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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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mental illness

Ashamed of Shame & laying blame

In grade 6 I got lucky and hit puberty early. For me, puberty brought on a generous helping of acne. It was great because nobody else seemed to have acne yet and because I was so far ahead of the game I got to hear all about it from the other kids.

My grade 6 school picture shows only a bit of acne but there was a whole lot of tears and face scrubbing leading up to this.

I was already a freak because I was constantly reading giant books, writing poetry and short stories, acting in school plays, and generally not trying to fit in. I was terrible at popular indoor sports like; volley ball, soccer, and floor hockey. I was always picked last and constantly ridiculed for playing poorly no matter how hard I tried. I frequently spent the better part of gym class crying in the change room.

The addition of acne brought on some next level shit in the bullying department. I became known as; Zit Farm, Zit Face, Pimple Face and pizza face. I was accused of rubbing grease on my face and told to lay off the chocolate and French fries.

Every day I would go home with a heavy heart and hurt feelings. I just wanted to curl up and cry or go to sleep and never have to face the kids at school again. I was so ashamed of myself because of my acne and couldn’t understand why I was the only one.

My Mom was horrified that I’d developed the angry red marks all over my face.

“I just don’t understand where these zits are coming from,” she’d say.

“I never had acne when I was growing up. Why do you have it? Don’t you wash your face?”

My Dad told her gently and repeatedly that he’d had acne so it was likely due to his genes. He even apologised to me but I still felt overwhelming shame about my face and just wished I could melt away for good.

My Mom made it her mission to rid me of my acne. She bought me various facial cleansers, skin buffs and wipes and spot treatments. She had the best intentions but I felt it hard to hold back tears when she’d pull me in close on a daily basis to get a better look at my skin, ask how I thought the latest miracle cure was working, inevitably mutter that we’d have to try something else and nudge me in the direction of the bathroom with orders to, “go scrub your face.”

As puberty progressed so too did the volcanoes that pushed up through my epidermis and eroded my visage. The kids at school got meaner and my Mom grew more frantic about my affliction. There was no where for me to hide. I longed to cover all mirrors and began to keep my head down, hoping no one would see me, wishing for a safe place.

My Mom kept leveling up from the drug store, to the cosmetics counter, and finally to endless doctors appointments to try bigger, badder, stronger cleansers, creams, toners, lotions, potions and pills.

It was bad enough that I couldn’t exchange my face for another. It was bad enough the kids at school kept tormenting me. It was bad enough my Mom accused me of not scrubbing my face enough, of not caring about my skin, of being ugly. It was bad enough, it was bad enough, it was more than enough and there was no escaping my face.

Mercifully by half way through grade 7 almost everyone’s skin was as bad as mine or worse so the kids stopped teasing. I managed to find a group of friend who thought my weirdness was cool and I finally began to fit in for not fitting in. I discovered make-up and fashion and my Mom eased up.

I still get the occasional pimple but age seemed to be the cure for my acne. I’m still extreamly self conscious though and my self esteem, on a good day, hovers somewhere between crap and shit.

I assume people won’t like me or they’ll mock me or I’ll say the wrong thing. I always say the wrong thing. I’m ashamed of my ugly face, and unwashed hair, and too thick thighs. I’m ashamed that I’m still ashamed of myself. Years of therapy and I still haven’t fixed me.

Most of all I’m embarrassed and ashamed of partially blaming my Mom for my low self esteem. She was just trying to help. She bent over backwards to find me help for my face. Even worse, she’s no longer here to defend herself. I’m speaking ill of the dead and I loved her with all my heart, I still love her with all my heart and I feel such shame for the blame that I feel.

K

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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

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…

You Down With OCD? Probably Not

I am tired of actual psychiatric disorders being used as casual slang when REAL fucking people, ACTUALLY fucking suffer from the following and many more psychiatric disorders!

Here are some real life examples so you know what I’m ranting about.

  1. “Dude’s a total Schizo, he’s was fine one minute and just freaked out like 10 seconds later.”
  2. “I’m so Depressed I didn’t get those concert tickets.”
  3. “Oh my God, I couldn’t find my keys for, like, 2 minutes, and I totally had a panic attack!”
  4. “My computer was fine yesterday but today it keeps going Schizo on me.”
  5. “Don’t mind me, I’m totally OCD, if I see a crooked picture I just want to level it.”
  6. “She’s such a psycho, I heard she bedazzled his favourite hockey jersey after he cheated on her.”

Please Note: some of the above quotes are fake but I feel I’ve heard some version of each at least a few times – Ok, ok I planted #6 on purpose because it’s a brilliant revenge idea, and it doesn’t make one a psycho to take some small revenge if he’s a cheating asshole.

