Finding Doors

I have kept #TalkingMH and it’s opened some doors, specifically this one. The Orchard, Norwich 

In several ways I’m quite lucky, in that yes I’ve had some really naff hands dealt to me but I’m able to communicate it into a story, theorising some of it but also having the skill set to make visuals to convey parts of the journey.

By drawing and painting honestly I’m able to connect and resonated, sometimes profoundly with someone who has experience similar situations or emotions. Great huh!

on the 9th Apri,  I did a Building A Village- training workshop, CPD, the attendants where prominently Art psychotherapist. I took some original sketchbooks with big spider diagrams of what our current village looks like. I showed slides from a presentation I made in 2016 that explained what the service I worked with helped me to achieve, my own words and accompanying sketches. Also on display was a stand alone visual story. These things all emote and disscribe what some aspect of struggle and recovery look like, but I’m get to create a practical image that I feel for the story and consept justice.

Script or infographics ?

Often I talk about how I made the village that supports me. While I’m talking I like to have images or props to help me do that. They are often a peice of art work or a difficult to read map of my own community. This is the bit that’s frustrating me, I’ve tried a few different ways to show it as a visual so that others can apply it to their life situation. So far nothing is doing exactly what I want it to, which is frustrating. Perhaps it’s too big and I just need to write a book! 

I’ve talked without my art work, I’ve talked with it. I’ve shown it and not talked(not very often TBF) I’ve only once spoken with a script. I often feel comfortable enough about what I’m saying to just tell my story in a way that suits the situation or audience. I think if I started to do PowerPoint and a script, sure I’d get everything across bit I’m pretty sure it would loose a lot of meaning.

After the most recent talk I realised that I’d left 3 key things out, and that I definitely need a better/smoother visual to disscribe #MyVillage💛 The message was still put across well enough but maybe I need to pin something’s down, I carry a lot, I think what I’m saying is I’m holding back a lot of the time and that in itself is enough for me to need to prompt myself, to keep me contained and on track while talking, without loosing or missing vital elements.

Is this why bissinesses employ the skills of designers? can you tell I recently read IKIGAI? Venn diagram goodness. 

feeling interactive? find me on IG, FB and the world of twits @Findinga_voice

No tech Tuesdays

#notechtuesday 😲

A while back, as a family we went to a workshop by the very interesting chap @PaulJungo it helped introduce ideas that are sometimes better heard from someone else, “erk, whatever, no way!” is a standard reaction to the idea of putting in more tech boundaries in.

We’ve successfully implemented no tech at night(unless it’s a difficult time and some soothing tunes or stories are needed) and introduced alarm clocks. Actual physical alarm clocks in our bedroom to avoid having our tech next to our beds.

Recently as a consequence for a boundary broken, the PC was out of bounds for 6 days. I would often avoid this action because then I’d have to live with a grumpy, bored young person, they are the WORST, worse than hungry toddlers for sure.

I had to put on my Big Mum pants on and be extra focused on asserting the boundery lines but we did it, and we thrived. It’s benefits were so obvious that I’ve implemented #NoTechTuesday which sounds worse than it is to a screen addict. From school finishing time until dinner time we’re both going to have no screens. Instead, Lego, building airfix models, painting, table tennis(in @castlemall), dog walks, cooking or baking, life skills, (Dynoboy suggested ironing! Who is he? Erk no, was my gut reaction, but ok sure ironing!) Some how get some of the awesome ideas he has into a notebook/writing stories together. Endless UNO and Battle ships. I’m going to get taught how to skateboard.

Fundamentally it’s to offer time to the young person I adore, to try to build good habits and make more space for compassion, for one’s self and others. Which is actually not that easy, if you’re used to giving yourself a hard time it’s easy to do the same to others. To break that cycle takes time WITH people, to care and be cared for. This stuff is HARD.

This is week 6, he still hates it but we are getting good stuff done.

💛

Conference Comedown

Post Nor(Dev):Con 2019

The past week I have done the bare minimum, by which I mean I have washed and eaten regularly enough, seen some faces that I feel comfortable seeing when not at my best and put the majority of my effort into parenting. I have had what I call Poridgeface for over a week. It’s something similar to the feeling your face might get after a heavy session of bawling your eyes out. I used to get it the day after a heavy EMDR session or a particularly taxing parenting test, but only ever for a day. It has been such a long time since my mental health has physically manifested itself, basically, I have had a cold without the snot for a week. Napped and overslept regularly and Wednesday I wept quite a few times. I think I get why and there isn’t much I can do about it. I just have to manage the consequences. Post Nor(Dev):Con I wrote up my experience of the day and did a much-needed brain purge, it’s just taken longer than normal to want to finish and publish it, and that’s OK.

