By Dr. Shanali Perera MBBS, MRCP
Editor’s note: A few days ago Dr. Shanali Perera shanaliperera.wixsite.com/digitalart from the U.K. sent me an email and expressed her interest in sharing her story with The Healing Power of ART community. It’s a pleasure to present her article “My Experience With Digital Art in Pain and Illness Management”. Dr. Perera’s message is personal and powerful about how creating digital art has served as a healing modality and pain management tool. She is a staunch advocate for promoting art for generating wellness. Her mission has huge potential to improve the lives of many people around the world who suffer from chronic pain and the emotional challenges they have to endure.
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I am based in Manchester, UK and currently a patient under the care of Rheumatology services at the Manchester Royal infirmary. I use digital applications for artwork to cope with pain, illness experience and adjust to living with vasculitis, a long-term illness. Prior to ill health retirement, I was a Rheumatology specialist trainee doctor and this has indeed been a transformative experience both personally and professionally.
Present day represents the Digital age where Digital technology is empowering patients to better engage with self-management of their long-term conditions (LTC). Digital healthcare is continually changing the world at an ever-increasing pace.
Why not put this into wider use in the context of self-management of chronic illnesses and raise awareness?
Through my digital art, I aim to engage interest and generate wider awareness on the use of creative expression as a tool to face some of the functional limitations and challenges imposed by chronic illnesses by sharing my personal experience with creativity and digital art as both a medic and a patient. I am keen to tell others of my experiences as they might benefit from incorporating art or similar ways into their own healing.
People with certain disorders not only have to deal with the general disability of the chronic illness, but also the physical limitation of expressing the “art” that is in their mind.
On repeated use my hands become numb and painful, pain radiating to my shoulders. I found the use of digital medium my adaptation as it enabled me to use light touch with minimal effort and alternate hands. Less pain and fatigue became apparent in my hands and arms compared to using a paintbrush on canvas or charcoal or paper.
For me, artistic expression was a means of self-exploration to convey how I was feeling. I found expression through Art not only represents symbolic aspects of coping but visually demonstrates the many facets of emotions and degrees of pain I felt at various points in time. This really helped me to keep the fun side alive and regain a degree of control. This newfound freedom to explore myself through the world of colours and inner creative space, gave rise to my present work.
Art is a tool for positive reinforcement and reflective thinking for me. I managed to achieve a semblance of normality by starting to set more realistic goals and standards for me around my limitations.
Medication addresses the physical dimension but addressing the spiritual and emotional dimensions is also an integral part of the healing. I found that mindfulness through art gives me a sense of inner peace and strength to cope. By tapping into my inner creativity and finding that despite some challenging physical and emotional circumstances, there’s still beauty within unpleasant situations.
I feel that this aspect to self-care isn’t advocated to its full potential. I aim to utilise my work to engage interest in relevant parties towards the therapeutic benefits of creating can have on a person with functional limitations due to various long-term medical conditions.
Especially with the use of the digital art medium, how exploring the creative side to cope with daily challenges can be a constructive as well as an enjoyable pursuit given the plethora of life altering changes brought on by these conditions. There is a positive impact this form of self-expression has on self-identity and self-worth.
I would very much like to raise awareness and generate a wider interest around this subject among patients, caregivers as well as health professionals and the general public. I am advocating the use of creativity to cope with long term illnesses to a wider audience.
Visit Dr. Shanali Perera’s website shanaliperera.wixsite.com/digitalart
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