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Students In Chicago Are Using Art To Overcome Their Crippling Pain From Rare Conditions

For years, people would comment on Elise’s demeanor, not realizing that the young girl was in excruciating pain constantly.

She was diagnosed with tactile defensiveness, a rare condition that caused her skin to hurt constantly. Even putting on clothes was extremely painful for Elise and she could only tolerate wearing fleece sweaters and pants inside-out so that the seams wouldn’t touch her skin.

“It could get to the extent where it felt like knives were going through my skin all the time,” Elise said.


Elise dealt with the pain for years and one day began to draw. At first, it was just abstract lines which she refers to as “structured chaos.”

“I drew very angry across the page and made really dark marks. It makes the work I make personal to me because I know exactly how it feels”, Elise said.

Elise said the more she drew, the less pain she felt.

Now, she not only draws but sculpts. Her art now covers half of a room at the Chicago Academy for the Arts. The Head of School, Jason Patera, believes Elise serves a greater purpose with her art.

“This is a place where if you have a calling, if you have a sense of purpose in the art you make, this feels like home,” he said.

Watch Elise’s Story:

Elise channels her pain through her art and is inspiring others!

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