Islands of Pain

I’ve been in a lot of pain this week, in fact not just in pain, but also feeling very sick, which is usually well managed by medication.

Pain and nausea aren’t great on their own, but the combination of both floors me.

This has impacted on my work, on my ability to take care of Bean, my sleep and how irritable I am.

I’m trying to stabilise the situation through medication, rest and eating simple food. But I’ve also been drawing a lot to communicate the sensations in my body, particularly at night when I’ve been struggling to sleep.

I’ve shared my pain drawings before, but with this new wave of pain and nausea has come a new wave of drawings too. Here are some of the new images with a brief introduction to each.

First, Islands of Pain in a Nausea Sea. I enjoyed drawing and populating my islands, making them wild and beautiful, lapped at by waves that are stormy in places and calm in others.

A drawing by Touretteshero of a group of islands surrounded by water backed onto a black background. The biggest island in the centre has many tributaries running through it as well as cracks and forests of trees and flowers. To the east coast of this island some dark waves are rolling in. A giant whirlpool is up above the central island with lots a little islands dotted around it.

The next three images were all done on the same night. I started by experimenting, using my iPad without the pencil and making marks with my fingers instead of the pencil, feeling the shapes of my pain across the glass of the iPad. I combined this technique with some of the words that described what I could feel.

2. The second image in a triptych of digital drawings by Touretteshero. This is another portrait orientated drawing with abstract shapes in green, yellow, green, red and blue all overlapping one another. The words ‘throb’, ‘ache’, ‘stab’ and ’sick’.3. The and final image in a triptych of digital drawings by Touretteshero. This is another portrait orientated drawing with a repeat pattern of different coloured words in cursive such as the word ‘sick’, ‘stab’, ‘throb’ and ‘stab’. Overlaid on this repeat pattern is a large red cursive word: ‘ache’

In lots of my drawings, I imagine pain as 3D shapes that occupy space in my body. In the image below though, these shapes are flat, like stencils spray painted on a wall, overlapping layers of sensation.

The final drawing maps out how my pain connects to the rest of my home, from the two places where I spend most time – my bed and my living room chair. It turns my pain into a dot amongst many other dots only marked out by it’s red colour. The objects directly in contact with my body and my pain such as the mattress or the chair are orange and these adjacent things working through the rainbow with the colours getting cooler the further away they are from my pain.

Making these images helps redirect my attention and frustration during spikes of pain and sickness, but it’s also useful to look back at them next to each other to see how different they are. It helps me remember that while I might think my pain is relentless and unchanging, it actually has different qualities at different times – and how I relate to it changes too.

I often lack the words to describe my pain, but that’s ok because I always know I can draw it instead.

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