Promoting Passion Week 60: Fibromyalgia Awareness

Promoting Passion Week 60: Fibromyalgia Awareness

This is the year of giving back, or at least that’s what I’ve decided for myself. No official title, just an instinct that the more we give back, the more we get in return…and that is definitely true in this case, because today we’re talking about a disorder that I’ve carried with me for half of my life: Fibromyalgia. I was contacted a week ago by an amazing woman named Nancy who is helping to run the Caterpillar Walk in NYC coming up this May 9th. She asked if I would be a part of the walk in some way, either to spread awareness or help to sponsor, and I wanted to jump on board right away!

Given that the walk is called the Caterpillar Walk, and the symbol is the butterfly, I was instantly connected with that symbol and wanted to create art to raise awareness for Fibromyalgia. To be honest, I can’t believe I haven’t thought of it before! It might have been a subconscious act to not bring attention to my own weaknesses due to Fibromaylgia. After all, I don’t want to seem like I’m complaining. I have it much better than a lot of people. However, the time is right, I feel it in my heart.

So what I am asking is that we band together and create art based around the butterfly, either as symbol or a literal reference (Existing pictures are great too!). The butterfly is such a universally understood creature; we all start out as caterpillars and hope to grow into something beautiful and vibrant. In fact, this is the process we all undergo time and time again in our lives, no matter what the struggle or situation. So I feel it is a symbol that everyone can play with in their own way.

Create an image centered around butterflies, and post that picture as you would to your social media. And in that post, mention something about the Caterpillar Walk if you are so inclined, or simply put a link to some information about Fibromaylgia. The goal is to spread the word about a disorder that is very often invisible, since the symptoms do not manifest in any obvious way.

Post your images in the comments section here so that I can send them all in to the lovely people running the walk. And if you can join me in NYC on May 9th for the walk, I’ve got a group put together called Brooke Shaden’s Butterflies, so we can walk together! If you would like to donate to the cause, you can do so under my fundraiser.

Fibromyalgia is something I was diagnosed with when I was 14 years old. Before that I used to wear a knee brace to school, and I started realizing something was odd when I couldn’t remember which knee hurt the day before because my symptoms would shift, so I would switch knees for the brace every other day. Soon kids at school noticed too, and they would question if I was telling the truth about the pain or if I was just doing it for attention. The truth is, Fibromalgia is widespread pain, and every day it manifests a little bit differently.

I count my journey a lucky one. After all, I learned from my mom, who has Lupus, how to push through and conquer. Plus, so many have it so much worse than I do. So I am raising awareness for those who suffer in ways far worse than myself, that they might not feel so alone. And even more importantly, I’m willing to support any cause that reminds us of how little we can see of someone else until we really ask the right questions. We never know what someone else is going through, so let’s be kind and show just how great our capacity for love is.

Where: NYC, Hudson River Walk
When: May 9, 2015
Why: To raise awareness for Fibromyalgia and funds that go to National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association
How #1: Create an image with a butterfly and submit it in this blog post!
How #2: Donate to the cause under Brooke Shaden’s Butterflies!

To read more about Fibromyalgia (click to make bigger):

..And for more on the walk:

114 thoughts on “Promoting Passion Week 60: Fibromyalgia Awareness

  1. Hi Brooke, there are many Fibromyalgia suffers that have had great success with dietary interventions, have you looked into that and given it a try? Specifically going grain free.
    Beautiful images as always, all the best with the worthy cause!

    1. Hi Peter! Yes indeed, diet is a big deal for me. I am much, much better than I used to be and I thank my diet. I eat a whole food, plant based vegan diet making sure I get a lot of nutrients. It has helped tremendously 🙂

  2. Such a beautiful cause. I cannot wait to make an image for this. I too suffer from it and understand the pain. I feel like there are so many women who suffer from this and it is just another thing that can bring us together and help us bond. As women, we need to build each other up.

    1. Thank you so much Jerry! Amazing images, truly. You can post a link directly to that image here, or this will work out great for now and we’ll be in touch if we need a different format 🙂 At least everyone can view from here with your instructions 🙂

  3. I’ve had this exisiting image for awhile and when I read your blog entry, it came to mind. I approached it from my lifelong battle with anxiety and wanted to portray that beautiful things can come from the struggles that hold us back – I think it fits here too 🙂

    Thank you for being a voice for those who are suffering and using your creativity and passion to inspire hope.

  4. Hi Brooke what an amazing pictures and What a lovely Butterfly’s, this is the animal i want to come back afer my life. Thanks to sharing this. I can’t come to this event for that i have done a little donation. And I will be a little buterfly that join you that day.

