Art Therapy at Studio S Fine Arts

I took a big step for myself this weekend. I could wax prose on the subject, but I’m just going to get to the point: I posted my original art up for sale in my etsy store Wandless Wanderers where I also sell greeting cards and bath bombs. I honestly don’t expect anyone to buy it, but I’ve been pushed and encouraged by so many people that I figured I may as well post them just to get them to stop nagging me!

So I did. Yesterday I was filled with near paralyzing anxiety, going back and forth between posting and not posting for a really long time. I took a long sojourn to the beach nearby to sit, read, and think it through. All my thoughts went to the same conclusion: If I want to be an artist, I need to attempt to sell my art.

So I posted my art up in my shop, and it sold within minutes! I’m just kidding, it hasn’t sold. But wouldn’t that be a great way to end the story? Or begin it? Who freakin knows, I’m getting existentially off topic. The point is, I got over my fears and anxiety and did it!

One victory down, I figured I needed to keep the momentum running. I’d been contemplating attending a free art class a friend of mine was running. I couldn’t find anyone to go with me, so I was erring on the side of “calling out sick”, but overall I knew not going would have been a dumb choice. I was correct in that assumption.

Just getting from my apartment to the class was a major anxiety struggle. Everyone is outside enjoying the sun, so the roads were crowded and I ended up straddling cross-walks with my car more than once (and nothing induces driving anxiety in me like having pedestrians walking around my car, glaring at me for not judging the distance better). So by the time I arrived and parked my car, I was pretty amped up and not feeling too sociable. But I’d already posted on twitter that I was facing my social anxiety, and I couldn’t back down!

Thankfully, it was a small class, and the atmosphere of the studio calmed me almost immediately as I began looking at the example pictures and started thinking of color combinations in my head.


To begin, I used an exacto-knife to cut out pages from a dictionary. I chose pages specifically with the words “Joy” “Wander” and “Mental” in them. It took me a long time to come up with this arrangement (I wanted to make sure I was covering words such as “menstruation” and “Menses”).


Next I used a stencil and traced flames over the pages, ideally to represent the creative fire I have burning in me (or just fire, it’s art, it can be whatever you want). Then I painted a layer of liquid masking within the flames so that water color wouldn’t seep through. 


As you can see, I did not use enough of the liquid masking, so the color bleeds into the flames a bit. But I’m honestly happy with how this turned out. The colors are vibrant and they make the disjointed flames dance a bit more. I also love that you can still read the dictionary definitions underneath so you get a sense of the kind of person I am from the words I chose.

So, to sum up: I shook off my anxiety and posted my artwork on Etsy, plus I faced my social anxiety and attended a class alone. So… pretty good weekend, in my honest opinion.
For more up-to-date notifications about my art, anxiety, depression, thoughts on a Jurassic Park/Downton Abbey crossover, or even bad jokes, follow me on twitter @JoyPearson

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Arguing with my brain

I frequently disagree with my brain, it leads to a lot of anxiety and moments of frustration. Here’s a common conversation we have on the daily:

Me: Today isn’t going well. I wish I had someone to talk to about it.

Brain: Why? No one cares.

Me: Sure they do! 

Brain: They’re only being polite.

Me: Well it’s nice when they ask how I’m doing and listen. Oh look! A friend is online! I’m going to ask how they’re doing and see if they can talk.

Brain: Good luck with that.

*30 minutes later*

Brain: How did it go?

Me: Fine… They’re doing really well.

Brain: Did they ask how you were?

Me: …no.

Brain: See?

Me: See what? They’re probably busy! 

Brain: Or they don’t care.

Me: Sometimes things spring up that need full attention. They’re probably focused on something important.

Brain: Yes they are, they’re focusing on not caring about you.

Me: I highly doubt that.

Brain: Then why didn’t they ask after you?

Me: I just said, they’re probably busy!

Brain: Busy ignoring you.

Me: Okay, you know what? I am a good person! I care about others and I like hearing about their days! Even if they don’t have time to ask about me, much less remember, at least they know that I care about them and I genuinely mean it when I ask “How are you?” So why don’t you shut up, and let me enjoy my friendships!

