120 people. I spoke some of my truths in order to lessen the feeling of isolation and loneliness to 120 people.
Instead of reading having a relaxed conversation with the Tod. I jesticulated more than expected and ended up far more relaxed than I thought I would be, though still nervous, I deliberately don’t see the audience, it’s just a blurry mass of colour until it’s Q&A time, then I can cope with seeing you wonderful people. There just wasn’t enough time to talk to everyone who approached me and run the “My Village” activity. I have a remedy for this next time.
The way people approach me is absolutely my favourite part of the day. It can be subtle and conservative, I knowing smile or it can be giddy excited “oh my goodness thank you I totally get that!” it’s the same as when I show paintings that resonate with mothers or survivors. I love that little space and connection between people with similar stories or circumstances.
The tables were turned on Friday, when I was the giddy one going up to a person having shared their lived experience. There is something beautiful in this knowing, peer support has huge potential but is not widely available safely……..yet.
Today, World Suicide Prevention Day, The Guardian Printed An article to which I gladly contributed. Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapy allowed me to understand why I struggled with my mental health and how deeply trauma had effected how I process information and how little authentic confidence I had. While doing EMDR I drew and painted to further process the nightmares and violent thoughts that occurred during recovery. This was my Eyes, Teeth and Vagina’s phaase. I was understandably very angry, and needed to put it somewhere safely. By this point I had a working studio, where I could paint, then walk away. Ensuring my bile didn’t spill out at home. This was during one of the worst times of my life, except now not only was I dealing with what I was living through I was FEELING as it happened. I moved out of dissociation and started feeling and learning to name it. I was most disgruntled to be honest. Dissociation is has its perks.
Doing EMDR allowed me to turn and face my truth, to own that mess. It allowed me to feel confident and incontrol, of myself and life but as a parent, allowing my child to feel confident that he was contained and safe. It was during this period that I also used my voice to ask for help. It gave me the confidence to lean into the feeling that I was enough,to be cared for and supported. This is when and how I grew #MyVillage, because I was able to be honest and present. I learnt to say out loud some of the most vulnerable sentences that I thought I would never be able to say. By saying them I was able to understand how very wrong the “normal” I had been born into was. EMDR is how I found my voice, The Compass Outreach is how I learnt to use it. Which is why I create Finding a Voice exhibitions, a cellebration and a platform for these voices. The #FAV17 Finding A Voice 2017 was about my celebration of having done the work in therapy and no longer needing intensive involvement of services. This year #FAV18 is about celebrating those voices that “get it” and other “service users” who happen to mothers and artists too. Sometimes a voice isn’t verbal.
When I become a philanthropist ( we all need a dream) I would back and fund The Compass approach, because it works, and what I learnt has stopped the behavioural loop of intergenerational trauma, priceless.
Im writing because in many ways I am lucky, I have never experienced a loss caused by a death by suicide, I have experienced it’s edges. My own personal plans at age 14 and a life endangering recklessness and self harm from then till 21, then a steady depression into my 30s, my brain often shows me how it wants to die, but I have to acknowledge it and get on with something else. Like caring for Dynoboy who has from time to time had strong urges to end his own life.
Im a fulltime carer because of my child’s mental health. I live in a house with one blunt kitchen knife, razors hidden and anything that could be used as a noose I keep tabs on. This is the advice given to us from CAHMs and school, school takes the same precautionary measures. Im disclosing this because, I don’t know many people like us, which can be frustrating and lonely. This is one of the reasons I speak about social isolation and Loneliness, it sucks!
Talking about lived experience means less people feel alone.