  5. I love these pictures and once again that magic color that you give to your work. Personally I cannot be in new york on 9 May. How I would like to be! But it is not possible! It is certain that I cannot be physically, but I’ll be there in thought. You can count on that. And you can also count that this week I will start to work on an image centered on a butterfly. Wish you a beautiful week. Send you an inspiring hug. <3

  6. omg these stopped me in my tracks! all your work does but these just BLEW ME AWAY. so incredible! i will definitely create for this before may!!! and again WOW i can NOT say how your art is so incredible!

  7. Hello Brooke,

    I have photographed for a cause. I graduated from high school this last June and took my first photography class that fall of 2013. I fell in love with it, found my passion, and decided to pursue and submit my AP Art 2-D Design portfolio in photography. It was extremely hard work, but I was nothing but dedicated. My high school photography teacher introduced me to you and I haven’t looked back since. I always make the time to read your blog posts and watch your videos. You are nothing but inspirational.

    My high school asked me to compete at State in Photography at the high school level. (This was a huge honor when only two of the top photography students of the school get to compete and I had just begun photography.) Later that year, one portrait was juried in the Springville Museum of Art, I received a FIVE on my AP Art 2-D Design Portfolio, AND awarded Best of Show in Fine Art Photography at the 2014 Utah State Fair. (If you would like to see that photo, let me know because I would be honored to receive your feedback) I want to share my passion with the world, express how vital it is to believe in yourself, and witness that belief transform into an achieved dream.

    Now I am working on getting my Associates degree in Graphic Design at a community college, in a few days I will be quitting retail to work at a local portrait studio to gain the experience I need, later I will attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and receive my BFA in Photography (Note how I said that I WILL attend this school. It will happen because I believe it will!) I just want to thank you Brooke, for all your passion and inspiration. I would not be nineteen and an award winning photographer without you. I cannot express how grateful I am towards you – words are superfluous. I have been following you over a year now and I love seeing your work change and grow. You have come far. I look forward to what the future has to offer you <3

    I will definitely create an image to help you raise awareness for Fibromyalgia!

  8. Oh lady, these new images are stunning. I really love the one where you are nude and being lifted away. Here is a butterfly image I did two nights ago! It’s sort of cheesy, as it was a lighting assignment. I have a few more in back stock that I need to edit, so maybe this will inspire me to get working on them. Cheers, Janelle

    Also, do you have any solo shows coming up this year? I would love to come and see your images in person.

  9. Lovely work as always Brooke 😀
    As a long time sufferer of Chronic Fatigue your story resonated with me, It affects my ability to shoot a lot of the time but I just push through it somehow… I guess my creativeness is a stronger force in me and helps me through it, I have never really told anyone I suffer from it because its a hidden disability that no one really gets so there is a lack of understanding for it so I suffer in silence.

    I wish we had a walk like this over here in Australia, hopefully with raising awareness through this campaign we can 🙂

    I’ve added two pics, the first one is a self portrait and second is of a very dear friend of mine:

  10. Here´s my version of bad days and good days…ä+kuvilla/_MG_0426-2.jpg

  11. This is a great cause Brooke. The images you are contributing are just wonderful. I love butterflies, but I’ve never had much luck taking pictures of them. I’ll see what I can do when the butterflies come out this spring.

  12. Hi Brooke!

    I’m creating a new series and I made one with a butterfly, so I wanted to post it here. Let me know what you think about it, I love your work!

    Wished I could be there for the Caterpillar Walk, but it isn’t possible for my to come to NYC as I’m a student and I live in Belgium. But I’ll think of you that day <3

  13. Your series with butterflies is simply lovely!
    About 6 months ago I was diagnosed with Hoshimoto’s Autoimmune Disease. For me it manifests itself in extreme fatigue, food allergies, constant nausea, and anxiety. I often get sick from using too much of my limited energy, but it is teaching me to use the little I do have intentionally. Like you, my disease is considered “invisible,” so I’m sure you understand the phrase, “But you don’t look sick.”

    These images are titled “Wall Flower.” (Butterflies are on the wall paper)

  14. Hi Brooke!!! I love this post and completely support you!! I too have fibromyalgia not as bad as some but some days are so hard. This past Saturday, I actually photographed a self portrait with the idea of butterflies in it, I have begun to work on it and when it is done I will post a link for you. As always you are a huge inspiration to me =)

  15. really inspiring and so glad you shared another part of your life and journey….<3 I'll hope to contribute in some small way….if not, i'll put my energy into the school in India.

