A colourful, small reef illustration

Reef Illustration ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
Reef Illustration ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

A little reef illustration.

Yesterday, I got round to colouring my little reef drawing. And it is a little drawing – the paper is just 4″ square (10cm square).

To colour it, I used my Chameleon pens – both the Color Tones and Color Tops. I finished the illustration off with some small dots from a white Uniball Signo gel pen.

What I didn’t expect was that the pigment from the Uniball Unipin pens bled somewhat. I don’t remember that happening before. Mind you, I usually scan and print my black and white line art and colour the print. I didn’t do that today — something to remember for future reference. This is why some of the colours look a little dirty.

All the same, it’s a colourful, happy little illustration. I also like the thickness of the main lines with the variation in line thickness in the details. Diversity in line weight is something I need to remember when I draw digitally. Looking at my latest colouring templates, I think I may have used a line that was too fine. Again, this is something that I need to consider in the future.

It’s always lovely to do artwork like this, using traditional media and working in a familiar, comfortable style. It gives me a chance to reflect on what I’m doing elsewhere and to adapt and change what I’m doing to improve it.

Creating this artwork has given me ideas for some projects in the future. More on that when they come to fruition.

So, Angela, how are you doing today?

I’m doing OK. I’m feeling a lot brighter as the aftermath of Monday’s bombshell fades.

I’m aware I really don’t get out of the house and move my body around much. I either get engrossed in art and the day slips past me quite quickly. Or, my anxiety rears up and try as I might to overcome it, I just can’t seem to make it out of the house.

After a conversation with a friend the night before, I remembered that I like to walk around cemeteries and that my local cemetery might be the perfect place to go for a stroll.

And I did. Go for a stroll.

My love affair with cemeteries started when I used to walk to and from school when I was 11 and 12 years old. Walking to school was always a bit of a dash. However, I could take my time on the walk home to wander and explore the cemetery.

Even on the gloomiest, darkest winter afternoons, I never got freaked out by the cemetery. The dead have never scared me. The living, however, are an entirely different matter. The living people around me were the source of my traumas and CPTSD. The dead could do nothing to me that was any worse than the living.

I found the variation in headstone styles fascinating. I found I could chart the change in fashions over time. I also found reading them fascinating as some of them could tell me about the deceased and their families. It was history related to real people and brought them back to life. It wasn’t the dusty, dry, uninteresting facts in the history lessons I had to endure in school.

And so began my love of wandering around cemeteries.

I find them soothing, calm places to be. They’re quiet, not many people visit them. And there’s plenty of wildlife in them if you’re quiet and take the time to look.

Perfect places for me to walk and explore. Even on the days when anxiety stops me going to more people-y places like towns or parks, a cemetery can offer me that quiet space I need to take a walk.

If you’d like to see some photos and read some words about my walk and the cemetery, then please visit my other blog, Curious Stops and Tea Shops.

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.

Be Patient.

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

It’s turning into a weird kind of day.

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.

Be Brave WIP

Be Brave WIP ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
Be Brave WIP ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

Be Brave

A few more hours work on this entangled art. In the past day or two I’ve done an additional 6 hours, so I think that takes me to around 21 hours or so in total. It’s a long job, a big job, but an enjoyable one.

I’m definitely getting my head around working in layers, though I need to work on one motif at a time before combining the layers into one image and carrying on.

Now I know that you can have many, many layers open at once, but my brain just can’t cope with that. I can do one thing at a time, and that suits me just fine.

It does make it a bit more awkward if I want to go back and alter the colour, shape, pattern or something else on a particular design element. However that’s not an impossibility, just a tad more awkward.

I am, however, quite pleased with how it’s working out.

There are some colour choices I’m not all that happy with at the moment. However, I will let them be until more of the art is done. Also, I think they represent how I’m feeling on that day, and as this is along term project that’s likely to happen quite a bit.

Last night I was feeling a bit subdued, so some subdued, vintage-ish colours crept into the design. As doing art, being creative, soothed my not quite right emotions, the colours brightened. The elements I’ve added this morning are much brighter in colour, which reflect my current quite content emotional state.

Well done me for spotting this. I’d not really noticed how my emotions influence my colour choices before!

My tools for digital art are Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.

Be Brave Angela Porter

Finding that bravery to live my life as I’d like to and to know who I am without the effects of trauma is one of my goals.

I have enough courage to go to each EMDR appointment, even though I know how it could affect me for a few days afterwards. The effects pass and are part of the healing process.

This is a small price to pay to be able to what I’d like to do, such as go out drawing, walking, having lunch in a cafe.

I find these things hard to do as nowhere is safe for me except home. Rather, that’s what the CPTSD caused by repeated trauma has me believing.

Processing that processing the trauma, replacing the negative beliefs about myself with more positive ones will allow this to happen.

