The Power of Perseverance
In June 2016, a pain in my pelvis that I'd had since pregnancy five years previous, worsened overnight and developed into an all-out overwhelming chronic pain. In a matter of weeks I went from finding walking painful; to hobbling about on crutches; to hardly being able to walk, sit or stand at all some days. Friends rallied me around and got my children to and from school and on the worst days I lay flat for the whole of the school day in order to look after my children once they came home.
A few weeks earlier I had just hung my debut solo exhibition and my career as an artist was beginning to pick up momentum. The last thing I needed was to have to lie flat all day. Thankfully, I am blessed with a positive, resilient mindset so was able to push through every knock back from the medical professional who told me time and time again they wouldn't refer me for tests as they said diagnosing pain in that area of the body is almost impossible. I was instructed to go on heavy pain medication and accept that 'this was my life now'.
I refused to give up hope though, and was not about to let go of my art career I'd worked so hard to start up!
So, in the moments the pain would calm down I would take photos for my Instagram feed. I figured, that if I just managed to paint a little bit and take seven pretty pictures each week, I'd at least have something to put on my feed and keep my account going. I documented the moments I could paint, the occasions I could leave the house, and decided against mentioning what I was going through on my feed. I didn't feel comfortable getting sympathy, I had, and still have, friends going through much worse everyday, and I needed to stay strong and focus on the good. I felt like if I shared with my lovely audience what I was happening, the outpouring of love and sympathy could make my strength crumble. So I took the British 'stiff upper lip' approach and carried my digital life on regardless so the challenging situation couldn’t overwhelm me entirely.
Thankfully, seven months on a friend put me in touch with a specialist in chronic pelvic pain who diagnosed me as having a textbook case and within two months of treatment the pain had dropped to a manageable level, and very quickly went away almost completely, with just little flare ups that so far I can handle.
What I find quite amazing, is the fact I used the dead time I had waiting for my appointment for treatment each week to write an eBook about my Instagram tips and without realizing it, I was setting up a passive income that would allow me to pursue my painting once I was better. Lots of people had contacted me asking for my advice as to how I’d had such success on Instagram and I wanted to help. I knew it wouldn’t be a 5 minute conversation and joked that I had so many tips I’d need to write a book but had just never found the time to sit down and write. Some weeks I could barely sit on a chair, but knowing my treatment was on the other side of my writing time I persevered. By the end of my chronic pain episode I had finished my eBook.
The moral to my story I guess, is never give up. You may not find a miracle clinician who can make it all better like I was blessed enough to have happen, but if I'd stopped looking for an answer I fear I may have never found one. Doing what you can do, however small that may be, creates traction and movement towards your goal.
Lastly, I really think all the encouraging positive support I was having on Instagram about my art at the time of my chronic pain starting, helped me to stay in a positive mindset when I could have just felt despair. My Instagram community gave me so much encouragement with my painting which was the best distraction from my health issues, and the joyful mindset it gave me helped me to work hard on the pain management side of things (long physiotherapy sessions everyday, challenging neuroscience treatment, being brave etc).
Going through this experience has given me even more zest for life, a new found fascination with the neuroscience behind pain, and almost a second chance at things. It's funny, without art I would have struggled to have a purpose during this challenging time, and without the chronic pain episode, I may never have written my eBook which created a new branch to my business where I can help people which I enjoy tremendously. So they helped each other out. Spine tingling stuff.