Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Sketchbook tour November 2018

This is my visual diary from July 2017 through to November 2018.

2017 was a horrific year in so many ways. As an extended family we had to have screening to find out if we had an illness or carried a gene for the illness nicknamed Alpha-1. It came after three family bereavements in a very short space of time and another family member becoming very unwell. It is an illness that none of us knew anything about. It can be traced back to the Vikings. It's basically a lung & liver disease that presents its worst symptoms later in life, but it's early warning symptoms are  the same as common things like developing asthma in your early 20s, which I had done. The screening came at a time when I was hiding the fact that I was unwell, I had a lot of pain around my liver, I couldn't eat certain foods, my digestive system was shot to bits, I hadn't told anyone.

Then we had the tests done, it took a long time to get my results back. I thought the worst. I think every single one of us thought the worst. We went through it together, but we dealt with our own emotions alone. Mine came back clear. Others did too. But unfortunately not all of us.

I was still extremely unwell, part of me thought they had got my results wrong. I hid my pain for as long as I could. Then I played it down as much as I could when my close family started to notice. I became a recluse. I couldn't sleep, I felt unable to leave the house. The pain felt like someone was slicing me open with a sword. It would last a few minutes or a couple of hours. I made doctors appointments, but then I would cancel them at the last minute. I was so frightened.

The pain got so bad and so often that I would be doubled over making my daughter promise not to call an ambulance. By this time I strong suspected it was gallstones. We also have a family history. My fear of leaving the house was more than seeking medical help.

Then one night in March, about 10 months after I became unwell, I had a huge flare up in the middle of the night. At 11pm I promised my close family that I would get a GP appointment first thing. But I couldn't get the pain to ease. It was like someone had their hand under my rib cage and was punching it around inside my body. By 6am my son got up and took me to A&E. We sat in the waiting room and my son started talking about how they will know what's wrong, I was in so much pain, but the tears in my eyes were because I was so frightened. My son looked at me and I saw him realise how scared I was about seeing a Doctor.

I got called through, I was greeted by a very bubbly doctor who straight away said it sounds like gallstones, he done an ultrasound and recommended my GP refers me. He gave me a weeks worth of meds and made me promise to go to the GP. Which I did.

I'm on a low fat low carb diet. The silliest of things set off a flare up. But. That visit to A&E, admitting to myself that I could no longer live the way I was. It forced me out of the rut I had got myself into. I really didn't deal with 2017 very well at all. It's taken almost the whole of 2018 to recover & repair. I still have gallstones and flare ups. But I sleep with no problem and I leave the house without having panic attacks. I'm still pretty isolated in terms of socialising & working. But I am hopeful.

Leaving Facebook has helped me a lot too.

I find keeping a visual diary of things I don't want to say out loud helps me a lot. Writing it down gets it out of inside of me. Colouring, painting helps to clear my mind. I can shut it, turn a page, forget about. A lot of it is stuff I use to put on social media, but the problem with that is other people and how it makes them feel. My visual diary is for me, is my feelings, my thoughts. Something I can look back at and make sense of. Then when I'm ready I can share it, if I choose too.

Art is the only therapy I know. Going to art school gave me the tools i needed to confront the traumas of my past and deal with everyday life.

The main reason I share my work is to inspire others to do the same.

I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me or to pity me. I want be brave and share my journey with art and hope that others might to start to use art to explore their own journey too.

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