merry and that

lately-sq

Almost completely moved in to the new place (did I mention I’m moved/moving?). I put up the tree and hung the wreath. There are boxes everywhere and lots of things need to be done, but I’m damn tired and doing my best.

Which is all you can do, right?

2017 has drained my energy and I’m running on empty. The internet trolls, the hypocrites, the ugliness of strangers toward other less fortunate strangers (or sometimes it’s been the other way around.) The complete LACK of fucking EMPATHY that we’re witnessing on a daily basis. The casual coldness of an internet comment that lays waste to group or community’s struggle in such a way that makes you wonder if we’re all just monsters in people suits.

Nice suit.

If you’re dealing with something like shame or anxiety or regret right now (or always!) please know that your struggle (WHATEVER IT MIGHT BE) is VALID. You are flawed AND beautiful and I truly believe that if we can see that those two things are not mutually exclusive in others maybe we’ll finally be able to accept that it is TRUE for ourselves as well. I friggin’ love you, y’know?

Stay warm, practice gratitude and show empathy toward one another and let’s hope for the best together in 2018. ♡

inktober

I set an intention for 2017 to share more of my work. Personal work, not so much the day job stuff I have to do. Graphic design is not as glamorous as one might think…(gasp!)

Self -initiated work is much more gratifying somehow. It helps stretch your brain and, honestly, I often use it to cope with my anxiety and depression. I’m not in a habit of sharing my “process work,” but I’m working hard to become more comfortable posting it to instagram. A lot of the time the work is so personal (or sad) I feel a bit vulnerable about sharing.

To help me get over that feeling I’ve decided to participate in inktober. I’m not as comfortable with ink(or color in general) as I am with plain old graphite so it’s going to be interesting to see how things progress. Today (day 1) I did a pencil drawing then inked over it:

inktober_1

Everyone tags their submissions with #inktober and #inktober2017 so when you have time for a scroll go to instagram and take a look. ♡

images © Aimee McEwen, if shared please link back to this post

work weekend

mishaw

August is my busiest month of the year for contract work. Nothing very creative, just nuts and bolts of book layout and such. The day job has been pretty hectic this month as well with projects I didn’t expect and pressure I really don’t need. I’m worn out, burnt out, and a feeling resentful. Working this hard and still wondering if you’ll be able to pay all your expenses is demoralizing. That and I’ve not done laundry in WEEKS.

It’s not all bad, of course. To cope with things I’ve been painting, sketching and making stuff. Small stolen moments of distraction. I post some things to instagram. I posted something to Facebook a couple weeks ago and the next day a co-worker wondered “Why (if you can draw like that) are you working at THIS place?”

I’m not sure what that means, but it did bother me a little. I mostly like my day job, I’m good at it and I have health insurance. It’s a comfort zone thing. Creating for myself is a stress reliever so I’ll continue. The cat is a thief though so today I’ve got to make a trip to the art store to replace the things he’s made off with (then I’ll probably locate his stash and have two of everything.)

There is a virus going around at work and I’ve made it my mission not to catch it! Which might be futile considering I worked 60 hours this week and sleep has been scarce. I’ve just now sent off the final proof of the book and I plan on getting my laundry (okay, fine – half the laundry) done today, then it’s art store (cue the harp dream sound effect) and straight back home to tidy up and probably eat or something.

I know, I’m so glam.

 

an impeccable sadness

image---via-unplash---daria-shevtsova-57355

Struggling a bit lately. I need to be honest because not admitting I’m feeling wobbly means staying stuck. I’m angry with myself, overthinking, overly critical, unsure about how best to push through so I’m taking things a day at a time, sometimes half a day. I’m frustrated and tired.

“Depression is an impeccable sadness.” I thought to myself last night as I trudged upstairs with the bowl of leftover Pad Thai I intended to eat in bed while watching ALL THE STAR TREK.

To cope with ‘myself’ I’ve been drawing, painting, listening to extremely sad music and tossing a lot of junk that’s been cluttering up the tiny townhouse. The herbs I planted a month ago are needing to be put to good use so I’ve decided to take the Pineapple Sage and make jelly, a simple syrup, then infuse it with vanilla in some sugar…maybe also a marinade (for chicken). There’s a ton of mint and basil too, so I’ll add the mint with cucumber to water (in a large pitcher) and let it sit in the fridge overnight – I honestly have no idea what to do with the basil. I’ve given some away already. I could make pesto, caprese salad or bruschetta with gluten-free bread. We’ll see. Great, now I’m hungry.

