The past affects the present…

©Angela Porter 2019 - Artwyrd.com
©Angela Porter 2019 – Artwyrd.com

Francine Shapiro is the person who developed EMDR therapy and this quote from her exemplifies what I’ve becoming more and more aware of through my three and a half years of EMDR.

Today, I am really ‘not with it’ and feeling quite spacey and vague and very tired. I had a broken night’s sleep with very, very weird and disturbing dreams. This often happens after EMDR.

I know that I need some self-care time today, and maybe tomorrow given how I’m presently feeling. I’m also in need of a walk outside, but I’m awaiting a delivery from Amazon. I hope it arrives soon so I can get a walk in early this afternoon.

EMDR yesterday

There were two particularly significant moments during my session yesterday.

The first one was a result of a suggestion by my therapist that I’m keeping secrets about things that have happened to me, particularly in my adult life. There are things I’m too, too ashamed and embarrassed about to talk about even with her. My throat closes up and becomes painful. I feel burning in my cheeks. There’s terror and huge anxiety in the pit of my stomach. She went on to say that in the article she had read it was suggested that clients write about these experiences. She suggested I do that. She added she did not need to read them or be told about them, that she can act as a ‘blind therapist’ where we just assign a code to the particular traumatic event and work with it that way. She even suggested I can burn the things I write after writing them so no one else can ever read them.

The relief I felt with this suggestion and discussion was immense. The discussion that ensued was enlightening in another way. That I’ve never ever really spoken to anyone about my feelings, especially when I was the one upset, hurt, abused in some way. I always put a smiley, brave face on and brushed all the emotions to one side, defaulting to the happy, funny, quick to laugh, person who chatters about faff and fluff.

By pushing away all that hurt and upset and so on I’ve also tried to tell myself that it’s ok, I can cope with this, that I’m incredibly caring about other people and their feelings and want them to be happy. Scared that if I spoke truly about how I was feeling that I would be rejected or that the other person(s) would become angry and would hate me and think badly of me.

So, instead, I brushed it all aside and swallowed it down, often with food, using the food to fill the emptiness within me, to hide the feelings of shame and fear and more. I’ve done this so much in my past that I’m having to learn what emotions feel like and what they are called as they crop up during EMDR.

I was with my older sister and younger brother visiting the British Museum and we stumbled upon the Sutton Hoo treasures. I was entranced by them, only having seem them previously in books. It was hard work to drag me away from the to go visit the mummies in the Egyptology section. My older sister said she’d never seen me so emotional and excited about something; she actually called me an ice maiden as I rarely showed any emotion at all, other than the happy, smiley, funny persona I put across. I was in my twenties then. No idea of emotions or how to express them, swallowing them down all the time.

So, writing about these experiences now, from a position where I understand more about myself, am more aware of emotions and feelings will mean that they are no longer secret, it doesn’t matter that others don’t know about them, but it’s important that I don’t keep secrets from myself and face up to the traumas and feelings I have suppressed from these events.

The second insight was during EMDR when I had a vision of myself looking into one of those mirrors that reflects things to infinity, but in this case it was like the reflections went around and around in a circle. The insight was that this is what has happened to me. I’ve got caught in a cycle of the same kind of things happening again and again – different but the same effects on me, the trauma they’ve caused me and continue to cause me as instead of knowing how to process them in a healthy manner I learned from a very young age to suppress anything I needed to talk about or needed help with because I was upset as no one wanted to know. I was bothersome. A whiner. An attention seeker. A liar. When I was upset the people supposed to care got angry with me. Or just ignored me. Or sent me away.

I am unaware of much of my past, particularly my childhood. I have few memories at all. That bothers me, but my therapist tells me I need to let it just be. People like me, who’ve had quite traumatic lives, often forget what has happened to them as a way of protecting themselves from that particular trauma, especially when there is no one they can talk to about it to help them work through it.

My past really does affect my present. However, I’m becoming more aware of the ways in which it has affected me, more aware that I do have emotions, and I’m trying to believe I deserve to think better of myself, that maybe I didn’t deserve any of this, and that although I’ve allowed things to happen to me I shouldn’t be so hard on myself as I need to understand why, what brought me to that point, why I can’t say ‘no’ easily.

