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.

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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.

 

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.

Public Speaking & Mental Health

120 people. I spoke some of my truths in order to lessen the feeling of isolation and loneliness to 120 people.

thetford talk

 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.

 

 

Me, My work, Trauma & EMDR Therapy

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.  

Read the full atticle here theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/sep/10/mel-b-is-watching-flashing-lights-to-help-with-trauma-but-does-emdr-therapy-really-work?

 

Suicide isn’t catching

Suicide prevention Month

10th September, World Suicide Prevention Day

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

The boy who lived with a Big Bad Wolf
The boy who lived with a Big Bad Wolf. pencil on paper 2016

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.

www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics

Don’t be alone.

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

here Youngminds.org.uk and here www.nhs.uk/conditions/suicide