I will try to make this brief, because it has the potential to be very long…
Starting about 6 years ago, I was sick. This sick lasted for years. I started getting chronic sinus infections and accompanying intermittent fevers. These waves of sick were increasingly taking over my life. I was sick much more often than I was healthy. I had never had a sinus infection in my life before moving to Arizona- so it took a long time to even figure out that piece of my illness puzzle. Then other illnesses started popping up. Putting it kindly, doctors were very dismissive. They told me to amp up my exercise ( I was too sick to exercise, it only made me feel worse, which is huge sign something is really wrong), take allergy meds, and were quick to push anti-depressants on me. I had fevers…I had other measurable symptoms. This was not just in my head! Why didn’t they believe me? Most importantly, I had babies I had to take care of and it was a massive challenge to do this as sick as I was. They needed me to be healthy. Cue sinus surgery… cue tonsillectomy (in the same year)… cue infections from surgery. I lost track of how many rounds of antibiotics I was on during these couple of years. It was a very scary high number. This overload of antibiotics, in no uncertain terms, destroyed my immune system. I was becoming increasingly bedridden and depressed. I finally got life-changing advice from holistic practicing GI doctors. In that one hour phone conversation with this holistic practitioner I was given a huge gift: the knowledge that was the life vest to save myself. I am so beyond-forever-grateful! Here’s a link to their practice, I can’t say enough good things about what they are doing and how many people they are helping.
Skipping to the present, I have committed to a dietary regimen that keeps my gut healthy and my immune system working. Now I usually only get a sinus infection once or twice a year. This is no big thing compared to what I dealt with before. However, I find that when I get sick now, I get truly terrified that I won’t get well, and that I’ll end up chronically ill like I was before. My method for dealing with this fear has been to completely shut down. No…this is not good! I don’t want to be numb! I want to feel as much as I can…the whole range. Even if it’s being sad or frustrated because that’s actually confronting my fear instead of emotionally flatlining. I know I will get sick, and now I just need to believe I will get better every time. When I get sinus infections now, I have a whole slew of powders, potions, oils and supplements that I use to help combat the bad bugs.
In mid-October of last year, I got a particularly wicked sinus infection and became very downhearted. Self-portraiture has been an incredibly useful tool for me in other areas of my emotional health, so why not see if it could work for when I am sick. This would mean “shooting through the sick.” Honestly, I wasn’t sure I could do it. I figured I would caught between these conflicting emotions of pushing myself for the better and pushing myself too much. When I am burning up and aching everywhere with fever, I do not feel creative, energetic, self-confident, or focused. These are things I rely on for creating my images, so I had my doubts.
What I didn’t know was that I would have ample time to make this happen! I am on week 2.5 of being sick and I realized last night after a week of fever, that this was actually not a sinus infection… I just assumed it must be. I have the flu. Oops!! I have never gotten the flu as an adult so I didn’t know what it was like. Now the epic body aches make sense and it also explains why I have been a bit delirious and completely out of my head. The flu is so bad this year and can take as long as four weeks to go away. Now that I know it’s the flu, rest will take precedence over self-portraiture, but if I am feeling up for it, I will try and create more. I do think it helped dig me out of the ditch, but I will be mindful in approaching it with balance.
There were some complicating factors in making these photographs. First, because my son was also sick, my priorities and energies of course went to him as he missed nearly a whole week of school. Second, after I spent a solid morning shooting the self-portraits, my card somehow got corrupted and I couldn’t access the images to get them on my computer. This felt like a bit of a slap in the face given how hard it was to even muster the energy to do this in the first place. But moving onward…I spent hours trying to figure out work arounds, and ended up on the phone with tech support with Canon. Finally, after jumping through a lot of hoops, a software recovery program proved successful in accessing the images. There were only a few I liked, but that’s how it goes sometimes, even when I’m feeling 100%. I tried some experimental stuff, none of which I was completely happy with, but that “mixing things up” part of the process was healing too. And I can tweak those ideas in the future and hopefully I’ll dig the outcome more.
Here they are.
This one was taken the first day I came down with fever. I woke up feeling great in the morning and thought my week long cold was gone and I was ecstatic that I had dodged the sinus infection bullet. By the afternoon I had a fever of nearly 103. This really threw me, and I was quick to feel demoralized and defeated. With that feeling of despair I knew I’d need to make good on my “shooting through the sick” challenge. I was up late (past midnight) because my sleep schedule gets thrown even more off whack when I am sick. I was letting the dogs out when I noticed the moon was right above our house, nearly full, and making these incredible patterns of shadow and light on our back patio. I was freezing, but amped up on Advil (and probably a bit delirious) and made this photograph. Oh how I do love the moon….
These were taken a couple of days later…the images I thought I wouldn’t recover from my card.
Wet shower cap over lens experiment…namaste
My hand is in the frame so I am counting it as a self-portrait 🙂 Puppies are also very therapeutic!
Epsom salt hand
Green smoothie lifeline
I’d also like to say, rather encourage, those of you who go down the rabbit hole of shutting down as a coping mechanism, but don’t have a set artistic outlet to turn to, there are certainly many other options that would work just as well. I find yoga to also be very helpful, and listening to music. Just do something that makes you feel good- do something crazy or goofy. Make yourself laugh. Challenge yourself to get out of the numb zone. It may seem like the last thing you’d want to do, but I bet you’ll be glad that you did.
About the Artist:
Natalie resides in Peoria, Arizona, with her husband, two children, and two dogs. Her artistic journey has taken many twists and turns but photography and writing have become the primary outlets for her artistic expression. She is an artist at Offset.com. Her work/photography has been published by Lensbaby, Beyond the Wanderlust, and has been licensed for ads by Samsung and other companies for advertisements. Her best days are filled with trying to guide and raise up her offspring and pups, music, reading, creating photographs and writings, hiking, yoga, cooking, and sky-gazing. In the social media world, she can be found on Instagram @natalie_a_wheeler, and as a moderator for @theechoesinside, a hub for self-portraiture.