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Big Black Drop Sheet 

13 Apr

 

Over the past month and a half depression has come over me like a big black drop sheet. Big black drop sheet is the way I described my depressions when I was first diagnosed with bipolar in 2004. This particular depression has surprised me, almost come out of nowhere but not: having to stop my meaningful plans, change tack, lie in bed for days, have insomnia, tolerate crying unexpectedly and uncontrollably. Depression has hit me again, and I thought I was an old hand at picking up the signs.

This time sadness, shame and self-hatred have been the most overwhelming emotions surrounding me. For someone so clearly capable to keep banging up against a crashing amount of self loathing has been hard to take. I cry like a little girl, so I’m told, and that is probably true. For the things that I am presently mourning for today are the very same things child-Nicky was attempting to deal with years ago. I know that this is not unusual, maybe something we are all faced with at some point.

I have bipolar II which means I have hypomanias and not manias (hypomanias are energy-based and not psychotic). You also have more depressions than ups.  With bipolar II if you track back there is usually a history of the depressions getting increasingly more severe with fewer and fewer hypomanias in between. Bipolar II is also not regular. There are no regular cycles. It can spring up on you at anytime. You can’t predict it, so it is therefore quite hard to manage.

Since my diagnosis, and the therapy that followed, I’ve gone about my life trying to emphasise the well parts of it, which can make you, and others, almost forget that you have an ongoing illness that sits behind your well periods. I’ve come to realise that this attitude isn’t necessarily healthy for me although it might seem like it should be. My capability and energy can unhelpfully mask what illness I have. Over the last 20 + years I have been regularly depressed after anything I have achieved: jobs, creative projects-you name it. Stress triggers my bipolar. It’s hard for me to consistently hold anything down for a length of time.  This is a bitter pill to swallow and face. This is further complicated by the fact my self-worth isn’t derived from what I do. It’s derived from how well I look after myself, and generally I do that pretty poorly as I tend to ‘become’ things when I do anything. All my self-care subtly vanishes as I flounder, sabotage and watch my self worth ebb away.

 

Brain

 

Out of what has happened to me lately I can see that the strategy of treating myself like I don’t have an illness, that I am a ‘well person’, doesn’t necessarily work for me despite its inherent positivity. To keep myself well and catch things early I have to have the fact I have bipolar right in front of me so I can catch things. This is important because symptoms can appear from out of nowhere, escalate and dig-in and before you know it I’m a ‘goner’. I forget that. Like in the summer last year, when all of The Nine Realms threads were coming together and I was very stressed and working 60 hour weeks. I started to change: started hitting myself and becoming very aggressive whilst still feeling full of energy and highly functioning. I became a different person for a while, which I came to understand in hindsight was me in a mixed state (where you are both depressed and energised at the same time). For about three weeks I was not myself, felt dreadful, but was fully able to work and was driven by my intention to follow through on every aspect of The Nine Realms. This state incremently and subtly crept up on me, and from that state the seeds of depression were sown.

I didn’t catch the change in my behaviour because we weren’t being vigilant enough. Maybe if we (and by we, I mean my mother and I) had been actively on the lookout for changes I might not be lying in bed right now. I’m not saying that I need to be treated with kid gloves or stopped from doing anything that might trigger me. No, I’m not saying that, but maybe a new strategy needs to be put in place. A few signs in my house need to be put up that remind me that it’s a good responsibility to manage my illness. That I have an illness, that despite being on medication, comes up and slaps me merrily on the rear. It’s not nice, it’s not pretty but it is the cold stone truth.

This depression is the first time I haven’t been comatose, which you would think would be a turn up for the books, but it doesn’t feel like that. The extensive period of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy  I had for 7 years has taught me that there is distance between myself and my thoughts. I know I am not my thoughts, and I also know how to challenge my thoughts. However, despite having this knowledge, because of my miswiring, it doesn’t stop me from feeling the negative emotions attached to them which then spirals me downwards. So I still get powerfully locked into the negative loops in my schemas (established, entrenched patterns of thinking). In this last week I have just started to use again the CBT techniques I was taught. I think the fact, that this time, I haven’t become my thoughts is what has saved me from becoming comatose. It’s lessened my feelings of helplessness. I have mind tools to deploy. My therapist (who was a specialist in persistent severe depression) taught me well.