I’m trusting that there’s a watershed in my healing journey where I’ve processed enough trauma that I can overcome what anxiety remains.

I think I’ve had one watershed in my journey – the one where I now feel content on most days. That’s progress!

July 2019 Dangle Design

July 2019 Dangle Design © Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
July 2019 Dangle Design © Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

July Dangle Design

July is nearly upon us. It seems hardly anytime at all since June started! So, close to the eve of a new month it’s time for a dangle design.

This month I wanted to do a floral wreath with a little hand lettering. As I live in the Northern Hemisphere July means summer. So, my charms are a glowing sun, an ice cream cornet, and a tiny feather. I chose colours that remind me of summer too.

Now, for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere where winter has begun, feel free to substitute different charms – perhaps a snowflake instead of a sun and a steaming mug of hot chocolate instead of the ice cream cornet. Of course, a more wintry colour palette would be lovely.

I designed this to be A5 in size so that it would fit nicely in a BuJo, but equally it would look lovely in any planner, journal, diary or scrapbook. Of course the sentiment could be changed too.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the wreath has a seven-fold symmetry. Well, July is the seventh month after all!

If you’d like to learn more about how I design and draw dangle designs, along with plenty of designs to use or adapt, then my book “A Dangle A Day” is a good place to look.

I did create this dangle design digitally, using my trifecta of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio. It would be quite easy to draw with pen on paper and then use any media you like to add colour.

So Angela, how are you today?

I’m feeling quite content today within myself. I seem to have rested quite well. My digestive system still doesn’t feel quite right, but it’s certainly a lot better than post-EMDR on Monday.

In my blog yesterday, I wrote about my CPTSD and the prejudices I seem to face for having therapy. I’m amazed at how that post garnered a lot of interest on twitter; a lot of interest for a tweet by me that is, the most I’ve ever had.

I was humbled by this, but the best thing for me was someone letting me know my blog post had helped them.

That’s why I write about my CPTSD, mental health and emotional health. It’s not for attention (I don’t deal well with being shown attention of any kind – all part of the CPTSD). I share my story and journey so that it may help others.

It took me nearly 50 years of life to work out that I had a problem, and a couple longer to work out that it wasn’t just anxiety and depression, that it was something more, that it was CPTSD.

This is a label I needed to have. As I learn more about CPTSD it helps me accept that I am stuck in the past; not in terms of reliving memories and events over and over, but in the way I behave, feel, react to life.

Being traumatised means continuing to organise your life as if the trauma were still going on – unchanged and immutable – as every new encounter or event is contaminated by the past.

After trauma … the survivor’s energy now becomes focused on suppressing inner chaos, at the expense of spontaneous involvement in their lives. These attempts to maintain control over unbearable physiological reactions can result in a whole range of physical symptoms including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and other autoimmune diseases.

“The Body Keeps the Score” Bessel Van Der Kolk

Today, as I read a little of “The Body Keeps the Score” this quote really struck me.

If I think back to the weeks, months and years before my first bout of serious anxiety and depression, I can see how I was trying to control the inner chaos during my daily life. I struggled every single day with exhaustion, fear, fighting back the tears and wanting to hide away or run away. I also hoped I would die in my sleep so I didn’t have to continue with this.

I certainly had physical symptoms of illnesses for which there were no physical causes – upset stomach, losing my voice, problems with my lungs, outbreaks of weird spots on my skin. I’ve also developed a couple of chronic illnesses along the way too.

I don’t lose my voice anymore, but I certainly still get a dodgy digestive system and asthma attacks when the lightly napping anxiety monster is provoked and awakens. Oh, and I still get weird flare-ups of skin problems.

It’s taking me quite a while to read this book. I lost my ability to read during my first big ‘breakdown’; I still have problems retaining what I read. Sometimes I even have trouble making sense of what I’m reading. I used to be an avid reader. I miss that. However, I am aware that my ability to read is returning… slowly. In the meantime, audiobooks are a great source of pleasure for me.

CPTSD and me #PTSDAwarenessDay

PTSD Awareness Day ©Angela Porter|Artwyrd.com
PTSD Awareness Day ©Angela Porter|Artwyrd.com

It’s no secret that I have Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, CPTSD. It has stemmed from being ignored, put down (“You’re stupid, fat, ugly, no one wants to be your friend”), and bullied daily inside and outside the home from a very young age.

I was groomed by a family member when I was around 7 or 8 years of age. I had other traumatic experiences of a sexual nature then too.

I had no one I could turn to talk to about this as the person you’d usually turn to for help, the mother, was one of the people perpetuating this.
There’s so much more I could tell you, but I think you get the gist.

