2015AP Week 4 – Meditation

I get frustrated when I hear the word “meditation”. Usually I hear it when I am being given advice that I don’t want. I have depression. It seems to be the atypical, doesn’t-really-respond-to-medication-and-lasts-forever-kind. I am constantly told that I should meditate. It will relieve stress and negative thoughts and I’ll feel so much better. I appreciate that people are only trying to be helpful when they say this, but they always make it sound like such a simple solution. As if I hadn’t thought of this before or depression is that easy to cure. No doubt, meditation works for a lot of people. It wouldn’t be so popular if it weren’t the case. Unfortunately, it just hasn’t worked for me. It’s not for lack of trying either. I’ve tried various forms of meditation to no avail. I usually end up upset with myself because I can’t do it properly. The closest I have come to succeeding is in karate. The style I did incorporated several sort of moving meditations called katas. They were a series of punches, kicks and blocks that were preformed in succession. It cleared my head because there was no time to think. You had to move so quickly and accurately with strength behind each move. You focused on your muscles and movements, not your thoughts. That cleared my head. It wasn’t exactly relaxing though. It really got my heart pumping.

The week 4 exercise in the 2015 Art Project was a meditation which I wasn’t overly thrilled about. I’m not anti-meditation and it was only 8 minutes, so I thought I’d give it a try. To my surprise, I actually did enjoy it. Instead of providing an art journal prompt for this week, Victoria suggested we do an interpretation from the meditation. I think that’s why I enjoyed it more than I usually do. Instead of going into the meditation with the goal of clearing my mind and relaxing (which is near impossible for me), I went in with the goal of coming up with an art journal idea. That small shift in focus allowed me to focus on what was being said and the imagery to go with it. In doing that, I forgot everything else in my brain and I actually did relax. Maybe I have meditation performance anxiety, haha.

Part of the meditation was to picture an animal by a waterfall in a forest. That’s the part I decided to do as a journal page. The animal I saw was a unicorn. I’ve been on a bit of a unicorn kick lately, so that is probably why. I used “burlap” Distress Ink in the background and gesso’d over the areas for the unicorn and waterfall. The tree branches were created with a stencil using “burlap” and “tea dye” Distress Inks. The land, waterfall and rainbow were coloured with watercolour pencil crayons and activated with water. The mist at the bottom of the waterfall has some neocolor II crayon in it. The unicorn is mostly just white gesso. I outlined her with silver Sharpie paint pen and did her mane and tail with pink Sharpie paint pen. The shadows on her body are grey crayon. I outlined the unicorn in white neocolor to give the impression she was glowing.

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Another part of the meditation was to lie in the water and let our worries wash away. I decided to scrawl all my current worries into the waterfall with gel pens to make the water look like it was moving. It didn’t really work, but I tried at least. The spread still feels a little unfinished, but I am out of ideas for the moment. I feel like the upper right area could use something…a quote maybe? I’ll add to it later if I come up with anything.

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Letting Go…

The 2015 Art Project – Week 3

Prompt: Letting go to be free…

Week 3 was the first part of a two part (I think?) “Letting Go” theme. We were instructed to focus on worry. Worry is something we tend to hold on to that prevents us from relaxing, enjoying, being ourselves and essentially, being free. At least, that’s what is does to me. It can make me physically ill too. I do have a problem with worry. I know I over do it, but it just comes so naturally. Part of the instructions were to write down things that we are currently worrying about.

Let’s see….

  • Hubby’s job situation
  • Hubby’s happiness
  • If he gets a job up North, should I go with him, or continue school?
  • Forcing myself to go to work
  • Finishing my Ph.D.
  • Getting participants for my dissertation research
  • Making time for everything that needs to get done everyday
  • My mental health getting worse
  • My mental health never getting better
  • Coping with group therapy
  • Deciding whether or not to have kids
  • I can’t speak French and I live in Montreal
  • I don’t exercise enough
  • I can’t sleep properly
  • What is my medication going to do to me in the long term?
  • Financial
  • 30th Birthday trip planning
  • Doing a good job on everything I do
  • Making everyone happy
  • My sick friends (one has a brain tumor, one has fibromyalgia, one has cancer and one has a son with a bad heart)
  • Touching base with family and friends often enough

Some may scoff at my list, thinking that’s nothing compared to their worries or they may think some of those, like planning a birthday trip, are frivolous and that’s fine. I get it. In the grand scheme of things, my worries aren’t nearly as dire as those who worry about starving or not having a roof over their heads. I am grateful I don’t have to worry about those things, but does that mean I don’t worry, or don’t have the right to? No. Worry is intrinsic in human nature. It stems from the fight or flight response which evolved to protect us from danger and although danger has also evolved somewhat from wooly mammoths and saber tooth tigers, it’s not something you can readily turn on and off. If you are having feelings of distress or anxiety in response to something, those feelings are valid. It doesn’t matter what it is. Worry is different for everyone, everywhere, in every situation.

That being said, it’s important to check if the reasoning behind these feelings is valid. I often react to something and my mind gets all up in arms and stressed before I get a chance to look at things logically and rationalize the worry. That’s what my art journal page is about this week. It’s a reminder to myself to to slow down, to breathe and to think it through with a rational brain. By simply taking the time to do this, I can exhale some of those worries away.