I got through to NHS’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) by going through the GP, it took a lot of time even though it was an urgent case. Depending on your postcode the services offered will vary as will the waiting lists. I strongly urge any parent who is worried about their childs MH to seek help soon and be persistent, chase appointments and find out what is available in order to ask for it, I learnt to be pushy. For us the services and schedule offered by CHAMs wasn’t robust or flexible enough, I cannot understand why there are only a set number of appointments given to a patient, why they can not be treated until they no longer need it. (it’s lack of funding I know, mega eye roll) “Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds worldwide counting for 8% of all deaths In the UK, suicide is the leading cause of death in young people, accounting for 14% of deaths in 10-19 year olds and 21% of deaths in 20-34 year olds” Suicide by children and young people, National Confidential Inquiry
If it’s you, your child, a family member, or a friend, ignoring suicidal thoughts won’t make it go away,
but naming it won’t cause it either.
You cannot put the idea of suicide into someones head just by talking about it. It isn’t a communicable disease either. If you are worried, say it out loud. There is a lot of pressure on those with mental health problems to talk, but that can be one of the scariest things in the world. So why don’t you do the talking. By naming it, and offering a space to talk you are offering a life line, listen without judgment. If they still try, call a social services crisis team (in norfolk you call the general line for Norfolk County Council and wait to get through to the “ if you are worried about an adult/child bit). If they still try, it’s not your fault. It’s important that you’re able to be safe and supported to, look in your local area or on line for support.
You may need to call 999 or take yourself, family member, or child to A&E, it isn’t an easy choice to make but if you need help, this is how to start it going. (take snacks and drinks and a charger)
In 2016, 5,668 suicides were recorded in Great Britain. Of these, 75% were male and 25% were female.
Suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 years in England and Wales.
This is the biggest piece of advice I can give. Go be with people, have a friend over or go to a friends house. Go for a walk with someone. To get through the summer holidays me and Dynoboy hang out with grownups that are good at regulating their emotions and making us feel safe and respected. It sounds intense, but if one of us is feeling vulnerable for a sustained period it can be a strain, if we hung out with our more unpredictable high energy friends we would both suffer from heightened anxiety.
Keep Hugging, soothe & smile
How do you feel when someone smiles at you when you walk into a room? when some one is happy to see you? it feels good, don’t be stingey! The most spectacular parenting advice given to me in crisis is “keep hugging him” it sounds simple, but esspessially as teens and if we are feeling cruddy or we have sensory overload, physical contact can be difficult, but always make it available. It it’s not something you are used to, go with it, there are good brain chemicals in hugs. So have dinner with someone kind, get them to come to you if you need. If thats not doable right away make plans. Call or msg someone, just for banter or for more if you trust them. Throw a message into an online forum or private facebook group. Pop round a neighbors for a cuppa, you don’t have to disclose the gritty. Just don’t be alone. You and your family are worth caring for, worthy of space and time in the company of others. This is why we have #MyVillage. I’ve fallen in love with twitter becasue it is there that I see the most discorse and supportive language around MH struggle. #survivourculture is a current favourite. Come join in @Findinga_Voice
great resources, information helplines, websites, messaging services and practical advice can be found
I’ll be getting giddy on my IG stories about it, tagging lots of people on FB and twitter too. I’ve started now, so I’ll #KeepTalkingMH Form the gritty stuff at MH Confrences to the simple ideas of wellbeing and community at this Print To The PeopleSocial event.
Please share, or tweet me, come & learn something about yourself! For tickets & more info click this link
#MumMode I’d love to be brutally honest but I’ll tone it down, to keep me and my little family safe. I don’t blog or use social media anonymously. My family isn’t nerotypical & our struggle isn’t a secret, but the details are masked. There is a picture of Dynoboy and I alongside the mention of difficulty in an interviewby the NSFT about FAV17 with the local paper a year ago. My mum mode is fully acctivated, were almost half way through the summer holidays, in a few weeks I will be running on reserves.
