Stu-Stu-Studio!

Instead of you know, colouring my growing amount of inked work due to be coloured, I’ve instead just been adding more and more inked work to the ‘to do list.’ Currently there are six illustrations that need to be coloured. Cassowary, Delicate Mouse, Giant Armadillo, Walrus, Black-Winged Lory and Wandsuna – Remember? Not only that, but on my ‘to do list’ I also have sketches to do of some Dholes (whee!), a huge forest landscape, a Wolverine, a Paradise Parrot and a second Totoro.

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Phew!

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So my art-desk is starting to take on an immensely cluttered look. Observe…

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Stu-Stu-Studio by Ravenari

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Well, that’s cluttered for me. I’m not going to turn around and take a photo of my computer desk for you; I refuse! THAT is very cluttered. I have everything from mineral eyeshadow samples on there, my computer, my scanner, 4 bazillion pens (it feels that way, I’m exaggerating, I’m sure it’s only something like 4 milliion), hairclips, medications, anti-static spray, an awesome speaker system, my modem, a glasses case with glasses I don’t wear anymore in them, FOUR PACKETS OF TIC-TACS (including a giant packet of orange tic tacs, which I didn’t even know they did!), 40 lip-glosses (don’t judge me), a full pot of bobby pins even though I’ve been using the same two for two weeks, my camera, about 50 post-it notes (not exaggerating, for real) which has everything on there from dog names in Finnish, to old shopping lists, old ‘to do lists’ and future ‘as totems’ I want to draw (like the awesomely named Piapiac).

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But my art desk is usually quite clean!

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If all that clutter is starting to get to you, here’s a picture of an unidentifed species of local moth (unidentified by ME, I mean, any local entomologist who specialises in the ridiculous number of local moth species we have could probably identify it. Local entomologists; HELP!)

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moth at Ellenbrook by Ravenari

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As for how I’ve been going lately (not that you asked for all of this verbal diarrhea), I’ve been down more than I’ve been up. It’s been a tough four months, in all honesty, and my PTSD symptoms have been getting ‘bigger and brighter and better!’ I’m like a walking advertisement for classic post-traumatic stress disorder right now, and that’s not a good thing, considering I got diagnosed in 1998 and I’d like to be better by now. This second, if possible.

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However, there have been understandable triggers of this ‘explosion’ of post-post-post-post trauma stress, and I am working through them. It’s one of those ironies of life that working through the actual triggers themselves is of itself stressful, and in the short-term can create a compounding of symptoms and not an immediate release. Of course, this is why I don’t work a regularly scheduled full-time job and why sometimes I get up at 6.30am (what masochistic Circadian rhythm decided that was a good time to awaken?) and go straight back to bed again twenty minutes later due to phrase; ‘that 20 minutes was exhausting!’

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When I find some energy, you can find me diligently inking at artwork, or going on long, ambling walks throughout the suburbs. I haven’t seen any drop bears or bunyips yet, but I’m keeping my eyes peeled.

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In book recommendations, I’d like to take the time to recommend: Echidna: Extraordinary Egg-Laying Mammal by Michael Augee, Brett Gooden and Anne Mussen, which takes the prime place of being one of the few non-fiction books (excepting something by Bill Bryson) which made me laugh out loud a few times. As well as being well-informed, delightfully written, well-illustrated and easy to navigate, it has such gems like:

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“An echidna wedged under a car seat can only be removed by disassembly of the surrounding automobile!” (p. 123)

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This just proves the awesomeness of echidnas, if you ask me.

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On dogs, PTSD, and being an artist with issues.

This is not a ‘new art’ entry. Though… okay, alright then, here’s something I’m working on:

Zentas the Mini-Dragon- by Ravenari

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Now for the actual entry.

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In one camp (CAMP 1), you have many mental health officials and organisations release studies that say things like: Cats and dogs markedly reduce the stress of those with mental illness, and provide a sense of responsibility that can sometimes save a person’s life. Sometimes, the only thing that helps a suicidal person get out of bed in the morning, is feeding their dog.

