Good morning and happy Wednesday. With an upcoming post about ways you can help distract yourself from the pain of chronic illnesses, I have an amazing guest post for you.
Abi Stevens is an incredibly talented artist and suffers from a number of chronic conditions. In her post she talks about her art, what inspires her and how it has helped her while living with the health problems she has. I love her attitude and the post she has written for me to share, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Abi Stevens is an illustrator and product designer who is both neurodivergent and chronically ill. Her colourful work often advocates for and empowers others in the disabled community. You can find her colourful portfolio at www.abistevens.com, follow her on Instagram and Twitter as @AbiStevens_Art, and shop her motivational products at www.abistevens.etsy.com.
Hello everyone, my name is Abi Stevens. I’m an illustrator and product designer based in Cambridge, UK and I live with Chronic Migraine, ADHD and other chronic health conditions. Much of my personal work and creations for my shop focus on exploring symptoms of chronic illness and mental health conditions and empowering other spoonies like me, but this wasn’t always the case.
Before my Chronic Migraine became disabling I used my art as a creative escape from the real world, focusing mainly on fantastical topics like bestiaries and folk tales. My work was a vehicle for expressing my curiosity about different subjects or historical styles and my biggest illustration goal was to work on book covers for fantasy and science fiction novels.
In 2018, after several years of struggling with increasing symptoms and various preventative medications, my Migraine became dramatically and very suddenly disabling. For several months I could barely make it out of bed due to Migraine pain and other symptoms. During this time I was cut off from my work, from people, but also from my art. I couldn’t look at a white page or a computer screen for long enough to draw and I was suddenly made aware of how much of my own sense of identity was tied up in my art and my work. I took some solace from imagining the things I wanted to draw when I was well enough, and making notes of ideas on my phone.
As time and various medications gradually eased the severity of my symptoms over the following months I slowly returned to art as an escape from my new reality, carving out half an hour here and there to draw magical creatures, but I was deeply effected by my traumatic experience and uncertainty and fear about my future. Talking to friends and family was helping but I knew that unless I found a way to accept my situation and process what had happened internally, I wasn’t going to be able to move on and adapt.
I decided to create a self-portrait of myself experiencing Migraine. It was a really cathartic experience and it felt like I was releasing a little of the pain I had stored up into my art. I shared in on my Instagram page and was surprised by the positive response I got to my post, both from fellow Migraineurs and from other followers who connected to the emotional edge I’d added to my work.
This one illustration was the catalyst to a major change in the way I approached my art. I went on to create several more illustrations representing different symptoms of Migraine and through them connected to others in the spoonie community online. Creating this series was a healing experience for me and allowed me to focus on the future and what I could do with my art, instead of mourning the past.
Since that first piece I’ve created more illustrations about Migraine, ADHD, stress and depression, as well as an ever-growing series of pins, stickers, prints and more to help others like me to feel seen and feel powerful, but the biggest impact has been how creating this work has helped me process my experiences, accept what happened to me and what I have to keep working through in the future.
Having a creative outlet can be really effective at reducing stress levels and be key to processing our experiences and feelings. It doesn’t have to be a big life-changing thing or a business like mine: in fact my advice is to start small and not to put pressure on yourself to create a finished object. Taking just a few minutes to do something creative can have a big impact on your mood and creation for creations sake is a beautiful and personal experience. It allows you to carve out a little piece of joy in your day with no expectations and no rules.
There are so many creative hobbies to explore and they can be enjoyed regardless of your skill level or time commitment. Think about something that inspires you or makes you smile and find a way to work a little experience into your day.
For example if you’re in bed during the day you may still be able to sing along to your favourite song, or make voice notes of ideas. You could take 5 minutes a day to write in a journal, come up with lines for a poem or story, or sketch an object in your room. If fashion is your thing try imagining your dream outfit in your head or thinking about new outfits you could create using things you already have in your wardrobe!
Small actions like these can provide a much needed distraction and escape from how you feel physically and mentally in the moment, or they can be used as an outlet to express that experience to others or for your own catharsis.
I’m going to keep exploring chronic illness in my own creative work, finding new ways to visually express internal experiences and to empower others in the spoonie community, but I’m also resolved to return to the small joys by making space to create just for myself rather than for my business.
When you’re chronically ill it can be easy to reduce your time to ‘ill’ or ‘working’ without making space for you, but that time is vital to maintaining our mental health and providing a sense of self that isn’t tied to capitalist measures of value. I hope that I’ve inspired you to go and make something just for yourself too!
I hope you enjoyed the read, I especially love Abi’s advice in the last few paragraphs. She has shared some amazing art with me for this post but I would encourage that you go check out her social media and Etsy pages to see more!
A huge thank you to Abi for sharing her story with us! Do you have a story or a passion to share? Please feel free to email me if you would like to create a post or be interviewed for The Spoonie Mummy at firstname.lastname@example.org
Take care and have a great hump day everyone,