Art is Therapy
I kind of hate this image. I barely even like it. It was created when I was brand new to digital art. I am even slightly embarrassed to post it here. But it serves a very big purpose. A huge purpose!
People who know me know that I have a medical condition called Chiari malformation. What that means is my skull was too small and deformed in such a way that my cerebellum was being pushed into my brain stem. It causes a lot of major neurological issues, lots of pain everywhere, lots of cognitive issues, dizziness and a whole slew of other things. The only treatment for this is brain surgery – and it’s a treatment; not a cure. I had brain surgery in November of 2011. This surgery, though it did help a lot of the symptoms I was experiencing prior, brought on a whole new batch of symptoms.
Because of all this, I am unable to maintain a full time job anymore where someone expects me to show up every day, work quickly, not make mistakes and process information at a quick speed – the speed of a “normal” person, the speed I was once able to process information. My job now is a housewife and that was not by choice.
Chiari consumed my life. I was an activist for Chiarians, held walks to raise money for Chiari research organizations, ran a Chiari Facebook group. Having a chronic illness and knowing your life will never be the way you had planned or ever be the same again takes an emotional toll on someone.
Shortly after starting my Awake class, I decided I wanted to put into imagery what it feels like to have Chiari. It goes without saying that this was probably one of my most personal pieces created. While working on this piece, my emotions of how I felt having Chiari came to the surface, emotions I didn’t even realize where there. There were moments it was hard to see my computer screen through the tears.
Creating this image, however, was the absolute best thing for me. After the image was complete and the tears had dried, a huge weight was lifted from me. I stopped obsessing about Chiari. I no longer wanted to be known as “the girl with Chiari.” I wanted people to see me as a person and not a brain disorder. Activist roles took a back seat. No more walks were planned to be organized. The Facebook group is seldom visited. Chiari isn’t the main part of my conversations anymore. Chiari is no longer a word in my daily vocabulary. With the exception of the issues I still experience because of it, I hardly even think of it. And this is how I like it.
Perhaps I may have come to this place eventually, anyway, but putting feelings into symbolic imagery made this process happen a lot faster (this is my belief, anyway). The therapeutic benefits of creating, whether that is digital art, painting, dancing, making music or any other form of creativity, is worth every minute or dime invested in it. Art gave me my life back. I am now Leslie, an artist, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a cousin. I am no longer “that girl with Chiari.” Simply because of art.