Making Positive Memories Despite Chronic Illness

When it all boils down to it, life is mostly about memories, right? If you’re fortunate, they are what’s left when all is said and done. You may be thinking, I don’t exactly sit around and hyper-analyze memories, or the making of them. I didn’t either, like most people I was too busy making them. It wasn’t until I was about a year into my chronic illness journey when I realized that all of my memories since becoming ill were illness related. As a lover of fun facts I had learned that the brain does not retain redundant activities, imagine if you remembered every moment of every day! So we only remember the big things, or the different things that happen in our lives. The problem with this was the only real different things that were happening were crappy symptoms and doctor’s appointments.

As someone who has regularly dusted off the negativity in life and plowed forward I decided this wasn’t how my story was going to end. I may not have had the ability to travel the globe, or even to the store actually, still don’t, but I did have control of my day and what I could do from bed. So, I looked over my bucket list, you know the ‘well’ one, which had started fading in the sunlight, unchecked since illness came a knockin’. I was reminded that before I was ill I had dreamed of finding the time to learn to crochet, and maybe make a blanket, as well as learn to watercolor. I thought maybe, with the help of YouTube, I could figure these two crafts out, make some happy memories, and check off two more bucket list items in the process.

My mom, who seemed to excel at everything to do with creating, used to crochet beautiful blankets. She made it look so easy. Well, for me it was not SO easy! But it was fun!! I found it incredibly soothing and relaxing in a way I hadn’t experienced since becoming ill.

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My first attempt at crochet. Lily liked it. 😊

Dare I say it was nearly as calming as a walk on the beach. So, it will come as no surprise to you that I kept at it, slowly creating new memories, and hopefully family heirlooms. I even happened upon a group of people like me, chronically ill and crafting, on Facebook, Chronic Creatives. It was during the holidays and there was a lovely lady in the group doing a crochet-a-day nativity challenge and honestly, that’s all I remember about that holiday season. That challenge took me away from the fact that I couldn’t make the holidays the fun and festive time they normally are for my family.  It helped pass each day with something new to look forward to. It was a lifesaver. As life does, it threw me a curveball, eventually my shoulder decided to freeze, so it was time to find a new craft, which was okay. I still crochet here and there but as you probably know if you’ve read this far my next craft was watercolor

To be honest I have spent my life looking at other people’s art in absolute awe and admiration, and then looked at mine, chuckling, and thought big FAIL, but all while smiling because when you accept your weaknesses life is more fun. Outside of high school Art class I had literally no experience. So, I jumped in with both feet… and YouTube. I watched video after video of watercolor technique but found it frustrating that my work never looked like theirs so I stopped doing that to myself and just started doodling and then coloring in the doodles. Way more fun when you are not comparing your work to someone who likely has an art degree!

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First attempt at watercolors.

The crafting, crochet and watercolor, was really helping with creating new memories, but I was still not where I wanted to be emotionally. To be entirely candid, I was incredibly lonely. My social media accounts had all grown silent as I had nothing new to post and honestly, I was really struggling with seeing everyone else carry on life as usual. I had been sharing my crochet work on the Facebook group but once I embarked onto watercolor I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my little doodles so I started searching on Instagram for maybe other people with my illness or who crafted. Luckily, I found a few so I decided to create Seaside.Spoonie on Instagram and share my little crafts.

As an introvert it was nerve-wracking posting ‘look-at-me’ photos of things I wasn’t necessarily proud of but was just trying to connect through, even as an anonymous person, but in an effort to sink or swim, I did it anyway. And then I found a daily watercolor challenge and I was hooked! The first monthly challenge I participated in was a one-time thing but it was so much fun FINALLY interacting with other people. So, when the month was up I searched high and low for another one and stumbled across the one I do now, World Watercolor Group. It promised that all skill levels were welcome and I aimed to put that theory to the test! 😁 I started that challenge April 1, 2017, once in a while I miss a day due to health reasons, but for the most part I have painted nearly every day. Good days, bad days and everything in between. When I look over my work I don’t see much improvement, certainly not as much as I had hoped, but what I do see are memories. Memories of creating the doodle, trying to get the watercolors to behave, what I’d hoped it’d look like vs what it what it actually came out like. Sometimes I even remember what I was doing that day or what led me to paint a certain thing for a prompt. My bookshelf is slowly filling with little watercolor sketchbooks and I know if I open any of them, or scroll through my IG feed, sweet memories await. I know that every day I took some time to allow my brain to relax and create and learn. According to this review there are healing benefits to art therapy.

