Creativity and chronic illness

I’ll start with the poem I wrote above. I wrote it about chronic pain. And I often write poetry about my experience or existence with chronic pain and illness. It gets out a lot of the emotions and frustrations.

Pain, invisible illness, suffering, mental illness… these things have all inspired art. Because art is a way to express an experience or reality when words do not quite do it. And our experience with illness is deeper and darker than we ever express out loud.

You guys have heard me talk a lot about hobbies in the past because I believe their value to us with chronic illness, especially when we cannot work, to be vital. We have this incessant believe that we must perform all the time. If we can do something, it has to be something we have to do not want to do. If we do things we want to do we are somehow wasting the productive hours of the day… on nothing. But hobbies keep us engaged, you do have a sense of productivity, and they relieve stress and dampen pain while we are engaged in it. It helps with self-identity recovery after work cessation. It helps with self-worth. And we should for our own well-being spent time each day on things we have a passion for rather than Must Be Done things.

Creativity and chronic illness

A couple of studies for you to consider on creativity and illness


There is a lot of research which has shown that knitting has physical, as well as mental health benefits, that it also slows the onset of dementia, combats depression and distracts from chronic pain. It is an activity which helps to overcome isolation and loneliness, too usually a feature of old age. It is also a skill which can continue when sight and strength are diminished.Knitting Is Making a Comeback: Research Has Found the Hobby Reduces Depression, and Anxiety, Dementia, and Distract from Chronic Pain.


A 2010 scientific paper analysed more than 100 studies examining the impact of art & creativity on health & well-being.

Most of these studies agreed that the arts had a range of positive outcomes including:

Creativity & Health: Can Writing Help your Chronic Pain?


the accounts showed that most of the women had taken up this activity in adulthood to cope with the crisis of illness. Needlecraft activities were commonly viewed as providing a means of managing pain and unstructured time, as well as facilitating self-esteem and reciprocal social roles. The women’s accounts suggest that creative activity may be helpful for patients learning to cope with chronic conditions. Coping with Chronic Illness and Disability through Creative Needlecraft

We can see in various studies there were more than a few benefits to creativity and hobbies.

We all search for meaning in life and even just in the day:

  • We have a need for self-fulfilment that doesn’t just turn off
  • And we have a dissatisfaction with what we perceive to be as non-productive days.
  • We want to fill the hours doing things we can do
  • If we suffered a blow to our self-worth, we want to feel that worthiness again

This leads to a quest for more fulfilment within our limitations.

And we find creativity:

  • Adds to fulfilment
  • Is a great distraction. I find it the best pain distraction
  • It is cathartic- my poetry, for example, I get through a lot of emotions with it
  • It helps with stress
  • It helps with our self-esteem and self-worth
  • Gives us a voice to express our experience in various ways
  • A sense of control
  • Restructures our fractured self-identity
  • Helps us put our emotions due to pain and suffering into something. When we can’t verbalize the experience, we can create something that shows it in some way

In a sense, it is a way to distance ourselves from chronic illness and chronic pain. From this Pain Identity and Ill Identity. We can see ways we can be in the world that is not controlled by our illness. A way of moving beyond the prison of our health.

I have to say creativity of my fiction writing helps me immensely in coping with chronic illness and chronic pain. I am fully engaged in my stories and… everything else gets a little distant and not so in my face. I get emotional stuff out in poetry and blogging and by doing so I cope with the emotional impact a lot better.

A poem you can try yourself is one about… yourself. Four lines about the core you and four lines about the illness within you.

The WriterThe brain of a philosopherThought thinking itselfWith the soul of a writerToo many books on the shelf.The body layered with pain,a tormented life.The mind keeps her sane,stays pains knife..png

Anyway, finding a way to express yourself can be very beneficial. The impact of illness wrecks havoc on our emotional well-being. Putting it all into some form of art… it helps.

An estimated 100 million adults suffer from chronic pain in the United States, according to a 2008 study published in the Journal of Pain. Medical authorities say different forms of creative expression can offer fulfillment and relief to many who might feel enslaved by their pain. Getting Creative When Life’s a Pain

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Things you want to consider with choosing a creative outlet

  1. Consider your limitations. For example, I have nerve damage in my dominant hand. It means things like colouring or handwriting for any length of time gets pretty painful. So I do those sorts of things for only short durations. While other things I choose not to do at all due to this. I type more than I handwrite, it just works better for me.
  2. Choose your atmosphere. Do you like to do projects at home alone? Would you like to take a class with an instructor? Would you like to work in an area with people for background noise? Like at a cafe? Choose the ideal place and atmosphere you want for your personality.
  3. Do not expect perfection right away. This is an experience you are exploring. One where skill comes later.

Want to read one of my books?

See more:

Hobbies and activities

Chronic illness: Savouring simple pleasures
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10 responses to “Creativity and chronic illness”

  1. Absolutely loved reading this post and can’t agree with you more. As artist who lives with chronic illness art is a way for me to express myself and relax. Can you share more of your creations in future blogs? You might like to follow me at I wrote a similar blog on the benefits of adult colouring in which you might like to read. to come soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m finding myself more and more stuck lately, and part of that is the whole need-to-be-productive issue when feeling low and exhausted. You’re so right in saying we need to have time well spent each day on “things we have a passion for rather than Must Be Done things”. Brilliant post, Nikki! x
    Caz 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Many blessings to you and thank you. I suffer from chronic pain, waist down. There days I cannot walk the pain it’s unbearable to the point that my legs become paralyzed for certain amounts of time. It affected my speech and now my vision. I’ve done some paintings and sketches and learned that i can do other things that i never imagined i could do. But also limited. Which I’m still learning to accept, myself with this condition. Many blessings and thank you for your blog

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so glad you found a way to have art in your life. It is such a great way for us to express ourselves and get out very complex feelings. It is extremely hard to accept our limitations and acceptance is something that comes slowly with time. But I am glad you found a great outlet.


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