I continuously lived, and continue to live, feeling unsafe in the world. I’m constantly anxious. I used to rarely notice this anxiety as it’s the ‘normal’ background level I know. Nowadays, thanks to therapy and EMDR I’m more self-aware and recognise it’s there.

I had to admit to myself that I needed help with this when I was away from work for nearly a year with severe anxiety and depression. An occupational health nurse, who worked with people with PTSD, said I was a classic case of CPTSD and suggested EMDR.

I realised I couldn’t live my life the way I was. I had become too scared to go out of my home except when I had appointments or at night to go shopping. I was hiding away from the world, staying in my house where I felt relatively safe.

I am still like that many days. However, I have more days where I can get out and about. Not only that, but I have more content days than days of discontent and sorrow.

EMDR therapy is helping me to recover, slowly but surely.

I’ve had people questioning me, yet again, whether EMDR therapy is any good for me because of the upset tummy I get after it, as well as the exhaustion. They questioned, whether I really needed it. This annoyed me as I yet again had to explain what my life is like daily and why I no longer wish to live with the constant fear and anxiety that limits what I can do.

I wear a well practised mask of confidence and strength that belies what lies underneath. I think this is why people try to tell me that therapy isn’t doing me any good and I don’t really need it. I think they think I’m lying about my past, the trauma I’ve experienced and how deeply it’s affected me and the way I live my life.

Can you all stop trying to tell me what I need and what I don’t need?

You aren’t walking in my shoes, with my inner critic repeating the constant criticisms given from my mother and others. You aren’t living with my emotional fragility or the constant increased anxiety, even fear, I feel when around people.

When I have bad days you think it’s the therapy that causes it. It’s not. It’s that therapy opens up trauma that I continue to process in the hours or days afterwards. Sometimes that processing is via an upset digestive system, sadness, increased anxiety, emotional exhaustion and fragility.

The thing is, that these bad days are a small number of the totality of the days of my life and they lead to a greater number of days where I am content.

They are a small price to pay for a future life where I live a mostly content life with no anxiety, except in appropriate situations. A life where I and my body have learned I am safe, that my past is finally my past and not being relived everyday through that constant anxiety and fear.

Why would I not want to go through the bad post-EMDR days to get to the life I’d like to live?

EMDR is working for me, even though there are times when I’m not too good after it.

Think of it as surgery. If you have surgery you’re not very well for a while afterwards. EMDR is surgery on the trauma of the past. The processing is the healing taking place, although its painful, it’s necessary.

You wouldn’t tell someone who needed an appendix removed not to go through with it as they’ll hurt as the wounds heal would you?

You wouldn’t tell someone with cancer not to go through with chemotherapy as they’ll feel awful afterwards, would you?

Trauma, whether a major event or the constant day to day trauma of abuse and neglect damage us on an emotional mental and even physical level with chronic illnesses being linked to long term stress. EMDR is the surgery that helps to release, process and heal the effects of the traumas I’ve experienced in my past so that I can move forward rather than stuck in the past.

Does that make it clearer?

I need EMDR therapy to heal from my past and gain the life I would like, a life where I’m not ruled by the constant fear and anxiety that developed as a response to never feeling safe anywhere from the time I was born.

My therapist often tells me I’m brave for coming back to EMDR again and again when I know what I’m likely to experience. She wonders after each extremely emotionally painful session if I’ll return.

I always do.

I’m prepared to put the work in and to accept the days where I feel poorly after EMDR as I can see they are part of the journey to a better life for me. A life where I have a better relationship with myself and the world around me.

I’ve lived my whole life in emotional and mental pain. I want to live as much of the life that remains to me without that emotional and mental pain.

Can I make it any plainer than that? I don’t think so.

About the art…

Art is often very soothing for me, especially when I’m feeling fragile or distressed. Today’s art certainly has soothed me. I woke with a dreadful headache. The headache is now easing off somewhat; it’s leaving me rather tired though.

I thought I’d do a little something for #PTSDAwarenessDay, so I made use of my Microsoft Surface Pen and Surface Studio along with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.

Now I’m working out which tools I like, what effects I can get and the settings I like to use my digital art is speeding up just a little. Mind you, this is simpler than the ‘Be Brave’ wip I’ve shown in previous posts.

Be Brave – Entangled Art WIP 25/06/19

Be Brave WIP ©Angela Porter 2019 | Artwyrd.com
Be Brave WIP ©Angela Porter 2019 | Artwyrd.com

A bit more done this morning. Another 2.5 hours today for a total of 15.5 hours. Some hand lettering has been done today as well.

It’s coming along, slowly but surely.

I don’t think I’ll be doing much more today. I’m not feeling too well. More about that below though.

As usual, my tools for digital art are Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.

So, Angela, how are you today?

I’m not feeling too well. I woke up in the night all hot and sweaty with a very upset tummy again.

