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Exploring Gastroparesis In My Artwork

Over the past six years, I have spent more than my fair share of time in hospital beds, medical scans and doctor surgeries. If anyone had asked me to speak about gastroparesis four months ago, before this project, I would’ve brushed it off, not even felt comfortable speaking about it to some of my closest friends.

Forming this community and reaching out to some of these inspiring GP patients has not only raised my own confidence but formed a close knit community of patients who are confident enough to raise awareness, support each other and grow a ‘slow and steady’ life together, alongside gastroparesis. I would like to thank all of the participants who got involved in the project. It is so humbling to hear all the support and wonderful feedback. Your work and your support has helped to shape this project and make this all possible. Thank you. Slow and Steady is a project designed to address the complications of social disconnect which cause an increased risk of psychological distress in people suffering from gastroparesis. The project challenges these problems by bringing people together to encourage social connections whilst remaining aware of the constraints of living with chronic illnesses. As a gastroparesis patient myself, I have spent hours in waiting rooms and hospital beds anxiously waiting for medical tests and surgeries. With a background in art and design, I began to use this time by completing creative activities to distract myself from the stresses of the disease. The idea of this project has branched from my first-hand experiences and knowledge and has formed the structure of this project. Being diagnosed with gastroparesis, patients are exposed to numerous psychosocial stressors including medical costs, loss of social relationships and inability to complete certain daily tasks, each putting a toll on mental health. These changes in lifestyle considerably contribute to the prevalence of psychological distress, highlighting the significance of encouraging a more interactive and communal environment. These creative activities not only strengthened cognitive skills to counteract possible psychological manifestations of the disease, but also developed relationships and support systems within the community.

The emotional support developed within these social relationships can assist in reducing the effects of the aforementioned psychosocial stressors and foster a stronger psychological well-being. As a patient myself, it was very rewarding bringing this project to life and developing a community of patients despite the limitations of gastroparesis. Facilitating the production of this project and development of this community has not only benefited me as a participant of art therapy but has also provided relief among many other patients.

Bringing these patients together as a community has allowed me to gain insight into the ways art can be used as a communication device to raise awareness, and become a form of intervention to provide relief to an issue.

Find Sharna on Instagram @sharnaawebb and on Facebook @Sharna Webb

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