This is the moment (you would think) I would be cracking open the champagne (if I drank), pulling the party poppers and celebrating the fact I have been given these tools, but I have found this half-processing state to be far worse than the familiar comatose depression state. In the comatose state you’re out of it at least, you’re not feeling anything other than awful; or you’re so out of it it doesn’t matter. In what I’m feeling now- this half-state- you feel so consciously cornered by your head and your schemas. You feel everything, and you are constantly batting off negative thought processes and delving into, and staying with, emotions. It’s tiring, all-consuming and scary (even if the process has the hidden positive of reminding you you can still feel). This strangely makes the thought of the comatose state more attractive. Tackling my negative thinking constantly is wearisome. Writing things down, charting why I feel what I’m feeling. It’s tiring, even though I do know in my heart of hearts it’s probably a healthy responsibility but……nevertheless. It just doesn’t feel like it. If I take on the new ‘I have bipolar’ strategy, I have a lifetime of charting and managing ahead of me, and sometimes (in all honesty) it feels like it would be better for it all to stop. These types of thoughts are the worst and still come back again and again.

It usually takes me a year to recover fully from a depression. Getting through this bit where my constant rumination and negative processing get in the way of me moving forward. However, I absolutely intend to put my ‘I have bipolar’ signs in the house so I don’t forget (even if it looks a bit bonkers). With a new strategy maybe I can catch my negative core beliefs and thoughts more quickly, treat myself more kindly and live a little bit more of an honest life that actually knowingly supports my vulnerability (which is something we all share). This might help prevent the big black drop sheet from dropping down so quickly in the future. It will come back but maybe the next time it might be a little bit more translucent.

 

Nicky

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Tell your story walking

7 Dec

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For the last two weeks now I have been intending to post out a piece on The Festival of Ideas and ArtiPeeps’ future. It hasn’t materialised for a number of reasons,  primarily because I seem to have lost myself somewhere in all the swirl of ‘doing’ and plans for the future. There has been no space for any extraneous writing other than those required by funders. Upon exploration now it has become strikingly clear to me that during this year I seem to have foregone self-care for service, which ultimately (I know) can lead to no good. You don’t need to totally ring yourself dry, background your needs and story for the sake of your passion/vision/project. It’s easy to do but it isn’t health or well-being or sensible. If you do the act is probably rooted in something darker and often in personal history.

I know that my bi-polar doesn’t help the situation. Balance is hard to find when you’re permanently chemically imbalanced, and I’m so driven and generally enthusiastic that I forget that there is an underlying process going on that is triggered by stress and drives me from up to down: if there is an up there WILL be, guaranteed, a down (that is the way of bi-polar, I forget that).

I also have two very active and powerful schemas going on which skew my thinking: what I call my ‘I am responsible’ schema and my ‘Care for others’ schema. These are interwoven patterns of thinking, cognitive miswirings that I have to permanently handle. They are always triggered by ‘doing’ and/or creating and they complicate everything I do. They were powerfully triggered by The Nine Realms, and as this year has gone on I’ve had to manage them more and more. They are strong and nasty and can make me think I’m not good, make me hit myself, or take things away like self-care, meditation, gentleness, food or steadiness and replace it with cruelty, anxiety, sabotage and a level of self-detestation that is hard to understand when you think I would be feeling great about myself.

When I stopped cognitive behavioural therapy, even though I had come to understand my thinking errors profoundly, I knew these miswirings couldn’t be fixed. I was gently told that I just had to become an expert at managing them, and that each time I did it would get a little bit better. Inch work which accumulates. That each time I tried something new, like ArtiPeeps, or the BBC, or the theatre company, or the library, that I would have to face these schemas and ways of thinking again and again. I don’t think I was presumptuous enough to think that I would come through The Nine Realms psychologically unscathed, but I was and am, shocked at how quickly, despite the success of it and the clear benefit, my balance went, how quickly I chose to replace myself with ArtiPeeps and the greater good.

My self-esteem has never been connected to what I do, what I create. You might expect otherwise. My self-esteem has always been nurtured when I have truly felt I have taken care of myself, not sabotaged, not endured or stuck the shards in (again). An intrinsic feeling (consolidation) and not something externally manifested. This is why achieving things externally never lasts for me because by the time whatever I have decided to do has finished I’ve usually died somewhere along the line and am scrambling around in my mind for some resemblance of myself. Why have I done this again?!

