Diabetes: Year One” is a collection of graphic poems that covers my first year (and a bit) after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and the experience of becoming a patient, and accepting, resisting and understanding what that means to me.
It’s a comic that is unashamedly graphic and poetic. A collection of moments and events that deal not only with the diagnosis and symptoms of chronic illness, but also with the nitty-gritty of living with something, that in some way, is always there. It’s my experience, and my voice, but I hope it also speaks to others in and out of the same boat.
I’m-patient… Illustrations is an attempt to illustrate and interrogate a range of patient experiences. The point when the enormity of science and medicine and fate coalesces in a moment. Then becomes a way of life.
The result is both illustrations that reflect on my, and others’, experience of being a patient (specifically my dad’s experience of vascular dementia - see the Gallery ‘Patient Experince’), and the development of my own graphic pathography (see the Gallery ‘Diabetes: Year One’) that charts what I consider the fragments of becoming and being a patient.
A statement: “you have type 1 diabetes” is a moment of inhale; a shock to get over. But then you think - so what? What does that mean? It’s not like you have a cold, or flu – there’s no frame of reference.
Drawing on my own experience I have sought to address that question.
With my diagnosis I tumbled into a wonderland – with my certainty, and sense of who I am questioned. The habits and tendencies that define me as an adult - as the person I thought I was, are part of the problem - and the solution. Personality is part of pathology, and perhaps, key to finding the way through.
These additional images explore the issues of the body and identity I have confronted through exploring my diagnosis, as I begin to make sense of my new life – and new body.
For myself understanding and education has been an attempt to control and manage type 1 diabetes through the shock of fear and bewilderment. For others I hope the work allows a glimpse into some specific experiences of being a patient, and from that contribute to the discussion of what that means more widely, and how we can use personal experience to inform treatment.
[Images from an exhibition kindly supported by St Giles Medical Communications.]
"At the age of forty I wanted to change my life, then life changed for me.”
With two months to go before my MA I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. A bit of a shock. All I knew about the disease were fragments from the media, and soon more from what the doctors told me. Each time I felt I had it sorted – something new cropped up. From someone who didn’t do illness, I became very much part of the health system.
From thoughts of children’s books and cartoon illustrations my work took me elsewhere. To know more about my experience, I had to engage with what was happening – the medicine, the science, the emotions, the practicalities.
Starting with me, I’ve slowly begun to work outwards – recording my reactions and feelings about what being a patient means to me, but also to others. As my life changed – so have those of my family around me. Watching from the outside as others have faced their own struggles I have acknowledged my own strength, and confronted the growing weight of my powerlessness.
Through drawing I work out bits and pieces, I begin to make sense of my new life – and new body. Drawing to me is thinking, is the process of understanding what’s happening – sometimes naturalistic, sometimes metaphorical and surreal. The marks on the page record the process and the struggle, and using layering I can excavate meaning from a situation. Augmenting my work digitally further filters these thoughts – to reflect on what it all means – as if a residue of Wordsworth’s “emotion recollected in tranquility” still haunts the way I work.
Works developed as part of developing projects.
Images of the Angel of the North physically created and digitally manipulated through inversion, to explore the way public art imprints our social psyche.
A personal project, begun in the North-East, taking landscapes and re-imaging them through colour and line - making the everyday something special.
Personal sketches from Newcastle and Durham, exploring the imprint of the past on the cities.