Meds & Body Image

#MentalHealthWeek | Blog 2:3

Mermasaurs existing was part of my recovery.  During an abusive relationship the only thing I had real control over was my body. I made it strong and healthy, so that I could skate hard and fast as a jammer/ blocker on an awasome roller derby team. My body got a lot of comments and compliments. which is weird.   My mental health got worse, I ended the relationship, and spiraled some more. I liked my body like that, it conformed and took up very little space.

I got started on antidepressants and did some EMDR & hard core therapy, put onFINDING A VOICE, gained some weight. The few clothes I’d bought in the smaller size no longer fit, and I was ok with it. I didn’t want to have to buy more new clothes.  Love jeans, but I hate buying new ones, I got to the point where I knew the brand, style and size that I could just grab off the rack or buy on line.

I paint a lot of naked body parts. I made a small painting I named Give & Take, oil on canvas, I don’t mind having it on line.  see below, but I’m not sure how I feel about it being in the big wide 3D world. The exhibition at the weekend is one Im toying with debuting it in.  It’s only for 2 days. Check our project out here imprudentart.wordpress.com

it’s very vulnerable but also quite powerful. am i feeling that brave or bolshy? * holds index finger and thumb to chin*

As a general rule I only follow food, fittness or yoga themed instagram accounts if I know the person behind it. I know Im not alone in finding “before & after” pictures problematic. I just don’t have space for the weiredy feels they give me so I try not to have them in my life, same as glossy magazines and adverts. eew. I don’t make space for that im my life, while I do my best to make space for myself, and lean into feeling i deserve to take up the space I do and will. Its also important that I help others take up their space too.

MHW Blog post 1:3 was an introduction to my introduction to meds. recently, I upped my dose, advised by therapist and negotiated with GP. I went up because Im dealing with a project I have to do that cuts really close to the bone, I have to do it, but I don’t know when it will end. I want to do it, so to cope with the extra stress and triggers, my does went up. Not very much longer my jeans, the ones I was so happy to have found. no longer fit.  *guuuuh* I tried going to the gym more, get back into some weigh lifting and HIIT, I just feel light headed and nausious AF. So Im not really in a possition to “work it off”.  So for the mean time Im just going to wear my awesome bigger £5 chazza (charity shop) bargin jeans and hope I will one day be back in my favourite range of average, usulal size me jeans. Not so much because of the size, but because I don’t want to have to replace them, finding clothes that actually fit well is a living nightmare. getting clammy just thinking about it.

I have been having a serious internal stuggle with it. Im taking up a bit more space, my double chin is on fleek, my squishy bits are quite sexy, but there is this ingrained anxiety about my body that is a daily struggle right now.  I wish it wasn’t. I have way better things to work about! seriously. I could name every bit that bothers me and talk about it at legnth, but I refuse to stir that pot, to air that stuff. That kind of talk is literally worth less, imo. 20180619_114742__01536734202231312725.jpg

I’m ok. Im good. No longer in an Endo Struggle, my body is good. I am enough. I just have to keep countering the body negative self talk creeping in and be grateful. 

relatable? throw me a comment or come find me on insta @finding a voice.

There is one more blog for mental health week to come, published in a coule of days. There are simmilar themes further back on this blog too and posts about talking in person at events about mental health crisis and recovery.

This week Im truely buzzed because the project I co founded has its first pop up exhibition! Over 40 creatives and mental health practitioners who have accessed mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk have contributed the show. for more info go to https://imprudentart.wordpress.com/

Meds, Me & Mental Health

#MentalHealthWeek | Blog 1:3

I’ve commented on posts, talked in person about meds, made one post about meds in IG when I was pissed off but grateful for my conviction when a doctor lectured me. it occured to me recently, I’ve never written about meds, it’s been almost 4 years perhaps a bit more since I’ve been med free & that’s ok. It might be that I will always have a maintenance does of 10 or 20mg. But I’d love to know what I’m like without it.

Will colours be brighter and orgasms more intense?

NO really I mean it. recently I chose to up my does to a level I haven’t had before. I’m not weeping at the drop of a hat or taking 3 hour depression naps any more which is good, but the world feels a bit flat and my interest in hedonistic stuff is just meh, oh and to add to that none of my clothes that fit well last year fit at all now, buying new jeans? do not want! though I’m not crying into my coffee or sleeping half the day so its swings and roundabouts right?

