This time next week (6th June) I’ll be speaking at a mentalhealth conference in Norwich.
One of my favourite parts of the day is listening to others stories and how they’re similar to my own. Survival and love stories 💛 there’s something about humans, a little electric ZING, we shine when we get to see one another 🌟
#MentalHealthWeek | Blog 3:3
100% Im one of those people that has to make, it’s not a hobbie or career path, it’s a need, like someone might jog, or swim, sing, to stay happy and healthy, I need to make. If Im not making it’s because Im not well and I need to make to feel well again. Prodominantly the subject matter is trauma and recovery based, the motifes are figures, eyes, teeth, vulvas, waves and halos. Im lucky, I have a studio, A MASSIVE PRIVILLAGE I have it because it became clear that my creative practice and my little family couldn’t live in the same place. It’s also important for me to be able to walk away from my work, far away, but know it will be there when Im ready to go back. It took a big leap to continue to feel like I was worth, that my creative work was worth taking up a studio space.
FAV17 & FAV18 https://klgilmartin.com/finding-a-voice-2017-nunnsyard-gallery/ was me making space for the new voice I’d found and to help other find or use their own. I have notice more and more since then how much positive impact it makes that I am visable. People who have had simmilar struggles can heal from seeing one another thrive. It makes sence to me that recovery collage and peer support work.
Being a creative practiotioner. I’m wholeheartedly unappologetically me. I make what I want, if it fits some one elses needs, great, but it is a selfish procsess in and of it’s self. The bit I love is using it to teach and communicate. A non verbal voice, that gets to be listened to and because in these class room or training situations Im there, we get to be super curious about it. I think it’s a super power that grew from the right intervention during crisis, I had so many different proffesionals around, that it made sense to be curagously vulnerable (thank you Berne Brown). It’s important to note in those early sessions when a voice is non verbal, how someone in a support role can spot that voice, have the courage to go back and ask tricky questions, safely. So yeah my process could be viewed as self indulgent but my whole practice balances that out. Even if it didn’t haveing a creative practice just for yourself, is tottaly valid and ok!
Im looking forward to getting the Mental health conference, inpartnership with “feed back mental health” into Norwich! There’s going to be 3 days of speakers and workshops for the general public to come and investigate for free. Norwich is planned for the 6th June. Its the 3rd time I’ve taken the stage at SHEDDNG THE LIGHT, https://klgilmartin.com/2018/06/04/shedding-the-light-conference-june-2018/
I don’t take my work, I just talk about how I got into crisis and how I leaned into support and built my village. #MyVillage Its after talking at this that people come up to me and the buzz from resonating emotions is electric. I feel it too, when I see someone whos had a similar story to me talk about how they got to recovery.
I’m going to keep making and taking up spaces. Creating spaces for others voices as well as my own. FAV18 was brillint becaue I got to share the exhibition with some women I had known for a while. During this exhbition I held 2 days of workshops with in the exhibition, co fasilitated, one day with a clinical psycologist and the other day with a Social worker. The whole event went well, but it was too much work. I didn’t want to run workshops in a group shop again, it was a nightmare when it came to marketing. Seperating my practice from the group show seemed to be the best idea. One I made happen with an egar curator, curation is not my favourite. Together we made https://imprudentart.wordpress.com/ which just so happens to be running its first pop up show during the UKs Mental Health Week and the busy period of the Norfolk & Norwich festival, though we aren’t affilliated wit the festival. (currently).
The pop up show is a 2 day exhibition, the space will be filled with work by over 40 creatives and mental health practitioners from across Norfolk and Suffolk. I learnt from the workshops of FAV18 that what is really important to me is unpicking the othering nature of a profetional labels, that some one with “lived experience” is us and any support (a service, MH or childrens or social services) is them. It is dehuanising for both parties. There is a faulse devide created, but the bottom line is its all human experience. We’re all in it together. Stigma thrives in us and them situations.
I hope you have enjoyed my input to mhweek. I hope you have spaces of your own, if not I hope you have the courage to be open to finding them. The work art works I have mentioned as part of my practice are viewable under the tabs, drawing and painting. Hit the ABOUT to find me on social media.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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menatl health week UK 13 – 19 May 2019
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
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.
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
Building a Village-workshop.
At The Orchard Norwich.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.