The value of art time

Some weekends, aside from cooking meals & basic things like washing etc, I spend both days at my art desk. This is one of those weekends. Tony is in more pain and sleepy so he’s sitting in the lazyboy, napping, while I play with my art supplies. Art is good for me – the movement of my hands, the meditative sense of slowed-down time when fussy cutting out images, and the chance to get my thoughts & feelings out of my head and into my art journals.

I’ve been working in my large Dina Wakley journal, and the large Dylusions journals. I’ve really enjoyed playing with Steampunk images for a change.

Art and life

Last week had its ups and downs. The downs I’m not documenting… The ups included an amazing fishing trip for Tony, something that was on his very short bucket list.

Tomorrow we’re seeing the respiratory specialist, Dr Hicks, to get the details of his latest lung MRI, to confirm a few things. We’re supposed to see the Hospice Dr to look at his meds, but this might not happen due to COVID19 level 2 – Breeda is trying to sort it for us. Tied into that is a meeting with the Hospice wound nurse to have a look at the ulcer on his foot.

I continue to art out all the feelings. I’m so grateful for my art journals as I’ve been feeling a bit unwell, and my temper starts to fray far too easily. I’ve been playing on my huge Dina Wakley mixed media journal.

Addiction; myth vs reality

We all know what addicts are like, right? We see them on tv, in the movies etc all the time. If you asked people what they know about addicts you might hear things like: they have bad teeth, they’re unemployable, they don’t look after themselves. Think again.

I’ve talked before about the fact I have an addictive personality. It’s one of the things that lead to me having weight loss surgery, and being warned by the weight loss clinic’s psychologist to be careful about addiction transfer. A surprisingly high percentage of women who have weight loss surgery become alcoholics because they transfer from food to alcohol. For that reason, I don’t drink – I’ve had 3 weak alcoholic drinks in 4 years.

I had a total knee replacement three weeks ago and it’s going well. The surgeon prescribed panadol and codeine and, when I went back for a check up, they increased the codeine dose because I’ve got bursitis in my hip due to walking differently now.

I knew there was a risk of me becoming addicted to the codeine, as I’ve been addicted to pain relief before. So I’ve been careful, and watching myself. At 3am this morning I suddenly realised – yes, you guessed it – I’m addicted to the codeine. What am I going to do about it? Not much for now, except to make sure the amount I’m taking doesn’t increase.

Once my knee is fully healed I’ll go cold turkey. It’s easier on your system to wean yourself off but I’d just lie to myself about how much I was still taking because that’s what we do as addicts – we lie to ourselves, and to others. We hide the wrappers, the receipts, the bottles…

Why am I telling you this? Because as a society we need to be more honest about the costs of addiction, and change what we think we know about addicts. I’m re-reading “In the realm of hungry ghosts: close encounters with addiction” by Dr Gabor Mate. It’s not an easy read but it gets to the heart of addiction (emotional pain essentially) and has some useful advice for people like myself.

My pages reflect my life

If you’ve ever wondered if my art journal pages reflect what’s happening in my life – these pages should give you the answer! I art what’s in my heart and soul; my pages are me downloading my head and healing my heart. I’ve been inspired by Niamh Baly on YouTube recently. The page above was sparked by watching her creating using layers. She often handwrites quotes and I decided to give it a try. I’m pleased I did – thanks Niamh! The page below uses a new rubber stamp set from Dina Wakley media which I know I’m going to get a lot of use from.

Out of my head, onto paper

This has been a rough week for various reasons, so a day of pouring out my heart and head into my art journals has been good for me. I don’t sleep well some of the time, and when things are rough I tend to have bad dreams. I process everything that’s going in complicated dreams, often with my long-dead parents in them. I haven’t been doing that this week, but have been very wakeful, so hopefully getting lots of thoughts down in my art journals – many unreadable – will help settle my brain a bit! People say art is cheaper than a therapist, but I’m not sure they’ve seen my journal and paint supplies 😉

Getting down the bones

Sometimes all I need in my art journals are the bare bones in order to remember an event or feeling. Other times I write a lot; how readable it is depends on the content. I’m generally very open with what I share, but there are times when I can’t have other people reading the text. The ‘feeling let down’ page was one of those rare moments, so the story behind the page is on the back of a tag. I can lift it up and read if I want to, but probably won’t. Getting it written down was enough. Cathartic!

