Category Archives: art

Been a while

Sorry for being mia. Time gets away from me easily.

This past week or two (not totally sure on the duration) have been a struggle. I’m triggered on so many fronts, but at the same time, I wouldn’t be able to tell you what they are… I know some is related to the anniversary of my last major self-harming incident 8 years ago; Some is related to G being in the state; some is probably related to my monthly hormone cycle.

I’ve refrained from taking pain meds this past week in an effort to ground into my current body. If I’m feeling and noticing the immediate pain in my arms & legs, I’m not lost in the flashbacks… At least, that’s the theory I’m going by. It’s not really panning out that way, but whatever. I’m not cutting, so, progress maintained.

The flashbacks are a mix of that time frame when I was cutting uncontrollably, and the more distant past of abuse. There’s other stuff I know I talked to Dr C about, but I can’t remember what that was just now.

I’m super dissociative, stirred-up, and generally lost. I finally was able to be a hair more open with L about it (she asked if i was ok because I’ve been listening to a lot of music these last few days; if my phone’s not playing out loud, i have headphones in. I generally only do this when struggling). I was able to acknowledge it when she asked, but I’m having trouble qualifying it… It’s a bit easier when I write, but even that’s a struggle. My head has been very foggy and fragmented lately. I forget what I’m doing a few seconds into starting it. Art has been somewhat helpful for concentration. Been making little things to sell at an upcoming holiday craft fair. We have a 2.5 month lead-time, so hopefully inventory will be good for it.

Anyway… Yeah. Trigger-y & flashback-y of late. Trying to find balance. Struggling to express stuff, even in therapy. Lots of brain farts…

Super exhausted all of a sudden, so gonna sign off and nap for a bit before L comes home on her break. Gotta remember to wish the peanut happy birthday today while L is home… Someone remind me about that?

K, nap time.


Me at 20 (assignment for a self – discovery workshop) 

The assignment was to find a metaphorical image of ourselves at a selected age. I had originally picked the number 27 because she first had us just pick a number, without telling us what the number was for.

At 27, I was internally severely depressed, suicidal, and a general mess, but presented as very together to the outside world. I worked almost 80 hours a week. I was a manager at a group home. I had my external shit together… I would land in the hospital for a week, get discharged, and head back to work the day of discharge, or the following day. I worked full-time while attending intensive outpatient treatment around my work schedule… I can’t count anymore how many times I was asked how I could manage that so seemingly easily…

The perfect picture for that would be an ad for the exorcism movie (a b&w photo with a girl sitting in a room alone, her head facing the wrong direction, and the words “there’s a fate worse than death”… I kinda regret not bringing it now…

So yeah, that felt like a bit heavy, and a bit much to bring to this workshop.

The second age I picked was 20 simply because L picked that one. The image for it is an ad for The Good Place…

It’s perfect for me at 20. There were a few bumps, but I was generally unaware. My internal systems did a good job of convincing me everything was fine. I was oblivious except for a few things not going great (hugely depressed, but no real clue why. Trying to work on it in therapy and constantly getting the question “was there anything else?” Because the interventions that should have worked just didn’t…). So yeah, that works well for 20.


Authenticity (of expression) 

Authenticity of expression is something I struggle with often. I’m constantly worried about what people may think, and the consequences of their opinions. 

This is especially true of my art. While it’s often the most authentic expression of self I’m able to reveal, I worry a lot that people will change their opinion of me based on what they see. I worry they will hate me, and deem me less worthy than even I deem myself. Sometimes I’m able to get past that in my art journals, but lately, even that has been censored. 

I feel stuck around being unable to express what needs to be expressed in any authentic manner. I find myself replacing the reality of what I want to create, with a “rainbows & butterflies” edit. I’m stumbling in therapy and focusing on the same, safe methods of expression; the ugly, scary stuff is replaced with a unicorn sticker…

There’s so much “icky” stuff floating around in my head, but I go silent when it comes time to talk about it. There’s a buffer between my brain and my mouth, and my brain and my hands. Things leave my brain one way, but get “prettied up” before they have a chance to be expressed. 

This piece wasn’t supposed to look so peaceful and serene… it was supposed to represent the struggles around trauma. It was supposed to express the loneliness and alone-ness of experiencing flashbacks and memories no one else knows are even there. It was supposed to be more graphic… but in the last minute, I froze, and changed the “gore” to “pretty” and ” socially acceptable”… 

Lately, no matter what I do, no matter my intentions at the start, everything gets censored for the comfort of everyone else. That all just leaves me feeling more alone and distant than before I started. 

I want to be able to convey what it feels like to constantly remember the physical sensations of things long past. I want to express the hopelessness and fear and loneliness and frustration and betrayal… but I end up stuffing it down and covering it up. 

It’s a betrayal of a different kind; a betrayal of my inner voice… it’s really frustrating. 


Ashes- mixed media panel

It didn’t start out specifically as something related to the loss of Chow, but it ended up that way…

I was just messing around with art supplies in an attempt to get myself unstuck from the grief. 

