My art is one of the things that I feel has made the biggest impact on my coping strategies. People ask me how I can sit for 14 hours straight sewing but honestly to me, when I focus on something that my whole body becomes involved with, it's like a holiday. A break from my illnesses and the not so good aspects of life. It doesn't go away completely but I find that putting the energy in to something positive makes me feel more grounded and not feel like a victim of some injustice. I have conditions but I choose not to suffer from them. There is a difference. I don;t think that this came down to some kind of punishment or recompense for any imagined slight, it just is as it is. It didn't "pick" me for any reason, it was just the way things panned out. To be honest, one positive I found of all of this was that it taught me to look at things differently, whereas like most young girls I was more interested in how things looked and getting worked up over the small stuff, rather than appreciating the small things that we all take for granted.
It comes down to how you look at things. I prefer to think about it as just part of life, not worrying over every twinge or every time my chest feels like it can't even take air in. Worrying can actually make you ill in itself, power of mind over matter, and it's all too easy to become obsessed with symptoms and all too common to sit there and Google a benign symptom and convince yourself that you're dying of some awful disease. Dr Google is a dangerous thing, go and see a real doctor instead who can give you expert advice. I work hard with my doctors to make sure that I'm getting the treatment I need, the care and support to stay alive and the best quality of life possible.
I'd be lying if I didn't admit that there have been (and will always be) days where I feel down or exhausted. Days where even the simplest task leaves me struggling and drained. There are plenty of those days and it's during those that it's more important than ever to try and keep a good attitude towards things and to remind myself that although things are sometimes difficult, they aren't impossible and sometimes they take longer than they would for someone without my difficulties. These are the days where having a coping strategy is the most important thing to have on your side. Something to keep your mind active and to enrich your day to day life. For example, I enjoy drawing, writing and am a huge craft fanatic. I love to see and have even recently brought a mini sewing machine, cute little gadget, to help me achieve more than ever.
My creative side started in music, I used to love singing along to the radio in the car and when I was 9, I started playing the flute. In my teens, I began playing piano and guitar. I've always seen music as colours, shapes and when I was younger, I used to follow them with my eyes while listening to my stereo in my room. I loved playing the flute, actually it was one thing I found hard to give up. The last time I played was before I moved out of my Mum's and my asthma was becoming more aggressive, it always was volatile but it was only after my 21st birthday that things just went haywire. The last 8 years has seen a very real decline and leads up to where we are today. I think that the importance of having ways to cope has been what has kept me going through it.
I've always enjoyed drawing, I won't say that I'm a professional by any stretch but the things I draw are meaningful and often colourful. I think that drawing takes me back to my childhood, when I used to get brought crayons and felt tip pens by my Nan and Aunty Rose and would spend hours drawing pictures while watching videos (my favourite one at my Nan's was probably the Thomas one called "Coal") while my Mum, Nan and Aunty would be sitting in the room chatting. I remember that it always felt like I was in a safe little bubble and I could freely express myself without someone interfering or ripping my pictures up, dismissing them as "silly bits of paper" (my "Dad" never really encouraged my creative side, even though it was likely to have come from his side, my grandfather was apparently a tattoo artist). I think that when I moved to Rising Brook and selected my GCSE subjects, I had to take Art. It helped me through tough times too, especially when I was sent to have therapy for my depression at 15. When I draw, I'm back in that safe place and nothing can get to me. My Mum and Nan taught me to sew and my friend Georgina's Mum, Robbie, nurtured a desire to learn cross stitch.
I now spend most days working with a needle and thread, it's demanding sometimes but I love it. Seeing it come together after spending days, weeks or even months on something is rewarding. My Dissidia Sephiroth piece is something that I always show people as it took me 3 months of work, even through the emotional upheaval of suddenly moving from the flat to the bungalow. That move wasn't easy as it was literally a case of one day things are normal, then the next I'm viewing a property and a week later I moved in. 13,000 individual crosses make up the piece and I felt like I was glowing as I mounted and framed it. Now it's prominent in my living room.
This place has become a wonderful home, full of love and warmth. It feels as safe as I felt when we were at my Nan's and it's the best thing to hold on to.