I’m still reluctant to share his image on posts freely, I have a strict internal venn diagram about when it feels right to and when it’s not appropriate, the caption alongside makes a huge impact too. The context of my painting and activist work and the audience I’m sharing it with bring huge connotations that could be miss read because I haven’t strictly underlined where we sit on the domestic abuse and mental health map (there is no such map that I’m aware of) Recently networking a hypnotherapist asked “What’s your background?” my flippant reply was “all trauma”. I have since learnt to say “Artist and Family Mental Health Activist”. I’ve been incredibly angry and frustrated recently because I know our truth. It’s so full and loaded but I have to be contented that I KNOW.
It makes me uncomfortable, parents sharing their children’s unwanted behaviour online, it comedy relief, sure or is it – help I’m a victim if my child! When it’s negative behaviour, there is a vulnerability that’s so frickin obvious it makes me sad. Sometimes it’s comical and how we get through it, parents being in the same boat, I get that. Maybe it’s about balance, maybe I’m just hypersensitive or maybe not down with the times. I’d be heckin pissed if my childhood deviance was chronologically laid out and my struggle shared without my creative input.
I’m sure I used to do it too, I know I’ve thought about it, I know there are images of me fed up with him in the back ground but I’ve never openly shared the bigger natative. What makes me uncomfortable now is the line that gets crossed where the parent is advocating for their child with overexposure of the struggle. It’s totally different when it’s in private groups, for example parenting social media groups have strict guidance on what to share within the group, in order to keep the families safe. These spaces often hold those who are in crisis, which is often messy af. I see it a lot from autism speaks type parents, the autism community is fighting back with it’s own voice, Kirsten Schultz wrote a compelling open letter to The Mighty about it.
Being a neurodivergent young person isn’t easy, being their parents is tough too. Sometimes it’s like having a much younger child. Sometimes it’s like living with a much more mature person in an adolescent shell. Yes having teenagers brings its own struggle but if someone is off loading to you, DO NOT SAY “oh that’s just normal for their age.” Any way I’m just here to say that parenting is hard.
Parenting Extra is HARD.
School holidays means the responsibility of laying out structure and routine is primarily on the one person who stays home.That’s me, it means the times I get to be just me, to meet friends for life giving coffee and chats is less. More planning has to be done to keep my own routine of weekly therapy and support in place. To get in the studio and leave when I’m ready doesn’t happen. An appropriate child care situation literally doesn’t exist. It’s all about containment. My identity has to hold on for a while, I have to just hold on in there and keep on keeping on, and that’s OK, because this is so much better than it ever has been.
I don’t want sympathy or applause. I just want to share because I know I’m not alone and I know you probably know a family in a similar situation. So go have a cuppa, send a message of solidarity, let them rant. Forgive them and reschedule plans if everything went wrong or plans where broken. Don’t judge what you can see, because you can’t see it all. It can be chronically lonely for parents and support is hard to come by, if it isn’t a burden on you go see them, bring dinner, go to the park with them. This stuff is priceless.
Repairing damage from previous relationships for us both and assisting the growth of a wholesome young person is my responsibility, it’s a privilege I share with a trusted few.
On the right there is a picture of me, my name and some words about me.
FeedBack Mental Health conference Shedding the Light on Loneliness and isolation, the last one was in Lowestoft this time we are in Thetford.
This is the vulnerability bit of what I’m doing, just the word domestic abuse near my name is unnerving, I’m not going to publically underline my whole experience because, well, we’d be here a while. I haven’t got the energy to correct others assumptions either way, my vast experiences come under this umbrella heading. There is still a little part of me that is scared of getting in trouble for being honest. Im dealing with it, every day. Everytime someone lets me know how i’m helping them to overcome their own challenges it fuels the courage I need to keep talking.
Growing up surrounded by masked monsters it was inevitable I would unknowingly inherit some of their traits. As I gear up to talking at another mental health conference I have to balance what I write and say publicly to avoid becoming vulnerable to the tempers of abusers that squat at the very edges of my world. I understand why they are frightened and how that makes them dangerous. I’m not here for them. My responsibility is to keep my family little safe and to be happy. Im doing, talking, making, writing for me. I do what I need to do to be happy, which in turn makes my family happy, that is what matters to me. I tried pouring from an empty cup and it almost destroyed me.