Some worries are more difficult to deal with. These are usually the situations I have no control over. Control is a big comfort. I like to have a path set out in front of me with the detours mapped out ahead of time. I’m not a control freak, I just prefer to know what to expect when it comes to the big, important things. This is not always possible in life. So, the final part of week 3 asked us to pick three worries we have no control over that we’ll take forward into week 4. I’m choosing Hubby’s job situation, getting participants for my dissertation research and my mental health. I know I probably should have control over that last one, but I really feel like I don’t.

Now, for the art stuff….

I gessoed (can that be a verb?) the background white and doodled a girl (me, sort of) exhaling her worries over top.

2015-01-20 08.58.14Next, I shredded magazine recipes into strips. I used Modge Podge to glue them to the swirls of air she is exhaling. I wanted the letters from the recipes to be visible, but not legible, representing the irrational thoughts causing her feelings of worry. Next, I painted the background and the figure with acrylics. I used a Walmart stencil to get the white swirls in the background and then muted them with watered down blue acrylic. The big swirls are outlined in activated Neocolour II crayons. The lettering was done with a black Fude Ball 1.5 pen from Ranger Ink. I was told this pen would write on paint (no problem!) and would be waterproof (haven’t tried yet) so that I could paint over it without it bleeding. The silver bits are from a Sharpie paint pen.

2015-01-22 11.44.54Here is the quote. I can’t remember who it is from. I got it out of one of my old journals, thought it was appropriate.

2015-01-22 11.44.42And here is the full spread….

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People Pleaser

Why do I care so much about what other people think of me? Why do I want them all to like me and think highly of me? I want everyone to think I’m smart and pretty and I work hard. I want even the people I haven’t formally met and will probably never see again to think this. I let it get in the way. I stay home and hide when I feel fat and ugly and stupid. Why do I let this happen? I guess it’s just human nature to seek approval, but it’s such a waste of energy.love yourself

It’s impossible to please everyone all the time. It’s pointless to try. Some of you are probably judging me right now and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. Some of you will like me, some of you wont. Some of you will respect me for sharing my experiences with depression and some of you will think I’m whining and attention-seeking. I could drive myself crazy agonizing over this and sometimes I do, but it’s not worth it. Why? It’s kind of depressing, but I’m not that special. To put it in perspective, the world is vast and I am small, most people don’t care or don’t know that I exist. In comparison to that, why should a few people who don’t like me matter? It’s not like anything actually happens when people don’t like you. Most of the time, you don’t even know when someone doesn’t like you.

I’m trying to get over this constant need to be in everybody’s good books. It’s not even good books, it’s best books if such a thing exists. This is another reason that I started blogging. Blogging is forcing me to be honest with myself, forcing me to come to terms with what my values are. It’s making me think more. I think part of having confidence is knowing yourself and having opinions on things. In real life, I just go about doing what needs to be done. I don’t prioritize, I just do it all. I never stop to think about what is important to me other than pleasing everyone else. What kind of a life can you have if what drives you is pleasing everybody else?

I guess this was a bit of a rant, sorry bout that. It’s just something that has been on my mind lately. Any thoughts?

V is for Visceral Voices

When I say visceral voices, I mean thoughts, your inner monologue or self-talk. The thought processes that occur so naturally that you often over look them. Often in anxiety and depression these visceral voices lean towards the negative. You have to take the time to learn to recognize when you are having a negative thought and challenge it.

When I think of negative self-talk, I imagine the angel and the devil on my shoulders battling it out. But what if it was more complex than that? According to Edmund Bourne’s Anxiety and Phobia workbook, there are four main types of negative-self talk; the victim, the worrier, the critic and the perfectionist. I can see components of all 4 personas in my internal monologue. No wonder the angel is often overwhelmed, the odds are 4 to 1!

The Angel and The Devil

The Angel and The Devil

 

The Victim. Characterized by feelings of hopelessness, the victim usually contributes to both anxiety and depression. I give myself anxiety by telling myself that I’m not making enough progress, that I’m not smart enough to complete the task at hand. Depression comes from the sense of being unworthy. I will never achieve my goals, nor do I deserve to. It’s the everything sucks and will never get better attitude. I don’t intend to have this attitude, in fact, I don’t want it. It’s just so subtle and innate that I don’t realize I’m doing it until I reflect on the situation.

The Worrier. Anxiety is created by imagining the worst-case scenario and anticipating embarrassment and/or failure. The worrier is always apprehensive and on the lookout for trouble. I know I do this. My reasoning is that I want to be prepared and able to handle the worst-case scenario, but in doing this I create dread, so I’m not really doing myself any favours.

The Critic. This voice promotes low self-esteem. I am constantly comparing myself to others, evaluating my behaviour and magnifying my mistakes. This makes me feel like a failure most of the time.

The Perfectionist. A state of chronic stress is created by thinking nothing is ever good enough, I should be working harder, I should always have everything under control. I am only worth the sum of my external achievements.

4 to 1

To combat these attitudes, I’ve been told to give myself positive counter-statements. Sounds easy, logical. The problem is getting myself to believe the positive talk. I’m hoping an open mind and some repetition will do it.

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