Taking Some Credit

I often struggle when deciding if I should mention my accomplishments. For some reason I’m always concerned I’ll sound like a pompous ass. Lately, the more I consider this the more I realize how flawed my logic is. I don’t judge others to be pompous asses when they celebrate their accomplishments. They must be far more braggadocios, to earn the odious title of pompous ass. Why shouldn’t I have the same standards for myself?

This is a picture of an alcohol ink abstract piece in my new Galexcapes series. I’m still learning about alcohol ink and enjoying the process a great deal. I’m proud of how I’ve been able to find my own style with this medium and the confidence I’ve built up.

I think it’s long past time I took credit for the progress I’ve made. Lately it feels as though my heart and mind are stronger. I still suffer from anxiety and depression, but I feel I’m better equipped to cope now. I’m slowly beginning to see my self worth again and I’m recalling what a joy it is to know that I matter.

Every time I finish a painting, visit a friend, write a blog post, advance my stretching routine, keep up with the house work, lay down for a rest when I need to, or achieve anything positive, I take a moment to remember that those are all things I’ve struggled to do in the past couple years because of my mental illnesses and chronic pain. It’s important for me to acknowledge any progress I’ve made.

I still struggle and my illnesses are unlikely to go away. learning to live differently has been a huge challenge but I’m not fighting it anymore, I’m adapting and learning to love my life as it is – not as I think it should be.

It matters for me to continue improving. It’s not like I’m keeping score though. The point is to celebrate a job well done and ensure I remember my abilities. Even when my accomplishments are small it makes me feel good to give myself credit. Small accomplishments eventually add up to big accomplishments.

For me, a good way to take stock of what I’ve accomplished and show myself I’ve got lots to celebrate, is to occasionally write a list. Here’s my most recent;

Shit I’ve Accomplished Recently

Blog – As of this month I’ve officially been writing my Perkreations blog for 2 years. When I started writing I worried I’d never be able to keep it up, but I have. I’ve written well over 100 posts about mental health, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, suicide, self harm, the psych ward, art, poetry, creativity and feminism, to name just a few topics and I feel like I’ve got lots more fodder kickin’ around upstairs.

Art – I finish art although finishing is the hardest part for me. I’ve learned finishing is the most satisfying part, perhaps because it’s so difficult. It’s not as though I keep track of what I’ve finished, I just enjoy the buzz I feel once I’m in the home stretch and I intuitively able to figure out the best way to add the finishing touches that make all the difference. I believe the finishing touches are what takes a piece from, “meh,” to, “WOW!

Practice – Even on days when I don’t finish something important, like a painting or a blog post, I’m always working to hone my craft. I find practice to be incredibly satisfying. Usually the satisfaction comes from variations of the simple but important work listed below;
**I practice drawing skills in front of the TV. I find trying to focus on two things at once helps distract me from the pain I’m ever fighting to cope with and all that practice adds up to steadily improving skills.
**I scribble down story and character ideas, thumbnails of future art projects and bits of verse all the time. These bits and pieces don’t look like much to start with but often they develop into interesting and original finished projects.
**I study the craft of others for inspiration, I never steal but studying is an important part of my creative process. I do this by reading a wide range of subject matter, both fiction and non. I love looking at other artists work as well. I do this by watching documentaries, checking out Instagram feeds, looking at books and magazines filled with art as well as info about the artists and their methods and philosophies.
**It’s also important for me to draw inspiration from artistic avenues that aren’t my forte. For instance, I will never be a musician as I’m rather tones deaf, but I absolutely couldn’t live without music. Painting without my music feels lonely. Having music on warms my soul and helps me work with greater passion. I also love to check out podcasts, movies, jewelry, cake decorating, dance, and recipes for inspiration.
**The nice part about having a home studio set up is that everything I need is there and ready to go. I don’t have to waste precious energy setting things up. Any time an idea strikes I can stroll into my studio and make it happen. Further, when my pain is outrageous and I’ve no gas in the tank all I do is walk in, mix up a colour, and add a few strokes to something or a layer that needs to dry. Even if I feel I haven’t done a whole lot, it all adds up in the long run and that’s what really counts  –

Organization – Another thing I’ve been working hard on is cleaning and organizing my home. I tend to be decidedly untidy but I’m working to break that habit. Over the past year I’ve organized and sorted my closet and drawers, winter wear, jewelry, linen closets, medicine cabinets, cleaning supply closets, bathrooms, kitchen cupboards and drawers, art studio and vinyl collection. It’s been a slow but steady process and the act of getting rid of excess crap and organizing the rest has been surprisingly satisfying and cathartic.

Cat – Most importantly, a direct result of all the cleaning and organizing done this year is that my husband and I recently adopted a one-year old cat from a nearby shelter. It’s been a little over 2 weeks and Rafe (rhymes with safe) is fitting right in with us and making our lives far more interesting. I’ll be writing more about Rafe soon and the benefits of having a pet when suffering from a mental illness and/or chronic pain in an upcoming post.