“Through creativity and imagination, we find our identity and our reservoir of healing.”

 

Here’s the thing yes always a thing. I know I’m not a natural artist, far from it! I know everyone has their gifts, mine are organization and critical thinking. I score off the charts there…yep nothing to do with art. If you ever want help organizing or over thinking things through, I’m your gal. I once told my therapist, “I’m not an artist.” She said, “You do art; therefore, you are actually an artist.” Okay, okay I’m a little bit artist but, I don’t post daily on IG because I think my little doodles are awe inspiring, I post daily so that I can look back and smile and also to socialize with a really neat group of people. I’m creating memories, just like when people, who are able, go camping or hiking or out with their friends. When I look back at this season of my life I can say I learned to crochet, made some neat blankets that will keep people warm and cozy for years to come, and I created some fun little doodles, which sometimes made people smile, or chuckle. In closing I just wanted to say thank you, for following along, for stopping in for a read, for commenting on my little doodles, for generally being supportive, those interactions have also become a part of my cherished memories.

Thank you for stopping in! Here are a few more of my little doodles. Hoping today is treating you kindly!🌸

 

 

32 thoughts on “Making Positive Memories Despite Chronic Illness

  1. I love seeing your little watercolours. As someone without an artistic bone in their body, any kind of painting or drawing is an unfathomable talent to me! (This might sound silly as I make so many clothes but I see that as more of a technical accomplishment than an artistic one. Ask me to design something and I’m lost!) We definitely need things in our lives to fill what was lost.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Amanda Callin

    Um, I consider myself a pretty crafty person but there is NO WAY my first attempt at watercolour would ever look that good! Definitely a difference between being crafty and being artistic, but you’re both! Such a great post about how to continue moving forward even when your body won’t. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s really relaxing and keeps those hands busy! So what I did was typed beginner crochet granny square blanket. Each video usually tells you what supplies are needed right up front, exactly which hook and what yarn to use. That helps. You wouldn’t believe how many beginner crochet videos there are on YouTube. I chose granny square because it’s repetitive and it would help form that muscle memory and comfort of just holding the hook. It’s hard for me to tell you exactly because I’m not sure what your goal is. I’d be happy to suggest specific videos though if you decide on something. You can always start with a dishcloth or scarf. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ty!!!!! The video looks very easy to follow! I am still dog/house sitting til the weekend is over, but after I recover from my infusion on Monday it will give me a new project while I try to hide for July’s heat! I can’t wait to get started!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for stopping in for a read.😊 Chronic illness certainly can bring out a part of us we may have never known. It seems the strength can be found in learning how to make peace with that side of yourself. I’m so glad you too have found things that you find healing and uplifting in this season.🌸

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Art sounds like a great way to make memories, and I hope to add it to my toolkit if my mental health improves enough. At this point in my stage of recovering from mental illness, I don’t feel capable of doing much more than consuming various works of media and writing short pieces. I’ve found that even just doing things like watching documentaries etc helps build memories, though, since these things shape my understanding of the world and give me a lot to think about.

    The art challenge that you mentioned seems like it could help struggling people nudge their art along, since to my understanding, it gives ideas for art projects. I agree with your therapist that anyone who makes art has the right to call themselves an artist. I may not be the next J.K Rowling, but I’m comfortable with calling myself a writer, since that’s a thing that I do. Lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like the philosophy that what you see, like documentaries, helps shape your perceptions of your reality. Great point!

      Writing is so healthy. Hoping you keep it up and enjoy it. Yes you aren’t Ms. Rowling but you are you and nobody else can bring what you bring to the table. 🌸

      Liked by 1 person

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