It took much longer to tie up The Nine Realms than I expected. There was the success of The Festival of Ideas (which came as a delightful add-on afterwards) the wonderful coming together again, and then the sending out of the backer rewards (delivering) and the last payments of invoices, which only was completed today. Unexpected things cropped up too: I had to rejig The Nine Realms budget for The Arts Council only the week before last when all I wanted was for things to stop. After a year of regular 60 hr a week work patterns and driving myself towards this collective goal and celebration of collaboration, I just wanted it all to stop. How can it be that the event happened 11-15 September and I’m still putting the project to rest at the end of November? Every ounce of me had been given- willingly, and I had to draw on a sense of energy and a positive psychology that wasn’t there anymore. My best self.

I had to use every reserve to complete what needed to be done, whilst my feelings of badness started to become huge (that’s the miswiring and the stress). What should have elicited feelings of joy and pride left me more in contact with my ongoing psychological vulnerability (my grin can hide a lot).

Physically I have had difficulties this year: I now have to walk with a stick a lot of the time, and I am losing mobility in three of my fingers in my left hand. I have cerebral palsy and I think in middle age, things are catching up on me. I soon won’t be able to grip much with my left hand and without my leg brace I walk like a geriatric lobster. I’m having to learn a new way of being, come to terms with the restrictions of my new physicality. When I caught glimpses of myself in The Nine Realms event photos, I was quite shocked at my own vulnerability- how stiff and ungainly I’d become. This physical shift has been going on at the same time as ArtiPeeps’ growth. It’s ironic.

For the past couple of weeks I have banished myself to my bed- to restore my body and mind and to try and reinstate some balance in my life. Every single self-care and physical practice that had been so carefully created over the previous three years vanished during this year. I took it all away myself ,and replaced self-care and myself with ArtiPeeps. It was a willing, wonderful giving which I couldn’t control, but equally it can’t continue because it’s unsustainable, doesn’t allow me to create and nurture my own story, and to give my true best to ArtiPeeps. How can well-being be a fundamental to ArtiPeeps if I don’t practice it myself? It doesn’t set a good example and serves ‘old Nicky’-beliefs that, in reality, are long gone. This is what humanitarian Zainab Salbi said about the nature of giving fully:

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I don’t want to be that rung out towel. I want to continue to grow ArtiPeeps into something wonderful, and to celebrate the creativity and talents of everyone who is involved. I want to serve from a position of strength and (as much as possible) equanimity. Now, I just have to get the balance right and to keep on walking the best way I know how- with integrity, care and a quieter mind.

Addendum:

Here’s a profoundly valuable and insightful video by performance artist Marina Abramović which has further consolidated my belief  in the notion of challenge that I have recently embedded into ArtiPeeps’ new artistic statement

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As ever, thank you for your interest, and I shall endeavour to get a post out about the 3rd ArtiPeeps season of work shortly.

Nicky

P.S.  Deb Talan’s song “Tell Your Story Walking” was is inspired by “Motherless Brooklyn”, a novel by Jonathan Lethem

‘Mixed Episode’; ‘Care in the Community’ by Louise M. Hart (Poet) FreeSpace #3

28 May

Brain

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Mixed Episode

by Louise M. Hart

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Through the eons of my suffering
And the perpetuity of my pain
Dissociated from the familiarity
Of shared meaning and consensual reality
The spectres of madness
Misery and mislead mentality
Fuelled my moral shame

Lost in the wilderness of unceasing mental flight
And the fight to still the rapid thoughts
That summoned my ecstatic anguish
And melancholic blue delight
Like a whore I surrendered to the tremors
Of the merciless and entrapping night

I dismantled my pedestal
Only to be captured by the arms of jailers
Paid to seal my fate
To be the accused in a never ending trial
Governed by the hegemony of The State

Whilst my body became secured
Within a hospital ward
Policed by nurses and hate
My mind
Formerly determinate and solid
Fragmented into a thousand fragile parts
Each with no knowledge
Of the others
And belying my flailing sick and tired heart

My inner voice externalised into a universal yell
That began
“Help me nurse, I don’t feel well”
And culminated in a needle
In the arse of the hell
Of my enforced unreason
And silence

