Being diagnosed with a chronic condition at any age can involve a lot of soul-searching.
For women still at an age where they expect to be studying at uni, enjoying a fulfilling career, or taking care of their family, the impact may mean big changes in their sense of self, and their ability to fulfil their dreams.
Women have told Women’s Centre for Health Matters that having a chronic condition has changed how they see themselves.
“I’ve lost my career, my opportunity to have children, and my independence, as I can’t even shop, cook, clean, and some days dress myself. On the rare occasion we go out, my partner has to push me in a wheelchair. This is not how I planned my 30s, or the rest of my life.”
“It is quite a shock to be diagnosed with heart disease in your 40s. It shakes your identity and sense of self. With dependent children, I feel concerned that I may have to reduce my hours to focus on my own health, and that will impact the family financial position.”
Women also struggle with not being believed or listened to when they are experiencing chronic pain and fatigue, and worry about how others see them once they disclose that they have a chronic condition.
“When one has only 1-2 hours of functional energy per day one tries not to waste it on unproductive courses or get weighed down by the negativity of health professionals who can’t conceptualise that someone who looks fit, has a chronic illness .”
“…there’s no way you would self-identify as having any sort of problem you know, like my career was pretty much over once I started having health problems. Not just because of the fatigue and the symptoms, but just the stigma of having any kind of problem…”
For women experiencing chronic conditions, art can be a way to express these complex feelings, and explore ideas about living with the condition.
Women’s Centre for Health Matters will host a free photoart workshop on 20 November, led by local artist Margaret Kalms. During this one day workshop, women will have the opportunity to learn digital art photography techniques to express their ideas about their sense of self and the impacts of their condition.
The example below shows the difference between the original photograph and a finished artwork.
It is important that people are able to create art to help them express complex ideas and feelings that cannot be said with words. The act of creating art is as important for the creator as the act of viewing art is for the audience, as a way of understanding the full range of human experiences.
To book a place in the photoart workshop, please contact the Women’s Centre for Health Matters.
All images provided by Margaret Kalms.