Friday, 25 May 2012

Dull But Oh So Thrilling

After a huge drama here yesterday caused by teenage daughter, I was in a right old pickle. I honestly didn't think I could be any more anxious than at the crisis point of this 'ere illness, but she proved me wrong. What a pallava. I swear I almost blew my own socks off with stress, but it's all over now thank goodness.

This may have been a turning point for me; you know, one of those little steps that isn't much in the grand scheme of things, but gives you a perspective.

I got up today feeling alright. I'm noticing that early mornings, despite the tiredness, are just about the best place my head is in all day. I've worked other things out too, like I need to eat first thing, which has never been a habit of mine. A small bowl of cereal forced down (I hate the stuff) is light and stops the physical shakes setting in quite as badly.

My decision today was to do as much as I could. I've been nursing myself and taking things easy for weeks now, despising my inability to cope with even the most minor of tasks. At the risk of being told off when hub gets home, I can announce with pride that I have:

1. Done four loads of washing and hung them outside to dry in the blazing sunshine.
2. Washed the dishes.
3. Filled a bin bag with clothes I don't need and thrown them out.
4. Tidied up.
5. Hoovered and dusted.
6. Mopped the floors.
7. Eaten a sandwich for lunch.

I do feel a bit knackered now, but the sense of accomplishment is worth it.

Tonight is a hen party for a friend of mine. I wasn't going to go, but I now think I can manage it, even if just for an hour. If it freaks me out then I have the whole weekend with my beloved to recover. Worth the risk I say.

Next on the list it to dye my (hideous looking) hair, have a bath and get ready. I'm doing this mega early so I can spend a bit of time chilling out.

I am determined to have a normal day, just to see what it's like. At this rate I'll be painting and doing all the stuff I've been planning, and a lot sooner than I'd expected.

My appointment for assessment came through yesterday, so I'll be off in a few weeks to see what treatment I'll be getting. The medication is definitely helping my anxiety now, apart from when ghastly things happen. I say this rather tentatively, but I almost feel like I'm getting back to my old self. It could all change in the blink of an eye of course, but right here, right now it's not so bad.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

On We Go

Firstly, I want to say thank you for all the messages of support during my loopy times just now. I was considering deleting that last post, but I decided not to (for now at least), because just maybe someone else is travelling the same road and it can be good to know you're not alone.

I've reached the sleepy stage now. This means the medication is starting to grab me. They do say it takes at least a fortnight to start making a difference, and that's exactly where I'm at with it. Sleeping in the daytime vexes me because I simply don't do that, but I'm trying to get over myself (ha!) and allow it to happen.

Yesterday I put in a full six hours of kip in the daytime, after a whole night's sleep, then had no trouble whatsoever snoozing all night. For someone who frequently suffers with insomnia this is a tremendous shock. I can't say it's unpleasant though, being able to relax so much that I nod off. Quite a welcome change in a lot of ways really.

Before all this happened I was out taking photographs. It's not always practical to draw from the source (my preferred way), so I wanted to gather some images to inspire work over the next few months. As it happens, I'm really glad I did this.

I have peacocks.

And dandelions.

This is a tiny selection of course. I have gazillions, all just waiting for me to work some magic, hopefully quite soon.

Hub has also asked me to do a few projects for him and his gaming (long explanation avoided here, you should thank me for that). We agree that I need a list of small jobs to work my way through, no pressure on timing, but a way of focussing my mind when needed.

I'm pretty good at keeping up my own work, to the point of obsession most of the time. I really ought to do stuff for my beloved as well though, while he's spending so much time and effort doing all the things around here.

Yesterday, as well as doing my doormouse impersonation, I did manage something else. After dinner we decided to go for a little drive.

I'm not seeing the outdoors too much at the moment, not that I care, but an exercise in blowing the cobwebs away seemed like a good idea.

We went to the river and sat outside a pub for half an hour. Imagine our amazement when a troupe of the most peculiar looking morris dancers appeared and started doing their thing! I couldn't help but chuckle, and despite myself I actually rather enjoyed it. They were a bit rubbish and kept tripping over each other, which only added to the hilarity. As far as impomptu loveliness goes, we had a splendid evening. It felt normal and sweet and almost romantic to be sharing those giggles, giving us a surprise break from the seriousness that's enveloped us of late. I could see the relief and relaxation on my hub's face, a wonderful feeling after all he's going through.

