Chronic Pain – Not a popular topic in social circles. Thankfully, we have gotten more comfortable talking about our emotional pain, anxiety, mental illness. But chronic physical pain has yet to see it’s day.
After all, who of us wants to be known as one who continually “complains” about how one feels. To do so puts us in a certain age bracket or social status that is definitely undesirable. Those of us who live with daily chronic pain would rather suffer in silence.
And it’s difficult to express. It’s as if there is a separation between you and the real world. Each decision or activity must be weighed in the balance of energy level or ability. Days and weeks are carefully planned and measured out for maximum accomplishment. Days are also measured according to the pain level one experiences. A good day is one with manageable pain, a bad day, pain has immobilized us. It’s as if you are caught in a net and can’t get out. No matter how hard you try or how much money is spent on alternative treatments the result is always the same.
I feel living with chronic pain is doubly difficult for creatives. Our minds are going a mile a minute but our bodies just refuse to keep up. That being said, I also feel creativity is a lifesaver when it comes to dealing with pain. It’s tremendously valuable for coping emotionally.
Creating meaningful work gives us a sense of purpose while we are relegated to the couch or the bed. There is always something to plan for, research, learn, or record. There is always some little thing we can do in 10 minutes or the 20 minutes before we have to sit down again. There is also talking to other creatives, community and interaction, that keeps us from feeling isolated.
After a year goes by we can look back and see what we have been able to accomplish despite our daily pain. We have documented it and it feels very good.
I find the creative process to be a viable alternative to pain medications. But the work must be engaging enough to take us outside our pain and create a chemical change in the brain, you know, endorphins. Pain medications, although sometimes quite necessary, can all too easily trade one difficulty for a much worse one. I have been known to be a bit excessive when it comes to creating art, better that then rehab for sure.
I have been living with daily chronic pain for 25 years now. It is a part of me, no longer something I have but who I am. It has shaped my reality in both positive and negative ways like any other life experience. It is a reason for and often expressed in my art. You wouldn’t know it with just a glance, but it’s there, behind the veil.
This post was inspired by the work of Abby Norman.
Shot in the studio with natural light and reflector. ISO 800, F 1.8, 1/800 sec. Nikon D750 with a Nikkor 24mm F 1.8 lens. Edited in Lightroom.
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