Visiting emotional triggers

2 years ago my son was in a road accident in South Korea – this week my daughter was poorly with asthma and flu and had to go to hospital. I am doing an initial counselling course and found it very difficult to do an empathy exercise with another student.

My irritable bowel has also been playing up, so all my emotional stuff is roiling around my stomach. I wanted to see if I could work through all the rubbish visually to see if that helped

I started off having flash backs after Face book reminded me that I was in Korea 2 years ago. My son was not really in any critical danger but he did fracture his skull in 3 places. So I went to Korea. It was a difficult time as you can imagine.

I came up with this image as a starting point after searching for flash backs in google images

https://www.writermag.com/2015/11/19/dos-donts-flashback/

Thinking about PTSD – which I don’t have, but being a visual animal and sensitive to being over stimulated – I thought it would be interesting to have a look at what images came up for PTSD

I love this one but it didn’t resonate with me at the time.

https://becomingsoldiers.wordpress.com/

Here are some more I found interesting

https://themindsjournal.com/

https://agileleanlife.com/emotional-flashbacks/

I decided to start messing about digitally with a couple of these to see what I came up with – this is how I usually work. I liked the scribble and the spiral

Unfortunately when I worked in my journal I didn’t do a step by step, but after a series of layers this is what I came up with.

You can’t really see the resemblance to the original images. I started off with a spiral clock doodle and then added layers of pattern, text , and a big loose scribble. I tried adding a lady in the middle but it didn’t seem to convey what I was feeling. however I liked the phrase ‘in the eye of a storm’ so an eye seemed more appropriate.

After lunch I doodled while waiting in a cafe, for a friend. Typically I forgot paper, but I had a pen. A few companies produce nice weight paper advertising leaflets which were on display at the cafe, so I decided to appropriate a diary to work on.

It helped to situate the doodle in a time frame of Feb/ March to anchor my thoughts. I like the look of asemic writing – what I use is technically not that – I write on top of my words a couple of times to hide the meaning from the reader – so I write out all my feelings but you can’t read it.

Asemic writing is a wordless open semantic form of writing. The word asemic means “having no specific semantic content,” or “without the smallest unit of meaning.” With the non-specificity of asemic writing there comes a vacuum of meaning, which is left for the reader to fill in and interpret’ (Wikipedia)

Reflecting on my Soul Restoration process

I have been working on the ‘SoulRestoration’ course by Melody Ross since the 12th of January. I am enjoying the process of art making regularly in my journal. The art seems to get looser and looser.

I have always been messy. It has been great using my stress protector mandalas as back grounds and finding a more natural ‘Tess’ process.

I am still drawn to blues and am working through the stack of gelatos that I acquired in Korea. I love them ,but won’t be replacing in-kind because of all the plastic.

Debbie Howard introduced me to them when I complained that I didn’t like working with oil pastels in my art journal. They are water soluble, highly pigmented and deliciously squidgy, the consistency’s almost like lipstick or face paint.

It’s been interesting progressing through the stages that Melody has designed . Debbie is a mentor and sounding board after training as a facilitator with The Brave Girl University last year. I think it is important to feel supported through this process. I feel held

There is a lot of industry – internal processing and sitting with how you feel. My stomach is tightening just at the thought of ‘it’.

I journal and write notes as I watch the videos, text Debbie and use Instagram and Face book to show and tell. I wanted to do this because of the regular journalling. There is less built in art journalling than I thought there would be. I need to process the ideas and feelings through art making.

My group of friends in Oxfordshire are meeting once a fortnight to do the course with Debbie whilst I am in Edinburgh.

There is an isolation from the group but I am enjoying the space to create my own ideas and images. I did go back to bed one day and hide because I didn’t want to work through some hard issues. I felt much better after I plucked up the courage to just get on with it

My pages over the last few weeks

I added a mandala sticker by Emily Lagore a long term friend on Instagram

Introduction to Counselling course – listening fail

I needed to do a basic counselling training course to continue teaching my art journalling for self- care. So I signed up for a 12 week course at Edinburgh college. I am enjoying the course very much. We are learning some theory alongside listening skills.

Part of my dyslexia presents its self as an listening/ ear / brain processing problem. So I have been a little bit apprehensive to see if I can succeed in this area.

Last week we worked in triads – we had a speaker/ listener and an observer. You took it in turns to take a role. The listener had to be in charge of the clock. The speaker talked for 5 mind about a topic. The listener had to stop and give a summary half way through and then summarise at the end.

When it came to my turn as listener I found it very hard to keep an eye on the time and listen, I fact I went completely blank at the half time summary. Then at the end I found that even though I couldn’t repeat a word of what had just been said to me – I did have a general impression of what had been said, it was more like an over view.