It’s not a lengthy or exhaustive list but the projects mentioned are highlights for me. In spite of my logic earlier, I still find this sort of thing tough to accept. Part of me is screaming that I’m becoming a pompous ass and I shouldn’t dare post this. In the interest of progress, I’m going to press post and take a big step towards appreciating my abilities and accomplishments and loving myself a little more.

If any readers have stories about learning how to give yourself a pat on the back when you deserve one I’d love to hear about it. I’d also love to hear about your recent accomplishments.

As I mentioned, I’ll soon be writing more about acquiring our cat, the benefits as well as tricky spots. Should you have any advice about training therapeutic, service animals or general stories about how animals have been helpful in your life, I’d love to hear all about it.

Feel free to write in the comment section on Facebook or on WordPress. If you’d like to be anonymous when commenting you can do this by going directly through the WordPress site as a guest. You can also email me directly at kim@trefor.ca

K

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Time to Move On

I’ve had the same psychiatrist for the past 9 years. At first he was great. I felt as though he cared, as though he believed in me even when I didn’t believe in me. I shed many a tear in his office but felt motivated to keep trying when I left our appointments.

This is the self portrait in question. My psychiatrist might not have appreciated it but I think it turned out well. 

Over the years, slowly, things began to change. My reward for being a loyal patient seemed to be shorter and ever more terse appointments.

Eventually I was seeing him for about fifteen minutes every three months for a prescription refill and a brief chat that often sounded like this;

“You’re still off work because of your chronic pain problems? It seems much of your depression is tied to the loss of your career.”

“Yes, and I would give anything to be deemed fit enough to go back.”

“You’ve had a hard time but you have to find other things to replace what your job did for you. I think it will be difficult. I would be very upset if I could no longer practice.”

“I’ve been focusing on art and writing as much as I can but it never seems to fully fills the void.”

“Well, keep working at it. Be positive. Here’s your perscription I’d like to see you again in about three months.”

I was delighted one day when he asked about what kind of art mediums I was working with. He seemed genuinely interested and even gave me an assignment.

“I want you to paint a self portrait by our next appointment. Paint how you see yourself. Let’s book a month from now. You bring the painting then and we’ll discuss what it means to you and how it makes you feel.”

I agreed with a smile, “challenge accepted!” and fairly skipped out of his office. I’d never considered a self portrait before, preferring to draw others instead, but the introspection of the assignment intrigued me.

I began my portrait that day with a little help from my art teacher at Grasby Art Studio. I finished my portrait in record time and was thrilled with it which surprised me as I generally don’t like pictures of myself.

I eagerly awaited my appointment and, when the time came, proudly carried my canvas into the Dr’s office.

“I finished the assignment you gave me last time. Would you like to see it?”

He glanced at my file with a confused look.

“You asked me to paint a self portrait. To paint myself as I see myself. I enjoyed the project and I brought the painting to show you like you asked.”

He nodded and I presented the piece for him to look at.

“That’s not really my taste. I don’t think it looks like you.”

That was the last we spoke of it. Dejectedly I put the painting on the floor and asked for a refill on my meds. I couldn’t wait to flee that office.

This one time I didn’t want him to see me cry. I couldn’t find the strength to get angry at him, defend my artistic liscense. I could only think to attack myself and my stupid, ugly painting.

I have since reminded myself that if I love my self portrait and good for me! Fuck what he thinks. The painting hangs proudly on my bedroom wall now.

After careful consideration I’ve decided instead of ditching my art it’s time to ditch the Doc! Obviously it’s time to move on. I’ve found someone new and I’m not going to look back.

K

Check out http://www.grasbyartstudio.com

Today’s Special: Anxiety 

At risk of sounding whiney I’d like to express my experiences from earlier today. Sometimes it seems anxiety is a beast and I am its, long-suffering, bitch. 

It crept in this morning like a slow-moving fog, suffocating me before I realize how thick it is. I try to breath deeply and focus on listening to my headphones but the anxiety continues to bloom and blossom throughout my body.

This is the sketch I worked my anxiety out on. I think, for a practice piece, she turned out quite well. So glad I have access to such satisfying creative outlets.

I roll from my bed long before I need to be up, long before I’ve had enough sleep, and I stretch out my aching and tense muscles. The more anxious I become the more my pain increases…or is it the other way around?

I wrack my brain for a cause, pain management, upcoming appointments, over-booking myself, setting my expectations for myself too high, or some other myriad of possibilities. 

Could my anxiety be from baring my soul in a tell-all blog? I’m not used to offering up my life as story fodder in such a manner. Usually if I appear in one of my stories I am much more abstract or part of a composite and no more than a sidebar. 

Am I actually having an impact or is this some self-serving, narcissistic project only intent on garnering pity and pardon from everyday life? Is it worth giving it all away like this or should I continue to hide my mental health issues as is common practice?

I take a scalding hot shower and let the steam and water leech some of my aches and pains away. Next I head downstairs to a place of sanctuary. I click on an innocuous TV show and pull out my drawing tools. 

The smell of pencil shavings, erasers, and soft wax pencils all begin to sooths my jangled nerves. I immediately begin working on portrait practice. I find this skill difficult but difficult is what I need in order to best distract myself.

