World Suicide Prevention Day 2019

World Suicide Prevention Day 2019 © Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

The artwork.

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.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says suicides are a serious public health problem. They also say that suicides are preventable and give a list of some of the measures that can be taken on their webpage about suicide – https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/suicide

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.

Hope is rekindled – mandala WIP

Hope is rekindled Mandala WIP ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
Hope is rekindled Mandala WIP ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

I need some quietly creative, self-care, self-comforting time today. What is more perfect for doing this than creating a mandala?

I turned to my digital tools to do this – Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio. I also wanted to work with just colour – no black outlines and no sketches to start me off. I just wanted to let the design flow and unfold as it needed to. And it did.

This mandala isn’t finished, it is a work in progress. The outer ring may disappear as I work on it more; it seems to help to create a finished mandala at this point in time.

I knew the mandala needed to titled ‘Hope is rekindled’. That seems to be quite apt for me at the moment.

So, Angela, how are you feeling today?

I’ve had a heck of a busy couple of days. Monday I popped in to see Russell at the Time to Change Wales offices to pick up some resources for an upcoming stand. Then, I had therapy followed by an extremely late lunch and a slightly late tea before going to something in the evening. I eventually got home less than an hour before midnight feeling exhausted.

Tuesday was an early start to get myself to Llantrisant Leisure Centre by 9:30am to set up a Time to Change Wales stand at Rhondda Cynon Taff Council’s corporate induction day. That lasted until nearly 4pm, so it was a mad dash home to get something to eat and to warm up. I was cold and chilly. I was also feeling quite low – mental exhaustion does not help with my emotional resilience. I’d not had time to recover from therapy on Monday nor the rest of the busy day.

I was glad to look after the stand, but interacting with strangers, as lovely as that was, took it’s toll on me emotionally and energetically. Not only do I have CPTSD but I’m also an introvert so a double whammy! My protective mask of jolly, happy, extrovert Angela during the stand; keeping that mask in place is exhausting. Yesterday I got a glimpse of just how exhausting it is to keep the mask raised.

Yesterday, I also realised how I don’t raise that mask too often nowadays.

After something to eat and a hot drink, I had a meeting to go. The meeting had some parts that had me quite fraught. I was glad to come home, deal with bits and bobs of emails and then go to bed, snuggled up under the comforting weight of my weighted blanket.

I’m tired today. However, later this afternoon I’m on the go yet again. My sister has asked me to accompany her to an appointment. I then have something on this evening too, if I have the energy to go there!

Time to get another big mug of tea and start to get myself ready for this afternoons outings.

Wednesday

Wednesday ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
Wednesday ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

A cute and simple mandala today with a little bit of hand lettering in the centre.

I used a Microsoft Surface Pen on the screen of my Microsoft Surface Studio in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro to create this mandala.

So, Angela Porter, how are you today?

I’m a lot less exhausted than yesterday. I slept, lots. I’m still feeling a bit light headed and tired, but I am able to mostly function this morning, as evidenced by the cute mandala.

I have to get my self sorted soon to head off out to give an anti-stigma talk for Time to Change Wales. I’m sure I’ll be able to do it and I can take time to recover afterwards if I need to.

I’m still quite surprised about how deeply the last EMDR session has affected me. Not only tiredness, but my digestive system is again a bit out of kilter. It will all settle down again given time, just has it always has in the past. It’s all just part of the healing process. It’s the after effects of ‘surgery’ to release the trauma. No surgery is without unpleasant after effects and time needed to heal.

Nikita Gill – poet

I found this wonderful poet the other day and I have ordered three of her books. She so eloquently creates poems that describe aspects of my CPTSD, trauma and my healing journey too.

Kintsugi

On the days
when you feel
ashamed of your scars,
your mind only registering
how ugly they are
rather than the beauty
they prove of you having survived,
remember that
there is an entire art form dedicated
to filling the cracks of broken things with lacqurered gold.

An entire art form that proves that
even the broken and damaged history of an object
is beautiful and should be treasured.

Remember
how much more you are
than an object.
Remember
your survival, your journey,
your scars deserve
to be treasured too.

______________________
Nikita Gill

That is just one of so very many poems that spoke to me. I look forward to the delivery of the books so I can read through many, many more.

