New exhibition & mental health

I’m excited to be exhibiting with Eltham artist Dimmie Danielewski during this year’s Arts Fest 2018. As part of this new body of work, I have changed my bio to read:

New Zealand mixed media artist Cath Sheard’s work bring a lightness to, and shines light on, the often-untold stories of women. By focusing on topics such as anxiety, chronic illness, and sexual violence the artist hopes to open up a safe space for discussion. Her work also records memories, especially of the landscape of her youth, as well as her internal dialogue.

The new bio feels right to me; my work has changed in the last few years and my bio didn’t really capture that. The idea of bringing lightness to a subject, while shining a light on hard stuff, is increasingly important to me.

I said in my last post that I had decided to go to counselling to continue the healing journey. I started counselling last week; I like Shanti and feel we have come up with a good plan. Basically, she works on getting people sleeping well first, so their mind starts to relax and heal, then formulate a sentence that captures one thing to work on, and teaches the tools needed to keep repeating the process.

Shanti and I talked about some of the issues I’d discussed with the weight loss psychologist. I’m realising I can’t even identify some emotions, and certainly don’t express them, nor am I good at saying what I want outside of work. We think my first sentence to work on will be something like “I am able to identify my emotions and verbalise my feelings and wants”. As she said, that alone will make a huge change to my life.

I’m always quite open and honest on my blog but even I am going to redact a bit, mainly to protect other people because I can’t tell some stories without impacting their privacy too. What I am discovering is how much unsolved stuff is in my head – things like the miscarriages, but also things from my youth, sexual & emotional abuse and stuff from my first marriage. Issues that should have been sorted decades ago … so now it’s time to get it done.

 I’m fine – there’s no crisis, but it is stuff I need to work through. I think it’s important we talk about our mental health otherwise the stigma will never go away. I have cut back my time online, especially Twitter where it can be quite political and intense, while I look after myself.

 body of work

 

 

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2 years post weight loss surgery

I’ve just had my final appointments with the weight loss clinic after my 2016 gastric bypass. I had a talk with Atul, my surgeon first. He’s happy with my progress and weight and thinks once I got over all the very serious impacts, I’ve done well.

The dietitian was pleased my weight is almost the same as when we spoke in April. We talked about how I am having to work at keeping my weight up, and some strategies for maintaining that. She recommended I start taking a Copper supplement with my Zinc.

Normally I have a quick chat with the psychologist but this time we talked for about 40 minutes. I have realised there’s stuff in my head that needs sorting, and he was very helpful. We talked briefly about body image and how weird it is to have to eat enough when you struggled to not eat all your adult life.

The main thing we talked about is that I’m increasingly aware I have always eaten my feelings, rather than live/feel them. I smothered them with food. There’s been a lot of triggers to me realising the depth of the issue and, as honest as I am online, even I’m not going to disclose them all here. But I will talk about some of it, because it may help others. There are issues around body image, sexuality, emotions and abuse I need to deal with…

After we’d chatted a bit, Steven asked me if I can easily express my emotions. Hell no. Are you a warm person? No, kind mainly, but not warm. Do you cry easily? Uh, no – I might weep watching the news particularly with stories about kids. Long pause – is that because it feels ‘acceptable’? Yes, I suspect so. Did you parents validate you if you cried as a child? I barely remember crying as a kid, and certainly don’t remember being soothed by Mum. When I think about it, I don’t remember Mum ever saying she loved me as a kid, or even as an adult. I know she did love me, but she certainly didn’t say it.

We talked about the way Mum modeled behaviour, and her own battles with food and weight, and being adopted out as a toddler. I am not blaming Mum for my issues – they are mine – she was a product of her own upbringing and I took some of it on and made it my own.

Six months ago I would have said I was fine and didn’t need to continue with psychologist help. We agreed I am stable, and doing well – with all the tools I need for long-term success – but also that more help would be a good thing. For well-being, it’s vital I do more work on my head and have decided to have further counselling. Overall I get an A+ pass mark but weight loss surgery is a journey, not a destination.

dyary sept 10-16

And still the words come

I am remembering hurts that are long-buried – and, oddly enough, as I pour out the words it’s generally not that painful. I thought there’d be endless tears, but there’s not; I am a bit obsessive about the journalling though.

As promised, this is very warts and all – two of these pages talk about the point where sex became a chore, and the start of my affair with Tony (who I’ve now been with for 26 years, so…), the pain of seeing everyone else have a baby and the years I spent on a fertility drug.

The process of remembering, recording, covering up and moving on is very healing.   I  continue to visit the cemetery a lot in my lunch breaks, and sit near the memorial stone to lost babies. So much healing…

clomidlove and lust tonyodd ones outwhen sex isnt fun

 

Pouring out the words

I decided yesterday I’d do a journal about my angel babies, and pour out all the feelings onto paper. I knew once I started I would be a bit teary and obsessive – and warned Tony. Turns out I am obsessive but not teary. But my god am I dredging up old memories and hurts, and dealing with them.

Here’s an example of something I had tucked away but never let go of … Relatively early in our infertility journey my then-husband started showing the first signs of depression. My Mother-in-law, who I had a mixed relationship with, said “If you’d just have a baby, he’d feel better”. Well, f*ck me, why hadn’t I thought of that?

I’m being consistent about how the pages look because that makes me happy, and ensuring the bulk of the writing is unreadable because it’s so personal – but also contains other people’s personal information. Infertility isn’t a journey you take on your own, and impacts on all aspects of your life. I’ll be writing about love, sex, affairs, needles, medicine, deaths, depression, family, friends, betrayals … this is a ‘warts and all’ journey. I’m not sure it will end up being in chronological order because I suspect old memories will come back as I write. Thanks for being part of this healing journey with me.

