This month, Papergang is working with the ME Association to raise money for people affected by chronic illness. One person living with the illness is also this month’s fabulous illustrator, Jenny McGibbon!
Never afraid to tackle issues that others may avoid, Jenny opened up to us about her work behind her blog This Thing They Call Recovery and her creative side. Read on to discover her inspirations and advice for overcoming those days when we just aren’t feeling up to it.
We know ME plays a big part in your life and you’re no stranger to speaking about it. Could you tell us about the sentiment behind This Thing They Call Recovery?
This Thing started as my personal blog and has turned into a bit of an online community discussing life with chronic illness. My main aim is to create a safe space where people feel like they can be honest, share and learn.
I want to not only raise awareness of symptoms but the impact those symptoms can have. Chronic illness affects our lives just as much as it does our bodies and we need more understanding of that.
What were you doing before you started this?
I set up This Thing as a side project while at college studying Visual Communication. Before going to college I went to uni and got a BA in branding – I did it a bit backwards with uni first and college second, but it worked for me!
I had a rough time of it while studying, trying to balance it with my poor health. I was full-time, then took a year out, then back to full-time, then part-time study. It’s not been your “typical” journey with it but everyone’s different. Health has to come first, even if it is frustrating!
Could you tell us a little about your art style and artistic background?
I want to create content that educates but in a personal and approachable manner. I don’t believe all health content must be daunting or solemn, there’s enough of that out there already. My art style developed to help me discuss some difficult topics in a friendly and engaging way. I like to include colour, illustration and hand-lettering to speak to the human side of ill health.
What’s your typical creative process? Could you talk us through it?
I’m always taking notes in my phone of topics I’d like to discuss; inspiration can strike at the strangest of times. Then I move on to thinking about how I can visually present the idea. I use the same process with my own work as I do with clients. I want my content to bring value to others, so I always keep my audience in mind while creating. Then I start to play! It’s always fun creating, you have to be enjoying yourself while making, I think. It shows through when you’re not.
What’s the reception been like to This Thing They Call Recovery? Can you share any of the ways people have been impacted or reached out to you?
The reception has been truly amazing, and I’m so happy to hear that the work is making a difference. I get messages from people struggling with their own health saying they don’t feel alone anymore, and from others that say they have friends or family with health problems and my page has helped them to understand.
I want to help facilitate more open and honest conversations between the sick and the healthy, and the feedback I’m getting tells me it’s working so far!
What inspires you to keep going in everyday life?
There is so much work to be done in terms of raising awareness of illness and disability, helping the healthy to understand, and ensuring that no one feels like they’re in it alone. I want to help, and that keeps me going. Everyday life is incredibly difficult when your health isn’t playing ball, and so I try to be kind to myself too. Some days it’s harder to keep going than others, but that’s allowed.
And finally, what advice would you offer to people feeling deflated or lacking motivation?
I think it’s important to remember that no one is motivated all the time. It isn’t a failure to feel deflated or unmotivated, and it’s perfectly normal. I’d think about why I might be feeling this way, and how long it’s been going on for. Reach out to someone if you can and try to be gentle with yourself. Please remember that no matter what your best looks like, how it compares to others, or how much it varies, it is always unequivocally enough. I promise.
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