Thus I was baptised for the second time
Not in water
But in the shrine of my mutilated throat
The shuttered eyeballs of the socially excluded
The flesh of my sacrificial duffel coat

Even my doting Mother could not perceive
The blood and bones
I saw beyond human flesh
The words only I could hear
That inflamed my agitation
And saturated my soul with fear
And ontological distress

I challenged all perception
And claimed that reality was a scam
A grand hallucination
In which existence was woman
And matter did not matter
For I was the only one and true
Living Mad Hatter

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Care in the Community?

by Louise M. Hart

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At any time I could freak
Or stay in bed for at least a week
And they would say
“I bet she hasn’t taken her tablets today”

I could shout or cry
Scream that I wanted to die
And they would say
“I bet she hasn’t taken her tablets today”

But, what will they say
When I take my tablets every day?

Release her like a rehabilitated criminal
From the padded cell of care in the community
Where she will lobotomise every opportunity
That comes her way

And refuse to take her tablets any day
*I dedicate these poems to any readers who feel alone in their suffering. YOU are not alone.

Writing is the scream that cannot be silenced.

You can find more about Louise and her poetry here:
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You can get Louise’s latest book The General Paralysis of Sanity here

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*’FreeSpace’ offers creatives or groups 3 slots on ArtiPeeps which can be taken up in a cluster or in a sequence over a period of months. They can be used for further showcasing, self-expression or for projects.

If you are interested in FreeSpace, don’t hesitate to get in contact via a reply box, or the form on our What’s On’ Page or via @ArtiPeeps

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Adrenaline by Lauren Coulson, Artwork by Cliona Sheehan: The Anxiety/Release Collaboration #4

13 May

cropped-ely-stained-glass1.jpg

Creatives Making A Difference

‘Supporting Mental Health’

THE ANXIETY AND RELEASE COLLABORATION

Welcome to the final collaboration of an eight week, fortnightly engagement with the emotions of anxiety and release.  For this particular collaboration we have paired four artists and four poets together. The poets have taken up the theme of anxiety, and the artists, in response, are engaging  with the theme of release. In so doing we’re attempting to artistically and accessibly engage with the dynamics between the two emotions- the clashes and the spectrum between the two contrasting feelings. The poets and artists have been exchanging ideas over a number of weeks and what you’ll be seeing as the weeks roll by is the diverse expression of that exchange.
 The idea is that we will also eventually group these collaborations together into exhibitions and installations to further promote public awareness and engagement with these issues. Your feedback on this project would be very much welcomed.

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This week’s collaboration features

Lauren Coulson & Cliona Sheehan 

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lady released

‘Lady Released’

by Cliona Sheehan

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Adrenaline

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I try to picture
calm oceans,
boats,
try to distract myself
by writing words
but my fingers tap
out a heart rate
that increases too fast.

The fire spreads.
Through knots
in my spine,
up into the throat
where it sits
wrapped around my oesophagus
like bind weed.

Pull up the root.
It’s the only way to kill it.

My hands are too tired
from digging through
to find a calmer place
and the poison
I’ve laid down
just slowly kills the host

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You can find more about Lauren and Cliona here: .

Lauren Coulson

http://laurencoulson.co.uk/

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/raggedypirate

https://twitter.com/laurensayswords

You can see Lauren’s Weekend Showcase  here.

Cliona Sheehan

https://twitter.com/darshansprit

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Please do come back tomorrow for some more great  Transformations Book 15 poetry. 

Thank you for your interest.

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 BE THERE AT THE START AND HELP US MAKE THE VIRTUAL REAL

Transformations Kickstarter Campaign

14 Twitter poets, 15 Twitter artists, 1 Contemporary reworking of Ovid’s Metamorphoses

Please do take a look: 

 Campaign short code

http://kck.st/1i2e721

Campaign Video short code

http://goo.gl/khucJx

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In These Fast Paced Everydays by Estrella Azul (FreeSpace #2)

29 Apr

fastlane[1]

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In these fast-paced everydays, also think of…

 by Estrella Azul

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It is considered a virtue to love the people around us, but self love should also be considered a virtue. All the more because we ourselves are the objects of our own feelings, thoughts and attitude.