Brain: …

Me: …

Brain: … They still don’t care.

Me: SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!!!!

Anyone else have this argument with their brain? Logically, I know that my friends care and love me. But my brain likes to lie to me and make me feel unimportant. Having a mental illness makes it hard to trust in other people, but it makes it impossible to have trust in myself. 

I spoke to my close friend, Sarah Fader (CEO of Stigma Fighters, follow her on twitter @thesarahfader) and she gave me some damn good advice, “Sometimes, you need to just ask for what you want and not give a fuck about the consequences.” Hell fucking yes. It’s not easy to do, but I’m making a conscious effort to voice my feelings and to ask for what I need from others. 
Follow me on twitter @JoyPearson for more up-to-date arguments I have with my brain.

Fidget Cube Demonstration

I recently received a fidget cube and it’s been a real life saver. I shared it on my twitter and got a lot of questions, so I made a video to demonstrate the cube and answer frequently asked question:


Here is the link to the cube demonstrated in the video:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N5SNX80/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_tai_1wHRybXJR3XAD
For more anxious antics follow me on twitter @JoyPearson

This Is Us Showing You a Breakdown 

Breakdowns are rough. The lead up is like inching up towards the highest peak of a rollercoaster, only you’re blindfolded and you don’t know when the drop will occur. 

The hit family show This Is Us portrays the breakdown in the most relatable manner I have yet seen in television. The signs are so subtle, Randall’s hand starts twitching, he misplaces words and thoughts, eyes wondering all over the place to avoid looking at the problem right in the face. 

There’s a moment at the end when Randall’s brother, Kevin, comes to his office late at night to find Randall in the middle of a breakdown. Randall is sitting in the corner of his office, silent tears streaming down his face; as Kevin sits besides him and holds Randall, he collapses. 

I sat with tears as I watched this, thinking of a day that occurred 3 years ago in my senior year of college. The signs where there for days; I’d been impatient with my roommates whenever there were too many voices or topics of conversation going on at once, I’d been showering 3-4 times daily (it seemed to be the only place where I could listen to my mind without wanting to slam my head into a brick wall), and my nails were constantly picking at myself (scabs, nail polish, etc). 

I felt like I’d been swimming in water with molasses slowly being added, making it harder and harder for me to move an inch forward without feeling exhausted. I had so many obligations to others, school, and my job that finding time for me was well near impossible. The time I did make for myself, I used to find and have my very last one night stand ever. 

I walked into my senior thesis class dressed to unimpress. I clearly remember wearing sweatpants and a plaid flannel shirt, my curly hair was down and curled around my head like a cloud. I was thankful for my hair later, for it covered my face enough during my breakdown that few could see my face. 

I won’t describe what happened, it’s still hard for me to talk about without feeling I’m reliving it. So I’ll give you a metaphor. I was an over-inflated balloon, full of anxiety and pressures that I was trying my hardest to keep condensed and contained. My classmates? They were the darts. They began slinging themselves at my balloon, holes started to spring in the surface and leak out my emotions. I try to patch them up and hold them over, but the darts don’t stop flying. 

I don’t know how long the critiques took that day, it felt like hours of criticisms and complaints, all aimed towards myself and my friend (who was also a balloon at this time too). Who knows how long it took, but finally I popped.

I reached out and snatched my bag from the floor beside my chair and stood up so suddenly I almost knocked the chair over. I mumbled something like, “Excuse me” and burst out the door of the classroom.

I remember breathing. My breathing was so loud I was sure everyone I passed thought a wind was upon them. All I thought was “Keep moving and they won’t catch you. Lock yourself in and they won’t get you.”

I remember slamming into my dorm suite, three of my roommates looking up from the common room table to see me move past in a beeline for my bedroom, where I slammed the door and locked it. 

I kept the light off because light showed to much, I didn’t want to see what I had turned into. It was the first time I’d walked out of a classroom, I was positive the professor was already calling my parents to tell them what a terrible student I was. 

So I called the only person I knew exactly what I was feeling in that moment: My brother.

