Project Lyme believes in the power of community and storytelling to raise awareness about tick-borne diseases. While sharing your story can be helpful for the general public to better understand your struggle, it can also be a great way to begin the healing process. More specifically, we encourage you to leverage art to convey the deeper meaning words cannot always touch. We have compiled a gallery with several pieces of impactful artistic expression with the hope it will reach outside the community to bring understanding, and inside the community to bring hope and healing. To learn more about the benefits of Art Therapy you can read our blog here.
Kristen Vesbach, MS, ATR-L, BC., “A Fish Out of Water”, mixed media collage
This mixed media collage is one of a series that I have pieced together to visually depict the Lyme symptoms that were hard to explain. This creative process helped me to honor my experiences by finding and creating symbols to capture what I could not put into words. Creating this collage helped me to feel heard and seen before I was able to start treatment. I often refer back to this image and others to remind me of where I have been and how I am currently doing. I create collages often to check in with myself and to find meaning.
Karen Miller, “Calla Lilies for Mom”, 12 x 12 pastel
Not Just Therapy, A New Way of Life. My Lyme recovery (plateau anyway, not recovered but functional!) took the form of a new career as a pastel artist. I started painting 7 years ago as I was improving enough to have a new focus. Going back to structural engineering was not possible (cognitive impairment mostly resolved but not fatigue). I am now a member in a co-op gallery and this summer had a painting in an international pastel show (IAPS) in Chicago. And another is now in the IAPS online show! This is a big deal in the pastel world. I am unable to go to the big convention next summer because of my remaining disabilities, which is a big disappointment. I still have to deal with fatigue but…
Nevertheless, I get to paint! The focus required is the important part, but I also love the feedback from showing my work in public and also the joys of being part of the art community-both for the new friendships and the learning opportunities. Art keeps me going.
Jennifer Chaudoir, free-standing frame, x-backswing, and pergola top
It seems Blessings are found in Struggles. I have been fighting a battle of Lyme, Bartonella, babesia, EBV, and Mold toxicity for over a decade. As a single mom, a survivor of domestic violence, raising 5 children on my own, I learned resilience.
As my youngest, also battling the same as myself, needed to be homeschooled, and I could no longer tolerate mold in buildings, I had to give up my cleaning service of 25 years and started working from home. I lost my remote position during Covid quarantine on Mother’s Day. The next day I taught myself how to build my own garden bed. A neighbor walked by and asked if it was for sale. I replied, “it is now!”
So I fell in love with a new trade, that not only provided me peace, but also income on days I coped with this disabling disease! I always was artistic but woodworking has filled my heart as well as become my income! I started an LLC Chaudoir’s Custom Wood and Photography.
This Large Free-standing frame, x-backswing, and pergola top is something I never dreamed I could ever build! When approached by the Green Bay Packers to build a custom swing for Title Town, I jumped with excitement at the challenge! I was filled with energy and accomplishment as I created my best piece yet! If I was not battling Lyme, I never would have taken up Wood-working a year ago, and stumbled upon this gift and ability! I found my passion in creating! I am filled with satisfaction, joy, peace, and healing when I know what has tried to knock me down leads me to amazing places!
Amy Cannon Cooper, “No Longer Blue”, 50in.x62in., acrylic on canvas with a gold floater frame
It is funny really, I went to Art School in college, and let’s just say, that painting was NOT my gift. In fact, people use to tell me to stick to other mediums because my paintings were really NOT good, awful actually…so it’s kinda funny that I am painting now and how my painting story began. Last year, I was really struggling with some pain and anxiety due to Lyme disease. On a whim, I decided to get rid of some of my worry/frustration/pain and bought some huge canvases and cheap paints. I said to myself, “who cares, no one will ever see these, I know I don’t paint well this is just to help me.” At that time I literally felt like punching a punching bag just to get out some of the pain and torment I was feeling throughout my body. So, since boxing isn’t my forte I started to paint. I painted frantically as many paintings as I could paint. I am a very fast painter. Speed Painting you might even say.
