Painting her pain: Artist to kick off unique art show on the peninsula

Published: Aug. 31, 2023 at 4:50 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 31, 2023 at 7:52 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - An artist with chronic migraines has a unique way of dealing with her pain.

Priya Rama has struggled with migraines since she was a young girl. During the pain and pressure she experiences during a migraine episode, she said colors flood her mind.

About a decade ago, her migraines became so frequent and severe that they were debilitating. That’s when she said she began to capture the colors and textures she was experiencing on a canvas, completely reframing her migraine experiences.

“Now, I know that as bad as it is, at some point, it’s going to end,” Rama said. “Now it’s not a fight response, it’s more of an acceptance response.”

She said she no longer experiences the anger and frustration that often accompanies a migraine and has found peace with her condition.

Rama now travels around the country, showing her work at art fairs and shows. Her show at the Mary Martin Gallery in Downtown Charleston kicks off Friday evening and will run through the month of September.

She said she hopes her artwork can validate people’s pain and experiences.

“Ultimately it’s you, the individual that has to deal with your body and your pain,” Rama said. “What I would recommend, even if you’re in bed, even if your eyes are closed and the room is dark, just doodle or scribble, or try to make patterns in your mind’s eye.”

Howell Jarrard, a Neurologist at the Medical University of South Carolina, said non-traditional treatments like meditation, yoga and tai chi can be beneficial to people who suffer from migraines.

“When I hear of somebody that’s using art to help their migraine, I would think probably that it’s a form of meditation, they’re having a meditative experience that’s helping treat their migraine,” Jarrard said.

He said although people often think of meditation as a way to address their mental health, mental health conditions and migraines are more similar than people realize.

“Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, those are brain conditions just like migraines are a brain condition,” Jarrad said “The cause of migraines, we think, are certain chemical imbalances in the brain that are actually similar to the chemical imbalances that cause certain mental health conditions,” Jarrard said.

Jarrad said he can understand how and why painting can help relieve migraine pain.

He said combining traditional and nontraditional treatments for migraines is the most holistic approach to pain management.