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How I became an Artist, whilst fighting with Disability and Chronic Illness

Rosalind Batty, North Mayo Art and Photography
Rosalind Batty

Hi, I’m Roz, and I’m the artist behind North Mayo Fine Art.

I’ve been creating art for most of my life, but have been an artist for 3 years. I might not have become an artist, had it not been for the fact that I became disabled, with multiple chronic illnesses, and became housebound.

I want to tell you a bit about what happened to me, and why I’m thankful that my life took the turn that it did.

I started to draw at a young age, and could always be found with a pad and pencil in my hand. My first drawings were the normal, square houses with the sun in the corner, and the V shaped birds. I remember drawing various animals including lambs, chicks and a horse that I was so proud of, and my people were the typical triangle body and fat arms and hands that rolled into one object. I was so proud of my drawings, and thought that they were the best drawings in the world.

I took art at school and enjoyed it so much that I asked the head of the art department whether I could take an extra GCSE in art, which I did (I did 2D and 3D art) I then went on to do a GNVQ in Art and Design in the Sixth Form.

I decided to get a job, and at that point my drawing took a step back, but I still dabbled in it from time to time. I always wanted to work in photorealistic art and that was always in the back of my mind.

Fast forward a few years, and I met my husband, and we decided to start a family, and thats where it all went wrong (for me).

Without going into a lot of detail (and boring you all), my pelvis broke and fused back together in the wrong place, and no one did anything about it. My consultant said it was normal pregnancy pain and I was just exaggerating it for attention. I was so angry. It happened again during the 2nd and 3rd pregnancy too, and still nothing was done.

I now have permanent damage to my back, hips and pelvis and I’m registered disabled. I’ve also developed multiple chronic illnesses including Fibromyalgia, Arthritis, IBS, Postural Hypotension, Asthma and Chronic Migraines to name just a few. I’m not telling you this for pity, but there is a reason for it.

I started many different crafts when I was at home with our first baby, including card making, stamping, crocheting, sewing, paper craft, cooking and weaving, and loved creating hand made items, but after baby number 3, my condition was so bad that I had to give everything up. I hadn’t been able to drive for a long time, my body was too sore to sit at a table to work, and I developed an allergy to every type of wool that I bought. I could no longer stand up to cook either, and I felt like my life was over. I was housebound, and on the verge of bed bound.

I was in so much pain that my bed became my best friend. I couldn’t dress myself, I needed help to have a shower/bath, and had to have the house kitted out with home aids to try and help me manage with everyday tasks. This was not how I imagined my life would be at 27.

I was in a very deep black hole and couldn’t see a way out. I thought that my life was over, and didn’t want to imagine the rest of my life lying in bed in agony. I fell into a deep depression, I hated having to be so dependent on my family, and incapable of managing the simplest of tasks on my own. Being in excruciating pain all the time was awful, and there was nothing I could do to change it. I’m allergic to all pain medications so couldn’t take anything to ease the pain, and other medication I was offered caused some awful side effects.

After many months of wallowing in my own self pity, I decided that I had to pull myself together and find something that I could do. No one else was going to fix me, no one understood what I was going through, and it wasn’t their fault, but without going through something like this, it’s impossible to understand the utter torment that comes with it, so I had to do it myself. I had to drag myself out of the deep black hole and try and get some purpose back to my life.

Thirsty Leopard
Thirsty Leopard

I got my pad and my pencils out and started to draw. It was something that I could do in bed on my worst days, and curled up in the chair if I felt up to getting up. I could pick it up and put it down whenever I needed to.

Once I realised it was something I could focus on, I started to set myself goals, and challenges, and aims for the future. I started to show my friends online what I’d drawn and got an amazing response from them. It gave me the confidence to start using coloured pencils.

I was determined to improve my techniques, and succeed in my goal to create photorealistic drawings. I worked long and hard, knowing that if I put the effort in, I would get the results I wanted. I also knew that it was going to be a long process, there were days that I could only manage 10 minutes before I had to stop and sleep, and other days I could manage a couple of hours, but I didn’t give up.

