Saturday, October 13, 2012

Scent of clay

I've always loved dolls, toys, miniatures. Three dimensional things that you can feel the weight of, touch and watch as the shadows play in the shapes of it. My first attempt at sculpturing on my own was made when I was 14 years old. I had seen wonderful faerie-sculptures and got all over excited. Bought expensive clay and wanted to do it all at once. Complex poses, fragile glittering wings, hair and hands. It ended up in a complete disaster and I gave up on the thought all together. Sculpting was obviously not for me I thought.

Years and years have passed since then. My wish to try sculpting has not gone away and recently I've been more inspired than ever to try. Yesterday I went to an art supply store and got myself a little chunk of cheap wet clay. The kind you use in school. I got some basic tools and tried to set the bar low for myself. A small project to learn how the material works and to experiment with the human anatomy in the face.

This photo is the end result. It's a face, a bit smaller than an average egg. The clay was really difficult at first but I learned as I went along. I had to throw all my ambitions of tiny details and full control out the window. When I paint a face I spend so much effort on the eyes, the lips, the nose. Everything to get every pixel where I want it to be. I couldn't do that with clay, so I just let it guide me and slowly started to form shapes out of what it gave me. I'm really happy that I managed to finish this experiment and I'm eager to start on a new face. I'll try to make it with open eyes this time, but I have to be patient and not expect wonders out of myself. This is supposed to be creativity for energy and inspiration. To make something new that fills me with good feelings.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Me and my Dogs

My brain is like one big mess of riddles to me. I'm trying to unravel it and understand how it works. It confuses me all the time and now when I'm trying to heal it after a major breakdown I'm really starting to seriously look for answers. I think too much and when I'm out on the balcony, smoking with the Bear, I talk and talk about everything I think about. That's when it all starts to fall into place. I make up metaphors and find words and images to describe the mess that is me. I've started to take notes, and draw images to explain to myself, and to explain to others. I came up with this metaphor of me and the dogs just an hour ago and it feels much easier to handle than the abstract knowledge that I'm mentally ill. 

The basic idea is that there is me. Emmy, the healthy, normal me that is creative, positive, social and happy. Sensitive but still strong in a way. A person that has strong opinions and follows her heart. The person I am and want to be. However, this healthy Emmy has three unruly dogs on leashes that she has to constantly keep an eye on, watch over, take care of and worry about. Let me introduce you to my dogs:
ADHD(ADD)-dog: This little fella is unfocused, confused and energetic. He loves to start creative projects, learn things and meet people, but he can't really handle it all so he does nothing instead. Starts, stops, gives up, gets frustrated and tries again. He's kind of cute and I can laugh at the mess he leaves in my home and in my brain. Sure he's annoying as hell sometimes, but he can be handled with a bit of kindness and a bit of motivation. He just hates pressure.

Depression-dog: An old, sad and utterly exhausted old dog that lies around and gathers dust in his thick gray corner. He never sees the light because of all that messy fur, and he's not very interested in even trying to sort it out. He crawls around in his own misery and looks at the world with apathy and contempt. Nothing is ever good, nothing leads to anything, so why even try? He might as well curl up in his gloomy dusty corner and sleep all the time, or die. What does it matter anyway?

This dog is heavy to drag around, and his dust piles up on everything around him and clouds my judgement. His misery is contagious and even though he's always tired and inactive, he's very manipulative in his hopelessness.

Anxiety-dog: A huge, imposing and scary beast of a dog that always walks around as if on his guard. Always waiting for some unknown attacker. He doesn't know where the next provocation might come from, so he's ready to bite at any moment. As soon as he is triggered he starts to howl, bark, bite and chase his own tail. He wants to attack something but only manages to bite himself. He bites hard and screams both in anger and in pain. The other dogs are scared of him but the one he scares the most is himself. Running in panicky circles until he is too exhausted to howl anymore.

This is the scariest dog to carry around. Always lurking somewhere and can be triggered by anything. Big or small. He is provoked by the depression-dog, and in turn he provokes back. They trigger each other until everything seems to collapse and they constantly fight. Anxiety dog only hurts himself, but he scares the ones who meet him with his fierce outbursts.

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These dogs represent the different parts of me that are separated from each other but together they become a very heavy burden that the healthy, normal me has to deal with somehow. Every dog needs it's own kind of treatment and management, and one method might trigger another dog in a bad way. Now when I'm going to go through therapy again I hope to get to understand all my dogs and how to make them less intrusive in my life. Depression-Dog and Anxiety-Dog are not supposed to live at my place at all. They are supposed to go away. ADHD dog will and can stay. I don't mind him.
Therapy in a way has been like watching one of those dog-shows where some really experienced person manages to control and calm an unruly dog in the matter of seconds. It looks and sounds so easy, but when you try yourself you're lost and don't really know how it's supposed to work. This time around I really want to understand how to use all these methods and once and for all calm my dogs down. It's not supposed to be this difficult to be a dog owner.