I was unaware of my mental health needs, of the significance of my own traumas. I couldn’t see. It’s impossible to be accountable for your mistakes if you’re too busy avoiding or denying them. I was an empty cup that couldn’t protect my son,
that is the monster I became.
An empty void where he needed a containing safe place, emotionally unregulated when he needed stability. You can only parent what you know though, unless shit hits the fan so hard you have to change your approach or lose everything.I had been a reactive intuitive parent. I became depressed and non responsive. That is scary. I understand where my responsibility starts and ends in this story. I do that often by inspecting how I feel, often with an ugly visual. I will continue to talk and visually explore the difficult parts of parenting and mental health, under the domestic abuse umbrella because it helps me to continue to make sense of it. I often draw myself at different ages, through different events, waves are a predominant motif that helps to convey different emotional states. When I talk about emotions it helps to have the sea as a reference. Very early on in my recovery I drew women battling sea monsters. Now I realise the monsters aren’t mythical and I can’t drown them, but I can be safe. What I’m discovering more often is that by being equally
vulnerable and courageous,
helps others do the same. To hear a similar story and see a positive outcome soothes us, makes us feel less isolated in our circumstances and less alone in the world. Feedback Mental Health conference “Shedding the Light on Loneliness and Isolation” is a space that I can use to promote the tools I used to recover after crisis and re build throughout our recovery. I built a village that serves us beautifully, because we are enough to be cared for and loved. Abuse can make you unable to believe you are valuable and worthy. I hope buy showing my ugly others will feel less ashamed and more able to seek help and
#breastfeeding #familymentalhealth My cis experience of having breasts has been a strange one, I’m not alone, in order to help anyone with a similar experience Im sharing mine. I was writing about breastfeeding and some ideas came up that helped me see my experience a little bit clearer. How my body has been used and viewed in ways I hadn’t thought about in great detail. Content warning domestic abuse and not the average narcissistic mother.
I had my baby 12 years ago, shortly after my 21st birthday. I knew I had to breastfeed, I was poor and lacking any self esteem, I was scared of making my baby ill by messing up bottle prep. I never felt like I had a choice not to have my baby, I never felt like I had a choice not to breastfeed. My mother had been a part of the local breastfeeding support group 3 years previous with my youngest sibling. She talked about how an estranged aunt never got over her abortion and it definitely contributed to her mental health problems. Which came across as “ we don’t have abortions, mental illness is weakness” My baby was the one she wanted but was glad I was having. It meant she could do a degree instead of having another baby despite being in(out, in, out) of a ridiculous relationship. I was single and living with my mum, as a live in baby sitter for my younger siblings. Writing that makes me realise why it was easier for my mum for me to have this baby.
Breasts are so weird!
They Are theses lumps of fat and tissue, with nipples like cis men’s but that aren’t aloud out like theirs. They are often named the girls or my puppies or theses babies. Cooed at and fondled by the people who appreciate them most, that’s often not a baby. Boobs are there to feed babies and for the owner of love lumps to enjoy as part of a consensual sexual experience. I never enjoyed mine. I was blinded with delight if anyone enjoyed them or gave them positive attention. They were tiny. I had these puffy 50p size areola and nipples like chapel hat pegs. I was so ashamed I hid them in foam cupped bras so my nipple erections were never seen and loathe swimming because at the time, I didn’t know or couldn’t find swimsuits didn’t have this option. I hated my boobs, one was noticeably bigger than the other and I was mortified, offended when the girl at la senza handed me a bra with one foam filled of padding removed to even out their look. She noticed, she knew, it’s not just in my head, I felt so ashamed.
I heard that breastfeeding would even out my lopsided mini mounds.