  16. Your photography really inspires me to be better at the craft. As an older photographer who learned on non digital equipment, I am just learning to make decent photos again.
    My husband has fibromyalgia and I see what he experiences every day. I hope your Butterfly Walk is a huge success.

  17. One of the models I work with suffers from fibromaylgia as well, I am going to see if we can create something for this! I love the images you created, truly beautiful work.

  18. Hello Brooke 🙂
    You are such an inspiration to me so of course I would love to help with this cause. Here’s one of my image that I shot a couple of days ago after seeing your post. I made a crown and used the roses that my boyfriend gave to me on Valentine’s Day. I let the roses dry, and bought artificial butterflies and painted the whole thing gold. I hope we reach the donation goal!

    – Grace

  19. Hiya, :-), butterfly post using a picture from your workshop in NJ last June I attended.

    Did this quickly as I wanted to get one posted, before it was too late, which usually what happens, so not great, might replace it later (link will break if if I do, but website link would have new one).

  20. I hope you’re doing well! I saw that you were in the hospital, but I do hope that you get back up and running soon! <3 I suffer from multiple sleeping disorders that allow me to have little to no sleep almost all the time. I have constant nightmares, sleep paralysis, etc. Today I woke up with amnesia for almost an hour. I too suffer from extreme fatigue so I know exactly how you feel daily. My joints usually hurt but I always thought it may of been from sport in high school, I never thought there may of actually been something to define the constant joint pain I experience daily, they tend to get worse at night. Anyways, I just created this image and remembered that you were doing fibromyalgia awareness images including butterflies. I figured I would share my story and a new image with you as well! Keep up the amazing work and I do hope that one day we can meet and I get the chance to do amazing things along with you!

    This image is titled "Envelop"

  21. Love your blog. I have FM and lyme disease and CFS. I had not heard of this walk. I am also a digital artist. I will maybe do some art to contribute. Is there a cut-off date for the art?

  22. Brooke,
    I love the idea of this project and am honored to be able to contribute. I am inspired daily by your videos and images and think you’re so incredibly talented!

    I have created one image, inspired by yours, as well, I am also linking you up to a few of my older butterfly images in my collection. Please feel free to use what you like. Take care!

  23. Dear Brooke,

    I’m a brazilian woman and I d’ont speak english very well, so I ask you forgive my mistakes.
    I’ve got fibromylgia since 2000 and I saw your post on facebook about your blue (my favorite colour) butterflies and fibromyalgia and Isaw your magnificent photos.
    In a coincidence, I was drawing a dancing woman with a big butterfly at that moment.
    I would like to send you this draw as my humble collaboration at


  24. Hey Brooke,

    inspired from you, i start with fine-art a few month ago. Funny that my first picture is with butterflies 😉

    The printed text on the butterflies is from the german folk song “Die Gedanken sind frei” (Minds are free). The symbolism on this picture means, whatever pull you down in life, your minds are free.
    Hope you like it!


  25. Hello Brooke 🙂

    I’ve sent you an email and I would like first of all to thank you for your reply! 🙂 It was so inspiring! As I want to become a doctor I understand how much it’s important to fight against FM and to promote events to raise money in order to promote the research.
    Here is my image:

    I will donate to AFSA next week as I did with ALSA.

    Thank you very much Brooke.
    Claudio Girleanu

  26. I must say that the information in the pamphlet or flyer, is incomplete, when it states that there is no cure for FM.

    There are many many options for the treatment of FM, CP and many other medical conundrums that cause misery!!

    If one reviews all the history of medicine from ancient times until the present, especially in the middle of the last century there were physicians who dedicated their entire careers to uncovering what is most accurate when it comes to the treatment of many types of pain syndromes.

    Here are these pioneers of pain therapies: Gunn, Travell & Simons’, Rachlin, Baldry, Seems, Helms, Rapson, Starlanyl, Hackett, Cyriax, Craig, Gokavi, Lennard, Burke, DiFabio and Pybus, B.J./D.D. Palmer, Wyburn-Mason and Chaitow.

    Here are all of the names of all there therieses:
    The Holistic Healing Recipe-Self: Daily self-care with a wholesome diet, extra vitamins and Magnesium supplements, exercise, stretching, yoga, heating with pads or hot tubs, Epsom soaking, massage, chiropractic spinal adjustments and most importantly sleep hygiene.

    The Holistic Healing Recipe-Assisted: If you get too far behind or do not seem to be able to completely restore to wellness, then you must seek out the “most profound igniter of healing” needles. I’ve witnessed the healing power which can only be ignited with needles; myofascial acupuncture, dry/wet needling, GunnIMS and Travell’s TrP injections and various other Bio/Prolo/Neural hypodermic injections.

