Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Life 9 - words on depression that will go on the body

My friend Debbi whose blog is linked here and on the sidebar has kindly written for me about depression. She is a professional writer and I'm so very grateful for her help.

I know from your comments that this is something that affects a lot of people and they get quite angry and verbose at inane and belittling comments (who doesn't?). I haven't felt able to write this piece for myself and sought help as I don't want to hash out other peoples well worn cliches, and have no experience of deep depression myself.

After reading the words, I feel the piece has profoundly changed; it's evolved, and so I have changed the title of the piece to:

Life 9 - Not Fighting Back (the image therefore becomes a parody)

“You just need to think positively, like I do.”/“ You always dwell on the negative. You’re just making it worse for yourself.”/“ Pretend you’re happy and then people will want to be around you again.”/“ There’s nothing wrong with your life. Just snap out of it.”

Yeah, it’s true. You’re right. You who live in a world where depression is something to be sneered at or pitied. You who lives in a world free of this. There is nothing wrong with my life. I shouldn’t wake up feeling like I’m caught in a vice. I shouldn’t stumble through each day a second away from tears, with a knot of tension in my stomach that never eases, afraid of everything and everyone.

I am alive, not destitute, not in severe pain every day, I can move my limbs, I am cognisant, I am smart. I’m a middle class, white, privileged English woman. What the hell do I have to be depressed about?

But on a semi-regular basis my world fades to black. And it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what you say to me. It doesn’t matter that you think I’m pathetic, or self-pitying or hysterical or overly dramatic or selfish or self-pitying or wanting attention or boring or needy or any of those things I’ve been called and told over the years. My world remains black, whatever you think of me.  

I’m good at hiding it, for the most part. Some people only see me as short tempered and moody and all the rest of that hilarious stuff. What they don’t know is that I spend days at a time choking back tears, that my amusingly low tolerance for teasing and banter makes me cry till I choke when I’m in private, that the simplest noise, like someone talking loudly or the phone ringing, can make me jump out of my skin because I am so tense, that I wake up in the morning with my heart racing and my limbs aching from clenching muscles, even in my sleep, that I wake up and cry, that I cry myself to sleep, that I can only see, hear, think and feel black and dark and despair and blank terror at the pointlessness of existence. That during the bad times I feel rudderless, so that I am floating, untethered through uncertainty and fear and every face I see is blank and every person I meet wants to hurt me and every path I choose is blocked.

My depression traps me, it smothers me, it makes it hard to breathe, it makes it hard to think, it makes it hard for me to look at my own face in the mirror, to talk to my own mother, to set foot outside my door. I want to crawl away from the world. And not stop. Just keep going until I die or the world ends. Whichever comes first.

Depression is insidious, it is without logic, it is without charm and it is without romance. It twists everything you see, you feel and you do. Depression has robbed me of relationships, friends, jobs and opportunities. As the years go by, the web of despair may flex and change - sometimes it’s way in the horizon and I can breathe and live, and sometimes it is clinging to my very skin, a damp, stultifying gauze between me and the world - but it never leaves me. And it most likely never will.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Some text for the background of Life 9

Here's the text that I shall be putting behind some make-believe sketchbook pages on Life 9.  I've copied this many times, blown up parts to make really big text and shrunk to make really small, and I shall piece them altogether, before gesso-ing/painting, and adding stitch. It is readable, but is there to give a background note, so don't feel obliged to read it all!!

Well, it's a plan.

And because you can't have a blog without a piccy, here's some of my purchases this week. I've had to buy new rolls of fabric and wadding, wads of edging, threads etc.  An expensive week!

