Kate kindly shares with us her story of chronic neck pain/neuropathic pain.
“This costume expresses the invisible pain I used to feel 24/7. I trained and worked as a set and costume designer for theatre in the UK and would create similar drawings and costumes like this one on a regular basis. It felt natural for me to represent my pain this way. It was very important for me to do so as I had lost this aspect of my life due to pain. I had to give up my job as well as the pleasure of drawing, sewing and most creative activities. The pain meant I could not use my arms at all even viewing theatre was out. I couldn’t sit for long in the cramped theatre seats.
It took me a long time to design the costume but I felt it was worth the pain nonetheless. I wanted to show the livid nature of the pain I was living with because it was invisible, I looked fine on the surface and it was a struggle to get doctors to believe anything I said.
This struggle continued in the medical community and socially as most people struggled to understand a young seemingly healthy woman complaining of high level of pain not working due to it. In designing this costume I felt i was combating a lot of the times I had had to explain myself. It was very empowering.
When the finished costume was gifted by a colleague of mine to the Charity (Editor’s note: Kate is talking about the charity Something Chronic that she co-founded) as a surprise, it had a huge affect on anyone who saw it. The very human nature of a wearable piece of visible pain even when displayed on an inanimate dummy was powerful and has since been our most effective tool to raise awareness of this thing otherwise known as chronic pain.”
📌THE MINDBODY CONNECTION
“By the time I had found John Sarno and the Mindbody connection I had been in pain for seven years (….enough to declare someone dead right?). I had undergone every medical procedure under the sun and taken every horrible pill you could think of. I was desperate. My last ditch attempt was having facet joint injections and a multiple botox injections in trigger points. I was marked up for this and my back looked like a join the dots puzzle! And not a good one. This was a few weeks before Christmas. The anaesthetic probably gave me a few days grace then the pain came back with a vengeance! Not helped by Christmas shopping!
This was crunch point. I had been very low and suffered from depression throughout my journey with pain but I hit a new low after this operation when the pain came back. I remember trying to take my dog for a quick walk and just stood sobbing in the field. I then met with another dog walker, a friend of mine whose Mother had passed a week before. Jackie was a big part of my life and an even bigger part of our village life, but because of my pain and desperation I was in a worse state than her daughter.”
“Something had to change.
I knew about Nicole Sachs and her work with John Sarno but it hadn’t clicked. I went home immediately and watched one of her YouTube
videos. I felt instantly better emotionally but the pain was the same. I then realised I had to give this a real shot.
I had John Sarno’s Healing Back Pain on audiobook but I had been afraid to read it. I think I was afraid that another method wouldn’t work, I was really at the end of my tether. However, after the emotional lift of simply watching Nicole’s video, I screwed up my courage, got my dog and headed out for the woods ready to listen to Healing Back Pain. With Benji, the spaniel by my side, I felt strong enough to take the message in, and I was shocked at how I understood and empathised with everything in the book.
The next morning I had a physical memory of what it could be like without pain in my neck. This was something I have never been able to imagine before! It had been beating at me for so long. I felt lighter.
The next night I woke in pain but astonishingly I was able to talk to my brain and tell the site “trigger point” in my shoulder to stop. It squeezed out of my shoulder / back like toothpaste out of a tube leaving me shocked!
Every day since then I have felt a little lighter. Not every day is better pain wise but I know I’m on the way to pain free!”
“I already knew that my experiences of repetitive bullying and exclusion at both school and ballet school was a great source of stress for me, but I didn’t accept that it could be taking a toll on my body in terms of repressed stress and anger. Being freelance in theatre whilst my contemporaries were climbing up the ladder in their more “normal” admin jobs within the business, allowing them to relocate within the same postcode was a key factor. This was amplified when they cruelly decided to ditch me because of it. It is hard not to internalise and self criticise under such stressful circumstances. I was in a rage because despite huge amounts of work and sacrifice, my life was not where I wanted it to be. I was forced into comparing myself with let’s face it, horrible people!
I am the typical high achieving perfectionist. I had been good at everything and excelled at school and university with lots of extra curricular commitments. My anger at getting chronic pain that I couldn’t control or work my way out of just made the problem worse.
[What I’ve learned from pain is that ] No-one hurts me anymore! I have learned too much and my own body has hurt me too much that anything and anyone else is small fry!”
👩❤️👩 Kate founded Something Chronic, REimagining Chronic Pain Through The Arts with her life long friend Alice. Something Chronic is an arts-based organisation created to broaden society’s understanding of long-term pain, and to provide an inclusive platform for sufferers to find shared experiences and empathy, through original and thought-provoking works by contemporary artists.