There were also 2 pages in my journal I played around with, but they are not finished yet. So far, they are just backgrounds: 

I  was experimenting with a rust texture set I dug out of the clearance section last week. This tag was the first thing I used the stuff on. I think it came out ok (much better than when I tried it on the blue page)… It will go on the blue page eventually. I can’t decide where to put it though. I really like how it pops when it’s in the bottom left corner, but I also really like the detail of that spot. I’ve been trying to make it work in other spots, but it seems to get lost in the chaos of the background anywhere else I try to put it. I might have to deal with covering up what’s easily my favorite area on the page. The other option would be to alter the tag or background in a way that allows the tag to be distinguished from the background. It may take me a while to figure that out…


Impossible things (a letter to no one) 

Sometimes I wish I could materialize you here in my living room, where I’m comfortable and engaged in art. It’s easier to talk sometimes when I’m distracted by the flow, but still connected to the inside. 

Sometimes it’s hard to fit all the talking into that hour. Sometimes it would be easier if we could just do art together and I could talk when things popped into my head; when they felt ready and comfortable to come up. 

It’s safe here alone with just the dogs and my art. Sometimes I wish I could start that way, but bring you in to talk to when I was able. Sometimes I wish you were here without me knowing, so I could get past that censor and shame, and maybe you could help me with the stuff that’s too raw to bring up out loud and in your presence. 

I could get lost in my art and music, and you could watch without me knowing. Then, you could blink in when I wanted to talk… it would be safe and non-threatening. I could communicate the things I’m too scared and ashamed to tell you about. 

And while we are on the topic of impossible powers, maybe it would be good if you could read my mind and tell me for sure if I’m making this all up. You could point out the lies and show me where I’m exaggerating. You could look at the stuff that’s all a jumble and help me understand it. You could take an outsider’s perspective without the emotion, and you could tell me I really am making it all up just because I need to feel worth your time and attention. I want attention… (and even as I think that, I can feel hands on my body and between my legs. It’s creepy. I don’t want attention. I don’t want to be special or pretty or paid attention to. I want to melt into the fibers of the carpet and hide away from everything. I want to disappear).  


Barbie gets a makeover; steps to an altered doll

Last week, I decided I wanted to turn an old barbie I had bought for mold-making purposes into an altered doll. It started because I’ve been struggling with some really graphic self harm thoughts. I was hoping expressing it on the doll would help alleviate them… it’s kinda working I guess. Either that, or the doll has me distracted enough to put the thoughts on the back-burner.

I had cut most of her hair off back when I thought of making a mold, so I decided to pluck out the rest of it to be able to sew in something else (it might be useful to note that hand-sewing doll hair is a pain, and painful. Even with a thimble to help push the needle through the plastic, my fingers are raw and sore from having to do it so many times… I’m not even half done yet!).

Anyway, I started with her hair change. I also removed her existing makeup. Painting a new face will be challenging, but I’m looking forward to that. I’ll have to thin even my high flow paint to avoid the brush lines visible with the white I had tried…

I’m planning on articulating her better as well. Currently, she’s only movable at the shoulders and hips. I’d like to bring a greater variety of motion to her other joints also. I did a quick YouTube search and found this video. It’s about articulating a Bratz doll, which is pretty much the same structure as Barbie, so I’m hoping it will work. I need to get my hands on some of the plastic molding stuff she’s talking about. I’m guessing I can find it online (amazon smile has been my best friend in finding random art supplies)…

I have ambitious plans for this doll. I want to figure out how to make it look like she’s pulling her own heart out. It seems that her body is hollow, so that should be easy enough… I just have to perfect my sculpting skills so I can make a heart I’m satisfied with. I’d also like to figure out some way to express dissociation. I’m not sure if I want to alter her head to accomplish that, or simply utilize facial expression…

There’s a measure of therapy involved in making this doll. It will be a blend of artistic expression and autobiographical depiction. I guess something along the lines of Hollywood creative nonfiction; the backbone of the story is true, but the details are exaggerated and embellished for dramatic effect…we’ll see how far I actually get with her. 

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I’m going to put some YouTube videos below for reference. I haven’t tried them yet, but I want to know what to come back to later. I would normally do this in a “private” post so you don’t have to see my note-taking, but it might be useful to others if they are also interested in making dolls… and if any of you have experience, feel free to critique or offer up suggestions. 


Stocking swap progress

Sorry I haven’t been around much lately. It’s been a combination of stuff, mostly stress and moderate depression symptoms. I stopped the lexapro after a week due to side effects. I’d triggered myself with some doctor’s appointments, and just my general malaise around holidays. It’s finally getting a bit easier to do things again. 

In an effort to have some fun with the holidays this year, I joined a holiday stocking swap. I was really excited about the concept of painting a custom stocking based on the likes and dislikes of my random partner. 

