The Healing Power of Creativity

How creative outlets such as art and writing have helped me cope with difficult things such as Dermatomyositis. 1 min


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I’ve been creating for as long as I can remember. I would create complex storylines, characters, and unique worlds. Art and writing are things that have always been a comfort to me, a therapy, and not just that but something innate in my soul that needs to be expressed. It’s helped me through struggles with being bullied growing up, my frustration with math classes throughout my school career, hard times that would arise, my fears about the future, and these past 7 years it has been very healing with my battles with Dermatomyositis.

Mott Community College Art Show 2019

This is a picture of me and a couple of my pieces at the Mott Community College art show my last semester there. 

There is just nothing like the feeling you get when you create something from nothing. I’ve always found it amazing how any creative craft can take something destructive in our lives such as dealing with chronic illness and create something beautiful and healing from it. I knew that after my recent diagnosis of Dermatomyositis this year (as I was previously misdiagnosed with Lupus back in 2015), I wanted to use my creative gifts to help promote awareness. 

I don’t believe in coincidences, I believe that things happen for a reason even the hard times. So when I had the opportunity to work with Myositis Support and Understanding to illustrate the tigers for this year’s theme, I was ecstatic to do so. I also felt inspired to tell the story of the worst flare I’ve ever experienced (the one I'm still currently experiencing) in a series that is Mermay inspired. In the art world, May is also known as Mermay, a monthly art challenge that is mermaid themed. It was perfect for the story as mermaids are another comfort of mine. When I lost my ability to walk during the flare, I coped by daydreaming about being a mermaid that was having a hard time adjusting to life on land.

Myositis/Mermay Piece 1

This piece in the series deals with my struggles with fatigue and brain fog. 

Myositis Awareness Month Tiger illustrations

At one point in this flare, I actually lost my ability to use my arms due to muscle weakness for a few weeks or so. It was very painful to me to not be able to not only eat, brush my teeth, wash my face, etc. on my own but also not being able to draw. It felt as if a piece of my soul had been ripped out. It showed me just how much I needed art and storytelling to feel at peace and feel like myself. Once I was able to use my arms once again, I dove head first into some self-guided art therapy. Being able to express my frustrations, fears, and pain in art was so healing. Especially as I was still unable to journal as I’ve journaled for many years, which is very therapeutic for me as well.

As I mentioned previously, creative pursuits have a healing aspect to them. It’s like kintsugi, making the broken beautiful again despite the scars trauma can leave behind. I’ve pursued many different creative crafts myself over the years as I love to challenge myself and learn. I’ve learned how to paint with watercolor, acrylic, gouache, ink. Alcohol markers and paint markers have also been a joy to work with. In college, I had the opportunity to learn to create via digital art, screen printing, foam core,  woodworking, and metalworking. 

Pantone Color of the Year Series Piece 3

I do a Pantone Color of the year series every year and the colors we had last year inspired me to do a kintsugi theme. It was very therapeutic for me to work on. 

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been told by others that they don’t have a creative bone in their body and cannot create anything nearly as great as I can. But I have to disagree with that. Yes, often times artistic types have a natural gift for rendering what they have visualized in their minds or in front of them as well as style. Many often forget that there is also a lot of work that goes into growing as an artist. It means finding your medium(s) that speak to you, learning from masters in your craft, and developing your style. I took that same path of growth myself as an artist. I will always pursue growing my artistic abilities. I wasn’t born a full fledged artist, a master in her craft.

All that being said, I believe creative pursuits are an important part of healing and growth. I encourage all of you to find your medium and express what may be causing you pain, anger, frustration, joy, peace, etc. If you have never heard of the multiple intelligences theory before, I believe it could easily be applied to world of creatives as well. Some are amazing at drawing and painting, others are better working more three dimensionally like with ceramics, wood, glasswork, metal, etc. There are those who work more in the graphic design sphere, scrapbooking, handlettering, and collage. Some do more practical projects such as furniture design, jewelry design, restoration, upcycling, etc. Some sew clothes, tapestries, quilts, knit, crochet, embroider, etc. If creating physical things in the fine arts sphere is not for you, not a  problem! There’s also writing, poetry, music, photography, videography, typography, dance, etc. There is so much out there for you to explore and find the thing that speaks to you. Then once you find it, you can start to heal and express what you have been wanting to express but didn’t know how to previously. 

I may worry about what the future holds for me as I’m haunted by what this disease has put me through, and the pain of my limitations. Art and writing will always be those well-needed friends to help me through it all. I want to use the destructive nature of this pain and frustration to create a force of good in the world. One that inspires, heals, and leads to growth rather than stagnation. We creatives tend to feed off of each other’s creative energy and creations. Maybe my art can be something that inspires you to create as other artists have inspired me. Art brings this depth and beauty into life that nothing else can except for maybe nature itself. We all have something to say that speaks to the very souls of others, no matter how mundane it may seem to us. I hope that I was able to inspire you to start your creative healing journey.  May it bring you the joy and peace it has brought me.


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McKenna Telke

Hi! I am an artist, graphic designer, illustrator, and aspiring author. I was diagnosed with Dermatomyositis this year in February after being misdiagnosed with Lupus for 7 years during my senior year of high school. I hope to use my creative gifts to help uplift, inspire, as well a promote awareness for the disease.

You can check me out at my website: https://www.mckennamae.online/

I am also on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Minds, and Artfol: @mckennamae27

2 Comments

    1. I am so glad to hear that you were inspired by my article. I hope that you may find yourself on a creative journey yourself as well. And I am so glad that you enjoyed my artwork. 😄❤️

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