Facts are off-limits

fiction is a stand-in for the truth.

Listen via youtube HERE

Life feels really sweet and sour at the moment. The exquisite balance of gratitude and a shit storm of WTF. I haven’t written in a long, haven’t even rambled into a notebook, or dumped my brain into a video. Sure I do yoga, fortnightly therapy, and get into the studio as much as I can, I sketch regularly, but often just feel like I’m talking to myself. I haven’t done any big talking gigs for a while. It?that is mostly about what I’m not saying. Quite often, when talking live and doing Q&A I’m horrendously honest, I have to be careful, if you ask me a direct question I’m probably likely, in that setting to say the unfiltered truth, sometimes that can be unsafe and unfair on those who share my narrative.

Recently I was asked to talk at a mental health open mic night happening soon, it does well in Shoreditch, hopefully, it will do well in Norwich too. I didn’t want to talk about or present any visual work, I feel incredibly unable to talk about my lived experience of mental health, parenting and abuse at the moment, so at first, I was eager to get other creatives involved but, what the hell would I say?

 

IMG_20200203_172439_131
A poster for Mental Health Open Mic event. UNFILTERED, Norwich, Gonzo’s tearoom. 20th Feb, 6.30 sign up, 7pm start. Tickets £3.

The name of the event is UNFILTERED. I’m wearing a thick wet woollen coat of frustration. I would cherish the time and ears to be truly unfiltered, in the not too distant future I will, it’s just not safe to do so right now. There are some juicy details that effectively convey the part of my experience of mental health, the bits that connect people to understanding, I just can’t say them out loud right now. To tell the whole truth, would be so fricking validating. However, right now I’m not going to. The almost full story is enough. So a story is what I will produce. I have been working on pockets of narratives and visual meaning in painting and drawing for a long time, so this is going to be an enjoyable process.

Recently while discussing this frustration with a friend we looked at the ideas of truth, story and fiction. It made me think of the realisation I had some 4 years ago that NO ONE person will ever truly understand what has happened or how I feel. It’s a mind-bending universal truth. I could sit and discuss in detail a chain of real-life events, but I will never be able to get even one person to truly understand my truth. I had a hard time coming to terms with that at the time. It pissed me right off. I’d worked so hard to find my voice to find out it was never going to be able to do what I naively thought it would. I had changed my perspective enough to understand my own behaviour and emotions, I was able to create artwork that I actually understood, that I wasn’t asking an audience to decode for me. All of that felt useless in terms of my practice, in terms of saying anything out loud because what was the point of saying it out loud if everyone would interpret those words differently? I had grown up with this idea that words or text where facts, hidden inside thick books and paragraphs I struggled to read.  Art and image was something to interpret and guess about, something deliberately vague. Visual image and language was something I could do, so my dyslexic “slow coach” thought it had less value. (Which is total horse poop) I was the ripe age of 31 when at a zine fair a teacher friend reassured me that even if I miss read the words in a poem, the meaning gained from it was valid. Fuck the author. Nothing is really real, cheers Barthe, the author IS dead.

The interesting thing is, I can no longer tell THAT struggle in the same way, I have grown and evolved so much that that in its self is fiction. As I retell any given moment of my own truth, it becomes fiction. I could tell you about one moment or time frame and each time tell it more sympathetically to one of the key characters, in my understanding of how they might see and feel the environment and serries of events. Each one of those would be true, but also very much fiction.

For selfish and valid reasons, while I take up a little bit of space during UNFILTERED I will tell a tale of total fiction with so much emotional truth that it quenches that thirst to be heard and dries out the woolly coat of frustration.

Uncomfortable : watercolour shapes

I still have so much to learn with oil paint, I’m considering some YouTube tutorial afternoons. It’s a different game with watercolour, a material that does prodominently what I want when I want, the only thing that’s lacking it perhaps depth, on paper, characters and form are often held in the space if the page. Where as when I paint in board or canvas, I make the canvas or board just less visible. I actually kinda hate canvas, I don’t enjoy seeing it as part of the shape or surface of my work, I like there to be a lot of paint, which can sometimes prohibiting and I need to move around that.

