Pwittie Ghul Buhd’s Pityriasis Pity Party

Like many folks who have made the choice to work for themselves I’m terrible at taking time off. I’m great at finding reasons to not take a whole day free from work (“That deadline’s tomorrow!”, “I wasn’t productive enough this week”). If you work for yourself in any capacity, these excuses may sound familiar 😉

As much as I may think I am, I’m not a machine. If I don’t mindfully take time off to rest, refresh and reset, my body finds ways to force me to do so. Even though I know this about myself, I still need to be reminded of this fact (frequently!)

In March vaccines rolled out, days got warmer and longer, hope filled hearts. Like all of us I’m sick of pandemic-life and ready for a new beginning. I was looking forward to shedding winter layers. My body said, “NOPE”.

Was it the year-long anxiety over the pandemic and politics? Was it the constant fighting an urge to flee to a non-existent utopia? Whatever the trigger, while buds and spring flowers bloomed outdoors, so blossomed a case of Pityriasis rosea on my back.

Three weeks after the first lesion was sighted. Fun fact: “blossom” is the term my dermatologist used to describe the spread of the rash. Although I was in anguish over my condition, this delighted me.

I had no prior knowledge of this strange, non-contagious skin disease. Because it is benign and only consists of one breakout that lasts between 4 and 12 weeks not much research has gone into a treatment or figuring out why it occurs in some people but not in others.

My case is particularly extreme.

Instead of staying contained to my trunk it eventually spread to my neck, limbs and face (must be my over-achieving nature ;-)).

In 50% of the cases, Pityriasis rosea itches and burns. Yeah, that’s me (overachiever, remember). Thankfully the itching stopped after taking a cycle of antivirals at the 6-week mark. Though I’m not in constant discomfort anymore, it’s safe to say that I’ll take much longer than three months to fully heal.

The most challenging aspect of this weird affliction isn’t physical, it’s mental. A stubborn depression set in once I understood that I was going to have to navigate this over the summer. The knowledge that I would have to be ultra-careful about sun exposure and keep my body under wraps totally squashed my spirit.

After I was diagnosed I desperately wanted to take a break from work; a vacation to rest and let my body recover, but the timing was awful. I was pushing a tight deadline to finish Pwittie Ghul Buhd for a group show. In order to complete the work on time, I needed to work every day for a month. I couldn’t spare time off to Netflix binge while feeling sorry for myself. So, I did the next best thing.

I threw myself a pity party.

Actually, I threw myself SEVERAL pity parties. Micro ones.

I blocked off 15 minutes between morning dog walk and breakfast to lay listlessly on the bed, cuddling my pups and staring out the window. I allowed myself to be sad, do nothing, and cry if I needed to. When the “party” was over I got up and got on with my day. This was my routine for two months.

I’m not suggesting that repeatedly focusing on the negative in one’s life is good or healthy, but setting aside intentional time and space to feel helpless and hopeless cleared the path for me to get back to work. Permission for a limited wallow allowed me to make peace with the situation. I even found humor in the idea that I’d physically manifested one of the sideshow characters that I’ve been exploring in my work over the past five years; “Lay-dees an’ gennelmen – to yer left, from the faraway lands of the Pacific West, thee mysteer-ious, thee enigmaa-tic, thee exooo-tic, LEOPARD LAY-DEE!!”

Instead of dwelling on what I was going through, I became curious about it. Curious enough that elements of Pityriasis rosea slipped into the creation of Pwittie Ghul Buhd, the piece I was finishing for the Untitled Space.

Detail of hand-embroidered lesions on PGB’s back and arms.
One of the newspaper satires that I created to line the bottom of PGB’s cage. Note the dermatology ad in the bottom left corner 🙂

It’s encouraging to remember that every party eventually ends. Like a party this condition will end one day, too. Soon all that will remain of this time is a few details immortalized in an art piece.

NB: I’ve recently replaced the pity parties with a return to my work out routine. While I miss the morning introspection time I’m so glad to have the endorphins back!

Are you remembering to take time off work to recharge? If you don’t, your body may do it for you!

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