I have Mal de Debarquement Syndrome (MdDS).
MdDS is a rare, neurological disorder that manifests as constant dizziness or perception of rocking, bobbing or swaying. MdDS is a different kind of spatial disorientation than vertigo. It’s not vestibular, it’s neurological. The dizziness that I live with feels more like the ground is constantly moving under my feet. Laying down or closing my eyes does not make it stop. Whatever surface I’m on turns to liquid and my equilibrium is constantly trying to correct for it. Ironically, being in passive motion is the only source of relief. Driving in a car is bliss to many suffering from MdDS…until we reach a stop sign.
I don’t remember the exact moment I discovered needle felting, but it changed my life. It’s a fiber art of the most rudimentary, free-form kind. By repetitively piercing wool fibers with a sharp, barbed needle it compresses the loose fibers into a solid mass…sculpting with wool. Perhaps it was the repetition of the needlework, or the quiet, muffled qualities of the wool, but I found I could lose myself in it. For hours on end. The ground didn’t stop moving, but focusing on the object in my hands helped drown it out. Needle felting became my medicine.
What emerged at the other end of thousands of hours of shaping wool with a needle was 13 hairless cats. This was not the plan. It just happened. Somewhere along the journey I realized I was telling my story, not with words on paper, but with wool and cats, each sculpture a chapter in my wobbly journey. There are aspects I can quantify. Others I can’t. I don’t know why one is turquoise, another one yellow. I don’t know how the scale came about. What I do know is that after living on a sea of constant motion, these felines became a life raft for me. Not just the act of creating them but also what they came to represent. I know that I may never reach shore. But the raft and my companions have helped me not just survive, but thrive during the most merciless of storms.
To read more about my journey with MdDS go to: www.liferaftmdds.com