The best way to learn a foreign language is to be submersed in the culture. You need to order your breakfast, ask where the toilets are, and pay for movie tickets in the native tongue. Medicine is the same thing. You can’t dip a toe. You have to dive in.
If you’ve never been to nursing school, it’s nothing like college. This is hard. You study (yes, even the really smart people who never have to study have to study) like a maniac, then get up at 5 in the morning for rounds. You take care of actual live human beings and try really hard not to fuck up and hurt them. You work until you want to cry some days. You run every time there is a bedpan to empty or a bed to change because you have to prove yourself. You have to want to succeed and you have to prove it to your instructors and the hospital nursing staff. You clean up puke without gagging, you do procedures that hurt the patient and you don’t cry. You suck it up and keep going. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning. Then I remember that drama isn’t going to help me, so I get out my books.
This piece is called “Waiting Room.” It is hand embroidery with cotton and linen floss on a scrub smock from the Army hospital where I was born. This shirt used to be a deep burgundy, but it has seen countless surgeries, lives and death. This shirt has seen blood and vomit and tears. It’s been washed too many times to count. Now I see the blood and the scrubbing and I watch to see how it will change my colors.
My pill demons have been exorcised. Either that or I’m tired f embroidering pills. I feel great about what I’ve created. With this series, I am finally able to call myself an artist without sarcasm and self depreciation. I am because I do.
For those of you following along at home, here is my artist’s statement.
The Promise of Pills explores the identity of illness, the promises of drug marketing, and frustration with the current healthcare system in the US.
I use embroidery to mimic the swirling colors and visible brushstrokes of oil painting. I use dozens of colors of cotton, silk, and rayon floss on each image. I spend 30-60 hours stitching every one. The time and labor it takes to create these pieces reiterates the uphill struggle of recovery and the depth of compassion needed to conquer mental illness.
I use my background textiles to comment on my subject matter. The cheerfulness of printed fabrics echo the drugs’ promises of sunny, uncomplicated happiness while standing in sharp contrast to the reality of depression and anxiety. I occasionally use textiles pulled from my daily life–scrub smocks, kitchen linens, bedding, and my daughter’s clothing–to show how much of a person’s life is affected by illness.
I want to bring beauty and individuality to the stern geometry of pills. I want to blur their rigid, clinical lines. With the warmth and softness of fiber, I am giving humanity to medical diagnoses and their chemical solutions.