Finding Strength as an Artist With Chronic Illness, Denise Zubizarreta, δημοσίευση Hyperallergic [2/11/2022]Marilena Pateraki
According to the American Hospital Association, an estimated 133 million Americans — nearly half the population — suffer from at least one chronic illness. This figure is 15 million higher than just a decade ago, and by 2030, this number is expected to reach 170 million. Living with chronic illness is a daily battle and attempting to be a working artist while being consumed by its madness is not easy. I do get to work from home and I won’t lie, avoiding the daily decision making process on what I’ll be wearing to work is one of the highlights of my life. Pajamas rule my wardrobe and they make it easier to deal with the bouts of fatigue that can creep up at any moment, since I can go from functional to bed-ridden at the drop of a hat.
I have ulcerative colitis (UC) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). UC, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation in the digestive tract, is probably the most annoying to have to factor into my day. I must be at least two seconds away from a bathroom at all times and in a flare-up, I will most likely spend the majority of my day having long winded conversations with the porcelain fixture attached to the floor of the lavatory.
Rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disorder affecting many joints, including those in the hands and feet, is the most frightening for me. It brings up questions and concerns about art making and how long my ability to build and create will remain in my hands. As an interdisciplinary artist, I work in multiple mediums and I can’t imagine creating without the ability to be elbow deep in my pieces. Over time, the inflammation associated with RA can cause bone erosion and joint deformities which could leave me immobile. Though I’m sure that when the day comes that I can no longer use my hands to create, I will find a way to make what moves me; but some days the pain can be so unbearable that I’m unable to see the possibilities.