 The bottles on the left are spray ones from Muji, and the little scissors are absolutely brilliant (from the Upstairs Downstairs range - don't laugh - at Blenheim Palace) 

The Text: (some thoughts by Stephen Fry, others by MIND and various sources - not autobiographical)

The funny thing about depression is that when I’m not depressed I find it really hard to describe what it’s like. Some say it’s like a fog, others like their body is full of lead. For me, it feels like being dead: You’re conscious of breathing, smelling and you see people walking about, but to all intents and purposes you’re completely dead inside. You wouldn’t ask why someone got cancer or diabetes or asthma like it was their fault. You wouldn’t say: ‘What have you got to get cancerous about?’“There comes a time when the blankness of future is so extreme. It is such a black wall of nothingness. Not even of bad things.- it’s not like it’s a cave full of monsters that you’re afraid of entering, it is just nothingness. ‘NĂ©ant’  as the French would say: the void, the emptiness. And it is just horrible.”“Cumulatively, therapy had a massive effect. I mean like not washing my hands thirty times a day, I’ve actually gained years of my life that I would have spent cleaning and washing. It was so energy-consuming and so depressing and so I not only had time, I had hope and energy.”Suicidal feelings can be terrifying.If you can no longer see why you should go on living, your distress will seem unbearable. You may hate yourself and believe that you are useless and unneeded. You may feel rage, shame and guilt.Repeated painful experiences, particularly losses, can lead you to blame yourself and feel that you haven't lived up to your own standards. Faced with an unbearable situation, unsolvable difficulties, overpowering feelings of guilt, failures or conflicts, you may start to think that death is your only option.Sometimes everything gets on top of me. I get tired of fighting and wish I wasn't here anymore.You may feel suicidal for no apparent reason. You may think that you have no reason to want to kill yourself. This can trigger feelings of deep guilt and shame and you may find it difficult to tell others what you are going through.People kept telling me that I should be grateful because I had a lovely husband, a nice house, and two perfect children. This just made me feel more terrible and guilty for thinking about killing myself.Whether you are aware of a cause or not, it can be difficult to relate to others at this time, so you are likely to feel withdrawn or irritable. Even if you have family and friends around, you may find it impossible to tell them how bad you feel. If you have been badly hurt by someone close to you, you may be thinking of suicide as a way of getting back at them. It is understandable to be angry with people who have hurt us, but suicide turns that anger in on ourselves.What you may experience: sleeping badly and waking early change in appetite weight loss or gain feeling cut off from your body or physically numb a loss of energy you may have stopped taking care of yourself e.g. neglecting your physical appearance. Mixed feelings You may be very clear that you want to die; you may simply not care if you live or die; you may be thinking of death as a release. If you feel powerless to influence circumstances that are distressing you, the idea of suicide may give you a sense of being in control again. Depending on your beliefs, you could be looking forward to ‘nothingness’ or to being reunited with loved ones or to reincarnation.If you feel low and suicidal for no apparent reason, this can also make you feel powerless: if you can’t find a cause for your difficult feelings, you may find it hard to believe that there might be a solution.You may be harming yourself by cutting, biting or burning your body. Perhaps you are getting into fights or taking extreme risks. You may also be overdosing on drugs, binging on alcohol or have developed anorexia or bulimia. However, even when you are not sure why you are self-harming, it is usually a means of trying to stay alive – trying to kill the pain you are feeling inside rather than a wish to actually kill yourself. For most people, suicidal thoughts are confusing. As much as you want to die, you may also want a solution to your difficulties in life and you may want others to understand how you  “If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, liketheweather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” “Choking with dry tears and raging, raging, raging at the absolute indifference of nature and the world to the death of love, the death of hope and the death of beauty, I remember sitting on the end of my bed, collecting these pills and capsules together and wondering why, why when I felt I had so much to offer, so much love, such outpourings of love and energy to spend on the world, I was incapable of being offered love,giving it or summoning the energy with which I knew I could transform myself and everything around me.”Certainly the most destructive vice if you like, that a person can have. More than pride, which is supposedly the number one of the cardinal sins - is self pity. Self pity is the worst possible emotion anyone can have. And the most destructive. It is, to slightly paraphrase what Wilde said about hatred, and I think actually hatred's a subset of self pity and not the other way around - ' It destroys everything around it, except itself Self pity will destroy relationships, it'll destroy anything that's good, it will fulfill all the prophecies it makes and leave only itself. And it's so simple to imagine that one is hard done by, and that things are unfair, and that one is underappreciated, and that if only one had had a chance at this, only one had had a chance at that, things would have gone better, you would be happier if only this, that one is unlucky.      etc!