I went through a bunch of initial concept ideas, but crossed them off for various reasons (mostly because I couldn’t execute them properly). I originally wanted to turn the stocking upside down and make it into a unicorn. I was going to add a horn, ears, and mane to the stocking while opening either the back of the neck or the head to keep the concept of a stocking. That involved too much sewing though, so I scrapped it. I eventually settled on simply painting a design on the stocking. I think it came out cute. It still needs a few finishing touches, but I like it so far… the stars, moon, and bulbs all glow in the dark. The ice also has a coat of blue interference paint to give it an icy shimmer. 

It needs to be sent out by the end of the week. I will be looking for a couple of other things to add to the package, then off it goes. I hope the recipient likes it… if nothing else, L really likes the stocking and wants another one for herself. Guess I’m off to buy more paintable stockings. 


And now I’m anxious about going to bed…

…will the anxiety ever just go away??

The flopping fish is going nuts in my chest. It makes my shirt dance. 

I’m anxious about going to bed. I know nothing bad will happen, but I’m still having a difficult time packing it in for the night. Every time I think about it, my chest rattles and thuds. 

Instead, I’m thinking of the most complicated way to frame a dimensional paper cut-out I did today. I’m not deliberately thinking of the hardest way to do it, that just seems to be my default. I can’t seem to figure out the easy answers to things untill someone points me in the right direction… so far, no one has done that. I’ve even asked the dogs, but they are more interested in what i’m eating and drinking than figuring out my framing issues…

I long for the day when depression, flashbacks, and anxiety no longer are a struggle. I’m so tired of all this. 


Art journaling again, finally

It’s been a while, huh? 

The weekend went ok after fixing the art piece, though we didn’t really do much more with it. We were going to, but something else sidetracked us (though in the moment, I can’t really remember what it was). 

I’ve been really stuck in my art. I’ve completed a whole bunch of backgrounds, but nothing really finished. There were also a few doodles, but again, all unfinished and directionless. 

I think I managed to get through a piece tonight. I got further than any other piece in the past several weeks… I was trying for a Halloween theme (because, well, it’s the only holiday I really like, and it usually inspires me). I started it earlier this week but got sidetracked (themes much?). I grabbed some supplies I thought would work with the existing background. I started laying down washi tape. It wasn’t really a pattern with any real direction though, and I got stuck again. 

I began flicking through the screenshots on my phone (inspiration images, things I find interesting, quotes that stick out to me…). I landed on a quote that seemed appropriate; “it takes a huge effort to free yourself from memory” – Paulo Coelho. 

It fit the background and the washi tape pretty well. It also gave me more direction for the page. 

I used crackle paste to form the silhouette of a brain. Appropriate, since lately my brain feels cracked and broken. I feel cracked and broken… I know sometimes I feel these really horrible things, but other times I have no connection to any of it. I have these huge walls that I feel almost no control over. They slam into place with little warning, and they have very little seepage. 

Anyway… yeah. Here’s the page:


I don’t have a good working title for this piece

This whole “reorganization” of how I handle stress; the shift from instant dissociation of emotions in order to deal with the situation at hand, to an overwhelm of emotions and feel incompetent, has my little world in a sort of chaos…

Flipping through some junk mail, I found the perfect image: a long-exposure picture of a barn and night sky. The long exposure made the stars look like circular steaks in the sky, and the angle of the image gave the barn a “funhouse mirror” effect of stretching and angling it to look ominous and looming.

I did an image transfer onto a page in a journal that already had some paint and ink on it (one of those “hey, let’s not waste this extra stuff” pages with stencil “stamping” and other random effects). The stuff that was already there can be seen through the image transfer. It gives some added depth, but also goes with the feeling in trying to convey (they were Halloween-themed stencils I had been testing out)… the transfer came out grungy; again, it fits the feel of the page. Sadly, much of the detail of the streaking stars was lost. It just looked like a glowing barn next to a large black area. I accented the streaks with my white pen. Sometimes I’m glad that my supplies don’t work “perfectly” because the intermittent lines made by the pen mimicked the steaks in the original image. It was frustrating when I tried to use the same pen to write lyrics from a Tori Amos song on the page, but it worked perfectly for the stars…

The page has a few different sets of lyrics on it. I don’t normally mix lyrics on pages, but the the two tori songs are connected in my head… and the telepop music inspired words are a reminder to balance the chaos (“just breathe. just be”… I was limited to the words printed on the washi tape, so not totally accurate to the song).

The lyrics in white at the top of the page are from Upside Down, by Tori Amos;

“god, I love to turn my little blue world upside down…inside my head the noise chatter chatter chatter chatter chatters… you see I’m afraid I’ll always be upside down… but my head it says I’ve been shatter shatter shatter shatter shattered… you see I love to turn my little blue world upside down”

The black lyrics in the barn are from Silent all These Years (also by Tori Amos);

“Years go by/ will I still be waiting for somebody else to understand/ years go by if I’m stripped of my beauty and the orange clouds raining in my head… years go by will I choke on my tears till finally there is nothing left/ one more casualty you know we’re too easy easy easy… let’s hear what you think of me now but baby don’t look up/ the sky is falling/but what if I’m a mermaid in these jeans of his with her name still on it/ hey but I don’t care cause sometimes, I said sometimes I hear my voice/ and it’s been here/ silent all these years”

There’s more to be done on this page, but I’m not quite sure what. Going to let it lead me wherever it wants to go…

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Out of Phase

That’s it! He feels out of phase… I think maybe that’s why communication is so difficult.

