Getting Down To Business (Lots of Drawings At Last!)

As I have already shared, this has been a difficult time with my mental health and physical health too. (Actually I think I only shared that my mental health has been poor, I didn’t mention my physical health…) Well my mental health has started to stabilise now, I am feeling a lot more ‘together’ and ‘with it’. Physically though, there is a very different story to tell.

I have been suffering with a huge flare up of whatever is wrong with me. My GP is sure that all that ails me is fibromyalgia, but I can’t help feeling like this is a somewhat ‘dustbin diagnosis’; basically I feel like I have had the label of fibromyalgia slapped on me because nobody can be bothered/will make the effort to run necessary tests and diagnose me with the actual thing that I am ill with! .

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Starting from the bottom up, feet first, there is literally not a part of my body which does not cause me pain, though for the majority of the time it is in my joints, not just soft tissue. I also have very hypermobile joints, meaning that the flexibility in my joints is over extended, even though they are sore and tender. My ankles particularly are very weak and I fall a lot, though this is not just the joint pain causing me to fall, but the fact that in addition to the pain I am in, I also suffer with chronic debilitating dizziness. I have had this investigated and the only things that they were able to say with certainty are that a) I have a rather low blood pressure, which stays low even when I have been standing for a while, and b) I have something called psychogenic syncope which roughly translates as “falls over because of psychological reasons”.

I cannot argue the low blood pressure, there is evidence to back that up, but the psychogenic syncope, which is rather vague, basically means that because of my mental health I have fainting fits. It seems to tie in with the dissociative symptoms a lot. I have had several really nasty falls which have occurred at times when I have been blissfully unaware of the fact that I am even awake, let alone not maintaining my balance.

Twice I have broken bones in my altered state, the first time I cracked my cheekbone, not badly but badly enough that 18 months later it still gives me pain. Then last time I did some serious damage whilst unaware I broke my top thumb knuckle into three pieces crushing it under  a chair. I don’t actually remember the breaking of the bone, but when I woke up, some part inside me had had a field day wrecking my living room in bizarre ways…

I woke up in the morning with an extremely sore thumb. I was, at that time, being assessed to see if I had Lupus- still a possibility but they have not taken that ‘evidence’ seriously or to the next round of testing because I think that they think I am making a fuss about nothing. Anyway I woke up with a sore thumb and assumed that it was joint pain, so I put a heat patch on the whole of my thumb and held it in place with a wrist splint. I then set to cleaning my flat because I had had a huge flood in here, unbeknown to me I was cleaning vigorously with a shattered thumb knuckle. I cannot even describe how painful it was. Anyway, I took the heat pad off and saw that my thumb had gone several shades of purple and was nearly three times it’s normal size, so my friend brought me to A & E and we discovered that not only was it broken, but badly broken. Six weeks minimum in a splint after 2 weeks in a full arm cast. NIGHTMARE. It was also my right thumb I am right handed- which made everything difficult and lots of things impossible.

What upset me the most though was the fact that I had and still have no recollection of the fall. When I woke up the scene in the living room was really disturbing. I had spread several packs of gardening seeds all over the coffee table, I had placed plushy dog toys under all the legs of all the dining chairs. All my photos were upside down. All of the blankets and cushions out of the living room were in a pile by the front door. One of the dining chairs was lying down- which the doctors and so on thought was how I broke my thumb by falling on the chair and crushing my thumb underneath it. scary stuff. I had also emptied two pencil cases FULL of pens and pencils into my bin. It was so weird. Like I said though, I still have zero recollection of what happened that night and it was traumatic piecing it all together.

Anyway, the reason for my bringing this up, and getting side tracked (hahaha, nothing new there!) is because my physical health is really dreadful at the moment. I have had five falls in the last two and a half weeks. smashing my phone, getting gravel all embedded in my hand and knees, covering myself with mud, denting my ego rather spectacularly, and mostly really hurting myself. Part of the problem is lack of awareness and the fact that I have done myself real damage.

So yeah the physical side of things is really not good. I am having to use my crutches more and more to enable me to leave the house, and I HATE it!

Having said that, the lack of mobility means that I have ample time to sit and draw. And once I had gotten over my hump of not being able to draw, I was drained and depressed and mentally not in a good place.

