I want to welcome again Lauren on the blog. She wrote a beautiful article last year. You can read it here. Lauren and I connected on social media as she shares posts about her writing, art, and other projects.
In this blog post, she shares her struggles of chronic illness and how she enjoys crochet and other arts & crafts. I'm sure this will inspire you to continue your passions even when struggling with pain.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m Lauren Watt, and I’m a twenty-two-year-old living at home with my parents, dog, and lovebirds in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I have struggled with chronic illness since age fourteen and was homebound and bedridden for many years, struggling with symptoms such as nausea, headaches, brain fog, fevers, chronic fatigue, pain, and hypersensitivities to noise, light, smells, foods, and chemicals. I had diagnoses of Postural Orthotic Tachycardia Syndrome, Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, and tick-borne infections.
My health has significantly improved this year with a brain retraining program and somatic exercises, and I now enjoy running 5Ks, attending church regularly, taking online college classes, learning how to drive, and spending time with family and friends. But while I am leaps and bounds better, I still have struggles as I taper off medications and heal from the emotional and physical impact of being severely ill for many years.
What is one of your creative passions?
I’m the girl who has entered as many as twenty-three handmade items in the county fair! Clearly, I have many interests when it comes to arts and crafts, but my primary interests can be narrowed down to crocheting and paper crafts such as card making and origami.
Do you find creativity as a way to cope with your physical pain?
Creativity has certainly helped me cope with physical pain by means of distraction and has also helped me by giving me a sense of purpose. For example, a few years ago, I folded origami sun catchers to donate to nursing homes. The whole time I was making them I was envisioning the smiles on the faces of the people who would receive them!
While I mostly no longer experience physical pain, I still find creativity helpful for my mental health, and making something often relaxes me and uplifts my mood. Creativity also helps me to feel accomplished when I am too tired to do more physically and mentally demanding tasks.
What are some challenges you have encountered? And how did you get through them?
At one point in my journey, I was too weak to even wash my own hair, let alone do crafts. During that time, I spent a lot of time doing Google image searches and looking at beautiful landscapes and cute animals. Ultimately, that inspired a lot of drawings as I began to get my strength back!
It’s also okay to put a frustrating project down and find something easier to work on. Crocheting a dishcloth is a lot easier than crocheting a doily, and you can always come back to the other project later! Last year, I finished crocheting a doll that I had sitting in my closet for 7 years because for that long I was too sick to work on it.
How would you encourage someone to continue their creative passions even when pain is a daily struggle?
Remember that God gave you your creative passion. Art is not frivolous or unimportant. We are humans made in God's image, and God is the Great Creative. God made a beautiful world, and He paints both a sunrise and sunset each day. He designed peaceful waterfalls and fashioned tiny flowers. He gave the birds their pretty voices. Clearly, God values art. Value it like He does.
Find something that you can do in the season you are in, even if it’s as simple as coloring or scrolling Pinterst to find inspiration, and prioritize it. I believe that creativity is a form of medicine. It helps give us a sense of purpose, points us to beauty, and reminds us that we are more than our illnesses.