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Art and life run parallel

Today, the orange and pink piece is very different. Drying dulled the colors. The gloss finish was too thick too fast and has cracked…

Fits the emotional experience… yesterday held promise of pretty. Today reveals the cracked, dark mess…

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As soon as I stop running from distraction to distraction, the black hole returns to my chest…

After session today, I came home and dragged art stuff outside bent on making a mess. I invited one of the neighbors to join in the mess making. She didn’t end up participating, but we chatted for a while.

The mess turned out ok. I tried something I had seen a friend do a lot of lately: fluid acrylic abstract painting.

It was fun to put large amounts of paint and water to canvas and watch the components interact… I tried harder with the first painting (blue/ green/ black), and I think it looks kinda forced. The second one (magenta/ orange) was more spontaneous. I picked colors I don’t normally use, and just went to town wherever the paint landed. I really like it, except I used too much water so a lot of the color was lost as it dried…

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There’s fiction in the space between…

Sometimes, I “remember” things that at other times I’m positive couldn’t have happened… but in the moment of “remembering” they feel so real I could taste and touch them.

I know exactly how it feels on my lips. I can taste the mix of sweat and cigarette smoke… in that moment, I know what’s playing in my head was a real event. But then the moment passes, and I can list a million reasons that event could have never happened…

I know the difference between my imagination and reality. I know those were never my fantasies… but what else could they be because I also “know” they are not actual memories. I should have remembered them all along. I should have know. I would have known.

But… ugh! I know they are at once real and fake. I know they are not only a cry for attention, but also a plea for attention. I know this, but I don’t.

I never talked more about duckboy at the time because I “knew” I consented by not fighting, by not screaming, by not pulling away, by obediently doing what I was told (MY had argued the point over and over again. She convinced me that a situation like that was consenting in its lack of resistance. The people that had experience with sexual abuse disagreed with MY, but her stance was easier to swallow. If it wasn’t abuse or assault, then I had nothing to worry about)… but why was I so compliant? I know I had learned somewhere that to simply do what I was told, or let him do whatever he wanted, meant that it would go easier and faster. I knew what it would feel like, I knew what to expect from my body. At the time, I couldn’t tell you how or why I knew this, but I knew.

When I first “remembered” the other stuff, it felt like an elephant kicked me in the chest. It took my breath away. I was driving home from therapy and I had to pull off the highway. I remember calling De in a panic and begging her to tell me all the reasons why what flashed through my head and body wasn’t actually true…

I repeat those same defenses against its truth to myself often: it was something I saw on TV or read in a book, It’s my imagination, it’s the stories of my clients’ pieced together and told with people in my own life…

And at the same time, it can feel so damn true. I know things because “I just know.” I don’t know how I know, I just know… I feel things for no reason other than I have a very active imagination; I’ve pieced together different events and written them with all new characters and story lines. I have a really good imagination. My body plays along with that amazing imagination to give me a better fantasy life… yeah. That’s it.

In the shower today, I remembered something, but it quickly gave way to something I know for sure is not a memory (feels different, and was drastically embellished from the actual events. I think I do that as a defense and a means to keep distance from the other stuff)… but now I’m not sure if the start of it was actually a memory, or just a play going on in my head. I can’t even really remember the beginning part anymore, just that it was disturbing and felt very real.

How can something feel so real and so fake at the same time? How come I can’t talk about it even in vague terms outside of therapy?

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Where did I leave off?

Let’s see, what have you missed out on?

I’m still having a rough time. I still really just want to cry but can’t seem to. I’m still not sleeping all that well…

I’ve also been creatively dry lately. I participated in an art journal page supply swap, and felt like I was kicking and screaming my way through it. I did most of a page around what I received, but it still needs work.

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I tried working more on a small mixed media piece that I started a while back. I had overdone the silver foil when I added it; It took over the whole painting. I tried to balance it with some steampunk-style, but now I’m feeling the focal image is completely lost. I dunno. It’s definitely something to keep working on.

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Other than that, I’m creatively stalled.

Outside of art, I’m finding the repercussions of wanting to help people out are again causing more stress than happiness. Several weeks ago, I had suggested to someone I could bring something back for her from across the country because, at the time, I thought I could make that trip easier than I actually can… least week, she asked if I was still open to picking up her purchase. I said yes thinking I was doing this trip at my pace. Unfortunately, between work constraints and the preferences of others involved, the trip has been pushed up to the end of this week instead of the beginning of May. That leaves me reeling on a few levels: money is a HUGE issue for this trip. At the time I quoted the person a cost, I was expecting to have more cash at my disposal. I only quoted half the cost of the trip, but that leaves me having to pay the other half, which I don’t really think I can afford right now.
It will also be hugely emotionally draining to go back. I’m going by myself. The whole 2-day drive will be on my shoulders both ways. There’s no one to talk to, or to switch off driving with… and I’m going back to the place that had me so triggered for the last 2.5 years.