Imagine speaking to someone or overhearing someone use your actual, diagnosed, psychiatric affliction as a throw away term for a bad habit or an instance of unique or strange behaviour.

It’s a really shitty feeling because it diminishes the severity and seriousness we mentally ill people have to cope with in a huge way every single fucking minute of every single fucking day. It makes me feel as though my psychiatric problems are a punchline rather than something that’s compelled me to self-harm and plan my suicide, sent me to the psych ward. Is that something I should take lightly? My depression nearly drove me into the ground.

I’ve cried in bathroom stalls and book stores and and burrito joints (Really – I didn’t fake anything to make the alliteration work but huzzah! For the diversity of human ignorance) because of flip remarks as I’ve mentioned.

I can only imagine what it’s like for children and teens. Kids can be cruel when someone is different. Teens can crush windpipes with a withering look and break the windows of the soul with a minimum number of syllables.

I believe people are generally good. I don’t believe these misused words are being bandied about for the sheer assholery of it. It comes down to stigma and a lack of community education.

Go ahead, call me a bleeding-heart, liberal, politically correct, pinko, snowflake, snob, I can take it. I can take it because I am a grown ass woman and my mental afflictions have decreased in severity recently.

This is why I continue to write this blog. I want to smash stigmas, offer my own stories and observations, and provide hope that someday soon those who suffer won’t feel as though their afflictions aren’t valid or they have to hide.

None of that kumbaya shit though, don’t worry. I enjoy sarcasm and wit far too much. My hope is just that we can all learn to have more empathy toward each other because I believe it’s one of the keys to peace✌

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

Panic Attacks as a Child

My heart pounds so heavily it reverberates through my entire body. This feels terrifying and only adds to the worries bringing me to this elevated state of arousal.

I am supposed to be sleeping but it’s clear relaxation is a ship long since sailed and I am stranded on an island of anxiety. My mind races. On this night one small worry has become a storm and soon swirls into a fucking tsunami.

This particular tsunami is not a current concern. It is a memory of a string of my very first panic attacks. Awww, such sweet and special memories😛

I didn’t experience a lot of anxiety attacks until my late 20’s and 30’s but the more I consider the first pushing of my panic button the earlier in life I can recall it happening.

When I was around 9 years old we were studying World War 2 and the holocaust in school. I was also reading Anne Frank Diary of a Young Girl. The more I learned the more disturbed I felt.

I cried in my mother’s arms for ages when I finished the book. I couldn’t, still can’t, comprehend the hatred shown for differences that shouldn’t matter. We’re all human and no one person is better or more valuable than another.

I lay awake many a night terrified of World War 3, the possibility of conscription, concentration camps, torture, and the possibility of the end of the world. I shook with fear, sobbed into my pillow, felt the terror of hyperventilation, and I was tormented by nightmares bringing all my fears to life.

My parents spent a lot of time reassuring me that WW3 wasn’t nigh. They were also real with me. They told me the holocaust was an unforgivable crime against humanity and that many people, including Anne Frank and most of her family, had died painfully and needlessly.

I often worried my father would be conscripted and have to go fight in a war or that we’d be forced into a death camp and be gassed in a “shower” room. I was scared a dictator would come to power and slowly strip our country of rights and freedom. The more I learned about the 2nd world war the more I feared hubris, ignorance,and forgetfulness would plunge our world into a similar state of chaos.

Perhaps my fears were over the top and incredibly dramatic for a 9 year old but my Mom and Dad listened to my concerns patiently, gave me honest answers to difficult questions, and they reassured me with logic and reasoning rather than empty platitudes. They also didn’t tell me to stop reading and learning so intently. To help reassure and encourage me they kissed me, held me tightly and told me they loved me.

Looking back I still feel the fear and panic that came with learning about such a difficult and terrifying subject. I cannot even imagine how awful it would have been to have lived during that time. I don’t regret the learning for one second though. Some subjects are scary but we cannot sensor education just because it’s frightening. We must remember to learn from the mistakes of the past.

I think my parents did a commendable job dealing with my first panic attacks and many more to follow. The fact that I suffer from panic attacks is nobodys fault. My Mom and Dad did a great job making sure I felt safe and loved even if panic seized and I am forever grateful for this.

My hope is this will reassure others that although difficult subjects may lead to difficult times we shouldn’t be ashamed of fear or avoid learning. Sometimes the only way to cross a river is to swim no matter how swift the churning current and rollicking rapids.

What are your thoughts about panic attacks or any other psychological challenges during childhood? I’d love to hear any stories or advice.

K

Spinning Sky Series

Here is another painting from my Spinning Sky Series. I have titled this one, Drama’s Brewing. Painted with acrylic on canvas.

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 💖 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 sangria💖💖💖

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

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