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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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mindfulness

The Point is Not to Please You, Dear Reader

I am forcing myself to write this blog entry. I just haven’t been able to get it together enough to string together even passable prose.

“I don’t want to do this! I don’t want to feel. At all,” is what my mind cries out to me lately. I feel paralysed. I’m afraid if I put it in writing my crazy will be naked and real, for all the world to see. Yikes!

For the last two years, right around now, I’ve fallen into deep, dark, grief-tinged depression with suicidal ideation and a side order of self harm.

Why does it happen now? My Mom’s birthday on Nov 21 (died 3.5 years ago) seems to send me reeling, circling the drain, sucked down with low self worth.

Following her birthday Christmas crap is everywhere reminding me just how much I miss her helping to lead the charge. It’s hard to cheerlead for something I don’t really believe in.

I just cherry pick stuffed stockings, shortbread, gift giving, dim sum downtown, spoiling my husband and Dad and wilfully ignoring much of the other Christmas nonsense and hullabaloo.

Even paring Christmas down to a very small size still eats away at me for no good reason. The last 2 years I’ve been admitted into the psych ward for a month or two before feeling safe and well enough to go home.

This year I have been feeling a lot better I think. I’m also really excited my Mother-in-law, whom I adore💜, is coming to stay with us and we havent had a Christmas together in about 10 years.

In spite of my better mood I do feel myself dipping lower into that deep, sad place. I keep my head above water though and I don’t go too far. I can still easily see the exit. So far I’ve just felt compelled to poke around in the dark here and there.

I haven’t been self-harming, although the thought has crossed my mind. I don’t know if it’s better to push all thoughts of my psych ward experiences down and away, try to unthink them, or if I should just calmly let them replay in the background and stay focused on right now.

I feel like I wrote a whole lot but said sweet fuck all. Sorry about that. The point was not to please you, dear reader, but just to practice the act of writing, prove to myself I still can.

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…

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

Sinking Like a Sunset

Today I finished a piece to go with a collection of circular themed acrylic paintings I been working on. I’ve decided to call this one, Sinking Like a Sunset.

Check out my Instagram feed for more art stills and videos showing details of this piece and others finished and in the works…@perkreaions

As I painted I kept hearing the 90’s power balled, Sinking Like a Sunset, by Tom Cochrane. It whirled round in my brain, to the point it drowned out whatever I was actually listening too. I’m not sure I understand why. I haven’t heard that song in years.

Whatever the reason I sure am thankful to Tom Cochrane for inspiring me with such a great song. I experimented with new textures and dripping techniques with this piece. I allowed myself to stray from the formula I’d used on previous paintings in the collection. This one is very different but I still think it fits. It’s a stretch, but a stretch I’m very happy with.

It’s always nice to finish a painting hearing that sense that comes from somewhere secret, deep inside, and says, “stop! This is where this one ends.”

If I fail to listen and press on with my brush, fighting past my intuition, I’ll soon find I’ve overworked it and it’s past the point of no return. This type of piece generally ends up in the gesso pile. I’ll wipe it back to white and start anew someday.

If I listen to my instincts and stop, I stand back to contemplate and look from different angles. I can’t help but smile as I nod and initial my work. I’m glad I stopped when I did.

I’m proud of this painting. This collection has become more and more cathartic, challenging, and emotional the more I paint. I’m so thankful to have this medium as a creative outlet. I cannot imagine my life without art🎨

Check out other pieces from my Spinning Sky Series as well as videos and stills of other art, on my Instagram feed @perkreations 💖

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

Daily Drawing 

I’ve been doing my best to create one finished drawing a day or, at the bare minimum, to spend at least ten to thirty minutes a day practicing drawing or painting.

This is my strange concept of the day.

K

My Experience with Ruminating

I am 12 years old and competing in my first national curling championship. My team is getting ready to play the New Brunswick team and I am excited. They’re a really fun team and I’ve been looking forward to this game for days.

Ten minutes prior to going on the ice I’m all dressed up in my curling kit and stretching out. My coach and the other, older, 3 players approach me and ask me to sit this game out so our 5th player can have a chance to play a game.

I instantly deflate and mention how I’ve been looking forward to the game and that I’m all geared up to go. I ask if it could be a different game I sit out. They all say, “no, this is the only one that will work.”

They add comments like; “I’d do it if I could but I can’t. I have to play.”

