The Blue Ribbon © Sarah Allegra, Model: Katie Johnson. ME’s awareness ribbon color is blue.
May 12th – what is it?
We are rapidly approaching May 12th.
Why is that important?
May 12th is recognized across the globe as Invisible Illness Day. Though most people are unaware of its significance… which is part of the problem.
It’s a day for bringing more awareness to diseases like fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, Lyme disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s Disease, along with many others. Diseases which can have horrific, devastating effects on the person’s life, yet may not outwardly show. They can be completely disabling, and the patient still looks “normal” to the world.
And of course, this list includes myalgic encephalomyelitis, or ME, which I have.*
What ME is –
I’ve spoken quite a lot about ME on my blog, so a lot of you probably know the basics of it. But for anyone new, here’s a quick summary. ME is a neurological disease defined, in part, by:
And so on. Because ME affects every system of the body, in a way somewhat similar to multiple sclerosis, the symptoms can vary from person to person, but these are the classic signposts of the disease.
I have what would be defined as a “moderate” case of ME. A mild case would be someone who could still maintain a somewhat normal life, but would probably need extra recovery time after big events, help lifting heavy objects, etc. Moderate, like what I have, is someone who can’t work a normal job, is partly or completely house-bound, may not be able to drive and has a great deal of their life impacted by the disease. Their world becomes much, much smaller and quieter. Severe cases… you wouldn’t wish them on your worst enemy. These are people who are completely bed-bound, unable to care for themselves in the most basic ways, unable to tolerate any light, sound or touch. They lay in dark rooms in silence, often on morphine drips for their severe pain… and this can last for decades. It’s been described as “a living death,” and for good reason. It’s truly horrifying. This is often the time when patients try to take their own lives.
Vanity’s Murder © Sarah Allegra, a self portrait
My Kingdom Of ME video –
I would like to say that I spent a great deal of reflection on coming up with the idea of my bed being my kingdom, but it was more of a response to thinking, “Shit, I have this video… now I need a name for it…” But I think it holds true despite it’s spur-of-the-moment conception.
When you spend the vast majority of your time inside your house, it becomes your entire world. If, on a good day, I take Calantha for a walk around the block, I feel like a Viking setting off to explore new lands (but not planning on Blood Eagle-ing anyone). If my house is my world, my bedroom is my home, and my bed becomes my kingdom.
Though it is a queen-sized kingdom, it is a kingdom nonetheless. This is where I am most myself, most honest, most raw, most pure. I spend most of my time here, in my PJs, hair a mess and no makeup (because who’s going to see it, I don’t feel like putting it on, and I especially don’t feel like washing it off). This room is most set up for my comfort and is bent to my will. Why is there such a huge pile of stuff always on my nightstand, or next to my side of the bed? Because then I can reach it easily, no matter what state I’m in. Geoff’s side is spick and span, while mine is a crazy jungle, but that’s how it has to be. In this whole world of things which cause us pain and discomfort, we need there to be someplace that is designed for us. That is, usually, our beds. And in my bed, I rule.
In Between Awake And Asleep – © Sarah Allegra, a self portrait
My art and my Enchanted Sleep series –
Some people are surprised to learn I have a chronic illness, especially one which confines me to my house and bed so much, since I seem to produce a lot of art. It’s all the result of very careful planning of everything. I keep my shoots very short and I plan several concepts I can shoot one right after the other while I have my model. My shoot is usually the only major thing I have planned for the week. Actually, it’s usually the only major thing I have planned that month. If we’re driving to a location, my model will usually drive us since I’m often feeling too tired. I try to bang out as many concepts as I possibly can, then I crash. Usually the next two or three days will be awful, and I will pay dearly for my shoot. But after that starts to wear off, I can sort through my images and work on editing them… which is only possible because I can do that with my laptop while lying in bed. If I had to sit at a desk, I could not be a photographer.
Using my laptop and my Wacom tablet, I can create art again. There was a while as I was getting sick where I was truly terrified that art would be taken away from me. In one sense, that did happen, since I had to put away the pencils and paintbrushes which became too painful to wield, but art abhors a vacuum as much as nature does, and photography quickly sprang up in its place, with help from my photographer husband.
Photography has given me a voice. But it’s more than that. It’s given a voice to all of us who suffer from these invisible illnesses. When I started shooting the images which would become a part of my Enchanted Sleep series, portraying what life with ME is like, I never dreamed that other people with illnesses would flock to it like they have. I unintentionally tapped into an underserved community, and those within it have made their approval loudly known. I didn’t set out to capture anything but my own experiences, but in doing so, I captured all of ours.
Spoon Theory © Sarah Allegra – a self portrait
This is why you should care –
ME alone effects millions across the globe. There are millions and millions more who bear other invisible illnesses, and you might have no idea that they carry these with them everywhere they go. Most likely, you know someone with one of these illnesses, though it might be undiagnosed. Most of the invisible illnesses tend to be diagnoses of exclusion; meaning there’s no one test for this disease, so you have to rule out EVERYTHING else that it could be before you decide what it is. It’s a long, grueling process, and not everyone really wants to know what’s wrong with them anyway. For me, I couldn’t stand not knowing.