My brother, Will, had been struggling with anxiety for years. I’d seen him go through his own breakdowns, so I knew he could help me through mine.

“Hey Joy, what’s up?”

I don’t remember what I said, but it sounded a lot like a screaming harbor seal. I was sobbing and wailing, even I couldn’t make sense of it. My roommates were outside my door knocking, asking me if everything was okay. I wasn’t okay. My balloon finally burst, and like a popped blister everything hurt with every breath.

Will calmed me down, telling me to breathe. Just breathe in, hold, then slowly exhale. When that worked, I told him everything more coherently. Later my parents called and comforted me as well. 

I sit here now watching Kevin hold Randall, and warm tears fill my eyes as I remember Will’s voice telling me gently to breathe. The thing about breakdowns is, you don’t know when they will happen; and when they do happen, having someone there to remind you to breathe makes all the difference in the world.  My kudos and deep compliments to Sterling K. Brown for his superb acting and portrayal of anxiety and nervous breaks.
Find me on twitter @JoyPearson for more anxiety antics

Graduation

My therapist and I sat in silence. The silences don’t normally last long, I always find something to fill it with; an observation about a film I’d just saw, a complaint about the tone of voice a coworker used, something or other got under my skin, whatever. 

This silence lasted longer. I couldn’t think of what else to say. I talked about all I had that was on my mind, most of it I was able to solve myself within the same amount of time it took for me to describe the ailment. So I fidgeted in anxious silence, and she leaned forward, “So, shall we talk about our work here?”

I felt the air in my lungs grow still; I knew that one day this was going to happen, but it always felt too soon. The thing about therapy is that it becomes a security blanket. Whenever something awful happened or a panic attack sent me into isolation, I knew that come Wednesday I would be seeing my therapist to dig and work through the problem like a cleaning out a fresh scrape on the knee: it stings and it’s painful, but it’s bandaged up in the end to begin healing. 

Now, my wounds have long scabbed over and healed; some of them left scars behind, but they’re nothing that I can’t sooth with some Louis Armstrong and a long hot bath. The nicks and cuts I get here and there I find myself treating with my box of tools I’ve been searching and gathering for in therapy. 

The smile in her eyes told me she knew I was ready, but still fear and anxiety clawed up from my chest and into my throat. She tells me clients normally slow down to an appointment once every two weeks before termination. I nod in agreement, though my chest and throat are chocking on anxious smoke. ‘Termination’ makes it sound like I’m being prepared for euthanasia.

I leave her office 20 minutes early in a stupor. I can hear my anxiety smoking nearby and calling out, “She doesn’t want to see you anymore. She’s terminating you!” but her smoke is far out of my air space so it doesn’t effect me. 

I recognize this is a good thing. I came into her broken, now I’m healed and taking care of myself once again. But like a security blanket, I don’t want to let her go in case I start to fall. 

I’m at the start of a new journey; I have two weeks from now to go out on my own and handle my baggage alone. When the baggage first arrived, I wasn’t given an instructional guide or a map. I was being told to move, but I had no idea where or how to move. So I went to therapy and gradually got a tool box and filled it up. Now, I have a rough idea of where I’m going and how I’m going to get there, and I’ve got the tools with me to fix any problem that comes my way. 

For all I know, next week something will happen and I’ll revert back to my weekly sessions. But for now, I’m going to be painfully optimistic and set out to take on my mental/emotional health battles with my toolbox at hand. 

Gorilla’s in the Chest

Whenever I make a mistake that causes someone hurts, it takes a while for me to get over that guilt. Today I was struggling hard in the car to settle my brain and the pulsing bad feelings in my chest. So I recorded some poems to work through the ugly feelings going on in my chest.

A gorilla named Guilt

Lives caged in my chest

Slumbers on in contentment

In a deeply delicate nest

Anxiety hits unexpected

Bolts of lightening hit hard

Guilt awakens and roars

It’s all completely off guard

Fist slam thunderously loud

Pain spreads out in aches

Play music, sooth Guilt’s pain

Now let’s see how long it takes

There’s a Monster Outside My Bathroom Door

“It wasn’t an attack.” I thought while sitting calmly on my toilet seat, tying the belt of my robe as I took a moment to stare straight ahead and collect myself.

