Sometimes Things Are Just Things

It took my Grandfather years to downsize because he couldn’t part with his furniture. He’d come to so cherish his dining room suite because it had belonged to his parents and was gifted to him and my grandmother once they’d married and begun their own family.

I think he’d infused, confused, misplaced, the deep love he felt for his mother, who died when he was still a young man, into the furniture. The table and chairs didn’t replace his mother though. He couldn’t claim they loved him back but he couldn’t part with them because of the power he gave them.

I’ve been just as guilty, hanging on to pieces of my mother as though they’ll bring her back. The most important parts of our relationship are stored in my head, my heart, not in her opal ring or the wall hanging she made in a circular weaving class. These things don’t love me back but they make me feel closer to her in a way she didn’t intend. I gave these things their power over me. I gave them that intense hold that’s so often born of grief and good intentions.

Things can turn evil if we give them too much power, too much of ourselves, if we let them hold us back.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Dresden Dolls and Amanda Palmer’s solo work lately and her song, The Thing About Things, on her new album, There Will Be No Intermission, has had me thinking of the power we give things and how we often let what we own own us.

I’m down to one last thing I thought I was saving for the daughter I don’t have. It’s hard to let go. It’s hard to admit that my grad dress will never be pranced around in during dress-up or altered to fit my little girl as she goes off to a formal dance. It’s hard to admit that I’m not going to have a daughter the way I always thought I would. It’s just a dress. I’ve given it the power to bring me to tears about something that doesn’t exsist.

I’ll be working on letting things go, taking back the power I gave each piece. Taking back the power these things were never meant to have. Within my heart and head I have the real power to keep my precious memories safe.

Do you find you hang onto things? Have you ever given meaning or power to an item only to realize it’s how deep it’s got it’s claws in you? How do you go about letting go of things? I’d love to hear any comments you have.

K

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

Holiday stress – Hell Yes!

I felt sick yesterday. Couldn’t eat, just wanted to sleep. I thought it was the flu but I’m not so sure. In the evening I thought more and more about why I might be feeling ill and then it clicked.

I’m freaking out!

This time last year and the year before I’ve been holed up in the psych ward, suicidal but safe. This year I’ve been doing ok but no matter how positive I am I can’t help but recall flashbacks and fear going back there again.

I’m also slowly trying to get my house tidied up as my Awesome, super-lovable Mum-in-law is coming to stay for a bit. I’m really excited and I know she just wants to see us but I still want to make things special for her of course.

I’m trying to do some meal planning and feeling guilty I don’t do any of the baking I used to do before I fucked up my back. I want to make French-Canadian Toutiere (meat pie) as I have for many years like my Mom and my Grandmother but I’m cheating this year and not making pastry from scratch like I used to.

There are a lot of things I simply haven’t got the energy or mental wherewithal to do anymore and saying this at 38 because of mental illness and chronic pain is crushing no matter if I should be used to it by now or not😢 Lowering my expectations was never a goal I thought I’d make. Lol!

My social anxiety seems to have kicked into high gear lately which is super great because this is the time of year for visiting. Yeeeeeah!

Anyway, ignoring all these feelings and worries and then over thinking them sent me into a full panic attack last night. Luckily my husband was able to talk me down a bit and make me laugh. The anti-anxiety meds helped too😉

But good things are happening also, I visited a close friend and her adorable baby and we decorated cookies, and chatted, and played with the babe. It was really a nice way to spend an afternoon. I even tolerated the first Christmas music of the season.

Happy Greetings & Season’s Holiday!

K

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

It’s Only Dinner

Tonight I made dinner. Tonight I made dinner and this is significant because, since my Mom died 3 years ago, I haven’t had the patience or desire to cook anything but the barest of minimums. 

This is everything assembled and ready to go when the time comes.

Thank goodness my husband took over in the kitchen to a great extent and coaxed me to at least eat a bit when I had no desire. My appetite has slowly returned but between my issues with anxiety, depression, and chronic pain I feel as though I often have to force myself to eat the simplest of things, let alone the inventive meals I used to love.

I associate the kitchen with my mom. She was an amazing, adventurous, and fearless cook. I followed in her footsteps after leaving home, cooking up a storm and often phoning her for advice. So when she died I just couldn’t find that desire to channel my creativity into the kitchen. It felt too overwhelming, still does to a great extent.

I am pleased to report in the past couple weeks I have slowly begun to edge back into my old domain by baking muffins, banana bread, and even some cookies.

