Art Therapy and Chronic Pain Interview with ALLYRIA

Art Therapy for Chronic Pain

Hi Allyria! Thank you so much for agreeing to interview with My Several Worlds. I’m honored that you can join a fantastic group of artists here on MSW while also giving us a chance to learn more about you and your story with chronic pain. Let’s get started!

MSW: Can you tell us a little about yourself? When did you first become interested in art?

Hi there, I’m glad to be included in this project. Thank you for considering me. Your work and networks are honored. It makes me feel acknowledged being included. 

I’m a 7th-culture former cult kid who comes from a family of 9 kids and grew up in communes. Just from this childhood you can deduct what sort of upheaval I’ve experienced. I’ve been working since I was 9 years old.

That makes about 30 years of being a dance performer, dance teacher, childcare worker and teacher, youth & Christian counselor, salesperson, educator, manager, artist, author, editor, translator, yoga teacher/therapist, & entrepreneur.

Now focusing on my health full-time allows for continuous contemplation.

I’ve been interested in art since I was maybe as old as I could hold a crayon. Some of my earliest and favorite memories are of drawing princesses, queens, palaces, homes with lovely yards, and great ballgowns. Maybe I could do well at couture! The clothes I wore, specifically the dresses my mom dressed me in, were expressive of my nature and temperament. I wore donated clothing most of the time due to growing up in the hippie, living-by-faith cult.

Some of the clothes were wildly colored which kind of made me wear several patterns and colors that might have made people smile, maybe laugh. I remember picking them for their colors and not so much the fashion sense. I mean, how much fashion sense does one receive in that kind of new age, Bible-adhering, anti-mainstream environment? 

Now that I’ve been out of the cult for half of my life, I’m satisfied to know there are others who also had a “non-mainstream” approach to self-expression in apparel.

So illustration, color psychology, self-expression, and a fashion sense were already apparent as far as 2 years old. I began writing as an outlet during teenage years. Poetry. More angst-filled imagery. Paper and pencils. 


MSW: Could you tell us a little about the art therapy projects you’re working on at the moment?

Gratitude journaling: Jars of Love

Slips of paper with what you’re loving and thankful for that moment, then put in a jar. The pictures are displayed through the jar and on top of it as a little dining table shrine to peace and good times. 

Art journaling

Sometimes I color and draw to manifest what I want, or to expand on what is already there. At other times I will scribble and rage into the forceful strokes to discharge energy. Feel free to rip it up then throw it away. Don’t ever burn a dark wish, unlike many rituals. Fire creates and doesn’t destroy. Don’t create more rage and havoc. 

Making art for others to send appreciation and birthday wishes

I used to make a lot of thank you cards since we were in a money-free cult and made a lot of this kind of stuff. Doing it now is like an inner child meditation and relapse into a pleasant part of my childhood.

Pajamas and spoonie fashion. Just kidding — but am I?

We wear super loose clothing. It’s already a trend, why not make it better and sustainable. I have many ideas. I need workers.

Allyria, I LOVE this idea! That’s brilliant and I would support it 100%. (Wish I could sew.)

I like using videos as an expression right now. 

I’m moving into sound.

I’ve been writing memoirs, an autobiography. I’ve lived 3 different lives. 

MSW: How do you use art therapy to help with chronic illness?

  • Retrain the mind and body to function on a more cognitive scale – like physical therapy and rehab.
  • Emotional release.
  • Inner dialogue brought forth to be made conscious. Oh, that’s what I’m thinking/feeling/noticing/struggling with/hating/loving/fearing/etc. 
  • Art is a form of somatic expression. It’s cool because several parts of yourself are brought forth in this combination of expression.

MSW: Do you ever create art that describes your pain or your emotional or physical state of being? Would you mind sharing some images with us?

I do this a lot. Sometimes it’s a social media post such as a profile photo or a poem. I think everything one does is a description of their inner state however true to who they really are or not, and is always dependent on resources. If I had more resources as a child, I would have probably gone much further into the expressive, artistic side of life. 

Art Therapy and Chronic Pain Interview with ALLYRIA – I think all the art I create is somewhat or mostly related to pain. Pain has been ever-present since I was almost drowned at 2 years old. Click To Tweet

I don’t think my pain is special. But perhaps the details are personal.

I could write a book about pain, but who wants to feel more of that? That’s why my autobiography has been on halt for a while. Pain is human. Wallowing in it is, too. But I get bored of it.

