Fibromyalgia – An Artist’s Perspective

Fibromyalgia – An Artist’s Perspective

Editor’s Note: Jenny Schwarz lives in East Helena, Montana, suffers from fibromyalgia and uses art as part of her healing. She has agreed to share some of her thoughts and her art on Fibromyalgia Awareness Day!

Jenny-Schwarz-paintingFour years ago, when I was working full time, I had no idea what fibromyalgia was. Couldn’t have even spelled the word.

Four years later, after not being able to work or even live very well, I know it well.

When people ask me what it is I tell them: “Simply put, fibromyalgia causes widespread pain, problems sleeping, headaches, numbness, tingling, morning stiffness, memory problems, arthritis, and any other thing that goes wrong with your body once you are diagnosed.”

When I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I felt like the doctor was saying that I would be in pain now and every day for the rest of my life and there is nothing anyone can do about it and nobody would help me through it.

Jenny Schwarz Painting

Jenny Schwarz gives her art away…which she believes is giving a gift of her healing

For a while, he was right.

It takes away your dreams, your hopes, and your happy moments. It makes loved ones grimace when they see you.  It makes friends and family disappear. It isolates you into a tiny box until all that was you no longer remains.

Until very recently I was alone. I hurt. I gave up.

A couple of things happened. One is I found a doctor who listened and prescribed me medication that put me on my feet, most days at least.  The other is I rediscovered my passion for painting.

Pablo Picasso once famously said, “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”

My “dust” is fibromyalgia and my painting indeed washes my pain.

Let me see if I can explain what I mean.

Jenny-Schwarz-painting-4

“I paint the pain into the painting….and then I give the painting away.”

I only paint when I’m in pain. I’ve actually tried to paint when I’m feeling pretty good and honestly, it’s my worst work.

When I’m hurting, I paint the pain into the painting.

And then I give the painting away. I don’t keep my art – I give it others and hopefully they enjoy it. What it does for me, is it helps me heal because I’m sending my pain away!

And I think that’s my message today. There are things you can do to help yourself.

I refuse to be controlled by the pain. I will not let one word stop my life and destroy every fiber of my being. I will lose nothing more to this word, fibromyalgia. I will fight, and I will win. I am stronger than a word. I am more than a statistic, a person to sympathize, a person to look down on and say, “Aaw, what a shame. She used to be something.” I am not the shadow in the crowded room any longer. I am me, faults, blemishes, happiness and sadness, yet me just the same. I have baggage. I love and I hate. I am no different than you and I know nothing except what I know.

Jenny-Schwarz-painting2No hardship or hurt I have ever experienced in my life has been as bad as this one. Nothing I have faced could have prepared me for the utter pain and destruction this disease has given me.

While this pain is a curse, I also now understand it’s changed me and for the better.

I don’t want to thank fibromyalgia–I’d rather not have it.

But this journey has helped me and I hope my story helps you.

And now, I have to paint!

Authored by: Jenny Schwarz

There are 12 comments for this article
  1. LookingHeavenward at 9:06 am

    Thank you for sharing this…I have suffered with Fibro for over half my life…I am so glad you have found an outlet to express your pain!

  2. i at 6:44 pm

    Aloha…i am still trying to digest the full meaning of fibromyalgia. I have learned that it is a physical pain, that absolutely eats away at your soul, and all the happiness therin…thank you for sharing. Aloha i

  3. Sandi Kubler at 3:46 pm

    I loved your article! I have had one of those up/down/up again/down again days. Cried into my husbands chest this morning as I once again mourned my own loss of me, then tried to do some much needed yard work, only to have to come into the house to sit down several times. I finally gave it up, not able to go on any longer and left my “mess” for my hubby to clean up. I blame no one and nothing for my FM. Certainly God did not DO this to me, for he is only loving. It formed and emerged, many years ago. I remember being always “tender” to the touch as a teenager, but yet I was racing around on a horse most of my life. It got worse as I got older and the PT’s that I repeatedly saw did everything under the sun, but it didn’t have a name. It wasn’t until I got to age 52 that a PT told me to google it, she said that although they were not allowed to diagnose a patient, I could be a poster child for FM. I googled it and cried as I saw myself in the symptoms. I made an appointment with a rheumatologist, scared to death that he might not be a physician who even believed in FM. But he did believe and after doing all the tests to rule out everything else, he gave me the diagnosis. I also have charcot marie tooth disease, which involves the nervous system and a few more other things. I developed Cushings from all the steroid injections to relieve severe chronic bursitis in my hips. But now, 2 years later it is in remission or gone? I try to have a positive attitude but the hardest thing is dealing with the annoyance of others at my forgetfulness. I certainly don’t do it on purpose. I am glad I read this today, it really gave me a boost. Thank you and bless you!

