The third INvisible Beauty in Pain Artist Spotlight hails all the way from Quebec, Canada.
The INvisible Beauty In Pain campaign’s third artist spotlight is Isabelle St-Pierre
Isabelle St-Pierre alias ZAZAROXY is a french canadian artist from Quebec. She worked 20 years in Financial and Marketing of Insurance before her migraines became daily chronic. She donated two stunning works of art for the INvisible Beauty in Pain Gallery.
Check out Isabelle’s interview below:
When did you begin your career as an artist and what inspired you to pursue art?
(IS) I always had the artistic flame in me. I remember doing my first necklace with old buttons at age of four with my grandma. She taugh me knitting, embroidery, basic drawing and painting. She was the one that inspired me and encouraged me in the Art field when I was young. I began doing some Art again when I was about 30 (15 years ago…) to help me to deal with migraines: watercolor and sketching courses, making jewelry.
But my real passion for drawing and painting came back about 2 and half years now, first with Art-therapy sessions, followed by taking web classes on Creativebug.com and then going to an Art retreat in California meeting my idols Lisa Congdon and Courtney Cerruti and many other artists that inspired me and with whom I am still in contact.
Do you have a chronic invisible illness?
(IS) I have daily chronic migraines and Fibromyalgia.
When were you diagnosed with your chronic illness?
(IS) Chronic migraines were “officially” diagnosed in 2007 (at the age of 37) my Md specialized in migraines but I was having migraines since University increasing in frequency and level of pain across the years with daily frequency and first disability at work in 2004. In long term invalidity since 2012 (at age of 42), after trying so hard to combine work and an incredible level of pain occurring daily. Fibromyalgia was diagnosed in 2015; probably as a result of immobility, stress, daily neck and chronic pain.
What lead up to your diagnosis (symptoms, dr visits, etc) and how did you find comfort through art, painting, singing, writing or being creative?
All the symptoms I had, visits through all neurologists and doctors (so many!), emergency hospital stays, all paramedical trials (acupuncture, osteopath, chiropractor, massage therapy, etc.), all meds AND many disabilities lead up to my diagnosis. It is really hard to find the good doctor and team that will really help you. That’s why Chronic pain Associations and Patients’ communities are so important.
Making Art for me is SO healing even when my level of pain is high. For me drawing is my Meditation: it enables me to concentrate myself in my own kind of fairy world where I can release my emotions. I try to draw daily to keep my zen routine, often wearing my ice hat to control my level of pain, but I do it, I love it and I am proud of it. I suggest everybody suffering from chronic pain to find a creative activity they like and do it daily. You can begin just doodling or simple knitting, it’s so relaxing, you will forget your pain during your activity.
What do you feel is the most challenging aspect of your career as an artist?
Not comparing myself with people who don’t have health issues. I mean, I always want to do more, faster, bigger as others… but my body often says: It’s enough for today girl!
How does chronic illness impact your process as an artist?
I think you can really feel emotions through my Art, particularly in my drawings. That’s the comments I often receive. Living with chronic illness makes me more sensitive and I think it’s the positive impact.
Of course, I would love to do more Art, have my own Art & Atelier shop, go to more Art events, and sometimes it is really frustrating…but I am really proud of the progress I have made in last years and focus of myself progression even if it’s slower that I wish…
What (if anything) have you found/ done that has improved your symptoms?
(IS) It took me years to believe in that, but controlling your respiration and meditating helped me a lot in reducing the level of pain. A device called Cefaly, helps me. I wanna try restorative Yoga and more pool exercises. And very important, keep doing some simple activities with close friends, even when you have pain (up to a tolerable level of course). It’s like natural endorphins. Don’t stay alone!
How open are you with friends & family about your illness & symptoms?
(IS) I have to say that I am single, no children, with one dog. So my close family is very important for me and I stay temporarily in my parent’s home to break isolation and for help in daily activities. They are very compassionate and empathetic.
I know that my dad wishes so much that I will recover and will be like before… an energetic bomb! And secretly in my mind I have hope for that too. It is really hard to accept the “chronic” aspect of a condition, even after many years. I am still working on it and still trying finding new treatments at the same time.
My close friends are very empathetic and flexible for planning and last-minute cancelling activities. Of course you lose some friends that don’t understand your condition but you make new real friends, I can assure you.As for extended family, some coworkers and not regular friends: most do not understand what you have and judge you because it is invisible illness. I try to make the most education I can but sometimes, you have to give up and focus on persons that make you feel good. That’s what I do now.
What was the worst advice that you followed?
(IS) I think I did not really received worst advice except in 2004, a neurologist told me that there was nothing else to do with my case… I was really chocked, I cried, but the day after I was looking for another Md to help me, even if it was 3 hours from my home. I am very lucky to have parents, sister, close friends and coworkers that always wanted to help me and did not judge me.
Outside of art, What is your favorite way to cope with your life as a spoonie?
(IS) Playing with my dog Roxy. He is my best companion for 11 years. He can feel when I am in pain and can stay close to me for hours. He makes me smile when I am down and is my 24 hours friend. Animal therapy is for me the best therapy.
What is it that inspires you to keep going, despite your illness?
(IS) My family, my close friends, my dog, internet Art, Migraine and Chronic Illness community… and Me. I put Art and volunteering as focus in my life. It is SO important to still have dreams, realize them and always have projects in our life even if they seem impossible at first.
What is one thing you’ve learned about yourself since your diagnosis?
(IS) I am strong warrior! Of course I have ups and downs… but 2 years ago I really made the choice to live. I surround myself with positive, helping and creative persons; living the present moment and making my dreams come true, even if it’s hard, painful…it worth it.
What is the most important piece of advice you would give to someone newly diagnosed with an invisible illness.
(IS) Surround yourself with positive, helping, emphathetic people. Join an Invisible illness community to help find resources and break isolation.
Is there anything else you’d like the readers to know?
(IS) Don’t forget you are YOU and you are NOT your illness. And don’t give up! There is always someone somewhere to help you dealing with your pain.
For the rest of KNOWvember, we will feature the biographies and the meaning behind the works of art created by and donated to the INvisible Beauty in Pain Gallery by each of the thirteen artists that submitted work for this campaign.
All works are available to be seen in person at 540WMain and are a celebration of The U.S Pain Foundation’s KNOWvember campaign which you can learn more about by clicking here.
To purchase one or both of the photographs above, email Calvin Eaton at firstname.lastname@example.org and to learn more about Isabelle on her Instagram page.