Let’s see, what else have I been up to…did this portrait of my friend’s dog, Levon, as a house warming gift. Took me a few hours and was a decent distraction; just emptied my brain and focused on the drawing. Inhaled a ton of charcoal dust – (cough, cough) really makes you feel ALIVE (cough). Got a few more projects planned that I’m hoping will help me deal with the depression in a more constructive way than just sleeping (or crying – which is kinda my favorite).

That’s all I’ve got for now, I’ll be fine, so you guys have a lovely weekend and stay hydrated! ♡

41

Over the last two weeks my inflammation flared and I’m exhausted. Dealing with pain doesn’t make for the best birthday but I’m not letting it consume me. I was able to get a few projects done this month, in spite of myself. Planted, painted, reorganized, started reading a new book.

Sometimes during a flare up I get really negative about the future. Chronic pain will do that to you, it messes with your head…makes you think you’re defective, that you’ll never be whole…it leaves scars.

“Nobody wants to be with a sick person, Aimee.” my ex-husband’s voice will echo against my skull during the weaker, more desperate moments.

Scars fade you know. I’m learning how to stop hiding behind mine. I feel grateful for 41 years in which to learn how to take better care of myself. Still learning, always.♡

Cheers to 41!

 

 

 

let the rain fall

100LIFETIMES

It’s been a very stormy day, I woke up to thunder and heavy rain and was glad. I like it when the weather matches my mood.

Sometimes it seems like we’re rushed through our sadness or, worse, encouraged to ignore it altogether.

Isn’t it better, though, to recognize our sadness for what it is?

Sadness is a natural response to loss, regret or hardship. Only when we make space for our sadness can we move past it, adjust, and affect positive change in our lives – not doing so can lead to anger, bitterness, avoidance and depression. All of which effect our overall wellness (emotional, physical, intellectual, spiritual) and stifle our personal growth. Give yourself permission to feel sad and find ways to express that sadness. Journaling, creating art…or just letting yourself cry can be extremely helpful.

You are wild, wondrous, and worthy – feel your feelings. ♡

credits:
Artwork ©Aimee McEwen.
Personal use only. Not for commercial use. If shared, please link back to this post.

dark wings

gift

My Father was intelligent and funny, he played guitar for us and sang. He took my sister and I on adventures through the woods to hunt for berry bushes and pick apples. He’d build a fire in the backyard and we’d make “toast on a stick” or “potatoes on a stick”…any food you can burn on a stick, really. He was silly and enjoyed teasing Mom about pretty much everything. It’s not easy to get a laugh out of Mom, so making her giggle made Dad feel victorious.

He’d put iodine on our cuts and scrapes, baking soda paste on our bee stings, calamine lotion on the poison ivy we got from all the berry picking. Me and my sister brought an abandoned puppy home once. When he saw the pitiful little thing he dropped to the floor almost immediately and loved and squeezed on that puppy until I saw tears streaming down his cheeks. Dad was sensitive.

Being sensitive can mean several things…I consider myself to be sensitive but it doesn’t mean I fly off the handle, cry easily when embarrassed or hold grudges. My Mom would say to nearly total strangers: “She’s my artist, she’s sensitive.” As I grew older, she’d sigh heavily and remark, “You’re just like your Father.”

I always thought that meant I was logical and smart…but she meant sensitive.

What being sensitive means, to me, is that I pick up on things. My therapist actually called me a “noticer.” She once changed out her chair…it was the same antique wooden chair as before (with pink floral cushions) except it had arms. “Did that chair have arms before?” I’d asked about fifteen minutes into one appointment. She was amazed and said it was the same as the other chair only it had arms. Another time I noticed a pillow on the settee had tassels…she laughed saying she’d only recently added the tassels. I catalog my surroundings and behaviors of those around me; it’s all tagged, color coded, evaluated for safety and filed away for future reference. Where does this even come from?

Perceptivity isn’t a superpower, it’s instinctual; a survival skill I honed while learning to maneuver the ups and downs of a mercurial parent. My Father had a quiet violence about him. I’d try to stay a step ahead of the darkness, watching him for the slightest shifts in mood; a way of giving myself the illusion of control so that I could keep everyone safe. Even though there were moments of light, darkness seemed to loom over my Father. I was 17 before he would finally get a diagnosis (manic depressive/bi-polar disorder).

Remember the things that the darkness taught you.
It’s by learning to overcome our personal trauma (navigate the darkness) we become nuanced and enlightened individuals capable of empathy, forgiveness and love.