I was ok before my weekly EMDR therapy session. I think this bout of illness is linked to EMDR. It turned out to be a rather surprising session.

I had a bit to talk about with my therapist, Linda, to do with interesting bits of the book I’m reading “The Body Keeps The Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk who is one of the foremost experts on traumatic stress.

For real change to take place, the body needs to learn that the danger has passed and to live in the reality of the present.

“The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk

Linda and I had a little chat we had about how important she thinks it is that I blog and talk about my CPTSD and how trauma in my life has affected my life so much.

Our scans had revealed how their dread persisted and could be triggered by multiple aspects of daily experience. They had not integrated their experience into the ongoing stream of their life. They continued to be “there” and did not know how to be “here” – fully alive in the present.

“The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk

She said she thinks its particularly important as people assume that PTSD/CPTSD can only come from major traumas in life, sexual abuse, physical abuse. We talked about how neglect from birth – emotional and physical – can be traumatic and can cause problems with relationships with others and the self, and how it sets up the patterns for the negative beliefs about oneself.

I certainly did experience emotional and physical neglect and I never really had somewhere that was safe. I do now. I live alone. My home is my sanctuary, my safe place, and I rarely invite people into my home. Even though my home is safe for me, noises outside – doors slamming, car horns beeping, loud voices (even happy ones) can provoke a startle response in me. This is relevant to what happened in EMDR this week.

Scared animals return home, regardless of whether home is safe or frightening. I thought about my patients with abusive families who kept going back to be hurt again. Are traumatised people condemned to seek refuge in what is familiar? If so, why, and is it possible to help them become attached to places and activities that are safe and pleasurable?

“The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk

It’s not just having a safe home that’s important for me. I can feel safe here. However, leaving my home can mean I feel unsafe, anxious, on edge and this prevents me from doing things that I’d like to do. Simple things like going into a cafe for a cup of tea, or into an unfamiliar shop, to get out of my car in an unfamiliar place and walk around, to name just a couple.

I never felt safe at home or anywhere else for as long as I can remember.

That one thing has had a huge impact on my life, and though I now have a safe place, there’s still so much to work on when I attempt to venture into the world and interact with it and with the people that inhabit it.

Anyway, back to yesterdays therapy session.

We went on to continue EMDR processing of the traumatic event that we were working on last week.

Lots of pain/feelings in my body as the trauma was being processed. The front door to the building was slammed and the noise caused me to become startled. Linda was really surprised at how strong my startle response to the noise was, especially as this hadn’t happened before. She asked how long I’ve had startle responses; I informed her for as long a I can remember. She checked back on a PTSD questionnaire (not the right word but I can’t think of what that is now) I’d done a number of years ago now and the startle response was there.

I was instantly on edge, anxious, wide eyed and hypervigilant and we did some calming and grounding exercises before going back to the orginal memory.

It was obvious that the memory we were working on was being flooded by the startle response. So the EMDR was brought to a close for this week.

We did some calming and safe space work before I left.

Apart from feeling a little more anxious than usual, I felt ok on my drive home, other than I was aware that my body was still processing trauma in the way I experience it during EMDR – so odd aches, pains, sensations. Linda did tell me to be prepared for this happening as the startle response had really upped the ante on the processing and has brought forward new stuff to work with, even if I don’t know what it is at the moment.

However, as time went on I started to feel more anxious, extremely exhausted, and rather teary.

I still feel that way now, even though I also feel quite content at the same time.

The contentedness is that ocean that is me, the other feelings are the weather that causes waves on the surface of that ocean. The weather is rather stormy today.

Doing art helps me to be more aware of that contentedness, that’s for sure, which is why I focus on doing art on days like this, or at least on creative ventures.

Having an an upset stomach after therapy is quite a common occurrence for me, and Linda tells me it happens to a lot of her clients. It’s part of the continuation of the processing and/or the heightened anxiety that I experience in EMDR and in the startle response and I feel that anxiety in my stomach/abdomen strongly.

It’s always there and it’s part of the reason I tend to overeat; if I’m overly full I feel uncomfortable from food not from the anxiety I feel.

So, I’m feeling exhausted today, my digestive system is feeling tender, fragile, and still a little (maybe more than a little) yeuchy. A quiet self-care day is in order I think with light food for sure. I suspect a good sleep will be on the cards too.

As much as I find comfort in doing art, there comes a time when I become dissatisfied with all that I do, and I reached that point with my ‘Be Brave’ WIP. I think a day of crocheting hexagons and adding them to the blanket I’m making for a friend may be in order, and watching something on TV or DVD that soothes me, so that may be Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter or the like. It may be that I listen to an audiobook, though I tried doing that earlier and I kept having to rewind as I couldn’t pay attention to it in the way I’d like to.