Purpose: To understand the meanings of art-making among a group of women living with the occupational constraints and stigma of CFS/ME. The study explored their initial motives for art-making, and then examined how art-making had subsequently influenced their subjective well-being.
Method: Ten women with CFS/ME were interviewed; three provided lengthy written accounts to the interview questions.
Findings: Illness had resulted in devastating occupational and role loss. Participants took many years to make positive lifestyle changes. Art-making was typically discovered once participants had accepted the long-term nature of CFS/ME, accommodated to illness, and reprioritized occupations. Several factors then attracted participants specifically to art-making. It was perceived as manageable within the constraints of ill-health. Participants also tended to be familiar with craft skills; had family members interested in arts and crafts, and some desired a means to express grief and loss. Once established as a leisure activity, art-making increased subjective well-being mainly through providing increased satisfaction in daily life, positive self-image, hope, and contact with the outside world. Participants recommended provision of occupational/recreational counselling earlier in the illness trajectory.
Conclusions: Creative art-making occurred as part of a broader acceptance and adjustment process to CFS/ME, and allowed some psychological escape from a circumscribed lifeworld.