Exhausted I am…

©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

I am exhausted today. My EMDR session yesterday was extremely powerful and intense. I left feeling light headed, light-bodied and a bit off-with-the-fairies as well as rather tired. This feeling stayed with me all evening.

I woke exhausted but had to get some errands done. I’m now back home still exhausted.

I was hungry while out ( I didn’t have breakfast before leaving home as I had managed to get a cancellation appointment at the doctors’ surgery for an issue unrelated to CPTSD). So, while waiting for a prescription to be filled I went to have breakfast. As hungry as I was I could eat very little before feeling full. It was the same when I arrived home after EMDR yesterday.

I think my therapist has found the ‘magic formula’ for me and EMDR. It involves working with a negative belief I have about myself, imagining myself as a baby or small child and then working with the first image that pops up in my head to give the somatic (body sensations) and emotional feelings to focus on during EMDR.

Yesterday’s session resulted in some very powerful metaphors that resulted in powerful processing of trauma and negative beliefs. It’s not quite finished, there’s still some distress associated, but that level fell from a 9 to 2 during the session.

So, I’m too tired to do anything other than have some tea (Twinings Lady Grey, no milk – it has lemon and orange peel and oils in it and it’s deliciously bright and refreshing) and go back to bed to sleep some more.

Oh, the graphic above is one that I created for my anti-stigma talk presentation for Time To Change Wales. I’m giving a talk tomorrow and needed to revise my presentation.

I used Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio to create the digital art.

A few more fish.

A few more fish © Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
A few more fish © Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

I’ve had a productive morning and early afternoon.

First, I revamped my anti-stigma presentation for Time to Change Wales. It now has nowt about my childhood and so on, just info about CPTSD, the stigma I’ve faced, and helpful/hurtful things said and done.

Of course I’ll give a bit of info about my life too and how CPTSD impacts me every day of my life so far, as well as how that impact is lessening thanks to the help and support I recieve via EMDR therapy.

Then, I turned my attention to these cute and colourful fish. I needed something cheery and happy after sorting the presentation out – it did have me feeling a bit emotional, and art is always a self-soothing, self-caring activity for me.

So, I’ve added some more fish to this illustration.

This is quite fun to do, as well as an experience where I can explore and learn more about how digital art can work for me.

I think I’m getting there, little by little, with the digital art.

My tools for digital art are a pencil sketch on paper, Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Studio and Microsoft Surface Pen.

I now need to go and do some ‘adulting’. I have to brave a shop to get some lunch!

Fish Dangle Design

Fish Dangle Design © Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

I’ve had some fun this morning! I wanted to create a cute and whimsical dangle design for today. A cute fish came to mind, so I went with that. See, you can create a dangle using any kind of design elements!

I also thought that it would be fun as well as a bit of a challenge to use the digital art techniques I’ve been using lately.

If you just focus on the outline shapes, it’s not a complex design. There are many ways to fill a fish shape with pattern and colour and you can make it as simple or intricate as you like.

My love of bright, almost psychedelic colours, has also crept out for the fish and I love the happy smile on the fish’s face.

The shell is a bit out of place, perhaps. A bit too realistic in colour and so on. But that’s OK. It’s shown me that I can digitally paint more realistic, if quite stylised, designs. That’s going to be an interesting path to explore.

The seaweed forming the ‘string’ for the dangle is very stylised and I just thought some pearls would be in keeping with the ocean theme.

This isn’t a design in my book “A Dangle A Day“. However there are many, many other designs that I give step by step instructions for within its pages.

I used Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, a Microsoft Surface Pen and a Microsoft Surface Studio.

So, Angela. How are you today?

I’m fine today. Content. It’s warm here in the Valleys of South Wales so I think it’ll be a quiet day for me. I don’t do well in the heat; I wilt.

Nothing else about CPTSD, mental health, emotional health or EMDR today. Not after that humongous blog post I did yesterday.

I do need to sort out my anti-stigma presentation for Time to Change Wales as I’m giving a talk next week and it’s time to change things around and change the focus of my talk from my life story to
■ what CPTSD is
■ more about how CPTSD affects me
■ the stigma and discrimination I’ve faced
■ how people have supported, helped me
■ what support I would have liked to have from people

I’ve already created a CPTSD ‘graphic’ to use in the presentation. I do need to gather information together.

Ha! I’m glad I’ve written this as I now I have a clear outline to follow to create my presentation. I was fretting and worrying about that.

