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

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Not fearing accountability

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

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

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

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

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

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

One we can live with.

#AngryFeminist, a glace, ignorant look at my studio, that’s what I’m putting out into the world. I paint scary things, things that might live in any woman, ready to mutilate anything that got close or threatened. Womb dwelling, one-eyed, sharp toothy monsters. I draw angry vaginas and maternal rage, sure, I align my thinking with what currently looks like intersectional feminism, it feels like just being aware of power dynamics, how to know one’s own, see others and register the miss use of it in different circumstances. I’ve known enough types of powerlessness to want to avoid it and avoid causing it, point it out for or to others. I know anger, but I’m not angry, not all the time. Recently I picked up and have almost fully eaten The Power Naomi Alderman. It’s heartbreaking, terrifying and intense. I balance my rage, mostly because, therapy. I’m responsible for my emotions because I learnt to have them relatively recently and I have to model that to a tween Dynoboy.

Seeing & Holding Her 2018 Oil on canvas

My angry Vaginas live in the studio, they don’t go on show in our house because that’s what it is, ours.  I wanted to be with this one for a while.  In the exhibition it was in it I spent two days looking at it from the back of the canvas as it sat suspended in the window.  I put her up in my bedroom and introduced it to Dynoboy who said she was the mother of the sea. which made me very happy. The figure is strange but kind, a goddess or a saint perhaps, who else could cradle a wave that’s a bit off, not a satisfying elegant curve. We can, I can, people can. I won over anger, stopped being afraid of exposing others darkness and learnt to nurture myself and those around me, courageously, wholeheartedly. I will get it wrong from time to time but is fully present and I wouldn’t ever want to go back, feeling is awesome, even when it hurts. Dissociation has its perks, but this, now, recovered, is glorious.

I think I’m finally out of my post exhibition comedown, planning my next steps. Mostly mumming, painting and catching up with life admin.

DSCF3442
In the Gallery library window during FAV18 at Anteros Gallery Norwich

Breakfast in bed with an interesting view.

Me & Her in the studio

#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.

Oil on Canvas, Work in Progress

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.

(It didn’t.)

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!