dahlia in my garden: Rio Fuego in Coleus leaves

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Challenges: Photography for Healing & Awareness

Since this is a holiday week, there will not be a regular Tuesday-Newsday blog post. Instead I'm going to share something related to a Facebook project group I recenty joined.

The 21-Day Chronic Pain/Illness Photo Project was started by Stephanie Blumensaat of ChronicPainLife.com. She posits that photography can be incredibly healing, and an amazing tool for creating awareness of our inner selves as we live with our chronic conditions. In the Facebook group, every day a word or phrase related to living with chronic pain/illness was listed as a photo prompt. Group members were asked to take a photo inspired by that prompt and then share the photo plus their thoughts about how the two are connected.

I have done art therapy in connection with my chronic painful illness, both led by a professional art therapist and also by a support group leader. I’ve found the process to be thought-provoking, insightful, and cathartic. As a person with a very creative soul, using art to get more deeply in touch with my emotions is very appealing -- and it has even brought to the surface issues I needed to face but found difficult to express in words.

In the spirit of sharing how it has resonated with me, I will today post one of my entries. I will save the rest for another day. Although the 21 day project has finished, the group is still open, and you can go there to join in the experience. I encourage you to do so!

photo prompt: CHALLENGES

There are so many I cannot even list them all, and how do I choose one? I'm going to go with Adaptability as one of my biggest challenges - both with regard to dealing with illness changes and to my odyssey of moving to a new state and beginning a brand new life.

My Epiphyllum plant
Back in CA I had gotten into a stale routine, isolationist and minimal: go to aquatic physical therapy, go to any appointments, come home, limit my activities, and mostly be on the internet all day and most of the night. I was anticipating pain and symptoms so much, that I was self-restricting my life as a way of "guarding" against problems. I became a kind of hermit, not really living a joyful life. Even though I locked myself away as a form of protectionism, I had up days and down days, severe flare-ups and massive physical setbacks anyway.

However, I knew when we moved to a new state, since we didn't know anyone or have anything set up in advance, that I would have to push myself outside of my comfort zone and leave my self-restricting isolation. I knew I would have pain and problems, I'd have to educate people about my changeable illness & activity levels. I wanted to see new things, have fun experiences, try to improve my marriage by being willing to have new adventures -- and not just "exist".

And I have. I've taken risks that I expected would make me feel horrible and that I could never endure. But I did. I have tried to do things I would never have dared before. I've spent more time with my husband outside of my safe little world in the last 2 years we lived here than in the last 10 years before we moved. That's not to say that sometimes I bit off more than I could chew and had to stop or cancel things, or that my physical state at the end of the day required a significant amount of time to recover back to my "normal". But I took the risks. I had just needed to be forced into making braver and more life expanding choices... and moving was the catalyst to a new state of Adaptability.

About the photos: These photos are of my Epiphyllum plant. In California it was happy; it wasn't very fussy and didn't require that much care. But knowing we were moving to a desert climate and that it likes high humidity, I reluctantly left the Epi with my parents. When they moved here to the same place recently, they brought it back to me. I was worried it would die but decided to give it a chance. My patio was too sunny and it began to suffer. So I again gave it back to my parents to hang on their shady patio. I didn't expect it would survive. It surprised us by forming buds and recently it bloomed. 

Not only is the flower as big as my Dad's hand but the vivid pink/purple petals are almost iridescent and gorgeous beyond words. With my mother's twice daily misting and some extra tender care, it has been able to handle the change of climate and adapted to its new surroundings -- as I am myself. I am hoping the Epi will survive its first triple-digit desert summer and bloom again next spring. 

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