I Choose to be Happy

Five little words have been making such a difference to me as of late. I’d always thought affirmations were a little silly until I found the right ones and I decided how to ingratiate a few into my life. One of my favourite affirmations is as follows:

I Choose to be Happy

It seems too simple to make a difference. Had I been told to do this at my deepest, darkest points of depression I likely would have scoffed, rolled my eyes and been irritated, feeling like my mental state was being oversimplified, misunderstood. I likely would have cried and called it a bullshit solution.

In many ways I would have been right. Maybe it was too soon for me. Perhaps this mantra is something to work up to with a therapist or Doctor or maybe there comes a time in recovery when one can finally see that happiness can be a choice. If you can bring yourself to believe it sooner or even just pretend to believe it, fake it til you make it as the saying goes, you might be able to speed up your recovery.

It’s easy to be beaten down by the tumult that insists on messing with us all. Some times are worse than others but there will always be tumult and irritation about. So why not choose to look for happiness and positivity in spite of tumultuous times?

Choosing to be happy doesn’t mean sunshine and roses everyday, all day and to ignore all problems and potential conflict. No, Choosing to be happy means laughing and finding the humour, sometimes even in the face of adversity. It means smiling for yourself not because you’re, supposed to, but because there is a lot of good in the world if you choose to see it.

Choosing to be happy means finding as many reasons to belly laugh as possible. It means surrounding yourself with people who make you happy and who you also make happy. It means seeing opportunities for negativity and choosing to tackle those opportunities with a different attitude.

The trick, for me, has been to embed the message, I Choose to be Happy, into the everyday so I can’t help but remember it.

Here’s a list of some of the ways I’ve embed the phrase into my days so I see it enough and make it so memorable I can’t help but begin to hardwire this notion into my brain.

– Write it on sticky notes and leave them strewn around your home and office.

– Turn the phrase into a daily appointment on your calendar so when it pops up the reminder is there and the happy circuit is again reinforced and helps rewire the brain. This method has been particularly helpful to me.

– When you come across the phrase where you’ve written it down say it out loud. Hearing the phrase instead of just reading it engages another sense and reinforces the idea again.

– scrawl it across white boards and mirrors. Place it everywhere and anywhere you might catch even a subliminal sight of it.

– Make an effort to do one or two things that make you happy everyday.

– Be creative – even if you insist you, “don’t have a creative bone in your body.” Trust me, deep down you do, it’s just a matter of finding your creative style; maybe you decorate cakes, or create recipes, or love interior decorating, creating model train terrain or you’re actually great at drawing but you’re too stuck try… unstuck yourself, unfuck yourself! You can do this, use your creativity to find activities that make you happy.

– Create a space you’re happy to live in. You don’t have to spend big to redecorate. Sell or give away what you don’t want and spend time browsing thrift stores and garage sales. There’s something satisfying about finding the perfect items at a reasonable price and bringing your unique treasures home.

Admittedly I’m not perfect. I have times where depression and negative emotions take over and I can’t help but cry and write bad poetry. Sometimes it feels like the bleakness and black will never leave my tired bones.

This photo reminds me that sometimes things must fall apart to fall into place. I could have been sad this flower lost a bloom but I chose to be happy about how lovely it looked. I couldn’t have placed it better if I tried😊

As the saying goes, this too shall pass. I find myself drawn out of the depths of depression a lot easier now that I’ve finally found tools that work for me. It’s been a long, hard road fraught with out-patient care, multiple psychologists and psychiatrists and nurses, medication changes, being suicidal, long stays in the psych ward, and, most recently, coming to terms with the end of my marriage.

I’ve found myself a soft place to land and truly begin to heal and figure out who I am and what I value most. It turns out I value kindness, empathy, belly laughing, honesty, integrity, my friends, family, and unbridled happiness, to name just a few.

This is just one of many techniques out there and I’ve had good results over the past year since I really started working on healing emotionally, building self-confidence, finding independence, growing inner strength, loving myself as much as I love others and finding happiness.

I’d love to hear if any affirmations work for you, perhaps some examples and alternative ideas💚

K


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Inspiration is Everywhere

Every artist finds themselves feeling uninspired once in a while. For example, I’ve been drawing tree women for months and, while I love my girls, I want to shift my focus and work on something else. Here are 5 ways I’ve been looking for new inspiration and a refreshed point of view.

Here’s a brand new drawing I created from a combination of colours I’m drawn to right now, some twisted trees that came to mind, and a figure pose I found on Pinterest, I then altered her hair, clothing, and overall aesthetic. Yeah, creativity!