This one was a bit of a struggle, and I know exactly what I would have done differently, that said it wasn’t a total disaster. I had a couple of questions at the end of my talk, which was good. One guy shook my hand after, a Dad asked me how he could help his 14 yo daughter. I had great support from people I’ve met over the last 12 months who were attending, the power of networking is real. I had some awesome feedback from other speakers a bit later on too. There is a lot to resonate with a wide audience in my content, it’s not always comfortable but it’s worth the space it takes up. A wise friend reassured me of this some months ago, I think it’s something to do with “the human struggle”.

Overall I enjoyed the day, my chest only twice nearly exploded out of my chest in a giant doom-filled wave of panic. The awesome team behind Nor(Dev):Con 2019 mixed things up a little by placing people focused speakers on the main stage. There Was a duo that gave an in-depth and poetic account of depression, a total joy fest listening discussion on gendered language. Dom blew me away with his extra honest account on his own coping mechanisms and struggle with oblivion. Jen & Jon totally brought Intersectional Feminist gloriousness to the table. I was encouraged by a few different people to take a spot at the lightning talks later in the day too, a strict 5mins. I wondered what I would talk about, I was asked if I had more images of my work, well it just so happens that I have an online gallery of drawings and paintings!

Stood on stage, the majority of guests at the back of the hall networking during the wine reception, I plugged in the HDMI cable, put my laptop on the podium, this time glad to have the mike in my hand and not the Britney/Madonna style mic( i hated it during the first talk). I think my opening line was “I’m going to show you my vaginas”. Scrolled through paintings, most recent first, not lingering long on the nude self-portrait Give & Take,2018 having not formally exhibited it yet, I wish I had left it up on the big screen longer or took the time to look at it with the captive audience. Instead, I moved down to older paintings, spent a little bit of time with My Mother is A Cunt 2018 discussing how it was my first real serious go with colour which led nicely to a CHEEKY2017 and POLKADOT 2017, the restricted pallet and sharp angry mark making, a place I physically put my anger. I saw the clock in front of counting down, I said that I used this work a lot, in pop-up shows in PHD classrooms, that led so beautifully to my just standing there, I said: “if you ever get a chance to do something different, do it”. Then left the stage feeling quite accomplished.

This is the bit I used to hate when doing Fine Art Masters, group crits and presentations. I had ran out of my ability to blag my way through because the much more mature and critical audience of peers could see how little confidence I had in what I was doing. I was just going through the motions of making, unaware that I was trying to hide and soothe myself, unable to see my own mental health struggle. My final MA piece was a shelter with one blanketed wall, a refuge. I was all critiqued out.

Doing the lightning talk was definitely a little big win, I’m glad I did it because later a bright, powerful intelligent woman told me she had gone and read my blog, that she too had difficult parents and thanked me. I love this bit about what I do, just by turning up and being seen, taking up space and talking, I get to soothe someone else. It’s frickin magic. At dinner, I felt so comfortable with the incredibly interesting folx I shared the day with. The dread of all the things I’d said that day, just little ripples.

Part of me wondered if I should have just gone and done my talk and left, I think it would be totally OK to do that, but I would have missed out on so much, not only the other speakers but all the support and interesting conversations in between. Worth it.

Not fearing accountability

Who else is grateful to have the festive period over? Even if everything seems grand and life is plodding on ok, Christmas is so intensely derailing, I end up quite raw when school starts up again. The first week of new years I was aware of the rawness, and containing myself as much as I could, but craved more control. I got that by making myself a weekly time table, a life schedule! liberating. My time is my own.

Not drinking, smoking or driving gives means I get to treat myself to one session of therapy every week, because of that’s what I need right now. The beauty of recovery, having hit rock bottom, I know what the slide feels like. I went 2 years with no therapy. I took on a project that I knew I wanted to do but would also need help carrying through till the end. Sometimes it’s just someone to remind me to eat 3 times a day and sometimes it’s where I put all the hopeless rage. 

This is my face, even it is political. I can take this face out naked and the reaction it gets is very different to when it has makeup on it. It got podgier over Christmas and that got comments from someone near my studio. Cheers dude, yes I have put weight on but why are you commenting on it? Why do I have to hear if you think I look good or healthy? It’s stupid, I don’t, stop it. At my very illest and smallest I was given countless “compliments” about my appearance. 

Once upon a time, I was making political work without having any understanding of politics. I GET so much more now. There are things that need to change and that’s why what I do IS political. Where you work, shop, what you eat and where you spend your time and money, words you use and how you talk with people it is ALL political. The stuff that is important to me needs to be better, better access and funding to family mental health support has to improve across Norfolk and Suffolk. Trauma-informed practice needs to be embedded across services. Social workers need a break, like nurses and teachers, they need more people on the ground and a realistic workload. These are just those off the top of my head.

