Phew! It’s been a week!

©Angela Porter 2019

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

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

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

Time to Talk Day – a review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s why I do this.

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

That’s why I do this.

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

That’s why I do this.

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

That’s why I do this.

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

That’s why I do this.

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

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

That’s why I do this.

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

Self Care Day

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

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

The arty stuff

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

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

Tomorrow is Time to Talk Day

©Angela Porter 2019

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.

I’ll also be adding them to my facebook page – Angela Porter Illustrator as well as on the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans facebook group too.

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.

February dangle design

©Angela Porter 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doing art does help too.

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

RSPB Newport – a mandala

Yesterday I took a short trip for a short visit to the RSPB reserve in Newport, Gwent.

With dark, leaden skies with golden sunshine pouring through gaps in the cloud cover the lighting was dramatic; it caused the winter colours to positively glow against the dark blue-grey of the sky.

This mandala is my response to those colours, along with some very stylised motifs from the things I saw – arching branches, dancing golden grasses, fungi and more.

I took photographs as I took a walk around part of the reserve. I also stopped to record my observations, my thoughts, in words in my journal.

I surprised myself…

It was all a bit of a spur of the moment decision to head to the wetlands reserve. I was still feeling headachy and emotionally drained after my Time to Change Wales talk to the police yesterday. I needed to do something to help shift this and to lift my mood and getting out and about is something I do struggle with, hugely. Anxiety about being around people kicks in and I can become almost paralysed with it. However, today I didn’t. Perhaps because the reserve is familiar to me; I have been there a few times before. However, I’ve never really taken much of a walk around it. That has always been a problem for me.

But not today. Today, I walked along some paths that were unfamiliar to me. I didn’t go all that far, though my walk took an hour. I did fear getting lost there, but I kept my eye on some fairly obvious landmarks such as wind turbines, the lighthouse at Nash and the huge powerstation. Being able to see these gave me some confidence that I knew what direction to head in to return to the visitors centre. If I strayed from where I could see at least one of them, I backtracked and took a different route.

Most of the people walking and visiting the reserve smiled and said hello, as did I, and that helped me feel at ease too. That, and the rhythm of walking, the sounds of nature – birdsong, rustling leaves in the breeze – and I took pleasure in moving my body, which is something that is new to me.

It’s also something I need to remember and try to get a walk into my schedule most days, somewhere where there’s nature but also where I feel safe to walk. In the wilds by myself is not a good idea, but somewhere like RSPB Newport, with it’s structured. signposted paths is a good idea. Or the beach…somewhere I’ve not been since July, yet it’s only a 40 minute drive away from me.

I forget all too easily how good it is for my mental health to take a walk where there’s nature, birdsong, and not too many people.

As I walked, I could feel the tension leach from me, down through my feet into the forgiving and loving earth. With each step and each breath I felt the anxiety ease little by little. The headache began to lift as well. By the time my walk was over I felt much better. There were still cobwebs left by the headache, but they were manageable.

When I returned to the visitors centre, I browsed in the shop and finally managed to find a raven pin badge! I also bought a small guide to trees. I also had a nice lunch and a very welcome mug of tea in the cafe there, where I continued to write and reflect in my journal until it was time to return home ahead of the rush hour traffic.

Back to art…

I love the stained glass feel of this design. I did try working with the colours in the style of my latest mandalas, but it just didn’t seem to work out for me. Perhaps I was trying to work a step, or several steps, too far for me to be comfortable with that change.

There’s also something about the black lines that gives a definite form to the mandala and this reminds me of how in winter I can can see the underlying form, the architecture that usually is hidden beneath leaves and flowers.

As is my way, I used my Microsoft Surface Pen, Microsoft Surface Studio and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro to draw and colour this mandala.

I used my photos of my visit to get the colour palette I used. And for me this is an unusual colour palette, but it reflects very much nature’s palette on the day and time that I visited.

There’s a bit more about my visit on my other blog – Curious Stops and Tea Shops.

Letter mandala

©Angela Porter 2019

This mandala grew from a letter A, and just a letter A. I extended the letter ends to create an interesting shape that filled much of the space. Then, I spent a lot of time removing parts of the shape and adding patterns and so on. When I was happy with the result, I added shades of the teal colour I’d used for the letter.

I’m fairly happy with this, though there are things I’d want to look at doing again or changing. Luckily, I thought to save the very basic letter A before starting to mess around with it.

Now I’ve done one, however, I wonder if I’ll manage to create a mandala for each letter of the alphabet…maybe, maybe.

Very soon I’ll be heading off to Ton Pentre to give an anti-stigma talk to a group of South Wales Police officers in my role as a Time to Change Wales Champion.

