Creativity & Chronic Illness: Fox Emm

This “interview” is a bit different, in that I’m writing it as myself. I have a debilitating, incurable chronic disease that means that I have a great number of days where I wake up feeling terrible. I can’t recall the last day where I was pain free for more than an hour or two. Those who don’t have a chronic condition may struggle to understand what it’s like, but I hope this interview series can serve as inspiration for those of us who commit day in, day out to proving ourselves in a creative industry.

FE: What are you dealing with that makes it difficult to function either as a person or creatively? (Or both)

600px-Pain_scaleFE: What is it? What does it do?
Endometriosis, or Endo for short, is a chronic pain, fatigue, and infertility condition. It means that any given day the Wong Baker pain scale (pictured left) that you see in doctor’s offices and hospitals is a huge part of my existence. 

FE: How does it affect you personally?
It means that I really can’t do a lot on the week of the month where I have my period because my pain levels get too high. I might have days where I feel like I can’t get out of bed, both due to fatigue and due to pain levels. Normal activities like sex or running can make me hurt immeasurably, so it can be difficult to function sometimes.

FE: How does it affect your art/writing/etc?
It keeps me from being able to sit and write for as long as I might like to because if I remain stationary for too long I start to get sleepy. (When exhausted is your perpetual state of being, it becomes more easy to fall asleep with little to no prompting.) It can also be difficult to focus on creating or writing when my pain levels have exceeded a certain level. There are days when I would LOVE to be writing or creating, but it just doesn’t pan out for me.

FE: How do you combat the effects of your illness?
Caffeine. Lots and lots of caffeine. I wish I was joking, but I’ve gone from not having caffeine at all to downing it on a daily basis, multiple times a day. (The change occurred around the time I received my diagnosis.) Beyond that, I take a strict medication regimen (13+ pills per day) to keep myself functioning, and I have a tens unit that I wear on super bad days.

FE: What drives you to keep creating?
I need to. It’s my outlet. While some people have music or socialization or any number of other things they can do that keeps them sane and enjoying life, I have writing. There are dozens of stories and thousands of words that need to come out of me at any given moment. It’s just a matter of finding time and the energy to write them all down.

FE: Where do you think you would be if you didn’t have the illness that affects you?
I’d still be running and doing strength training, though I am doing my best to get back into that now. I’d have written more because there would’ve been fewer days spent napping rather than making ideas come out onto the page. Overall, though, I don’t think I’ve done too badly.

FE: What advice would you give others with your condition/concern who are struggling to keep up with something they enjoy?
Try to stay focused, and never stop. Remember that slow progress is better than no progress. If you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere, take a few minutes to jot down what you’re accomplishing or what is going well during a given day. I promise, you’re getting more done than you think, and you should be proud of yourself for doing anything at all.

FE: What does the future hold?
More writing! I’m going to finish this damned witchy novel if it kills me, and I CAN’T WAIT to unleash my self-publishing course on the world. There are always big things on the horizon!

You can check out the interviews in this series here:
Natasha Duncan-Drake
Sarah Alexander

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