Thursday, May 21, 2009

In Sickness & In Health - allow Art to Lead The Way

My hand drawing from first grade...who knew?

I came across the above art peace I did when I was in first grade while going through boxes of things in my Father's house after he died. The picture was a drawing I did of tracings of my little hands on brown paper that were filled in with images using Crayons. I found this picture after I had completed graduate school in June '06. I love this picture, because one of the first art directives we were given as art therapy graduate students was to trace our hands and fill them in with images. Our hand became our admission to keep what we discussed confidential in group. Little did that first-grader know that she would go on to become an art therapist many years and many pictures later. There were many things I didn't know about myself in first grade including that I would end up with a chronic illness and use my personal and professional experience to work with others whose lives have been affected by a chronic health condition.
I have lived 35 of my 52 years with a chronic condition and bring both my life wisdom and academic knowledge to my work. I like to say that I help individuals and families navigate the changing seas of chronic illness. That together we can celebrate the successes and acknowledge the challenges of having a chronic health condition. I help them build a healthy relationship with their bodies amidst fluctuating health. For instance, when my body is being challenged by a new ailment - how can I keep my identity in tact? As a believer in the healing power of expressive arts, I invite individuals to draw, write and create during the journey of living with an illness. One art directive you might try when your identity is in limbo, might be to create a collage of yourself feeling good and one when you feel physically challenged. How do they differ? What remains the same? What remains the same, I believe, is who we are with or without our illness. Our bodies might change, but we (I) do not. So, who is that I I am speaking of? I invite you to do an I collage or drawing. Include the aspects of yourself that never change, the aspects that do change and, the aspects that you are uncertain of whether they change or not. It doesn't matter how small or large this part of you is that doesn't change, it does exist. Create a large art piece that represents this never-changing aspect of you amidst chronic illness. Name the peice. Maybe she is one of the goddesses, or someone or something you have created. You might also want to write a poem about her. Allow her to teach you about your health condition. Allow all parts of you to be your sickness and in health.