Being uncomfortable with public speaking didn’t help either!! My stomach was not happy and twisted itself – I felt humiliated and a failure. Interesting when we returned to the group disscussionlots of other people had had simillar problems. Rationally I could see that this was something to be improved upon. I struggled with my physical reaction and how much I was unable let the emotional response go – something similar has happened too many times before.

Journalling was required

It says ‘when I am fragile and humiliated, I have my Mandala webs and the beginnings of my soul restoration process to support me.

I am not sure how the habitual’ lies’ that I tell my self – I am not good enough , I always make mistakes , ‘how could you not remember what was said to you!?’, ‘Failure’ will be released by this process they feel too ingrained.

I am ready to do the work ……

I am too sensitive- HSP

This brave girl / Soul Restoration stuff is exhausting- thinking about the lies I tell my self – ‘you are too sensitive’ is a good one.

I went to stay with my sister at the weekend. We had a lovely time shopping and talking and drinking lots of coffee – well she was drinking coffee I don’t do caffeine .

We were walking around Southampton, when we heard a busker with a soulful voice that knocked us both for six. I had goosebumps and an emotional overreaction . My stomach knotted up and I was afraid that I was going to have a tummy migraine. My sister said he left her feeling jittery.

I decided to do some reading and thinking about my reactions. I had great fun making up this journal page

Where I used an anatomy picture and collaged it with a Chinese medicine illustration and a chart.

http://www.positivehealth.com/article/chi-energy-martial-arts/chi-nei-tsang

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/05/10/your-mind-body-are-not-separate-this-chart-explains-it-all/

I also thought about the music experience and produced an image for my Brave Girl art journal

Today I have been reading all about HSP – (highly sensitive people not the blood vessel decease). I grew up thinking I was too sensitive. I didn’t ‘get’ being teased, my skin wasn’t thick enough, I over reacted to everything and cried a lot. Oh, and sudden noises, bright lights and strong smells drive me mad.

Who knew I am just an HSP – the term was first written about by Elaine N.Aron PH.D. in the 1990’s. It is not that uncommon, about 1 in 5 people are HSP. ( see link below for more) It’s tiring shining a light on all these aspects of self and reading lots in my iPhone. However I did find a great quote

‘Many of the personal, inner aspects of creative talent can challenge us in ways that demand facing fears and limitations and moving beyond our comfort zones. And many forms of creative expression may require at times a high degree of courage’. ( Douglas Eby)

I have to learn to accept my emotions for what they are and let them be. If I can also learn to let go of anxiety and relax along the way ,I will find a calmer version of my self to live with – which would be very nice indeed

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/creative-mind/2013/04/to-be-more-creative-deal-with-anxiety/

http://m.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/highly-sensitive-people-signs-habits_n_4810794

Hannah Gadsby at the fringe

The fringe is in full flow at Edinburgh. Every year I look at the size of the programme, flip through the pages and put it down. The sheer volume and variety of acts is like an assault. I do not know how people choose what to go to. I rely on family and friends suggestions. Jon always chooses a few things and I tag along. He is writing a book about how comedy and counselling are similar, so we tend to go to see people who have interesting things to say about life.

The visual assault of the city starts the last few weeks of July. The usual grey tenements and railings are decorated with large billboards. It feels like a never ending array of Faces , colours, and text – as I walk up the hill I think I must exude a scary ‘fuck of vibe ‘ because the young people have stopped offering me flyers.

Last night Jon and I went to see Hannah Gadsby – before we went I knew she was gay, Australian and thinking of giving up comedy.

I was not prepared for the physical onslaught. She is a large presence on stage. Her face grimaces, eyes pop, nudge , nudge , wink wink. Innuendo , it’s a joke.

She is very funny, but there is an unease, it’s a joke , it’s a joke

There is something about her physicality that reminds me of Trump. The throw aways don’t ring true. Am I perceiving this in hindsight?

There is back story about 10 yrs in comedy, being a lesbian, in Tasmania, where it was illegal to be gay until 1997. She is self depreciating about being large and not fitting in.

She has a degree in art history which added an interesting layer for me. She lets her anger slip out around privileged dead white males, particularly Picasso and his misogyny…..

The first 30 minutes is hilarious, but increasingly uncomfortable as she explores why she is thinking of giving up comedy.

I don’t want to give too much of her act away. I am up at 4 am writing this. I woke at 3am with a tightness in my stomach and my head ringing.

