Category Archives: useful techniques or tricks

Phew!

No nightmares about L dying last night.

No nightmares at all last night actually 🙂

I’m itching to play art again, but I’m at work at the moment. I did bring one of my art journals, but I’m not sure what to draw in it. I couldn’t exactly bring all my paints, and I don’t have a travel paint set put together. I could have brought the gelatos, but I didn’t think of it till after.

It’s all ok though. I’ll have time tomorrow before group to play art. Then tomorrow evening, a friend is giving a talk on paper arts at a local gallery. I was planning on dragging L. It should be fun.

Other than that, progress on the therapy front: I was able to watch what would have been a triggering scene in a TV show without falling into intrusive memories. HUGE, HUGE step for me, even though it was “just” around the domestic violence stuff. I was kinda excited that I was able to be aware of the memories but still remain engaged in the show (it was a scene from Flash about Zoom’s back-story). I kinda laughed when I noticed that I had witnessed a similar scene numerous times (minus the murder part) and marveled that I wasn’t a sociopath…

Anyway, so yeah, little victories and happy-dances all around.

Note to self: engaging in expressive art, and seeking support around the ickiness are both helpful in regaining balance when things are starting to fall apart again.


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:

wpid-2015-10-30-11.27.08.jpg.jpg

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.


make rules for yourself (a link)

I saw this about grief, but it can also be true for depression, especially the part about platitudes (and simple things you used to enjoy) being grating…

Also important: the part about remembering to eat. I lose my appetite when really depressed (comes after the stage of eating every comfort food I can get my hands on).

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/megan-devine/grief_b_4509905.html


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.


untitled art (needs a name) **might be TRIGGERING**

wpid-20150923_164522.jpgNot exactly what I started out picturing, but I think I like it. This is the “finished” piece, though it may just be finished for today… It also needs a title. It was supposed to be a comforting image, but it turned creepy when I couldn’t get the level of detail I wanted with the pastels. It became creepier still when I needed an outlet for these stupid body memories, so they made it into the painting (awesome how memories can be transferred into & contained by art… kinda reminds me of the Vigo painting from GhostBusters II in that respect).

Some cool things I learned about oil pastels while playing with this piece: 1. to remove it from a gesso’d background, scrape off as much as you can, then rub over what’s left with paint thinner. I used Turpenoid Natural b/c it is supposed to be non-toxic. It smells like Goo Gone so it may be the same stuff. 2. To make oil pastels behave/look more like oil paints, brush over with a small amount of said paint thinner. To keep the detail of the piece, use a very thin layer applied with a soft brush at a nearly horizontal angle. If you want it to behave like paint, use a bit more paint thinner and brush the pastels as you would if you were painting.

These are some “progress” shots.

 

Loosely inspired by:

wpid-screenshot_2015-09-23-11-14-29.png

 

Other things in the works:

 

 

 


Note to self: it’s ok to need

Met with Dr C today… some things to remember:
-it’s ok to have needs.
-even if that need is simply to check that she is still there (it doesn’t bother her or significantly impact her time away from the office).
-keep trying coping skills, but she is also ok with reaching out. She will respond as she is able. If texting doesn’t work, it’s ok to call her too (or ask her to call).
-it’s ok to change the topic of conversation with a friend if it’s triggering.
-try to notice the dissociation before it’s happening or as it’s happening so the trigger can be dealt with and I don’t have to keep exposing myself to it.
-Dr C will not drop me or refer me out if I’m struggling (same as last time), so it’s ok to say if I am (preferably before a crisis point, and most certainly before I need to show up at my doctor’s office or the ER bleeding out).
-I’m still miles above where I was the last time I was hospitalized, and many more miles above where I was in 2010.
-it’s going to be tough, but it will be ok.


um, so getting back to what I was going to post… black pen test for mixed media art & art journals…

There was a question in an art journal fb group about the preferred black pens to use with mixed media and art journals. I’m a visual person, so I rounded up all the pens I have at home and did some tests to show how they work out. It’s certainly not all the ones available, but all the black pens & markers I could find at home.

I used Strathmore mixed media paper. I tested them on Golden brand gesso (creamier), Golden brand heavy gel, and Liquitex Basics gesso (rougher). The far right column was the pens directly on the paper, then (after heat-dried) washed over with a single pass of a soft brush full of water. I put the gessos and gel on fairly thick to the left side of their respective column, and thinner to the right (but only about 1.5″ wide in each column because I wasn’t thinking). It’s too humid for acrylic stuff to dry well here, so the thicker sides were still tacky when I did this. It effects the pen performance; the thinner sides took the pen better. Oh, and I did a last-minute triple-pass of matte medium over 1/2 the pen in the far left column…

The matte medium and water were used to the right of the lines in the individual examples in each column (except the one dedicated water column)…

The inc R2 & MegaBold pens are both dollar store finds…

Sadly, my favorite pen (Scarlet Lime) is no longer available. If anyone finds one that performs like that, with the same deep black, please point me in the right direction! I tried the FudeBall a while back (what was originally recommended to replace the Scarlet Lime), but it just didn’t hook me. In my opinion, it performed a lot like the dollar store pens for a much higher price. I used a friend’s at the time, so it’s not part of this test page. (I was just told that the Pilot Multiball pen and the Pilot BeGreen Recycled Permaball GellRollerball pen (UK) the same as the Scarlet Lime one… Will have to check both out.)

Does any of that even make sense? Hopefully the pics help…

If you have done something similar (or do it in the future), feel free to show & tell in the comments. If you allow, I will move your test up into the body of this post so it’s all in one place. 😉