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perkreations

Honesty about creativity, art, mental illness, grief, feminism, human rights and chronic pain with a healthy dose of sarcasm

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chronic pain

Mental Health Super Hero Begins

Sally Semi-Colon helps her first soul and discovers her power to emit epic empathy. Johanna’s cried an ocean when Sally finds her and helps her begrin to heal.

This is the first test frame I’ve developed for my mental health super hero, Sally Semi-Colon. She follows the credo that one’s life sentence can continue with a semi-colon, even after or in spite of dark depression, attempted suicide, or any other mental heath struggle, rather than end with a period.hhb

More information about the Semi-Colon movement can be found in the documentary film regarding high school sexual assault and the devastating mental health impact available on Netflix, Audrey and Daisy. There is also a book called Project Semi-Colon featuring,”essays and photos from the Suicide Awareness Organization that has helped millions, as well as plenty more information on line.

After watching Wonder Woman recently I was struck, once again, by something that’s bothered me for a loooooong time. There is a severe shortage of comic books, films and graphic novels featuring female super heros but no shortage of real world super women.

I understand I am not working for Marvel or DC and the characters I’m working on may or may not be going anywhere but that’s ok. I just feel like it’s therapeutic for me to try to create a Group of female super heros who might begin to fill in the giant gaps in the female super hero world.

What do you consider your own super power to be?

K

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Mental Health Super Hero

I’m pleased to present my latest creation, Sally Semi Colon!

“What are her super powers,” You ask. She’s gifted with acute senses of empathy, understanding, kindness, love, advanced active listening skills, a great sense of humour, and a light for the darkness.

She can offer reliable therapy on a moments notice and is familiar with all forms of treatment conventional and non. She can offer up tough love if needed or tell when it’s time to relax and recommend self care.

She even carries an endless supply of self care items like; face masks, good books, great music, a selection of herbal teas, word games, art supplies, journals with pretty pens, nail polish, and other sundry.

Sally is a mental health maven bent on battling mental illness, stereotypes, stigmas, and assholes who don’t understand!

More to come…

Grief From Moment to Moment

I knew grief was coming. I’ve felt grief many times before. It always feels distinctly like grief, yet no grieving situation ever unfurls and flows in similar fashion.

I am speaking specifically of grief felt when a loved dies. One can grieve the loss of a job or a home but those losses, for me, tend to bring forth an entirely different type of grieving.

My maternal grandmother died yesterday. Although she lived two provinces away we were still close. We became even closer after my Mom, her eldest daughter, died in early 2014. We both took her death very hard and struggled a great deal.

Yesterday I felt as though I should feel sadder, be more upset. I cried when I told my husband very early in the morning. He held me as I swiped at my eyes and tried to breath deeply and fully. Mostly I felt glad she’d gone quickly, with minimal suffering and I felt glad I’d told her many times how special she was to me and how much I loved her.

My husband and I had lunch with my father and his lady-friend yesterday afternoon. We laughed and talked and my appetite seemed normal. I suppose the only thing not normal was how guilty I felt for feeling so normal.

Later on I suddenly felt incredibly irritable. I snapped at my husband, immediately apologised, snapped again, apologised, and lathered, rinsed, repeated until I was in tears for behaving so poorly and he was bewildered.

We watched a movie I chose and I complained about how terrible it was the whole way through. I stomped upstairs after the film and shuttered myself in my art studio. I was, at once, angry at myself for choosing such a shitty flick and annoyed at my husband for insisting we finish it.

I decided to take part in a 30 paintings in 30 days challenge suggested by an old friend and fellow artist and participant. I completed a small abstract piece last night and found myself going from soothed to impatient as though riding a pendulum as I worked. I was satisfied with the finished painting and surprised how much the colouring and style reminded me of my Grandmother.

My sleep was wrought with tossing and turning. I woke up really early for coffee but found myself dosing off an hour later and returning to bed for rest of the morning.

