My life as a person, but also as artist, was completely turned upside down from 2013 through 2015.
In 2013 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The subsequent treatment process resulted in a serious complication: a brain haemorrhage. I could no longer speak and think coherently, stand, move or walk. I was thrown back on myself and had to survive from deep and profound forces within me. I was supported by the nursing staff and the many lovely family and friends around me. The hope of recovery has never left me…
The things I had to endure on my way to recovery has turned me into a sort of philosopher.
I have long been walking around with the thought of putting this difficult time into words as they relate to my own personal life: an attempt to explain, on my website, the devastating impact of my rehabilitation on my work, my constant struggle as a story as an explanation for how my work turns out. I wanted to explain how my work has changed in these years. From my earlier work after years of changes due to the injury of permanent half-sided paralysis and brain damage to the current state of affairs. A brief explanation of what has changed in my work during the years since then, compared to my earlier work due to my half-sided permanent paralysis and brain damage injury.
After a one-year stay in a nursing home, I gradually began to find the strength and hope needed! A process that goes on for years and still continues…
The feeling was that I was no longer in control of my own actions — if I had already wondered – I no longer knew what else awaited me.
This was all because I was passing through the pain and confusion in the period of admissions to hospitals and nursing homes; meanwhile I had to miss my trusted home and my dear studio!
But even during my first year of rehabilitation, I was gradually being stimulated more and more by means of art therapy to return to normal life: painting… I was introduced to a creative in-house resident group. For me, totally weakened as I was, it was exhausting: to literally keep my head high from my wheelchair, with hardly any force in my shoulder and neck muscles. But this group of residents did rekindle my enthusiasm for painting.
The first year ended with my participation in an in-house exhibition. It was special to see how my work from the period at the rehabilitation facility was presented alongside a beautiful slideshow of my earlier work. I could not have received better encouragement to get there. It was a real turning point for me!
When I broke my hip in 2015 — during first year back home — a fall down the stairs extended my rehabilitation to a period of two years. This gradually started to bear fruit with the help of practical, focused professional support.
Painting remained quite a job because I encountered problems handling the material, coming up with what I could handle. All my skill was gone. I worked together with all kinds of techniques. So it was a surprise to me when the creative process started up once again. I started to overcome setbacks step-by-step, good or bad. I did endless practice building wooden block towers to get my hand-eye-brain coordination going with trial and error. It was a matter of moving as much as possible until one day my physiotherapist suggested that I try to use the paralyzed hand to do what my heart spurred me forwards to do: drawing. I did this in order to improve the use of my left hand through art and thereby stimulate coordination between head, brain and hand.
Out of my uncertainty I was on my way to regain my self-confidence…
All this comes down to following the route given with a non-congenital brain injury: the struggle of the rehabilitation years. And it’s not over yet!
What is the impact on your life and brain … what is changing …. Your delayed reaction capacity, loss of overview … seeing, finding solutions …? Targeted help & support came through occupational therapy. They could make all kinds of different tools that would make life easier for me at my own request / investigation. I first had to invent and experience the importance of it and the function for myself while working at home in my own studio after 2 years of delay. This helped get it going again. It went and really could not take place other than through trial and error with a lot of perseverance! My self-talk grew with every step… I worked through all sorts of random techniques, started to forget the setbacks… I lived in my own world, away from the busy outside world with an abundance of stimuli.
My calm lifestyle has brought me back to balance, the acceptance process has finally begun!
In the meantime I dare to say that through thick and thin I have grown into my own personal caregiver, in addition to all the support I have enjoyed over the years … proud & happy!