Brain Injury and Insomnia - "Abandoning Morpheus"

What’s a girl to do when sleep is gone? Create art.

It was 0330 and I was wide awake. Not just a little awake, but eyes open wide and brain raring to go. But where did it want to go? I’ve discovered that when there is no good constructive place to go, I can peacefully go to the place where I create. There is safety and solace there. A way to bathe a wandering mind in color and beauty. There are no thoughts worthy of wakefulness at this hour - the world is sleeping where I live. Thoughts can get scary and intrusive at this time with creation’s hush. All is still …

One of the biggest challenges of having an injury to the brain - whether through an accident or disease process - is that things that should work normally like sleep patterns / circadian rhythms and body temperature regulation just don’t. It kind of works like this: often, when you are hot, I’m cold … when you are sleeping, I’m awake or a million times vice versa. Oftentimes I will also smell things that are not there and chase a smell to no resolve. Sometimes it makes me feel a little insane. The constantly ringing ears are a plus too (I wear double hearing aids to drown some of that out because I have quite a bit of hearing loss). My brain makes up it’s own agenda. Things can flip flop in the blink of an eye. Sensory overload. It feels like I’ve become a lot more sensitive to these things over the past year or two. One day at a time, but it can be a lot to juggle. My recourse: look forward as best I can and stay occupied. No pity pots here.

Yesterday I felt a lot of fatigue. I went out and ran a few errands and it felt like I had run a marathon. None of it makes sense. But it’s the way life rolls now. I’m glad I have art to help fight intrusions and to distract me from my wandering mind. God’s gift to me in so many ways.

Below is a piece I’ve been working on but was able to finish this morning at about 0400. It’s one of those pieces where art imitates life for me. This is “Abandoning Morpheus” (Morpheus being the god of dreams). When I was in the convent, after night prayer one of the older nuns would pray that we would sleep well in the “arms of Morpheus”. This piece depicts the colors of night being sheared by colors of the day - a premature entry into that place of sleep and dreams.

“Abandoning Morpheus” an abstract I finished up during the wee hours of the morning.

“Abandoning Morpheus” an abstract I finished up during the wee hours of the morning.

Art in the Community - Contacted by my VA Spinal Cord Doctor about an Opportunity

I received a call out of the blue last night - around 7:30 pm - while I was eating dinner. The caller ID pointed to my SCI (Spinal Cord Injury) Primary (she is a Rehabilitation doctor) and my mind began to wander towards something not so good. Why wouldn’t it? Only a natural reaction to have when your doctor calls you off hours. But it ended up to be a good call … and while I don’t have much if ANY information … she was looking for a straight “yes” or “no” answer right then and there. Like a good Soldier, the volunteerism comes more easily … especially when it’s about a cause I really care about. This is THAT cause. I was a brief 5 minute conversation packed with excitement on both sides … but not laden with any details. So few details …. But that’s ok.

I do know a few things that my doctor mentioned … and the heart of it was “storytelling by injured Veterans in the community … and sharing my art and my business (which is art)”. I remember a few key points:

  • the doctor saw my piece on the Suncoast News Network - Multiple sclerosis relapse turns a disabled army veteran's disabilities into artistic ability - the video appears to be gone or hidden, but the article is still there. This piece received national exposure.

  • something about spinal cord injured Veterans going out into the community to inspire.

  • something about “storytelling” and talking about my art and promoting my art business.

  • something about donating some of my art to some venues.

It was a quick conversation that is going to have a lot of follow up. We’ll plan that in the coming weeks. I feel that my “art gift” (I call my abilities a gift because that is what they feel like) is meant to be shared. I feel a special affinity towards the Veteran community and have already found a home in this community. I’ve also applied for a membership in a local Sarasota Art Collective and hope that perhaps they’ll find that I’d be a good candidate. This collective seems all about giving back to the community and bringing art there - it seems like a proper fit.

I don’t fit the artist mold - if there really is one. I happened upon art by accident (or by worsening brain injury) and as a woman nearing her mid-50’s. But Art is with me now and it occupies my days and my thoughts at night. It’s what my “work” has become and how I have evolved and continue to evolve. It’s what and who I embrace and what I want to do while I can do it. To help myself to reach more people through inspiration - and to be able to fabricate and print more art - I’ve applied for a local grant called the “John Ringling Towers and Opportunity Grant”. This would allow me to print more, donate more and do more in the community. The gift is not my own, it is meant to be shared and I’m doing what I can to make that happen.

I’m also waiting for a Sarasota Herald Tribune article to come out - a profile piece written by Tom Becnel. He spent several hours with me and wanted to talk with people who knew me. I think that this will let others get to know me - a lot of about me - and my art journey. My life has been very unique from Army to the Convent to many stops in-between. But I am rambling.

Very excited about all of it!

“Cotton Candy Summers” A happy piece evoking warm thoughts of childhood memories.

“Cotton Candy Summers” A happy piece evoking warm thoughts of childhood memories.

“Scorched” - an entirely different mood!  Evoking it through color and composition.

“Scorched” - an entirely different mood! Evoking it through color and composition.

Perception - I see things a little differently!

I learned something when I examined this picture today and I think it might shed a little light on the way my brain processes and could be a look into why I developed artistic ability through brain injury - maybe this gives an inkling.

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