  1. Go for a walk or look out a window and study what you see. It may look like just more trees, or other houses, or a parking lot but if you look closer there’s so much more going on. People are coming and going, lights twinkle at night if you’re in a city, stars twinkle if you live somewhere rural. There’s so much to see and ponder. It might not happen all at once but if you listen closely there’s inspiration everywhere you look.
  2. Relax. Relax. Relax. Putting pressure on yourself to produce new art is unlikely to make things happen, although my next point will directly contradict this point, it just depends on what kind of person you are. Both techniques often lead to new and exciting, quality work.
  3. Set a reasonable deadline and stick to it. For many people having a deadline to keep them working towards something. Personally, I am motivated to write by deadlines to some degree but when it comes to drawing I put less pressure on myself. As long as I practice every day I know I’ll get to something fresh and exciting in the near future.
  4. Look for inspiration in your immediate surroundings. It may sound strange but check out the shadows that cross the different rooms in your house throughout the day. Look at the shapes and design of your furniture and decor. Then ask yourself how you can incorporate some of these shapes into your work.
  5. Pinterest is a great source for inspiration. Never directly copy anything, unless it’s just for practice and not to be shown as your original work. I have files for figure inspiration, faces to draw, shapes, illustration style, trees, water, and more. Any time I’m looking for something to practice or if I want to draw a Trump cartoon, I head to Pinterest and pull out the picture I want to use. When I’m feeling uninspired I scroll through and add all sorts of new ideas to my files and soon enough I’ve found several ideas to combine and add my own twist to in order to create something exciting and new.

I hope these few ideas for finding inspiration are helpful. Using your creativity is a great way to cope with pain and mental illness, I know this first hand, unfortunately. Creativity is by no means going to solve all your problems but I find it to be an integral part of my path to coping with chronic pain and mental illness to the best of my ability.

Please let me know if you have any special techniques you use to stir up your creative juices. As always, I love to hear from you.

K

Aging Greatfully

If you’d asked me a year or so ago what I thought my future might look like I’d have stared into the distance, my mouth opening and closing as if to speak, like a fish out of water. Then I’d have begun to cry and looked around for an emergency exit or a way to tunnel out of the situation. I felt I was so useless and defective that I didn’t deserve a future.

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Truthfully, my days of being suicidally depressed aren’t far behind me. I still have bad days and good but I no longer wish to be dead rather than alive and for that I am grateful.

On this, the morning of my 39th birthday, I am still unsure of my future but it doesn’t vex me so much as it used to. Instead, there are many things I’m grateful for.

In the name of starting my new age in a positive way, I want to list off that which I’m grateful for. This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it in order.

I’m greatful for:

  • My husband, who makes me laugh and offers love, understanding and a shoulder to cry on when I need it most.
  • My Dad, for being so gentle, loving, kind and funny as hell.
  • The 34 years I had with my lovely Mom. I wish we’d had longer together and I miss her every day, but we made the most of the time we did have.
  • Chocolate.
  • My cat Rafe. He may be new to our little family but he brings us so much joy, laughter and love. It’s hard to imagine how we lived without him.
  • Feminism, I hope someday it won’t be needed but until then I will keep fighting for equality.
  • Extended family on both my husband’s side and my side are warm and loving, they make me laugh and offer such kind words of encouragement. I honestly am an incredibly lucky girl to have such a wonderful family.
  • The existence of both shaken margaritas and vodka martinis with extra olives and my ability to consume one or the other on occasion.
  • My friends for being such kind, loving and loyal pals. I may not have a huge group of friends but I wouldn’t trade the friends I have for anything. They challenge my mind, they open my heart, they value my opinion, they encourage me and remind me of my strengths and self-worth.
  • Having fucked up more than a few times and still made it through – to what, I don’t know, but making it, “through,” surely speaks to my resilience
  • Making visual art, as it has opened up a whole new world for creative expression. I feel joyful and excited just thinking of future artistic possibilities and how much I love the act of making the art I’m making right now.
  • Wine, especially buttery chardonnay and old vine California Zinfandel. Yum!
  • The people I’ve met through my pursuit of increasing my art skills. Theresa Grasby of Grasby Art Studios has become such an incredible friend and mentor. I also cherish the fun relationship I have with the Grasby family members who also work at the studio, the other instructors and other painters. Everyone has such inspiring, energetic, humorous and kind spirits. They all inspire me to paint more and to keep pushing myself.
  • Having the luxury of not having to worry about having basic needs like food and shelter met.
  • Now being able to say melodramatically, “I’m cusping on 40!”
  • Having access to universal health care (thank you Tommy Douglas). Our system isn’t perfect but what we have is so much better than many have access too.
  • Coffee, as it’s a substance I adore. I like it black, just like my soul.
  • This blog and the catharsis and sense of purpose it has brought me.
  • Having additional health insurance which has helped me find access to many different Dr’s and other medical professionals for help with my injuries, my struggle with mental illness and my chronic pain journey. I continue to be granted most of the care I need and for that I am grateful.
  • The word, “fuck,” and speaking it as often as I can, cuz it’s fun to say and it’s one of those miracle words one can use to jazz up any sentence in need of jazz or it handily provides satisfying emphatic emphasis in a way no other word can.
  • Having so much love in my heart I wish to spread around and having the opportunity to do so.

