Atlanta, GA,
14:41 PM

Making Invisible Symptoms Visible

Creating art allows Julia Nieves to see her multiple sclerosis in a new light.

Julia Nieves

Julia Nieves, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2014, was looking for a way to deal with the physical and emotional challenges of living with the disease. 

She used to sew and draw when she was younger and reconnected with her creative side during the pandemic when she began working with an expressive arts therapist/coach. 

“Not only did I need an outlet to express myself, but I also wanted to create more space in my life for fun, laughter, and joy,” says Julia (who pronounces her name HOO-liah). 

In the last year, Julia has created paintings, quilts, photographs, and digital art that portray the various MS symptoms she feels, such as vertigo, “wobbliness” when walking, balance issues, and fatigue, all of which impact her daily life. She has even compiled this art onto her website,

“Art has allowed me to make the un-seeable reality of living in my body visible first to myself and then to my family and friends,” Julia says. “Seeing a visual representation of what it feels like to be dizzy and off-balance that existed outside of my body was absolutely liberating for me! I immediately felt less alone.” 

Julia says the medium she uses on any given day depends on how she feels. On a “good day” with little fatigue and more energy, she might choose to sew or paint. On other days when she’s not feeling as strong, she usually draws, writes, or takes photos to use later in digital art. 

Being able to find solace in art is just another example of Julia’s “can do” attitude. 

When she was first diagnosed, a doctor in Raleigh, North Carolina – where she and her family lived at the time - told her that all she could hope for was to slow the “inevitable decline” due to MS. That was not a satisfactory answer for Julia. 

“I had a pity party for about a month,” Julia admits. “But then I decided I would not be in a war with my body. I started looking for a doctor who believed things were possible before they were declared impossible.” 

She found that in the staff of the Andrew C. Carlos MS Institute at Shepherd Center after she and her family moved to Atlanta in 2016. 

“Shepherd Center is a community of compassionate, innovative, and skilled people who believe in and work for miraculous transformation on behalf of the people they serve,” Julia says. “It is an amazing place.”


Written by Sara Baxter

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.