In 2004, my friend and former editor, Laura Rivera, had brain surgery to remove a tumor. She is a wife and mother and after the surgery she could not walk, talk or feed herself. Before the surgery, Laura was a talented stamper, card maker and writer — she was the long time editor at The Rubberstamper Magazine, where I started writing craft articles. Art was a big part of her life, so to lose the ability to hold a pencil, let alone draw, was tough. But through months and months of therapy — including art therapy — Laura regained those skills. I asked Laura to share a little bit about the importance of art in healing. Here are her words and drawings:
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“I had kept an art journal off and on for about 10 years, but it wasn’t until my brain surgery and the six months of recovery that followed that my work in those journals started – really, really, started.
I spent about a month in the hospital immediately after my surgery, where I was overwhelmed by my new physical limitations. Let’s just say that the brain doesn’t like being messed with! Although the surgery removed all of my tumor, I couldn’t walk, speak, or use my hands to do ordinary things such as feed myself or hold a pencil. I certainly could not draw or hold scissors.
Creating art seemed out of the question, but that wasn’t a part of my past that I was willing to give up.
I worked with an occupational therapist who helped me gain back strength and coordination in my hands, and soon my journal became a tangible way to see progress. My art journal was something small that I could keep close, look at, and think, “I made that!” (And in the meantime, I regained my ability to walk and speak clearly.)
Soon art became important because it was one of the few things from my life “before” that I could still enjoy “after” — it was a part of me that I could hold onto. It was a way
of saying, “See, some part of the old me is still alive.” And then it became something else: a way to work through a situation that was difficult — maybe even impossible — to understand. (Why did this happen? Would I ever go back to work? Could I still be a good mom to my son?) I could paint or draw or cut and paste; and my mind would slow down while wheels in my brains
would turn, and usually wind themselves up to a better place.
I know I am not alone, and that there are others who have used art as therapy through tough times. Some call it an escape, but as the writer and artist Lynda Barry explains in her book, “What It Is,” we don’t do make art to escape realit y— it’s our way to stay in it.”
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Thank you, Laura, for sharing your story. Readers, for more info, please visit Laura’s blog: http://mybraininpictures.wordpress.com