2019 has been alarmingly positive, which is actually strangely uncomfortable. It just takes more practice than I have had to make positive choices and get positive results.

Which maybe why I spent many evenings painting the fleshy ring shapes and going over 3 abandoned drawings and adding colour.

Love it or hate it it’s here!

December.
There’s so many reasons this time of year is difficult. Check in your strong friends. Make plans with people and do activities that make you feel wholesome.
Make exit plans.
Drink water.

🖤

Get Trauma Responsive Norfolk

Here is something I’m so proud to be part of.

Thank you to everyone so far who has shared and filled in this form, Im going to extend the deadline past the 24th August and keep it open for longer because this information, your experiences and voice is important and it will be incredibly valuable to the delivery of this service if the bid is successful and what happens after that.

5 minute Questionaire

5 minute Questionaire

Just click this link to fill in the form. I have been told it’s easier if you access it on anything other than Apple products like iPhones and iPads.

5 minute Questionaire

here is the link one last time

❔Why though❔

There is a video in the questionaire explaining what this is for and I also read the questions too.

Let me know if you think I have a future in ASMR recording.

🖤

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 🖤

Loneliness & Social Isolation

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 🌟

Tickets are FREE

Eventbrite

OPEN event info

Facebook Event Page

Meds, Me & Mental Health

#MentalHealthWeek | Blog 1:3

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.

Will colours be brighter and orgasms more intense?

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?

I’ll have to find a whole new normal! AGAIN.

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. 

  • Expect very little of yourself
  • Breath, wash, dress, eat. (Parent/work if you have to obvs)
  • Get simple to make meals and healthy snacks in.
  • Have a selection of things to comfort and distract you, a series to get into, podcasts, playlists to listen to. Simple books nothing too taxing.
  • Take a little walk every day if you can.
  • Invite friends over, you don’t have to tell then why, just don’t be alone.this is the top one for me. If you can cook for friends do or ask them to or order take away together. If you feel up to it go to a different friends house for dinner. Some people find it easier to be alone but I find it’s comforting to have someone around even if I can barely form a coherent sentence.

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.

Things got weird. Fizzy eyes and electric whooshing head,legs that weren’t my own and a cod fish flip flopping in my chest.

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.

Pill shaming is gross, but it’s good to see people out there making awesome memes and cartoons countering that BS.

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.

If you apprecisate this blog check out my Instagram, Facebook or Twitter @findingavoice

menatl health week UK 13 – 19 May 2019

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

No tech Tuesdays

#notechtuesday 😲

A while back, as a family we went to a workshop by the very interesting chap @PaulJungo it helped introduce ideas that are sometimes better heard from someone else, “erk, whatever, no way!” is a standard reaction to the idea of putting in more tech boundaries in.

We’ve successfully implemented no tech at night(unless it’s a difficult time and some soothing tunes or stories are needed) and introduced alarm clocks. Actual physical alarm clocks in our bedroom to avoid having our tech next to our beds.

Recently as a consequence for a boundary broken, the PC was out of bounds for 6 days. I would often avoid this action because then I’d have to live with a grumpy, bored young person, they are the WORST, worse than hungry toddlers for sure.

I had to put on my Big Mum pants on and be extra focused on asserting the boundery lines but we did it, and we thrived. It’s benefits were so obvious that I’ve implemented #NoTechTuesday which sounds worse than it is to a screen addict. From school finishing time until dinner time we’re both going to have no screens. Instead, Lego, building airfix models, painting, table tennis(in @castlemall), dog walks, cooking or baking, life skills, (Dynoboy suggested ironing! Who is he? Erk no, was my gut reaction, but ok sure ironing!) Some how get some of the awesome ideas he has into a notebook/writing stories together. Endless UNO and Battle ships. I’m going to get taught how to skateboard.

Fundamentally it’s to offer time to the young person I adore, to try to build good habits and make more space for compassion, for one’s self and others. Which is actually not that easy, if you’re used to giving yourself a hard time it’s easy to do the same to others. To break that cycle takes time WITH people, to care and be cared for. This stuff is HARD.

This is week 6, he still hates it but we are getting good stuff done.

💛