I began to draw things out of the garden, flowers, leaves etc, and from photos that I took on holiday (Pete the Duck for example!) and using different media to emphasise tone and texture.

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Pepper from the garden (graphite pencil)
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Chillies from the garden (Graphite pencil)
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Collection of Peas from the garden (pencil and colouring pencil and biro)
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Banana (colouring pencil and biro on brown paper)

I did a couple of drawings of flowers after I had enjoyed doing my Iris pictures so much, but found that they lacked the depth and detail of the irises, I think that I just prefer the colours and the shape and the unusual markings of the irises more than I do on these flowers… they would make good greetings cards but not much else…

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Asiatic lilies from the garden (pastel and biro and pencil on blue pastel paper)
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“The welcoming committee” pansies from the garden

And then I did a few other different pictures, the “Pete the Duck” pic being one of my favourites!

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“Pete The Duck” Otter Falls Cottages, Devon, drawn with felt tip pens, colouring pencils and minimal biro on sugar paper.
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Sea shell, drawn with colouring pencils on brown paper, experimenting with using different colours for shading rather than just black/grey/brown
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My left hand- soft pastels and biro on sugar paper.

Not so happy with the hand one although I like the colours, it came out somewhat chunkier and more manly than my actual hands! Still an interesting and fun picture to draw, it was difficult to achieve the fine detail with soft pastels on a paper with a bit more tooth.

Finally I drew some pictures of non famous people, one was a commission piece of work for a birthday present for the person who was the subject of the portrait- and she loved it! wow! the other ones are my cousins, Maisie and Reddvers.

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“Tia” Commission piece for the lady in the pictures’ birthday
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“Reddvers” my young cousin, very sweet photo of him taken by his sister, Maisie
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“Maisie” My cousin, given to her as a gift, graphite pencil and biro on white cartridge paper.

Maisie loved her portrait. She is still very young (13? 14?) but an incredible artist herself, so busy drawing everyone else that she doesn’t do any of herself and nobody else does either, so it was a nice surprise for her to get it!

Re-engaging with the drawing of objects form the garden, animals from photographs and other organic items was so much fun. I enjoyed it and managed to include some of the items from previous work

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Still Life, charcoal on cartridge paper, A1
Charcoal Skll Study Close Up
Portion of the same still life, charcoal on cartridge paper.

As you can see I included the skull that I eventually had in my final piece in these two still life studies. Actually I had never drawn a picture exclusively in charcoal before and though I was at a disadvantage, my paper was flat on the table as I did not have an easel or a drawing board that would allow me to elevate the paper, thus I ended up with a wonky picture with poor perspective as It was being drawn flat on the table. It actually looks worse in the photo than in real life because I had to angle the camera in such a way that it actually took the picture, let alone managing to get the perspective corrected. I will be investing on a tilting A1 drawing board just as soon as I can afford one as it is absolutely essential unless you keeps stopping and standing over the picture and preparing to draw the lines in using a ruler for accuracy, it would really make my work a lot easier to have a board on a stand so that I am facing my work rather than having it stretched out in front of me looking all wonky when I am done with it! still, I had a go and having never drawn a picture exclusively in charcoal before I was actually pleasantly surprised with the results!

Onward to the next module now….

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Shuddering To a Despondent Halt….

sometimes life just shudders to a despondent halt…..

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Alan Rickman ‘Life is difficult sometimes’

I realise that it has been some weeks since i last posted a blog update. Two of those weeks have been spent on holiday in Devon- a perfect excuse to bring out the pencils and paper and draw to my heart’s content… the other weeks I cannot account for other than a feeling of bewilderment and discontent. I have struggled to manage my time, I have struggled to manage my moods and I have struggled to manage my motivation In short I have drawn and written very little and done very little else of consequence with my time- other than waste it!

The date is drawing ever closer and I am drawing ever decreasingly towards the installation of my art studio. I should be excited, I should be climbing the walls with joy and gratitude, and instead I feel as flat as a pancake.

I  have nearly finished my research point, the first one in the first part of Drawing 1, discussing some of the works of Odilon Redon. I anticipate that this will be complete some time this afternoon and I will publish it before the afternoon/evening is over then I can dedicate the rest of the week to finishing and handing in the first part of my degree!

