I’m on the PEM Podcast!

A couple months ago I had the honour of being interviewed by Daniel Moore for the podcast Post-Exertional Mayonnaise. The name of the podcast is a play on Post-Exertional Malaise (PEM), the hallmark symptom of ME/CFS.

Daniel and I had a wide-ranging discussion and talked about whether its possible to flourish whilst living with ME, making art with a disability, flow states, symptomatology, meditation, and Stoicism.

You can also listen on your favourite podcast platform via the PEM Podcast webpage.

Nov ’23 to Feb ’24: Renewal and Propagation

It’s been a challenging three months. Winter is always hard on my system and I’ve been getting all my vaccines up to date which has required a fair bit of recovery time. I also found out my cyborg part (an iliac vein stent) needs an adjustment so I’m waiting for a date for day surgery. But, because creative work is what makes me flourish, I’ve done a surpri­sing amount of work in that time.

In December I realized that my routines weren’t working well and were causing me a lot of unnecessary internal urgency so I totally scrapped them and rebuilt them from scratch. It took about a month of trial and error but I now have routines that work so much better for where I’m at cognitively, physically, and with my current projects. My music work is a bit more spaced out now, as is my journaling, but the internal striving and pressure I felt with my old routines is gone.

I do think the impetus for such a large shift is due to my continuing research on the vagus nerve and polyvagal theory. Urgency activates the sympathetic (stress, fight, flight) system, and reducing that means I can come back to ventral vagal (calm and engaged) much more readily which is very good for my entire system.

Embroidery WIPs

An image of an old engraving of a vagus nerve is embroidered on green cotton. The head and chest are in a large bamboo embroidery hoop. The embroidery of the main nerve lines is done in blue chain stitch in perlé cotton. The brain and some of the face is stitched in the same thread in backstitch. Details in the face are stitched in single strand floss. A bright red anatomical heart is stitched in two and one strand red whipped back stitch. Around it a bright golden yellow halo in a vesica piscis shape is stitched in single strand thread. Three sets of ribs have been sketched in chalk and the lowest and second lowest ribs are being stitched in bright green/yellow stem stitch. A needle minder in the shape of an hourglass that reads, "This is taking forever," sits near the stitches holding a needle.
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Monthlyish Update: Getting Guts in Order (late Sept to early Nov)

Note: This has been cross-posted on my ko-fi. There are a few other monthly updates there if you would like to read back a few months.

Webinar Report

Another monthly-ish update and another very full month. The main creative work on my plate was teaching a webinar for CHASE Medical Humanities about the visualization process I use to create my symptomatology pieces as well as how to use the poetic technique of homophonic translation to re-vision and re-own dense scientific texts.

It felt good to stretch my teaching muscles again. I’ve been teaching in some capacity since my late teens—music, yoga, and meditation—but had to stop when I got sick in 2015. Despite an ME/CFS crash the day before, I was well enough to present my webinar and the par­ticipants seemed to enjoy and get a lot out of the work. A few people even shared their symptomatology image/test pieces on social media. Here are a few:

crayon drawing  of a body with photocopied esophagus, awkward poem and a bunch of triangles

Gillian Blekkenhorst started with a trachea and expanded their piece from there.

website: https://blekkenhorst.ca/

Twitter: @gblekkenhorst

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Webinar: The Invisible Made Visible

I’m teaching a free webinar with CHASE Medical Humanities in the UK on Thursday, 26 October 2023, 5:30pm UK time, 10:30 am SK time. I’ll be leading participants through my process for creating both the visual and textual aspects of my symptomatology pieces. I’m very excited about it!

You can register here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-invisible-made-visible-a-visualization-writing-workshop-with-lia-pas-tickets-726765173197

An outline of a naked woman is embroidered on linen in the same bone white colour as the linen. She stands legs together, her right hand covering her groin, her left hand, palm up, extended slightly to her side. She looks to the right. Her entire body except for her belly is covered in intricate markings representing different neurological sensations. Her face is a mask of green lines, feathery grey lines cover her shoulders and chest. There is a thick band of intricate burgundy stitching around her waist. Her forearms and hands are covered in thick blue undulant lines. Her right leg has bands of burgundy along the muscles, with small dots around them. Her inner left leg has a thick line of blue running up it, with thin branches spreading towards her outer leg.

This webinar is open to all, not just people in CHASE institutions. For the institution question in the registration I usually put n/a, and my position as independent artist.

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tethered by fluid and ligaments (2023) 

I have completed my liver embroidery. It’s another large piece, H 15″ x W 21″ (38 × 53 cm). I stitched it from 20 June 2022 to 5 June 2023. I’ve titled it tethered by fluid and ligaments. 

A red & purple organza liver basted onto grey linen. The biliary system with all its branches between the two layers of organza is filled with a bilious green. There are small yellow beads on the biliary system inside the smaller lobe. There are white beads sewn on the narrow end of the top organza liver. An arched T shape filled with tight crisscrossing stitches in thick off-white thread separates the large & small lobes of the liver and curves over the top. There are various blocks of text stitched in light grey single strand thread around the image.They read: What roots grow in us. Branch through our landscapes. In love plexuses. a curvature borne. between what is held & what must be held carefully. fleshy beasts tethered. By fluid and ligaments. Such a gentle embrace. Beneath our skin. Here is the thing I broke & then repaired with brightness. Laid open. The spells it holds. A language spoken. Between boughs & flesh. this golden ingot. This tailed beast. And its viscous song. What a miracle these spaces within us. Are what make us whole. What offertory our bodies. The proper invocation of flesh. Placed on the ground. Hosts on tongues. Fleshy language. Each thing precious in its own decay.

Unlike some of my previous symptomatology pieces, my liver issues haven’t been resolved during the stitching of this piece. . . .

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Upcoming Anthology Publication: In Corpore Sano

I have reached a point in my recovery from ME/CFS that means I am able to write again! ME/CFS is a neuro-immune disease and some of the symptoms include brain fog and cognitive fatigue. When I first got ill in 2015 I was unable to read or write for any length of time because it would utterly exhaust me. I’m very happy to say that I can now read and write with relative ease again.

Most of my writing these days is in the form of journaling, but earlier this year I submitted some of my embroidery work to an anthology about “challenged bodies” and creative work. As part of the In Corpore Sano anthology I was asked to write about my experience of being a creative person living with a debilitating illness and wrote a fairly long essay about that as well as the autobiographical and therapeutic nature of my embroidery work.  Continue reading