One afternoon with friends, possibly 2 years ago I felt content, borderline euphoric, then got too drunk and ruined it, Sometimes everything loses its zing, but every now and again I notice that Im noticing colours, they vibrate and pop. Will I get that natural high of just living my best life, if I eventually come off meds? How will I cope with the lows, the natural ebb and flow of life?

I’ll have to find a whole new normal! AGAIN.

Am I capable of self regulation? I quit drinking over a year ago because I couldn’t regulate that. I tried several ways around it, keeping the responsibility and giving it to someone else, but I just couldn’t do it. So I stopped. That in itself is probably a whole other post. I definitely have alcoholic tendencies but I won’t take the name of alcoholic because I feel it takes away from those who have had a greater struggle, and those around them that have held their struggle with them. In a way this is very much how I identified as a victim of traumas, someone else had it much worse than I did. Though everything is relative so this thought isn’t particularly healthy.

There is something in this that I know I’m not alone in. It’s a you do you thing of course. We manage. Those who’ve recovered or who have the burden of being just self aware enough to not fit into a broken system of health and social care. Those who suffer greatly but manage and keep managing.

This is how I manage. I take the prescription and do the talking when I need to. Mostly. Actually not that much. Sometimes just doing the motions of self care. I keep ticking over, balanced. I have some big hurdles to stride over but I think I can manage, but only with the meds and the talking, being visibly, painting and leaning into my village. I want to be off them but know now isn’t the time. but I’m aware there may never be a good time. I will have to make it happen.

I was taught from an early age that you can’t have a mental health lable on your medical record, because “people” will know, the same people who taught me that you can’t have an abortion because “you’d go crazy with guilt just like my sister”. *eye roll GIF*  “ it will dull your senses. You can’t expect to still make art.” When I eventually went to the GP far too late, I took the prescription to the pharmacist took them home, but I distinctly remember feeling scared and so grateful for a friend who was honest with me about their experience.

The first week was hell, but I was prepared for this because I had guidance from a friend. I’m pretty sure she cooked for me twice that week. Due to this, and her, whenever a friend tells me they are starting, changing or upping meds for depression or anxiety I tell them to lean into their village.

here ar 6 simple ideas to bare inmind if you have never taken anit depresants or anxiety medication. 

  • Expect very little of yourself
  • Breath, wash, dress, eat. (Parent/work if you have to obvs)
  • Get simple to make meals and healthy snacks in.
  • Have a selection of things to comfort and distract you, a series to get into, podcasts, playlists to listen to. Simple books nothing too taxing.
  • Take a little walk every day if you can.
  • Invite friends over, you don’t have to tell then why, just don’t be alone.this is the top one for me. If you can cook for friends do or ask them to or order take away together. If you feel up to it go to a different friends house for dinner. Some people find it easier to be alone but I find it’s comforting to have someone around even if I can barely form a coherent sentence.

It’s so easy to not look after yourself, but there is no need to suffer or punish yourself. I had people around because it stops me zoning out for too long and scaring Dynoboy. In the early days, way back in crisis it was the friends coming over that were making sure we both ate dinner in the first few weeks of meds. I found out the dangerous way what withdrawal feels like. During a time when I was really not ok, unable to get my prescription and didn’t realise the consequences, went 4 days without them.

Things got weird. Fizzy eyes and electric whooshing head,legs that weren’t my own and a cod fish flip flopping in my chest.

I’m pretty sure I’ve said nothing revolutionary but I thought it was important to say how I feel about it and what it can be like. Some people have had horrible experiences with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) others are fine, some people don’t find they help and have to try something else. Some people feel it is polluting the body and I should be able to manage with meditation and yoga, well that’s their choice for their body but I need this as well as a range of other things to manage my mental health. There is a ridiculous train of thought that someone is weak for taking medication for mental health. Which I just cannot fathom, it’s just ignorance and I have no time for it. Oh a good one is it MASKS your true feelings, I don’t buy that, I lived half a life in dissosiation, I find pinning down one emotion quite difficult, being hypervigilant does that.  I had to learn to feel safely and couldn’t do that with the epic ups and downs with out the meds. Sure there is a flatness now and then but maybe thats just life sometimes.

Hopefully the background stuff will mellow and I’ll get to experiment bringing the dosage down, with gp and a plan and contemplate not having them, there are some unpleaseasnat side effects to long term usgae i’d like to avoid. Everyones experience is different, it’s a very personal choice.

