekend of mostly crocheting.
As usual, I used Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with a Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.
So Angela, how are you today?
Just like the previous days, including Saturday and Sunday, I’m feeling content. I’m tired after not a good night’s sleep with weird dreams I can’t now remember.
I needed a break from social media this weekend; too much doom and gloom in the goings on around the world. I also felt I needed a bit of a break from art. I wasn’t happy with whatever it was I was doing (colouring the design for the cover of a colouring book I’m working on). So, I spent much of the weekend crocheting the big scrapbusting blanket I’ve been working on.
Well done me for recognising I needed to do some self-care!
The blanket is nearly finished, and my wrists and fingers are aching from the weight of the blanket as I join pieces in. However, I do think it’s working out just fine.
Crocheting is soothing for me – its repetitive nature is calming. Mind you, I also watched a few films while doing it. That was soothing too.
Today is EMDR day and I’ll soon have to sort myself out to head out for my weekly session. I know we need to finish off what was being worked on in the last two sessions. I then think I know what needs to be worked on next.
I do have to say that despite my tiredness, I think I’ve had a week of contentment and positivity and few moments of upset in one way or another. I can’t remember a whole week like this, with the level of contentment that I’m aware of and what I think is a reduction in the background level of anxiety.
Progress is progress. Sometimes it comes in tiny amounts. Occasionally, progress comes in larger, more noticeable amounts. At other times it’s noticed only when enough tiny amounts have accumulated for me to see progress has been made.
I’m not sure which of those applies at the moment, maybe all of them. But it’s still most welcome, and also a sign that I’m increasingly self-aware compared to the person who would ignore emotions, distress, dangerous situations all to keep other people happy to my own detriment, even though I wasn’t aware of that at the time.
I am now aware of it and I feel embarrassment and shame. I feel stupid for allowing myself to do such things.
I am, however, determined to heal and move on to become a person who considers my own feelings, emotions and safety is as important and to learn to feel safe in this world, in my body.
What a busy week last week was for me. It’s taken a while for me to add any significant work to this wip, but it’s beginning to become a bit more ‘fleshed’ out. My challenge is to leave some white space in the design. We’ll have to see if I can actually manage that!
This is being drawn with a combination of Tombow Fudenosuke and Uniball Unipin pens on Winsor and Newton Bristol Board. The paper is A4 in size (approx US letter), just so you have an idea of the size of the design.
Mental health awareness week and an example of stigma I’ve experienced
What a week it was. I wasn’t as busy this year as last year, but it still took it out of me. I find looking after stands for Time to Change Wales a lot more stressful than doing the talks about my CPTSD and how stigma and discrimination has affected me.
By Thursday afternoon I was absolutely and totally poleaxed. So tired and exhausted in a way I haven’t been since, most probably, I was teaching! Mind you, I suspect I’ve been that exhausted since, but not for such an extended period of time.
It all started with the lead up to EMDR therapy last Tuesday. EMDR was quite distressing and left me exhausted emotionally and physically. I then had no time to recover before the stands on Weds and Thurs.
Friday I had to prepare for something I was doing on Saturday and that took every little bit of strength I’d recovered to do that. I enjoyed the preparation, but I didn’t take much time out to rest and recuperate from the previous days.
I woke at stupid o’clock (aka 3.30am) on Saturday fretting and worrying about my task for the day. So that had me exhausted yet again. The task worked out well, thankfully, but I was even more exhausted on the way home. I managed to throw some food together, which I didn’t really eat as I was too exhausted to eat. I slept for three hours, woke for a couple of hours (long enough to watch Return of the Sith) and then went back to bed and slept through until nearly 9am.
I did feel a lot better and had it in my mind to visit the National Museum in Cardiff to spend sometime with rocks and fossils in the Evolution of Wales exhibition with my sketchbook. I was all fairly excited about this and made my way there. I had a lovely couple of hours observing and drawing. I then realised how tired I was again. So, I thought a cup of tea and a little something to eat may be needed. I drank the tea but couldn’t bring myself to eat anything. I went back to the galleries, wandering around the natural history galleries. I suddenly started to get all emotional at the sight of animals stuffed and on display, and the gallery where the whale and leatherback turtle are finished me and I thought it was best I went home.
