M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) or CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) is a devastating chronic neurological illness recognised by the World Health Organisation, which affects 28 million people worldwide. In countries all over the world, men, women and children are suffering from this illness which has no known cause or cure, unable to know when they will recover.
Various different treatments have been investigated, but there is no conclusive cure, and what has worked for some, has not for others. Many people have turned to alternative and complementary therapies such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, reflexology and kinesiology.
The symptoms of M.E./CFS include: severe fatigue and influenza-like malaise, pain and weakness in the muscles and joints, headaches, nausea, sore throats, irritable bowel symptoms, cognitive dysfunction (brain fog) and sleep disturbances. There are other symptoms such as oversensitivity to light, odours and sound, blurred vision, problems with co-ordination and balance, and many other physical symptoms that make the lives of these brave sufferers extraordinarily challenging. Many people are housebound or bed bound for long periods of time, unable to attend school or jobs, their lives devastated by this illness. Physical and mental activity can exacerbate symptoms, typically 24 or 48 hours later.
No-one knows for certain what causes M.E./CFS, nor is there a specific test for it. In many cases it starts with a flu-like virus which never seems to leave the body. Other cases show it can be caused by a traumatic event such as an accident. A diagnosis is made after a period of time (6 months), having excluded other conditions, and by the characteristic symptoms of this disease.
One of the most overwhelming and challenging aspects of this illness is a lack of belief, acceptance and respect for the sufferers of M.E./CFS from some people who insist on seeing it as ‘all in the mind’. This scepticism and lack of understanding and compassion is deeply distressing to people who are already in pain and showing tremendous courage and endurance on a daily basis.
With MEspace we are trying to provide an environment for creative expression that can be done from home. Art has a soothing energy that can help alleviate the symptoms of M.E. and enables the sufferer to express their feelings through paint, photography, creative writing and music. The creative process allows the mind to focus on something positive and creates a feeling of serenity and joy. Knowing others from around the world who have M.E./CFS are contributing art and stories from their different countries can be extremely uplifting and heartening to those who are feeling isolated, and can help them get in touch and befriend people from across the world.