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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Rediscovering Self Expression During Chronic Illness, Art as Therapy

Over the last two plus years, I have developed often debilitating pain and fatigue. My plans to start showing my art regularly, along with painting in my studio and a host of other things that rely on a consistent store of personal energy went sailing out the window, along with much of my creativity and self worth. Finally a year ago December, after more than a month of averaging around 2-4 hours of sleep I quit my job after a big blow with my boss, ending a thirty year career in Veterinary medicine (my day job, most artists have one) and opened a disability case.  What ensued after has been a period of very low creativity, and a very dark depression.

My sketches of my pain and fatigue, not pretty but cathartic
After finding relief for the depression, and modest relief of some of the pain via taking a handful of medications morning and night I have found that periods of creativity can sometimes be gently cajoled out of hiding. For me the hardest thing  has been subject matter. It is difficult to paint cheerful floral pieces, animals or pretty much else when ever particle in your body is screaming out, so my work has drifted more to abstract, and sketches that depict pain, or my current emotionally state. Although these sketches will never be framed or displayed, they have led to a re-awakening of my creative drive, I feel more able to consider other subject matter, now that I have begun to express my inner feelings about my illness. My sketches have drifted from subjects of pain and fatigue, to that of my surroundings; pets, mundane objects and scenes, etc.
Once I expressed what was bothering me, finding other subject I wanted to sketch came easier

If you are finding that you are struggling with your art due to a chronic illness or disability, It might be worthwhile to stop focusing on making something beautiful that you will share, and spend time expressing what you are feeling from your current condition. It may not be pretty, but that is o.k. Art is after all about self expression, and it is important ultimately to find a way to express what is bothering you so that you may reconnect with the creative source.

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