Which I did, cooked myself a relatively healthy meal, which I managed to eat and then just flopped in front of the TV until it was time for me to go out in the evening for a kind of meditation class.
And something happened in the evening that triggered a visceral and emotional response, something totally unexpected. I couldn’t stop crying for a good two hours. I definitely have food for thought. One of the things that got to me was the statement ‘you don’t need therapy, you just need to get out of your head and into your heart’. This from someone who knows nothing of my life story. Then it felt like people I’d known for a long while and who know my story were agreeing with this statement and that person.
Added to that was I was told I should trust to the love of my family.
Really? Just further proof they know nothing of my life and the family I was born into. Love? Well, if you mean destroying someone’s sense of self, their confidence, everything about them is love, well then I guess they were right.
They have no idea that I’ve tried self-help program after self-help program in the past 20 years or so, to very little positive effect. I was told I can do the work by myself. So no, I can’t. I’ve tried again and again and finally I had to accept I needed help in the form of therapy.
I’m actually feeling quite angry about this, I really am.
I got quite vocal when I told the person they knew nothing about me, about the abuse I’d suffered as a child. When I said that they said ‘I knew it, I just didn’t want to say’. Then, they went on to say ‘but you don’t need therapy for that, you just need to trust yourself’.
How? HOW? How the feck can I do that when all my life I’ve been told i’m wrong, I’m thick, I’m stupid, I know nothing, I’m useless, I’m an embarrassment, everyone else is better than me, I’m unloveable, I’m ugly, and everything else.
The whole message of my childhood is that I shouldn’t trust myself, that I’m always wrong and stupid.
Another example of the way mental ill-health is stigmatised by those who think they understand but don’t really. There’s so much prejudice about having therapy or counselling in society, even from people you’d expect not to have that prejudice.
This has shaken me somewhat, but my resolve to continue with EMDR is stronger now, this morning. I realise that people don’t want me to change, for whatever, that they think I’m good enough and ‘lovely’ just as I am.
Maybe that’s the case. But EMDR for me is more about helping me to find that courage and confidence that I want to have to continue to go to museums and abbeys and cathedrals by myself to just draw and enjoy the sights and sounds. To be able to walk in nature alone. To not feel that I’m putting my life on hold for someone who will ‘rescue me’ and do these things with me.
I’ve put my life on hold for way, way too long hoping someone will come and ‘rescue me’.
I’m the only one who can do that. But I need help to learn how to do that. If I can’t drive a car, I find someone who can teach me. If I can’t learn how to trust myself, to become confident and so on then I need to find someone who can help me learn. That person is my lovely EMDR therapist.
I’m typing all this with tears in my eyes as it really did upset me, and still does, and I’m a bit angry about it too.
I will continue with EMDR. I will continue healing, little by little, even if part of that process are the days of absolute emotional exhaustion and the pain that comes along with realising how I’ve been hurt in the past. The pain is because I never processed the hurt properly, believing it was all I deserved, that it was ok to be spoken to or dismissed or ignored as that’s all that I knew growing from the earliest days I can remember.
I have to do what is right for me. Not do what other people think I should do for whatever reason they think that. I’ve lived my life through the messages drummed into me by those who were supposed to love and care and nurture and those messages have stopped me from being the person I would now like to be and have led to some severe episodes of deep depression and anxiety so bad I was off work for nearly a year in the first instance, and after several months the second time I never returned, a decision I do not regret as I can focus on recovery from a lifetime’s CPTSD and also focus on art and learning to live the life I’d like.
“I can do this” – reprise
So the message hand written on my artwork is so appropriate given the events of yesterday evening.
It makes me more determined to continue EMDR, which is the only therapy/counselling that really works.
I’ll do my best to push last night aside and continue to move forward now, which I have to do soon as I have therapy this afternoon!
Just like I will show my mother and others that they are wrong about me I will show others the same.
I woke up this morning with an idea, which was to use a dangle design of a flower along with some words about that flower. I chose to start with Daisy and you can see what I’ve come up with so far.
I’ve included a fair bit of etymology concerning the word Daisy; I find etymology (the origins and evolution of words) fascinating.
I drew the dangle design on paper and then scanned it into Autodesk Sketchbook Pro on my Surface Studio.
