Illness and Creativity

Crochet is self care for me, and I made this rainbow shawl to wrap myself up in during lockdown when it all got a bit much!

I’ve been a little unwell this week. It had been building for a few weeks, what with a spell of physical ill health followed by a week of disappointing news and events which strained further the little resilience I had left. I’m over the worst, and getting better every day, as demonstrated by my blogging today – yey! I’ve missed it! Which got me thinking about the link between illness and creativity.

When my ex husband and I separated, my then 2yr old daughter stopped me one day and asked me ‘Mammy, why are you singing all the time?’ This stopped me dead in my tracks, as I’ve always been one of those people that hears song lyrics all around them and is prone to burst into song at the drop of a hat! But my little one had never known that side of me, because I’d been battling depression since shortly after her birth.

I always know when I’m starting to struggle as I can’t get into the things that keep me on an even keel. I find it hard to concentrate on the book that the day before I was racing through. I pick up my crochet and just can’t concentrate. My piano stands alone, unused.

David Aldridge (2005) asserts that we relate to the world through how we perform in it. That when we are ill our ability to perform is impaired, and we may need support to either reclaim or redefine our performances. That’s what we do in Music Therapy. Sometimes, we walk into a room, pick up a guitar, and off we go. Other times, we may sit in silence for a while, or even just play to someone who is in that moment unable to access music in any other way.

I may not be able to crochet when I am ill. But I have a beautiful blanket made of crochet bunting triangles by some of my best friends for my wedding, which I wrap myself up in. I may not be able to play music, but I can put something on to listen to. I’ve just started dabbling in podcasts and audio books, which I can settle in to while I rest and try to regain some form of equilibrium. Sometimes, my performances include total stillness, a rest between notes, the silence between movements. The tension as the conductor holds the Orchestra ready to go or the peace at the end of a chorale.

And even when I go solo, when there is nobody else around me, the performance can continue. I have been carried in prayer by my incredible Life Group, a small unit of people from our local Church that my husband and I have been blessed to host in our home. Just before I got so ill I needed to crash out of the world for a little while, I put out a prayer request, and within minutes I knew I was being held by them. That huge step of reaching out for help and their faithfulness in giving it enabled me to stop fighting and let my husband care for me, lay down my struggle and just be. They were holding my performance in front of God for me when they knew I couldn’t. And I was never in a solo, but often in a chorus, usually a trio, and always one half of the most beautiful duet.

“The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

Peace be with you.


Aldridge, D. (2005) Music Therapy and Neurological Rehabilitation: Performing Health. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

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