'Be patient', is a collage series, reflecting on medical trauma. Whilst the portraits were taken by my partner artist Oscar Vinter. I have recontextualized them in digital collages as self- portraits, they affirm being visible as a sick person as a radical act; a resistance against being silenced. For more information about the series see the bottom of this page.

A digital collage artwork: layered on top photograph of a glass high-rise building saturated with dark blue is the small figure of a white woman, face away from the camera curled up with pillows under her head and one in her abdomen. Pink pastel text cuts across the images reading: 'be patient/ doctor knows best'.

Be patient

digital collage, original photographs take by Oscar Vinter

A digital collage artwork: layered over a background of pink, purple and pastel coloured tree leaves and small berries is written in a similar pastel pink font colour struck-through which reads: 'be patient they said/ and she waits/ and she waits/ and she waits'. Whilst the cropped and shrunk figure of a young white woman with brown pony tails is at the bottom of the frame wearing a white vest top and blue denim jeans. There is medical tape and bandages on her shoulders and tattoos on her arms.

And she waits 

digital collage, original photographs take by Oscar Vinter & Charlie Fitz

A digital collage artwork: layered on top of a rotated film photograph of a verdant maze floats the figure of a young white woman on the right hand side of the frame. She is wearing a multi colored bathing suit consisting of yellow, orange, green and black patterns. Cutting across her body are the strikethrough lines from text which reads: 'doctor said "it's all in her head"/ doctor said "she's better off dead".'

Dead

digital collage, original photographs take by Oscar Vinter

A digital collage artwork: centre frame is the upside down figure of a young white woman in a blue and white polka dot dress who wears a straw hat. She has her hands open, fingers spread. Underneath her is a photograph of the same woman entering into an MRI scanner on a white bed. Pastel pink text cuts across the image reading: 'doctor owns the words/ words are power.'

Words are power

digital collage, original photographs take by Oscar Vinter

Be patient 

'Be patient', is a reflection on medical trauma. The trauma of not being believed. The trauma of not having access to adequate healthcare. The trauma of being sick and disabled in a society driven by capital. 

 

I had a cervical fusion abroad in May 2019, which was fundraised for. Instability in my spine was causing me to deteriorate, due to an underlying genetic connective tissue disorder. Although the bone takes a year to grow and fully fuse over the titanium hardware, the first few months of recovery are the most dangerous and crucial. As getting any aftercare in the UK for this surgery is a lottery, we also fundraised to stay in Barcelona close to my surgeons for 4 months. I knew recovery would have less chance of success with the stress of "nowhere to go in an emergency" hanging over me and without medicine. 

Those 4 months were a break from the constant anxiety and vigilance of being sick in a country where I had little access to doctors who knew about my condition or understood how dangerously sick, I was/am. This break allowed me to begin to process the mental state I had been surviving in. 

As I returned to the UK the anxiety returned also, the anxiety is situational, it has a direct cause, but it is often misread as the cause of my symptoms. I believe I am suffering from a kind of PTSD from not being believed by my doctors and others in power again and again, from being forced to question whether it was all "in my head", to being put in too many close call situations with my life because my symptoms were not taken seriously. I still fear that accessing mental health support will give fuel for the narrative that my illness is psychosomatic. I don't believe my situation is unique. 

 

All the portraits used in the collage were taken at significant points in the 4 months after my fusion surgery whilst I had treatment and space to heal, I yearn for this space again. I cannot sustain a life in a country in which my primary condition is consistently not treated or believed. 

Whilst the portraits were taken by my partner artist Oscar Vinter. I have recontextualized them in digital collages as self- portraits, they affirm being visible as a sick person as a radical act; a resistance against being silenced. The series include photos post fusion whilst still an inpatient, the first day out of hospital with staples across my scar and a plaster over the hole left from my central line, a few weeks post fusion my first trip out walking with a large hat to cover my fresh wound from the Catalan sun, curled up in agony 2 months post fusion as Endometriosis returns to a body that has learnt how to menstruate again and floating in a pool 3 months post fusion, the only place my spine doesn't hurt as I become weightless. 

The words are fragments of a poem 'be patient' [named ironically] I had written a couple of years before my fusion. I have edited and created digital collages using the portraits and images my partner and collaborator Oscar Vinter and I took during my surgical recovery. 

As sick people in societies driven by capital and production, we are so often alienated from our bodies, our experiences can feel absurd or surreal, the processes we have to go through to survive, the cruelness of NHS or DWP administration can feel like a Kafkaesque nightmare. The space for the sick in capitalist societies is commodified, we are the vessel to feed the medicine, the body to fill the bed, we are the mad woman trope that permeates popular culture, we are not the voices that shape power structures. This project explores my embodiment under capitalism in which I am disembodied, I am sick; I am sick of being patient.