I managed to get out of the house (with Lena) today and picked up some fresh plants for our front porch. I love how lush these Boston ferns are. I took some photographs once I got home with them to help push myself back into artist-mode.
I don't feel much like an artist lately because I haven't been making much art. The obvious solution is just to do some creative work - but the trouble is my anxiety. I'm struggling so much with anxiety lately that it's getting in the way of my ability to function in day to day life. I realized last night that except for a photoshoot I had last week, I haven't left the house without Lena (my little dog) or Edward in far too long. Even driving alone is anxiety provoking. I have only been going to places Lena is allowed to go with me. I just don't feel safe alone out in the world. I don't know why this is. I feel too exposed - I need, for some reason, to have someone with me. I need to wear a cozy cardigan or wrap despite the Alabama in August heat because I find being wrapped up comforting when I am out in the world - less exposed, safer somehow. I feel overwhelmed by how much work I need to do on myself, how stuck I feel right now, how many emotions and experiences and traumas I still need to process, work through, learn from. I feel overwhelmed & under stimulated at the same time. I've started a new blogging project that's aimed at exploring these mental health things but I am keeping it private for now, separate from my name. I may change this eventually.
"There is a time for growing, there is a time for hibernating, there is a time for basking in the sun. Right now, this is a time for making good soil. Allow the things that need to break down to break down. Shake off the dead leaves. Weather the hard knocks that are shaping you. Breathe into the new spaces even though the air is sharp and stings sometimes. It won't always be like this but right now, it needs to be. I have faith that I am where I need to be. Always on the path, always pulled in the right direction." - Aislin Fall
I'm a magpie lately, collecting things I hope will help me cope with my anxiety - books, words, inspiration, knit stitches across my bamboo needles, guppies, fresh flowers in the vase once a week, chores, errands... I saw this quote on Instagram the other day & it resonated with me though, so I am sharing it here.
After experiencing having my first designated "studio" room as an artist, I don't think I can ever go back. Having a designated & private place to work & create makes my artistic practices feel more legitimate - it makes me feel more like an artist. Before I had a studio, when I'd just work in bed or on the couch or on the floor, I was always distracted by other things that needed to be done. While I was trying to write a post or edit images or collage or whatever my artistic practice entailed that day, I'd be constantly reminded of the other responsibilities I had. I could see the dirty dishes in the kitchen, the laundry on the floor, the floors that needed to be swept, the bedding that needed to be washed.
We did the recommitment-style ritual in the little "universe" I created for us on Saturday. We repeated our vows from our wedding, we read each other things we'd written for each other about our love, each other, the struggles & surprises our marriage has survived so far - it was all very sweet & full of love & made me so giddy. I wish it had lasted longer.
At the very end Edward put an opal ring on my finger. I still love my original engagement ring but it's rather delicate & I wanted something sturdier I could wear around without worrying about losing something emotionally irreplaceable if a stone fell out. Here's what Edward had to say about my idea to use opal as the stone for this new ring:
First came the depression when I was a child. Then came the bipolar diagnosis when I was in my early twenties. Then came the borderline diagnosis a few years after that. Now, lately anyway, my main problem is anxiety. Anxiety is newer to me than depression or mania are. I don't think I had much of it back before Edward & I got together because my life was such a wreck that I had very little to lose. Not much to lose kind of means you have no reason to be anxious but there are lots of reasons to be depressed. That's how it has worked for me anyway. I still haven't worked out how to cope with the anxiety in the optimal way.
It was a scary alone feeling, I don't know how to describe it to you well or how to explain what made it a scary kind of loneliness instead of just garden-variety loneliness. I guess it wasn't just loneliness - it was isolation & depression & panic & fear of the unknowns (will I always be this lonely in this marriage?). I wanted to just stay in bed with the dogs today, give up for a day, but I didn't & I'm not.
The scary loneliness led to a panic attack. Afterwards I was exhausted from it but I got out of bed, grabbed some coffee & went outside to drink it in the sunshine for a little bit. Then I took a shower. The shower really helped.
I have my now weekly therapy appointment in an hour & a half and I don't really know what to tell her. I'm working on myself so much - but am I getting anywhere? I've started a journal of sorts, I've been moving my body, I've been doing the therapy, I've been keeping up with the housework, I have been creating, I've been listening to audiobooks meant to help me heal...
But am I rushing this process like I rush so many other things? I always want immediate results. I don't remember if I've ever had much patience. I don't understand how a person can feel so overwhelmed & so completely under stimulated at the same time. What am I even hoping for though? How/who do I want to be?
Last night, fall apart.
Two nights ago, fall apart.
Yesterday was a victory-frustration-victory-frustration day of creating a universe. I started out by hanging the lights, creating the stars, behind the center of the universe. It took me much trial and error to get that part to look how I wanted. It actually didn't end up being how I envisioned - creative endeavors almost never do - but it turned out better than my original idea would have turned out. It's the part of the universe I am most proud of so far: the constellations.