Pet Drawing Commission
Pet Commission

As my work improved my friends started to ask for portraits of their pets. I was thrilled that people liked my work enough to want it in their houses. Slowly but surely more and more people came to me wanting work, and my work was getting noticed in more and more places.

In the last 18 months I’ve had my work published in several coloured pencil magazines, I’ve had an article published about taking my own photography for reference photos, and I have 2 exhibitions booked in galleries in the next 12 months. I’ve also brought out my own range of products.

I’m attending my first Craft Fair in August, which will be the first of many fairs and markets that I will be attending.

I still have bad days, days that I can’t face anything more than dragging myself out of bed and down the stairs, just to curl up on the chair and sleep in my pyjamas, and then there are days that I feel well enough to have a shower and get dressed, which is a huge deal for me. Mornings and evenings are hard for me as they are the most painful times of the day, but I manage the best that I can, and when I feel upto drawing I take full advantage of it, and try and create something beautiful.

I feel very lucky, because lots of opportunities are coming my way and I have a very bright future to look forward too, with lots of exciting plans in the pipeline too. None of this would have happened if I hadn’t become disabled, as I would still have been working full time and wouldn’t of had the time to put into my drawing the time that was needed to have been put in to get to the stage that I’m at now.

Hungry Wolf drawing
Hungry Wolf

If I could give anyone that lives through disability or chronic illness one piece of advice, it’s never to give up on yourself or your abilities to achieve anything that you want to. You might have to take a different approach, or work in a different way, but it’s still achievable. You will go though hard times, and you might lose sight of the positives in your life, but they will still be there, and with hard work and perseverance, you can achieve anything that you set your mind to. Take the rough with the smooth, and live your life to the best of your abilities, whatever they are.

Believe in your dreams, and they will come true!

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My Story – Crafting through Ulcerative Colitis

I’m Jane Elizabeth Higgins. I was Jane Elizabeth Chandler until last year when I Married the gorgeous Mr Higgins, who loves and supports me through sickness and health.

I am so happy to have found this beautiful community of Crafties. I can’t actually express in words the emotions I felt when I read the welcome message from Karen and realised how perfect this community is for me.

I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 2002. This is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease which causes diarrhoea, bloody stools, weight loss, pain, fatigue, depression, anxiety and incontinence. After a few years and lots of medications, including immunosuppressant’s I became steroid dependant and in need of surgery in 2009. More than half a dozen surgeries later, a stoma, ongoing complications, losing my job, more weight loss and countless hospital stays, I had my final operation in 2012. I now have an ileoanal pouch. Since then I have developed extreme Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, Nerve Damage and Joint Pain.

Colourful Jasper Heart Pendant
Colourful Jasper Heart Pendant

While off sick recovering from Pouchitis (inflammation of my pouch) and Anxiety in 2014, I joined a local craft workshop. It was here that I started making jewellery. I loved it straight away. I have always loved practical activities and as a primary school teacher I enjoy teaching the practical subjects such as science and design technology. The jewellery making fulfilled a need in me to create; its very therapeutic. I began making more and more things and trying different techniques. My favourite is beading. It soon became clear that I would have to give up teaching altogether. Soon after that I started my own business. It allows me to work when I’m able and rest when I need to.

I make IBD awareness jewellery to raise money for Crohn’s and Colitis UK (CCUK), a national charity which has helped me a great deal on my journey. I also make awareness bracelets in aide of Children’s Liver Disease Foundation (CLDF), GoGold for childhood cancer (money raised goes to Clic Sargent) and Sickle Cell disease (Sicklekan), as I have people who are close to me who are affected by these conditions.

Children’s Liver Disease Awareness Bracelet
Children’s Liver Disease Awareness Bracelet

I also run jewellery making parties and workshops for children and adults. These are a great opportunity for me to practice my two loves of teaching and jewellery making.

