By Diane Chavez
I finished grad school at Southwestern College in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2015. I never thought grad school was possible. I went to the emergency room in 2003 with a migraine. That migraine lasted ten years. That was in addition to my MS symptoms which had started 10 years earlier. This is a story about transformation of health, body, mind and spirit.
After being in pain every day for years, I started to paint. I remembered as a child how painting made me feel so wonderful and empowered. With each brush stroke I made, I was breathing through my pain. I let the canvas absorb my suffering. I felt alive when I painted. This was important for me to remember, because sometimes I think I would forget that I was actually living. And because the making of art reminded me that I was alive it provided small glimpses of hope.
And through the art making, I found more hope and more inspiration to want to be alive. And at a time of exclusion of self from the world, this communication was everything to me. So it was a communication of art and body. Art making saved my life. Art gave me the spirit to make changes in my life. In chronic pain, nothing was working for me. I wanted to die. So I changed everything. My images and the process of making art gave me the strength to make changes. I wanted to change. I wasn’t living, I was barely breathing.
In 2009 I decided to start making big changes. First I chose not to take any MS disease modifying treatments. Then I changed my diet, I changed my attitude, I started my mindfulness practice, I learned new things (what I call brain shifting), I exercised, I took the negative out of my consciousness, I used ownership language, I used daily affirmations, I decided I was going to be healthy again, I had faith in myself, and I loved myself. I chose life.
In 2012 I chose to attend the Art Therapy/Counseling program at Southwestern College. With the support of the faculty and students, I developed the tools to go inside and become a stronger version of myself and to emulate the change I wanted to see in the world.
Now almost eight years later these changes continue to transform my life healing process. With these changes I believe my body, mind, spirit and health have never been better. I chose life. Art, no matter what modality I’m using, inspires me. It helps me want to live. I accept who I am and what my body can do. I’m in pain every day. Sometimes it hurts to walk, to move, to breathe, but I can still do it. I choose to breathe, move, walk my own way. I accept my pain. In a sense I communicate with my pain, for example I’ll say, Pain, I love you. It is a part of me. For years I didn’t like it and yes, I wanted it to leave. But I’ve made peace with my pain.
With an autoimmune disease like multiple sclerosis, my cells are attacking my cells. I had a conflict going on inside my body. I felt the more I was angry about it and fought the pain emotionally or with medication, my pain continued. It was when I started to love and accept me for who I was, it shifted. I am enough. I choose consciously to live this way. To be full of gratitude and amazement of all things. This is how it is possible for me to thrive not just survive with a chronic condition. This is the story of how art and life are simultaneously providing me with hope and healing. Thank you.