Treasuring ourselves, treating the self with care, respect, looking inside to gain self knowledge is all interdependent. The more we treasure ourselves, the more we will treasure others. So, we should love ourselves enough to do the things we love, too.

During our “left over” 8 hrs, are we going where our heart leads us? If we follow that lead, what would we be doing, who would we be with, what would we be eating, how would we be helping, creating, living, loving, learning?

After answering honestly and realistically (I’d love to travel to Paris and spend every afternoon there crisscrossing the Seine, but that isn’t possible), we should follow through with practical “gifts” to the self to express self love.

What will make the self happy? Would we be in the park, would we be walking around aimlessly in town looking at the buildings and our surroundings through a tourist’s eyes? Would we be with a dear friend, an old acquaintance catching up on each other’s lives, or simply alone trying out that new restaurant we’ve wanted to try ever since it opened two months ago, ordering Baby Spinach, Mandarin and Red Onion salad? Would we be helping out in a soup kitchen, creating written/doodled/photographed art? Would we be living truer to who we are, loving those we met ten or twenty years ago and never openly admitted to our feelings? Would we be learning new skills in a class or simply through reading anything and everything we can get our hands on?

As a closing, I’ll leave you with the following thoughts. Back in March 2013, I wrote someone a letter. After I finished and reread my thoughts, I realized I might as well have addressed it to myself.

“Dear Self,

I know how acutely the sadness of life can be felt. I’ve felt it. I feel it myself. It has the ability to numb one’s mind, to keep one from moving along. It makes one cry themselves to sleep.

But we have to get out from there. Walk out and follow our own yellow brick road leading us to where we should be: in the present. I think that is where Dorothy was heading. From a place of sadness, through the world of her perceptions, imagination and dreams. Into the present.

Where wonderful things can happen if we allow them to unfold. We have to wake up to being right where we are supposed to be.

There truly is no place like home; the home provided by leaving behind worries of the past and future!

Love,

~E.A.”

Go on, write a love letter to yourself. Then follow your own yellow brick road, your heart’s advice, and give yourself a “gift” of self love.

 

Estrella Azul

Estrella Azul is a writer, passionate about reading, floral art and photography, with an artistic personality and a soulful outlook on life, who shadows well. Estrella shares with her readers some of her thoughts and daily happenings, along with her creative writing on Life’s a stage – WebBlog©.

https://twitter.com/EstrellaAzul

You can find Estella’s Weekend Showcase here and her last FreeSpace here.

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Estrella’s third FreeSpace will be on Monday 19th May, and tomorrow you can catch up with what’s afoot with an ArtiPeeps Update tomorrow.  As always, thank you for your interest. 

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*FreeSpace offers 3 post slots on ArtiPeeps to any creative or group. They can be taken in a cluster or over a period of months for showcasing, projects (encouraged) or self expression. If you’re interested in FreeSpace do get in touch via the reply box on this post or the contact form on the What’s On page. 

BE THERE AT THE START AND HELP US MAKE THE VIRTUAL REAL

Transformations Kickstarter Campaign

14 poets, 15 artists, 1 Contemporary reworking of Ovid’s Metamorphoses

Do Take A Look

Project :

http://kck.st/1i2e721

Campaign Video

http://goo.gl/khucJx

Barkley Road by Lucy Quin, Artwork by Jack Morris: The Anxiety/Release Collaboration #3

28 Apr

cropped-ely-stained-glass1.jpg

Creatives Making A Difference

‘Supporting Mental Health’

THE ANXIETY AND RELEASE COLLABORATION

Welcome to the third collaboration in an eight week, fortnightly engagement with the emotions of anxiety and release.  For this particular collaboration we have paired four artists and four poets together. The poets have taken up the theme of anxiety, and the artists, in response, are engaging  with the theme of release. In so doing we’re attempting to artistically and accessibly engage with the dynamics between the two emotions- the clashes and the spectrum between the two contrasting feelings. The poets and artists have been exchanging ideas over a number of weeks and what you’ll be seeing as the weeks roll by is the diverse expression of that exchange.
 The idea is that we will also eventually group these collaborations together into exhibitions and installations to further promote public awareness and engagement with these issues. Your feedback on this project would be very much welcomed.

.