Pill shaming is gross, but it’s good to see people out there making awesome memes and cartoons countering that BS.

Over all I have to do what works best for me. My main focus is to being balanced, I have already proved that I cannot do mum mode with a wobble for a sussstained period with out serious repercussions. I was a robot zombie mum. It was scary and not just for me.  I dicsoved that our house is less stressful when I eliminante as much anxiety from myself as I can. Kids know intuitivly when things are off with their primary care givers and they test it, which isn’t fun, but it’s tottally normal, it’s how they find out where the bounderies are. We took a lot of testing and just about managed to prove where the bounderies in our house are. I couldn’t have done that with out support, part of that was and is anti depresant.

I have to look after myself in order to be the mum I need to be. 

Thanks for reading. Part 2 and 3 will be out later in the week, and will focus on the theme of this years menatal health awareness week, Body Image.

If you apprecisate this blog check out my Instagram, Facebook or Twitter @findingavoice

menatl health week UK 13 – 19 May 2019

Bank Holiday Chills

Shout out to any one who just got the chill of bank holiday. The sudden realisaton that the shops will be closed and you have nothing in the house to make a substantialmeal with. If you’re a fully fledged grown-up with no dependants that’s quite uncomfortable. Now imagine your’e a parent and/or a full time carer, in crisis. I’m fading off in to middle distance just recalling it.

There was a time I genuinly feared school holidays, no respite, no routine, no easy way out of the house, all the responsibility. Those would come with colourfull letters from school and big chatty build ups- school isn’t going great, exlusion iminent ” but don’t worry because its half term soon.” thanks Becky! “You must be looking forward to the summer holidays” MUST you kick me when Im down Karen! Though I feared them I had time to plan and means in which to try to cope. Bank holidays are far more stealthy, perhaps there is an un noticed increase in friends asking what you’re up to at the weekend, even invites to a bbq or sunday lunch.

Then it hits you, it’s a Saturday evening and it’s not been great day, some challenging behaviour mixed with the need for a 3 hour deppression nap, a wave of prickly sweat comes over you, not only do you have to do Sunday alone, but Monday too. Panic! What are we going to do? Have I got the stregnth to do a trip out? Is there enough money in my account to do some thing and get food? Which reminds me how do I sort out a benefits sanction because I missed signing on this week because I got called into school and forgot to look for the bebefits office number to tell them I was missing the appoinment. I can’t do this on my own, whos doing what? Where are my friends going to be? Is it safe to try to go see them? All I have to eat in the house is 1 frozen pizza and 2 packs of super noodels, theres and inch of milk left and no bread. When are the shops open till? All the kids on the street will be playing out, we can’t stay here there will be another fight. When will I get to have a bath if not on Monday morning?

I would often get pangs of guilt for feeling all of this and regret that I wasn’t a better person/parent, this is basic stuff right? It was so scary. ( but 100% no shame, I wasn’t well and didn’t have the right support)

Generally the weekends were good because it meant there was more chance of seeing grown ups we were safe with. People that ment I was distracted from my head and the intensity of Dynoboy and my relationship was diluted to safer levels. It is like this still to a degree now. Parenting stressfull, mixing undiagnosed cPTSD x2 and it’s very difficult to do alone on a daily basis. I was so iscolated by sercumstances, to a degree I still am, perhasps I’ve stopped looking because I do have My Village now, but there are still ellements that of parenting this sort of extra that I haven’t come across support net works and communities for additional needs or specific disabilities. I tried making one once, in conjunction with a niche chartiy but there were quite a few hurdles that I wasn’t prepared to climb over at the time.

ANY WHO, bank holiday special.

If I didn’t see it coming, it was often disasterous, dangerous even. If it went well, just the two of us, it could still feel ingredibly lonely. Even if we did get invited places, holding us both out of the house was either too difficult, so I chose to stay home or we went out and it was so exhasting that it made the rest of the day or next day more difficult. The emotioal zing around all this is present in a lot of my painting and drawing, particulally female figures and waves, all that holding takes used to doing, I think I have it most of the time, and when I don’t there is my village to help me.

I applied for an art prize, not some thing I ever remeber doing before, I thought I’d explore it a bit. I’ve never applied for arts council funding either, should get on it really. Heres the image submitted to the prize. It’s quite fitting for this post.

Stay safe, you are worth peoples time and the space you take up xXx

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.