Twice now this week I've watched my beloved with the old look in his eyes and heard him say he's seen a glimpse of his wifey again. This spurs me on to keep fighting. Last time I was ill like this I didn't have anybody and it was so much darker for me. He doesn't read this blog, but one day he might have a nosey and I will want him to know just how great a part he's playing here. I do try to tell him, but he just says it's what he does and what he'll always do for me. Have I mentioned what a hero he is? I think so, but it's so very true.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Painful Honesty

I've argued with myself for over a week about writing this. It's always been a very lighthearted and "arty" type blog with a touch of real life in it, but how far do you go with the latter?

I've been involved in forum discussions with other artists and designers enough to know that my problem touches many people, so I feel it's appropriate to talk about it here.

As regular readers know, I had to stop my full time artwork lifestyle last year and go back to work. I managed to keep up my painting on my days off and enjoyed the delving back into it once or twice a week. I'd been somewhat reclusive as a painter, which was a lifestyle I loved very much. I also enjoyed some aspects of being out at work, meeting and befriending a lot of really wonderful people and forming many great relationships on the outside, so to speak.

Almost a year on, I found myself another job, this time in a more creative role. I'm not sure if this was a catalyst, but the move coincided with a pretty horrendous lapse into symptoms I last suffered over ten years ago (though I have had the occasional minor blip here and there).

I've described it to my doctor as a sense of feeling so tightly wound for the past year and suddenly snapping under the strain. A lot of you probably know the scenario - you have a family, financial and work committments, a need to soldier on and make life right in as many ways as you physically can. Your needs come way down in the list of priorities, so you get on with it. This is me in a nutshell.

My husband is a truly remarkable man. Of course, he's known all along that I've been gritting my teeth and bearing up, etc. It's been partly for him that I've tried to carry on as normal, because he really doesn't deserve the upset that comes with me throwing a total wobbly.

Forcing oneself to be a certain way takes its toll. When you're being stoic and focussing on what is required of you, well it wears off the edges of your personality in a way. My husband has told me so many times that he wants his "wifey" back and I've called him a silly head, assuring him that I'm fine and he's imagining things. He wasn't though, he was facing up to what's been happening and I wasn't/couldn't.

So I guess it's obvious where I'm going with this.

Something silly happened; as simple as me laughing with abandon one evening the other week (for the first time in ages) and the next thing I knew I was having a full on crash into a thing I can't even describe. I imagine that allowing myself that emotional high of laughter facilitated the opposite immediately afterwards. That was me done.

There's so much I could write here to illustrate what happened next, but I won't. You've probably heard it all before. Most importantly, I have sought medical help, which I should have done a goodly time ago. I've known I needed this, but I have an immense fear of medication. Not for the reasons most fear it, but rather because I suffer quite serious side effects for the first month or so, and they scare the bejesus out of me. 

Imagine being aware that in order to help yourself, you're going to have to endure the most dreadful attacks of anxiety, physical shakes and tremors, memory loss, dizziness and general stupid, mind-numbing oafishness. Your life will be on hold for that time. How will you go to work, cook a meal, answer the door or go to the shops? Life doesn't fit round this crap at all.

I'm writing this early in the morning before the major effects of today's pills are with me. I'll feel I've achieved something if I can just get my thoughts out there. Each day I've tried to do something worthwhile. Sometimes it's been making a cup of tea, other days I've managed to write an email. Over the space of a few days last week I worked very slowly on a painting that I'd started ages ago and already done the fiddly bits of. Yesterday I went with my husband and did the food shop, which was my biggest achievement so far. It pretty much knocked me out for the rest of the day, but I did it.

This isn't meant to sound melodramatic, though I fear it may. I'm not yet in a place to look back on it and assess my behaviour; I'm very much fighting the battle and doing what I can each day. I don't look ill, just a bit dishevelled and not quite myself, and I find it impossible to tell people what's going on. Writing it down is a lot easier, even than having to explain to my doctor what's going on in my stupid head.

Here's the bit where I tell you the good and the amazing.

My husband. He is a star. Even in my confuddled state I am aware of the things he's doing on the quiet; probably not everything he's up to, but some of it.

He has worked on a spreadsheet (that's his thing) and done a twelve month budget. 

He's taken full control of all the finances, including the food and other bills, which have always been my responsibility. 

I’ve been told in no uncertain terms that there’s no pressure for me to go back to work until at least March 2013, unless I should feel I want to.  

Any money I bring in from my painting is a bonus, so he wants me to continue with that as much as possible, for therapy if nothing else. 

He’s doing all the house stuff, refusing to let me cook a meal or wash up. 

He’s spent countless hours writing letters, including the whole headache of form filling in order to claim back PPI monies for the past ten years. 

