Chronic illness and creativity comic

Sometimes ideas arrive fully formed, as this one did back in July when I started a non-dominant hand chronic pain drawing diary/ sketchbook! It’s the first comic I’ve made since finishing The Facts of Life this time last year. In March, my health became considerably worse and I’ve been bed bound at times, and often housebound. At the worst point, my arms hurt simply lifting a drink to my mouth – I had to use a straw. I have ME, and I’m also in the process of having diagnoses confirmed for Fibromylagia, and Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (PoTS). I’m now a sometime wheelchair user, Blue Badge holder, and I consider myself semi-disabled – although these are fluctuating conditions, so it depends on the day!

Part of the pain and stiffness I get in my dominant hand from drawing and writing is also likely due to the beginnings of osteoarthritis in my index finger/ knuckles. However, the parts of my body that I use the most become fatigued and sore due to ME/Fibrolmyalgia, so simply using my left hand is not necessarily the answer.

I’m trying to find new ways of working so I can somehow continue writing, drawing and creating comics. My hope is that if I use my left hand to draw, it will at least spread the load, and I might eventually become sufficiently ambidextrous to switch sides when one gets too painful. This might help to slow down the progression of any arthritis and ultimately extend my potential working life as an artist. Artwork is also made difficult by being unable to sit at a drawing board for long, if at all, hence using a sketchbook.

This comic is very much about a fear of losing my creative potential, expression and communication, and my means of making a living. My creativity is my backbone – it props me up in so many ways. The last few months have been frightening and sobering at times: I’ve learnt that nothing is certain, and life as you know it can change drastically at any moment, crushing hopes.

One of the things that has kept me going, and been of some comfort during particularly bad periods, is my imagination. It is still very much active – probably the most active part of me, in fact, and my illness won’t take it away. I continue to record ideas for times when I’m well enough to carry them out.

This comic no longer exists in a tangible form – it’s in the bin – trashed! For me this reflects the transient unpredictable nature of lives curtailed by chronic invisible illness.




4 thoughts on “Chronic illness and creativity comic

  1. I’m sorry to hear this, it sounds extremely hard. I use my non dominant hand sometimes, from choice, usually to try to recall a dream scene, or have a first pass at a composition without getting hung up on perspective etc. Apart from the fact one’s non-dom hand naturally isn’t as dextrous, do you find any other differences when you draw with it? I think Betty Edwards (‘Drawing on the right side of the brain’; ‘Drawing on the artist within’ had stuff to say about non-dom drawing.) I hope you continue to find ways to work and express yourself.

    • Thank you! Yes it’s harder to get purchase leaning on the sketchbook – my brain is confused as to which way to angle it to make it easier. It requires much more concentration. I have a larger sketchbook which is easier. Interesting that you use it purposefully – what a good idea. We did lots of non-dom drawing in art school for similar reasons – great fun. I’ve been meaning to check out that book, too, so thanks for reminding me!

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