I’m near tears, I feel like I’m being ambushed and guilted at the last minute. I decide to hold my ground and play. Bad decision.

My teammates won’t talk to me. They cross to the other side of the ice if I try to stand near them. I feel wretched. I am in tears for most of the game even after my teammates are told to stop shunning me. 

I feel as though my soul is bursting with guilt. I should have let the 5th play. What kind of selfish asshole am I? 

This is a story that haunts me frequently. Is rattles round, and round my adult mind and I want beat myself senseless for this wrongdoing I did at age 12. 

This happened 25 fucking years ago and I’m still coming back to it over and over. It’s a bizarre form of mental self flagellation. There are days when I ruminate about this and other things so obsessively I cry hysterically because I’m so disappointed in myself.

The child in me imagines what would have happened had I not been so selfish. I want to take that time back and fix it. I deserved to be shunned.

The adult in me sees the difficult position I was put in. I was asked no more than 10 minutes before the game. I was already in the zone. We should have decided as a team which game I would sit out prior to the event. Then I’d have been prepared. Also, I was only 12! My teammates were 14, 17, and 19. Perhaps I didn’t deserve to be shunned. Alas, this rational assessment rarely does anything to cut out the guilt.

It seems when I’m mentally tired thoughts such as the above gain repetitive status. Like a tv stuck on one channel and forever repeating the same short story endlessly. No escape. I simply cannot seem to let these thoughts go.

Often if I do manage to let a thought go I find something else to dwell on. I even have guilt from grade one I occasionally go back to! 

Admittedly I’m poor company when I’m heavily ruminating. I vasilate between being distant and unable to focus socially and asking questions about what I’m ruminating about for reassurance. The reassurance only lasts so long before I’m back to the same self-induced, navel-gazing bloodbath I started with.

Sometimes I ruminate about several of my transgressions in rotation. This allows me to beat myself up relentlessly for a number of wrongs I’ve done.

How do I snap myself out of this type of thinking. Sometime’s painting works or another distraction complex enough to take up extra space in my mind like puzzles or brain teasers.

Often I’ll write about the situation bothering me and force myself to read it with older and wiser? eyes. This allows me to also write out the parts I did correctly and what I would change if I could.

Sometimes to cope, I’ll apologize for something I did years ago. Often the person I apologize to has no idea what I’m talking about as they’ve long moved on.

Sometimes, despite trying to use my coping skills, I still manage to slip from ruminating into a panic attack and eventually I resort to anti-anxiety meds. I then must try not to feel guilty for being so weak that I had to take meds – even though I’d never think of anyone else as weak for taking meds when needed.

Ruminating is an afliction I’ve long dealt with. Forever second guessing myself, forever, finding things to punish myself for. It’s part of my mental illness and part of me. I do my best not to slip into the past too often. I try to stay present, be mindful, but sometimes these thoughts of past wrongdoings sneak in and OCCUPY my mind like it’s Wall Street in 2011.

K

 

My Experience with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

My experience with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is rather minute, in fact, perhaps my experience is hardly worth mentioning when compared to the level of PTSD experienced by a soldier returning from war or a refugee fleeing from a shattered homeland. Just the same, my experience had a grave affect on me and made my life difficult for a number of years and still, occasionally, affects me to this day.

A number of years ago I broke my ankle while teaching the sport of curling to a group of small children. Out of nowhere I fell and immediately guessed I’d broken my ankle because of a strange limp feeling that followed what I can only describe as a snap.

This was the snap that would forever change my life.

This was the snap leading me to undergo three different surgeries. First to repair multiple fractures to both my fibula and tibia (the 2 long bones running between the knee to the ankle). The next to remove metal hardware required while the bones healed and the third to have the ankle scoped to remove scar tissue.

Unfortunately I was left with severe ongoing joint and nerve pain which is what was the beginning of the end to my career as a curling pro/manager.

For at least 2 to 3 years, perhaps longer, I found my mind drifting back to that life-changing snap over and over. It often felt as though I was right there back in that moment. 

I could smell the ice, I could hear the laughter and chatter of the kids I was working with, and I could see it in my mind in vivid, high definition colour. One moment I’m standing there directing the kids in a silly game I’d created, the next I was falling and feeling, hearing that traumatic snap. This ten second vision would come out of nowhere, insinuate itself into my thoughts and run on a, seemingly, infinite loop. 

