• Keena

Art & Colitis

Being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the age of 21 turned my life upside down. I had just spent my entire life working damn hard in the pursuit for those ever so special 'A grades', for what? At least this is how I felt at the time (my education means the world to me). However, being a believer of purpose and events happening for a reason, I was forced to pursue my one true passion - art.

Ulcerative Colitis is an autoimmune disorder where your immune system attacks your body. It is ulceration of the large intestine; your colon is practically freaking out making it impossible to digest any food. It's excruciating, you need to be near the bathroom at all times and often end up losing weight and becoming malnourished. There are times where you’re in remission with no symptoms, and times where the symptoms flare up, these symptoms can sound quite horrific when explained in detail.

(I once described some of my symptoms to a potential date, I was probably too graphic as I was so accustomed to openly talking about it during the pre-diagnosis period. So anyway, this boy became very angry and accused me of making it all up to put him off. I did find this hilarious and didn't try too hard correcting him.) ​​ I thought it (life) was over. During a flare, you just don't see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it's the same every time. You isolate yourself, loved ones tell you that "it will be ok" and that "you'll get better in no time" but words like that just irritated me further because they didn’t really know if those words would be true, they simply don't get it, but why would they, it’s one of those things that you'll never understand unless you go through it. I appreciate that people say generic things to offer comfort, but it just seems to have the opposite effect on me because that's all it is, a 'generic thing' with no factual data behind it. I'd rather someone say, "Yeah that sucks, let's hope for the best."

Stress is my biggest trigger for a flare-up, so I've been on a mission to reduce stress and have better coping mechanisms ever since, still proving to be a tricky task.

Art has become a huge outlet for me and at the risk of sounding cheesy, in my sister's words is, "a window into my soul". There are no rules; you just draw whatever you like even if it doesn’t please everyone, my mother still wishes I painted flowers and landscapes as this is what the word 'art' means to her, but it's not me.

Art helps to draw out my darker side; again this is probably therapy releasing some of the suppressed emotion, not being afraid anymore to express it and in turn helping with stress and finding ‘freedom’ to some level. There have been times where I've had tension headaches throughout the entire day apart from the 1 or 2 hours I spent drawing or painting.

I would urge anyone reading to get pick up a pen and start doodling or throwing some paint around. You never know what it will unleash.

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© 2020 Keena