I had to make a space for the creation of this universe - so the storage/litter box room was cleared out, cleaned & cleansed with incense. I was happy because I thought this part of the process would take longer than it actually did.
Then the basic structure for the universe, the central piece, had to be built.
I had the idea that, since we’d been going through a rough patch, Edward & I should do some kind of re-commitment or vow renewal ceremony. Edward was open & responsive to the idea - though he’s virtually always exhausted from being overworked at the hospital these days, so most of the planning & ideas were going to be coming from me. The first day I spent time thinking about what we should do, how we should celebrate our love in a ritual once more & celebrate it’s endurance through the rough times, I felt overwhelmed by my own lack of creative ideas. I knew it was a stupid thing to beat myself up over, but I used it as another weapon against myself. I thought, “If I were more like this person I admire, I’d be coming up with something wonderful...” I thought, “If I were a real artist, a truly creative person, I would have more ideas about this.”
I have an anxious attachment style.
This pattern within me had its blueprints set during my childhood/young adult years and I still carry it with me today - even after years with (about 1 year and 8 months of which have been marriage) a man who has a secure attachment style and who is as crazy about me as I am about him.
My body holds a lot of trauma from it's past. This has shaped my brain and the ways I think, react & feel. But I can change it, heal & move forward.
Not all medicine comes in a pill bottle from the pharmacy. Dancing is medicine, making art is medicine, reading or writing can be medicine, a shower can be medicine, housework can be medicine, rituals can be medicine, rest can be medicine, breathing consciously can be medicine...
've become interested in how developmental trauma effects the brain, changes the way it forms. If I'm being more transparent: I've become interested in how my own sometimes traumatic & highly strange childhood has effected my brain, how past traumas are related to my current mental health issues & how I can fix it (to the extent possible). When I read too much about it, I get overwhelmed. I feel irreparably damaged. It feels like such a big project.
On Friday morning I learn I've gotten a grant I applied for - a photography grant having to do with reproductive rights! It is my first real grant as an artist & I am so excited I almost cry. I am floating around for a while after that news. But then the anxiety returns & I spend most of the afternoon giving my aquariums a very thorough cleaning and fixing the issues with the water so hopefully my fish will stop dying. It makes me really sad when one of them dies - I feel incredible guilt.
Now that I'm done being a good blogger, summarizing a week in my exceptionally dull life up with pretty words & photographs for you, here are four truths about my life right now:
I feel invisible.
My throat hurts from screaming.
Sex feels like abuse.
I want to disappear but I've cleaned the house instead.
I have been on my new insulin pump for 9 days now. I like it so far, it doesn't annoy me too much. I was on one, a much older model because it was quite a time ago, from middle school through the beginning of college. I stopped wearing it because I had so much frustration with the infusion sets kinking up/not working or getting the tubing caught on things. I also think, being a freshman in college in a new part of the country, I felt like I had an opportunity to be someone new, in a way, and I didn't want to be the one everyone knew as "the girl with the beeper-looking thing on her hip."
Over the weekend, it takes me a while to get back to my "normal" self - Friday evening & the beginning of Saturday. Mid-Saturday through mid-Sunday I am myself again. Edward is around and I am grateful to feel like we are reconnecting. But then, as Monday and another week of "alone time" approaches, I start to unravel a bit again.
I'd tell you how marriage is pure magic sometimes and really difficult other times but is usually somewhere in the middle. I'd tell you I have no urge to flee from my own life anymore though, like I used to experience often. I just want to make my life even better than it already is. I want to make myself better too. I just want to love & be loved & make my home as cozy and beautifully nested as it can be & make art & write & grow things & read a lot & dance & sing & live as wonderful/interesting (in the good ways, pray to whoever & knock on wood) a life as I can while I am here.
I would probably show you this photograph on my phone & say, "Here, look, this is the skeleton of the thing." I was disappointed in myself a week or so after moving in when I had made zero progress on my artist studio room or a backyard garden. How afraid I was that nothing was going to change - that I hadn't changed, that I wasn't adapting, that my days would look exactly the same as the previous two years' had but in a different home. I'd tell you how creating scares me, the same way thinking that someday I'll be only a memory or nothing of my work will remain scares me, the same way not creating scares me. But now, today, I have both a backyard veggie/herb garden & some of the Kale seeds I planted on Saturday are already starting to come up & I am here, working in my artist studio at this very moment. It's all set up except for having some more things I need to hang on the walls.
I went to the doctors on day 16/365 - the nurse was not amazing at drawing blood but it's okay because I like photographing bruises. Hopefully I'll hear what my lab results say today, still waiting. I want to know what's going on with my body.