Why did I agree to this again on this time-frame?

I hate that my insane push to help out and to please people pushes me into situations I should have thought harder about. It is what I tend to do at work and in my personal life: I push myself way past my own limits until it ends up backfiring… when will I finally learn this lesson?

Oh, I had mentioned the pattern of March being difficult seemingly every year to Dr C during last session. We brainstormed a bunch of ideas, but none seemed to feel like they fit. Maybe it’s just a rough month for no real reason…


Art instead of other things

As much as I didn’t want to be in therapy on Monday, I was really looking forward to group on Thursday… only group got cancelled 😦

So, in an effort to keep on the right track with my coping skills, I did art all day…

I’m not sure if I posted about my experiment making my own canvas journal, but I worked on that and some ATC’s that will be going out on a swap (if I can ever decide which ones to actually send. I like them all for various reasons. Some have deeper meanings than they may appear to just by looking at them).

Anyway, here are pics of it all. Some are WIP pics, others of completed pages/cards… I used Inka Gold on the canvas. It doesn’t work well. The paint is cracking and chipping already. I need to come up with something as a hard cover for the journal to help protect it better. It works fine on solid objects, but it’s not meant to be pliable once dried.

I’m glad I had the distraction today. Between pms, the passing of one of L’s family members (and what it’s bringing up for me), increased body sensations, stress around one of the dogs having eaten a spoon a week ago and still not passed it, and the thought of a crazy day at work tomorrow, my thoughts have been hovering over the more negative coping skills. Similar to what I mentioned to Dr C on Monday, I just wanted to be drunk, high, and bleeding. Instead I played art and listened to the Ellie Goulding station on Pandora… yay for picking the more socially acceptable coping skills.


Journal page update

Worked on this page again today. Still trying to figure out what to do in the top left corner…

An artist friend suggested a nose, though at first I was thinking the lack of one is symbolic of how depression makes you feel like you can’t breathe. I dunno. It still needs something. The right side definitely needs work too, but that’s looking like a total overhaul. This side just needs *something*…

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I have to admit though, I worked my butt off on those stupid strings sewing her mouth shut. I must have redone them at least 5 times. They look a bit better in the photograph than in real life, but I’m still pretty proud of them. I had originally planned to glue actual thread on there, but wanted a more 3-d look to her lips, so I painted them in… I’m sure they look amature to more experienced artists, but they’re the best I’ve done so far. I’m happy with how they turned out.


More art

Worked on this page today. I’ve had the under layer done since September, but hadn’t figured out what else to do with her. She’s still a work in progress (didn’t mean to make the gold above her eye look like bangs), but she’s getting there… gonna get rid of the bangs and sew her mouth shut… not sure what else will happen, but that’s part of the plan.

Gelatos over gesso’d magazine page. Feather is gesso’d steps of origami paper.

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So many layers!

I think I’ve finally finished that fold-out, multiple-layer journal I started forever ago… it’s truly a mixed media piece. I don’t think there is much I didn’t use: spray inks, collage, acrylic paint, stamping, two types of embossing, textiles, sewing, pen, charcoal, wax pencil, stencils, rub-ons, stickers, washi tape, vintage paper, grommets… among all the layers, I used a ton of stuff (my journal isn’t too happy about it; the spine has been stretched almost to capacity). I think I finally feel like it’s finished (it only took 2 months). I have to admit, the hidden layer was way more triggering than I had expected. It made me want to rip my insides out in order to stop feeling the body memories. The additions I did to that page took less time and artistic effort than any of the other pages combined, but it took the most emotional energy. I stuck with it though and just kept going with the art. I focused on painting the heart and getting it closer to anatomical correctness. I thought about asking Dr C for support, but changed my mind. I was determined to wade through the triggers on my own… it worked. It took all day to complete and now it’s waiting for Monday when I can talk to Dr C about it.

Here are the finished pages (except for the hidden layer):

The top page says: “be the author of your life… write your own ending”
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The left page (with the heart) says; “don’t think of all the things you fear, just be glad to be here”, and the right side has a Harry Potter quote; “I don’t care! I’ve heard enough, I’ve seen enough, I want out, I want it to end, I don’t care anymore!” … “you do care. You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death from the pain of it…”
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And some progress shots:


That took a sharp turn

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I didn’t really have an idea for this page other than adding the rainbow inks… they didn’t turn out exactly as I’d pictured it at 2am when the idea came to me, but they turned out ok.

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I had thought I was going to use the heavy gel honeycomb pattern as a resist when adding a black ink wash, but when it came down to it, I wasn’t sure I could get the look I was going for. I opted out of the totally dark background (the black letters would have gotten lost), and went way out of my comfort zone to keep the bg mostly white…

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I had originally used a silhouette mask of a woman when laying down the honeycomb pattern. I wanted to highlight her in some way. I finally ended on cutting out another copy of her from the rice paper I had covered in gel medium. I tried to color her with blue gelatos… didn’t like it, so did my best to wash them off. Go figure, this time I can’t get the color to wash off completely. Anyway, I didn’t like the blue much, so I thought of drawing in her details. Then I thought better of it, and drew in a skeleton instead. I lost stream drawing by the time I reached the skull, so that part looks way more cartooney than I’d like…

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It’s still a work in progress (more ideas of what to do both with the skeleton and the background), but this is as far as I’ve gotten… I haven’t worked on her in 2 days. I haven’t worked on the squares since the night I posted about them… I dunno. Motivation is sorta there, but energy and effort to execute isn’t.


