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I Contracted Spinal Viral Meningitis After A Photoshoot In A Swamp, And This Art Series Capture My Battle Against It (NSFW)

By / August 3, 2017

In October of 2015, I contracted Spinal Viral Meningitis. I caught this disease after photographing in a Louisiana swamp. I was not wearing any type of mosquito spray so there were around 200 bites over my body. Two days later, I fell ill. After two spinal taps, I was airvac-ed to Oschner’s Baton Rouge, then Oschner’s New Orleans and put in the cardiac intensive care unit. In total, I was hospitalized for two months, over a course of five hospitals. With the love and support of my now husband, friends and family, I recovered and healed. I could never have made it without them. It was the scariest and worst pain of my life but I endured. It made me appreciate how special time is, how fortunate I am to have such amazing, understanding friends that surround me, and how life is so fleeting. We must make the most of every single day. While I was sick, my husband was my fiance. He stuck with me through the toughest time of our life and waited for me to walk down the aisle to him. “In sickness and in health” has a totally new meaning now.

For a while, I kept this series to myself but many friends encouraged me to share because it could relate to someone or validate their feelings to let them know they are not alone. It’s so comforting (and almost therapeutic) to have an actual visual representation of what you feel inside- something to which is much harder to do with words. I’ve had this idea in my mind for a while now…to document or recreate my inner emotions from the whole meningitis experience into photographs. I created these images when I was very ill. I suffered from not only the illness, but also the subsequent depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. I felt like a pin cushion and when the pain was too much to bear I relapsed into self-harm. However, I didn’t create these images as a reminder of the pain, or to be depressing, or to seek attention. I created it as a reminder of how far I’ve come. When I look at these images, it also gives me a great deal of positivity and hope and drives to move forward. The worst is behind me and I am improving every day.

In October of 2015, I contracted Spinal Viral Meningitis. This is an image of my husband holding me while I slept in the hospital

I caught this disease after a photo shoot in a Louisiana swamp. It was the scariest and worst pain of my life but I endured

I suffered from not only the illness, but also the subsequent depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. I found that it’s comforting to have an actual visual representation of what you feel inside so I created a photo series showing my experiences and feelings.

I felt like a pin cushion with all of the hospitals and shots

Photograph of the aftermath of all of the shots, needles, and IV’s

It resembled physical abuse markings though ironically they were from the only thing that was saving my life.

I was a skeleton of myself from being unable to eat. I couldn’t hold my self up

I was scared, depressed, beaten down, and in pain.

I eventually relapsed into self-harm (which I do NOT condone) due to my depression and anxiety

I decided to add these two images to the series when I read about “The Butterfly Project”. It helped me go into recovery from self harm

“The Butterfly Project”
“When you feel like you want to cut, take a marker, pen, or sharpies and draw a butterfly on your arm or hand. Name the butterfly after a loved one, or someone that really wants you to get better. You must let the butterfly fade naturally. NO scrubbing it off. If you cut before the butterfly is gone, you’ve killed it.”

Though not a part of my original series, I kept photographing my inner thoughts and feelings as I was healing from the illness and still battling depression and anxiety

I was drowning in my own depression, pain, and hopelessness.

Not a part of my original series, but a part of my inner thoughts and feelings

Reaching for a glimmer of hope, but feeling like I didn’t deserve it. Feeling guilty for putting my family through everything.

This one was to portray the way even though I felt so weak and powerless on the inside, I had to look and act perfect

Put on the makeup. Wear nice clothes. Get up even though you do not feel like it. Fake it.

This image portrays finally getting the courage to search for the light

For hope of recovery. With the help of my family and friends I recovered and came out of it a different and better person.

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