I know there’s more, but he’s doing it all out of my sight and without comment.

In short, this wonderful man is working his socks off in order to give me the time, space and emotional peace to get myself better. I didn’t ask him to do this, nor did I for one moment expect it. Bear in mind that he works a forty hour week on top of all this and you’ll have some idea of what kind of gift he is giving me here. He jokes that he’s always wanted to be a superhero, but he already is, isn’t he?

Maybe in writing this I will strike a chord with others who are suffering similar. I don't know. Maybe I'm letting too much out, making me look a total idiot. Either way, it's been my project for today and I'll finish with a photo of the painting that I've completed in the midst of my crazy.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Silversmith Course

I recently had the absolute joy of attending a one day silversmith course run by Angela Ruth Kennedy at The Potters' Barn in Sandbach. My beloved bought me the day as a present, possibly the best gift I've ever had. I've wanted to learn some silver making skills for as long as I can remember, but never had the opportunity before.

The course was held in a workshop based in a pretty little summer house by the side of the main building. There were five of us in attendance, making it very relaxed and allowing all of us to have as much time as we needed with Angela. This was excellent for me, as I was a little nervous. Some of the others had been on courses before and had experience, so I had a lot of catching up to do. I was way out of my comfort zone and had no idea if I'd be any good at it at all. Scary stuff!

We made two silver rings each. The first one was done after a brilliant step by step demonstration by Angela, in which I have to say she made it look terribly easy. I found it tricky learning to work with metal and panicked a few times when it looked like it was going horribly wrong, but she was very reassuring and taught me that pretty much anything can be fixed.

We learned to bend, solder, shape, and size our rings correctly, then turned them into something that looked like a real piece of jewellery. Astonishing! I'm used to delicate painstaking work, so I enjoyed it thoroughly. The use of hammers and saws was completely new to me though, so I had to get over my delicacy and not be afraid of treating the silver like the metal it is, rather than tickling it like it was paper and paints.

We had a complimentary buffet lunch which was quite a lovely little touch. There was also a constant stream of hot drinks brought in to us, along with biscuits and chocolate. What more could one ask for?

In the afternoon, once we'd grasped the basics, we were let loose to make another ring of our own design. I hadn't gone along with any pre-made plans, as I had absolutely no idea what I'd be capable of or what would be involved. On the hop, I decided to just go with the first thing in my head, which was inspired by my paintings. Seemed the sensible thing to do. I drew a very quick little sketch, using the idea of a hole drilled in the centre, lines cut out from it and little blobs all around. In my head this was a dandelion shaped thing, but some people have called it a starburst pattern, which is also probably a good description.

The making of the little silver balls was possibly my favourite part. I never grew tired of watching them form under the torch and could have made them all day. As it was, I made exactly the right amount of them for the ring and didn't leave behind a gazillion spares, which could have been slightly embarrassing.

So, without further ado, here are some photos of me in action.

Check out the custom made work stations and all the tools supplied for me to use. I didn't expect anything quite so thoughtful or organised as this. It's not often that things exceed my expectations, but this most definitely did.

And here are those exciting little silver blobs. I was terrified that they would all fall off once I'd tried to solder them into place, but they stuck well. I actually couldn't watch as Angela tested each one - it was like watching a dentist wobbling teeth!

This is me learning to hammer a ring into the correct shape and size. It took a while to get round to giving it enough welly. I think you can see how tentative I was being at this point.

Here I am starting off a hole ready for drilling.

Soldering the two ends of my ring together. I should also add that it's stayed in one piece ever since, despite my reluctance to believe it would!

And here are the finished pieces. I am totally thrilled with them and have worn them every day since. Several people have asked me to make them one and I have to explain that I am actually pretty clueless so therefore unable to! If I win the lottery I will be hot footing it off to buy myself a workshop and every tool needed, but until then, I'll just admire these and smile every time.

I can't recommend this course highly enough to anyone who wants to learn how to work with silver. It was a truly remarkable day and one that I would repeat in a heartbeat. I have seen Angela since and discussed doing a one to one workshop at her house, where she has a fully equipped studio for teaching. This will be my next project, as I want to learn how to do cabachon setting. It means so much more to actually make a piece of jewellery than to go and buy it off the shelf. Admittedly, I am a huge lover of silver and an avid collector of unique rings, so I'm probably quite biased in my opinion. I have spent more on a piece from a shop than it cost me to do this course, and I didn't have the huge sense of satisfaction that I felt from actually creating it myself. I am a total convert to this skill and I hope to do lots more in the future.

Thank you Angela!