ME Awareness Day 2021

By 12 May 2021

I draw a lot of birds. I always have. When I am in bed, immobile, stationary I am lucky enough to have a window in my eye line. A few years ago I stuck a bird feeder on my window and I would watch as the blue tits gathered, the great tits and the grey with guest appearances from the wagtails. I was disappointed that more didn’t come. Then I watched the squirrels sneaking in and I had a resident pigeon living in the wisteria under my room. I would wake up to her melodious cooing all summer. I named her, she felt like mine. I also observed the pheasant couples, safe in our garden, content and seemingly in love, wagtails teaching their babies to fly and our black dog periodically tearing up our shoes. I no longer live in the country but where I am now I can see a big tree and my blue tits are back. Although now I have crows and magpies to watch too. And the cat that harasses them all.

The reason I so closely observe these animal lives is because I have severe ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis). I lie here day after day, my life revolves around my bed. I frequently criticise myself- ‘why am I not doing more, writing more, learning? Why do I suddenly not have interests and hobbies and projects? Why am not I being productive? Where has half my brain gone and why am I just lying here?!’ Then I remember that ME takes so much from you. Not only has it taken away my physical ability, crushing and restricting me with its fatigue, but it has stolen my mental, cognitive capacity. My memory is as slippery as water cupped in hands, the brain fog so thick it is like I’m in a dream. I feel poisonously drunk, like I’m constantly going to fall down a flight of stairs when I walk and have to desperately but subtlety touch walls, rails, anything that will help me find balance, to anchor me. Everything requires energy, everything. And I have so little of it.

For 16 and a half years this disease has hovered over my life in varying intensities the last four have been the most extreme. I would do so much to have my life look even a bit like my peers. I’m so sick of it and beyond angry that not more is done to help everyone with it.

I leave the birds I draw for the ME awareness cards deliberately partially coloured or uncompleted to represent, what I consider, my limited, half life. And to indicate my energy running out as I come to complete the drawing. I use inspiration from the artist Colin Chillag who uses multiple styles in his paintings, one of which is mixing the paint on the canvas over hyper realistic portraits. I mix my paints on the page too and leave some marks on the final image to indicate the process of the painting, and the messiness involved.

If you would like to support me by buying one of my Blue Tit cards please visit my Etsy shop where 50% of the profits go to the Open Medicine Foundation who are leading researchers of ME/CFS.

Thank you,

Ellie x

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