“Little squares” page update

I’ve been trying to do these every night, and take pics every night, but I have to admit I’ve only worked on it about 4 times, and only remembered to take progress pics two additional times…

Here’s a pic from just now, before I’m starting to work on it again for the night.

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They’re not supposed to bleed over into each other, but I’ve given up caring.

And progress from tonight:
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It was a good weekend

It was a good weekend 🙂

There was a snow storm, but we only got about 5″. The dogs enjoyed playing in the snow. L’s boss got them out on time Saturday night so they could travel safely.

Sunday L and I actually finally got around to starting a joint art project. We ended up doing half and half of a large canvas. The original idea was “you do something, then I do something, then you do something…” but we got distracted with our “sides” and just kept going. It’s still a work in progress, but I like what we have so far.

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It was really nice being able to do something creative together.

We also spent some time watching our newest series obsession: nurse Jackie. We got into it last weekend when hulu had a showtime special for the weekend. Now we binge-watch as we can. There was one scene though that was pretty triggering (and relatively out of nowhere). Jackie and her husband get into an arguement while driving somewhere. He gets mad, pulls the car over, and gets out. In my head, it replayed a memory of one of the many fights my parents would get into, only instead of the husband getting out and walking away, I remembered my dad screaming at my mom and pulling her from the car. I expected the husband character to start pounding on the car as my dad would have. I expected the kids to panic and fear for their mom’s life as I would have…
It wasn’t a flashback, as much as just an intrusive memory coupled with strong emotions. Even thinking about it now enough to write it, I feel the fear in my chest…

I had meant to talk about it a bit with Dr C today, but we chatted about other things instead (like employment plans and art techniques and the dog). Part of me wants to jump back into the working world with both feet. Dr C reminded me that it’s ok to take things slow. I have this comfort/disgust relationship with being on disability. It’s nice to know I have a safety net, but I also feel useless and worthless. We talked about being on disability, and Dr C pointed out that I am on it for good reason: my mental health deteriorated so badly in the past that my condition was very close to being lethal at the time. It really was/can be a life-or-death thing with me. Sadly (or not?), I have no connection to that state of mind if I’m not in it. Dr C reminded me that it is common with dissociative disorders… I just want it under control enough to get back to being productive again.

Another thing giving me pause about trying to get back to the working world full-force is the panic I felt when Dr C mentioned she will be away for 2 weeks starting the end of this week… I’m not sure why it’s such a scary thought, but it really is. We scheduled a second appointment for this week because of it. Hopefully I can be open with her about my panic. I’m sure it’s just an anxiety reaction, but… :/ I think I might cry.


Write the saddest story you can in 4 words…

I saw this on fb…

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“I loved you once…”

it can have so many endings:

…but then I remembered.

…and you betrayed me.

…then you used me.

…and I saw your true colors.

…you broke my heart.

…I still love you (and I don’t know why)…


Updates and an art journal WIP

I haven’t had much to say lately. Therapy has just been… therapy. Nothing major or very deep… or maybe it has, but hasn’t been overly memorable? We talked a bit about the topic of touch, but not too much. Dr C loaned me a book on the topic (A Very Touching Book, by Jan Hindman). It’s written mainly with kids in mind, but works for adults as well… it’s actually kind of cool, breaking touch down into 3 types: good, bad, and secret. I like that delineation. It makes inappropriate touch easier to understand and explain that way.

Other than that, just plugging along through the days. I’ve been working a few more hours, which is nice. The holidays were uneventful. I hadn’t done much art lately, but picked it up again these past 3 days or so. Dr C and I had talked more about masks and layers of self. She asked if I would want to do some art around it, so I’ve been trying to work on that. I’m not quite sure where I’m going with it, but it’s going…slowly. Mostly at the moment it’s covering layers I dislike because I wasn’t really sure where I was going with them. I wish I had taken more progress shots, but I wasn’t expecting to cover quite so much of each layer at the time I went to add more to them.

This is the current top layer, though it will be added to/covered some more after it dries:

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It’s actually a 2-page-spread layer I had taped onto the original page. I will be doing the back side of this page, adding another 2-page-spread layer taped under this one, but to the right side. The top most layer will represent the life I have now: the love, the success, the life that I built for myself. The middle layer will be a more translucent layer. It will be that murky, uncertain, muddled layer that will represent the symptoms that were so confusing out-of-context. It’s the confusion around whether all of this is just in my mind, or actually true. The bottom layer will be the ickiness that hides in the past: the abuse, the assaults, the trauma stuff…

So far I only have that top layer done. It kinda feels like 3 or more art journal pages rolled into one project… and it’s daunting. I miss my art friends who helped so much with inspiration and ideas. I’m substituting them with an endless stream of YouTube art journal tutorial videos. They are mostly just going on in the background, but they’re good for sparks of ideas.