For the rest of today I’ve found myself on an un-merry-go-round of irritable, sentimental, guilty, confused, and numb. This is what grieving my Grandmother feels like so far.

I’ve also found myself with a sour stomach, a sweet tooth, shakier hands than usual, and struggling to cope with higher than usual pain levels.

I never would have predicted this would be how I’d feel. I’m doing my best to surf the emotional waves rather than fight them but it’s difficult as I keep feeling as though I’m not doing this right and I know that’s not possible.

I’ve learned we all experience grief differently and grieving will be a different experience every time. So I’ll just keep trying to honour my grandmother’s memory as best I can and honour my feelings as they ebb and flow. If there’s ever a time to go easy on myself and practice self-love and self-care it’s now.

K

Panic Attack Drawing

After deciding to take a crack at using the drawing prompt #fear from #sketchbookskool on Instagram today I thought of what makes me fearful and immediately thought of panic attacks. Thus I decided to try and draw what a panic attack feels like to me. Here’s how my drawing turned out…

K

Part 2: Welcome to the Psych Ward

Bare footprints disappearing in the snow, heading further and further from home. Finding a well hidden snowbank she lays down, blue silk nighty billowing then settling around her, staring up into the silent, swirling snow as the handfull of sleeping pills begins to take effect. Soon she stops shivering, closes her eyes, lets the hypothermic warmth take over and eventually she is no longer.

This was the suicidal plan that played out over and over in my mind last winter. I saw my demise as a favour to my friends and family. Finally they’d be able to move on from my constantly bringing them down and holding them back with my depression and pain and anxiety and defectivness.

I often researched suicide methods and statistics online, wanting to make sure my first try would be permanent. I began punishing myself, for failing to get on with my plan, by burning my flesh with the hot metal of a lighter, carving up my arms and legs with scissors.

I had eaten only cheerios for the better part of a year, bringing myself to a point of malnourishment where I grew lightheaded frequently and occasionally passed out.

In a last ditch effort to save my own life I wrote out all of the above in point form and shakily handed it to my psychologist one day. I was finally telling him what I’d managed to keep secret from him and my loved ones for so long. I remained silent as he read, folding in on myself, dry eyed and staring into space.

My psychologist called an ambulance and this was how I ended up in the psych ward. It was discovered that my hemoglobin levels had dropped to 75 and later down to 45 (normal is 120 – 160 for females). This extreme anemia came from my self-induced malnourishment and led to intravenous iron infusions and, eventually, the discovery of a stomach ulcer and acid reflux, which had likely occurred from taking my meds on a frequently empty stomach.

There are parts of my first few days on the ward I’ve no memory of. I was so ill I could scarcely make it out of bed, let alone out my door and into the common areas.

When I grew stronger and would slowly make my way to a common tv, clinging tightly to the wall railing lest the lightheadedness get the better of me. I’d lay on the couch either staring blankly at the tv or falling asleep as the other patients chattered around me and controlled the remote.

As my physical symptoms began to heal I was able to spend more time focusing on the reasons for my suicidal urges. This led to a focus on self esteem and expression of anger.

A particularly memorable breakthrough came when I told the loud-mouthed, bully of the ward to, “fuck off!”

I told my nurse about my vulgar admonishment of the man, expecting to be scolded. I was surprised and elated when I was told, while this wouldn’t be the best way to handle all conflict, I should be proud for having stood up for myself.

Slowly but surely I found myself again, a strong, robust woman who’d become trapped inside a girl who’d lost sight of self love. I gradually met goal after goal, in spite of numerous setbacks. My recovery has never been a straight, upward line, but upward has been the overall direction lately.

At the end of January I left the hospital scared to be back in the real world but I felt hope beginning to stir within my soul. As I’m writing this now I can finally see how far I’ve come and I can’t help but smile and be proud. Tears also sting my eyes with conflicting emotion, how did I ever get so very low and am I destined to take a dive again if I’m not ever vigilant?

