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Images shows Rachel on a sunny day at the beach

MS and creativity: finding my motivation

Rachael McIntyre

I was diagnosed with MS two and a half years ago, aged 26. I struggled to deal with my diagnosis and felt very angry with the world. Recently though I’ve turned a corner and become more accepting of it.

I’ve always been creative and love drawing and painting, but I’d stopped taking the time to enjoy doing it. So much had happened and I didn’t feel in the right headspace to sit on my own and draw: I was worried that I’d end up dwelling on things.

Time for myself

Now that I’ve started drawing and painting again, I’ve found it really helps my mental wellbeing. It gives me time to myself to enjoy something I like doing, and it relaxes me. I was getting very down about some of things I can’t do now, like going for a run, but there’s other things I can do that I enjoy just as much.

I love to draw sunsets because of the colours, and also other things from the natural world, like flowers and birds. I enjoy photography and have built up a catalogue of pictures that I draw from. Sometimes I draw what’s in my head. The day I drew the mountain picture (see below) I was feeling that there were lots of things that were hard – lots of steep points - which is why I drew such jaggy mountains. It represents a struggle in my mind but the little bit of water flowing down represents getting into a bit of a flow and the start of a good thing.

Setting goals helped me start

The thing that helped me get back into art was going on a Living Well with MS session. At the first session we each had to set a goal for ourselves of something we wanted to do, which we’d review at the next session. My goal was to get back into drawing and painting.

The next day I spent the whole day drawing. It was really good to switch off for a bit - I could blank everything else out and not think about anything except what I was putting on the paper or what colours to choose. When I’m drawing, time just disappears.

To get motivated to start I found it useful to write down my goal and come up with a plan of how to do it. And I wanted to be able to say I’d done it and share my achievement with the others on the course.

What’s Art

To keep motivated after the course, me and some friends have set up a creative WhatsApp group. The idea is that every week we set a theme and everyone makes something and shares it. After doing this for a while we’ve got a bit distracted from the weekly theme, but we still share what we’re working on, our ideas, and give each other advice and support.

To be creative you can be doing anything. It doesn’t matter what it looks like at the end. You don’t have to show anyone, it can be just for you, to help you in that moment. I’d say don’t be scared to just go for it and try doing something.

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About Rachael: Rachael is a 28-year-old adventurer who loves nothing more than being away in her campervan or on her electric mountain bike. She was diagnosed with relapsing MS in 2014.