I've always been a bit of a thinker.
I can remember being 6 or 7 years old and pondering the age old questions "Why are we here?" and "Do we get more than one go at being here?" I remember very clearly being in the back of the car, with my parents up front driving along the motorway, pondering these thoughts as I looked out of the window. Y'know, the way you do.
It doesn't take much for me to find myself having a good old ponder about something or other that's popped into my head. Pulling at the proverbial thought string and then tying myself up in knots, 'til I come out the other end, either feeling a lot clearer about something or being absolutely none the wiser. I genuinely like thinking.
Since getting ill, the one thing that I've had in abundance, is time to think. And one of the things I've realised is that there can be a lot of stuff rolling round in my mind that perhaps isn't always doing me any favours.
When your body won't do what you want it to do, the very means by which you move through life becomes out of your control. Life itself feels much more fragile, much less safe. Things become very basic. The small things in life become mountains to climb. Especially when you're experiencing pain and physical discomfort.
Before I got ill, if I was feeling a bit blue, I'd get myself into the great outdoors and go for a good walk. Pondering all the lovely things I was seeing along the way. Birds, flowers, leaves, the sunshine. Or I'd take a dance class, go swimming, or rock climbing. Generally do something physically demanding until I felt lifted again. It worked well, and I never had any weight issues as the more I worried about stuff, the more physical exercise I did.
Not much of an option when you haven't got enough energy to scratch an itch...
At the beginning of last year when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed I started doodling, as a way of passing the time, and keeping myself upbeat. It's very easy to get very low, and find yourself feeling worried, isolated and alone if you let your thoughts run away with you. And my thoughts were running away with me. I realised I needed to find a new way of expressing myself that didn't involve high kicks.
Drawing and painting were the love of my life, alongside ballet, when I was a child. I took art as an exam subject whilst at school and struggled to understand what was expected of me by the exam board and teachers at school. I passed my art exams but in the process lost a lot of confidence in my abilities. Picking up pens and pencils and committing anything to paper became a bit of an issue for me. Was I doing it right? Was what I was drawing any good? I had somehow become really critical of my own drawing and painting skills and couldn't seem to let go of those critical ideas.
Last year, scared stiff and feeling vulnerable, I decided it was time to let go of the bully inside my head who was giving me a really hard time whenever I wanted to draw or paint anything. I picked up pens and pencils and started to get what ever was in my head out onto the paper without thinking about whether it was any good or not. My only plan? To fill the paper with fun and colour.
Something magical started to happen. No matter how overwhelmed I was feeling, no matter how many scary thoughts were floating around in my head, when I picked up my art journal and started to doodle, my mind calmed down. So I kept picking up the pens, even if only for short blocks of time.
Very unexpectedly, and to my great delight, I discovered I had found something that gives me as much joy as dancing ever did.
But I still had a nagging doubt at the back of my mind. "You've never painted on canvas. Artists paint on canvas. What if you can't do that?"
As a result of this persistent doubt, I'd never painted on canvas in case I was s**t at it and I would then have to let go of my dream of "really" being able to draw and paint. Waving it off sadly, while blowing my nose noisily into a lace-lined hanky, and silently sobbing to myself. I'm nothing if not quietly dramatic.
Then, in January, I thought, "Screw that! If I never put a paintbrush onto canvas I'm never going to know. I might very well be ruddy bloody good at it."
So I sat down and over the past few weeks, I've had a go on three small canvases I had in my house.
Have you ever found that a huge fear you had was completely unfounded?