Below is a painting I did a few years ago, processing in an elevated/mixed mood episode with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Hot Air: Rise Above It. I wrote a story to go with it, intended as children's stories but it is also for adults. I might develop it further if I want something to do (already have lots of creative projects). I have published exactly how I wrote it in a single session including notes and mistakes below (with no alterations). This is the first draft that hasn't been composted yet. The story came to me after doing the painting.
I am a recovering perfectionist. A perfectionist is someone who puts unrealistically high standards on themselves with overly critical self-evaluations. Some may project that onto others as well.
I got triggered by my own perfectionism while painting a bird - my second attempt at painting a bird (below). I'd invited constructive feedback by other hobby artists during the process but then I felt my normally low blood pressure rise, I felt angry inside and I felt 'done'. My frustrations came out in scribbling paint over the background and overdoing the highlights as per suggestions. I knew I had to stop.
Over the past few years, I have been on a journey of processing trauma. Finally, I am seeing a trauma psychologist, and she agrees that I have been finding ways to process trauma on my own.
I am a very sensitive person and I can feel very intense emotions. So intense that I would 'shut down' all the emotion and the trauma would be locked inside, still there - frozen and stuck. It has been a process like in waves, to get unstuck. Sometimes there would be intense waves of intense emotion, like I expressed in the scribble below today. Scribbling messy words helped discharge intense emotions like anger.
I had a therapy session last week for PTSD. When I first started therapy, my emotions were shut down and I talked about trauma like I was a news reporter - factual without emotion. But last time I cried and cried.
I said, "I'm such a failure - failed in my career, can't work full-time, divorced, hardly see my son, own practically nothing."
The psychologist replied, "You're not a failure. You have bipolar disorder and trauma which has made things very difficult for you. You've been doing the best you can."
I'm not a detailed planner. Life doesn't work out to plan for me anyway. I prefer to improvise.
When I create art, I might have some vague ideas in my head and even do a quick miniature sketch but it always turns out differently to how I originally started. I like the freedom to improvise. To make things up as I go along. Creative expression helps me re-frame my life experiences.
"I think adults who paint are brave. They need support to shine." Sue Graham, artist.
Art was one of my favourite activities as a child. I have memories from kindergarten slapping on thick layers of brightly coloured paint at a stand up easel. I won a poster competition when I was around 10 years old. It was judged by a well-known landscape artist whom I met. She told me my poster stood out because of the colours and composition.
When I was a teenager, my art teacher at school said, 'you always paint differently according to what mood you're in.' I felt criticised but thought, 'isn't that the point?' The same teacher said, 'you're going to have a nervous breakdown one day.' She said it was because I was busy doing so many activities with no down time to rest.
It's usually hard for me to get up in the mornings. But today I had something to do. Yesterday I decided to purchase a domain name and I started setting up this website. Today I wanted to continue to get it up and running.
Having some sense of meaningful purpose helps keep me going even though things are very challenging for me (unable yet to work full-time and live independently after two decades of being away from home). I was diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder, PTSD and social anxiety in my forties. Previously I was diagnosed with 'treatment resistant' depression and anxiety in my early twenties.
Xanthe finds writing and painting to be therapeutic. She has lived with mental illness for over 25 years. She has been diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety disorder after originally being diagnosed with 'treatment resistant' depression with general anxiety.