Yesterday we were at the Winter's Art Market with Feel Good Fair at St George's Hall, Liverpool, organised by Open Culture. I want to share with you not only a bit about the market, but also about how I coped as an ME sufferer. I don't talk about my ME much here, but I think this is an important topic, and having shared some of my story with customers yesterday, I would like to share it here, too.
The market itself was a buzz of activity. From when we arrived just after 9, til when we left just after 5, there was a really positive atmosphere. It oozed creativity, there were over 100 stall holders alone! There was Christmas music playing all day, and the buzz of voices echoed around. I saw more people than I have all year, and had some wonderful conversations with utter strangers - about the content of my photographs, my health and my education. It was lovely to engage in this, as I have suffered from anxiety for years, and to be able to interact is something I am really pleased about.
The interest in Pet Portraits was huge, and has spurred me on to complete that section of this website. Many people were also interested in my photographs, and the shop will hopefully be launched within the week! I believe I was also interviewed for Kensington Community Radio - do send me a message if you heard it - though I have to say I have no idea what I said ;)
Anyway, me and my husband suffer from ME/CFS. This is a chronic illness, with symptoms as diverse as extreme fatigue, constant aches and pains in muscles and joints, gastric problems, headaches and sore throats, sleep problems, and cognitive difficulties. Just climbing the stairs can be a marathon, so doing the Arts Market was... Well, excruciating! Due to having major sleep problems, just waking before midday is a challenge, and getting up at half 7 after less than 4 hours sleep wasn't easy. Sitting in an upright chair without head support was exhausting, and I borrowed my hsuband's walking stick to be able to stand and converse with people. I disappeared for a massage at the fair for half an hour as I have an extremely bad back which the NHS won't fund help for. I had to call in my father-in-law to do all the loading and unloading in the morning and evening, as neither of us can lift anything. And when we returned home before 6pm, we were only able to throw a pizza in the oven, and curl up in bed to eat it. Neither of us could stand, my husband was collapsing, and we were too fatigued to talk and in too much pain to move.
So why did we put ourselves through doing that? Because it is my dream to be an artist and photographer, and the only way to make it happen is to get into the world and show them what I'm made of. I put a grin on my face and lift my voice so they don't see the pain inside. I hide the bandages on my legs which help me stand up. I disguise my inabilitiy to hold me head up with scarves. I hide heat packs under my clothes to ease the pain. For people to see my work, the pain is worth it. It's now the afternoon after, and I have only moved to go to the bathroom. I don't know when I will make it downstairs today - we will have to move at some point to eat. This is life with ME. This is why I can't work, this is why your commission may take longer with me than someone else. But know that I will put my heart and my energy into it, and I will reach perfection no matter what it takes. It's not a pity story, it's an insight into my life.