I suffer from chronic illness. Many of you reading this will also be battling your own physical disability, mental health issue, or other significant impairment.
We each find ways to work around our problems and continue to lead productive and creative lives.
My New Year’s Resolution for 2018 is to raise awareness of how life can get in the way of art (in my case writing) and provide some insights into the ways I’ve made it work. I’m not suggesting I have all the answers, but I’ve had to make adjustments and compromises.
I’m not sure it’s important why some of us are unable to get out of bed some days. Whether it’s chronic pain, fatigue, depression, or something else that’s specific to your condition, what matters is the strategies we have for dealing with it (if we do deal with it).
Having said that…a bit about me. I have a brain tumour. If you know anything about these things, you’ll know there are various kinds. Mine is low-grade and slow growing. It doesn’t really do much. Instead, my head finds other ways to make me suffer with unpredictable pain and dizziness. I also have a range of gynaecological conditions, but I’ll spare you the gory details.
I went from being driven and ambitious in the workplace, to barely coping and eventually I was forced to leave the job I loved. But, hey…more time for writing, right?
While it’s true that the creative spark doesn’t die out when you have a life-altering condition, you do have to find ways to nurture it.
It’s like being in survival mode 24/7. If you let go of that thread, there is always the fear that you will never be able to find it again.
Living with illness means living with the fear of stigma. If you are trying to sell your work, you are also selling yourself. If the package is less that perfect, will anyone want to buy it? When there are so many other products (books, paintings, films, songs) out there, are you going to take that chance?
No. So chances are, you do drag yourself out of bed and pin on a smile. You are harder on yourself than anyone else would ever be. You use up all your creative energy and drive on just getting through the next few hours and then you wonder why you feel even worse the next day.
I’m going to keep writing about this subject, but I have one simple thing I keep in mind when it comes to self-care.
When you travel on a plane, the air crew will tell you that, in the event you might need oxygen, you must put your own mask on before you help others. Even though the reasons are different, the underlying message applies to life as well as to a plane journey: If you don’t look after yourself first, you may not be able to look after anyone else.