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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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self care

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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“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.

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More to come…

Sage Advice My Dad Plagiarized

For no compellingly good reason I climbed aboard the Twitter Train earlier this week. I toured around checking out the threads as they twist and tie together forming, what I imagine to be, an infinite, nonsensical quilt from hell.

The more I allowed the quilt to wrap round me the more I felt it fuck with my senses. I felt compelled to comment when I saw stupidity, or what I perceived to be stupidity, and I realized I was often feeling mean.

I trolled Trump a bit and I feel justified in this as it was a, mostly, constructive trolling. I didn’t just call him an ass. I told him how he was being an ass and how he might go about being less assish.

I didn’t expect trolling to feel so addictive. Soon I was sucked in and I realized I wanted not just to troll Trump but to troll those defending Trump in all his Trumpliness. I chose the most asinine ass, as I perceived it, and furiously began pounding out trollish tweets.

Fortunately, through the twists and tangles of the Twitter threads, I heard my father’s voice whispering to me from a glittering time vortex, a mystery in the matrix. I listened closer and I realized I wasn’t wrapped in the blanket of Twitter, I was caught in its wicked web.

The words my Dad whispered flowed out of the vortex, back into my brain. Bam! I was 7 again and I was telling my Dad about the perfect insult I had for a classmate of mine I didn’t care for.

“What would Thumper’s mother say?”

I stared at my father, puzzled for a moment, then it clicked. He was talking about Thumper, the bunny-best-bud to Bambi.

I shook my head, squished both brows inward and upward, indicated I couldn’t recall what Thumper’s mother was talking about.

“Remember how Thumper’s Mom reminded Thumper not to say rude or mean things to other people?”

“Yes”

“Do you remember what the rule was for deciding what to say and what not to say?”

I shook my head.

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

My father, as he is wont to do, had corrected the grammar from the original Bambi script but the message remained the same. Throughout my life he has reminded me of this simple rule whenever I’ve expressed the urge to stop being constructive and start being mean.

So, as I tooled around Twitter, noting the tools, the sage recollection from Bambi brought back to me by my Dad, kept me from getting carried away in the Twitterverse. I can see I’ll have to be careful with the Twitter tool as I don’t want to become a Twitter Tool.

Above all I must remember behind even the most asinine of asses tweeting there is a real person. I beg you to suspend the Russian bot jokes. I must assume there is a real person with feelings behind each tweet and as a fellow human it’s better to spread kindness whenever possible and resist resorting to petty insults.

I admit, at times, there is no room for kindness or quiet. Sometimes we have to rise up and make our voices heard but I’m not certian Twitter is an effective place for an uprising.

If you want to promote an event or a brand or follow information about entertainment or community news bites, I feel, Twitter is the place to be. If there is a political or humanitarian issue you wish draw attention to you might use Twitter as a small part of your campaign. If you really want to affect change you must do many things to grow a movement. Write letters, make phone calls, knock on doors.

Above all things, when using Twitter or any other social media platform remember my father’s, blatently plagiarized and grammatically corrected, wise words from Bambi.

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

K

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

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 πŸ’–

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

Welcome to the Psych Ward

I’ve often alluded to my time spent in the psych ward for anxiety and severe depression but I’ve put off writing about it directly as it was an extremely difficult time. I’m still not sure I’m ready to talk about this but I’ll try.

This is me waiting in the secure emergency ward room. Note the word “useless” scrawled across my inner arm. This is a stark reminder of the other self-flagellating words I’d written in other places and the still bloody and red scars I had from harming myself with blades and flames. It is blatantly obvious to me now that I desperately needed to be where I was.

I’m going to break this story up into several smaller pieces to make it easier on myself and to make for easier reading. To begin with I’ll begin at the beginning. Admission.

I voluntarily asked to be admitted so I can only speak from my experience. I know others are admitted involuntarily for a myriad of reasons. Regardless, we must all wait our turn to be triaged through emergency.

In most psychiatric cases, including mine, not just any bed will do. A bed must open up in the secure area of the emergency ward, guarded by peace officers, void of creature comforts, and constantly surveiled via cameras.

This area is reserved for those on suicide and self harm watch (like me), others experiencing psychosis or other unpredictable psychiatric conditions, prison inmates or those under arrest needing medical attention, and any other patients who might cause harm to themselves or others. Bright side – you get a small private room.

There is one common washroom in the secure area I was in, no lock on the door, the words, “I died here,” etched into the wall along with a swastika which I attempted to turn into a peace sign. I left the words alone as they made sense to me.

I waited in this area for 2 nights the first time I was admitted and 1 night the second time. I consider myself very lucky as I met others who waited up to a week for a psych bed to open up.

Once a bed came available my belongings were hastily packed up and I was bundled into a wheelchair to make the trip to the ward that would be home for an indefinte period.

I cried and hid my face as I was wheeled along. I was sure I was being judged for taking up space and services I wasn’t entitled to. I felt there were others more deserving of admission and I was a lost cause anyway.

Upon arrival in the ward I was greeted by friendly nurses. They went through my belongings carefully, placing anything of value or that might cause harm, my purse, headphones, pencil sharpener, aresol hair spray, and nail scissors into a locker I could only access through a staff member.

I had to surrender my phone as nothing with a camera is allowed for privacy purposes and the environment is meant to be as low stimuli as possible. I would be able to use the communal landline on the ward or, once granted timed off-unit privileges, given my phone back temporarily.

I recall being completely overwhelmed by the co-ed ward at first. I could see into the high observation area behind the desk, a wall of windows penning acutely psychotic, violent, or destructively delusional patients into a locked ward within the locked ward. Many of these patients prowled back and forth, ranted and yelled, or pressed their faces to the glass, staring with glassy eyes and unkempt locks at anything and anyone.

I was told to wait in the common area until my nurse had time to give me an orientation and tour. I observed the other patients I’d be living with and grew nervous. I didn’t want to judge anyone, I wanted to be as empathetic as possible but I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed.

The ward was not just for the anxious and depressed like me. There were individuals pacing round and round talking and gesticulating wildly to themselves. Others sat and stared into space catatonically. I soon became familiar with the manic laughter of someone who cannot control their emotions despite trying desperately. It’s not a pleasant laugh… it’s hollow and pain filled and a little scary.

Some patients approached me and introduced themselves. One lady told me her entire life story within moments of meeting me. But she was kind and welcoming and I soon found that those I’d been unsure of because of their erratic behaviour were also wonderful people who’d just lost their way and needed time to rest and regroup…like me.

To be continued

K

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