‘There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious'

C. J. Jung


Jane McDonough - Unspoken Truths


Chronic Pain

I have been living with chronic pain for over 9 years. Constant pain affects every part of my life. Most people have no idea I live with chronic pain because I look healthy and don’t complain. I always appear happy and if anyone ever asks me how I am, I always reply ‘I’m fine.’ It is easier to say ‘I’m okay’ rather than say how things really are.

Chronic pain comes hand in hand with medication, side effects, hospital appointments, procedures and a whole host of emotions. Having no solution to the pain lets negative emotions creep in and anxiety. I always try to push through the pain, which results in further pain, increased medication, more frustration and the result is a vicious pain cycle.

Over the years, I feel like I have lost my identity and I grieve for my former self. The person I used to be was very active and always on the go. Chronic pain changed me. My social structure changed as I couldn’t carry on with certain social activities. My circle of friends changed and I lost friends along the way. I felt like there was no hope and that things would never get any better.

‘If your condition causes physical pain that has not responded well to medical treatment, the distress you might be feeling can be compounded by emotional turmoil’

John Kabat-Zinn


My Op

In early 2015, I had an appointment with an Orthopaedic Surgical Spine Consultant in Aberdeen who said he could help me. In May 2015,  I had a unilateral Sacroiliac Joint Fusion. I thought I would be fixed within a couple of months and that I would be pain free and ready to carry on with my active lifestyle.

It didn’t work out that way…

It was a very long and unexpected road of rehabilitation. I wasn’t prepared emotionally or mentally for the long journey of healing. I didn’t realise how isolating it would be and just how much I would have to rely on people. I pushed myself too hard to heal quickly. This just led to intense pain flare ups, fatigue and negativity. I was fed up with my situation, my body and my life.

Speaking to a counsellor was the best thing I could have done. I needed to change my mindset.

I really struggled to put my feelings and emotions into words. I realised that I never outwardly show my true emotions. It was very challenging to go into the deep corners of my mind and to address what was going on in there. Self exploration, took courage, solitude and time. I had time on my hands.

The years of pain and emotion poured out onto canvas. My art became my voice which helped me connect with hidden emotions to express what I would never say out loud. Being totally truthful in expressing my thoughts left me feeling very vulnerable, exposed and raw. Yet it was also a very empowering and healing process. Lyrics from songs also played a part and inspired me even further. 

The creative process for ‘Unspoken Truths’ was very different from my ‘usual’ painting style. It was a very emotional, intuitive process and I didn’t plan the painting beforehand, they just developed as I worked. A major part of this organic process was how I began to explore my mind and its inner voice.

Mindfulness helped me to look deep into my negative thoughts and learned patterns of behaviour and be more accepting of my situation and my overall health and well-being. It has helped me appreciate what I have got and not to dwell on what I haven’t. It also gives me an inner calm and a sense of peace.

Whilst self-discovery and healing brought pain in itself, it was through this emotional pain that I learned to express myself, take charge 
of my situation and try to move forward. The road to rehabilitation is long and winding and I have had many setbacks and ongoing health issues along the way. 

A prominent feature throughout the exhibition is my horse Bramble. She wasmy best friend. We had a very strong relationship, many adventures together and she helped me through tough times. After many years supporting Bramble with her health conditions, in August 2018 I had to make the hardest decision I've ever had to make and have her put to sleep. I had another heartbreaking decision to make in September 2018 and Timmy the dog went to run over rainbow bridge with Bramble. Timmy was with me every day throughout my rehabilitation and always knew when I was having a bad pain day. 

My journey with chronic pain continues...

Although my SI joint operation in May 2015 was successful, I am still living with chronic pain. Accepting that chronic pain will always be a part of my life is a constant struggle and exploration of mental health, self care and well being is a major part of the new works in the collection.

‘Not everything that is faced can be changed but nothing can be changed until it is faced’ 

James Baldwin


Why am I sharing this?

I decided to share my ‘emotion’ paintings, as I have become much more aware that there are lots of people fighting battles which nobody knows about - Chronic pain, invisible health conditions, mental health issues, disability, long term illness and emotional pain. If you look okay, people think you are okay. Sharing and learning from people in similar situations has been very healing and positive. I've learned that it's okay not to feel okay and that it's okay to ask for help and talk about how you feel.

Even though we are all on our own journey, sometimes sharing what we are going through might connect with someone and make a difference. I wanted to give people an insight of what it’s like living with chronic pain and hopefully more understanding and awareness. 

People never really say how they feel. People don’t show what is actually going on inside. Instead we all carry within us ‘unspoken truths…’


‘Truth is not something outside to be discovered. Truth is something inside to be realised’


The Unspoken Truths Exhibitions


April/May 2017

North Lands Creative, Lybster, Caithness KW3 6BN

01593 721229



3 - 23 February 2018

Eden Court Theatre and Cinema, Bishops Road, Inverness IV3 5SA

01463 234234


10 April - 26 May 2018

Rothes Halls, Glenrothes, Fife KY7 5NX

01592 611101


28 September - 2 November 2018

Macphail Centre, 5 Mill Street, Ullapool IV26 2UN

01854 613336



30th March - 27th April 2019

Aberdeen Art Centre, 33 King Street, Aberdeen AB24 5AA

01224 641122



Thanks to Carole for being with me every step of the way and to Marie Sivewright for encouraging me to pick up my paintbrushes again. 







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