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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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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 memories๐Ÿ˜›

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

Dad’s Logic Bomb

Conversation with my Dad…

Me: I heard an argument that a woman shouldn’t beast feed her child in public because people won’t know where to look if they’re trying to hold a conversation with her. What do you think?

My Dad and I many years ago. I often say he’s the first feminist I ever met.

Dad: That’s a rediculous argument. I know exactly where I’d look.

Me: Oh yeah, where’s that?

Dad: I’d look her right in the EYE of course.

Boom!

K

Radical Self Honesty – Confessions of a Raging Feminist

I don’t recall not being a feminist. The word was rarely bestowed on me with admiration or kindness though. For the most part, people seemed to treat me as though I were fighting a battle no longer in need of champions. I knew this to be bullshit and I didn’t really care how weird or unpopular it made me.

Part of my non-digital Tori Amos collection

All I wanted was equality but I was constantly ridiculed and seen as a whiner for pointing out obvious inequities. I don’t recall pretending to soften my feminist views to some degree until my late teens.

As a 90’s girl through and through if I was asked to name my favourite musicians I’d quickly rattle off; Sarah MacLachlan, Alanis Morisette, Chantel Kreviazuk, Madonna, and Ani Difranco.

Usually my answer would be followed by an eye roll and a knowing look, “So, you’re some sort of raging feminist then? Are you a lesbian? I suppose you like Tori Amos too?”

At the time I didn’t know much about Tori’s music. I just knew she was considered to be the ultimate raging feminist musician.

“No, I’m not THAT much of a feminist!”

As I was saying these words I knew I was repressing something I felt incredibly strong about for the sake of fitting in. It felt extremely wrong inside. It felt like I wasn’t being honest with myself.

Even if someone suggested, with great sincerity, I’d probably really like Tori I just tamped down the urge to check her out. Hands on my hips, shaking my head and stomping my foot, “I just can’t go that far.”

I think I knew at the time that I would fall in love with her and then there’d be no coming back from planet feminist for me. I’d have to publicly plant my flag in the ground and let the haters hate even more than they already did. So I just argued my views until someone called me out as a crazy feminist, then I’d feel compelled to shut up and back down.

By the time I finally caved and was introduced to Tori in 1999 I was beyond ready for her. I needed her. It started with Under the Pink, Tori’s second album. A friend lent it to me and I think I listened to the album on repeat for the next two months. I was hooked. This woman was not just a feminist icon she was femininity incarnate in her performances.

Tori helped me to untangle all my insecurities about being a woman, a human, and showed me I wasn’t alone. She told me, through her music, that being a woman was just as important as being a man and that being a feminist is nothing to be ashamed of. She reminded me to be creative no matter the opinion of others, to be as eccentric as I felt nessasary (in my case a lot. Lol), to love wholeheartedly, and to speak out against inequality – any inequality.

Hearing her voice empowered me, emboldened me, encouraged me. Her music continues to be a strong source of inspiration, reminding me to stand strong in sisterhood and keep fighting to make sure women of the future need not suffer the inequities of the past.

I stopped tying to hide my feminist views long ago and I’ll never again push my beliefs down. My point is not to emphasize the importance of feminism – I’d say that’s pretty fucking obvious – but to emphasize the importance of embracing who you are at all costs.

Don’t hold yourself down for anyone. It’s not worth it. Stand up for what you believe in. There is so much to be achieved through radical honesty with yourself and radical empathy for others.

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 art๐ŸŽจ

Check out other pieces from my Spinning Sky Series as well as videos and stills of other art, on my Instagram feed @perkreations ๐Ÿ’–

K

Part 2: Welcome to the Psych Ward

I feel as though I’m on my way to loving myself a little more each day and trying to manage my pain levels, depression, and anxiety a little bit better. But there is a story I have to tell about what I saw and learned and felt during my time in the psych ward because telling is cathartic for me and hopefully helpful to others.

You might be wondering what brought me to the point where I decided I would be better off checked into the Psych Ward than at home. The answer both simple and complicated. I’m going to give you the simple answer and leave out the complicated because I’d like to keep this writing sharp and uncluttered.

The Moms birthday in late November. This seems to be a tipping point for me, where if I’ve been teetering on the edge of deep depression I feel compelled to dive on in.

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 ๐Ÿ’– 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 sangria๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–

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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