‘My diagnosis at 27 changed my life dramatically. I connect all these things back to what I bundle up as “below-par”. I’d do weights and not bulk up. I couldn’t run as fast as other people. Knowing you are somehow physically different to others, made me feel really inferior and insecure.

‘I looked for various ways socially to compensate for that. It led me toward a lot of really negative lifestyle choices as far as being reckless. Getting diagnosed was a huge relief – it turned all that around.

‘I have a degenerative neuro-muscular condition called Inclusion Body Myositis which means my muscle cells don’t regenerate. Effectively I’ve got a slow, degenerative, muscle-wasting disease. It started off in my legs and it progressed to my arms. It’s slowly going through every set of muscles throughout my body.

‘I’ve had to face so many physical and emotional challenges. It’s made me a lot tougher and a lot stronger as a person. It’s made me a much nicer person than I used to be in my 20s. I’m nowhere near as selfish; I have a different perspective on life. I know what’s important and what’s not. I think I do. It just put me on a different path.

‘Before I was diagnosed, I was working in hospitality. I’ve always done really physical kind of work but I really physically started to struggle with all of that. Then I decided that I wanted to study and did an Advanced Diploma of Fine Art at TAFE followed by a Bachelor of Fine Art at the University of NSW.

‘I was fortunate enough at the start of 2016 to be awarded a grant through Accessible Arts which is designed to support me as an emerging artist in a sustainable arts practice. It’s helped me buy art supplies and an electric easel. It’s helped me build a website and employ a videographer to do a short 3.5 minute documentary about me and my practice. It all culminates in a solo exhibition where I produce 20 paintings. It’s designed to sell some work and generate some income so that I can then be funded to have a sustainable art practice for another year and have another show.’

‘I’d broken up with my fiancée and suddenly realised I was by myself. It was just me and I thought, well, I don’t need much. At the same time I was also dealing with stress anxiety from working a lot and the lifestyle that comes with that. Even though nobody was pressuring me in the slightest, I felt that way. I felt that you’ve got to live a certain way to make your parents proud and your friends happy.

‘I studied a bit of art when I was a teenager and had left it for about 20 years. When I started it again about two years ago, I found it very meditative and felt very stress free. I realised how much I missed it and that this is my real love.

‘I left all my jobs. One of the biggest challenges of doing that was the fear of whether I would be good enough as an artist because you honestly don’t know. It’s not always about skill level in art either – it’s about finding your own voice and your own style and telling a story through it.

‘At my age, it’s hard to get back in to paid employment – trying to apply for a job when you’ve left it for two years – they’ll take someone who’s currently working in the field and a younger person as well. There was always that risk. If I had kids and a mortgage I wouldn’t do it because you do it for your kids – you work. I can be a little bit selfish because it’s just me. I can’t go out every night with friends and go to fancy restaurants but I get to do what I love every day.’