Halloween beats Christmas

Halloween doesn’t come with the weight of expectation or the sense of loss that Christmas does. You can celebrate it for two weeks or just one day. In our immensely dysfunctional family, grown-ups were depressed, absent or intoxicated around the time of Christmas, they always pulled through in terms of getting gifts under the tree but there was an unmistakable diss ease from November until boxing day. Even those who were in attendance weren’t ever fully present.  My birthday is the beginning of December. Around 8 I started asking for a tree instead of Polly Pockets or a candle making set, always a real one, fake trees and tinsel were banned, the appearance deemed too tacky. If I could make it look good, maybe everyone might feel better. The children would decorate the tree together, as I got older I would perfect it when they had gone to bed.

Terms such as ” I just can’t be bothered, do what you want” and “We’re fucked, Christmas is cancelled.” were heard a lot. There wasn’t a sense of hiding struggle, won’t somebody think of the children! The grown-ups were children, unable to cope with the responsibility or understand the impact of their actions or behaviours. I feel like I can say that because I parented in a similar way for 7 years but now I know where they were coming from. Intergenerational trauma is a bitch to sidestep.

Halloween didn’t hold dark secrets like the festive season.

As I got older my tree responsibilities grew, by the time I was 14 I knew that the two white ribbons I had been instructed must always go underneath the vintage angel where in-memory of two pregnancies that didn’t make it to term. Christmas was about holding on until the emotional triggers of the grown-ups raw traumas were no longer all around us.

Spoopy Finley
Dead Mummy Dynoboy 

We weren’t allowed to go trick or treating because it “appeared” to be begging. So by the time, my child was 4 and youngest sibling was 8 we had engineered how to meet our own needs.  We loved dressing up, consuming sweets but didn’t like turning off the lights and hoping the neighbours would think we weren’t in or writing notes to tell them we had no sweets to give. We decorated the front facing part of the house and gave out goodie bags of sweets (American ones to outdo the neighbours). By this time I was the grown up and take control of how big we went with the decoration, costume and dress up. We had to do the decorating and faffing because the other grown-ups wouldn’t. It was easier to pester and be bold at this time of year than it is at Christmas. Halloween is easy to do on the cheap, on the hop with little organisation.

Halloween is our Christmas now because it doesn’t come with a cascade or uneasy feelings or sadness. We wrote this time in for ourselves, to keep making side steps and big leaps away from what hurt us, so we don’t hurt ourselves and others. We eek it out for at least a week, decorating the living room with creepsome treats, made a big night out as a fam squad to go get spooked at primEVIL, an evening of pumpkin carving, scary films and an evening of Spooky City This time of year isn’t all about families getting together, now more than ever we feel the loss of the undead. Those significant relationships, parents, grandparents were so toxic that they are alive, some just around the corner, but are not present in our lives…….and that’s ok.

We always looked after our selves, now we do it without the hope of it looking all John Lewis or caring if Mum’s gone to Iceland.

 

Advertisements

#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

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.

 

 

Me, My work, Trauma & EMDR Therapy

Today, World Suicide Prevention Day, The Guardian Printed An article to which I gladly contributed. Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapy allowed me to understand why I struggled with my mental health and how deeply trauma had effected how I process information and how little authentic confidence I had.  While doing EMDR I drew and painted to further process the nightmares and violent thoughts that occurred during recovery. This was my Eyes, Teeth and Vagina’s phaase. I was understandably very angry, and needed to put it somewhere safely. By this point I had a working studio, where I could paint, then walk away. Ensuring my bile didn’t spill out at home. This was during one of the worst times of my life, except now not only was I dealing with what I was living through I was FEELING as it happened. I moved out of dissociation and started feeling and learning to name it. I was most disgruntled to be honest. Dissociation is has its perks.