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And then in the other camp (CAMP 2), you have many dog training officials and organisations release information that say things like: Cats and dogs benefit best when they’re raised in a stable and consistent environment. Remember that dogs need socialising, and to try and minimise tension, stress and fear around them, because dogs can pick up on this and it can create behavioural problems.

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And then in my camp, you have a conscientious, but mentally ill person who wants very dearly to have a dog in her life, but knows very much that my mental illness would on occasion create atmospheres that may stress a dog out.

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Now what there doesn’t seem to be is another camp of specialist dog trainers (or professionals in general) that have read both the scientific studies on ‘rescue people’ (i.e. humans with mental illness who would benefit from the presence of dogs), and dog happiness (i.e. dogs who would benefit from the presence of a more calm environment), and create dog/human positive-reinforcement training techniques designed for the mentally ill.

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I know some trainers out there exist like this, but in Western Australia, you can’t even find trainers to specialise in helping you train a professional therapy dog, let alone step in and offer as much understanding reassurance to the human as to the dog. Now I hope I’m wrong in this, but the divide between the initial camp 1 and camp 2 is quite large.

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What to do? I don’t know. Unfortunately, my illness has gotten in the way of me having a dog once before, and with no trainers to help me through my very specific issues, I’ve had to put getting a dog on the backburner. But my heart is open for a dog, I love dogs, I love being around them, I love spending time with them, I research training techniques (I’ve clicker trained my cats, particularly Maybe, who thinks it’s the best thing ever), I research dog breeds, I research dog genetics, I watch Youtube videos of dogs that I enjoy, and more than that, I contact breeders to ask them questions about their breeds.

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I think a lot of people don’t overthink things as much as I do. People want to do the best for their dogs, sort of, but many don’t buy books, or research training, or figure out a lot of things regarding their dog before they get it. Many people learn ‘the hard way.’ And many people still get it mostly right by happy accident. But I’m not ‘many people,’ I am a person with post-traumatic stress disorder, and a dissociative disorder. I have nightmares at night, and can shriek and flail and be very frightened – which rules out very protective breeds. I have to be responsible and do a lot of research.

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And I have to try not to scare the crap out of myself, which is very easy because you know… all the stuff I just mentioned above.

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There’s no easy answers for me. I am, in a word, a stresshead. Being in the presence of animals does significantly relax me, and my cats are – according to our vet – happy, friendly, well-socialised cats that are sweet-natured. In their presence I can go from ‘ZOMG LIFE IS HARD’ too ‘aw, pretty furry animal, do you want to do some training? Let’s play!’

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But enough about that, I want to know where the meet is between camp 1 and camp 2. Where are the trainers and psychologists meeting together to make pets work for people with mental illnesses in ways that are both humane for the pets, AND humane for the people? If we can spend so much time rescuing dogs and cats (I am a big believer in rescue dogs and cats), surely we can spend as much time rescuing the people that need so much help to make it through the day. And surely, considering that both people in camp 1 and camp 2 tend to care about living beings, there is room for a niche to develop? A niche of ‘people who help people with mental illness have pets.’

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We have a growing number of ‘people who help people with physical disabilities have pets,’ but – at least where I am – there doesn’t seem to be much of the ‘helping people with mental illness have pets.’

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That’s a sad thing, because clearly there are benefits to be had all round if the situation was managed safely and ethically. And on a very personal (and probably selfish) level, I find it is yet another of the things I am impacted by, in terms of having these illnesses. Something as straightforward as expanding our family – that millions of people do – is not straightforward here. It is not straightforward, but in a more supportive and nurturing environment; it could be easier.

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It could even be healing.

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I see many futures for myself. Too many. In a world where one of my debilitating symptoms was being certain I wouldn’t live out the year (every year), starting to overcome that has presented a world of overwhelming possibilities. But in one of those futures, I take the time to get a dog. It is a journey of trial and error, but with research, there is love and happiness too. And maybe one day, I can help there to be more professionals who can help people with mental illness have successful relationships with their canines; especially those people with mental illness who are conditioned by their disorders to lack confidence in themselves and their abilities. It is often those people who most need the animals who aren’t prone to overthinking. Who do just often enjoy the simple pleasures of life.

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Of course, in yet another future I see myself as a professional space-travelling chocolatier. So…you know. O.O