Here’s the only other “wip” shot of this page, and two stamps I carved yesterday for a change of pace.

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Art therapy as a processing tool

I’ve long been a proponent of art as therapy, but I had not yet experienced such a drastic shift in symptoms as I did Wednesday evening.

I had been struggling with flashbacks since last Thursday’s doctor’s appointment. It was made worse by the incident that came up Sunday evening. The image and feelings just kept repeating and intensifying unless I was bombarding myself with sensory input.

I told Dr. C as much when I went in for that extra session Wednesday evening. When she asked if I wanted to talk about it, all I could do was nod. She then suggested doing some art around it. I nodded harder to that. I figured it was easier than speaking at the moment.

We moved to the floor and got to work. She had me represent the “memory” as best I could (right side), and had me add the emotions to it also (left side). She then asked me what I wanted to change about the image to help make it feel safer. Did I want to add something between the image of the memory and the emotion? Was there something protective I could incorporate into it to help it feel better?

I admit I was quite stumped.

She started listing off suggestions, then dug through her bag of supplies for more ideas. She pulled out some felt, and offered that up. originally we were thinking of using it as a blanket or towel around the kid, but the color I happened to pick out (red, unusual for me b/c there was also blue there & I normally gravitate to blue) was already cut into a heart shape. As she realized it was a heart, she mentioned that it would be perfect. We re-adjusted the concept of a blanket/towel to using the heart instead. She cut it down to fit on the page, then we set about trying to figure out how to attach it – glue doesn’t work too well on felt. Dr. C happened to have a needle and thread, so she suggested sewing it on.

We ended up with this:

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Yesterday, when describing the piece in group, I said that the heart was covering up the unpleasant image. Dr. C commented that it was an interesting choice of words, since it was meant as a protective measure more than a way to hide it from view… We didn’t delve further into it, but I’m sure there will be a conversation around it during Monday’s session. Either way (hiding from awareness or protecting from it), doing that project helped lessen the flashbacks. They are relatively minor intrusions in my day now, and it’s not nearly as disturbing as it had been all week.

I’ve known expression through art can help change the impact of the trauma for a while. I have even used the technique of changing an expressive piece to help change the experience of whatever it was expressing, but it’s never been such an immediate and noticeable change. It’s always just crept up on me. I would realize the change a few hours or days later. This time, doing it in session with Dr C, it was a huge difference just in the hour and a half we spent on the piece. I went in to her office feeling raw, triggered, and spent, but left feeling lighter and able to smile. It felt a lot like the change in symptoms after an EMDR session. I think part of the relief came from sharing not only the incident, but also the experience of changing it. As I mentioned before, I have tried changing the art to change the thoughts around what it expresses, but it felt more “healing” to be doing it with the help of a safe person.

If you are having a rough time with things, this might be a good technique to try. It’s helpful to have a therapist around to make the overwhelming parts feel a bit less overwhelming, but it can be accomplished solo also. I will try to look up the link to the study I remember reading about this technique. I think I saved the link (or article) somewhere. I just have to find it again. I’ll add it here when I do.

UPDATE: found that article & how to link to it. It’s a free-access article through Taylor & Francis. “Check, Change What You Need To Change and/or Keep What You Want”: An Art Therapy Neurobiological-Based Trauma Protocol. They actually have a bunch of free-access articles that you can read without having to purchase anything. It’s a great resource.


Another minor art dump

I didn’t really do much art for the past several days, until today. I worked on (stared at) 3 pieces this afternoon. It was nice to have my creativity back, even if it was severely stunted.

I started by working more on the piece I was asked to do for domestic violence awareness. For the past 2 or 3 weeks, it sat as a sketch with a plain black background. I had an idea of what was to come next, but I didn’t move to work on it.  Today I caved and colored in the sketch with marker. It’s not great, but it works ok for what it is. I still have a lot of practice to get in when it comes to art with markers… Anyway, I think it’s mostly finished. I will look at it again tomorrow before I put on the sealant spray as the final step. I thought about framing it, but I just don’t have the cash flow to make that happen right now.

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I changed a few minor things since this picture; I removed the triangles from around the word “crash” and I took out the upside-down exclamation mark because it looked too much like the letter “i”. I would like to attempt to blend the bottom of her torso and the bg a bit better, but I’m not quite sure I can accomplish it the way I’m picturing. Anyway, like I said, it’s mostly done. I just have to contact the dv clinic and find out when and where to drop it off.

The two other pages I worked on were backgrounds that had been sitting idle for a while. They are far from finished, but they served the purpose of giving me another thing to multitask with while watching Netflix with L (I’m noticing more and more that I need the constant distraction again).

