Sunday 17 October 2021

Owning Who I am Now!

First of all - thanks for your lovely messages.

. . . 

Following on from last weeks guest blog by artist Sue Flowers, the second contribution to this series on lived experience and the arts, comes from the contemporary artist and former clinician 
Shanali Perera who shares a very different personal story. Shanali is a North West Regional Champion of the Lived Experience Network. 

. . . 

Owning Who I Am Now
Shanali Perera
Based in Manchester, I am a contemporary artist, educator, writer, and retired clinician living with a rare condition called vasculitis. 
The start of my illness was in 2009 during my specialist training in Rheumatology. Unexpectedly, my life rhythm got interrupted…I felt like the speed train I was travelling in, just derailed! What happened to the usual ‘movement and flow’? What took over?’ The sinking feeling, I was imprisoned and my freedom to move robbed, overpowered me.

It was a very humbling and transformative experience for me to end up as a patient in my own specialty of training. At one point, I was seeing the everyday struggles patients go through, at the next point, I was living it. The shift that took place moving from a clinician to a person with unexplained symptoms and then to a vasculitis patient was a challenging transition. There was a huge switch in dynamics. I suddenly felt ‘wow, I don’t feel like a person anymore. I’m a patient'.
Shanali Perera 
My condition affected my hand function amongst other things, which limited their use. So, I started using an app on my phone to draw when I had to retire prematurely and give up my career in rheumatology. It took years to get on top of my management and break free from illness dominance that took over my life, distorting my identity.

Regaining the freedom to finally ‘Own who I am now’, what I look like, and what I am about, to be and move forward as Shanali, helped to unlock myself from my own imprisonment.

Art helped me understand and accept what I was going through by giving my illness visibility. It gave me a sense of purpose and helped me regain some of that control I had lost. My art is the best way of expressing the ‘essence of who I am and what I am going through’. An honest and true representation of me and my lived experience with illness, pain, and change. It helps me to make the invisible visible to myself and others as it continues to capture the movement of endurance, resilience, and empowerment.

Now, my mantra is that I am not the illness – I am a person first. The illness is only part of me, an accessory I wear around me.

Shanali Perera 
From my experience, adapting to find ways around limitations plays a central role in rebuilding confidence. Regaining a sense of control, a sense of purpose became a significant component that inspired forward movement with my life and work. And I'm very keen to share with others how:

. art helped me to transform my illness experience into a more meaningful way of living, moving from a clinician to a patient, to becoming an artist and a person again;

. beneficial art can be as a self-management tool on top of all the other medications and therapies to cope with pain and all the other daily challenges that people with illnesses are confronted with;

. expressions of illness experiences can highlight what goes on behind the curtains for the patient, giving health providers, a deeper understanding of what people really go through and what impact illness can have on a person's image and identity; the stereotyping and stigma that is attached; start seeing more of the face behind the illness, not just the person with diabetes or vasculitis.

I strongly feel that using the arts may help us to tap further into the human aspect of medical practice. My aim is to connect with healthcare providers, junior doctors, medical students as well as patients and the public to give them this message.

. . . 

Thanks you so much Shanali and next week, we'll hear from Ruth Flanagan.

. . . 

Alison Kershaw

The artist, curator and activist, Alison Kershaw died this week. A driving force behind Pool Arts and Victoria Baths Arts, Alison has given so much to so many people with warmth and with tenacity. Of the many people I’ve known who were deeply embedded in the arts and mental health community, Alison got things done - and everything she was part of had such integrity.

Photo: Roger Bygott
Alongside her partner Adele Fowles she was half of the artist collaboration Another Adele and when the Manchester International Festival threw open the invitation to the citizens and workers of Greater Manchester to be part of its opening extravaganza - What Is the City but the People? - the three of them strode out along that catwalk, part of that great city-scape - of people and place. So many people will miss everything about her.
Alison Kershaw - a brilliant woman. 

. . .

How might community music work tackle poisonous health inequalities?
More Music and the International Centre for Community Music Present (ICCM) 'Working Together - Music for Health in Morecambe.’ Join the team from More Music and the ICCM as they reflect on their recent
partnership-led research, in a free webinar on Thursday 21 October at 2pm. They will discuss the value of critical research in developing community music partnerships, to improve health inequalities in Morecambe.

More Music Winter by Robin Zahler
Music for Health in Morecambe is a programme developed by More Music to help improve mental health and wellbeing. More Music piloted three social prescribing projects in Morecambe. With Bay Medical Group local GP practice and social prescribers, they are running a weekly community sing a long for anyone aged over 60 aimed at combatting isolation and loneliness. With CAMHS and A.C.E. (a charity who provide free counselling to young people), they run a young people’s singing for positive mental health group, singing out any stress in a safe inclusive group. With West End Impact, a Morecambe community faith charity, they run ‘Drumming for Health’, working with marginalised people who live with issues arising from homelessness, chronic illness and depression. 
This work will be featured on BBC NW Inside Out this Monday 18th October. Want to find out more, or book a place? Click HERE.
"We know 'Music is medicine', More Music have been leading this for 25 years in Morecambe, what does a new way of working together for community health look like?" 
Andy Knox, GP and Director of Population Health for Morecambe Bay Health and Care System

A Book of Ours. Photo: Noora Mykkanen

A Book of Ours
Last week I made brief reference to A Book of Ours being launched. You can find out more by reading the short article Noora Mykkanen in The Meteor by clicking HERE.

. . . 

The Contemporary Visual Art Network North West (CVAN NW)
CVAN NW are currently trying to steer the network towards more socially engaged practice and are trying to build a new vision based on the impact of the arts across 3 key areas:
Health & Wellbeing
  • Place Making 
  • Climate Justice.
Do you want to help them build a better and more representative future? We're working on our future strategy& need your input. Grab a brew, click on HERE and share some feedback to help their much-needed research.
Deadline Sun 24 Oct.

Director of Cartwheel Arts (full time)
The long standing Director Rick Walker is retiring after two decades with the company. They are therefore looking for an experienced leader who is passionate about the social impact that participatory arts can make in low income neighbourhoods and marginalised communities, delivering creative excitement and positive outcomes for both individuals and groups, and in bringing about a socially just society. This is their mission:
Cartwheel is committed to promoting social inclusion, cohesion, diversity and regeneration through community participation in vibrant, innovative, high-quality arts projects  building healthier, stronger, safer communities.
We call this Art for a Reason. More details are HERE.

No comments:

Post a Comment