    What has happened in the last 20 yrs?
    There are some in the medical and scientific communities who have allowed these holistic and safe treatment options to be hidden behind a door labeled “unprovable,” pseudoscience,” “anecdotal,” or “quackery.”

    Business men can then consult with insurance companies to modify and justify removing these safe treatments from your benefit packages. Why? To save money and increase profits.

    Then these medical scientist and businessmen can lobby professional and governmental agencies, like the AMA, FDA and NIH to removed these safer options from policies, procedures and standard of care protocols.

    Then these lavishly paid medical scientist, businessmen and Lobbyist can lobby Congress, other governmental regulators and policy makers to write draconian laws protecting this complex and convoluted scheme from being discovered and uncovered!

    All of these powerful forces and entities are leaving all Americans without the proper freedoms to choose what is in their best interest. Thus negatively affecting your constitutional rights to live life at its fullest, be free of pain and to pursue happiness.

    Yes, I was confused too, until I discovered those test books full of many holistic, safe, highly effective and therapeutic treatments. Now my mission is to help people understand why they have to live in long-term pain and misery. Call your congresspersons.

  27. This image took me a while to put together – I wanted to really think about the concept and how to express it. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia 8 years ago so it was great to have the opportunity to really look at how I feel about the part it plays in my life and how far I have come in that time. And while I don’t necessarily feel as light and free as a butterfly, I am able to lift my head during periods of aches and pains and have hope because I know it will pass.

  28. You and your work are amazing. I looked through your gallery and couldn’t find prints of your fibromyalgia butterfly images anywhere. Do you have them available for purchase? Thank you!


    Coincidentally, I already planned on doing a lot of art projects this year. I was going to be working with a friend who is a writer and said she would model for me. As we were discussing which projects we were going to start on I showed her some of your work and this was the first post we saw. She has fibromyalgia. It really seemed like everything was kind of coming into place for this to be my first serious Fine Art project.

    So I asked her what having fibro meant to her, in a word, and she said: Prison. ‘It’s like being in a cage..” So this is what I came up with. Frankly, it was a lot more like the picture chose me. I made her really small and fragile in a world of big, beautiful things that she can’t focus on because she’s locked in a cage of her pain.

    Thank you for all your years of inspiration, Brooke! I would not have started down this road without your constant influence.

  30. Hi Brooke! It’s been a challenge to quiet my brain and settle on one idea (there are about 30 working at the same time). That fact has cause me not to do anything, which is even more frustrating. But I wanted to join you in this effort so… here is one from a project I’ve been working on (can us guess my favorite color?). More to come. Thanks for always being so amazingly AWESOME!!!


    Hi Brooke! Thank you for your kind words and starting the Facebook group! You rock what can I say, other then the world is a better place because you are in it! 🙂 I am not sure if the color looks like it is suppose to after uploading to google drive, but it is the same image from Facebook just tightened up a bit. I also have two more images to send but they will come this evening. If there are any problems with color or if you need different resolution, size or file type please let me know and I will get that to you. I hope the images will help the fundraiser. I recently found out my mother is suffering from fibermialgia and know that she lives with pain daily. I am going to try to come to New York for the awareness march.
    Thanks Again Your Friend
    Chrystal Kelly

  32. Brooke, I almost forgot to share this on the blog post, but I’m so very glad I remembered.

    This photo took on a bit of a more personal meaning to myself in addition to fitting with your theme, and it also has to do with invisible illness and the rejection of it from a world that doesn’t understand.

    An idea that I’ve always carried with me since I was a small child was that broken things are more beautiful than things that are perfect – they’re more interesting, they have a story, there is something it must overcome. I think that we as people are all broken a little bit, and that’s a show of our strength, our character, our beauty. A lot of the time, we don’t recognize it in ourselves, but it’s an absolute truth.

    I called this photograph “The Butterfly Tears”. I think it’s one of my best pieces, simply because it is one that’s about something that truly digs under my skin.

  33. I am so excited about all of the participation in Brooke’s image campaign- everyone’s art is so inspiring and beautiful. I am pleased to announce that the Caterpillar Walk has raised over $16,000 to date! I hope to meet some of you lovely people on May 9th in NY! You will have the opportunity to bid on Brooke’s images, as well as raffle items, including posters with the image campaign artwork! See you there!

  34. Dear Brooke… So I have my concept and images shot, all my stock prepared for my new image to take part in this gesture… but somehow I am just not ready yet to process and work on it. Sometimes an image just needs to mature before working on it 😉 But I thought I would include an existing image from my portfolio instead. Not my favourite image, but rather symbolic nonetheless:

    Love & Light

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