When the goin' gets tough...illness and your art

 "Warning: Contents under Pressure". (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2016, Thurmont, MD

"Warning: Contents under Pressure". (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2016, Thurmont, MD

This is not my usual weekly post.

I'm getting personal this week; something I don't like to do...for a variety of reasons.  You know, things like privacy, vulnerability...that kind of stuff.  But sometimes, it's important to "get personal" just so folks understand not every day of a creative life is all rainbows, lollipops, and unicorns. 

Looking for zebras

In the early days of my nursing career, the young docs had a statement they loved to throw around with abandon.  "If you hear hoof beats, you don't look for zebras."  The young docs used the comment in cases too difficult for them to diagnose. If an "exotic" diagnosis was offered, the response was - "you don't look for zebras" - meaning that an exotic diagnosis was out of the question. There was, shall we say, a preference for simple explanations, even if the symptoms didn't fit the simple explanation.

Being the smart mouth that I was (and probably still am), my response was always, "You do look for zebras if you live on the savanna."  I must have been inordinately prescient.

Living on the savanna

Here is the very short version of my living on the savanna. I've had headaches (and numerous other symptoms) ever since I can remember. And I've had sleep disturbances/insomnia for nearly forty years.  Finally, after working my way through non-effective treatments, a "miracle drug" that caused every known side effect including thoughts of suicide, multiple misdiagnoses, and a radiologist who misread the definitive MRI (but we didn't know this right away) - I demanded to see a neurologist at Johns Hopkins.

Bottom line: I have a Chiari Malformation(More information, here.)

So why tell you now?

Because this week has been one continuous head-imploding, skull-crushing (and everything that goes with it) experience. This is my state of being more often than I care to acknowledge. 

I was inspired to write after two colleagues made announcements about their creative businesses.  One announced she was changing her creative business model because her son developed a sudden, severe illness.

The second, an international wedding photographer shared a video. Her video debunked the growing myth in her rural hometown that she was a "millionaire" and all the baggage that goes with being labeled.

Between the two announcements, I found a basic thought about creative folks who share their lives/work on social media.  The thought goes something like this, "If you follow my work on social media, you might think my life is perfect and I live in the land of rainbows, lollipops, and unicorns." 

I have tremendous amounts of fun with my photography, art, traveling, and I am grateful to develop exciting future plans. Yet...I don't want to build a fiction that I am immune to the vagaries of life.  I want to be transparent about the entire process of exploring success in art and photography. 

Life happens. How do those happenings impact a creative life?

Here we go...

There are so many of us trying to live our creativity - whether we build a business or not - and there is something that throws speed bumps in our way.

  • it might be the severe epilepsy that a photographer's son develops,
  • it might be the chronic fatigue syndrome that leaves an author bedridden,
  • it might be the freak accident that impairs mobility for the painter,
  • it might be the Crohn's disease that incapacitates the lifestyle blogger.

Our savanna is large and our zebras can be too numerous to count. Yet, there is a commonality.  We all love to create.  We adapt our lives to step into our potentials, to accomplish those creations. Sometimes, that creation develops a little slower than we'd like...yet we take the tiny steps as we can...moving ever forward.

  • The photographer adopted a genre that is less demanding on her time and emotions.
  • Laura Hillenbrand wrote Seabiscuit in bed.
  • Frida Kahlo hung a mirror above her bed so she could paint.
  • The blogger teaches about Crohn's disease when she experiences a flare-up.

Me? What do I do? 

Today, I sat on the sofa, in the dark, and wrote this blog post.  It was the only thing accomplished and I'm okay with that. The crushing pain has become a given on some days. And when I have a given, I just work through it - as much as I'm able.  Some days I am more able than others. And know that if you see me in public and I'm not the cheery, bubbly, social interactive person you want me to be...I'm probably feeling as if every brain cell in my head is being crushed.

Small acts, adaptations, acceptance, plans are all required to work through the tough times. Do what you can that still feeds your creative soul. Be gentle with your expectations during the tough times.

And take one, simple, small step - the step you are capable of doing in those moments.

Expect the best. Anything else is an adventure  (some adventures are better than others.)


P.S. I truly appreciate any good thoughts you may have for me. Please don't send me any advice. Trust that after all these years, I know what I need to know and do for self-care.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Feel free to share.  Comments?  You can leave your comments below, or over on the Facebook page.

And, while you're there...leave me a note about what frustrates you about your art/photography business.

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