Next, I re-drew the design digitally using my Microsoft Surface Pen on the screen just like pen on paper. I set the brush to have a width that varied with pressure.
My plan was then to hand letter the title and the words about the daisy.
I tried again and again and again and I was never happy with what my pen put on paper (or screen). So, in frustration with myself and the knowledge I have other things that I really need to get done today, I decided to foray into the realms of Microsoft Publisher.
I did choose a font that is very similar to my own basic hand lettering style. I think I may need to look at how I can convert my hand lettering into custom fonts to use in the near future for days like today.
I do quite like the simplicity of the layout, but I do think I could’ve done a bit better with the text. I’m quite happy with the dangle design – the simplicity suits the simplicity and innocence of lovely daisy itself.
If you’d like to learn how to draw dangle designs, step by step, then my book “A Dangle A Day” is now published.
My Emotional well being
I am emotionally exhausted. I’ve not had much of a chance to recover from my EMDR session on Tuesday which left me absolutely poleaxed.
Wednesday and Thursday I took care of a stand for Time to Change Wales, and though they didn’t take up all the day it still drained me.
I’d said to myself on Wednesday I’d not put the happy smiley mask on over my exhaustion and emotional ‘flatness’ as I had little energy to spare for the effort it takes to keep that mask in place.
I had no choice about the mask; it appeared automatically, draining me further on Wednesday and very much so yesterday.
What didn’t help was that I had a commitment on Wednesday evening which I couldn’t cancel. So I had very little time between the stand and dashing out again to have some self-care time.
The result of all this is that when I got home after the stand and then running a couple of important errands that couldn’t be put off was that I was absolutely running on empty. I had something to eat and ended up sleeping for a couple of hours.
This has all taken it’s toll on my digestive system which has been upset since EMDR on Tuesday. It’s still not right today even though I went to bed early and woke up later this morning than I usually would.
I know I have a busy day tomorrow, one I can’t cancel on and I have lots of things to get ready for that today. All I want to do is sleep. My mind doesn’t want to work but it has to work.
You may be wondering why I do all this to myself. Well, Time to Change Wales (TTCW) with it’s goal to end stigma and discrimination around mental health by getting people to talk about it to gain more understanding and compassion is very important to me. I’ve faced that stigma, discrimination and total lack of understanding by so many people.
Mental Health Awareness Week happens but once a year (though it should be mental health awareness week every week!) and TTCW are so busy everyone who can help does to make sure the message gets out.
Also, I had no idea that EMDR would floor me this week, but it did.
I knew about my commitment for tomorrow, but didn’t think that everything else in the run up to Saturday would drain me.
You may think I’ve let myself down by not taking care of myself.
Perhaps that is true. However, I think it’s worth it for just this one week. I’ll recover, most probably just in time for EMDR on Monday!
Even though I do have a fair amount of stuff to do in preparation for tomorrow, I can stay at home and take a nap if I need to. I also don’t have to answer the door – I already ignored a knock from someone who seemed to be trying to sell double glazing; I saw him and his mate walking down the street with a handful of leaflets each.
Even though I am very tired, emotionally and mentally, it was important to me I took time to do some art and I’m quite pleased with my drawing, and disappointed in myself that I just couldn’t hand letter it myself.
So, as much self-care as I can do in the next couple of days is absolutely essential for me, and art is part of my self-care toolbox.
This morning all I want to do is stay in bed. I’ve had to get up though; I’m looking after a stand for Time to Change Wales at the Engineering Department in Swansea University later today. All part of World Mental Health Awareness Week, you know.
I’m absolutely shattered. Drained. Emotionally whacked out. Emotionally fragile. So tired. So very, very tired.
I want to curl up in bed and either draw or read or crochet or just watch faff on YouTube or sleep.
However, I won’t let anyone down and I will wend my way to Swansea to take care of the stand for a while today.
Yesterday’s EMDR session focused on the content of my blog post yesterday about my own body image and how I think and feel about myself. I had a particularly distressing time of it, so much so my therapist said ‘enough for today, I’m bringing this session to an end’ when we’d barely started the EMDR part of it.
The lump in my throat that was stopping me breathing, talking was painful, as was the literal pain in my heart. I get a lot of somatic responses during EMDR. Often quite painful, but bearable in order to release the stored trauma.
