A big collaboration

This morning me and 10 peices of work spanning from 2016-18 spent some time with the year 8s of Norwich High in the beautiful Norwich Cathedral.

I’m used to getting the responses from grown ups, from people accessing MH services, Mentalhealth professionals, other artists, and clinical psychologist 3rd years.

It was an honour and a please to listen to the reflection and analysis of each peice by these young people. Total winner’s 🖤

Made Space for a Voice

#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.

Shine so bright the haters need shades 🌞

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).

Event poster

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.

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/

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

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.

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.