When I made this illustration I was dealing with severe period pain and it was also a super hot day. I do a smaller version of this in real life in my own sketchbooks but imaging this on a larger scale became the inspiration for making this small comic strip. Pain overwhelms everything I find and therefore finding a way to tame it somehow, to boundary it, feels so needed when it is at it’s worst. Pain killers are definitely part of that for me!
And yet there is also something else I find myself wanting and that is the sense of capturing what I’m experiencing emotionally and then expressing how that feels as well.
This time my pain came to life as a monster painted in deep red with claws, sharp teeth and an evil grin.
I felt I had defeated something for a short while at least.
Does anyone else do this? Or something similar? I’d be so interested to now how other people with persistent pain conditions (I have endometriosis) find ways to manage living with pain?
And whatever ways you cope I hope it brings you moments of peace and the distance from that pain to feel that you are and always will be more than that pain, despite how overwhelming it feels.
Many, many tea breaks helping to get me through the day. probably good to keep the old body moving a bit too. Interesting to break down a short sequence of something done on auto-pilot and take time to explore the everyday. x
Wouldn’t it be liberating if we could be openly kinder to our bodies during our periods, particularly in places of education or employment?
At home I quite often use hot water bottles to help with cramps and devise various outfits of comfort and warmth to help with the intense and painful periods that I have. From talking with friends I know I am not alone in this and yet I have never ever seen anyone with a hot water bottle on their lap in the various work environments and jobs I have had.
I remember at my all girls secondary school which I went to between the ages 11 – 16 that if we had menstrual cramps we could all ask for a hot water bottle and sit with it during our lessons. It really wasn’t a bit deal. And it really did help. Then, when I went to a mixed school between ages 17 – 18, I realised that none of the girls sat around with hot water bottles. It was a subtle but noticeable change between two different school environments.
While I have not yet felt comfortable to wear jogging bottoms or use a hot water bottle at work I equally have never felt at ease taking a day off for period cramps, nausea, or heavy menstrual bleeding.
Fundamentally I would like to live in a society where menstruation and particularly problematic menstruation (whether that be pre-menstrual syndrome, pre-menstrual dysmorphic disorder, endometriosis, adenomyosis, peri-menopause or menopause) could be given greater visibility and kindness in public. It really feels like it’s time to end the taboo about periods.
Being ill sucks don’t you know? But oh, how the reminder of love that is still with you can soften the road to recovery.
If you are one who is ill, and going through it at the moment then I also send out some love to help you through. Know someone who is poorly? Then drop them a message to tell them you love them – snot, coughing, vomiting, pain and all.
When I feel at my most unlovable and gross these small things make all the difference.
Being a slow reader made me very self-conscious for much of my schooling until I was able to understand that it came from me being dyslexic. I realised (that in my experience) dyslexia meant that I took more time than the other academics around me to finish the same book, or even paragraph! I felt that unless I could devour a piece of writing or novel in an afternoon I should give up on literature and began to associate being a slow reader with being a bad reader’
Luckily I was able to find guidance from some good educators who helped demystify and simplify what it means to be a dyslexic learner and this gave me back confidence in the connection I had with literature rather than disadvantage I had with the mechanics of reading.
For me stories told through the medium of plays, graphic novels, films and radio are easier to digest. This may always be the case but now I am no longer frightened of delving into longer novels and after almost three decades am introducing myself to books I have always yearned to read but have shied away from given their page count.
How do engage with stories? Do you enjoy reading or have you, like me, been intimidated by school environments?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences, so drop me a comment below!
There are times when I feel wrapped up in my own mind. Then, some instinct ‘taps me on the shoulder’ and I realise that I am moving through my day while disconnected from my body. Chaos is queen. Turning in, tuning back in and listening to my body, grounds me back into the present. The chaos settles into steadiness. Taking time to do small things with great love for my body re-aligns and balances me.
“Not all of us can do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.”
This quote struck a note with me at a time that an illness had taken over my ability to do anything particular ‘great’ with my life. I was struggling with doing even the boring day to day bits of life. At first it angered me. I wanted to rebel at the notion of not being able to do something great. I wanted to still believe that I could one day find my illness diminishing and recover enough to put it all behind me and then climb a mountain, change legislation, and contribute something fantastic to world literature…these were the ‘great things’ that fuelled my imagination.
Planting my head into the life I could or should be living instead of being ill was making the being part unbearable.
My imagination and will power alone could not shake off the bonds of my body.
And so this quote became a way to save my sanity. I had to reason with myself that I might never achieve these dreams. And if I could not I might become consumed by bitterness. No! I would not let illness turn me into someone who hated life. So the choice between living life embittered, or letting go of an imagined future, became an easy one. It felt almost practical in fact.
It made sense.
What also made sense was for me to re look at my blog. Things on my site had pretty much lapsed. Apologies, as blogging is definitely one of the small things I do love, and with Spring coming (or has it arrived? April is a tricky month in Britain) what better time to embrace a new beginning!
So here’s to the future on my blog, re focused around a new wisdom.
Services which support vulnerable people (including mental illness) are being cut by the government’s austerity measures. Today there was a march in Bristol to campaign against the proposed cuts to the councils funding for these services. Unfortunately my own mental health wasn’t very well today so I decided to draw the placard I would have chosen to carry if I had been able to make the march!
I have been writing an autobiographical graphic novel about my experience of mental illness and creativity – and have now finished the book! In celebration of this I have published a short extract on my site. You can find it by following the link here: ‘The Butterfly Stage’.
(On a further note – I am going to be giving a presentation of this comic book as well as my other illustration and comic book art in London sometime in the next month. This event will be hosted by the wonderful Laydeez Do Comics! I will post the dates and other details once confirmed on my blog and if you are in the area then it would be great to see you there!)