Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Turning pain into art

Post Thumbnail

Jane McDonough used painting as an escape from pain.

Jane McDonough, 42, has spent the last eight years dealing with chronic pain. A councellor suggested painting as a form of therapy and Jane has put together her first solo exhibition to raise awareness of people living with invisible health conditions.


I have always painted and produced illustrations.I usually paint landscapes and take inspiration from my surroundings with the wide open landscapes and huge ever-changing skies.


Basically, the paintings tell my story of how I was feeling throughout an unexpectedly long rehabilitation following surgery on my pelvis. I used art to express exactly how I was feeling at the time and also to say out loud on canvas what I thought and felt about certain things.

I used the creative process to work through things that happened during my rehabilitation and to offload negative emotions. I had my operation in May 2015. I saw occupational health about starting back at work in October 2015. She suggested I spoke to a counsellor as I needed to change my mindset. I was trying to rush the healing process and was pushing my body too hard.


I wasn’t prepared emotionally or mentally for the long journey of healing. I didn’t realise how isolating it would be and just how much I would have to rely on people. I pushed myself too hard to heal quickly. This just led to intense pain flare ups, fatigue and negativity.

I was fed up with my situation, my body and my life.I started talking to a counsellor in October 2015. She suggested different things to keep me calm and pass the time while rehabilitating. As I used to paint, she suggested I paint how I feel.I had never done this before. I really struggled to put my feelings and emotions into words. I realised that I never outwardly show my true emotions. It was very challenging to go into the deep corners of my mind and to address what was going on in there. Self exploration took courage, solitude and time. I had time on my hands.


The first painting I did was a self-portrait. I tried to pour everything I was feeling into the painting. I used words and sentences in the work. I called it “I want to heal”.When you live daily with chronic pain, you become very good at saying “I’m fine” as it’s easier than saying how you really feel.

The process of painting exactly how I was feeling was very freeing. It was empowering. The years of pain and emotion poured out on to canvas. My art became my voice which helped me connect with hidden emotions to express what I would never say out loud. Being totally truthful in expressing my thoughts left me feeling very vulnerable, exposed and raw. Yet it was also a very empowering and healing process.


I found it hard to come to terms with the fact that I am not the person I was eight years ago.I had to stop many of the physical activities that I used to enjoy. I grieved for the person I once was.

I could not accept that this was my life from now on. I worried about my future.People only saw one side of me – happy, smiley, healthy. Nobody saw what I was like behind closed doors.


I decided to share my emotion paintings as I have become much more aware that there are a lot of people living with chronic pain, invisible health conditions, mental health issues, disability, long-term illness and emotional pain.Even though we are all on our own journey, sometimes sharing what we are going through might connect with someone and make a difference.


Yes. It helped me so much and I am sure it would help others. It is relaxing, calming and very mindful.


I hope that people find the works thought-provoking and give an insight into what it is actually like to have an invisible condition. I am also promoting local support groups and charities. Support and understanding is all I want and the only people who truly understand what it’s like are people living with similar conditions.

I have met some life-long friends through having chronic pain and have support from others. I hope that by sharing my story, people might connect to one aspect and maybe it might help them in some way by getting help and making connections.

The exhibition runs until May 12 at the Alastair Pilkington Studio in Lybster, Caithness. See