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
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.
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.
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.
My Village is the thing that holds me together, it is my chosen family, community, places and all the different support that’s needed for me and Dynoboy to be ok. I first plotted it out when we really weren’t ok. I talked indepth about finding it and leaning into it, as an example of recovery. I took this forward as a simple workshop task.
Work Shop – Your Village
Post talk, in the pre lunch break out session I had a table that I filled with paper, glue, stickers, pompoms, crayons and markerpens. I had invited those who listened to the talk to plot out there village.
The audience was brave(though one of their other options was scaling a climbing wall, which takes a different kind of braveness) The interaction among the group was really interesting and valuable. There was lots of bravery and sharing
at the table and advice was given on where to access support in the area for different points I had covered.
One awesome lady said thanks for sharing my recent coping method to avoid PTSD dream hangover all day, hitting voice record and sending them to a trusted friend in order to avoid a full blown, debilitating PTSD replay loop.
There were people who were engaging in services,some that were no longer in need of services,private therapists, mothers with children like Dynoboy and a couple of young people who I thought were brilliant for being there, lots of talk about SEND education, how to navigate a Mother-ectomy. It was so good to see other people use an idea that helped me workout where I was in the world and a concept that keeps me going today.
Being in her part of the map the lovely Lizzy (seen herein the middle) a very talented artist and friend came to give me a bit of suport and went away with more to think about. Mz Cowell will also be exhibiting in Finding a Voice18, Anteros, Norwich, October 2018.
Two women separately asked how I got into the position to do what i’m doing. Which was tricky to answer, as it’s been one big strange new step after the other. I think a lot of why I got to the point where I’m invited to speak at events has a lot to do with how passionately I believe in the Compass approach, it was within that that I found my voice and was willing to do things like go to anawards bid and do a short presentation on my experience with The Compass Outreach Team. Once I had a film crew in my living room recording an interview about our experience with Compass to help promote with in the wider team how their work made a difference. Having a arts background and putting on an exhibition to celebrate no longer needing the full support of the service in 2017 meant I had a focus and somewhere to find out where to go next. Which right now is here, learning how to use my cruddy experiences to promote good practice with in services and make people feel less alone with their struggle.
Nicky Murnin & Tod Sullivan about the effect on the body that ACEs have and how they affect our behaviour and our bodies. It was so interesting to dig further into a subject I find fascinating anyway because my score is high and it’s the kind of stuff that helped me process my experiences through therapy. What struck me most is acknowledging the community responsibility to stay connected. I was nodding and smiling a lot throughout Nickys talk.
I joined in discussion later as the event was quieting down, which I wouldn’t have done a few years ago. Thankfully Nicky can talk for days about his subject of the day but the thing that hit me, full on in the gut, was when he turned his example of a real “hello, How are you?” with eye contact. It totally freaked me out. I shuddered and stated that it did and we continued in depth all kinds of human behaviour, autonomic and parasympathetic nervous system, we were literally chatting shit. Very enjoyable all in all.
Clicking into place
In the lead up to my 2015 crisis I was speaking more than I ever had before, I had one friend from my teens that would know when I wasn’t ok and she would ask me till I broke and talked. She was traveling the world and I hated skype, so I had to learn to talk to other people. I started to hear myself answer questions I never asked myself before, stuff was spilling out of my head with no correlation to my feelings until I heard the words. I had planned and read aloud my talk a few times, but saying it all out loud to an audience changed my bigger perspective on some things. Linking that to what I was hearing throughout the day I realised and understood in more depth the part of my family relationships that made it easy for intimate relationships to become abusive even down to being primed to be financially manipulated and dominated. Not all things can be verbalised, sometimes it’s not safe to in some moments, but it’s definatly part of what I’ve needed to take big recovery steps.
Keep an ear and an eye out for more to come from me and the FeedBack Team !
There is no hiding, anyone can get lonely. New parents, children, cared for young people, older people, retired, self employed, bereaved or carers can become chronically lonely and it’s one sure way to become enveloped by a wave of depression. I have had bouts of loneliness while being a new mum, being a childminder and after a fantastically, spectacular bout of depression.
The isolation that comes with having a baby can knock a persons life totally off kilter www.huffingtonpost.mums-feel-lonely Loneliness hits the eldery it really hits hard on health www.campaigntoendloneliness.org However, Young adults are more likely to feel lonely than older age groups, says a study from the Office for National Statistics. The research found that almost 10% of people aged 16 to 24 were “always or often” lonely – the highest proportion of any age group.bbc.co.uk/news/education
This isn’t “Just Pull Your Sock’s up”
I have sustained myself and avoid loneliness only because I have learnt how. It takes a bit of courage to ask for help and wait. It started small, a cuppa with neighbours who offered, asking those I trusted for dinner, one a week at least. I joined online groups and forums and found I wasn’t alone in many of my struggles. I found places to go where I felt safe, these are often libraries and coffee shops. I found where routine had often made me feel bored and hemmed as a teen I now found it comforting, Even micro moments with people I pass on the street has become predictable, tiny connections with others, proving I am visible and not alone. Slowly I felt better because I was more confident that I am enough.
A really good way to get out and be amongst things happening around you this time of year is The Great Get Together
What’s the problem?
There are pockets of excellence , perhaps these skew the average across the UK’s services, but it’s the foundation of these that need to be looked at and formulated into what is basically a product to share between and across services to enable communities to thrive. I suspect it is where there is good linkedin care, carers passports, communication between social services, NHS and education within county, between cases, within timelines that don’t impede the health and success of the “service user”.
Where the services have been able to collect honest feedback and been able to improve one area without neglecting others. That can happen right? It’s not just an imaginary ideal where the lived experience isn’t totally alien to the professionals. Where the professional is supported within a safety net of their own, a sensible workload given and job security, enabling an amount of professional vulnerability and ability to have prolonged human contact in their role with honest dialogue and co production of care. Imagine that.
I honestly think if the services worked better together and more for the people within them than for targets, the communities needed to help lessen the load of loneliness would form naturally with less need for funding.
Have your Say!
If you have had a naff time or an awesome experience, it could make a difference to how the service is run in the future, which would be great, like not taking people off WellBeing waiting lists if they haven’t responded to a call or email!