So the quote is very appropriate.

About the art

This is very much a work in progress at the moment.

I printed out the quote and borders on Bristol Board. The design is a little less than A5 in size (4.5″ x 7.25″ approx). Then, I added the patterns around it using two Pilot Kakuno fountain pens – one with a medium nib and one with a broad pen.

After scanning the design in, I wanted to add colour to it, so I used my trusty trio – Microsoft Surface Pen, Microsoft Surface Studio and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.

I think the dark stars at the top could symbolise those parts of me I’d like to ignite after they were extinguished a long, long time ago – confidence, self esteem, the ability to say no, valuing myself, being a good friend to myself, and more …

The tangled nature of the design, with many parts seeming to blend one into another, sometimes not in a very comfortable manner, is like all the trauma and experiences I have had – a tangled mess where I pull on one thing in EMDR and a whole host of others come along with it, all linked by a common effect or effects they had on me.

Flowers blooming, leaves all signs of growth though, even if some are hidden at the moment.

I’m sure there’s more that could be said about it in terms of my journey of recovery from cPTSD along with developing mental and emotional wellbeing. However, not today as the chap from Amazon has delivered the parcels to me. In them are some basic things for me to try my hand at paper quilling.

I’ve been fascinated with some youtube videos on paper quilling, particularly the more modern forms and I was also struck at how some of them seem to be similar to my kind of drawing that has lots of spirals and swirls in it. So, I thought I’d have a go and see what I can do with it!

But first, it’s time for a walk … to see if that can help clear my head a little. I think a little trip to Barry Sidings is in order.

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.

Hello September!

Angela Porter September Template 2018 small

September 2018’s coloring template

A new month begins and a coloring template for September 2018(above) for the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans facebook group is now available.

If you’d like to access to September 2018’s uncoloured template, which is exclusive to members of the group, just wander over to the group, join and download. Please note, that terms and conditions do apply.

I drew this in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro on my Microsoft Surface Studio using my Microsoft Surface Pen.

Autumn is a-coming!

With the calendar turning to September, my heart lifts with the expectation of the glory of nature as autumn asserts it’s influence.

It’s my favourite season of the year. I love the bright, vivid colours that replace the darker, duller greens of summer. Nature’s picks out it’s most glorious paintbox and sets the world alight in fiery autumnal hues.

I also luxuriate in the cooler evenings and mornings and look forward to waking up to see dew, or even frost, on Binky, my Smartcar.

The fresh, clean, clear air that the turning season brings blows away the dustiness of the hot, dry summer.

There’s also the return of the pleasure and comfort of snuggling up under a duvet as night time is cooler. Not to mention the relief of sleeping well throughout the night.

There are other things I’m looking forward to this year too.

It’s hard to remember now the fear and trepidation that the return to school as a teacher that would come with the start of this month as the new school year starts.

Now, I look forward to the start of the new school year as the world is calmer, quieter during the school day and I can begin to venture forth from my home without my CPTSD panic kicking in when I hear the sound of teenagers shouting and arguing and swearing and being belligerent, just them being themselves really.

It’s not their fault, I know, but their sounds are triggers for my fear, anxiety, panic and cause me to want to hide in a quiet dark corner of my safe home. So much so, that I find it so difficult to venture out of my front door during daytime during the school holidays.

Through therapy, I will overcome this, but the reaction is so ingrained in me and goes right back to my earliest years; teaching, dealing with the dramas of teens on a daily basis as well as being the focus for some to vent their anger, just reinforced these automatic responses. This means not just unraveling the web of trauma that resulted in the panic response, it means learning a healthy response to such triggers, one that I’ve never, ever had in the first place.

Now, with the start of the school year, and a daytime world that is quieter, I’ll be able to find my courage to venture forth during the day once again. Maybe not often, but from time to time.

With it being my favourite season, with the theme of my next book being forests, to sketch and find inspiration in woods and forests during autumn is something I want to do this year.

It’s all part of my road to recovery from CPTSD. Autumn always feels like a time of new starts, more so than New Year. As nature begins to shed what is unnecessary so survival through winter is possible, so I work on shedding the trauma that has kept me in a metaphorical winter in terms of my mental and emotional health for a very, very long time.