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The face done in pen came about from the shapes I saw in the marbled background. It kinda reminds me of the Indonesian warrior masks, or the Japanese warrior faces from kabuki theater. I think I will go back and add more lines with a better pen before I call it finished (I’m still struggling to find a replacement for my favorite black scarlet lime pen. Nothing I’ve tried works as reliably or effectively on multimedia surfaces)…

Yesterday in therapy we talked about stressors that add to my depression. She pointed out something that should have been glaringly obvious to me, but something that I just hadn’t put together yet: I’m lonely. It’s difficult when everyone has wonky work schedules. Even at my work, I don’t really get to interact much with peers. Most of the time, I do customer service by myself. I chat a bit with the customers and in passing with the other associates, but for the most part, it’s just me by myself the whole shift. When I do finally get to spend more time with a few people, I inevitably end up doing or saying something horribly awkward :/ (I also still have a lot of trouble believing anyone would want to hang out with me of their own free will. Even visiting my brother and his wife this weekend, I didn’t feel like I belonged. It felt like everyone else had a right to be there, but I was just wasting oxygen and space. My rational mind knows that it is not true, but I still felt very awkward and out-of-place)…

Talking about all that was good though. Having L randomly needing to switch her schedule to be home most of today also helped. It’ll just be weird on Thursday when she has to work all day…

Oh, the latest self portrait I did was last Wednesday… it’s more stylized and emotive, but I like how the whole piece worked out:
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Self portrait – 100 mile stare

This pretty much encompasses today:

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I might redo the face tomorrow (have another idea for it), though I might not. I suppose I should keep the drawings as they are, and watch the progression/change as I get practice under my belt.

This one is definitely reflective of the mood of the day: distance, disconnect, attempts at grounding…


Self-portraits

Last week in group, Dr C suggested we do a self-portrait a day for a month. I can’t exactly remember how we arrived at the concept, but it’s not all that important. Anyway, I didn’t start till yesterday (4 days later). I kept it simple. I did a quick stylized cartoon of myself. I was trying to go for the frazzled,tired, sad feeling I’ve carried all week. I also didn’t want to have to put much effort into it (I was tired and running out of creative stream).

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I left the picture mostly unfinished…

When I showed it to Dr C today, she called it “glamorous”… ?!?!!? I dunno. I don’t see glamorous, but whatever. I told her as much. She then asked if I had done one for today yet.

I shook my head.

She asked if I wanted to do one there.

:shrugz: might as well. I tend to speak easier when slightly distracted.

Then she asked if I had a picture to draw from. I told her I rarely have pictures of myself, let alone ones I like. I suggested that I didn’t mind doing it more representational of what I’m feeling. She shook her head as she launched the camera on her phone. “No. You need to do one from a picture of yourself.”

I laughed and lightly protested. She took the picture anyway… she said it was nice. I looked at it and started listing everything wrong. She cropped the picture and zoomed in on the face. She offered drawing utensil choices, then asked me to start drawing… she grabbed paper and pencil and joined me in drawing.

We chatted, and she gently encouraged me when I started to get frustrated. She gave some tips she learned along the way: 1) draw what’s around the object rather than the object itself. 2) Focus on the shapes, not the finished object. 3) try drawing it upside down.

I was on a roll with my first sketch, so I kept at it. I asked for more explanation on the concept of drawing “around” something to get the goal. She said it had something to do with seeing the shapes that make up whatever it is you are trying to draw. I’m still not clear on that concept… I did try something new with the watercolor pencil sketch though: I didn’t throw down the line with pencil first, but let the drawing appear as the colors were laid down. I think it kinda worked out ok. I look about 80, but that’s kinda how I feel sometimes, so it’s ok.

I was going to do a second one (upside down this time), but session was up.

She asked how that went for me (not talking about what had been creeping on me all weekend. Instead, drawing together in session). I told her I liked it. It was nice, as I had been hoping to find someone to sit and do art with. I also told her that I wished I had talked a bit about what was going on inside. We talked a bit about the value of not always tackling therapy head-on. She cited this session as working on seeing myself as a beautiful person rather than all the negatives I feel. She also mentioned something about still being a person and seeing myself as such (recently I had mentioned more of a disconnect from myself and my life. I think I had phrased it as being surprised again that I had a reflection in the mirror)…

We set another time for tomorrow because the stuff from the previous week is still very present.

I think I could get behind doing more art in session (I have to admit, I’m a bit skeptical on the “take away” message of the session having been a deliberate one… though she is pretty good about stuff like that, so maybe she did plan it at the time she asked if I wanted to draw today).

Oh, the final drawing from the session is on the left. My attempt at drawing myself upside down is on the right. It was done in prismacolor marker while waiting for my laundry to dry…
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Trauma-Informed Creative Arts Therapy Articles

This came across my feed and I wanted to share/save it. I really like this page, they have a lot of good info and resources. It’s mostly geared towards professionals, but there’s other resources there also.

Trauma-Informed Creative Arts Therapy Articles

One of the first articles listed is about art journaling as self-help.


other art

I have a bunch of art journal pages that are just sitting there, waiting for progress. Some are further along than others, and many have been sitting for months. A few are actually finished. Most of them are “left over” supplies pages.