Breaking the stigma

A while back I wrote about using art to fight disorder-associated stigma.  As a preface to this post, I will quote a short passage and you can find the whole post here.

A couple of years ago, I attended a large meeting, where people working in the biomedical community were presented with a new potential treatment for migraines.  In order to motivate the employees, the speaker asked how many people in the audience suffer from migraines.  Half of the people raised their hands.  The initiative to address this condition was certainly very motivating.  Yet it made me wonder – if the topic would have been a more serious condition, such as multiple sclerosis or epilepsy, would the patients have equal courage to raise their hands?  Most likely not, because they would have a sense of stigma associated with these conditions…

Over the last several months, I find myself telling this story over and over when I speak with people about my art.  It made such an impression on me that it has become a core pillar beneath my creative process.

As I have written in the past, it takes a special kind of courage to openly speak about your disabilities, especially if they are not visible to the naked eye.  People may feel afraid of revealing a very personal issue and suspect that once people find out, they may threat you differently.  This even applies to the closest friends, not to mention outsiders and colleagues.  No matter how much may be written about forbidding discrimination in a workplace, the patient can’t help thinking about a diminished chance of being hired if someone finds out about their condition.  Therefore, patients may be advised by their families not to “volunteer information.”

Last year I met an amazingly courageous woman, who reached out to me through Instagram, asking to create a piece to help her communicate her condition of epilepsy through art.  I will not repeat what I have written in the past, but just want to say how unbelievably grateful I am for her continued support.  While as a scientist I have a special connection to microscopy images of neurons, I would never have expected that their portrayal through art could touch someone so deeply.  I have tremendous respect for her ability to speak openly about her experience and use social media to raise awareness of this undeservingly stigmatized condition. Here is one example of her many open posts that I so greatly appreciate.

Thank you Carla!

Last week I also met a wonderful woman who in 1999 was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer and as she was going through another chemo session, she decided to make herself and others people laugh.  And so Comedy Cures Foundation was born.  Now, 19 years later, she still continues her life mission of bringing laughter into patients’ lives.  She openly shares her story and uses humor to break barriers.

These stories really inspire me to take my art to the next level and use it as a voice of people with neurological conditions.  But I cannot do it alone.  So today I am happy to announce the launch of my Patreon page.  For those of you who may not be familiar with it, Patreon is an online platform that allows creators to connect with their audience.  It provides a simple way for you to contribute to my creative process, which will allow me to continue producing great SciArt.  In exchange, you will receive multiple perks, such as real time behind the scenes photos and videos of my artistic process, first sneak peeks of my finished products, and most of all – discounts!   While I tend to be more cautious about the material I post on social media and my blog, I am planning to use my Patreon page as a safe harbor to openly share all of my work.

So please come check it out by clicking the button below!

I really appreciate your support!

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