Your aunt who often complains of pain? Your friend who frequently has to cancel plans? Your sibling who gets migraines which always come at the worst times? They may have one of these diseases.
The online chronic illness community (spoonies, we call ourselves) is extremely supportive, but we need to have healthy people on our side too. We need real changes to be made in the world, and frankly, we are too ill to do it all on our own.
These are not diseases which merely dampen our fun or mildly cramp our style, these are diseases which kill. Sometimes that death is a suicide, as the patients cannot stand the suffering any longer. Even if left to more “natural” courses, these illnesses are evil thieves and rob us of years. They take away our livelihood, our joys, our passions and, eventually, our lives.
How many more of us have to die before the world pays attention?
Unjust © Sarah Allegra – model: Aly Darling
A DreamWorld/Enchanted Sleep crossover print giveaway!
I try to always do something around May 12 to help bring awareness to ME and its sister diseases. This year, I’m going to be giving away a print of a brand-new image… one which won’t be revealed until May 12th itself. It’s going to be a really, really great image though, I can promise you 🙂
This one will feature model Katie Johnson, and it’s so complicated, I’ve been working on it on and off for about two years. I had to put it aside for a long time until I upgraded my laptop. The file size was SO huge, I could only work on it for about ten minutes before it would crash my entire computer. Obviously, that didn’t work for me. It’s still a monster of a file, but on the new machine it only crashes Photoshop every few days, which is much better..
This image will be very unique in that it straddles both DreamWorld and Enchanted Sleep, a foot in each world like the Pillar of Hercules. No other image of mine does this. It will be a first on several fronts!
Another thing about this image that’s special is that it will be the first to be printed on my new, museum-quality paper of choice: Hahnemuhle pearl paper. You really have to see it to believe it. It is a thick, luscious paper with a bit of texture to it, similar to watercolor paper. What pushed me over the edge into switching to this paper though, is the very subtle, pearlescent shimmer built into the paper. It is magic. And it compliments the ethereal nature of my work so well, it seemed we were made for each other.
Did I mention that this special new print is a $400 value?
Is your interest peaked? Want to win the print for yourself? Instructions are right below. 🙂
A Fading Girl © Sarah Allegra, model: Brooke Shaden
This is how you enter –
Here’s how this giveaway works. It’s going to be very easy and there are quite a lot of ways for you to enter!
First thing: subscribe to my blog if you haven’t already. There’s a button in the upper right-hand section of the screen for you to enter your email address (which you may do safely, without fear of spamming or other annoyances). Do that, then move on to step two:
You have your choice here! You can either:
You can do all of those, too! One note, if you choose to retweet any of my tweets, each new retweet will count as an entry. I’ve given you quite a lot to choose from, mainly because I couldn’t narrow it down myself any more! 😉 So, for example, if you retweet all 11 tweets, that will count as 11 entries for you. However, if you retweet the same tweet more than once, that does NOT count at as extra entry. The maximum possible Twitter-related entries you can get is 11. The same idea goes for the other social networking sites too. If you share my Facebook post, that’s an entry. If you share the same post twice (which I’m not sure you can do, but let’s say for argument’s sake that you can), then you still only get one entry.
And lastly, whichever social media platform you decide to use to enter the contest from, you must like/follow me there (and here on the blog) for the entry to count!
We Rise Again – © Sarah Allegra, a self portrait
And a couple of other ways to enter –
Now, those are all very important ways for you to enter the contest to win a gorgeous print for yourself. A large part of why the entries are based in social media is to help raise more awareness about ME (and other invisible illnesses) by word of mouth. However, there is another way you can get more entries for yourself.
Any purchases on ANY of the items I sell from today, May 4th, through midnight, PST, May 27th will count as entries! This means that EACH INDIVIDUAL ITEM that you buy counts as its own entry. If you buy five t-shirts from my Red Bubble shop, that’s five extra entries for you!
And on top of the purchases going toward extra entries for you, 25 PERCENT of ALL PROFITS on ALL ITEMS purchased will be donated to the Microbe Discovery Project! The Microbe Discovery project is a wonderful organization here in the US actively looking for a cause and cure for ME. I strongly believe in what they do, which is why I have chosen them to benefit from my sales.
It’s a very win-win situation! You get to buy whatever it is that you’ve had your eye on, you get extra entries into the print giveaway and ME research is supported at the same time!
On May 29th, I will randomly pick one winner from all the entries and that person will receive the print! It will be signed and numbered and shipped to wherever you live, even if it’s the other side of the world! 🙂
One last note about purchases, if you make a purchase, please leave a comment here on the blog and tell me what you purchased and where it was from. Some of the sites I sell through hide the buyer’s info from me, so I won’t always be able to tell who bought what. I want to make sure your purchases are properly accounted for!
