Several years ago, Debbie Deboo and Felicity McKee teamed up to co-found Chronically Fabulous, a body positivity project for the chronically ill. Both women are based in Northern Ireland, and they felt frustration at the way they and their chronic illnesses were treated by society and the healthcare system. They combined their talents — Debbie as a photographer, Felicity as a model — and created Chronically Fabulous. Debbie has been shortlisted for the Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year award (as well as an additional award from a local women's magazine) for her work.
Debbie tells BUST:
The project explores the visual dynamics of chronic and mental ill-health. Using strong and challenging poses and expressive facial dramatics heightened with accessories, the model and photographer, in intense collaboration, create a stark, shocking but also uplifting presentation of the huge challenges that profoundly affect the lives of those suffering mental ill-health and long-term illness. The project is advocacy for understanding and support.
Having a mix of physical and mental health issues is difficult and unfortunately misunderstandings about mental health means physical health issues can fall to the side, be ignored and remain unresolved. Regardless of whether someone has a mental, physical illness or both, that pain is real, it is a visceral pain and unless you felt it first hand you can't quite grasp what it's like.
Many people experience pain with no immediate cause or explanation, that doesn't make it less real for them or any less an issue deserving of help. In fact the unknown is an added pain to that lived pain, because until it has a definition, a word, a diagnosis it can be brushed aside. Even with a diagnosis, once it becomes the new normal the same happens yet again, except that lived pain, even though it's chronic, is anything but normal.
Looking in at another's pain isn't the same as feeling it. My work with Debbie Deboo can be fun, flamboyant and at times thought provoking and we hope express what we feel as people with chronic illness and also speak to others in similar situations visually when words fail. But also to help give expression to those on the outside looking in.
You can learn more about Chronically Fabulous on their Facebook page.
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