I know I’ve a long way to go but I am finding more and more hope in my heart and more motivation to keep working to get better.

I am so thankful to my incredibly kind, sensitive, unconditionally loving husband who did so much to help me pull through and convince me he would not be better off without me. My father and father-in-law and mother-in-law visited me often and showed so much unconditional love it was overwhelming.

The rest of my family and friends from near and far away also expressed their deep concern and love when I thought all was lost. I still feel unworthy of this amount of love but I’m beginning to accept it and I’m trying to love everyone back as hard as I can.

This is where the second and most severe mental health crisis in my life has led. I’m still fighting maddening chronic pain but I feel like the fight within my mind is less and optimism is beginning to win a little more each day.

K

Love πŸ’– Recovery?

No matter how much I plan and pace and predict how attending an event will work, coping with the consequences never fails to surprise me with its intensity. I do my best to mitigate pain difficulties during an event and leave time for recovery but I’m not psychic so I cannot account for everything that might happen and how it will make me feel.

Myself (far right) with my girlfriends last night taking timeout in the beer garden to enjoy some sangriaπŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Last night I had the pleasure of attending Folk Fest with a couple of girlfriends. They were kind enough to pick me up and take me in the early evening, thus decreasing the total time I’d be there but still allowing plenty of time for us to have some fun and see the entertainers I most wanted to see.

Lately I’ve been saying, “fuck it, I’m going,” then figuring out ways of doing some of the things I most enjoy rather than being permanently sidelined. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have friends and family willing to take my special needs into account and help me to make the most of what I am able to do.

I think my new fuck it attitude has enabled me to enjoy life a little more but it has also had a direct effect on the time I spend out of commission during the time following. No matter how much care I take during an event I always know there will be time spent in recovery mode for several days after.

What does recovery look like for me? It’s not particularly pleasant;

  • Pain levels highly elevated
  • Decreased mobility
  • Extra time spent sleeping and feeling overly tired
  • Inability to do much beyond resting for several days. Recovery time needed depends a myriad of factors and I often find it difficult to predict
  • Feeling overly emotional, tearful, depressed, and angry
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Difficulties completing simple household tasks
  • Increased need for pain medication
  • Headaches

In spite of my desire to try to take part in things I enjoy more I can’t help but wonder if it’s worth the inevitable painful recovery time. In spite of this trepidation I plan to continue to say, “fuck it, I’m going,” whenever I can reasonably do so. The joy returning to my life is, I think, worth it and will hopefully make me stronger in the long run.

If you suffer from a chronic condition do you have a, “fuck it, I’m going,” policy or something similar and if so what do you do to mitigate recovery time and still enjoy taking the chance to do what you love on occasion? I would love to hear your ideas and stories.

K

Psych Ward Humour

The psych ward can be a little scary at times and is often fraught with emotions running high. In order to keep some semblance of normalcy one must keep a sense of humour. Here are a couple of amusing incidents I recall from my time spent as an inpatient.

In order to protect the identities of those involved I’ll be using gender neutral pronouns such as them and they. I will not provide any names nor physical descriptions.

Please understand these stories aren’t meant to make a mockery of psychiatric patients. I am simply trying to highlight the fact there is light and levity to be found even during the darkest of times.

One day I was invited by another patient to join in a lesson they’d be offering on tantric kissing. The patient pointed to the ring on my left hand and said this lesson would be especially important for me to attend as a married woman. I politely declined the offer but couldn’t help chuckling as I walked away wondering what teaching techniques were planned.

In another situation an apple was left on the coffee table in the common area. A patient asked if it belonged to anyone. I said it was without an owner and they were welcome to it.

The patient recoiled at my suggestion and said, “no way! It could belong to a woman and you know how Eve tricked Adam into eating an apple in Eden. I’m not going to let that happen to me.”

“Yeah, the women are always trying to lead men into temptation!” another patient chimed in.

In another situation it was brought to my attention the best way to dispose of a body would be to throw it out concealed within a Christmas tree.