I love my recovery and therapy but accessing it isn’t just a choice, if I want it I have to go out and get it because the NHS MH service in Norwich is chronically oversubscribed. I have never been able to successfully access it, not before, during or after a crisis. You literally have to be the right kind of unwell and recover within a tiny timeline. That its a privilege is disgusting. The UK is opening up about MH and smashing stigma but their system isn’t fit for purpose and do not get me started on childrens MH services- rage tears have occurred in the name of CHAMs. 

This post is what it looks like when I don’t fear accountability. Creepy art to follow. Also Lookout across social media platforms for incidentals and Talking MH dates in Norwich, one in April and one in February.

I was wrong.

This post is unapologetically me, triggering and sweary, sorry not sorry.

If you’re striving for something you believe you’re not, it hurts and it’s probably counterproductive. I didn’t think I was good. I got really ill and was broken down to nothing, so every effort I made to do better, with encouragement from some key people meant, that I could prove to myself that I was enough. When I settled into the feeling that I am enough, I started to care & know what it felt like to let myself be cared for, have space and time and be nurtured. From this base, I was able to learn more about what I’m capable of and what I’m responsible for, what I can change or impact in my little life and the big wide world.

Having recovered. The main cause of self-sabotage removed, (other than a chronically dysfunctional family)  yaaaaaas bithces,  I’ve been sober for over a year. I’ve gotten so much done! That in itself is a big chunk of talking. I don’t want to say I am an alcoholic because I feel it makes light of those who have a bigger struggle than I did. It was about escaping and losing control. I didn’t want to associate with being an alcoholic in the same way I didn’t want to be seen as a victim. My experiences growing up, saying  -it wasn’t THAT bad. How many survivors do that? A lot. We always think someone else has it worse so we should just be grateful and get on with life. I was wrong. I have a very big story about this. It comes out in short bursts when I’m talking with friends, but this is how it comes into play now.

While doing some jobs around town, my head grumbling around this idea and the next task, walking home in the grey December wet I saw the amber traffic light and stepped out into the road on a crossing. There’s always a few seconds to dart over before it turns red. My shoe stomped stopped rigid in the tarmac as a car slowed and honked. A hot flash of FUUUUCK jolted up my body. The driver gesticulating, me pulling the most “whatever, up your’s” face my face can. Shame prickling the back of my neck. I never usually tempt the red figure. If there are young people and children especially I wait till it’s green, even when I was a kid there was this link with been seen to do the “right thing” when there was someone there to see it.

 

I raged all the way home. What a prick. Speeding off the roundabout like that. AND flailing their hands at me. When their light wasn’t green….not when I started crossing. It was amber! It was amber, erk. It wasn’t my fault, they were in the wrong. I didn’t tell anyone about it, and that felt like an old shame, the fear of someone calling me stupid and that I was wrong…..that I could have endangered my life. For the next few hours, this went round in my head. I felt angry and right and stupid, and what if it hit me. Round and round in my head, building up more bile everytime I thought about it. Angrier and more ashamed. Another old feeling, an old friend walked parrel in all these thoughts, “So you do want to die! you can’t hide it, I’m still here, look at you trying to be all good .”  Fuck off old friend, not today, that’s not what it was, you and all your intrusive mates can do one, I didn’t just step out into traffic to avoid life. So maybe I’m a slightly alcoholic, slightly suicidal, previous victim of a short list of things, it’s totally debatable to me and myself. What I know above all is that I own my shit, I get the whole responsibility thing even when I get it wrong.

I was so angry with the driver and myself and life, right up until I told myself, I was wrong. The weight of the anger at a stranger, the self-loathing at being that silly. It all melted away. I actually breathed a sigh of relief. I made a mistake, it could have been so much worse and I’m thankful it turned out how it did and I’m grateful that I can understand that I was wrong. So many times in the past within intricate experiences and relationships I was wrong.

It is so easy to hate yourself, to avoid risk and over correct or just opt out in order to not risk being wrong. I lived a life with no opinion because I  never wanted to be wrong or to upset someone or have someone think I was wrong. So I kinda did nothing, I just followed and slipped into the roles and spaces others made for me. Which sucks thinking about it but it’s easy, safe, the same, predictable and I could keep on loathing myself. New year new me isn’t something I promote,  because it is often close-knit with diet culture which I haven’t got time for and won’t knowingly promote. As a general rule, I believe you are enough.

 

 

 

Enough

Today I had lunch with a wonderful woman who remained me how far I have come & believes where I am going is exactly where I should be going. #MyVillage 💛⠀
I try to say this little phrase every morning when my feet touch the ground.
I am enough.
💛
I know from experience that if you hear something often enough you will believe it,good or bad. You can control this little bit of mighty good.