During that time of struggling I sent some pictures of these paintings to a dear friend of mine, some of you may know, Forrest Fenn who owned Fenn Fine Art Galleries in Sante Fe, NM. He was the face behind the Forrest Fenn Famous Treasure hunt, anyways, I sent Forrest some of my “therapy” paintings pictures via email and he replied back immediately and told me if I continue painting like I was I would be on my way to becoming a successful fine artist. WHAT??? I gasped for air, laughed actually, I couldn’t believe what he was saying and coming from someone who was very well known in the Fine Art arena I was shocked. So, I continued to paint through my fears and pains and would continually send Forrest my current paintings via email. Let’s just say Forrest encouraged me to continue painting and eventually this year I launched my Fine Art painting website and I’m currently seeking representation from Fine Art Galleries for my paintings.
Jennifer Hoffmann, 2020, 12×18, acrylic on canvas
I’ve had Lyme almost my whole life. I also have synesthesia, which manifests as seeing sounds and feeling like sounds have inherent movement. Since childhood, painting has been my primary method of processing this odd sensory perception. I loved trying to copy Van Gogh’s paintings because they had so much vibrancy and movement. I would always draw in class while listening intently. I didn’t know until later in life that the ‘sight-sound thing’ had a name. I just knew I liked both art and music. I completed my high school visual arts diploma by singing throughout the course.
“Painting-when-processing” became standard practice for me. I’d always turn to it to help me cope. When my words seemed to fail, my voice felt tired, my appetite was gone, the world felt either too big or too small, the hour was either too early or late, and all I felt or wanted to be was alone, I could paint.
In 2016, I stopped painting. I had to get rid of my art supplies due to an environmental issue at home. In 2018, I stopped experiencing synesthesia thanks to a Lyme-induced stroke. For a long time, I was so focused on the acute outcome of the stroke that I didn’t realize how much its ripple effect had impacted my life. Losing synesthesia was incredibly unmooring; I had no basis for interpreting the world anymore. Fortunately, after a lot of rehabilitation, hard work, and medication (and with much luck), I healed from the injury. During lockdown in 2020, I took up painting again. I hoped to support my recovery and find some joy while under a colossal amount of stress. When I began, I was listening to a podcast about what was happening in the world. This painting emerged; my synesthesia had returned.
Martha Putney, “Hope”, oil on canvas
Martha is an abstract oil painter living in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. When she was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2018 her world got flipped upside down and she turned to the one thing she knew how to do: paint. Painting is what helped her rediscover and reconnect with who she is in the wake of a dramatic life change. She is endlessly fascinated with the way in which color has its own language for telling stories about people, places, emotions, and moments in time.
“Hope” was painted well into my recovery from Lyme disease when I was lucky enough to be living life normally again. Even though the physical pain, brain fog, fatigue, and general life uncertainty has mainly disappeared, that season of my life is what I continually paint about in order to process it. This is a reflection piece about what carried me through a lot of long, dark, lonely days, and it’s a reminder of how I want to continue to live my life – with a lot of hope.
Haley Dibiase, “Revival”, ink on paper, 6×9 in.
Art was a very big part of my life growing up. No matter what was going on in the world, my sketchbook never failed me. Then along came Lyme. After years of being bedridden, art became my only outlet. Drawing brought me bits of peace that were essential for my mental health. Then the neurological Lyme got much worse, and I lost the ability to draw overnight. I couldn’t physically hold a pencil, colors didn’t make sense or look the same, and my hand didn’t know what to do anymore when the pencil hit paper. It was devastating for me.
After a few years of giving up hope that I could ever draw as a way of therapy or joy again, the urge to be creative and open a sketchbook came back. This was the first drawing I finished. Every time I see it, the image reminds me of how far I’ve come. It was another battle that Lyme tried to win. A piece of my happiness it took away. It took many years but I won the battle in the end. I finally won.