The Art of Wellness and MS

Alex was diagnosed in November 2018 after experiencing double-vision and tingling in her foot. She suspected something wasn’t right, so she scheduled an appointment with her physician in Saskatoon, who suggested the possibility of multiple sclerosis. Before she knew it, her MRI confirmed it.

After a round of corticosteroids to ease the inflammation, her symptoms cleared up quickly, but newfound challenges around her mental health emerged. Alex was prone to worry, and her anxiety around the uncertainty of her future caused her stress.

“My family gave me a sense of stability when MS made everything feel foggy and uncertain. With the support of family and friends, I was able to develop a relationship with myself by listening to by body and trusting my intuition. It’s easy to feel like a chronically ill body is weak, inferior, or something to be ashamed of, and if we show ourselves compassion and grace, we can begin to heal and instill peace.”

Two years later, Alex prioritizes holistic ways of managing her MS, such as exercising, eating well, and focusing on her mental health. Whether she’s struggling or not, she continues to take care of what she can, “I don’t know when or how a relapse will affect me, but I also don’t like to dwell on it.”

Art has always been a significant way for Alex to combat stress, and she has learned to help herself through her diagnosis by painting. There is a quality of solitude to her creative practice that makes her MS feel less isolating.

“I’ve always been creative. As a child, I collaged my bedroom walls with hundreds of horse magazine cut-outs, and I collected my menagerie of pencil-drawn characters in an art journal. I dabbled in drawing and abstract painting growing up, but it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I found my passion for water colour painting.”

Over the years, Alex’s MS diagnosis motivated her to integrate self-expression into her profession, ultimately turning her hobby into a full-time job.

“Working in a stressful office job wasn’t sustainable. Now, directing my own creative business allows me to manage my energy.”

Today, Alex feels that her art is less about herself and more about humanity. She commits to creating a series of paintings around a concept or theme that she wants to explore. Those themes are inspired by the coalescence of ideas from many sources including nature, music, memories, and dreams.

“It’s a very intuitive and organic process that symbolic of my commitment to embrace the unknown.”

Because Alex’s artwork is abstract, it allows others to infer their personal opinions. Some say certain pieces make them emotional for reasons they can’t explain, and others say the pieces conjure a distinct memory.

“I’m humbled when my paintings take on a therapeutic role, whether by piquing their curiosity, reigniting their imagination or reminding them to pause.”

A pause is something that everyone has inevitably had to accept due to the global pandemic. Canada began taking preventive measures against the spread of COVID-19 the same month Alex launched her solo exhibition, “Inner Islands: The Art of Wellness”. The pandemic meant cancelled events and less opportunity to sell her work.

Even though it has been challenging, it has encouraged her to turn inward and realize what matters most. “This pandemic reminds me of my MS diagnosis – the way we have to accept what’s happening and adapt for ourselves and our family.”

In addition to the challenges associated with COVID-19, Alex has also had to manage stress surrounding her pregnancy, something she could never have imagined during a pandemic. Still, she focuses on what she can control.

“I pushed through a productive period around my Inner Islands exhibit because I wanted to continue serving others struggling with uncertainty. Now, for the sake of my baby and my health, I’m privileged to be entering a slower season where I can step back and consider how I can best serve as an artist in the community and as a mother living with MS.”

If there’s anything that Alex has to share with the community during this time of uncertainty, it’s this: “Take this time to consider how you can heal and create a healthy future. If being alone makes you feel lonely, embrace it and follow that feeling to the root until you excavate what peace and action look like for you going forward.”

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