I have opened my shop with three of my awareness bracelets. They are each only £15 and £5 from each purchase goes to the health charity associated with it. I make awareness jewellery for health causes close to my heart. I have a personal story to tell about each association and I will share these with you over the coming weeks.

Until then, have a look at and enjoy the beautiful bracelets. I will chat with you again soon.

Jane <3

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From Private Detective to Carer and Artist

Dog pastel portrait, Bob Ashford

PetsPortraits4u : BobzzartAs a young man I trained for 5 years as a Ladies and Gents hairstylist in Leicester. My hobbies were fishing and Martial arts, i studied the Chinese martial art of Gung Fu and attained a black belt 3rd dan. After a few years I found myself working in Germany which I loved and my wife and children all joined me for a few years. It was on one of the journey’s to Germany that I first became aware of my neck problem, suffering terrific muscle spasms in my neck and shoulders, this continued for many years and the pain levels grew, on our return to England I had many hospital appointments, a CT scan and the diagnosis was “hot spots and irregularities in the C spine” (they gave really detailed diagnosis in the 70’s!). My problem was later diagnosed as Spondylosis or Spondylitis i can’t recall which! I was given Tramadol an opiate based pain killer and other pain relief which helped but did not take away all of the pain.

As the years went by the pain became stronger and ever present as it still is today, I recall myself sitting and crying in pain with my wife’s arms around me on many an evening after I finished work. By this time I had started two new companies away from hairdressing, one a Private Detective Agency the other a Security Company and was working 14/16 hours a day, fortunately I must have a strong constitution as I was always able to go to work and work through or in spite of the pain.

Dog Pastel Portrait, PetsPortraits4u
Dog Pastel Portrait
PetsPortraits4u

I spent several thousands of pounds over the years looking for alternative pain relief, having tried all the obvious, I went for energy healing and did find some relief and at about this time I also found a magic masseuse called Suzanne who like many are, was not afraid to go in deep, she was able to break up the tightly knotted muscles in my neck and shoulder after about a year of weekly visits, this allowed me to actually turn my neck a little from side to side after many years of not being able to, over the next few years my pain slowly went down a rung or two thanks to the healing and the marvellous masseuse I had found.
Having had “some relief” from pain for the first time in many many years I though that I could perhaps also help others that suffered with chronic pain and trained in Tera Mai Reiki Seichem becoming a Tera Mai Reiki Seichem Master and also as a Reconnective healing practitioner, through which I was over the years, able to give relief to many other chronic pain sufferers (but not myself!) mainly using Reconnective Healing energies which seemed more effective than Reiki.

 

Cat Pastel Portrait, PetsPortraits4u
Cat Pastel Portrait
PetsPortraits4u

In my retirement and still in pain 24/7 (and still something of a workaholic!) I caught up with an old school friend on friends reunited, she told me that she had MS of which I knew nothing, some years after this her husband passed away and some months later I was reasonably close to North Wales and arranged to meet with my friend from my school days for a meal, we got on well and I began to learn a little about MS. I started to visit her to help out on occasional weekends and at times when she had multiple medical appointments and seeing what she went through to be able to carry out the simplest little task really had me in awe of her single minded determination, the help visits became more regular and now I am her main carer, staying for perhaps a couple of weeks, enabling her to do the things she enjoys and get regular exercise sessions at the gym, then having a few days break before beginning again.

My friend actually classes herself as lucky, because although she has MS she suffers no pain, lots of other difficulties but no pain for which she is very grateful (but how anyone with MS can consider themselves lucky I don’t know) she has lost the use of her left arm and left leg, and struggles to manage even the simplest task, she has been a yoga teacher for over 30 years and still teaches from her wheel chair having adapted many exercises for chair bound people, she has taken over 700 yoga classes at the Neuro Therapy Centre near Chester and does everything she can to enable her to live an ordinary life. My heart often goes out to her as I see her struggle with a task, but I have now learnt the things that I must let her do herself despite how long it takes her or how difficult it is for her, it’s hard to watch sometimes knowing that I can do it for her, but she needs to do it herself, that was the most difficult thing for me to learn as a carer.