Yesterday, though, the pain was almost unbearable, probably unbearable.
Leaving the session, though, after some work on grounding and spending time in my safe place I felt ok.
When I got home though, I just wanted to curl up in bed as I was exhausted. And that exhaustion intensified through the evening.
Along with that I got a seriously upset stomach, which can happen after EMDR where I quite literally am expelling the faeces of my life after expelling some of the emotional and mental trauma during EMDR.
I had a really poor nights sleep even though I was shattered.
My tummy/digestive system is still tender and unsettled this morning.
All this occurred as a result of one memory I have as a toddler.
So, I’m fair reeling from it all and so sad about so much. So, so much.
I know this is all part of the process to release and heal the traumas I’ve had that have led to CPTSD. I know it won’t last for ever now and these feelings will pass in the hours and days that follow.
I know a day of self-soothing, self-care would be ideal, but I have a commitment to Time to Change Wales today and I don’t break commitments lightly. Indeed, it may do me some good as it looks like a sunny day and out and about in the sunshine does help my mood for sure.
‘I Can Do This’ WIP
I started this one late last night when I was tired but couldn’t settle down at all. I did a bit more when I woke this morning.
I hand lettered (not very well) the words ‘I can do this’ to remind myself that I can do this work in EMDR, that I can release trauma and face things that I’ve avoided much of my life, or not told hardly anyone about how I feel about myself, my body, always trying to put a brave face on things.
It’s tiring to wear that brave face and I’m not sure I can today, I’m already way too exhausted. Time to let the mask down again perhaps.
Anyways, the WIP has the hand lettering on it as a message to me that I am capable of doing the work in EMDR, but also as a message to any one of you who may read my words that each and every one of you is also capable of doing what you need to do to find mental and emotional well-being, a well-being that is at least good enough.
I’m drawing this on A4 (approx US letter size) bristol board using a mixture of Tombow Fudenosuke, Sakura Pigma Sensei and Uniball Unipin pens. Unusually for myself I’m actually pencilling in the basic outlines of shapes! How strange…
However, that pencilling in the scaffolding for my drawing may be symbolic that I also need some scaffolding and support in terms of my mental and emotional well-being at this time.
I have no idea how this will turn out yet – both the art and the EMDR – but I will persevere as and when I have the energy and time to do so. I don’t know if I’ll pack it up to take with me to the event today or whether I’ll take my crochet. Either drawing or crochet does help soothe me.
I started drawing this one fairly late last night and completed it just now. The tools I used were a soft Fudenosuke pen by Tombow, a 0.4 Sakura Pigma Sensei pen on white mixed media paper from Claire Fontaine.
I then scanned the drawing into the Surface Studio and used Autodesk Pro and a Surface Pen to clean up the image and then add a few details and some shading to it.
The original drawing is approx. 5″ x 6″ in size.
I’m quite pleased with this one as it’s not my usual ‘lets see how much space we can fill with line and pattern’ kind of drawing. The design has a kind of leaf shape to it in outline, and I’ve let white space exist in the design, which is really unusual for me.
Working in monotone is also unusual for me, but the grey shading certainly adds depth and dimension to the design, brings it to life.
I also have some brushes in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro that I can use to mimic graphite pencil shading, which I did here.
I started with the flower motif in the middle and let the design flow out from that point. Of course my design motifs had to include foliage, seedpods and some abstract/geometrical patterns too. Oh and some fungi/mushrooms too. And orbs/spheres.
I really like my circular arches of a pattern inspired by Early Celtic/La Tene art. The shading really helped to define this pattern.
I’m going to make this one available for purchase from my RedBubble shop.
Still emotionally exhausted…
I slept so much yesterday and last night. I’m still emotionally exhausted after my trip out on Thursday. I’m still finding it hard to believe how much something so simple exhausted me so much in terms of emotion particularly. I didn’t think I was any more anxious than usual, or stressed than usual. Seems I was oblivious to my own body.
I do feel a bit better today, but I could just curl up and sleep again now and I’ve only been awake for 4 hours.
I won’t go to sleep this afternoon though. I’m going to keep myself awake somehow. Maybe with art. Maybe with some books I bought on Thursday. Maybe with crochet. Maybe with all of them, but not at the same time!