The little things


As I mentioned before, yesterday we went out for a walk and I brought my camera along. I haven't used it properly in ages and it's been really difficult to find the time and energy to just walk outside and look for those beautiful little details in the world. We went to some fields by an area where they used to gather stone. It's abandoned now and nature is just left on its own. 

It was a very sunny autumn day and we just walked slowly while I dropped now and then to take a picture of some tiny thing that caught my eye. It was really soothing. When you're walking around and the world feels like a scary, ugly and unfriendly place you stop noticing the good things. I've been walking around like that for far too long and it was amazing to re-discover what I already knew. There are beautiful things everywhere, even in places you wouldn't normally look. My favorite kind of beauty is the kind you find in the middle of decay and chaos. The pretty ordinary things that you'd probably just walk straight past if not for that camera. The scenery was incredible on it's own with huge cliffs and  low mountaintops filled with autumn colored trees, but I like to look at the little things. Lower your gaze and look in the grass, in the dirt, and you'll be surprised how many details there are.

My sick-leave from work is almost over and it's bittersweet. I've been struggling every day with keeping myself together, and these paintings and photos I've managed to create are are the products of long hours of doubt before they actually got to be. I just hope that my sensitivity level won't be as difficult once I start working again. I miss my friends at the office, and I'm excited to see what has happened during my time away. Still it's scary to jump straight back into it. I'll have to turn that fear into excitement instead.



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Burrow

Today started out horribly, but was redeemed by lots of really uplifting things. Me and the Bear went out for a photography walk in a really nice area. I'll probably post those photos tomorrow. After coming home I started working on this piece, inspired by my idea to paint a bird skull. The character grew around that concept and it was nice to just sit and let the lines flow and to really get into all those lines of the bones.

I've been really productive these last couple of days despite my poor health. It's deliberate since inactivity leads to lots of thinking which leads to thinking in circles and I end up lost in my own mind, doing nothing. You can't force creativity but I've tried to be quicker on grasping and keeping the inspiration when it pops up. Once that little hint of an idea is in place I just sit down and make sure to make something out of it before I start to doubt myself.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hollow

Sometimes my thoughts scare me. The destructive, manipulative and horrible thoughts that are so difficult to control. It's like having an abusive and very smart monster in your head that constantly tries to convince you the worst is about to happen. That everything is hopeless and you might as well just give up.

When this monster sleeps I can look at it with disgust and I just don't understand how my mind can work like it does. I don't suffer from multiple personality disorder, but I can suddenly imagine what it's like. Even though I'm fully aware that it's me speaking inside my head while thinking it feels like it's another part of me that I don't want to have. The sick part that tries to convince me I'll always be sick and that nothing matters. I managed to win over my monster today and I sat down to paint this image that I've been waiting to do for weeks.

It's such a sad and dark image, but while drawing it I felt so happy and calm. She's hollow, like a withered tree scarred by the winter. Putting the destructive and sad parts of my mind into images helps me because when I get it out it leaves my mind for a while and lets me rest. If all those thoughts are allowed to hide in there they just grow and grow.

I think I'll have to fight this battle every day for as long as I live, but I know it's not always this difficult. It will get easier with time and eventually I'll look upon this time and smile at the thought that I didn't let the monster consume me after all. Instead I could create a monster in art. Or rather a very disturbingly dark ghost of a faerie. Constructive instead of destructive.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Motivational Mårten

He's a bit special. His shell is yellow and his tummy is all round and fat. His eyes stand out and his flappers are all curled up and too short to swim with. His name is Motivational Mårten, named during my time at the hospital by another patient who saw him dangling from my wrist. Everyone had their own hospital bracelet. White plastic with our names and social security numbers scribbled on them. This odd turtle got to stick around, attached to that bracelet. He brought me some comfort, some laughs and help. He likes to drink coffee but he's not allowed because he gets all weird and shaky.

Do I sound like a mentally unstable person? Yeah, probably. The thing is though that when I ramble about my imaginary animals I feel happy. The closest to myself as I want to be. The Bear told me a while ago that he noticed I wasn't feeling ok because I didn't comment on any of the horses or cows we passed along the road in the car. As soon as I can smile and silly-talk about animals you can be sure that I'm exactly as I should be.

