Today I’m feeling tickettyboo, a little tired, but definitely only a teeny tiny bit emotionally drained. I think that some lovely icecream on a toasted waffle after my talk yesterday, in the company of a lovely friend, seriously helped, as did time with other friends in the evening and a serious dose of meditation.
Of course, my morning drawing helps me, and today it’s a mandala.
The perfect kind of relaxation to do before I head out later to do my fourth anti-stigma talk of the week, this time at Companies House.
This morning it’s time for some self-care, and for learning how to create amigurumi critters. Crocheting is always a challenge for me, but I had an overwhelming desire to create a cuddly cuttlefish, all rainbow colours. However, I think I bit off more than I could chew by starting on something so big without practicing and figuring out how amigurumi works and how to avoid increasing the number of stitches when they’re supposed to remain the same number, and how to know when the next ‘row’ starts when you’re essentially working in a spiral, and and and …
So, I finished the body and ears of a simple bear yesterday and started on a little mouse. I’ve still not figured out fully how it works, but I may be getting there, and smaller projects are definitely the way to go to learn and understand the techniques needed.
Today sees me do my third anti-stigma talk for Time to Change Wales as part of Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) 2018.
I am tired this morning. Each talk I do is emotionally draining. It also takes a lot of energy for me to keep up a happy, smiley and laughing mask when in public and not to get overwhelmed by my story and allowing aspects of it to re-traumatise me.
I put myself through this for some good reasons, and one of them is NOT attention seeking (which is what my narcissistic mother would say).
I really do believe it’s time for the stigma and discrimination that surrounds mental illness comes to an end. I know it’s not going to happen overnight, but little by little. I tell my story to give people an insight into what it’s like to experience depression, anxiety, hyperperfectionism, hypervigilance, emotional flashbacks, being overwhelmed by choices in a supermarket, not being able to get out of my car when I go to somewhere I want to visit, being in fear of going to do a job I used to love when I was a teacher, and more, CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) is so complex.
I also want people to know that little changes in the work place can help people remain in work.
I want people to know that the social stereotypes of depression, anxiety and so many other mental illnesses are incorrect and that they lead to be people being stigmatised/prejudged and treated differently/discriminated against as a result of the urban myths that exist.
The more we can have conversations, the more people open up about what it’s like to experience mental illness, the more people will, hopefully, have a better understanding and the urban myths will lose their power.
Not only that, the self-stigmatisation that results in people not seeking help, acknowledging they are not thinking well of themselves, will result in people seeking that help and advice they need earlier.
On a more personal level, telling my story is helping me ‘own’ it, and though I still minimise the traumas I’ve experienced from a very young age, it’s helping me understand that they are not small little things that everyone goes through, as well as me understanding that it’s profound effect they’ve had on me that is the important thing as well as having counselling/therapy to help me heal from my past and have a healthier way of thinking about myself and living my life without avoiding all kinds of things for fear the same things will happen again and again.
I come home from a talk emotionally drained and tired; I either want to nap or just draw, or both, but not at the same time!
When I draw I like to just draw intuitively, drawing on my visual vocabulary of favourite shapes and patterns, and just let them flow onto the page. I can lose myself in that flow, I’m able to enjoy drawing familiar motifs and patterns and the intricacy of my work. Just letting things flow, drawing for the pleasure and contentment it brings me, the calmness that results, lets me put to oneside the anxiety I can feel when I’m creating for a particular contract, to put aside my hyperperfectionism and just go with the flow in a way that can be difficult when I’m drawing for a publisher and can add anxiety and frustration when I need to draw for peace and calm.
And that’s what this drawing helped me to do. Today, I hope I’ll be able to draw again, however after the talk today I’m taking a friend out for ice-cream and I think I have something occurring this evening too.
Today I give the second of my anti-stigma talks for Time to Change Wales. Today, it’s just a couple of miles down the road from me.
I was tired yesterday after my talk; not physically tired, emotionally tired, and I still feel a little so this morning.
I started drawing this before I went off yesterday, did some more work on it last night and finished it this morning.
Art really helps soothe my emotions and helps me find that place of calm, contentment and balance.
That’s my #tuesdaytip. Find something you can lose yourself in, that brings you peace and calm and contentment and a break from the stresses, worries, problems of life. It’s all about self-care. For me it’s art or making music, sometimes taking a walk, and mindfulness meditation. For others it could be gardening, baking, woodturning, swimming, cycling, or any one of a myriad activities that bring peace and contentment.
I enjoyed drawing and colouring the previous mandala so much, I thought I’d do another. This was particularly helpful for me as I was rather emotionally drained yet emotional yesterday after doing a couple of anti-stigma talks in my role as a champion for Time to Change Wales, a campaign that aims to end the stigma and discrimination that surrounds mental illness.
I started this yesterday, but it’s taken me much of today to complete it.
I’ve had a couple of busy days, including a Time to Change Wales anti-stigma talk with the South Wales Police. The talk wiped me out for a day or so, it always does as I get very anxious and emotional in telling my story.
So, I’ve been relatively quiet on the artsy front, but I did get these two abstract, stylised floral images done.
I rather like the bright colours, achieved using Kuretake’s Zig Clean Colour Real Brush Pens and a water pen. I like both the white and black outlines, though I do prefer the black; they make the image look more like stained glass.