I can’t help feeling that this is something of self sabotaging behaviour. I have enviably got exactly what I want, the course, the support of my partner, friends and family, the promise of an art studio…. plus all the basics, a roof over my head, more than enough food in my belly, people around me who I love. This should be easy.

But it isn’t. Life with some mental health difficulties is not easy, there is much that I don’t understand about myself and much that I do. I understand, for example, that I am given to sabotaging myself when things are going well, I do not, however, understand why I do that. Maybe it is fear of succeeding, of actually getting something right. I am managing to sell portrait commissions both of animals and people and these are very warmly received and appreciated, this is good, so what do I do on the back of this?  I retreat further into myself, find that space of safety inside and put on that brave face for the world to see when inside is just chaos.

Let me give you an example, for want of a better way of explaining it, imagine that you are made up of lots of different parts. It isn’t difficult. Imagine the language you use when you are talking about an inner conflict about making a decision about something, for example. You might say ‘On the one hand I feel like <example>BUT another part of me feels like <example>….’ or ‘part of me KNOWS that isn’t the best way of doing things but a bigger part of me just thinks ‘fuck it!”. Now you have in mind those conflicting parts of yourself, we all have them, nobody is just a straight down the middle, always in one mind about everything kind of person, we all experience internal dilemma. So imagine then that those inner parts of you are actually very defined and have their own personae, they don’t just represent a differing point of view that you have to yourself, but actually take on characteristics that are completely different to your main character. Like me, I am, in my core self, the part of me who does the most me-ing, pretty flighty, given to swings of mood and temperament, sometimes, sometimes often,anxious about a lot of things. I am driven, I am creative, I am a lover of life, an optimist, despite the anxious streak. Now imagine that there are other parts of me who are well developed and conflicting with the core me, there might be, for example, part of me who is oblivious to any of the trauma that I have been through…. There might be younger child parts who are, in turn, skittish, playful, funny, childish, traumatised, curious, Yes I contain all of those qualities as core me, but those child parts might embody a certain quality in particular, so one child part might be particularly curious, another one particularly playful, one very traumatised, one pre-verbal, one very noisy and bull headed. Maybe there is an adult part who is able to deal with the bill paying, the refund getting when something isn’t right, the phone answering the taxi calling, the doctor appointment attending. There might be an adult part who is very, very critical and mean, a masculine part or maybe two, maybe a self abusive part who likes to sabotage things for the other parts when they are going well, because if we sabotage it for ourselves then nobody can wreck it for us…. Just imagine, for a second, ALL of that happening. AT ONCE.

It gets VERY noisy in here.

I feel weird even posting this as it is so personal, but I promised myself that I would share uncensored the process of this journey and this is something that plays a very big part for me. I am not on my journey alone with this degree, with anything, even when I am by myself. Of course there are times when none of this matters, when I am able to just ENJOY something…. like Game of Thrones, for example. Its not suitable for the younger bits of me, but they can take themselves off to a corner of my mind and amuse themselves whilst adult, coping, managing, grown up me gets to do something for myself. And it’s not all bad, when there is something that I, core me, finds too difficult to cope with, there is always some other version of me who can pick up the pieces and carry on. But it is not without complications. There are very stubborn combatant parts of me who like to cause arguments and trouble for core me, I’m not always aware of time passing or when someone else is doing something, I am not always aware of it. Like the part of me who is writing this, I am very aware of what I am writing, some other part might get a nasty shock when they read it later though!

The upshot of all this is that I have to take things easy and be gentle with myself. I have to be kind to myself and patient because not all the me’s are up to date with the other ones, and most of all I have to remind people around me that I am not always firing on all cylinders. Something that to part of me might seem very straight forward and simple, might suddenly become completely impossible and difficult. I am lucky.. I have a family who are willing to make sense of this with me, I have a partner who is supportive of my pursuits though doesn’t always understand my reasoning, is for the most part willing to join me for the ride. I have good friends and a support network who are helping me to figure things out as I go along.

All these things impact on my ability to function on this degree course.

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Alan Rickman ‘…But it’s not all bad’

So on that note, now that I have got that off my chest I will resume with my work, my writing and my drawing work, I will continue to plug away at the degree course and do my utmost to get a good result.

Thanks for trying to make sense of something that doesn’t really make sense to me. I appreciate the concentration span of anyone who got through all that in one piece! off to work I go!

Until Next Time….