Horse Pastel Portrait, PetsPortraits4u
Horse Pastel Portrait
PetsPortraits4u

I find it very rewarding that I am now able to make life an awful lot easier for her, and enable her to live a normal (ish) life. I have free run of the kitchen which is great! I’m even allowed to do the washing up, although she says she occasionally has to re wash items!! It’s a man thing how we just leave an item with a stain or tiny bit of food on that a woman’s radar spots from 100 yards and we can’t see from six inches!

Anyway I have missed a bit out as before re meeting with my friend after many years, my masseuse told me on several occasions to ask my Doctor to test me for Fibromyalgia, when I finally got round to it I was given a positive diagnosis which explains all of the additional pain I have been getting over the last few years and the horrible tiredness and lack of energy, waking up feeling like a soggy sack, trying to remember what was a dream that you thought you had. It’s known as ‘Fibro Fog’ which is really weird sometimes, so caring for my friend although very difficult at times (as she really does not understand what pain is and why I can be so down and useless one day and ok another!) but it keeps me busy and I get an awful lot of satisfaction from being able to make her life easier, despite having lost the use of her left leg and arm she is always happy, cheerful and smiling. I find it amazing the way she copes with her disability and (most days) really enjoy being there for her.

 

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Drawing Helped Me Get My Life Back

Rosalind Batty, North Mayo Art and Photography

Hi my name is Roz, and I’m a 32 year old married mother of 3 girls, and also a coloured pencil artist.

Wolf Sketch
Roz’s Wolf Sketch

I’ve always had a love of arts and crafts. From a young age I would doodle and draw, paint, make things and generally make a mess. As I got older I decided that I wanted to study art, and took an extra GCSE in art, so I studied both 3D and 2D art. I loved the variety of materials that I was able to use, from pencils to paints, and clay to fabric. I got the grades that I needed to study art at A Level and that was when my love of drawing really started. I decided to concentrate on graphite, and that was what I have worked in until recently. I would spend a couple of months drawing from magazines, or photos of animals, improving my techniques as I went along, and then put it all away when life got in the way. When I had a bit of spare time, I would get it out again and improve my techniques a bit more, but never worked on it consistently over the years.

I was also quite active when I was younger and would walk for miles every day, swim, bike ride and generally keep quite fit and healthy. But that all changed when I became pregnant with my eldest daughter.

From early on in the pregnancy I knew that something wasn’t quite right. I knew that I would get aches and pains, but the pain I was getting was a lot worse than I expected, and it continued to get worse from week to week. I was having trouble walking and had unbelievable pain in my pelvis and hips. I mentioned it to my consultant, who told me that it was normal stretching pain and I was making a big deal out of nothing. I was refused physio and told to get on with it, so I went to see a physio privately, who diagnosed me with SPD (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction, or PGP as its now called).

It continued to get worse throughout the rest of the pregnancy, and it caused complications for the birth (which I don’t need to get into) I also dislocated my coccyx (which is still dislocated 12 years later).

The same thing happened during the second pregnancy, but it was a lot worse and came on a lot quicker. Unfortunately I had the same consultant again, who told me that same thing ‘Its just stretching pain, stop fussing’ only this time it was so bad I couldn’t walk, had to be helped to do everything by my husband and was in such an awful state that I spent a lot of time crying and wishing it was over. This time my physio gave me the news that I had had a Spontaneous Symphisiotomy (where the pelvis basically splits in two) I was given crutches and a support belt and told to rest. I was referred by my physio to a women’s health physio at the hospital who specialised in pelvic problems in pregnant women. She couldn’t believe the state I was in. Again it made for a difficult and painful delivery.

Roz's Grapes on a vine
Roz’s Grapes on a vine

Unfortunately whilst my pelvis was in two parts it twisted in opposite directions, and when it did fuse back together my hips were out of line, it effected my spine, my coccyx and my Sacroilliac and Symphysis Pubis joints.

