I have always been whole
I completed this pencil and watercolour artwork on Saturday. It started as one of those spur of the moment creations, born out of an experience of difficulty and distress. 

I've not been doing so well, healthwise. My fibromyalgia has been flaring (which means increased pain and decreased energy), and I've found it difficult to focus. This hasn't been helped by the fact that I forgot my medication on not one, but two days in the last week. 

On Thursday, I started to feel the tension in my gut that I associate with the beginnings of a depressive downward tilt. My go-to remedy for this used to be to dance it out, but with pain and fatigue levels as they are right now, that's simply not possible.

So I started to draw. It was evening, and the room was dark, so I didn't know what colour of pencils I was pulling out of the case. I just picked pencils at random, and let my hands do what they wanted.

That gave me the spiral structure, and the segmentation. I spent the next two days filling in the segments in the way that felt right, finally applying some watercolour washes and, as I got further from the centre, just water by itself, which allowed the pencil lines to bleed their colour across the page.

I didn't understand what this piece was telling me, until I reflected upon what I could write about living with chronic illness for Already Whole, the campaign being led by Andréa Ranae and Cameron Airen of Whole / Self Liberation to celebrate our own stories of wholeness in the face of the stories told through oppressive systems, structures and institutions. Andréa and Cameron write:

...these stories can be taken on as truth and show up as beliefs that you or others are not enough, not worthy, too much, broken.

When you experience chronic illness, neurodivergence, or disability, the story that you are not enough, not worthy, too much, and most especially broken, is a very easy one to internalise. 

The everyday experience of living with chronic illness and/or disability is one of being compared to able and well 'normal' people and found wanting: by parents, by partners, by friends, by colleagues, by employers, by government officials -- and by ourselves.

Sometimes, this is very well-meaning: our family, partner, friends and colleagues don't want us to suffer. They see our pain and they want to be able to fix it for us so that we don't have to. This is not a helpful attitude -- if I need to be fixed, that implies that I am broken -- but it usually comes from a sincere desire to help.

But when it comes to employers and governments, chronically ill and/or disabled people are treated like broken cogs. We cannot keep the profit machine churning reliably, and are therefore worthless, because we do not function 'normally'. We are metaphorically thrown upon the scrapheap of society.

I make the choice, every day that I am able, to disentangle myself from this story of my brokenness, from these lies about my value and worth. 

I choose to celebrate myself in all my parts. 

I choose not to hide my pain, my fatigue, my confusion, my anxiety, my 'strange' thinking processes, and my distress, but to embrace it all, and accept it all as just as much part of me as my smart mind, my loving heart, my creativity, my compassion, and my joy. I do not celebrate my difficulties, but nor do I shy away from them, or pretend that they do not exist. 

Like the artwork above, I am made up of many parts, which do not seem at first sight to fit together. There are clashes of colour and texture, mismatches of shape and form. 

And yet they do fit: together, they are me.

Fibromyalgia, chronic depression, SAD, ADD and autism are not the source of my art, but by engaging with my experience of them from the place of embracing my wholeness even with them, I am able to make magic and beauty from my suffering and hurt. 

I am whole, even in my pain. I am whole, even in my confusion. I am whole, even in my distress. 

I am whole because I am me, and because I do not reject any part of myself or my experience.

I have always been whole, and so have you.


This post is brought to you as part of the Already Whole campaign, which is based on the idea that "owning all of who you are is an act of resistance". This kind of post would normally be available only to my patrons. If you enjoyed it and would like more, check out my reward tiers and become a patron.