This week’s collaboration features

Lucy Quin and Jack Morris (artist)

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.Jack Morris

19 Barkley Road

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Barkley Rd

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It’s always the same dream,
your house is now empty
and the night is lilac purple.
I search the hollow rooms
for childhood memories
under a sky of burnt out stars.
You’re seen only in bursts.
Memories crawl and dance
like shadows along all the walls,
but I lose sight of you
and the house collapses,
everything drops around me.
Clawing at the darkness,
I fall fast and heavy,
eyes dart to catch glimpses of you
as they play like movies,
but they move too quickly —
they always move much too quickly.
It is then I wake up
and I lay very still.
I think of you and your new home,
grass has grown over you —
how running my fingers
along the top of your gravestone
feels nothing at all like
holding your hand in mine.

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You can find more about Lucy and Jack here: .

Lucy Quin

http://lucyquin.tumblr.com/

https://twitter.com/lucy_quin

You can see Lucy’s Weekend Showcase  here.

 

Jack Morris

http://www.jackmorris.org/

http://facebook.com/jackmorrisart

https://twitter.com/jackmorrisart

Jack will be having a Weekend Showcase on ArtiPeeps this Friday

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Please do come back for the last Anxiety and Release Collaboration on Tuesday 13th May  featuring poet Lauren Coulson and artist Cliona Sheehan.

 Tomorrow we’ve got writer Estrella Azul’s second FreeSpace. Do take a look. 

 Thank you for your interest.

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 BE THERE AT THE START AND HELP US MAKE THE VIRTUAL REAL

Transformations Kickstarter Campaign

14 Twitter poets, 15 Twitter artists, 1 Contemporary reworking of Ovid’s Metamorphoses

Please do take a look: 

 Campaign short code

http://kck.st/1i2e721

Campaign Video short code

http://goo.gl/khucJx

.

new-badge5

Off My Feet by Rod Kok and Spring Park Bench by Heather Burns: The Anxiety/Release Collaboration #2

15 Apr

cropped-ely-stained-glass1.jpg

Creatives Making A Difference

‘Supporting Mental Health’

THE ANXIETY AND RELEASE COLLABORATION

Welcome to the second collaboration in an eight week, fortnightly engagement with the emotions of anxiety and release.  For this particular collaboration we have paired four artists and four poets together. The poets have taken up the theme of anxiety, and the artists, in response, are engaging  with the theme of release. In so doing we’re attempting to artistically and accessibly engage with the dynamics between the two emotions- the clashes and the spectrum between the two contrasting feelings. The poets and artists have been exchanging ideas over a number of weeks and what you’ll be seeing as the weeks roll by is the diverse expression of that exchange.
 The idea is that we will also eventually group these collaborations together into exhibitions and installations to further promote public awareness and engagement with these issues. Your feedback on this project would be very much welcomed.

.

This week’s collaboration features

Rod Kok and Heather Burns (artist)

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Poem

 Spring Park Bench

Click on image for enlargement  

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Off My Feet

by Rod Kok

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I am perceived as being
strong
confident
unafraid of the winds
that harangue me from
every direction.

Yet those branches in
my mind are buffeted
by thoughts of inadequacy.

Nobody sees my tears,
or feels my pain
as the roots which hold me
weaken under stress.

I fear judgement from my peers,
so I hide.

What truly exists inside
gets painted with
an opaque veneer,
a disguise made up of
words, smiles and laughter.

I try reach out,
offering a glimpse into
my tortured psyche…
fear causes me to draw back,
back to the shame I feel,
to the disappointment I have created.

Failure is mine.

You tried to help,
crawling to me, your own tears
laving my feet…
I pushed you away
out of despair.

Anxiously I pray
for a gentle breeze
to caress me,
but the answer comes
in a gale.

And knocks me
off my feet.

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You can find more about Rod and Heather here: .

Rod Kok

http://www.fifafan.ca/

https://twitter.com/fifafan69

You can see Rod’s Weekend Showcase here.

 

Heather Burns

http://www.heatherburns.co.uk/

https://twitter.com/Heatherburns201

You can see Heather’s  Weekend Showcase here or read her blog about the creation of ‘Spring Park Bench’ here

 

Please do come back for the next Anxiety and Release Collaboration on Monday 28th April featuring poet Lucy Quin and artist Jack Morris. Thank you for your interest.

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