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We are all coping in different ways with the drastic life changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic. One beautiful way some CreakyJoints and Global Healthy Living Foundation patients are spending some of their quarantine time is creating artwork. Of course, Jennifer Walker, a GHLF and CJ member who has been sharing her artwork for years with our community, is among them.
Jennifer, who lives with rheumatoid arthritis, axial spondyloarthritis, fibromyalgia, asthma, and osteoarthritis — among other chronic conditions — was advocating from the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic for more attention to be paid to the unique needs of immunocompromised and chronically ill. Jennifer has been using her art throughout this crisis to help her address the many emotional ups and downs she’s experiencing. We asked her to share pieces that symbolize them.
Here, a Q & A about Jennifer’s work in general and her above piece titled ‘Anticipation.’
Q: How is creating art helping you cope with your coronavirus pandemic emotions?
A: Art is helping me cope with quarantine and the coronavirus pandemic by giving me a tangible outlet to process the shock, dismay, pain — and more — that I am feeling right now. I very often have an image to express long before I have the words. So this helps me get to those words.
Q: Do you find your approach to art has changed at all during this crisis compared to what you normally create?
A: Yes, it has. When I get overwhelmed emotionally and/or mentally I shut down. I won’t create and have no desire to do so. This is common with creative types. Since I know this about myself, I have entered into an art challenge with a fellow patient advocate and we take turns giving each other prompts. This has kept me fresh and our topics have been fun. So it has become a great, easy and fun way to destress. I get to focus on what I am creating and shut it all out. And the prompts are interesting, funny, light topics. We don’t do anything serious. It has kept me creative.
Q: Is there anything else about your art in the time of coronavirus you’d like us to know about?
A: My art allows me to touch others when we are social distancing. It allows me to get close when I can’t do that with anyone outside of my quarantined space. And since so many folks are tuned in to social media, it gives me the chance to shout even louder and further about the patient experience in such a precarious and uncertain time.
All pieces are digital art. Charis Hill, a fellow patient advocate, is my model/inspiration as usual.
Q: Tell us about ‘Anticipation.’ What emotion is this representing?
A: Anticipation of loss. Anticipation of pain. Anticipation of chaos. This piece represents the deep ache I felt as the coronavirus made its way towards us in the U.S. I watched and heard about Italy. I ached with those who were already broken and I knew it would hit us just as hard. I have been afraid to lose my life and lose the other high-risk people I am close to as well. I have been afraid that no matter how cautious or prepared I am, my life is in other people’s hands. And there is nothing I can do about it.
Q: Can you describe what’s happening and why you chose to depict desperation in this way?
A: This is a person looking up to the sky as if to beg for mercy. This person can’t stop what’s happening. All they can do is sit and cry and wait. They are resigned to what is to come.
This is the look we have when we are lost and scared and at the end of our rope.
This is how I feel when I think about how dependent I am on other people practicing social distancing to keep me safe.
Q: How are you personally coping with these feelings of anticipation right now?
A: I am shutting down social media and protecting my mind as needed. I go through social media fasts. My anxiety has been pretty bad so I’ve started seeing a therapist. I am creating art and building Legos and I have started doing tai chi on top of walking my dog. And I am trying to create good memories as much as I can.
Q: What do you wish this piece to convey to others who do not live with chronic illness?
A: I want them to see the fear and the ache in this person’s face and know that we are even more scared and more at risk right now than they can imagine. It feels like my life is in their hands and there is nothing I can do about it if they don’t social distance and take precautions as directed.
Stay in touch with Jennifer and other patient advocates through our GHLF Patient Support Program for the Coronavirus Pandemic for chronic illness patients and their families. We will be providing updated information, community support, and other resources tailored specifically to your health and safety. Join now.