Anxiety is a tricky bastard who plagues everyone, mine is a full on bitch. But this time she was stealthy; I’d just got done tearing up after watching Chelsea Handler’s episode on Breast Cancer Awareness, making me note in my journal to call and make an appointment with my doctor for a check-up.

I had been smoking pot for the majority of the afternoon and was feeling like taking a hot shower and taking a nap. Waiting for the shower to heat up, I checked my breasts (if you don’t know how, look it up and start kneading your tits) and felt a small lump. I froze and didn’t move, my head moving fast through my schedule for the week hoping to get in a doctor’s appointment sooner rather than later. There isn’t a history of breast cancer in my family, but I’m not someone who’s up to taking chances with her body.

Now lets do a little math: crying during a breast cancer special + finding a small lump under one breast + pot = potential anxiety meltdown. I didn’t necessarily feel anxiety while I stood in the shower contemplating my next steps, but my brain likes to mess with me and started working out all the worst case scenarios I might find myself in the future.

Now lets add one more to the equation; my building has a lot of creaks and small noises, and my bathroom for some reason amplifies them all. I wonder if it’s a secret clause in builders contracts that every single bathroom on the planet must attract all sound and echo them creepily. So with my already vulnerable self feeling anxious, stoned, and naked in my bathroom toweling off from my shower, the noises of building suddenly had me gripped in a sense of panic as I thought the sounds were coming from inside my apartment. And what does my fucking brain do? Imagine Zuul waiting behind the door to possess my body (yes, I have watched Ghostbusters recently, thank you for asking).

Suddenly feeling utterly ridiculous that my anxiety was making it impossible for me to even leave my bathroom, I put my robe on and had a seat on my toilet lid. My water bottle was in the bathroom and still full from yesterday so I took sips from it as I reasoned with myself against thoughts of thieves waiting to pounce (yes, I have also been watching Westworld lately, thanks again for asking).

At one point I smiled, amused by the hilarity that my mind had just put me through. That bitch stood quietly outside my bathroom while I showered and slowly I inhaled her anxiety-inducing smoke from inside (for those of you who are new to the game, I personify my anxiety as a chain smoking witch/bitch). Despite it all, I felt proud of myself.

Two months ago I began a daily tracking of my anxiety using a bullet journal (Yes, I do completely buy into that fad, because it’s the best damn thing thats happened to me in years, thank you for asking). Using a 0-3 scale, I assign a number at the end of each day to a chart that corresponds with the journal entry of the date. That way I’ve been able to track and progress the triggers for my anxiety and process how to avoid them in the future. 0 means I had a great day, no anxiety or worries at all. 1 means I felt some stress and anxious for moments, but nothing I couldn’t overcome. 2 means I felt anxiety and physical discomfort, usually I take xanax to help me out. 3 means I had an attack. Attacks appear in many forms for many different people. For me it usually entails crying, pacing, fidgeting, and the occasional hyperventilation.

But this was not an attack. It didn’t get there; sure I felt worried that something was behind the door, but in a weird cliche way the door I was really afraid to open was inside myself (I know…. I’m gagging too…. but it’s the best way I can describe it). What had the potential of assigning a 2 or 3 to my day, was only a stressful 1 (knock on wood, the day is not over yet). I felt proud of myself in that moment.

Relaxed, I unlocked and opened the bathroom door, meandering out to my living room to sit and write this experience out for others to read and know that they are not alone. I know I’m not the only one who gets really scared, anxious, and imagines the most bizarre yet terrifying delusions that could be straight from a Guillermo Del Toro film. I know I am not the only one who’s locked themselves in a bathroom because they’re scared that something might be wrong. I know I have a mental illness that blows small concerns way further out of proportion, just like so many others on this planet.

I know I am not alone. I also know that there isn’t a monster hiding outside my bathroom.

 

Follow me on Twitter @JoyPearson for more of my delusional anxiety ramblings and incoherent thoughts about a Jurassic World/Downton Abbey cross over called “Jurassic Abbey”.