MSW: How do you think art can be used for treatment in chronic illness? What benefits could art have to a patient? Do you think art could help health practitioners understand their patients better?

Art can 100% be used as treatment for any illness. Unless you’re non-emotive, then your art could express how psychologically unavailable or psychopathic you are. But it’ll take a very trained interpreter of said art.

The benefits of art for patients is innumerable. Why do you think medical stations and staff are in those colors?

If health practitioners incorporated art into their consultations and treatments, the world might be a more balanced place. But we aren’t there yet as a human collective.

Imagine having color, texture, sound, and sensation scales instead of dry number scales. Don’t get me wrong. I love math. Never learned much of it except in calculating the odds of truth and coincidences.

Math has its place, just like the brain is both left and right. Art is only more colorful math. We all know how music is math. Please join the two sides and see how our world could be. 

MSW: How have your experiences of chronic illness affected you on a personal level?

How has it not? I’m a different person because of my brain falling out of my butt. My brother’s warning finally came true. 

  • Fibromyalgia (Suspect, I have every symptom but the health system in Taiwan is universal.)
  • allodynia, paresthesia, hyperalgesia, randomly roving pain
  • Spondylitis of the lower spine and hips.(Suspect)
  • Endometriosis
  • IBS
  • intense chronic fatigue
  • premenstrual dysmorphic disorder
  • brain fog fatigue, impaired judgment, reduced productivity and alertness, impaired memory, lower stress tolerance, poor communication, reduced physical capacity
  • migraine
  • flaring
  • varying pain, uncontrollable pain outcomes
  • painsomnia, sleep issues, restless leg syndrome (RLS), unrestorative sleep, etc.
  • pacing challenges
  • allergies, multiple chemical sensitivities
  • dermatological issues

To put a spin on it – all could be seen as mutant powers such as having a superhuman power of sensory detection. 

Seriously, I discovered how intuitive I am – something I’ve been avoiding and resisting much of my life. The reasons why are left to your understanding and imagination. And I know how much pain can be caused from a central nervous system gone haywire combined with psychological trauma.

Isn’t chronic pain a form of, or related to, complex PTSD?

I’d say the biggest thing I’ve experienced is realizing how immortal my body is – how inexplicably fragile the whole bio-electric-ecological system of being alive is – how transient vitality seems. I cannot state how much of life is change.

Life is change. This should be the first thing taught to every newborn and plastered across every rom-com, fairy tale, and top pop song.

Art Therapy and Chronic Pain Interview with ALLYRIA – Life is NOTHING but change. Forget getting used to this moment's stasis. You will never have this exact experience ever again. Click To Tweet

MSW: That is a lot to deal with and you know I know what you’re going through. I’m glad we’ve been able to support each other through this.

What kind of art supplies do you need on hand all the time?

  • A pen and paper
  • My phone for notes and photos of all parts of life.
  • I love using colors. I often play around with color pencils, paint, things found, ink of fruit I’m eating. How about the coloring from my pills?
  • Once I’m more mobile and have chronic fatigue under control, I’ll get back into using items found during nature rambles to create on the spot. I love that medium and flow of inspiration that comes with being absorbed in the wet, stillness of vibrant nature. I find great solace in nature, and was born this way.

Nature is what I need to have on hand all the time for a healthy state of being. I’m getting more comfortable connecting to nature in “unnatural” environs, like at the hospital. My body is part of nature. 

MSW: What is your favorite art medium? Which colors do you like to work with the most?

I guess energy in the form of colors, textures, emotions, and sound. I’m going to start adding more elements, such as taste, smell, and audio, to build on what is commonly deemed as visual art.

MSW: What kind of tips would you offer to readers who are interested in starting art as a therapy treatment to chronic illness?