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A bit of this & that

I hit the wall on Friday. I was working, had an appointment for an x-ray of both knees in the hope of replacements, a bunch of deadlines, a meeting with some of my staff, a puppy to wrangle etc. I found myself rushing round the house muttering “I hate every f*cking thing” as I went. After 50+ days of 6-6.30am starts and little rest, I was exhausted.

The x-rays went well, but left me very sore. I had lunch at the skatepark; sunshine & fresh air helped. The meeting with four of my staff made me feel a lot better. In the face of all this they’re innovative, determined and caring – I love them to bits.

Today I got up with Inky at 6.30 but went back to bed when Tony got up about 8 – I didn’t get up until midday and, after lunch, Inky slept in my arms for about 3 hours. I didn’t really tackled any work till after dinner, which has no doubt done me some good.

Yesterday I did my weekly diary and started a journal page which I completed tonight, along with some COVID journal backgrounds. The journal page has a story behind it, which I can’t share 😉

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Starting my lockdown journal

Art is how I process the world, and how I download what’s in my head. Now my staff are settled and safe, and we have a (sort of) routine I am sleeping a few more hours a night. With sleep comes bad dreams – anarchy on the streets, scary animals, and so on. My brain really can be a bitch. My dreams are usually a muddle of things I have seen, heard and read, all jumbled together, often with my long-dead parents in the mix. My art practice is vital to my mental wellbeing.

I’ve started a small 6×6” journal where I’m going to document a mix of facts and feelings during this COVID-19 journey. There are no feelings in it yet. I need to get the framework started before the feelings can pour out.

As with much of my art this about bringing lightness to, and shining light on, a difficult subject – hence the ‘pretty’ backgrounds and colours.

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3 years ago

Today it’s 3 years since I had weight loss surgery; C bypass to be precise, also called a mini bypass. It was meant to be RNY Bypass but I had so much internal scarring it couldn’t be done. My surgeon, Atul, prefers this operation but it’s not popular in NZ.

My highest weight was 139.9kg and my lowest post surgery was 60kg, which wasn’t a good look. I got so low, not by trying, but because I got incredibly sick and was in and out of hospital including a brief stint on life support.

I’m back to exactly where Atul (and the surgeons in New Plymouth who treated me) said I should be – 75kg. Some days my head tells me that the gain means I have failed and will get super fat again. But the sensible part of me knows that is not true. The reality is I was too thin, it didn’t look good especially for my face, and I felt frail.

We’ve been talking about our mental wellbeing on a FB support group and I just commented that “All of us – fit or not, at goal or not, plastic surgery or not – have to find a place where our bodies & our heads are comfortable and that we can maintain without weight/fitness being the main focus of our lives – because that’s not really living”.

At this weight I can eat fairly normally in a high protein, healthy fat & low carb way. I don’t exercise because of my physical limitations so can’t rely on that for extra control. And my weight is not the biggest thing in my life.

I am incredibly grateful to Atul; I believe he saved my life and I continue to save it by doing the right things. I am still a food addict, and chocolate is my crack, but I have the tools to manage no. So grateful…

 

Beam me up

As is often the case, I’ve turned to a song to say all the things I can’t find the words for. I love writing letters & blogging, and I’m a fairly slow deep thinker. Yet, when it comes to emotions, I’m suddenly voiceless.

It’s the same for many addicts. Saying what’s in the deepest recesses of our hearts and minds is too hard, too scary, and makes us too vulnerable. On the flipside, that vulnerability is very healing. Through counselling, a lot of effort, and patient friends, I’ve healed a lot in the last year or so; healing that will help me maintain a healthy weight as I get further and further post weight loss surgery.

This page uses the lyrics from P!nk’s song ‘Beam me up’ and refers to my angel babies, and also to missing Mum and Dad.

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