Martyrs To A Name © Sarah Allegra – models: myself and Aly Darling
This is what I sell –
So, that probably leaves you wondering, what is it that I sell? Well, quite a lot of things, actually!
I sell museum-quality fine art prints both through my Etsy shop and my gallery representative.
Prices are the same regardless of where you buy, so there’s no need to worry about having “hiked-up gallery prices” 🙂 My Etsy shop also has a few pieces of “wearable art,” some of which is inspired by DreamWorld characters and some of which was inspired by The Last Unicorn! There’s also a whole section of ME-inspired images from my Enchanted Sleep series!
Through my Red Bubble shop I sell all of the following items with my images on them:
Aly took and sent me this lovely shot of her carrying her tote bag! It was a bit strange at first to see my friend carrying a bag with my face in it 😉 We we both quite thrilled with the quality and according to Aly, it’s been getting tons of compliments and the straps are the perfect length!
And for something even more special, I also host a very unique online photography class, INTROSPECTIVE: A Photographic Quest.
INTROSPECTIVE is much more about self-discovery than it is about knowing what f-stops are or having fancy equipment. You don’t even have to have an actual camera; your phone will do perfectly well! The course emphasizes self portraits as a way to get to know yourself better, but the definition of “self portrait” here is quite loose. You never have to appear in an image unless you really want to. What I mean by “self portrait” in this case is simply any photograph which shows me something about who you are as a person!
This is a very relaxed, reflective class. There are no grades and no wrong answers! For eight weeks, you will receive a new theme each week and your assignment will be to create an image around that theme which reflects you. Love, joy and fears, for example, are all things you would be asked to create around.
This class is very unique! I modeled it after my own journey of self-discovery as I started taking self portraits. The art therapy was so helpful and healing to me that I wanted to give that back to the world in some way, so I created INTROSPECTIVE!
And as an extra bonus, here’s a special coupon code for INTROSPECTIVE! Use the code May12ME25 to take 25 percent off the cost of the course! Now that’s a win-win-win!!
Silenced © Sarah Allegra: model Travis Weinand
Wrapping up –
I know you guys hear me talk about ME quite a lot, but here’s the thing. It matters. It really, really fucking matters.
There is so much confusion, misunderstanding and so many flat-out lies about ME that we all need to work extra hard to shine the light of truth on it. It’s not all the public’s fault; after all, they’ve been lied to by medical professionals for decades. It all came unraveling in the 80’s when ME’s name was intentionally changed to “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” and given the belittling nicknames of “the yuppie flu,” “the disease of depressed, menopausal women” and, more recently, “fat, lazy housewife disease,” just so insurance companies could deny patients coverage.
ME does not discriminate. It does not target people by color ,gender, social status or age. It attacks anyone and everyone it can. It destroys lives. It brings promising careers to grinding halts. It is not a way to “get a free ride;” we struggle just to sit up and get out of bed.
It could be your sister. It could be your boyfriend or girlfriend.
It could you.
How many more lives have to be sacrificed on the alter of insurance companies’ desires to not pay out before we get change? How many more patients have to take their own lives in despair? How many more seriously ill patients have to endure the most hateful slurs you can imagine being thrown at them? How many doctors will sigh, roll their eyes and tell us there’s nothing wrong with us psychically, that our problems are all in our heads?
We cannot let this happen to one more person. Too many have endured this already.
We have the power to make radical changes. We have the power to change society’s view of us, to force the government to give us proper funding, to stop treating us like Cinderella instead of their own daughters. We have the power to unlock the mystery of ME and find a cure. We CAN do this. But we must come together, make our voices heard and DEMAND it. It will never be easily handed to us. Too many huge companies are invested in not spending any money on those with ME. But while history shows us many ugly truths, it also shows us that we, the common people, have great power in our hands to bring about the changes we want.
We just have to ask for it loudly enough.
Please join me in demanding change for patients with ME. Things cannot continue the way they are any longer.
And as you help me advocate for invaluable change in the world, you’ll also be giving yourself a chance to win a gorgeous, fine art print 🙂 Help me with this. And thank you.
Embedded tweets are just below!
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3 Good Days © Sarah Allegra, a triple self portrait
[*Because the United States does not officially recognize the name “myalgic encephalomyelitis,” despite decades of public outcry for change and hundreds of thousands signing petitions, they continue to stick to “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” or “fibromyalgia.” Depending on which doctor of mine you talk to, I may have three different diagnoses. The US is especially complicated in how it defines – or, rather, it’s lack of definition – the differences between the three so it’s impossible to talk about one in the US without talking about all of them. For the record, they are NOT all the same disease, but that is essentially how the US treats them. I know that what I have is ME and not the other two, but many of my doctors had not have heard of ME until I told them about it. ME has scientific, diagnosable guidelines, which I fit, but the country still refuses to adopt the name and its excellent guidelines. If you’re interested in learning more about why this is, here’s an article for you, but for this post, I will leave the subject there.]
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