Illustrating symptoms & their contexts

I’m taking an illustration night class right now at a local art center, and my goal was to spend some time using pictures to try to sort through and explain some new physical sensations I’ve been having over the past few months (actually, years.) I seem to have become very sensitive to certain smells and allergens, and it’s taken me a few years and a fair amount of self-tracking to understand that these smells/allergens are associated with this spacy/numb/can’t think feeling that I get sometimes.

What’s hard about all of this is that it’s invisible. I’ve had a hard time explaining to my husband, my co-workers, doctors, and friends what I’m feeling; I get the feeling that my story doesn’t always seem very believable. I wanted to write down some of these sensations to better communicate to them and any future doctors exactly what I’m feeling. Thus, a kind of rough draft of my attempt to illustrate this series of symptoms/feelings and, importantly, the contexts in which they occur:

01_tingly legs

02_relief

03_room

04_willy

05_floors

06_face

07_away

08_alone

Now what I haven’t gotten to is a nice illustration of how I feel so supported and loved by my husband, co-workers, and friends – that’s a huge piece of my story! I just haven’t figured out how to envision that yet.

As with any exercise of making the invisible visible, I did notice a new pattern emerge: the theme of ‘wood.’ I noticed I was drawing wood and talking about wood quite a bit. I suppose wood tends to get mildewy, and when it’s refinished that requires kind of harsh chemicals. So. This is reinforcing my desire to move to the high desert and live in a stone and ceramic household – and also wear organic, white, flowing cotton clothing. Oh yes, there is a desert hippie within.

Please share your thoughts about illustrating symptoms and their contexts – how could we help other patients do this? How does it help? What are the drawbacks?

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