Oak Bay woman explores chronic pain through art

Artist shows work at the Vincent Galleries Dec. 4 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at 838 Fort St.

Alyssa Vincent sits with some of her paintings. She has an upcoming art show she is doing to raise awareness about chronic pain.

Pamela Roth

Black Press

Three years ago, the life Alyssa Vincent was living underwent a sudden and dramatic change.

In November 2012, the 26-year-old Oak Bay woman was driving to her parent’s home in Cadboro Bay when she was struck by another vehicle at a four-way stop. Both cars were totalled, leaving Vincent with two herniated discs in her lower back, extensive nerve damage in both legs and living with a continual searing pain.

Simple tasks such as sitting and bending are uncomfortable. Sometimes she loses sensation in her lower right leg to the point where she can’t walk. Vincent receives 18 to 25 injections every four weeks, which have helped create more good days than bad.

Prior to the collision, she was in the process of applying to St. Andrew’s Medical School in Scotland with hopes of becoming a doctor. But after speaking with local doctors, Vincent opted to put the application on hold to focus on recovering. Getting better has now turned into a full-time job.

“It was very defeating,” she said. “It took me about a year to come to terms with my situation. I definitely realized having a pity party for myself wasn’t going to help.”

Frustrating is a word Vincent uses to describe many things since the collision.

A lot of the pain she’s feeling isn’t necessarily where she was injured so doctors can’t pin-point the exact problem. About 80 per cent of her time is spent in bed – a tough reality for someone who was once an athlete.

But one of the most frustrating things is how people make assumptions about her invisible pain. On one occasion in Sidney, she asked for a hand getting two side tables into her vehicle and was met with a look of disbelief.

“We went to the back and two guys were there to help out. One lady was very unimpressed, told the guys, ‘allegedly she’s very injured and she can’t do any type of heavy lifting, but that’s what she says,’” said Vincent, adding she’s had a few similar experiences.

“Essentially you are being told you are not truthful. It’s incredibly defeating.”

Following a trip to Mexico City with her family, where Vincent learned about Frida Kahlo – a Mexican self-portrait artist who began painting after she was severely injured in a bus accident – Vincent returned home with a focus on art.

Using acrylics, she started creating abstract pieces of her invisible pain. The art makes Vincent feel more positive and gives her hope that her life and body will eventually get back on track.

Twenty-five pieces Vincent has created will be on display to raise awareness and understanding about chronic pain. In turn, she hopes to meet others experiencing the same thing.

The Vincent Galleries Art Show takes place today (Friday, Dec. 4) from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at 838 Fort St. A donation from the show will be made to the Royal Jubilee Pain Clinic.