This post is guest-written by ChronicBabe HellyTheElephant.
It is never easy to be creative. If you have been told you are talented then there is always the fear of a negative response; if you have never felt you are any good, then illness can amplify your lack of confidence. But as that great artist Dr. Seuss put it: “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
So…I have my work propped up while I am lying down on my bed in the Hellyphant house (SW England). The blinds are shut, crayons are rolling around the duvet, and I have just dipped my paintbrush in my herb tea. Readers will be relieved that this hellyphant is not wearing the hotpants and striped tights she wore as an art student some moons ago; neither am I sporting a beret and a smock (although come to think of it one would hide my unwashed hair, and the other could conceal my muffin-top…).
The first time I was chronically ill was in the nineties. There were no Internet forums (…and no ChronicBabe!), so info was hard to come by, and writings about ME (Myalgic Encephalomyletis) were still in the cave-painting stage. I had been a 22-year-old professional illustrator…Then I got sick. Really sick. And, well, the rest of my story probably follows similar lines to your own: you search for answers, you assume you will get better…until you realise this is going to be a marathon not a sprint (ironic as you definitely won’t be doing either!).
Now 26 years greyer, and with ME reducing me to about 30% of function again, (even during my time of being “well” it had never entirely gone away,) not that much is lovelier the second time around. However, I have been really blessed by marriage to Mr. Helliphant (who is also a chronic health dude), and a strong faith. The other thing that is really different is this time I proudly label myself a “Horizontal Artist” due to the fact I can only work lying down.
“A Bad Day…”
Initially I was happy to have time to be scribbling again, and I drew nature – the flowers friends brought me. I had no idea of how I could paint the sense of frustration and disappointment that was growing week upon week.
There was “That Day.” “That Day” started with the sound of the last straw being added to this elephant’s painful back. I was several days into a grisly flare-up, with no answers from the medics, and in a lot of pain with no effective painkillers. I felt furiously angry at everything and everyone. How could I be expected to make lemonade out of these particularly dried-out lemons? Then to prove I couldn’t do it, I began a very crude drawing of how rubbish I felt…
“How It All Started…”
When the tide of flare up had abated, I looked again at what I had drawn…and I felt something I had not felt in a while – I felt good about myself. I had fashioned a tiny piece of positivity out of the huge swamp of bad.
I have realized that far from me being alone there are huge numbers of other elephants out there who have had their world utterly rocked by illness, and are rockin’ it right back. I have googled “disabled artists” and am amazed, not only at the standard of the work, but by the obstacles people have overcome in order to be creative. It doesn’t just inspire me – it gives me a big kick in the lower sacral area!
Our very talented contributor this week does sell her work as charity cards. If you want to check them out, click here
**This is the eleventh of many in a guest contributor series. If you would like to be considered as a guest writer for ChronicBabe, visit this link.**