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.

beam 20190825

Acts of love

I know if I’m to stay as healthy as possible, with all the challenges I have, taking care of myself properly is an act of love. Hating my body won’t work. I need to eat well, exercise as much as my disability allows, sleep enough and take time out to rest.
Dylusions supplies: small journal. Paint: Black marble, Pomegranate seed, Cherry pie. Stencils: Small stars & Star struck. Stamps: Dy’s alphabet.
Other: Tim Holtz tall letter stamps, Pitt big brush pen, white gel pen, Distress ink, Ranger Distress collage medium.

love your body 20190818

My art journal habit

I’m also teaching an art journal class in Greymouth next month and, as with gelli printing, participants get a pack to get them started. When I teach art journaling its about how to get going, tips and tricks, making it your own.

Why do I art journal? It’s a fun, creative outlet with no rules. It is whatever I want it to be on the day; writing or no writing, paint or collage, personal thoughts – found word poems – song lyrics, deep and meaningful or light-hearted.

I write down the things that are in my heart and soul; sometimes I leave it so it can be read, other times I journal in such a way that even I can’t re-read it. My journals are a trusted friend where I pour out my feelings and work through anything that’s bothering me. I frequently record song lyrics – I love recording the music I listen to – and often there’s a message in the song I chose on the day.

Here’s a fairly random selection of pages I have created in the last 2 or 3 years. I hope you enjoy the variety of colours, styles and imagery.

thinkingreal me 20190801memoris and remembering 201212081983my body

Hiding the details

When I journal, it really is the good, the bad, and the ugly. Currently I’m using a Dina Wakley mixed media journal, which I love, to “download my head”. If you’ve been foll wing me a while, you know I’ve had weight loss surgery and as part of that journey have faced up to my food addiction, abusive first marriage, miscarriages etc.

All my feelings get poured out into my journals, and I share all my pages, but some of that I don’t want others reading – and don’t even want to re-read myself because the psychologist think that creates a ‘loop’ in your head.

How do I write down the hard stuff, then share it safely?  There’s a number of things I do:

  • Cover the writing with a light coat of gesso or Tim Holtz Distress Paint
  • Put it in a sealed pocket or enveloped attached to the page
  • Cover it with printed tissue paper, such as the Tim Holtz range
  • Use scribble writing – this is my go-to

I did the background with Tim Holtz Distress paints and StencilGirl stencils, and the tag with Andy Skinner stamps using Stampin’ Up ink and a red Tombow, then wrapped some red cotton round it. I used a thick black Pilot pen for the journaling and added some messy burgundy and red cotton under the tag with Tombow glue to ground it a bit.

technique

This page talks about some hard stuff we’re facing at the moment, and how I feel about it. It’s personal and involves other people – it’s not just my story – so I needed to think about their privacy too.

fragile 20190512.jpg

 

Broken bits

Still recording the lyrics I love. Pink’s songs really speak to the part of me that’s a bit broken – the food addict who now knows she used/uses food to smother her emotions. The spot on her chin is from my mucky fingers! (oops…) This was done using Dylusions products, which are some of my all time favs.

my attic 20190508

Of monsters and men

Anyone else a fan of “Of monsters and men”? They’ve got some great music, but that’s not what I’m writing about. Last time I blogged I talked about scribble writing in my journals because, although I’m pretty open, I don’t share everything for the reasons I wrote about then. 

(Trigger warning: abuse, domestic violence)

I follow Grant Shimmin on Twitter and he wrote an excellent article this week, which has made me speak out a bit more. If you follow me, you know I’ve had weight loss surgery and as part of the journey I’ve done 2+ years of counselling and am still unpacking the shit in my head. Part of that is realising how awful my first marriage was – something I carefully hid from myself (and others). When we separated most of our friends were completely unprepared because we seemed so fortunate except for my infertility.

My ex-husband wasn’t a monster. He was an ordinary man who could be difficult and had mental health issues (severe, crippling depression). It’s really only this last six months or so I have started to admit I was abused. Not physically, but there are ways to abuse people where the scars aren’t obvious. I am dealing with the impacts of that abuse now thanks to counselling and other support.

Does Tony know the extent of the abuse? No. Will I tell him the details? No. He fell in love with the product of that abuse – I don’t mean he was/is abusive. Far from it; he’s one of life’s gentle supportive people. But the things that make me “me” – behaviours, actions, ways of being – are a product of that abusive relationship and he’s dealing with a changing me. That’s enough for anyone.

As I said, people were shocked when we separated. Because men who abuse others – physically, emotionally, sexually and financially – men who rape and attack – get away with it because of their seeming normalcy. They don’t wear a sign saying “hey, I’m a monster so be careful”. My ex was probably Tony’s best friend, we all used to hang round together. He had some great friends, who are no doubt very loyal and would say I’m lying – one of the reasons I have never spoken up, and also out of respect for his kids.

When the Courts, media etc say men have “acted out of character” or are “good men who suddenly snapped” they are wrong; this narrative enables men to keep abusing, and silences victims. I know from personal experience that abuse is insidious and increases over time, but often remains hidden because of shame and an attempt to maintain a sense of (admittedly damaged) self. When women say they’re abused, believe them. When someone says a good man “snapped” call bullshit…

 

 

Recording the hard stuff

I was talking with someone on a FB group page and they commented that you can’t journal the hard stuff because others might read it. It means you can’t share the page, so others don’t get to be inspired by your art.

I disagree; I’ve always journaled the good, bad and ugly in my scrapbooks and art journals. As an ex scrapbooking teacher, I’ve always shared my art in person and online.

Sometimes I write it all out so it’s legible and figure, if I share the hard or ugly stuff, I might help others get through and be able to tell their stories. We can all help create safe places for others to share their experiences, especially around addiction, mental health and abuse / domestic violence. I’ve never felt my life has to look perfect in order to share online.

But, even for me, there are things I don’t want the world reading about. Sometimes it is just too raw, other times it’s because it would compromise another person in some way. Often it’s about my food addiction, addictive personality, Tony’s health or my relationship with others who support me (or have similar issues) that I’m wanting to talk about.

When I want to record things but don’t want it to be legible, I use “scribble writing” so I get it all out of my head, but no one can read it. I usually start in the middle of the pages then work up and down, so the lines aren’t consecutive, and make sure the writing is loopy and overlaps. If’ you’re a scrapbooker or art journaler I’d encouarge you to record it all, it’s very healing.

For the record, this page is about some of the head struggles I’ve had this week, more than 2 years post weight loss surgery, what I’m doing about it, and the support I get from people.

go deep wls 20190119

 

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