I don’t know about you, but watching a beautiful sunrise or sunset lifts my spirits somewhat. Sometimes the experience makes me cry, sometimes with the beauty of it, sometimes releasing some of the stuff going on inside of me. Either way, I find myself relaxing and breathing more easily as I watch the sun set or rise.
It’s something I don’t do often enough. Not just watch the sun rise or set, but spend time in nature. Walking where I can hear birds sing. Paddling in the surf where sea meets land. Feeling the wind in my hair.
When I need to do it most is when I’m least likely to do any of these things. People scare me. Being on my own with people around when I’m emotionally and mentally vulnerable scares me. Being on my own where there’s no people around scares me. Growing up I was always scared and anxious. I always tried to get away from family to somewhere where there was no one who could pick on me. Yet when I got somewhere I’d be so nervous and anxious and scared that I’d end up returning home and then usually hiding away in my bedroom.
If I think about going out to watch a sunset, walk along a beach, sit in nature and draw/write when I most need it to soothe my emotions and mind, the inner critic pipes up in my mother’s voice saying ‘why do you want to bother to do that? what’s the point of it?’ That voice still has power at these times, the times when I really do need to ignore it but don’t have the strength to do so.
I need to fight back. I’ve never fought back, well rarely. I have rarely had ‘no’ in my vocabulary. After over fifty years of life, that voice still has power over me, still robs me of what strength I have.
It’s on notice though – I’ve just recognised you and have worked out what you are doing and your time in my head and heart is now limited.
It’s Friday, so today is both furbaby friday and dangle day, so it’s quite fitting that I have, once again, combined a furbaby and a dangle in one design. I drew the design on Rhodia Dot Grid paper using Uniball Unipin pens and then digitally coloured it using the usual Microsoft Surface Pen and Studio along with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.
Looking at it now, I think I missed an opportunity to attach the dangle to the cat’s tail. I also didn’t add shadows, and I’m not too sure about the circles on the cat’s coat. Also, the cat looks rather ‘flat’.
‘A Dangle A Day’ is a tutorial book I wrote and illustrated to show how you too can create dangle designs and was published earlier this year.
Yesterday, I stumbled upon this quote before I headed off to my EMDR therapy session. I decided I wanted a fairly simple pattern around/behind it, and just simple colours, though I’ve played around a little with adding patterns to the sections.
I printed out the quote and the borders. I Used a Pentel Sign pen to draw the bold, black lines of the design. To colour the design, I used a Microsoft Surface Pen, a Microsoft Surface Studio and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. Behind the design I added a paper texture which, with some wizardry of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, I was able to add to the design to add some texture and imperfection.
Walks, EMDR and being brave…
I had a lovely drive to Neath for my EMDR therapy and I arrived with enough time to go seek out some yarn to buy for my knitting/crochet stash as well as have a walk around Victoria Park in the winter sunshine.
The first blooming daffodils were proudly holding their bright yellow heads up for all to see, and there were signs of plenty more to follow. Snowdrops, crocuses, pansies were all there to be seen too. Lichens on the bark of trees created a beautiful natural tapestry of colour and pattern. It really was lovely to see.
Without the leaves on the trees to muffle the songs of the birds it was quite raucous at times, but raucous in a beautiful way. The birds didn’t quite drown out the sound of traffic, people or the tinny sounding music coming from the speakers in the bandstand, but they were loud enough that I could listen to them and filter out the other sounds.
It was nice to be out in the fresh air after a few days of barely leaving my home as I recovered from the emotionally draining days of last week. It was nice to take a space to breathe before going in for therapy.
The quote above was a starting point for my session, during the usual reflection on how last weeks EMDR had affected me and how I’d been through the week. One of the weeks sticking points that cause me some discomfort was the many people telling me I’m brave for telling my story, for going to therapy and how good it is that I’m showing people that it is possible to recover from mental illness.
Brave? Me? Surely not! That goes against everything I was led to believe about myself from as young as I could remember.
“You’re fat, thick, stupid, ugly. No one loves you. No one will love you. No one will be your friend. You’re useless. You’re a failure. So and so is much better than you at everything. Don’t bother me. You’re making it up. You’re’ to blame for all of this. Why do you want to bother doing that?”
If I asked for help I was either made fun of, dismissed or ignored. Me and my feelings weren’t important.
