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The book: Art & Chronic Pain – A Self Portrait


SelfPortraitBookDustJacketYes, I’ve found another medium to express my pain and you can own your own copy of it!

I didn’t see the point of creating a long description of my living with pain, sharing my tips, turning journal entries into a pain story. Afterall, first and foremost, before the person in pain, I am an artist… so my book had to contain many pictures and few words, just 32 pages in fact, but I believe it’s a complete story. It doesn’t hold the solution for PN but it’ll allow you to explain it to someone else, leave it on the coffee table, and it will be light enough to carry around.

Art Chronic Pain Soula Mantalvanos-01

Above all I created it to express my experience so far and so that it is a bit of a companion to another PN family member. The idea was for the reader to feel empathy in a world where no one seems to understand, and to ease the pain as you look through it.

Art Chronic Pain Soula Mantalvanos-01

My marionette, Ms Soula, has been a great aid in helping me communicate my frustration with this invisible pain. Most of you would have read that a portrait I painted of her recently became a semi finalist piece for The National Doug Moran Portrait Painting prize. I’m happy that Ms Soula, is communicating my message. In the midst of being creative with Ms Soula (refer to full post) I have found more ways to express my pain, they have formed this book.

I use drawings, sentences and phrases from my website, guided by your comments and emails to me, and used Ms Soula’s strings to document my pain journey’s ups, downs… and knots. I wanted this to be very special and with Theo’s help, it is. There is a dust jacket with real strings attached, one by one (thanks Theo).

There will only be 500 copies produced. I will be numbering the books by hand. I’ve inserted some preview images in this post but don’t want to give too much away.

I won’t be releasing the book in an online format, the subject is too personal so I feel the screen does not suffice. Each page must be handled and touched while it’s being read.

The price of my book is $39 (plus postage*) or $30 at Queenscliff Gallery & Workshop. Order online by selecting an option below and hitting the ‘buy now’ button (credit card orders can be processed through PayPal even for those who don’t have an account).

Cost: $29 (plus postage)

Outside dust jacket.
Pictured below: two double page spread examples.
Size closed: 195mm (W) x 255mm (H)
Pages: 32 plus dust jacket with attached strings
*Postage costs for a waterproof and protective package to New Zealand is $2.00, to ASIA Pacific $4.50, and the rest of the world $6.00.

Book & postage total

Art & Chronic Pain, A Self Portrait Book by Soula MantalvanosArt & Chronic Pain, A Self Portrait Book by Soula Mantalvanos

Related Entries

Leon Chaitow
The Pelvic Pain Library
Piecing myself back together
My pre pain life…


  • Sue Carey

    My copy of this amazing book arrived in the UK today, 9th December.
    I can only say a HUGE thank you to Soula for her immense creativity and vision, to publish such a unique book.
    I am overwhelmed.
    To hold it, to feel those strings, to read this wonderful work of Art, I felt understood at last.
    This is MY story too!
    I have been in this dreadful, debilitating pain for 19 years.
    In my case it was a violent, traumatic and ultimately unnecessary vaginal hysterectomy that caused my pudendal nerve to be either trapped, damaged or severed.
    Little was known about the condition in 1994, and I was dismissed as “cured or f***ing incurable”! That is what my Gynaecologist who performed the hysterectomy said to me.
    I was severely depressed, at risk of losing my teaching career, my marriage, my beautiful sons were 4 & 6, and I thought my life was over. Years later I was eventually offered pain management which involved daily exercises on a cycling machine (!), counselling to help with anger towards the Surgeon, and several different medications.
    It wasn’t until 2007 that I heard about Pudendal Neuralgia. Because my nerve has been damaged for such a long time, I had little success with Nerve blocks. Various specialists have helped to restore pelvic function. But basically I have been told to learn to live with it.

    Reading, savouring Soula’s book was like a ray of sunshine and hope.
    It will help me explain to people who really fail to understand why I haven’t “got over it yet!” why my life is the way that it is!

    I lost that much loved teaching career 10 years ago. My sons are 23 & 25. My husband is still with me, but finds the burden of being “the bread winner” stressful, whilst I can “take to my bed, and paint”!
    I have turned to Art. It helps.
    Sometimes I paint my pain. Sometimes I paint my hopes and dreams. Sometimes I just sleep!

    Now I know that I am not alone, and Soula, I am SO grateful.

    Thank you.
    With love, best wishes, and gentle hugs,
    Sue Carey xx xx

    • kerrie

      Cant wait to read it as an artist in chronic pain and dealing with an adversarial system have great respect for your fight anad courage Soula, and to Sue, very lovely and eloquent reply xxx

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What is Pudendal Neuralgia (PN)?

Most simply put PN is Carpal Tunnel in the pelvis/buttocks. Compression of the Pudendal Nerve occurs after trauma to the pelvis and is aggrevated with pressure. The pain is often described as a toothache like pain, with spasms, sensations of tingling, numbness, or burning. It can be very debilitating.

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