In the first two years of my debility, I was mostly bedridden and taking an insane amount of very strong pain medications. I was utterly dependent on the medication at that point. My mesh device was causing excruciating nerve pain and I could feel the tension of the implant throughout my groin like a cheesewire every time I attempted to walk. I couldn’t even wear underwear without it triggering intense burning nerve pain in my groin. I went from weeing on impact to my pelvic floor, to not being able to stand up straight, bathe myself, dress myself or do anything at all. It was an extremely challenging period in my life for numerous reasons, but the root cause of all my issues was the mesh. It took me from 2009 – 2011 to fight my way back into surgery to try to have the implant removed. I was also fighting to try to keep my job as a lecturer. The financial pressure on our family was extremely difficult. I was the higher wage earner until mesh surgery. So the adjustment for us financially was huge.
I had very little opportunity to be active because of being housebound, and I was in too much pain to do even the simplest of physio excercises to keep my muscles toned and strong. I put on weight. I lost all connection to my body. It was this alien thing that I was trapped inside. I didn’t look like me, feel like me or live in a way I recognised myself anymore. I had to crawl up and down the stairs at home and became a prisoner in my own home. This level of debility and pain led me into a deep depression. I had counselling, which helped me to start the grieving process for my old life. This transition phase was important. I had to find myself again. The connection to self is so very important when dealing with chronic health conditions. I didn’t want to be beaten down, so I had to find ways of lifting myself up again, to keep going.
When you are bedbound and drugged up, sounds and images become more intense, then almost immediately, they slip away again. Living in limbo brings an eerie sense of forboding into the mix. I would pick up fragments of conversations outside my window, the noise of my husband playing computer games rose up through the bedroom floor. I was on the periphery. Not living, not dying, just suspended in time and space. Was I even alive then? I don’t remember ever feeling alive in those early years. It was as if I had died and was being forced to watch myself struggling with everything. I needed an outlet. I needed to create something, anything to make myself visible again. So I started up a Twitter account @catcorr writing micro-narratives. The 140 character limit for Tweets at the time was my word limit, so I started there and began writing.
I lived in silence for almost a year. Starched sheets bandaged around me. I slipped through a hole in thin air … Sound and image flakes fall.
My writing style developed over time, inspired by Burroughs infamous cut-up-technique, and my extremely debilitating brain fog caused by the medication I was taking. It became playful in terms of structure, but my psyche was well and truly assimilated to darkness. I began revisiting the work of David Lynch, my all time favourite director. Blue Velvet and the indomitable Isabella Rosselini were the subject of this micro-narrative;
Subtle realms perceived. Dark underbellies always lurking. Her red lips in close up. Vulnerable & exposed. His third eye visions on screen.
My medication increased to maximum doses of opiods, and antidepressants were added to the mix. The writing and creativity was replaced with smoking and I resigned myself to a life dependent on mobility aids and other people to help me care for my young son. Family Services workers were instrumental in raising my son, from the young age of three. They were a lifeline of incredible woman filled with compassion and understanding. To Bridget, Carol, Charlie and Tracey, I will never forget what you did for us. You are the women who held me up when I couldn’t stand. You are the women who ran to my son if he fell, who carried him when he was tired, who placed him into my embrace when he needed a cuddle from his mum. What a gift to have when all else is in ruins.
With the help of counselling and the regular practice of meditation, I found my way back to the joy in my life and my creative energy returned with a new focus. I was still bedbound most of the time, but I started playing around with self-portraits. No one took my photo much anymore, so I decided to join the selfie gang, with my own artistic twist. I used my bed as a base for ease, and after quite a few dodgy deleted shots, I settled on the death mask portrait shown at the top of this post. The image fronts Postcards which have micro-narratives from my Twitter account on the other side. I selected ten tweets in total to create an artist’s pack of postcards.
Postcards From My Bed was the part of me that survived. When all else was striped away, what was left was the artist I had always been. I left her behind for the sake of a good career, so my children would grow up in a financially stable home. When mesh destroyed my world, the ashes of my life slowly fell from my soul and the artist was reborn.