I had the desire to illustrate my body. The symptoms, the illness. To explore my physical difficulties on paper. To ask, what do they mean to me? When did they start? How do they impact me.
I purchased a roll of poster paper, and stuck a length to my wall. I crudely drew around my shape. Not so easy from a standing position I found, but the shape marked was at least, interesting. Distorted. Only a suggestion of human form.
I didn’t realise how many layers there could be in feeling your way through your relationship with your body. The experiences, scars, lines, stories…
It is no work of art. My flatmate thinks it is nightmare fuel, it has been suggested to me the early few layers look like something a serial killer might draw before going on a murder spree. Just felt tip pen and paper, a mess of awkward angles, disjointed notes and scribbles, loosely describing sensations and feelings. It is however, somewhat fascinating and engaging, if only to me. I find myself staring at it absently, adding to it in the middle of doing something else. The position I tend to lie on my bed in and read has changed- I naturally move pillows to lay facing it, even if my gaze falls elsewhere, on a book or my phone screen. I find myself studying it, noticing things I have added which seem more prominent or significant than they did a day or two before when I drew or wrote them. It is not so much a drawing of myself as I think I look or would like to look, but a map, of my history as experienced by my body.
It is an exercise I would recommend to anyone. No artistic skill or expensive materials are needed. The vast majority have a complicated relationship with their bodies. The questions of social and cultural views of beauty, race, ability, gender- the personal experiences of touch, consent, pleasure, pain, power and helplessness weave into a shadow body, one made of symbolism and ideas rather than flesh and matter. To view this on paper- to map its territory, is an act of discovery and empowerment. Perhaps here or there, a route can be changed.