An individual wearing a purple apron leans over a pottery wheel molding clay.

Finding an Outlet When Struggling With Ulcerative Colitis

Living with ulcerative colitis can be difficult, requiring constant attention. After being diagnosed, I felt that my life had been upended.

I struggled to find ways to cope and often felt ulcerative colitis controlled my life. Managing new diets, medications, and doctors' appointments physically and mentally overwhelmed me. Over time, I found one activity that has grounded me amidst the chaos: wheel-thrown ceramics.

Finding a therapeutic outlet

Throwing pottery involves working with wet clay on a motorized, spinning wheel. To create a piece, the potter must first prepare the clay by wedging it, similar to kneading dough, to remove air bubbles.

The next step involves centering the uniform clay on the wheel and then shaping it by pulling it upward and outward into a desired form. Once dry, the potter will trim excess clay from the bottom and glaze the piece to create a glass-like finish once fired in a kiln.

I started this artistic endeavor in high school, but the activity took on a newfound purpose after I was diagnosed towards the end of college.

Letting go of UC while I focus on a project

As I struggled to manage unpredictable symptoms, pottery became an outlet for calm and comfort. Sitting down on a wheel allows me to feel fully immersed and present in the moment. Here, I let go of the physical and emotional challenges of managing ulcerative colitis and focus directly on creating.

This activity demands a deep, almost meditative concentration, and its repetitive nature allows me to enter a state of flow that calms my mind and reduces stress. As I center the clay and begin to shape it, I feel a sense of control that is often elusive in other areas of my life.

I am more than my illness

In these moments, I am not defined by my illness but inspired to create something beautiful and meaningful. It's a reminder that I am more than my condition and that I have the power to shape my life in positive ways.

Creating a piece such as a bowl, plate, or teapot gives me a sense of independence. On the wheel, I control the process from start to finish. I choose the shape, glaze, and final vision.

When much of our lives dealing with chronic illness is beyond our influence, this level of control can be a source of empowerment. It is a hobby I can do at my own pace and time. Learning new styles fosters different avenues for my creative expression. Finishing a piece provides a sense of joy that I can carry with me beyond the studio.

Therapeutic activities when living with UC

Of course, pottery isn't the only activity that can provide these benefits. Whether it's painting, gardening, or cooking, creating something can be therapeutic. Exploring a hobby can serve as a form of self-expression and channel emotions away from the stresses of living with chronic illness towards moments of relaxation and mindfulness.

The key is to find an activity that brings happiness and to allow the time and space to engage in it regularly. In addition to working closely with your healthcare team, finding a creative outlet like pottery may make all the difference in your journey.

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