Age 18 or 19 I’d got one nipple pierced in an attempt to be cool and distract anyone who saw them of their odd ness. Turns out that was a lot of people when I got drunk and flashed them and again when I got a back tattoo tried going braless by necessity. My boobs were never mine for me. While braving a maternity swim, in the changing room I hear a woman refer to her boobs as spaniels ears, small flaps of skin where tiny pert boobies used to be before she breast fed, thats what was going to happen to me. They will fill up with milk and deflate when it’s all dried up. I would become even less desirable, someone would make off my bra and be disappointed. There was this nagging feeling in my head as soon as I knew I had to use these to feed a baby. It was going to be gross.They had only ever been in someone else’s mouth as part of sex. Boobs were sex things. My boobs were there to hopefully entertain and occupy someone during sex. My body was for sex. For others. Primarily for adult men, often without consent and never for my pleasure.
So I had a baby, I was “off my tits”
and out of it, he latched on, fed, we went home. My milk came in, never had I known size and tenderness like it. My areola were stretched tight like canvas over doughnuts of full firm nutrience. The skin was tingly, itchy but I had boobs that looked how I was taught boobs should look. Everything hurt for 2 weeks so I don’t remember much. I remember getting a cream for my nipples because they were so chapped. Every time he latched on I had to do breathing exercises to breathe through the pain. The visiting midwife confirmed it was a good latch, I wasn’t doing it wrong. She looked at my blonde ginger hair and said it’s probably just sensitive skin and they’ll tough up. My tough tits did ok, my baby got fat and grew, I was congratulated on making good milk. I felt useful. There was a feeling of accomplishment and I think I felt thankful of my one breasts. I got one out any time, any where this little bundle of need needed. I wore ugly comfy bras and washable leak protection ( one turned up in my washing machine filter when he was 18 months, bag your small washables! ) and smelt of sweet, sour milk a lot. I often had a bra on, slept in it, but when I didn’t all it took was a cry from him and they would tingle & leak. I often got drenched as he fed from one side the other side made a fountain until I learnt to practically stick my finger in my boob through the nipple to stop it. Turns out I loved breastfeeding. Something I was good at, I fed him till he was one and I went back to uni.
Over a decade later
I have learnt a lot about my body, my relationship with it and where I have had difficulties and why. Learning how to put them right, to feel worthy, to appreciate my mind and the meat sack that it inhabits. I’m learning to have and understand autonomy. This year I have focused more on a single breast in my painting, rather than a pair or set, I’m mindful of their appearance, a boob with stretch marks and nipple hair, why lie? It’s real, normalise bodies and it takes the power away from self loathing and bullying. I’m bored of looking at other women’s bodies painted, captured or airbrushed be cis men, so I make my own, my way, I look for those who are doing the same. Im enjoying my boob and wave phase, but will probably go back to vaginas, teeth and eyeballs at some point because I did a lot of healing doing the last phase I had.
The thing about recovery and therapy is that you talk or work on a thing till you are board of it. Im a long way into recovery, I have healed so much, some things are still tricky. My work and concepts deal with taboo subjects like motherectomys, Mental health, domestic abuse, child abuse, and CSE/E (yep Im still uncomfortable with writing those wordswhole). I’ve learnt to talk not just draw, so now I do both.
Confrence talks and workshops booked aroud Norfolk August, September & October.
I’ll share events when there’s pubilcations to share. Free the nipple already!
It sounds totally selfish and egotistical but I think I love talking.
Which is the new branch of thinking and I’m not totally convinced. Having been a mumbler with no authentic confidence to talk about or even think about what I believed in for years, talking feels really new. I’m in the position where I get to talk about quite intimate concepts, talking about loneliness and isolation, family mental health, about trauma, domestic abuse and adding the kind of shenanigans I get up to in the studio, I have this growing world of speaking and listening. Though often I have an overwhelming sense sometimes that I’m going to get into trouble for talking and one day I might.