Forgiveness is key, forgive others, forgive yourself. From the darkness I learned to pay attention to my gut (intuition), to expect nothing (good or bad) from anyone except myself, to accept responsibility for my own emotions, to respect the grief, pain and love of others. I learned to look for the light and appreciate it while it lasts. ♡

What has darkness taught you? Do you struggle with forgiveness or does it come easily to you?

credits:
Artwork © Aimee McEwen. Photo: Annie Spratt
Personal use only. Not for commercial use. If shared, please link back to this post.

black days

Whatsoever I’ve feared has come to life
Whatsoever I’ve fought off became my life
Just when everyday seemed to greet me with a smile
Sunspots have faded and now I’m doing time
Now I’m doing time
‘Cause I fell on black days
I fell on black days

Whomsoever I’ve cured, I’ve sickened now
And whomsoever I’ve cradled, I’ve put you down
I’m a search light soul they say
But I can’t see it in the night

I’m only faking when I get it right
When I get it right

‘Cause I fell on black days
I fell on black days

How would I know
That this could be my fate?
How would I know
That this could be my fate? Yeah

So what you wanted to see good

Has made you blind
And what you wanted to be yours
Has made it mine

Don’t you lock up something
That you wanted to see fly
Hands are for shaking
No, not tying, no, not tying

I sure don’t mind a change
I sure don’t mind a change
Yeah, I sure don’t mind, sure don’t mind a change
I sure don’t mind a change

‘Cause I fell on black days
I fell on black days

How would I know
That this could be my fate?
How would I know
That this could be my fate?

How would I know
That this could be my fate?
How would I know
That this could be my fate?

I sure don’t mind a change

chriscornell-jameshance

James Hance has made this tribute available for free  – click to download

wild, wondrous and worthy

wild-wondrous-worthy©MOTHANDBLOOM.COM

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

“A mental illness is a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling or mood. Such conditions may affect someone’s ability to relate to others and function each day. Each person will have different experiences, even people with the same diagnosis.”

Did you know?
Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S….43.8 million, or 18.5%…experiences mental illness in a given year.

Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S….9.8 million, or 4.0%…experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. 

Whether you are aware of it or not we come in contact with people dealing with mental health issues every day…your neighbor, coworker, cashier at Publix…me. I write often about anxiety, empathy, coping, mental wellness and the human condition…did you know that I am one of the 1 in 5 adults living with mental illness?

The average person deals with a multitude of stressors, hardships, and difficulties, yet not all of them are mentally ill. How can we tell the difference? Should we be afraid of the mentally ill? Why do some people choose to take medication while others do not? How do you know if you are mentally ill or really just “terrible at life”?

First things first…you are NOT terrible at life…if you feel you may have a mental illness, see a behavioral health specialist and/or a psychiatrist. Depending on your situation you may do really well with talk therapy and not need medication or you might try a combination of both. I’m not a doctor so I can’t say what’s right for you. My best advice about doctors is if you don’t find a person you are completely comfortable with then keep looking, there are some really great professionals out there…and there’s some not so great ones…when it comes to mental health (all health) concerns you have to be your own advocate and speak up when something isn’t working. Speak up and make sure they hear you!

As for the questions you may have about those of us living with mental illness, they are a lot harder to answer. Mental illness operates on a spectrum…and we all fall in somewhere on that spectrum. There can be coexisting conditions, and mental illnesses can improve or get worse…or even seem to go “dormant.” Some people go years without an episode, and just as suddenly find themselves in a psychosis. What I’m trying to say is there’s a lot of layers to mental illness. If you care about someone, and want to get to know them, tell them you care and ask them about their diagnosis. The tricky part about that is it’s really difficult to talk about mental illness with “new” people. There’s still so much stigma surrounding mental illness that people will downplay their struggle or go as far as pretending to be “normal” until they’re alone or with people they feel are “safe.”

Sound exhausting? Yeah, it really is.  So exhausting that we avoid people and places and isolate ourselves when we don’t feel strong enough to keep up the facade.

I’ve always felt my slightly overdeveloped sense of empathy comes from living with or around mental illness. My Father was manic depressive but diagnosed very late in his life (around 50) which means I was exposed to all the terrible things that can happen when mental illness is left unchecked; self-medication, risky behaviors, instability, conflict, violence, abuse – a lot of suffering.

Awareness has come a long way since the 90’s but we have to do better; be better humans and let people know that just because they live with a mental illness it doesn’t mean they’re broken, fundamentally unlovable, or lost – and they definitely don’t have to go through it alone. ♡

If you want to learn more on this topic go to nami.org and here’s some books by Jenny Lawson that have helped me cope with my own mental illness:
Furiously Happy
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

credits:
Artwork © Aimee McEwen. Personal use only. Not for commercial use.
Photo: Alisa Anton   Mental Health Statistics via nami.org
If shared, please link back to this post.

new day

new-day

Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.

Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.

This new day is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the yesterdays.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

credits:
Artwork © Aimee McEwen. Photo: Sandra Chile
Personal use only. Not for commercial use. If shared, please link back to this post.