Jennifer Walker, of San Antonio, Texas, lives with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia. She’s a computer software engineer by day, but her passion is her art — a medium through which she can uniquely convey what it’s like to physically and emotionally cope with chronic pain. 

We asked Jennifer, who is also a Patient Governor adviser to our ArthritisPower research registry, to share some of her most poignant pieces in a series we’re publishing called Arthritis Through Art. Here, she shares the backstory on a piece called ‘Pain Runs Down My Face.’

Title: ‘Pain Runs Down My Face’

Date Created: October 2016

Medium: Graphite

Q: What was happening in your life at the time that prompted you to create this?

A: I was overdoing it as usual at the time — taking care of everyone else instead of myself. I was not listening to my body and its pain signals. I did not start listening to my body until it was screaming at me and then I could hardly function. 

My hips locked up and would not move more than two inches in any direction. I got stuck on the couch — unable to eat, go to the bathroom, tolerate much noise, or be touched. As the pain got worse and worse, I lost the ability to talk. All I could do was cry and make these guttural sounds.

It lasted several hours and left me totally exhausted. It scared my then-husband because he had never seen me like that before.

Q: Can you describe what we’re looking at and how it relates to experiencing a painful flare?

This piece is called ‘Pain Runs Down My Face’ because I could not talk or communicate. I felt like I was mute and wearing a theater mask with the expression plastered to my face. After the flare I could not even talk about what happened. I had no words.

Q: What do you feel when you look at this piece of art now?

I remember crying and being unable to communicate. I remember the fear that enveloped me and consumed me and made me unable to talk about it for days after.

Follow Jennifer’s artwork and musings on Instagram.

See Jennifer’s art about her RA and fibro flare, called ‘Radiation.’

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