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Chronic Illness Inspires

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By Julie Ryan

Often chronic illness seems to zap us of our inspiration, but that’s not always the case. Many of us discover new passions and hobbies after we are diagnosed with chronic illness.

Sometimes, chronic illness inspires. While our illness may have taken away one hobby we loved, we find ourselves engaged in new hobbies and in new ways of being inspired. For some of us, it is photography or art, for others it is gardening, knitting, or even writing.

Before I became ill I never would have considered the idea of becoming a professional writer. Sure, I’ve blogged for almost 15 years in some way or another, but that’s quite different from writing for others – or better yet getting paid for write for others.

Recently on Facebook I asked people to share their hobbies, especially those that are crafty or artistic in some way. I was amazed at some of the samples that people shared and asked if I could feature a few here.


Angie Williams does some really cool rock art. So, I asked her to share some images of her awesomeness and she kindly did so. In addition to her cool rock art, I learned that she also makes some really nice glass art. Angie says:

I have always been crafty and in the last few months I have been really feeling the urge to create. One of my biggest issues is stress and so this has been a huge outlet for me to de-stress, have fun and create.

The joy I receive when I make something is the inspiration that keeps me creating. The crafts I have chosen to do require little exertion on my part; they can be put aside if I am not feeling well or too tired and restarted when I feel better. Sometimes when the pain is so bad, getting outside of myself and doing something I love to do makes me feel better. I am a huge believer in mind over matter and if I get my mind off of me and my pain I feel better.


Debra is another Spoonie that shared her amazing artwork with us. She also enjoys photography and you can see some of each below. Debra says:

I get inspiration from various sources. Sometimes it’s because someone close to me mentions something they are passionate about. Other times I see a piece of artwork, a beautiful aspect of nature or read a passage that touches me. When I’m touched by the many and varied aspects of this world’s beauty, I get an overwhelming urge to create.

The practice of art work helps me focus outside of myself. This in turn helps distract from the pain and mental turmoil that comes from having multiple disabling and painful conditions. During my 10-year battle with Stage 4 metastatic cancer, the best therapies were the activities that took me out of my body and into a higher plane of thinking. I learned many new art forms during those years and use them still to deal with the other issues and continuing issues related to the cancer treatments.


Donna Grant blogs over at FibroGeek.co.uk but she’s also an amazing photographer and has a website dedicated just to that. She found her passion for photography after she became ill. Donna says:

It makes me laugh thinking about it because it was my husband who got into it first. We were traveling to Iceland in December of 2013 and my husband wanted to be able to take good photos. So he booked himself onto a beginner’s photography course with our wedding photographer and bought himself a DSLR. I remember being annoyed at him for spending all that money, as I thought it would be a passing phase and he wouldn’t stick with it. Little did I know then that, not only would my husband enjoy it, it would be me who would go on to be completely obsessed with photography and be the one wanting to buy all the gear!!

I played around with my husband’s camera a few times and expressed my interest in learning. I was given the surprise of my own DSLR as a Christmas gift. The next day we headed to Iceland where I shot with it for the first time. I’ve been hooked ever since.

About Donna’s inspiration:

I guess my biggest inspiration is the desire to capture what’s going on around me and the challenge of seeing things from a different perspective. I am, of course, inspired by other people and admire many photographers. I love the Wonderland series by Kirsty Mitchell and I recently discovered the work of Brooke Shaden, who is a fine art photographer who also has Fibromyalgia.

She says that photography makes life with chronic illness a little easier because:

It’s a coping tool for me for sure. It is part escapism: I can see the world how I want to portray it and in that moment I am so focused on what I’m doing that I can forget all about my Fibro.

Photography also gives me a focus and a sense of purpose and it’s great to be able to create something. It also allows me to express how I am feeling, and I have taken a couple of self portraits to that effect. I definitely want to explore this more. As a creative, photography is a great outlet for me.

What inspires you? Do you have a hobby that you’ve found since you became ill that keeps you busy and focused? Do you have a hobby that you’ve had to set aside because of your illness?

(All photos used with permission of the artists).


Julie Ryan is a fellow Fibromyalgia Warrior, freelance writer, and blogger. In addition to Fibromyalgia, Julie is currently diagnosed with Endometriosis, Migraines, Cluster Headaches, and Hypothyroid. She shares her journey, along with inspiration, and information on her blog at http://countingmyspoons.com

You can follow Julie on Twitter and Facebook.

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