Bird of paradise & finding peace

Let’s start with credit where it’s due – someone else gave me the idea to draw this beautiful and incredibly unique flower.

Pictures on the internet were used as a reference – I could imagine the flower in my minds eye, but with no real detail.

The Bird of Paradise can grow up to 3m tall and is named after a bird that bears an uncanny resemblance.

So why have I drawn it?

I’m struggling at the moment. I always struggle with my mental health, I’ve been living with agoraphobia, panic disorder and BPD for years now. Some days I’m so low I can’t face being awake. But this time of year always worsens and inflates these problems.

I’m in an intense period of grief. I have to experience this annually and it’s always difficult. People I’ve loved and lost. Important people. Huge influences on my life. People who I wish were still here every day. Several people, who I remember potently now, because they all died at the same time of year.

My memories of them are suddenly magnified. Details I’d pushed to a nook in my brain slowly start to work their way out, like evil woodworm in an old, broken house. Destroying its lustre first, then eating its way through the frame gradually, until one day the house becomes a shell. A ruin. Sacrificed because of an evil disease that swelled and multiplied faster than anyone could manage. Grief feeds off of those who mourn.

At the time this started to happen it just felt like grief was being shoved on top of more grief and the sadness, at times, has been suffocating.

When I navigate my way through this pile of misery and flashbacks, I inevitably find myself looking for answers. I silently ask the same questions over and over. Every question involves the word ‘why?’.

Grief is a pain we all face. It doesn’t matter what football team you support, which religion you practice, how many children you have or what you watched on telly last week – it hurts us all.

Similarly I’ve realised that we all deal with grief in different ways. We all find and deploy different coping mechanisms (my mum is somewhere feeling proud that I’ve used that phrase 😇) that are designed to get us through the dark days.

My own coping mechanisms have changed more times than sheets on a hotel bed. I’ve used meditation, grounding, crystals, counselling, talking, silence, tears, writing and remembering. This list of strategies is a drop in the ocean.

This year has been the hardest yet, and the anniversaries have only just begun. I don’t know why I’m finding it hard, my mental health isn’t great and I’m in a lot of pain. I think these things are having an impact.

After a few days of trying the same old ideas, I finally picked up my Apple Pencil again and started drawing. I draw listening to podcasts and combining those two interests seems to give me breathing space and peace. It means I’m barely sleeping, but that’s something else I struggle with anyway (probably a subject I’ll talk about another day).

Ideally writing would be helpful too, but I’ve watched over the last 4 weeks as my prose gradually got darker and darker. Some stories were forcing me to relive the worst moments, so I’ve stopped putting pen to paper for now.

For 2 days drawing this flower has gifted me that desperately needed peace. That panic you experience when you almost breathe in water, that’s how I feel when I’m not living in the quiet place. I’m afraid. I’m drowning. I’m sad. I’m stuck with my eyes open. I can’t stop it.

Peace is a difficult thing to achieve, even when life is close to perfect. It’s something I’ve been chasing for years. Saying that, I’m grateful to have found it, even if temporary, at a time when I just want the narrative to stop.

I hope you like my drawing. I hope you enjoy the bright colours and I hope they make you smile.

Anyone experiencing grief, or struggling with mental health, can find help in a few places;

Mind, the mental health charity is a great place to start, with information on where to go to get help, ways of managing and buckets of information on the many mental health conditions out there. They can be found here – https://www.mind.org.uk

Cruse bereavement support, specialists in grief, offer both local and national services. Their website is a mass of useful information. They even offer one to one counselling, helping people manage their loss. They can be found here – https://www.cruse.org.uk/

Of course, your own GP will also be able to help.

You’re not alone, I feel your pain, there is help.

Stay safe everyone 👼💜

Published by stephc2021

Hi! I'm Steph, an amateur writer and illustrator specialising in Mental Health and being a self-confessed Spoonie. My website is home to any successful fiction I create, with stories that have won so far covering difficult subjects such as baby loss and mental health in grief as well as some funny and heart-warming tales when I get the inspiration. Every drawing and picture on my website was created by me. I spend a lot of time coming up with illustrations to accompany all of my posts and pages. I try to create original content across all of my channels, whether I'm writing about my own fiction or just generally musing on mental health or my own issues. I want to be part of the change because I believe the understanding of MH in the UK is getting better, but has a very long way to go. By being honest about my own struggles and symptoms I think others will relate and hopefully it will encourage them to talk to someone and get the help and support they need. Long term my goal is to help children too, help them understand their own mental health and how to help with the mental health of those around them. I live in the UK with my partner, daughter and dog, I swear frequently and I adore a well made, traditional, gooey, chocolatey, delicious brownie.

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