Time to Change Wales is all about ending the stigma and discrimination that surrounds mental illness. My talk covers some aspects of stigma and discrimination and the main part is me telling my story of my mental illness and the stigma and discrimination I’ve faced.

I have cPTSD and it’s taken me a long time to recognised I have problems with my mental health as cPTSD is all I’ve ever known.

I never know how I’ll feel after one of these talks. Often I’m emotionally exhausted and in need of self-care, which often involves a good nap. So, I wanted to make my daily blog post before the talk, just in case I’m out for the rest of the day.

Being self-employed means I can schedule a quiet day so I can look after myself should I need to.

And on that note I’d better get this posted and get myself sorted to head up to Ton Pentre.

Hand Lettering – WIP Wednesday

©Angela Porter 2018

I woke this morning with a dreadful migraine. Two emotionally draining days – therapy on Monday, an anti-stigma talk for Time to Change Wales yesterday – can cause such a reaction in me. It’s my body’s way of saying ‘Woah there Angela! Enough! Time out is needed! Self-care! Nothing else stressful for today at least, please!’.

So I’m heeding my body’s message. I was due to take all my accounts stuff to my accountant, but my vision and concentration is impaired enough that for now I don’t feel safe to drive. I know that with a quiet day and a nap later on I’ll recover. 

Even though my eyesight is affected a bit, doing art actually seems to help with the headache. I think it’s a mindful activity that lets my mind and emotions relax.

So, I wanted to complete my days of the week in a Lombardic style script, and here’s my work in progress. You can see my pencil lines, both as a guide for letter heights and for the shape and spacing of letters. By drawing the outlines in pencil first it means I can easily make adjustments as I ink them in.

Next steps, when my head has cleared a fair bit more, will be to add the patterns in the letters. This really does help to define the letter shapes I think.

I definitely want to try some of these letters with dangles on them. Perhaps that’s what I’ll do while I’m waiting for this migraine headache to shift somewhat.

A Dangle A Day’ is due for release on 8 Jan 2019

Hand lettering practice

©Angela Porter 2018

Today has been a bit of a busy day. I woke still drained from yesterday’s EMDR therapy session. No EMDR though as I was just too emotional and ‘raw’ to go through it, so it was a lot of talking around how one trigger event had caused several trauma ‘streams’ to rise and flood and confluence. I was stuck at that confluence where white water rapids had formed and I was being buffeted about in the eddies and currents and waves.

So, it was self-care last night when I got home, which involved a bag of chips from a local chippy, with curry sauce, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and starting to crochet an amigurumi ‘dumpling cat’ from a new book that was delivered yesterday. Then, there was the journal writing before I went to bed.

This morning I had to be up early to go give an anti-stigma talk to a group of police officers. That drained me emotionally once again. However, it was a good thing to do as they all found my talk really interesting and useful. My Time To Change Wales champions hat was polished up a little bit once again.

I came home and finally had some breakfast and ended up in bed to sleep. That’s one of my coping strategies when I’m so emotionally drained. I still feel dazed and dazzled by it all, but am on a bit of a more even keel now.

I didn’t want to let the day pass without doing something with pen and paper or screen. Hand lettering seems to be my thing at the moment so I thought I’d have a go at hand lettering some of the days of the week.

For reference I used the Lombardic Capitals set in ‘Decorated Lettering’ by Jan Pickett. 

They appeal to me partly because the space inside the letters lends itself so much to adding patterns, but because of their oldy-worldy nature. I love Anglo-Saxon, Celtic and Medieval illuminated manuscripts and this style of lettering, in a slightly more modern form, appeals to me.

I discovered it’s a lot easier to form the letters when you draw them big – hence why their size increased from Monday to Wednesday.

Dot grid paper is a godsend as it helps with the consistency of size of the letters, though I suspect that as I become more comfortable with my skills that I may experiment more with that.

A nice way to spend an hour or so this afternoon, and I have the rest of the days to look forward to doing, along with adding patterns to the open letters.

Mind you, the letters without patterns would look lovely just coloured with colour  gradients, and I’d love to add metallic highlights/accents too.

First, I need to get a bit more proficient at hand lettering and working on plain paper.

Of course, I can always scan my lettering in and remove the background and dotgrid so I can print it out on paper suitable for a colouring medium such as watercolours and metallic paints.

Cheating? No. I don’t think so. I would’ve already done the work in the first place. Printing and colouring is, to me, perfectly acceptable.

But that’s for another day. For now, I had to get myself sorted to pop out for the evening.

I’m also musing about adding some dangles to the letters – dangles with charms that are reminiscent of medieval ornament or jewellery, for example.