Today, for whatever reason inspiration struck and I found myself topping cucumbers with cream cheese and chili pepper jelly. Then I drizzled olive oil over shoestring sweet potatoes to be baked later along with sliced prime rib I rolled up with Italian Coppa Di Parma. 

While I may have shed more than a few tears as I assembled everything I’m pretty sure this meal is going to kick ass! And even if it doesn’t… deep breath… Tonight I made dinner.

K

Suicide Prevention Day

This post is going to be tough. I’m already sobbing and I’ve scarcely begun to write.

Have I ever felt suicidal? Yes. Oh my goodness yes.

Why am I still here? Many reasons, but the biggest reason is family. I couldn’t bare the thought of what my self-imposed early exit would leave behind in its wake.

Perhaps it helps that I have seen the heartbreak caused by suicide on more than one occasion. The wife of a family friend committed suicide a number of years ago and she left behind something for her husband I had never considered.

You see, not only did her poor Husband have to find her he also, as a matter of routine, had to be investigated by police. The thought of this additional insult to injury just never sat right. I could not bring myself to leave such a possibility for my own loved ones.

A coworker of mine committed suicide a few years back and I’ve never forgotten the broken look in his parents eyes at the memorial or how the tears at work didn’t cease for weeks. He was so loved and cherished by so many but in the end it came down to not enough love for himself.

My great Uncle also committed suicide after many failed previous attempts. I recall being so sad for my great Aunt who found him. Dead. Dead on the floor by the phone with a belly full of pills.

Ultimately, for me, I can’t see a way to commit suicide without leaving behind untold heartbreak and hurt. Simply the idea of what a mess I’d leave behind makes me want to hold my loved ones a little tighter, linger a little longer, and love myself a lot more.

Recognizing feelings of deep depression and suicidal thoughts has been key in keeping myself alive. No matter how difficult or uncomfortable, I’ve always dragged myself to my therapist to talk as soon as possible, called the Distress Center in Calgary http://www.distresscentre.com or 403-266-HELP, and/or gone to the hospital for help.

These services are there for everyone. Never think you are not worthy of seeking help. Dig deep to find even just a spark of self-love and save yourself with the help of others. There’s no shame in needing help and you are worth it.

K

Isolation and Illness 

Isolation due to hurt or illness begins as soon as illness or injury prevents one from participating in activies of choice. The longer one is away from familiar activities the more isolated one can grow to feel. Isolation may become even more pronounced should it be decided one will likely never return to the previous activity of choice.

The persistent plant shown here could easily feel isolated amongst the stones

For me, my life revolved around the sport of curling and building up as much knowledge as possible over 25 years. When it was finally decided that my career in curling would have to end due to injury I cannot begin to describe the loneliness and sense of hopeless isolation this brought. 

Suddenly the network of friends and colleagues I’d spent three quarters of my life building was roughly ripped away from me. Sure, I could visit, but I dreaded the questions and the looks of pity. I also dreaded simply being around what I couldn’t have. It was too painful. To this day there is a giant curling rock shaped hole in my heart.

Illness can also feel physically isolating. Once my back problems began to cause issues with low impact activities like walking, hiking, and biking, I began to feel isolated. I dreaded telling friends and family I couldn’t keep up or had to turn back earlier than planned. 

Did my anxiety and depression develop just because of chronic pain? Probably not. Frankly, a lot of shit has gone down since my initial injury. 

Chronic pain has definitely contributed to my mental illness. That is for sure. I find my mental illness to be isolating as well as it’s still somewhat taboo to talk about and can be difficult to understand if one hasn’t been there.

Others may empathize, in fact, empathy is the best we humans can hope to offer each other as we all have our burdens to bare. What of it when confronted by an individual with an inability to empathize? Is it worth trying to explain or should I just mutter something about my situation being complicated and hope the conversation drops? I’m not entirely sure but in recent years I’ve begun to tend towards the latter.

What has worked for me to combat isolation? I started taking art lessons and practicing at home as well. This gives me some sense of pride and accomplishment and I have started to make a few friends within that community. 

I have started this blog and I find sharing my stories and feelings to be quite cathartic. I can only hope that my blog offers solace, insight, or a sense of understanding and/or camaraderie to readers. 

I try to schedule at least one social outing a week along with my Dr’s appointments so I ensure I get out of the house for fun occasionally. 

I try to schedule something outside my home almost every day, such as simple errands, and brief trips for groceries. This also combats isolation because I must leave home and dwell amongst the living for at least a little while each day.

Most importantly, when I begin to feel isolated I check my schedule and start calling friends and family. Sometimes we just talk and sometimes we make plans. Either way I begin to feel a lot less isolated and far better equipped to cope in general.

K