Sometimes you just cannot anticipate what will happen, I imagined that I would immediately hit the deck and be overwhelmed with painful feelings once my therapist retired but instead there was a sense of relief after a 6 month run-down period of intense fear and anticipation of him going. Yes, on the day and the two following days I couldn’t stop crying but after that I had this enormous sense of freedom & expansiveness: the worst had happened, I’d survived, no more week after week crying and my young parts wanting to cling to him, petrified of his abandonment, like a child being left at nursery for the first time.

My artwork changed, I began to wear bright clothing, I bought lots of new art materials, I lost weight, felt highly creative, enthusiastic……almost manic & found myself in an expensive shoe shop just about to buy a pair of boots that cost £200 when my inner manager screamed: “Get out of the shop immediately!”

That was a wake-up call, I went into lockdown, writing profusely every morning, ensuring all of my parts agreed not to take any action that had not been discussed & agreed. I needed to step up, put into practice what I had learnt over the last 7 years.

It worked, I felt proud of myself, even though it was tough going and hard work. Processing every day takes a lot of time & emotional energy.

What I hadn’t expected was the physiological grief response on the days when I would normally have therapy, over 7 years my system has geared up to save the big stuff for Friday mornings. That is no longer an option, I have begun to get allergic reactions, dizzy spells, heart palpitations, exhaustion, nausea & crying bouts.

I have this sense of flatness, like a vital part of me has disappeared, that I’m not here anymore, that I’m performing. It’s a sense of disconnection from a deeper part of myself and there is no one & nowhere where that part in me is witnessed or responded to. All other conversations seem mundane, banal and shallow, I’m craving deep & intense exchanges but no one can meet me. 

Last year I met a wonderful partner, he looked just like my therapist, I knew a young part had sought him out as a replacement but my partner is not a therapist and the young part cannot understand when he doesn’t respond in ways that they need him to. The sense of dislocation & confusion increases. Thankfully I see a new therapist soon, I’m hoping she doesn’t put me on a waiting list.

And then there’s all the global panic of COVID-19 after the fiasco of Brexit and the floods.

So, in order to soothe my young parts I decided to do an online short illustration course, it has been useful to have an external locus of inspiration.

I took the painting, “Melanie and Me Swimming” by Michael Andrews as inspiration & painted it in watercolour and then used wax crayons, watercolour markers, fine liners and Posca pens for other representations.

I had given a postcard of the image to my therapist, the painting depicts a father teaching his daughter to swim. The painting is dark & the almost naked bodies seem vulnerable as the sunburnt father tentatively holds his daughter afloat in the deep water.

It’s significant as the only time I received nurturing from my birth father was when he rescued me in Italy when I had floated out to sea in my swim ring at the age of 5. After the age of 8 years old, I never saw him again. I wrote this piece before the extent of the crisis in Italy became apparent, there are so many overlaps of trauma.

My system needs to process a lot of emotions to move forward and the well-meaning, non-therapeutic response from partner & friends of “try not to dwell on it” is so damaging. It’s like parts of me are being silenced all over again. Dwelling is a shorthand way of saying that people around me are finding it hard to listen, I have respected their limits, however, I have had to explain to my younger parts that processing feeling isn’t the same as dwelling on them. Powerful feelings require a safe space in which to explore them in order to heal, sometimes, keeping them to yourself until a safe space arises is the best thing to do.

Here are the images,

Michael Andrews, Melanie and me Swimming, Acrylic on canvas, 1829 x1829mm, 1978.
Rotting 0.7, 2B. A4
Watercolour A4
Wax crayon & watercolour A4
Wax crayon & watercolour, A5
Watercolour & Posca pen A5
Fine liner 0.5, A4
Fine liner 0.5 & watercolour marker, A4

The course was “Illustration Techniques to Unlock your creativity from Domestika, there are English subtitles as the delivery is in Spanish which is somewhat frustrating but I recommend the creative exercises.

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