Opening up old wounds

Sometimes you have to open up old wounds if they’ve never really healed. It’s hard and it hurts but, ultimately, it’s the only way to heal and move on. I had a message from my best friend of 50+ years last night, Sandra, talking about my infertility and some of the stuff that happened. I won’t share our conversation, or what prompted it, but that kind of honesty is gold and I’d expect nothing less from her. She has my back, and always has had.

I’m starting to journal out my deepest thoughts about my miscarriages and all the things that went along with being infertile when everyone around me was having babies; the impact on my marriage, the people I loved and who loved me. Some of this is really shitty so I have written on the canvas in such a way that it’s unreadable – but my heart and soul know what’s written there when I look at it. As is often the case, the images might not mean a lot to other people, but each one has meaning for me. 

These wounds are deep (deeper than I have ever before acknowledged, even to myself). It’s going to take more than one or two journal pages and paintings to work through it, but I feel like I’m finally on the journey. Thank you for being part of it by listening. 

my angel babies.jpg

Dealing with the hard stuff

Sometimes the planets align, and they are at the moment. It’s difficult and confronting but has to be done. I realised there are a couple of issues I haven’t dealt with in terms of my food addiction and one of those is all the babies I lost to miscarriage in the 80s. The other issue is one I am not ready to talk about with anyone but I am quietly dealing with it in my own way.

How have the planets aligned? More and more of the people around me are becoming grandparents, which increases my awareness of my childlessness. I’ve had a few people, quite randomly, talk to me recently about their own miscarriages or stillbirths. I’ve read some stuff seemingly by accident. I was going through my weight loss journal looking at the pre-surgery psych work and on the page about my babies I had started to journal then had written ” I can’t write more for now” and never completed it. And so on.

I sometimes go to Hawera Cemetery in my lunch hour. I tell myself it’s because it’s green, quiet and there are very few people around. I realised this week, talking to someone I trust who has also has the surgery, that I go there to be near the memorial stone for angel babies.

Today I was talking to one of my staff about this and I said “well, I always lost the babies very early on so it wasn’t a big deal” or words to that effect. And it struck me … I have been telling myself that lie for more than 26 years. Because each time there was a baby, and each time I did face the loss. The loss of a future child, birthdays, weddings, grandchildren and so on.

How am I dealing with it? I have my final appointment with the weight loss clinic psychologist soon because it’s 2 years since my surgery, so will talk to her. But I am also journaling a lot, dreaming and not sleeping, removing myself from social media a bit to give myself space, hugging my husband and just letting all the feelings come through. What I know for sure, to quote Oprah, is that I am dealing with this so it never derails my weight loss, and stops beings something I lie to myself about – it did hurt, and it does matter. Thanks for listening!

a9d68fdceeaedc9e17c278c3d2adc997--angel-babies-baby-boy.jpg

Art is good for me

Spending time creating is good for me. Sure, I can go for weeks without creating, but I’ll get a bit ‘down’ and restless. The solution, especially if I feel tired and like it’s all too hard, is to create regardless. Pretty soon I’m sparking again!

This weekend I have spent a lot of time at my art desk and it’s perked me up. I was feeling ok, but now I feel rested even though I’ve had no actual rest…

I won’t describe products, journal etc – it’s my usual mix of Dina Wakley, Tim Holtz, Dyan Reaveley and Ranger.

small journal 04082018dina w journal 1 05082018dina w journal 05082018dina wakley journal 05082018week 31small journal 05082018dw journal 05082018

 

Catching up on my art

Well, really not so much forgot, as life got in the way. Long story and not worth sharing. But I *have* been arting when I can. And coughing, I’ve been doing a lot of coughing.

Pages in my Dylisions and Dina Wakley albums using Distress & Dylusions paints, stencils including Tim Holtz, Dylusions Dyary stickers and rubber stamps, ephemera, white gel pen, silver and gold Nuvo Mousse, Dina Wakley washi tape, Dina Wakley stamps.

dina wakley 20180715small journal 2018-07-15week 27week 28

Mum’s birthday

Mum was born on 30 June 1924 at Bethany Home in Auckland, and stayed with her mother till she has a toddler. We don’t know why her mother, Angela, eventually had to give her up. I wish we had met her, she sounds such a character. We are fortunate to know Angela through her son John (Mum’s half-brother) and his family.

Mum would have been 94 today, not an age she had any great desire to get to. Mum didn’t romanticize old age; she talked about it being hard work and used to say that Dad, who died suddenly at 65 while out fishing, “got it exactly right, but a decade too soon”.  When Mum died in 2012 she was ready to leave this earth, and we let her go with love.

Mum shared her birth date with John’s ex-wife Liz – birthday twins, as I called them. So happy birthday Liz. I’m sure Mum is watching over us all.

Happy birthday Mum – you are loved and missed, but released with love too.

 

 

 

Art heals – thinking about Mum

Every year, as Mum’s birthday on June 30 approaches, I sleep badly and have vivid dreams. Mum died in 2012; we let her go with love in our hearts, knowing she was very ready to die. Yet my brain persists in this hyper-awareness every year. As in previous years, working in my art journal helps. Art really does have the power to heal people.

This photo was taken in 2011, her last Christmas, with her grandson Rowan. I have no idea now what they were talking about, but I can remember it being quite animated! I have put a heart over her face because sometimes I can’t bring her face to my mind, which is such a scary feeling. Mum may be gone, but love remains. The good memories are wrapped firmly round me heart.

mum journal page 2018-06-24