Learning to Appreciate My Personal Progress and Growth

Learning to Appreciate My Personal Progress and Growth
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“Ooh, I found some of your artwork in the loft. Did you still want it?” My mum’s beautiful, melodic voice sang through the phone during our regular chat. 

“Heck yes! Can I pick it up tomorrow?” I replied. I didn’t know what had happened to all of my old artwork, so this excited me. 

Lately, I’ve been getting back into drawing and painting. It’s been so long since I’ve allowed myself to be creative.

Before my diagnosis seven years ago, I wanted to leave university and become a famous illustrator. I’d worked super hard for three years on a bachelor’s degree in arts, plus another year on a foundation degree, only to wake up on the last day with a numb left side. 

It was my first MS attack. 

I thought the artistic part of me was gone forever. I suddenly didn’t feel inspired or creative, and I didn’t trust my body enough to pursue art as I had planned.

Even when the feeling in my left side came back, and my right hand — my drawing hand — stopped having random moments of being weak and numb, I didn’t trust my body not to do it again. 

I decided I could no longer be an illustrator. What if my hand stopped working again and I had a client’s order to fulfill? No, there was no way I could upset anyone. I needed to find something else. 

After going back and forth between being an employed graphic designer working in fashion (I didn’t tell them my hand went numb, or that I was not really into fashion), starting a wedding stationery design service, working for a wedding advisory service, and selling bridesmaids’ dresses, I eventually got into advocacy.

On the side, I was trying out digital marketing, affiliate marketing, building joint venture partnerships, and selling textbooks on Amazon. Then, I wrote a book I’d had on my mind for a while, which, coincidentally, you can now get on Amazon.  

Image of a little girl with blond hair in a ponytail under a red hat wearing a blue jumper, stone colored pants and blue wellington boots with little ducks on throwing leaves in the air next to her dog
Lily and the leaves. (Courtesy of Jessie Ace)

I loved advocacy. After being in the wedding industry, writing about topics that could make a difference made me feel truly fulfilled. But there was still a part of me that was missing. 

A U.S.-based website I worked for encouraged me to add an illustration alongside my writing. But drawing made me so nervous. What if I lost the use of my hand again? They insisted, and so I did. And I loved it.

I felt like I had found myself, although I doubted that my work was that good. I felt like an imposter. Was I a proper illustrator if I didn’t have a degree in illustration? Suddenly, magazines got in touch asking for illustrations. 

The funny thing is, when I look back on my old artwork, I see how far I have come without even realizing it. My mum kept all of the artwork I did from when I was 4 to when I was in college. She even had the two books I illustrated straight out of college, although admittedly, they were pretty terrible. But comparing those to how I draw today made me feel so proud and blessed that I can still hold a pencil — and use it!

Here’s a throwback to an incredibly old blog post about a book I illustrated.

Does ignoring this talent because my body scares me help those I could be bringing joy to? No. 

Why am I living in fear? My body will do whatever it is going to do, and I can’t stop that. So, why am I denying the world of my skill and not doing something that makes me so happy? Plus, being creative is my favorite mindfulness activity.

Sometimes we need to give ourselves a shake and question whether we are self-sabotaging our happiness. The beginning of the year is the best time for self-reflection and focusing on the positives.

Here are some questions to think about:

  • What wins will you have this year?
  • What do you want to do but haven’t tried because you fear a relapse? Maybe it is time to try again or find a different way to achieve a similar result.

***

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Jessie is the host of the DISabled to ENabled podcast and author of the “ENabled Warriors Symptom Tracker” book. She’s also an illustrator working with MS charities and magazines worldwide. She’s interviewed paralympians, radio DJs, chronic illness bloggers, marathon runners, and more. Jessie, based in the U.K., was diagnosed with MS at 22 years old and was told by a doctor to “go home and Google it” to find out what MS was for herself. Her own experience of being newly diagnosed so young was negative and scary, so she fills the internet with positivity for other anxious MS Googlers to stumble upon.
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Jessie is the host of the DISabled to ENabled podcast and author of the “ENabled Warriors Symptom Tracker” book. She’s also an illustrator working with MS charities and magazines worldwide. She’s interviewed paralympians, radio DJs, chronic illness bloggers, marathon runners, and more. Jessie, based in the U.K., was diagnosed with MS at 22 years old and was told by a doctor to “go home and Google it” to find out what MS was for herself. Her own experience of being newly diagnosed so young was negative and scary, so she fills the internet with positivity for other anxious MS Googlers to stumble upon.

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4 comments

  1. MADELINE l NEWTON says:

    i am so glad that you gave yourself this time to do what you really enjoy …i lives can change whether we have MS or not so go for all of the glory that you should get for your fine work and illustrations ..it is true we can cause ourselves the loss of something that we think the MS took away …so glad you wrote this …thank you and many more good writings and illustrations…love and much happiness for it is still in us …MS doesn’t stop as much as everyone thinks …

  2. Charles Lumia says:

    Is the Emily book one of the books that you illustrated right after school? Looks pretty good to me! If your work has only gotten better since then I’m sure you’ll do well if that’s what you’re gonna focus on!

    • Jessie Ace says:

      Hey Charles, the first book I ever illustrated was just after school, it was called ‘flowertasia’ which I finished illustrating from my hospital bed during my ms diagnosis because I didn’t want to miss my deadline! My work is online if you want to check it out? http://www.jessieace.com #StayENabled – Jessie 🙂

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