Even though I’m exhausted I do feel quite content within myself. However, even though it’s a lovely sunny day, if rather windy, here in Welsh Wales, I don’t think I’ll venture out into the realms of peopledom. It’s another Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK so the world tends to be more people-y than usual. I think that could overwhelm me again and I’m better off just remaining where I feel safe and calm.
The more aware I am of my emotions and my self, the more aware I am of how much CPTSD has affected me, of how it limits my life, and of how much work I still have to do. Mind you, that self awareness is showing me as well the progress I have made and how I make decisions based around self care too. Like today, knowing the world is too people-y and somethings can be left until the world is a little less people-y.
I’ve had a lovely, quiet Sunday and I’m glad to say my emotional wellbeing is better than yesterday. Still a bit fragile, but there’s that hint of contentment that has been lacking over the past few days.
I’ve even had my oompf back to draw. This took the guise of adding patterns and outline drawings to my visual reference journal, and then using some of these ideas, plus some old favourites, in this drawing. I even added some dangles in places. Just little, delicate dangles, but still there’s dangles there.
For the drawing, I used a hard nib Tombow Fudenosuke pen. This has a flexible nib, not overly flexible, and so I could vary line weight while drawing.
I was inspired to try the Fudenosuke pen again after my experiments with digital brushes that vary line width with pressure and found that so much fun.
I found it much easier to use the Fudenosuke pen after my experience with digital brushes; it turns out working digitally does influence my work in traditional media and helps me gain new skills or confidence in new media.
I drew this design on an A5 piece of Winsor and Newton Bristol Board which is white and very smooth. Then, scanned it in and digitally added a background texture and some colour, along with my watermarks.
The drawing was mainly to try out the Fudenosuke pen, but also a bit of quiet self-care too. I’m quite happy with it, especially as it’s main purpose was to explore using the pen for drawing with.
I’ve relied on line weight to add some dimension to the drawing, though some colour and/or shading could help a lot. Maybe that’ll be my next task with this – to colour it either digitally or to use my Chameleon DuoTone and Color Tops marker pens after I print the image out.
I’ve really not been myself the past few days. With a couple of busy days this week, the emotional fallout from EMDR on Tuesday finally caught up with me as I slowed down Thursday afternoon. I’m so tired, and my mood isn’t the brightest to say the least.
It’s always a sign that even when I’m tired I can usually draw and create, but not much this week. I haven’t been able to find the inspiration to draw, nor have I found the interest or energy.
Today, around a meeting, I managed to draw this.
It’s a throwback to the more familiar art of earlier days. It has given me a chance to use some new motifs, as well as some favourite ones that crop up often.
The process of drawing was soothing, and I did my very best not to be too judgemental, though I did want to throw it out and restart several times as I wasn’t at all happy with what was coming out of the nib of my fountain pens or Uniball Unipins.
I switched to the Uniballs as the fountain pen ink was smudging lightly. I’ve fixed that, mostly, by digital wizardry. I also added the Distress Ink background digitally.
I know my inspiration and energy to draw will return, I’m just not feeling at all myself at the moment.
I do have a new self-care activity, which is sitting in/on the bed, crocheting shawls and listening to audiobooks – currently working my way through the Harry Potter series.
The rhythmic nature of crocheting is soothing. The familiarity of the Harry Potter story is also soothing. Being upstairs makes me feel safe, secure and it’s also comforting.
The memory being worked on in EMDR certainly has stirred some stuff up. I’ve had some very upsetting insights into how I’ve viewed myself. Releasing the trauma associated with this particular memory will be accompanied by a better view of myself. I may not fully believe it, but if I can believe a little of it then that is good enough for now.
I have to believe that with each memory and its associated traumatic experiences that are processed via EMDR I’ll believe the healthier, more positive statements about myself more and more.
These are some quotes I’ve found recently that are helpful to me in understanding me, helping me through this.
Trauma creates changes you don’t chose. Healing is about creating change that you do choose.
What happened to you was not your fault. The struggles you have today, like your cPTSD symptoms, are a normal response to abnormal events. So, please be kind to yourself.
The poison leaves bit by bit, not all at once. Be patient. You are healing.