These flashbacks were awful. I never knew when to expect them. Eventually I’d squeeze my eyes shut, tears trying desperately to escape from my tightly shuttered eyes, pressing my thumb and forefinger against my eyebrows as hard as I could. I wanted to squish those visions out. Eventually I’d be distracted and the flashbacks would cease but I lived in fear of the next incident.

I was also incredibly sensitive to seeing someone else break any bone. I recall watching more than one movie where a character broke their ankle. I completely lost it and literally screamed and ran from the room crying. Often I’d cry and shake for at least a half hour before maybe being able to return to the film or sometimes I’d abandon it entirely.

My husband was wonderful as always. He’d comfort me as I cried and even pre-watch movies so he could warn me about a bone break scene (oddly this happens a lot in films) and I could either squeeze my eyes and ears shut or he’d skip ahead past the offending scene.

These were the two main PTSD difficulties I had but, depending on the trauma, others might find themselved hyper-vigilant and hyper-arroused, suffering from nightmares, night sweats, panic attacks, and insomnia just to name a few symptoms.

For me, time and distance from the trauma eventually brought an end to the flashbacks and hyper-sensitivity. I also, under the care of a psychologist, subjected myself to purposely watching broken ankle scenes on film repeatedly to help desesitize myself. This process was difficult but helpful. Writing about the trauma also helped me to cope better.

There are many other treatment types used, including mindfulness training, talk therapy, exercise, and meditation. Should you suffer from PTSD symptoms from a trauma there is help available and you are worthy of seeking it❤ 

K

Psychiatric Meds are a Personal Choice

Panic attacks and depression are beastly and I’ve chosen assistance when it comes to slaying my dragons. I admit to needing help, help of the chemical kind, in order to move as close to wellness as I can get. There is absolutely no shame in this.

Roughly 10 years ago I began having acute, up-all-night-pacing, ugly-crying, hand-wringing, worry-looping, vomit-inducing, panic attacks. I was living on a razors edge. At first I thought I’d try to handle the problem “naturally”. 

I prowled through health food stores, begging for assistance from the resident naturopaths. I plunked my money down for any tea, herb, or supplement recomended. Some seemed to help briefly, but the effect was never lasting for me.

I tried alternative healing methods such as reiki, scent therapy, accupunture, accupressure, censory depravation flotation and crystal healing. I changed my diet, I cut out caffeine, I yoga-ed, I wrote in my journal, I cried in my bath tub, I screamed into my pillow, I practiced mindfulness and I meditated. Some of it helped. Some of it didn’t.

Under Dr’s supervision I eventually began taking the phamacutical Cymbalta on a daily basis to help me combat both the anxiety and depression and using Clorazapate for more acute emotional crisis such as panic attacks. This combo, along with bits and pieces of the treatments listed above seemed to work for me, at least for a while.

My first admission into the psychiatric ward for severe depression and anxiety came with the addition of a daily dose of Wellbutrin for extra assistance. During my 2nd and most recent admission both the Cymbalta and Wellbutrin were increased slightly.

These are the meds that work for me now. There are, literally, hundreds, if not thousands of mental health related meds on the market. Finding the correct cocktail can be an arduous task as medication types and dosage differ for everyone and needs can change as life marches on. Remember pharmacists can be an excellent, and often overlooked, resource when it comes to offering options and ideas Dr’s may not have heard of yet or thought of.

Side effects are also a reality when trying anything new. Sometimes they go away after getting used to a new regime. Sometimes side effects are permanent and one must weigh the benefits versus the detractors.

I don’t love taking phamacuticals but I think of it as a means to not ending my life. Perhaps someday I’ll be able to cut down dosages, maybe even taper off entirely. That would be wonderful. In the meantime I am doing what I feel is best under the advisement of healthcare professionals I trust.

Treatment for psychiatric illness, for any long-term illness, is complicated and involves a very personal series of decisions. Every patient has unique needs and I would never claim to know what’s right for anyone other than myself. 

What I do know for sure is, as a patient, I must never be passive when it comes to my treatment. I need to research as much as I can. I must advocate passionately, honestly, and tirelessly for what I need because, while I am not a Dr, I am the one who has to live with each decision made about my healthcare. Never forget to be your own advocate because nobody knows how you feel better than you.

K

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