Doing EMDR allowed me to turn and face my truth, to own that mess. It allowed me to feel confident and incontrol, of myself and life but as a parent, allowing my child to feel confident that he was contained and safe. It was during this period that I also used my voice to ask for help. It gave me the confidence to lean into the feeling that I was enough,to be cared for and supported. This is when and how I grew #MyVillage, because I was able to be honest and present. I learnt to say out loud some of the most vulnerable sentences that I thought I would never be able to say. By saying them I was able to understand how very wrong the “normal” I had been born into was. EMDR is how I found my voice, The Compass Outreach is how I learnt to use it. Which is why I create Finding a Voice exhibitions, a cellebration and a platform for these voices. The #FAV17 Finding A Voice 2017 was about my celebration of having done the work in therapy and no longer needing intensive involvement of services. This year #FAV18 is about celebrating those voices that “get it” and other “service users” who happen to mothers and artists too. Sometimes a voice isn’t verbal.

When I become a philanthropist ( we all need a dream) I would back and fund The Compass approach, because it works, and what I learnt has stopped the behavioural loop of intergenerational trauma, priceless.  

Read the full atticle here theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/sep/10/mel-b-is-watching-flashing-lights-to-help-with-trauma-but-does-emdr-therapy-really-work?

 

WHY LOVE OCTOBER?

During half term the show I have been planning all year will be on here in Norwich #FAV18 a small group show by some incredible women. The show comes at parenting and mental health in a very forward approach, this year we have focused on maternal and children’s mental health and the intricacy of this is powerfully represented. Alongside the show is a set of family art workshops and Practitioners seminars, including a The psychology of Domestic abuse and a service user experience seminar.

First up 1stOctober is Anti-Bullying Day, bullying at school, work or from a narcissist has a huge impact on a persons wellbeing and can be a stepping stone to different mental health struggles.  I have been a bully, a narcs flying monkey, I was bullied at various schools, older boys than girls my age. In our house, we pick apart bullying behaviour and wonder in what way that person is hurting, and discuss how what they are doing is shitty and how to avoid it or not engage. Finding ways to bolster self-esteem, and not let the bullies words be a script for your inner dialogue. Bullying can be incredibly powerful if your family culture has no emotional vocabulary which is where I was until about 3 years ago.

Emotional Intelligence Month & Dyslexia Month share October. which I find beautiful because I was bullied by my first school teachers getting called “slow coach” and “lazy bones” when age 7. Many schools later, in uni, I had full dyslexia diagnostic, turns out, I have a really poor working memory. I was stunned when asked to read a few short paragraphs and asked questions after each, how little I had retained.  One of the fun bits is writing back to front when typing and writing I’ll start a word with its last letter first. or sometimes I swap the first and last letters around and don’t even notice.

Before Dynoboy was born reading occasionally to my siblings was fine, reading out loud at  school filled me with dread, sweaty palms and racing pulse, unable to make sense of the word “the” it was uncomfortable for everyone when a temp teacher asked me to read aloud. However, Dynoboy loved books, as soon as he could sit up on his own he was all over them. Enjoying the interaction of being read to. The local libraries are brilliant in Norfolk, it’s there that I got over my inability to read aloud. The repetitive nature of young childrens needs meant I could read some with my eyes closed and did. There did hit a point years later when he learnt to be patient and kind, exhausted bedtime stories with smaller text and longer chapters, that sneaky word THE knotting my tongue again.

IMAG1029

In those times I wouldn’t have been able to describe how it felt or why reading to and with loved ones was important.  There was very little emotional intelligence radiating from the adults around me growing up. Difficult things where discussed by what someone had done to you, not how it or they made you feel.  Events and scripts where verbalised but never emotions. WHICH is really scary come to think about it. so glad I escaped that nightmare!

31st HALOWEEEEEEN! Halloween is like Christmas for me and my siblings, we get more excited and the house is more decorated, we do more things together than we do any other time of year. My theory on why it turned out this way is pretty dark. If I  feel up to it I’ll make a video telling a spooky story about a creepy little family that found happy in the strangest places.  #ThisIsHalloween most likely in my insta stories. @findingavoice

jackolantern
Swede smells & smells the best!

 

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 On Keeping On

#Trauma #depression #anxiety

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.

You are worth the hard work.

You are enough.

Hold on.