I’m not looking or asking for trouble but I realise that my initial plan wasn’t a good plan. My initial plan gave me no responsibility. I started drawing how I felt when I was about ten and got bruttally ignored. Mostly durnig crisis, throughout my teens and 20s avidly when I hit 30 I ranted and splurged. I wrote and drew but no one ever saw it, no one knew it existed because my idea, my initial plan was I would give it to somebody else. Either when I died (yes, I planned this one several differnet ways over the years) or when anyone who would be cross with me was no longer around.
Neither of those things have happened and yet I’m talking, Im out of the secret note books and off the canvas.
The first talks and conference I did I had my work to back me up and a colleague I trusted. We didn’t plan for it we just showed the work and we talked about it and ask the audience questions and it worked.
The second time I did it I didn’t have my work to back me up, no visual distraction, there was no power Point, there was no pop-up exhibition it was just me and the microphone and I was way out of my comfort zone. You can listen to that in the link above, also I’ve got a few more dates pencilled in for upcoming conferences too.
So I might get in trouble for talking, I suspect it won’t be the trouble that I’m anticipating
I deal with a few taboos and my lived experience runs parallel to those who I grew up around it’s important that I bear in mind. I don’t have a right to tell other stories. Right now I give contexts but no details which is interesting when talking about family mental health. I realised a couple years ago that no one will ever understand my entire story which is kind of freeing.
Sometimes I say the context of relationships for example parent and child relationships have expected dialogue and then there’s the unexpected truth of those experiences.
Part of my experience is my son’s mental health and that can be very tricky, it’s part of a loop, I want to hold all of the responsibility for that. There’s learnt behaviours there that I’m just not responsible for and it’s unpicking that and showcasing the outcomes of behaviour and behavioral loops as examples of intergenerational trauma that I feel I can talk about safely and responsibly without overstepping, oversharing and disrespecting my son and our relationship.
I still feel like I’m right at the beginning of something huge and I don’t know what it’s going to look like but I like how it looking right now. I just know that I want to keep talking so that I can help all the versions of me that ot me here, the voiceless, lonely, unsafe child, the unregulated recless teen, a young single mum and the woman that had a mother ectomy. Somehow I can empower some one enough not to get into crisis, or to get back on their feet, I can empower change in how they access care, how care is accessible, pushing for a successful recovery model.
There there isn’t a cure, there isn’t one pill, there isn’t one method to make the ongoing struggle of trauma disappear. It’s not fair but I is what it is. It looks like anxiety and depression but it’s different.
For quite a while I found it tricky to stay present in an authentic way. Trying to stay connected to the things that I wanted to be connected to, rather than connected to everything in a hypervigilant kind of way. After becoming aware I had been numb completely because I had been hypervigilant in a way that didn’t seem to bother me, I had to re-adjust to cope.
Anxiety wasn’t a thing for me except it really, really was. The short tempered, hot, anger explosions when leaving the house have now turned to just crying.
And that’s ok because I’m aware and I’m engaged with it. Sometimes I might cry because there’s too much and I can’t do it anymore and I have to stop. Then I realign myself and start again, I’m 4 years on becoming aware, from understanding where my difficulties came from and understood why I was stuck there. 4 years and I’m still working things out.
Trauma sticks and it sticks to your kids and it takes a lot of growing and peeling and gentle, meticulous, agitation to wash away the bits of crud that you can. There are parts of me that I will never be able to change some reactions, wires crossed or unplugged. I’m staying engaged with it, I’m not done yet. Finding my new normal is exhausting but I’d rather this than the than lust for escape.
That’s what I think it’s difficult for people to understand that it’s a process that it takes long time that once you start un peeling this stuff there’s more. There’s no cure and it just takes time, courage, acceptance and a bloody good village.
This is more than mindfulness and good wellbeing practice, it’s a bigger more complex project for you to take on.
If you’re looking for care or therapy keep trying, you might have to pay for it, all the more reason to work hard at it.