I've started to write seriously about my life with some long-term goal to make it into a book. Not really with an ambition to publish it or even finish it, but writing every little thought, emotion and experience helps me deal with it all. I've tried to find help in reading about other peoples lives and experiences but I still feel all confused about my own. Sometimes my life is clear and simple. I feel relaxed, hopeful and strong. The next moment everything comes back with full force and slaps me in the face with the realization I'm still sick. The trick is to learn how to manage it, keep the fear at bay and to allow myself to be me, even during the most horrible moments. If I write here that I want our society to be more understanding towards mental illness, why then do I keep falling back into calling myself lazy, pathetic, stupid and worthless? Why can't my brain stick to the plan I've made? How can it be that things I've worked so long to change still are exactly the same? I have no idea. I'm just trying to stick to that shred of hope that this time around things will be different. That this time will be the last time I sink this far and that I'll be capable of taking care of myself in the future without having to fight for it every hour every day.

Patience is way easier to write about than it is to hold on to. Patience with myself, with waiting for the medication to take effect. Waiting for the next therapy session, waiting for all the rambling talk to actually lead to something. Waiting to get to see that doctor I was promised several months ago. Waiting for myself to get better. It can't be forced or rushed, but life goes on no matter how patient I try to be. I'm looking forward to the day I'll be able to get through a fully normal day without collapsing over nothing. Until then I'll have to stop blaming myself for not getting better faster. After years and years of this destructive pattern I can't expect to be cured in just a week. I just wish someone could tell me how long it actually takes and what I should do until then.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

All the adventures!

To take a break from all the seriousness that I've been going through and talking about lately, I felt like making a post about what has kept me happy, safe and inspired even through the evenings when everything felt hopeless.

Adventure Time! This awesome little cartoon has made me laugh, cry and just shake my head in utter confusion. It's so random and odd and cute at the same time. I love every bit of it. Today I got this sweet BMO t-shirt in the mail as a gift from the Bear. As a "get-well" present and just a sign of affection. We've spent so much time on our couch, underneath blankets and with cups of tea, watching Adventure Time. If you haven't seen it, you've surely missed out on something great. Next thing on my wish list is a Finn hat! I think I could make one myself... Probably a project that will never get done, but who knows?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Anti-depression

I'm back at home now and it feels really great. My stay at the hospital has been difficult, helpful, scary and exhausting all at the same time. I've learned so much and I want to do a series of posts about different things concerning this. First off I want to write about my view on anti-depressants.

There is so much information about this, and even more opinions. After meeting a lot of professionals as well as patients I've learned a lot. Going through several depressions myself I've learned even more. Ever since I first realized my sadness was actually depression I've heard people either tell me to take pills against it or to avoid the pills like the plague. Overall from what I can tell, most people I've met are against anti-depressants. I've been there, but I've changed my mind.

I went for a long period of time on anti-depressants and didn't really feel any different. Time went by and I didn't even notice it once I was better. When I felt healthy and good I thought that the pills were unnecessary and I didn't want to take them, so I stopped. For a very long time I didn't feel any different and then I slowly started to sink into a depression again without even noticing before it was too late.

It's a sneaky disease , because that is what it is. It's invisible but it's real. It creeps up on you and you try to shrug it off as "I'm just having a bad day" or "I'm just tired". When you've had a bad day for a few months and you start to realize that "tired" is your normal state of being, that's when you realize you're sick. Usually it's too late by then, and the negativity just keeps spiraling out of control. You can't cure yourself, you need help. I needed help, and luckily I got it.

I'm back on anti-depressants and I'm hopeful this time. The most important thing though is the knowledge of how they work and the determination to never stop taking them again, not even when I feel good. I'll explain why.

The sort of anti-depressants I take control the serotonin levels in the brain. The substance that make you feel satisfied and safe. It doesn't add this substance, rather it shuts specific neurotransmitters down a bit so that this substance can build up on its own, because it's created by the body itself. That's why most anti-depressants make you feel hell of a lot worse the first week/month you take them. They actually make you more depressed at first. This is natural however, and means that they work exactly as intended. After a while, the body learns to create more serotonin on its own and you gradually, slowly start to feel better. This takes a very long time and it's a long process. Once you feel better again you have to keep taking the pills in order to stay that way. After you stop taking them it takes a long time for the effect to disappear, which is why it's so hard to tell wether the pills had any effect at all.

After learning this I started to realize that the pills I took the first time had actually worked. It was just so subtle I didn't even realize. Some of the anti-pill people might still think this is bad, because it makes people addicted to pills. Well, aren't diabetics addicted to their medication to regulate their amount of insulin? If you have a heart problem you might have to take pills all your life to regulate that. Why is it different because the disease is in your brain and affects your feelings instead of your physical body? Depression is deadly and I don't have a problem with the fact that I might have to take a pill every morning in order to stay away from that deep, hopeless hell. It's a very small sacrifice. Along with support, therapy and life changes I'd say the right medication makes all the difference in the world.

Pills are not the only thing though, it's not a miracle cure, but it gives you the base you might need in order to build the rest of your life on. If your life is shit, a pill won't help against that, but if your brain makes you think your life is shit when it's not, that's where the pill comes in to make you see the light, the colours and the happiness again. It just takes time.