Be kind to you

Halloween beats Christmas

Halloween doesn’t come with the weight of expectation or the sense of loss that Christmas does. You can celebrate it for two weeks or just one day. In our immensely dysfunctional family, grown-ups were depressed, absent or intoxicated around the time of Christmas, they always pulled through in terms of getting gifts under the tree but there was an unmistakable diss ease from November until boxing day. Even those who were in attendance weren’t ever fully present.  My birthday is the beginning of December. Around 8 I started asking for a tree instead of Polly Pockets or a candle making set, always a real one, fake trees and tinsel were banned, the appearance deemed too tacky. If I could make it look good, maybe everyone might feel better. The children would decorate the tree together, as I got older I would perfect it when they had gone to bed.

Terms such as ” I just can’t be bothered, do what you want” and “We’re fucked, Christmas is cancelled.” were heard a lot. There wasn’t a sense of hiding struggle, won’t somebody think of the children! The grown-ups were children, unable to cope with the responsibility or understand the impact of their actions or behaviours. I feel like I can say that because I parented in a similar way for 7 years but now I know where they were coming from. Intergenerational trauma is a bitch to sidestep.

Halloween didn’t hold dark secrets like the festive season.

As I got older my tree responsibilities grew, by the time I was 14 I knew that the two white ribbons I had been instructed must always go underneath the vintage angel where in-memory of two pregnancies that didn’t make it to term. Christmas was about holding on until the emotional triggers of the grown-ups raw traumas were no longer all around us.

Spoopy Finley
Dead Mummy Dynoboy 

We weren’t allowed to go trick or treating because it “appeared” to be begging. So by the time, my child was 4 and youngest sibling was 8 we had engineered how to meet our own needs.  We loved dressing up, consuming sweets but didn’t like turning off the lights and hoping the neighbours would think we weren’t in or writing notes to tell them we had no sweets to give. We decorated the front facing part of the house and gave out goodie bags of sweets (American ones to outdo the neighbours). By this time I was the grown up and take control of how big we went with the decoration, costume and dress up. We had to do the decorating and faffing because the other grown-ups wouldn’t. It was easier to pester and be bold at this time of year than it is at Christmas. Halloween is easy to do on the cheap, on the hop with little organisation.

Halloween is our Christmas now because it doesn’t come with a cascade or uneasy feelings or sadness. We wrote this time in for ourselves, to keep making side steps and big leaps away from what hurt us, so we don’t hurt ourselves and others. We eek it out for at least a week, decorating the living room with creepsome treats, made a big night out as a fam squad to go get spooked at primEVIL, an evening of pumpkin carving, scary films and an evening of Spooky City This time of year isn’t all about families getting together, now more than ever we feel the loss of the undead. Those significant relationships, parents, grandparents were so toxic that they are alive, some just around the corner, but are not present in our lives…….and that’s ok.

We always looked after our selves, now we do it without the hope of it looking all John Lewis or caring if Mum’s gone to Iceland.

 

#FAV18 – Finding a Voice

Exhibition and workshops

In short the exhibition is about parenting and mental health from the point of 4 different families, 4 stories. There are two workshops where I use my lived experience and creative practice alongside staff from Compass & The Benjamin Foundation.

–WORKSHOPS–

aimed at Norfolk & Suffolk Health, Social care & Education Practitioners.

Each workshops will begin with a short introduction and an opportunity to be present with the work in the exhibition. Then we will gather in the library room to discuss what came across in the work, unpicking how to cope with human struggle and remain connected and authentic within our professional roles, whilst remaining grounded and safe. The art work can be used to explore specific themes in areas over a spectrum of professional practice; domestic abuse, childhood trauma, attachment and recovery.  It is a place that offers rare insight into the client experience of different professional approaches. In my experience there can be stark parallels between two similar services, in how the service functions and responds to the client and the impact this has.

16th October •“What is it like to be involved with services”

Compass social worker Laura Miles and I discuss the two perspectives, professional and parent when having services involved with your family.

17th October •“Working with Domestic Abuse”   

Dr Nic Yeates and myself boldly and honestly explore  ideas of professional practice using the exhibition as a visual reference.

The workshops are available at 3 times on each day.

09:30-11:30 * 12:00-14:00 * 14:30-16:30

We are asking £5-£10 donation to raise funds for work done with The benjamin foundation. Please feel free to ask any questions and book a slot by emailing findingavoice@yahoo.com If you know any practitioners that would find these workshops valuable please pass on this.

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#FAV18 events page

FAV18 professionals Workshops Flyer PDF

#FAV18

FINDING A VOICE poster

FINDING A VOICE (1) creative workshop

MESHnight #MyVillage

Sort of joking at a Ted x ed talk that i wanted to do a Ted talk. A very kind fellow gave me the platform to do a little more practice, on my own without the comfort of a confrence or seminar with others.

A solo gig.

It went really well to be fair. the feed back was possitive and valuable. I met some fantastic people I wouldn’t have ordinarily. I even recived an email saying some one was putting what they had learnt into practice.