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

Freakin Mental Monday

Hey Everybody,
I’m trying something new to spread info & awareness about mental illness.
I’m co-hosting a show called Freakin Mental Monday on the Another Freakin’ Athiest Youtube channel.
Tonight we’re talking depression symptoms & revealing our own struggles with depression.
Join us live at 6pm MDT & you can ask questions & comment in real time or watch it later when you’ve got time

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…

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

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

A Worthy Distraction

When the going gets tough the tough find a good distraction. Be it chronic pain, acute anxiety, crushing depression, or a plethora of other physical and mental maladies, I find distractions frequently help stave off the worst of it.

I first read about using distractions to help with acute anxiety in Feeling Good by David D. Burns, which is a great read and the ultimate primer for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a series of coping methods and a common lifestyle addition for those dealing with anxiety and depression as well as many other psychological disorders.

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy

Some CBT recommendations have worked well for me and others haven’t. At this stage, having been in therapy for so long, I use a variety of techniques from many different therapeutic modalities. I find it has been helpful to draw close as many helpful techniques as possible and distraction is one of my favourites.

For me, when I’m at home and in a lot of pain, anxious, or depressed, I use many distraction techniques to get my mind off the whatever is causing me grief. I find drawing, the more complicated the subject matter the better, while also trying to focus on a tv program to be extremely helpful. If drawing isn’t something that would work for you, fear not! The world is full of distractions, there’s something for everyone.

Other distractions to try are as follows, but the sky is the limit, keep trying different techniques until you find a few that work for you:

  • Listening to podcasts
  • Listening to music
  • Painting
  • Knitting or crochet
  • Woodworking
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Phone a friend
  • Colour in a colouring book, there are so many beautiful and unique choices on the market right now.
  • stretching and gentle yoga
  • Household tasks like; sweeping, dishes, dusting, and so on
  • 5-7-5 Breathing – breathing in deeply for a count of 5, then exhale slowly for a count of 7, then continue the process by breathing in for a count of 5 and so on.
  • Fidget spinners can be helpful or if you have a small brain teaser or puzzle you can carry with you
  • Crossword puzzles, word searches, logic games, sudoku are great as they can easily be used at home or carried with you on outings
  • Going for a walk
  • meditation
  • Watch a tv show or a movie you enjoy

I’m sure, once you start trying different distractions you’ll come up with even more ideas and find a number of distractions that work for you.

One thing to keep in mind, especially for those with chronic pain or other chronic illnesses, is to be sure to pace yourself. It might help to set a timer when doing something physical, then switch to a quieter activity, and so on.

It can be tricky not to overdo it if you’re having a panic attack and you suffer from chronic pain, for instance. I tend to pace during panic attacks and if I go on too long with this I will end up with a chronic pain flare up and that just makes things worse.

I encourage you to get to know what activities work for you and why. I’d love to hear what tactics you use and further suggestions for distraction as I could not possibly offer an exhaustive list.

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