  4. Lana Ray at 11:28 am

    My father has had fibromyalga almost as long–30 years–as I have had a spinal cord injury, both resulting in chronic pain. He is an artist who never gave his talent much attention. How wonderful that you have used your talent it in this way. It reminds me of what Renoit said when asked about his chronic pain and how he paints anyway–“the pain goes, but the beauty remains.” You inspire me to find and live my own art.

  5. kristy ottinger at 4:51 pm

    Hello,
    I am an artist, too, and think I may have the same problem. Your words were very helpful. Thank you.

  6. jonathan tait at 3:37 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your story and your work. I have had a similar journey, which I’m sure you appreciate, is a journey fought on a daily basis. Battling to put some light in whilst trying to survive and maintain an income never knowing how you’ll feel day to day. Sitting at a computer for a living has been my constant battle hoping to find an alternative, in the meantime trying to find time, energy and motivation to focus on artistic interest. I’ve also found pushing myself to do activities that I know will hurt but I take the view I hurt anyway so I might as well hurt with a smile on my face, I spent too long thinking being still will cure anything, although I support this with mindfulness and meditation. Great work Jenny Never surrender!

  7. Philene Severa at 10:29 am

    Thank you for sharing your experience. That’s a fantastic way to feel like you have some mastery over the illness, and it connects you with others — something fibro often does just the opposite. Good luck and as an art therapist and fellow sufferer I’d love to talk with you.
    Philene

  8. Pingback: Invisible Illness - PAINTing Out The Pain ~ ENERGETIC ABSTRACTIONS
  9. Dennis Kinch at 12:52 pm

    You have found the answer to, “Everything is for the best.” I used to hate that saying. Only people in pain who have breached the other side can know the true meaning of this saying. Looking back, Pain made me who I am today, 20 years into my disease, and it forced me to find the “Me” I needed but didn’t know was there.

    You have to find your “Surrender,” your acceptance, laying bare your circumstance in this horrible fate. Then, you must Forgive, remembering that forgiveness is about you, not them. Then, YOU MUST Believe! Believe that your internal power is far stronger than pain, that your mind and spirit control the body, not the other way around, and that you control your emotional response to circumstance. Then you can step over the barriers and come to the other side, the positive side, not the fake bumper sticker positivity, but the real power of the positive mind. This takes more courage and work than you can believe, but once you find it, you can get back to who you were, BP…before pain!

    And be happy again.

    Once I found it I had to go find what it was I found, and I did. Then I had to prove it, to myself and others, and I did. But who will listen? Only those who believe. Hard to find believers when pain is controlling their lives. Thank you for your courage, inspiration and for showing me, there’s still hope.

    Your painting is an experience I had when I finally forgave everything, including myself, for allowing pain to ruin my life. It was the day I changed for good. It was on the George Washington Bridge on 5-5-05.

    I used to dwell on the day Pain ruined me…now I think of this day and the picture I get in my imagination is your painting. I hope who you gave it to will treat it right and hand it down together with the story behind it. Welcome to the other side. Remember, if pain drags you back in, do the 3 things again and climb back out. This can happen. I hope and pray others in pain realize how important your journey is, to them!

  10. Idalia Garcia at 4:17 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us…your paintings are very touching…great job

  11. Mark Ibsen at 2:49 pm

    Art is the access to the eternal!
    Thank you NPR for opening up the conversation re: Pain and the Soul.

  12. Ariela Marshall at 8:44 am

    So Inspirational and Creative