Photographic Series: Invisible Illnesses

A deadly cocktail of medical help is quite often all medical specialists can offer to ease the pain.

A deadly cocktail of medical help is quite often all medical specialists can offer to ease the pain.

When I started my photography pursuits I never thought it would lead to this.

Every place I turn there seems to be people who feel confident enough around me to open up about their own invisible pains and turmoil. Quotes such as, “I just got sick of being judged so I don’t talk about it any more,” “no-one understands when I tell them so I just don’t bother” or worse yet to me, “They think I just want attention or am saying it to get out of working.”

Is this what illness is? Is this what we have brought upon ourselves or what society should think about an illness that is invisible? Why is it Cancer, Diabeties and even to some degree Depression are accepted and believed but not something like Anxiety, Lupus, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Why do we struggle to understand and believe these things happening to friends and family?

Should you pretend the pain is not there? Who would believe you if they can't see it anyway?

Should you pretend the pain is not there? Who would believe you if they can’t see it anyway?

Fibromyalgia hit me like a ten tone truck. The pain was extricating to say the very least but was still nothing compared to the pain I felt from friends and family who struggled to come to terms with what I was going through. Some family were great while others I can only imagine could not understand and thought I just didn’t want to work any more. It was not the first  time I had been told by a doctor that the pain I had experienced was all in my head but it was the first time I had gone from pregnant to menopausal in one sentence. After three years of wanting to chop off my arms or wake up from the nightmare I got a diagnosis. I cried for an hour after it. Finally someone could explain what was going on and I had a name.

So next you google your new prison. You need to find out what you can expect to be able to do and if you will ever get better yeah? Well the answer for me was not good. Never going to get better and may even decline with age. No cure and then BAM 75% chance your kids will develop it. Oh god you can’t even explain it. How on earth are you going to teach your kids the warning signs? This was the stage I was at. I needed to explain what I could feel but people were having trouble visualising it all as I said it.

There has to be a better way I thought. So you go back to google and look for pictures of invisible pain. Lots more words, a few people in jars/thorns and a couple of references to something called “The Spoon Theory.” Well that was a giant waist of time hey. This was leaving me a little flabbergasted. How can something be so under represented? Now I need to do something about this. I needed to push this issue and find a way within my new limitations to describe my pain in a visual format.

Just having finished a cert IV Photo Imaging at tafe I felt pumped about getting started. The next 12 months I would fine tune the ideas I had been getting during the last 6 months of tafe. All these things I had learnt about myself I was determined to show the world. Determined to convince others like me they are not alone. The sleepless nights channelled into nights of planning each image. Focusing on the pain to better be able to describe it to a model so they could portray it as I needed. Planning of each and every step. The symbols used in each image, the way the light rests on a model or amount of space around them. Everything had to work.

Submission to the pain in your body.

Submission to the pain in your body.

I ended up with 10 images of varied strength that represented everything I had felt up to that point in my journey. Little did I know that when the series was released at RAWartists;Glimpse it would have such a profound effect. One woman came up to me and was in tears as we talked about how she was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia 2 weeks prior. She could relate to every image with such intensity. Another person asked to show his workmates the series to open up a new way of thinking. People stood and talked to me or each other about the images and it gave such a good feeling to see people opening up in front of my eyes.


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