A significant time in my life was when I was studying towards a Diploma in Photography. I was in my early twenties, and at that time, I didn’t talk about having Rheumatoid Arthritis freely. I don’t really know why but I think I just didn’t know how to talk about it.
In one of my classes, I had a documentary project and I decided to focus on myself (self-portraiture) – there is no better subject matter than yourself, right? I explored the idea of art therapy. This is where people use art to creatively express themselves with the purpose of improving their wellbeing or overcoming personal issues. It is much like how some people use Instagram – to share their struggles of their illnesses. I created a series of photograms that explored my feelings in relation to my arthritis. Here are a few…
They’re not much to the outside eye. Art therapy is not for others but for yourself. These photograms ended up having a very significant effect on me. I didn’t realise how having RA was affecting me until I saw these. And I didn’t notice it at the time, but not long after this project I started asking for help and telling people that I was in pain. From that point, life got a little bit easier.
I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that this project was my first step towards an easier life. I am a creative person and this just happened to be the thing that helped me to accept that I have RA and that having RA is my normal, even if that wasn’t my aim.
If you are in the position that I was, I would encourage you to find your own way to start dealing with your feelings. It’s important to acknowledge and explore those feelings and how your disease impacts on your life so that you can accept it and start to make positive choices and changes.