Part of my “everyday” in 2011 involved what I can now refer to as my little medical adventure. I know that I am very fortunate as I can look back now as it is over, and I am well (apart from now having to take lots of tablets and slightly changing a few things in life and a new short haircut). In March 2011 I was diagnosed with a large benign brain tumour that required immediate removal and I spent about two and a half months in hospital in the ICU and Neurology wards after the initial surgery and subsequent operations due to major brain infections.
Enough medical stuff, this is about the drawing. Journaling in my sketchbook was part of that experience and I am sharing my drawing experience during that time on this blog.
I was asking for my pencils about six days after the initial surgery and had been mentally composing pages and deciding what would be good to draw before that ! This was a huge relief to me, my friends and family as this was a sign that I was ‘me’ again. The whole lead up to surgery had all happened so quickly that I did not have time to worry too much about anything specific, but I had a fear that I would lose my ability to draw, or just as bad, the motivation to draw. I know that there were much worse things than this that could have happened, but my mind had not yet gone in that direction.
I sketched over 85 pages during the time in hospital and the majority are up on my flickr site http://www.flickr.com/photos/alissaduke/sets/72157626495626536/
There were stops and starts along the way as my recovery got better and then had a few major set-backs. Looking back, I wish that I had drawn more hospital equipment (there was so much of it around me) , made more notes and comments and shared my sketches more with the hospital staff. I had a habit of putting my pencils and sketchbook away when they turned up (which was often !!) I am still shy at times about showing my work to people. The ICU staff were delighted at the Thank You card I sent them with a drawing of “wiggling my toes” (a bit a mantra in hospital departments)
There was certainly never “nothing to do or draw” in hospital and I was fortunate enough to have the strength to draw and mobility to prop myself up in bed and use of my hands. I know everyone is not this fortunate. My sketchbooks and drawings did distract me from the many scary and unknowns of hospital (this was my first encounter with hospitals, at the age of 43) . But I did not draw to distract myself. Drawing did provide me with a sense of contented familiarity – something from the ‘outside world’ of my normal life. I also think that it allowed me to maintain my personality and individuality at a time when everything is taken away from you. Basically, it was a joy just to be able to draw anything. And so I did !! I never thought of whether a drawing was good or bad, (although I was pleased when my attention to details/colours to objects gradually returned).
However drawing did provide a sense of detachment in a foreign environment and it was very surreal to draw tubes, lines coming out of my arm etc. But I also drew my food, toothbrush, room, objects and medicines,. I am actually surprised I did not draw much food at all, considering how much I normally draw it in my sketchbook. I think that I was so eager to eat the food in hospital as meal times became important in the daily routine. The lovely gifts from friends and family did provide a delightful change of subjects. I am also amazed that my lovely supportive sketching friends Liz (Borromini Bear) , Wendy (QuirkyArtist) and Annie and I did not sketch when they visited, but we chatted instead
Looking back now I am so pleased that I sketched during that time and during my recovery back home. When I want I can look back through my sketchbook and remember some of the little things that would normally be forgotten. I have only just seen photos of myself during that time and very recently drew from a few of those to capture what I looked like at the time. That was not easy to do and I probably should have waited a bit longer. But my pencils and my sketchbooks provided me with a great source of happiness in a not-so-great time in life. I hope this has provided you with some insight into my medical journalling experience.