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.

I was wrong.

This post is unapologetically me, triggering and sweary, sorry not sorry.

If you’re striving for something you believe you’re not, it hurts and it’s probably counterproductive. I didn’t think I was good. I got really ill and was broken down to nothing, so every effort I made to do better, with encouragement from some key people meant, that I could prove to myself that I was enough. When I settled into the feeling that I am enough, I started to care & know what it felt like to let myself be cared for, have space and time and be nurtured. From this base, I was able to learn more about what I’m capable of and what I’m responsible for, what I can change or impact in my little life and the big wide world.

Having recovered. The main cause of self-sabotage removed, (other than a chronically dysfunctional family)  yaaaaaas bithces,  I’ve been sober for over a year. I’ve gotten so much done! That in itself is a big chunk of talking. I don’t want to say I am an alcoholic because I feel it makes light of those who have a bigger struggle than I did. It was about escaping and losing control. I didn’t want to associate with being an alcoholic in the same way I didn’t want to be seen as a victim. My experiences growing up, saying  -it wasn’t THAT bad. How many survivors do that? A lot. We always think someone else has it worse so we should just be grateful and get on with life. I was wrong. I have a very big story about this. It comes out in short bursts when I’m talking with friends, but this is how it comes into play now.

While doing some jobs around town, my head grumbling around this idea and the next task, walking home in the grey December wet I saw the amber traffic light and stepped out into the road on a crossing. There’s always a few seconds to dart over before it turns red. My shoe stomped stopped rigid in the tarmac as a car slowed and honked. A hot flash of FUUUUCK jolted up my body. The driver gesticulating, me pulling the most “whatever, up your’s” face my face can. Shame prickling the back of my neck. I never usually tempt the red figure. If there are young people and children especially I wait till it’s green, even when I was a kid there was this link with been seen to do the “right thing” when there was someone there to see it.

 

I raged all the way home. What a prick. Speeding off the roundabout like that. AND flailing their hands at me. When their light wasn’t green….not when I started crossing. It was amber! It was amber, erk. It wasn’t my fault, they were in the wrong. I didn’t tell anyone about it, and that felt like an old shame, the fear of someone calling me stupid and that I was wrong…..that I could have endangered my life. For the next few hours, this went round in my head. I felt angry and right and stupid, and what if it hit me. Round and round in my head, building up more bile everytime I thought about it. Angrier and more ashamed. Another old feeling, an old friend walked parrel in all these thoughts, “So you do want to die! you can’t hide it, I’m still here, look at you trying to be all good .”  Fuck off old friend, not today, that’s not what it was, you and all your intrusive mates can do one, I didn’t just step out into traffic to avoid life. So maybe I’m a slightly alcoholic, slightly suicidal, previous victim of a short list of things, it’s totally debatable to me and myself. What I know above all is that I own my shit, I get the whole responsibility thing even when I get it wrong.

I was so angry with the driver and myself and life, right up until I told myself, I was wrong. The weight of the anger at a stranger, the self-loathing at being that silly. It all melted away. I actually breathed a sigh of relief. I made a mistake, it could have been so much worse and I’m thankful it turned out how it did and I’m grateful that I can understand that I was wrong. So many times in the past within intricate experiences and relationships I was wrong.

It is so easy to hate yourself, to avoid risk and over correct or just opt out in order to not risk being wrong. I lived a life with no opinion because I  never wanted to be wrong or to upset someone or have someone think I was wrong. So I kinda did nothing, I just followed and slipped into the roles and spaces others made for me. Which sucks thinking about it but it’s easy, safe, the same, predictable and I could keep on loathing myself. New year new me isn’t something I promote,  because it is often close-knit with diet culture which I haven’t got time for and won’t knowingly promote. As a general rule, I believe you are enough.

 

 

 

#FAV18 – Finding a Voice

Exhibition and workshops

In short the exhibition is about parenting and mental health from the point of 4 different families, 4 stories. There are two workshops where I use my lived experience and creative practice alongside staff from Compass & The Benjamin Foundation.

–WORKSHOPS–

aimed at Norfolk & Suffolk Health, Social care & Education Practitioners.

Each workshops will begin with a short introduction and an opportunity to be present with the work in the exhibition. Then we will gather in the library room to discuss what came across in the work, unpicking how to cope with human struggle and remain connected and authentic within our professional roles, whilst remaining grounded and safe. The art work can be used to explore specific themes in areas over a spectrum of professional practice; domestic abuse, childhood trauma, attachment and recovery.  It is a place that offers rare insight into the client experience of different professional approaches. In my experience there can be stark parallels between two similar services, in how the service functions and responds to the client and the impact this has.

16th October •“What is it like to be involved with services”

Compass social worker Laura Miles and I discuss the two perspectives, professional and parent when having services involved with your family.

17th October •“Working with Domestic Abuse”   

Dr Nic Yeates and myself boldly and honestly explore  ideas of professional practice using the exhibition as a visual reference.

The workshops are available at 3 times on each day.

09:30-11:30 * 12:00-14:00 * 14:30-16:30

We are asking £5-£10 donation to raise funds for work done with The benjamin foundation. Please feel free to ask any questions and book a slot by emailing findingavoice@yahoo.com If you know any practitioners that would find these workshops valuable please pass on this.

2018-10-01 22-610008750..jpg

#FAV18 events page

FAV18 professionals Workshops Flyer PDF

#FAV18

FINDING A VOICE poster

FINDING A VOICE (1) creative workshop

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.

 

 

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

 

Social Night at Print to the People

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

www.printtothepeople.com/tickets

MESH NIGHT Sept 17th

£2 TICKETS

 

Mum Mode

#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.

We are nothing without our village.

 

Keep Talking

On the right there is a picture of me, my name and some words about me.

FeedBack Mental Health  conference Shedding the Light on Loneliness and isolation, the last one was in Lowestoft this time we are in Thetford.

This is the vulnerability bit of what I’m doing, just the word domestic abuse near my name is unnerving, I’m not going to publically underline my whole experience because, well, we’d be here a while. I haven’t got the energy to correct others assumptions either way, my vast experiences come under this umbrella heading. There is still a little part of me that is scared of getting in trouble for being honest. Im dealing with it, every day. Everytime someone lets me know how i’m helping them to overcome their own challenges it fuels the courage I need to keep talking. 

Thetford