Before I do anything else, I need some tea I think.

Summer Solstice Dangle Design

Summer Solstice Dangle Design © Angela Porter 2019 Artwyrd.com
Summer Solstice Dangle Design © Angela Porter 2019 Artwyrd.com

It is the Summer Solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere, the longest day of the year and from here on in the days will slowly get shorter. Still, it’s lovely to have daylight well into the evening with the sky still being fairly light at 10pm or so.

Yesterday evening I had a bit of an idea to try creating a dangle design on parchment, and this is the result. I needed a bit of a break from digital art after the hours and hours spent on my most recent mandala.

Parchment craft, or Pergamano, is an old craft and a lot of the work done, while beautiful, is really not my style. So I thought I’d try my style of art with it.

I used some ball tools to emboss the parchment with my design and then to add some shading. I drew the design directly onto the parchment with the embossing tools.

I started with the stylised flowers and worked out from there. Once I was happy with my design, I added a simple dangle consisting of round, heart-shaped and diamond shaped beads with a tear-drop bead to add some weight to the dangle.

I then added colour with some Kuretake Zig Writer pens on the reverse of the design. I chose colours that remind me of summer – the mature greens of summer foliage along with the bright colours of tropical flowers. I thought these would work well for the Solstice. Of course the hearts needed to be pink and I added some teal-blue to the small diamond beads for a bit of variety.

On top of the dots around the design I added tiny dots of gold glittery loveliness using a Uniball Signo glitter gel pen. I also added some tiny dots in the centres of the stylised flowers.

To give an idea of the size of this design, the black paper behind the parchment is A4 (approx US letter) in size.

Adhering the parchment to the black paper was a problem as glue shows through, so I had to use some tiny dots where the white lines were thick enough to disguise the glue.

I really think that the white lines of the parchment create something that is equally as lovely and maybe a bit more delicate than my usual black line art.

The uses of this design are many – greeting cards, note cards, framed artwork or used in Bullet Journals, journals, planners, scrapbooks, and more. In fact, I may replicate the design for my July cover spread in my BuJo.

If you’d like to learn more about drawing your own dangle designs, then my book “A Dangle A Day” is, perhaps, a good place to start.

So, Angela, how are you feeling today?

I’m feeling quite content today. Tired still, but content.

It seems the anti-stigma talk for Time to Change Wales and the anxiety I had around doing it on Wednesday has taken it’s toll on me just a bit. I do know, however, that I will recover in the fullness of time for sure.

This is part of the emotional/mental weather that is part of life. Beneath this weather is a calmer, more content Angela. I find this version of me from time to time; indeed I’m content in myself on many more days than I am discontented. Even with the bout of anxiety on Wednesday there was still a sense of being content.

It’s a strange thing to feel both at the same time. A bit like feeling the firm ground beneath my feet as a wild wind is buffeting me and trying to blow me down. I can feel that firm footing even when my emotions are a bit on the wild and windy side.

That’s progress on my journey to recover from CPTSD. Even more progress that I can recognise and describe this feeling.

This realisation makes me smile.

It’s progress, but it’s not where I want to be. I want to be able to go out and about without being scared of my own shadow. To be able to travel to unfamiliar places and actually get out of my car when I don’t have an appointment of some kind. To be able to go into an unfamiliar cafe or eatery when I’m by myself when I’m hungry and thirsty. To not go into full flight mode when something small has spooked me. To not be startled by loud noises. I want to be able to reach out to people without fear of rejection or to allow people into my home. To have all kinds of relationships with healthy boundaries where my needs and boundaries are respected by myself. To be able to go shopping without being overwhelmed by the choices available so I end up leaving without getting anything that’s needed.

These are but a few of ways that CPTSD affects my life and that I’d like to change through the healing journey I’m undertaking with the help of EMDR and therapy.

I’ve never been anything other than this permanently scared, extremely self-conscious person. Different events and places result in different levels of fear/anxiety in me. Even sat here, at my familiar desk, I feel anxious about writing about it.

The progress is that I recognise it now. I have identified it. Although it’s still there, it’s slowly being dis-empowered. Slowly means it’s being done properly and that I have time for the new level of anxiety or the increased self-awareness has time to become familiar to me before the next step forward is made. Familiar means it’s the more healed me. Healing bit by bit.