Soon I sink into a peaceful trance while I choose colours, begin shading, and try to rough in shadows and light. I add in my own touches and subtle changes. I let my imagination run wild.

Soon I am calmer and revel in it. I then head out the door to see a Dr. Just another day in paradise. I embrace the calm and get on with my day. 

K

Summer Girls – Mini Art Series

Summer Girls is a series of women’s faces in dreamy, garden-like scenes. I didn’t set out to create a series. Every time I finish one in the series I can’t wait to draw the next one, it’s already blooming in my mind. I’ve chosen a few of my favourites to show here. 

I have been really enjoying doing sketches like these in pencil crayon and marker. I think the medium as well as the subject matter compel me to keep creating more.

Mentally, especially when I’m in a lot of pain, sketching distracts me enough to keep me sane. Having control over where I can take a piece also gives me a sense of power where, in my life, so much about my situation is beyond my control. 

Please keep in mind I am an absolute amature artist. I’ve been at it since 2012 and taking lessons for the past three years. I try to practice every day and this definitely helps. I look forward to continuing to study and practice visual art.

K

All art featured in the Summer Girls k.perkins 

A Few of my Favourite Things

Here is a random list of things I’ve discovered make a difference to my well-being both physically and mentally. Some items have been recommended by medical professionals, some by friends and family, some from personal research, and good old trial and error. 

No one item on this list is a cure, and put together these items don’t add up to a cure, but for me, these things make life more pleasurable, more engaging, more passionate, and provide me with a sense of some control over my symptoms.

– Yoga style stretch and strength sessions, even if only a few short poses at a time are a great help and often provide some modicum of pain relief. 

As a past athlete and sports instructor I know many stretch and strength exercises and how to modify them for more or less intensity. I tend to follow what feels good and brings comfort.

I’ve been through countless rounds of physio and physical rehab programs and I draw on past advice from these great professionals all the time as well.

– I make room in my life to be creative whenever the mood strikes. I have notebooks by my bed and in almost every room in the house. This way if a poem or story or art piece idea comes to mind I can sketch it out right away so I don’t forget.

I also keep torn scraps paper and napkins with ideas tucked away carfefully the way some people collect random pebbles or argyle socks. One never knows when the muse will come along to help snap all the pieces into place. 

– I employ distraction methods to help cope with physical pain as well as mental pain. 

One of my favourite techniques for coping with physical pain is what I call double distraction. I find a TV program or movie where exacting attention is not required to follow the general plot. I then use reference photos from magazines to work on drawing human figures and faces as these are very difficult subjects for me. 

I find focusing on two items at once leaves less time and brain capacity to notice uncomfortable physical sensations. 

– I modified things around the house to make it easier to cope with physical restrictions.

For instance, in my kitchen, I cleared out an easy to reach cupboard and filled it with my most commonly used pots and pans. This way I’m not awkwardly squatting down to rummage in a low cupboard to find what I need.

– I make creative pursuits a priority. As I spend a great deal of time shuttling from Dr to Dr I often feel as though I have no other purpose. I tend to find this rather stressful and depressing. 

Making art, writing, listening to music make me feel a part of things, useful, so I have a studio set up at home where I can work as often as the mood and energy strikes. 

– I try to get out of the house a few times a week for more than just errands and Dr’s appointments. There is a great art studio in Bowness in NW Calgary where I love to go called Grasby Art Studio http://www.grasbyartstudio.com. I attend both group lessons and open studio time as often as I can. It is a lovely privilege to attend such a nurturing and energetic place. 

These are just a few ideas that work for me to feed and comfort my mind, body, and soul. If anything is helpful or can be modified to be helpful for others this blog is serving its purpose.

Also, if you’d like to share techniques working for you please don’t hesitate to comment.

K

The Balance Beam & the Silver Lining

Mental illness is a beast but, on occasion, I have come to find an amazing perk.

I would describe myself as creative. My whole life has been spent worshiping at the alter of art in all forms. I fancy myself a decent writer of both fiction and non, a dedicated beginner visual artist, a poet, a reasonably decent  photographer, and a great lover of music, dance, film, comics, performance art, graffiti, story telling, theatre, and so much more.

Creativity has saved me again and again and I can’t imagine my life without it. In recent years I’ve begun to appreciate just how much creativity saves me.

Between mental illness, grief, and chronic pain life isn’t always simple but I find, in a way, the adversity spurs me to higher levels of creative productivity.

image

For instance I dreamed up more pieces I love during the month leading up to the second birthday of my Mom’s after she died than ever. I created 12 different colouring sheets, colouring art cards, paintings in acrylic, and portraits in pencil crayon. I was an art machine. Alas the wheels soon fell off…

image

I liken situations like this to performing on a balance beam. I have to have my craziness (I mean no offence by the term crazy, I simply find it describes me well. I do not want to give the impression I’m labeling anyone else) to keep churning out the ideas and work but if I dip too far over into crazy-town I will perhaps break down and end up checking into the psychiatric ward for severe depression…but that’s a story for another day.

My point is it’s OK for me to embrace the one benefit mental illness sends my way. If this works for you too then grab the gift with both hands and reap the rewards. Just don’t hold on so tight you lose yourself entirely.

K