I had a need to get up and explore how I was feeling. I felt like I had been run over by a large lorry. Hannah talks about playing a room, making tension and controlling the atmosphere. The raw emotion and anger that she holds is palpable. On the bus back to outlet flat, I could hardly stay awake. I was physically exhausted. We had to catch the bus because I couldn’t face another assault by the crowds and visuals all the way home.

Her anger – it’s a joke, it’s a joke

I started doing one of my circles of bodies. I made Hannah into an ancient Venus figure and wrote in tight neat handwriting around the shapes on the page. I needed to let stuff out so I reread the Guardian article about the show and picked out words ‘lesbian’ ‘comedy’ Tasmania’ ‘1997’ ‘anger’ stood out. Writing Hannah’s reported words made it possible to step away from how I was thinking and feeling.

It’s not finished yet, I want the figures to be more 3D

But you get the idea.

I wanted the feeling of a tight female figure screaming. She has no arms to represent the tension and rage on the stage. She was magnificent in her fury and it was a powerful set – I have been thinking about white privilege and the need to find ways of of being newly accountable – may be blogging and incorporating stuff into my art is a way forward.

http://hannahgadsby.com.au

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/stage/2017/aug/16/standups-quit-comedy-edinburgh-hannah-gadbsy

Paper dolls and miscarriage

I had 5 pregnancies and 2 live births 30 years ago. At the time I didn't really mourn my loss and I wonder if my anxiety and chronic migraines stem from the upheaval of hormones I experienced over 4 years.

Mostly I feel like have worked through my grief . However, I was knocked for six this week after reading an article in 'Therapy Today'

( Who Knew ? j.Gosney June 2017 vol 28 issue5) The article describes Gosney's work with grieving pregnancy loss. (I could have done with meeting her in the late 1980's). She talks about why there is 'such a silencing shame around miscarriage' I suspect it is because we don't want to upset or worry other newly pregnant parents.

I remember 'retreating from a world that had become a hostile environment peopled by babies, pregnant women and proud fathers' I moved my living room to the back of the house away from the twice a day school run of chatting happy Mums and buggies

I am not sure I experienced post traumatic stress but I definitely 'became vulnerable to anxieties….. and questioned my bodies ability to carry full term…. I realised I couldn't trust my body anymore.'

With my dyslexia and continuing migraines I still feel this phrase resonates strongly.

Most of my art doesn't look into this as a source of inspiration. however after the embodied reactions I keep getting to @gracemorgan's art on Instagram – I felt inspired to look at how I could explore this, using my paper doll technique.

My first go at womb mandala

Wombs with 8 week embryos( which is when the doctors thought things when things went wrong) I quite like the difference in the colours of the womb – photocopy , against the rawness of the real painted colour of the embryos

These feel a bit sanitised, I am shying away from blood. Which is ridiculous really. Though I am being a bit hypocritical because I dislike sanitary towel adverts on the TV

And another pretty one

http://www.bacp.co.uk/docs/pdf/16027_all%20editorial%20tt_jun17.pdf

Migraine mandalas

I get hemiplegic migraines ( which I am sure I must have mentioned in an earlier post) they are exacerbated by flashing lights and hormones. Most of the time they are under control with a very small dose of antidepressants. However, menopause and my irritable bowel has been fun!!! Sometimes, the migraines are brought on by flashing lights – sometimes food (if I am being sensitive). This latest episode was self inflicted really – reading a book and drawing mandalas in 4 hrs of flickering light on a car journey -was asking for trouble. 

I decided to have a go at working through my frustration and anger at my self , after several  reared their ugly heads , consecutive evenings. 

I am staying at my Dad’s house in the south of France with only my travel kit. I painted  loose ovals on lots of sheets of heavy duty cartridge paper with  very diluted acrylic. Then added swirls of neocolours, oil pastels and more paint- it’s warm and arrid here so everything dries very quickly. 


I wanted to continue working with my paper dolls. I tried a design where a female shape is curled up in painholding her head but it ended up looking like white splodges in some sort of fiery constellation. 

A head screaming (below) just looked weird( lol) and didn’t convey what I wanted to express- I like the colours , textures and patterns , so they became backgrounds. 


I needed some figures that worked in circles so I searched on line and came up with an ancient artifact from Mexico 


Practicing blind contour faces in pain ( really getting into the details 😂😂😂😂) 


The above design uses an African figurine as motif but even though it made a lovely mandala in the centre with its arms and legs I didn’t like the proportions of the head and neck. 


Nice uncomfortable screaming baby type figures are amusing me now my head is better and I like the nightmarish qualities – there is an other worldly feeling and out of body experience that I seem to have captured too , which sums up my aura stage quite nicely. Though if I think about it -I don’t experience all that colour