No matter what I did to try to please or make people proud of me or to acknowledge how well I had done it was never good enough. There was always a put-you-down.
The only time my narcissistic mother ever expressed any pride in me wasn’t really pride in ME.
“My daughter has graduated.” ” My daughter has a PhD.”
She has three daughters. I was never mentioned by name, not even if I was stood next to her. It was all about her. I was only useful for what could make her look better, for her to be the centre of attention.
These messages were taken up by other people around me. They became ingrained in me as the view I had of myself. I still speak to myself using these phrases when I’m in a fragile state mentally or emotionally.
I’ve known about the way I think about myself and where it has come from long while. However, the realisation that my feelings have never been important to anyone, not even to myself. I’ve pushed my feelings, my needs away so that other people don’t get upset or angry with me, so I make sure they’re always happy, even if inside I’m suffering in some way. This was something that came out of the very, very painful, emotional and frustrating EMDR session that followed.
Frustrating as I have very, very few memories of my past. I was made aware I was trying to hard to find a memory and reminded that part of cPTSD is hiding painful memories away, forgetting about them as a way of coping. I was told it’s ok not to have any memory. That I just need to let things be as they are in EMDR.
I think I’m trying so hard to ‘succeed’ at finding a memory, not to disappoint, the harder I try, the less likely it is for a memory to appear. The funny thing is, that once I accepted that through all the tears and anger and frustration with myself, the memories just appeared. There were so many that we just bundled them together as a ‘cluster’ and worked with them.
Then, through the tears and the pain in my throat and heart, a quiet, small voice told me that I had done nothing wrong and I did not deserve any of this. That I deserve better.
We tried working on me believing that through EMDR techniques. That caused me more tears and upset and emotional pain. So we called an end to the EMDR and talked a little about things.
Through EMDR I’m revealing more and more of my story. It causes me pain when new parts are discovered or insights are gained. But without that revealing taking place there is no hope of me healing. My aim is to tell my story without feeling any pain.
I was very tearful with weird memories cropping up as I drove home and through the evening. I had weird and disturbing dreams through the night. I woke with a blinding headache, which is still with me despite some painkillers. I feel so tired, weepy. However, I know there’s been a breakthrough, more than one actually, through yesterday’s therapy session.
The last words my therapist left me with were that she thinks I am very brave. Brave for telling my story. Brave for seeking out therapy to help me heal. Brave for persevering with EMDR when it can cause me a lot of distress and upset. Brave for showing people that recovery from mental health problems is possible. Brave for telling people that seeking therapy/counselling is a strong thing to do as we are helped to learn the skills we need to regain our mental and emotional wellbeing.
I don’t feel brave. I don’t understand how people think that I am. I do know I want to tell what I feel able to do so of my story to let others know they’re not alone. I do want to tell people about my journey to recovery so they can see that recovery is possible. I tell it to try to help others.
I don’t do it for attention. I don’t do it to have people feel sorry for me. That is my narcissistic mother, and others, still putting me down via the voice that is my inner critic.
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.
On Friday night, 20th April 2012, I went on this walk with some friends and others. We had an absolutely brilliant, spellbound time I must say and I would recommend it to anyone who is in the area of Cardiff, Wales, UK.
Jim, the guide, was knowledgeable in both the history, legends and spooky occurrences in the area and he was willing to talk and share information and experiences with one and all.
Peter, his mate, who brought up the rear to ensure no one got lost or left behind in the darkness or who would escort those of a more nervous disposition back to their car(s), was equally as knowledgeable and willing to share tales too.
It was chilly in the twilight, the sky was clear and there would be no moon that nigh as we gathered around the cross that stands on the road above Llandaff Cathedral, a beautiful building, inside and out.
However, our walk would take us to the land to the north of the Cathedral,along the edge of a field to the banks of the River Taff, along a road back to the Cathedral, through the cemetery and to the Bishop’s Palace. As the night gathered around us, we used torches to light our way as we walked from storytelling point to storytelling point, but the torches were put out as the stories were woven from fact, legend and personal accounts in a spellbinding way.
I’m not going to share the tales we were told, nor any experiences we all had and that would spoil the walk for any who wish to take it, but I would really recommend it if you have a love of stories, of history or of local legends and folklore, or are looking for a different way to spend a couple of hours of an evening. Wrap up well though, and wear sensible shoes, and take a torch.