Friday, 14 June 2013

Life 9 - Fighting Back. The layout and early drawing onto the cloth

 Now, isn't that an exciting photo?! Life 9 is called Fighting Back and is about depression and trying to get the better of it.

You'll be pleased to know that those slippers make another appearance in this quilt!

Here it all is layered up and waiting for me to attack it with my pencil.

The pose was awkward because it was an amalgamation of photos taken some time ago and they are quite blurry.  I'm not a photoshopper, prefering to do battle with my pencil and a good rubber!

Below: the first pencil outline.

 I've stitched my outline with black thread.  I've gone back to black with this one as the background will also be dark - possible black or a slight variation on it.

As you can see I've put some darks in already. I haven't stitched the body with it's words yet, but I couldn't resist a quick dabble with a watery wash.

Below: in the slight pause between quilts I have been working on an altered book about time for another quilt later in the year.  It's not only good fun for me to let my mind wander free like this - jotting down anything that comes to mind - but is a great catalyst to deeper thoughts.  It's also a great memory jogger.

Life 1 has just been accepted into the World Quilt Competition USA XVII - 2013. 
It will be on display from August 15-18 in Manchester, New Hampshire, and will tour the United States including the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza (Greater Philadelphia Area) in September, the Pacific International Quilt Festival (San Francisco Bay Area) in October and at the World Quilt Show - Florida, January 9 – 11, 2014.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Life 8 - Motherland finished

 All done bar the twiddly bits and any touching up I might need to do as I look closely at the finishing etc.

The story is one of reflection, thinking about what might have been, but being happy anyway.

Once again, although my father did say these exact words to me, it is a work of fiction....I have never varnished my toe nails and am a dreadful cook.

The words are:

"When I was 10, I asked my father what subjects I should take at school and what I should be when I grew up.  He said it didn’t matter because I would be a wife and mother and my husband would look after me.  He said it was important for me to learn to cook and to look pretty.  My brothers were furious at my escape from supposed drudgery and toil.

So I made sure I fulfilled my parents expectations and married at 16 to the first man who’d have me. I made a really good sponge cake, and varnished my toe nails.

My brothers were stupid. What could be more demanding and time consuming than being a mother.  It’s the ultimate career and every other career exists to support it.  I did the work of 20 for free, and lived in heaven and hell at the same time.  I was racked with self-doubt, panic, insecurity, tiredness and indignity. I found strengths I didn’t know I had and suffered fears I didn’t know existed. I found that happiness is made up of tiny moments and wasn’t an ultimate destination.  I learned how unselfish I could be, and forged chains of flesh and blood.

I often used to wonder what would have happened if my father had expectations beyond a wife and mother for me, say, an astronaut.  Now I’m older, I wonder if he chose the hardest career of all."

At the end of the Birth To Death Super Highway is a small sign that says Here Be Dragons.

In Medieval England map makers habitually used this phrase to cover areas of a map that they didn't know about; that hadn't been explored.  It sort of turns the geographical map into a spiritual one.  As none of us knows for certain what is at the end of life, it seemed appropriate to put this at the end of the Highway.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Waiting for paint to dry!

I'm spending an hour or so in the garden whilst I wait for paint to dry. You've already seen my garden, but here's some photos. Boring, but hopefully not as boring as watching the paint dry!  Spring was very cold this year and many things are only just beginning to flower, including the first rose of the season.... Gertrude Jekyll