What are you most grateful for? Do you enjoy celebrating your birthday or, like me, are you a little apprehensive about aging? I’d love to hear from you dear readers.

K

The Baby Question

“Why haven’t you had kids yet?”

Something I didn’t understand until I got a little bit of age on me is how uncomfortable this type of question can be. Once a woman reaches a certain age (25ish), whether her biological clock ticks or not is moot as, everyone from acquaintances to relatives will make sure she knows she’s born to birth and she best get on with it.

Consider this for a moment; what are women in movies usually haunted by or hallucinating about? I’d say babies. Some chick will start hearing a baby crying or laughing and it’ll turn out her unborn child, or her abortion is haunting her. This is standard narrative for the role of women on film. In books, the second the young mistress doth barfith one knows she’s in a family way. Just food for thought.

In reality there are many barriers to baby-making that are incredibly sensitive and personal such as, careers, fertility problems, general health issues, lack of a partner, marriage problems, genetics and genuinely not wanting children, to name a few. It’s important to be respectful and understand what goes on in another woman’s womb is really none of your freakin’ business.

I once had an older gentleman I barely knew tell me he felt it’s best for women to have babies well before they’re aged 25 or 30 at the latest otherwise, “they’re far too old.” He then asked how old I was and when I said 34 he shook his head doubtfully and said I’d better get on with it because I’d left it way to long.

When I was younger I asked women about babies with nothing but good intent. I meant it as a compliment, as in, you’d be a great Mom. Time has taught me great Mother’s don’t always give birth and some women have given birth and aren’t great Moms.

To me, Mother’s are women who care deeply for others, who nurture talent and encourage without expecting anything in return. Mother’s are role models but not perfect by any means. Being able to laugh at missteps and foibles is an incredibly important trait for a Mother to have. Also, giving advice isn’t as important as listening, further, understanding advice won’t always be followed and mistakes will be made is key. Helping a young woman rise from the ashes is far more important than scolding her for what she did wrong.

My Mom fell into the Great Mother catagory. She died 4 years ago and this profound loss, while often a traumatizing pit of sadness, has taught me I have many Mothers in my life. So many women have stepped in and shown me what strength truly means, offered me guidance and unconditional love. They’re my bonus Mom’s and everyday angels and I’m incredibly lucky to have as many as I do.

My Mother-in-law was kind enough to arrive in a week before my Mom’s funeral. She helped me write endless lists and knock everything off all the while ensuring I took care and rested so as not to cause a pain flare up. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel I’ve thanked her enough for this.

I’m also fortunate enough to have a step-Mother-in-law who is a great feminist role model who compliments my intellect and encourages me to move forward even when I’m feeling lost and as though, because of my chronic illnesses, I’ve lost my chance to be anything useful at all. I cannot thank her enough for giving me these little boosts here and there, gently forcing me to remember my self worth.

My two Aunts have been so kind and caring, offering me a shoulder to cry on and wonderful insights and stories about my Mom throughout her life. We’ve grown a lot closer since my Mom died and, recognizing how fleeting life is, we make sure to say, I love you, often and appreciate the gifts each of us offer.

There are also several of my Mom’s close friends who’ve continually been there for me. With these women there’s that wonderful feeling that no time has passed even if it’s been ages since we’ve talked. We’re just able to pick up where we left off and carry on. This type of friendship is so special and I’m incredibly pleased to have those pseudo Mom’s in my life. Furthermore, the Mother’s of a few of my close friends are also incredibly warm and caring surrogate Moms to me.

It’s been a great pleasure to watch many of my friends and one of my sisters-in-law becoming mother’s and I get the bonus of doting on their kids and spoiling them whenever possible. I hope to someday earn pseudo Mom status to all of them whenever they need it.

I’ll be so thrilled should I end up having children in the future, but I like to think I am maturing into the type of person who is a stand-in Mom or second-Mom to a number of lovely young people I’ve come to know. I don’t wish to infringe on any decisions made by the actual parents but I’m there to offer support and love whenever needed.

I’ve overheard new parents say things such as, “I didn’t really understand love until I had a child of my own.” I like to think this isn’t true for me. I love the people in my life with all my heart and all my soul. I am fiercely protective should I feel one of these people is being attacked, short-changed, or bullied. It’s clear the “Mama-Bear” behaviour so often referred to is alive and well within me, no labour required (see what I did there?).

The next time you wonder why a woman hasn’t had children I urge you to compliment her on something you admire about her instead. You may be speaking to someone who’s never given birth but is a mother to many. Look at Oprah and Ellen for examples of prominent women with no children who absolutely are exemplary Mom’s to so many. I bet you can think of many women you know who have earned the status of Mom one way or another, be sure to treasure this gift.

In this modern age where, hopefully, we’re smashing the patriarchy for breakfast and moving towards a society of gender equality, I think we should examine what it means to be a “Mother” and modify the definition accordingly.

Please Note: Men are awesome too. I am incredibly lucky in that department as well but that’s another blog for another time. I promise.

K

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…

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