A previous post I wrote about people labeling themselves as non artists made me want to share something about my own story that is relevant. Something I'm a little afraid to admit.
I can't draw, or paint.
To be clear- I know how to draw (and paint). At one point in my life I was able to visually replicate images or scenes on paper with graphite- however I lost this ability over ten years ago.
Towards the end of high school I started experiencing symptoms that were misdiagnosed as tendonitis. I was told to rest my wrists, ice them, stop drawing, painting, writing.
So I did, for months and the moment I started to use them again they started to ache.
Up until this point I would spend hours drawing, painting with my headphones jammed in my ears in my own solitary space. I would write pages and pages every single day. From the age of nine that was how I understood my world. Then all of a sudden I was told to stop doing all of those things.
Stop using my hands to do what I love. At first it was just my right hand, so then I was determined to teach my left hand how to write and draw. Unfortunately as soon as I started doing that it also started to ache.
I was devastated. I had made a plan of going to art school after I finished high school. I wanted to create beautiful paintings and drawings. I wanted to work hard on these things for hours and hours. It was what I knew, it was where I felt happiest and it was what I had dreamed of and had longed for.
But this pain in my arms, wrists and hands was preventing me from doing any of it.
Months turned into years and I let go of this dream that I had of going to art school.
Instead I studied other things that were interesting but didn't make me come alive in the same way as art always did.
(Portrait I drew circa 2005 before all the pain started)
At university I still couldn't write and needed someone to take notes for me, I used a voice recognition software to write essays and exams. It was hard for me because writing had always been how I processed my thoughts. Sometimes I would get frustrated and start to write again, but
quickly regret it, my arms and wrists would burn and ache for days.
I saw all kinds of specialists, doctors, naturopaths, chiropractors, massage therapists, acupuncturists, Chinese doctors who wrapped me up in herbs and saran wrap- but still nothing changed.
Most of the doctors I saw turned me away saying there was nothing wrong and nothing they could do to help me, or even worse that I was faking it. I left many doctor appointments in tears feeling lost and confused betrayed by every system of medicine, but mostly betrayed by my own body.
After 5 years of this I finally had an appointment with a rheumatologist.
Right away he gave me the diagnosis that matched all of my symptoms.
I had fibromyalgia.
It was a strange diagnosis for me because people who are given this diagnosis are often much older. It is a blanket diagnosis for many symptoms and those who suffer with it may experience very different symptoms.
Once I had the diagnosis I felt that I could slowly somehow start to put the pieces of my life together. Over time I figured out how I needed to take care of myself, and give my body what it was asking for.
Photo by Edu Lauton on Unsplash
The pain I experienced was most obvious in my wrists and arms because they served the most important function for me; to express my thoughts, feelings and emotions. I did however experience lots of other pain, it just wasn't as debilitating or noticeable. Some days though I had trouble walking, I couldn't stand for long periods and I felt like an 85 year old woman rather than 21.
The point of telling this story isn't to tell you what I went through and the obstacles that took me away from my dream and my passion and the life I thought I would have, but to say that you can still make your life what you want despite your limitations.
For me what became more and more apparent was that I was going to make art, even through challenges like this one, it mattered to me more than anything and I would find a way despite the pain.
Not too long after I got this diagnosis I discovered an art school where I could avoid long hours of drawing and painting. Enrolling in a drawing class wasn't mandatory. What was mandatory was being able to create based on concepts and ideas.
As soon as I started to attend classes I felt like a new world opened up for me. I started to understand that art wasn't just about drawing or painting. In fact I didn't have to do either of those things if I didn't want to. I could do what I was capable of. I could make photographs, videos, performances, I could create installations or sculptures. I could experiment with textiles, with plaster or sound.
The possibilities were endless and I stopped feeling so limited because of my lack of physical ability. It was incredibly liberating.
I'm still unable to draw, or write or paint as I once did, but I have learned to use my body in the ways that it does work, I've learned to express myself through movement, or photography or performance. I've learned that exploring ideas rather than medium can be just as exciting or more exciting than sitting and drawing for hours.
So next time you think- oh I can't draw or I'm not creative, remember there are a billion ways of being creative that have nothing to do with drawing. I believe there as many ways to be creative as there are people on this planet. So go out and find your own unique creativity and start making today!
(more recent work from early 2017)