I’ve added some new items to my Vida Collection, typically ‘Angela’ style abstract art focusing on line and colour. The collection includes scarves, tops, wraps, leggings, bags, jewellery, cushions/pillows and tapestries.
Later today I’ll be adding new leather products to the collection, including passport holders and baggage tags.
Although I didn’t do anything in particular on Tuesday 10th October 2017 for World Mental Health Day (other than re-tweet and re-post relevant articles that is), I did do an anti-stigma talk on Thursday 12th October 2017.
I delivered my talk and story to a group of front-line police officers who were receiving training. It seemed to go well and be received well. I’ve not read the feedback forms though, nor am I likely to, as even if 99% of them are positive, the 1% that may not be all the positive or says I made no change is the one that I’ll focus on and will end up worrying and fretting and being hard on myself…
What did surprise me was how anxious I was when I woke and on my way to, during and after my talk, far more than I’ve been before.
Gnawing stomach, shaky, hypervigilant, cold sweaty palms, unable to speak in order…
I’d almost forgotten what it’s like to be like that, or that was how I lived every day of my life for many, many years while I was still a teacher.
Well, not quite like that – it was worse back then, a lot worse!
Echoes of it reminds me of how far I’ve come, how much better I am now.
Of course, after the talk and driving and getting home, I had the post-anxiety ‘crash’ where I felt shaky, wobbly, my eyesight was still very acute, and a headachy tiredness grew.
A huge mug of tea, a couple of Jaffa Cakes, and an afternoon sleep with cat cuddles saw me a bit better in the evening, but I was still emotionally drained. So, I too it easy, ordered a take-away, though I didn’t have much of an appetite.
Friday I was still a little wobbly, but today I feel more like myself again.
Art always helps me calm and ground, so that has been my therapy, and will continue to be so I’m sure.
This is a little bit of a different blog post from me.
As I’ve mentioned before, I experience CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder), which presents itself in many ways, including anxiety, depression, and a low self-esteem.
I’ve had lots of counselling over the past eight years or so, and for the last two and a half years I’ve had a lovely therapist who specialises in EMDR therapy. It’s taken a long while for me to get to the point where I believe that such a gentle kind of therapy works, and works for me. It’s still a slow process…but progress is being made. A major change in employment nearly a year ago seriously helped with that.
Last week, my counsellor suggested I read a book called ‘Tapping In’ by Laurel Parnell. In the book, Laurel Parnell describes how the process of bilateral stimulation by means of tapping the knees or outer thighs can be used to reinforce a safe place, helpful guardians and other tools to help during both therapy and everyday life. My own therapist has successfully used it to reduce anxiety during a dental appointment as well as aiding in sleep.
She suggested I read the book and we do some work on the resources I need before continuing with EMDR as the last few sessions have left me rather upset, fragile, and, unsually for me, unable to find my ‘safe place’ at the end of a session, so that I can leave the fragile and upset state behind.
So, yesterday we worked on my safe place, with me coming up with a new one and ‘tapping in’ the contentment, peace and safety I feel when I imagine myself there. The bilateral stimulation from alternating taps to the outer knees, helps to reinforce the feeling of the place, and actually helps to intensify it.
I have no problem imagining places I can go to in my imagination; I’ve used guided meditations over the years for various purposes. When it comes to me coming up with my own imaginary places, it never ceases to surprise me what these places are like!
The other thing that was suggested after I’d verbally described my place, was to spend time over the week drawing/painting/creating images of this place, as well as practicing the process of tapping in my safe place and using it to help me manage my current high anxiety levels. (My anxiety intensified greatly yesterday, not as a result of counselling, but by the decision to hold a ‘snap general election’ and my worries about what is happening in this country, in the world, which then gets transferred to worrying about finances as I’m now self-employed, and so on and the constant chatter of anxiety winds itself up if I’m not careful).
Me being me, I get to it almost straight away…starting with these mandalas
“My mandalas were cryptograms concerning the state of the self which was presented to me anew each day…I guarded them like precious pearls….It became increasingly plain to me that the mandala is the center. It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path to the center, to individuation. ” – Carl Jung
So, I started with some abstract, intuitive mandalas to try to express the feelings I have when I think of my safe place, when I remember the feelings I have when I’m there.
Next, I wanted to draw some kind of representation of a view from one of the windows of my place. And this is what I came up with, though the view changes all the time!
Yes, I know water isn’t yellow, but in my inner world it can be! It also shimmers with gold and has lots of shining gold and blue ‘dots’ in it. Lots of happy creatures and colours there, all entertaining me … diverting my attention away from my anxiety.
Yes, I use art to help me manage my mental health. When anxious, doing art helps me become less so; when depressed, art lifts my mood. I’m sure the inner critic chatters away even when I’m ‘arting’, but the art takes my attention so the critic’s voice can be ignored.
Oh, before I drew anything, I took time to write a clear description of my safe place, as words are how I build up mind images.
I’m looking forward to ‘tapping in’ help for creativity, amongst other things… I’m also looking to intuitively drawing and creating some more of the living things that I can see from my safe place – all friendly and protective of course, nothing scary allowed there! Which suits my tendency to rather whimsical, cutesy, artistic style.
So, I’ve shared a little of my ‘safe place’, but I’m keeping a lot of details to myself – no offence, but I don’t want any gate crashers there!