My absolute favourite moment happened one day when I finally was feeling well enough to draw a little bit. Another patient, who was very withdrawn with constant delusions, approached me and peaked over at the sketch I’d just started. For the first time in the week I’d been there I saw a sense of lucid clarity as my gaze was met.

“That’s a really ugly drawing!” the patient declared then nodded at me and withdrew again, striding away speaking to unseen partners in conversation.

I couldn’t help but laugh as I’d been hoping the patient would start to have more moments of clarity. I just didn’t expect my unfinished art would be the thing to draw out the lucidity!

K

Fun?

Conversation with myself:

“When was the last time you had fun?”

“I’m not supposed to have fun.”

“Really? And why do you feel this way?

“It should be obvious. I don’t work, I’m on long-term disability benifits, I suffer from chronic pain, anxiety, and depression. I can’t even keep my house clean. I don’t deserve to have fun.”

“Wow! That’s a really harsh perspective. If you met someone in the same condition as you and that person told you they felt as though they weren’t entitled to have fun would you agree and list off all the reasons why not as you’ve just listed them off?

“Of course not, but I have different standards for myself than I do for others.”

“Huh, so you’re a suffering snob? Sounds to me like you think your suffering runs deeper than other’s… is that it?”

“Of course not. I just feel like I’ve caused too many inconveniences for those closest to me for far too long. Actually I would wish for my friends and family to have fun without having to worry about me and if I’m comfortable or if I might need to leave early because I’m in too much pain.”

“Sounds like your friends and family want you to have fun. Especially since they go out of their way to make you comfortable. Do you agree they think you’re entitled to fun despite your disability?

“I guess I do. But what is it I should do for fun? How much fun am I allowed to have?”

***

Cut to me in early April when I see an advertisement that one of my favourite bands will be playing in Edmonton in mid-july along with another band I enjoy. I gleefully book tickets and subsequently panic.

I panic because it’s the first time in years I’ve planned to do something so frivolous, fun, and selfish. How could I have possibly have bought tickets to something far away, expensive, and taxing on my body.

Before I can give up and sell the tickets online. I decide to come up with a plan to make it work.

#1 I ask my husband if we can spend two nights in Edmonton so I have lots of time to rest.

#2 I ask that we take at least two short breaks on the road so I can walk a little bit and stretch out.

#3 Even though I have a number of relatives and friends I would love to see while in Edmonton I decide visiting will add too much bodily stress. I also promise myself not feel too guilty about this. There will be time for visiting trips in the future.

#4 I promise myself a week of guilt free recovery as I know the trip will be incredibly exciting, exhilarating, and exhausting. So I keep plans and appointments to a bare minimum and set my recovery time as a priority.

Our trip to Edmonton was great. We saw Counting Crows and Matchbox 20 and it was brilliant and totally worth the planning. I’m so glad I gave myself permission to do something fun after years of insisting on punishing myself. I’m also greatful for the planned recovery time😊

K

Finished Another Mixed Media Peice

One of my favourite coping strategies for anxiety, depression, grief, and chronic pain is art. I started this latest peice about 2 weeks ago with one pencil crayon portrait of the late George Carlin. I soon found myself creating 6 more portraits to be part of a project about George Carlin’s 7 Dirty Words stand up comedy routine.

I’ve always loved George Carlin and how he looked at freedom of speech, of freedom religion, freedom in general and I couldn’t help but think about how freedom may be in trouble because of leaders like Donald Trump. The world already has too many muzzled communities, this is not something to lay down and accept.

I am happy with how the project worked out. I love how there is more and more to it the longer and closer it’s viewed. I also enjoyed the thoughtful meditation I experienced on an important topic.

I’m glad to keep painting as it has helped me start to see more value in myself, more worth. This blog has also helped me to grow and stretch in ways I didn’t think I would and I have started to gain self confidence.

What do you do to cope with mental health issues? I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have.

K

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