The third time was better. I was under a different consultant, a woman this time, who had read my notes, knew the condition and got the ball rolling to get me all the help that I needed. I was given physio all the way through, was put on bed rest, was given a support support belt and the physio was there during the delivery to make sure that my pelvis wasn’t flexed any more that was safe to do so.

I was also referred to an orthopedic consultant who I am still under today. I have been diagnosed with Diastasis of the Symphysis Pubis, Scaroiliitis, Dislocated Coccyx, a Prolapsed Disc in my lower spine, my hips are 2″ out of line and I have severe and constant Sciatica. I am under a gastroenterologist who has diagnosed me with IBS too, and have intolerance to wheat, lactose, soya and caffeine.

I am in constant pain to this day with my pelvis and lower back, I have to use crutches most of the time, and have a wheelchair. I have also had to have the house kitted out with home aids to help make my life easier. I am allergic to painkillers so can’t take anything for relief. It gets really hard to cope with it all some days and I do get very down, but I have fight for my girls. I was trying to take my mind off my pain by card making, sewing, and crocheting, but have had to stop all of those due to the pain, lack of mobility and energy and my more recent diagnosis of Fibromyalgia and Raynaud’s Disease.

Roz's Leopard Sketch
Roz’s Leopard Sketch

I noticed a couple of years ago that I was feeling pain more widely through my body, I was also feeling exhausted all the time, couldn’t concentrate on anything for any amount of time, and generally felt unwell. I was also extremely susceptible to the cold too, and got blisters on my hands and feet.

It got to the stage that I couldn’t do any of the crafts that I loved to do. I had hit rock bottom and couldn’t see a way out. I had nothing in my life other than extreme pain. I had to stop driving, which I loved, stop all of my crafts, I couldn’t go out, couldn’t manage around the house by myself, and had to rely on my husband for just about everything. Even my girls had become carers for me, fetching and carrying things for me as I struggled around the house on my crutches. I couldn’t do anything with them as the pain was so severe even the smallest movement brought tears to my eyes. I was on the brink of a breakdown and couldn’t see a way of getting out of it. I knew I had to do something, but didn’t know what I could do when I had so little going in my life.

I went to my doctor and explained how I was feeling, and he immediately diagnosed me with Fibromyalgia and Raynaud’s Disease. He told me that it had been caused by the trauma that I had been through with my pelvic problems and referred me to a Rheumatologist. My Rheumatologist is great. As soon as he saw me during my initial appointment he officially diagnosed me and we started on a medication plan. Its taken a lot of work and a lot of tweaking my medications to find some that I’m not allergic too, but I’m now on two different medications that do seem to be helping my symptoms. I’m also getting regular steroid injections which help too.

Custom drawn cat portraits and animal portraits
Custom pet portrait

Don’t get me wrong. I am still in a lot of pain on a daily basis, and there are still days that I cant get out of bed, but they don’t come as often now.

I’ve also started up my love of drawing again. I decided that seeing as there are so many things that I can’t do, I need to find something I can do, and I have all the materials that I need right here in the house to start drawing again. I have also branched out into coloured pencil work in the last 11 months, and am having a fantastic time using them. I do have bad days when I don’t feel up to drawing, but it takes my mind off how I’m feeling and I brightens my spirit when I do feel up to it. I have had to adapt how I sit to draw, and have to have a lot of breaks, as sitting in one position causes a lot of pain, but I work in stages, and don’t mind if a drawing takes me weeks to complete.

If it hadn’t of been for the support that I have received from my amazing husband and children over the last 12 years I don’t know how I would have coped. They have been there, and continue to be there for me, day in and day out and I am so grateful for that.

Roz's Chipmunk
Roz’s Chipmunk

I will have to deal with my conditions for the rest of my life and my pelvis and hip problems will get worse in years to come, but for now I am enjoying being able to draw again, and getting a bit of my life back.

Thank you for reading my story

Roz

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