I’m a Disabled Artist

July 12, 2010


It’s surprising how often I hear this.  I hear this in just about every class I have ever taught.  I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone has something that gets in their way.  The question is how you deal with a resulting skill change like a disability.

I was somewhat disabled from a head on car collision in 1987.  To this day, my hand and arm g0 to sleep when my neck is in certain positions, especially when I’m trying to sleep or sit.  In the beginning this was incredibly distressing and stopped me from doing a lot of things despite it not being my dominant hand.    I would be working in my studio and my right hand would just go numb.  Or I would drop something not realizing that all feeling had drained out of most of the fingers of that hand.  Well, how useless is that? It’s definitely annoying and distracting.  I have found that there are steps to how we function or dysfunction with this sort of thing much like there are steps to grieving.

First off, we become the disability.  The disability is us.  This self limiting behavior isn’t in our best interest over the long term but this is how we deal with this at first.  I think it’s a way of processing what’s happened and grieving for the loss of what was.  Unfortunately it’s all too easy to get stuck in this stage though.  If we really want more out of life than this, we will choose to move on.  This will require that we accept we have a different set of abilities than we had before the injury causing event.  Once we’ve accepted this, we can take the time to learn what the heck is different and how we must operate now to be functional.  How do we do this?  Well my over simplistic thought is to remember that as we age, we change and so do our abilities.  Expect it.  Do I stop my life over these changes?  Then why should I stop my life over *any* changes?  I know: pretty simplistic but that’s how I think.

Over the years I have learned that the associated tingling sensation or going outright numb in that hand means I need to do one of a couple of things: position my neck and shoulders differently, apply traction to my neck to stretch it out and hopefully get everything back into place or get up and move around.  It’s not as annoying or as much a roadblock as it used to be because I’ve come to accept it.   And granted, I’m not THAT disabled all things considered.

Now I have problems with my dominant hand.  I haven’t been able to make my own work much these last few years.  We’ll see how it goes when I have the surgery for my main hand in September.  That will be a little more difficult since they’re essentially breaking my arm, taking out a slice of the bone and putting it back together along with grinding down some bones in my wrist.  If they leave the plate they put into my arm to hold everything together I’ll probably have some TSA stories at the airports… how fun:  something new to blog about!

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One Response to “I’m a Disabled Artist”

  1. Sue Robertson said

    You are a constant marvel to me.

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