  • Do it. Go for whatever is available. During this last year of intense illness I began art as rehab by using a Q-tip to paint a children’s coloring book of a duck. It was fun. The emphasis on ‘fun’ would enhance the therapeutic side of art therapy for chronic illness patients.
  • Have fun. Go balls out, even if it’s a Q-tip.
  • Use anything around you. I love the process of internal exploration with whatever materials are on hand. Use banana peels as clouds in a night sky floating near an eggshell crescent moon. Pills dot the sky as stars. A shooting star made from cookie wrapping. Film it for next year’s Sundance competition.
  • Express yourself in any way you can. You’ll find a favorite medium or three soon.  It doesn’t matter what you like to create.
  • Create for your joy and love. Create for what ignites that fire in you.
  • Write a lot. Free journaling can save your sanity. Write without any constraints.
  • Talk to a therapist, counselor, psychologist, shrink, psychoanalyst about anything you want. This can enhance your art greatly since you’ll discover more of the real you. 
  • Be kind to yourself. You are just like everyone else and aren’t special. But you are also unique and there is no one else like you. Just do that thing and stop procrastinating and shaking in your boots. No one will judge you more than yourself, I think.
  • Connect with like-minded people who support and encourage your jackass-ery, I mean, your beatific artistry.
  • Go rogue and do everything you’re not meant to do. 
  • Streak. Go skinny-dipping. Anything to remove the funk and help you step out of the junk of confines and naysaying nagging thoughts. 
  • Stop ruining yourself. Creatives can be self-harmers, particularly when that creativity is channeled with hatred towards the self. 
  • Love yourself.
  • Listen to advice but only take what works for you. 
  • Express yourself. Only YOU have your voice. 

MSW: Beautiful and very wise words, indeed. Do you have a favorite piece of artwork that you are exceptionally proud of?

My life? There’s a poem or two from pain during teenage years. My favorite piece might continuously be yet to be created.

Thank you so much for joining us today, Allyria. You’re a talented wordsmith and artist. I’m sure my readers will enjoy learning more about you! Thank you so much for having the courage to share your story with us!

Find Allyria at:
IG: Allyria_flow

Don’t forget to Pin It so you can refer back to this article for ideas.

Post Author: Carrie Kellenberger

I'm a chronically ill Canadian who has been living in Asia since 2003. I moved from China to Taiwan in 2006. I'm an experienced businesswoman and have worked in many leadership positions in Asia. In addition to my own work, I've been writing professionally about Asia, travel and health advocacy since 2007, providing regular content to publishing companies and travel publications in Asia and North America. I started writing about my health journey in 2009 after being diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis. In 2014, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS, which came with other massive health issues. These diagnoses were the start of my journey as a health advocate and patient leader. Since then, My Several Worlds has been recognized worldwide as a top site for AS, fibromyalgia, and chronic illness by WEGO Health and Healthline.

6 thoughts on “Art Therapy and Chronic Pain Interview with ALLYRIA

    Lee Good

    (October 8, 2021 - 4:43 am)

    So cool to read about someone whose life is so different from yours when they were growing up. And yet we have come to so many similar opinions about art and life. I love how she speaks her truth. This is a refreshing interview for me. Thank you Carrie and Allyria. I’m proud to know you both through our online connections.

      Carrie Kellenberger

      (October 8, 2021 - 11:27 am)

      Hi Lee! Thank you so much for supporting us and for providing us with so many opportunities to connect with and share with others in the fibromyalgia community! You are valued and loved!


    (October 8, 2021 - 1:08 pm)

    I’m very moved by your interview. Loved reading about Allyria’s story. I’ve always loved the idea of art therapy, especially with young ones. As a fellow artist, I’m always interested in learning what inspired them to become an artist. It would be so cool to meet her and swap stories! Thanks for this opportunity to meet Allyria!

      Carrie Kellenberger

      (October 8, 2021 - 3:11 pm)

      Hi Rachel! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. Allyria is in our Fibro Connect group. You should introduce yourself. Looking forward to featuring your work!


    (October 27, 2021 - 4:02 am)

    Thank you for sharing this interview with Allyria. I’ve always loved art, even though I’m not gifted at it, it’s definitely something I want to get back into and reading this post has given me the motivation to do it. It’s definitely such a great way of expressing yourself and provides a great distraction. Thank you for yet another fantastic post raising awareness, helping to educate others on what chronic illness and pain are like to live with and providing a space for others to share their stories.

      Carrie Kellenberger

      (October 28, 2021 - 2:47 pm)

      Hi Lucy! Thanks so much for stopping by and for reading her interview. You know, it’s always interesting when I hear from people who say they are not gifted at art. I think most people are creative. They just need to find what works best for them. I can’t draw, but I have found that I’m really good at flower arranging, making cards, making jewelery, some types of painting, photography, and more. I like dabbling in a bit of everything to be honest. For me, the point is to create and enjoy what I’m doing. I don’t care to make money from it. It’s more for my peace of mind. For example, I rip my coloring books apart and wrap gifts and make cards from the pages so they don’t go to waste and people are always astonished when they get a wrapped gift from me. Thanks so much for your support.

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