OK, let's start this off by me saying that everything here onwards is related to my own experiences. In no way am I trying to guide or council anyone else about how they should deal with depression. This post possibly is self-help, I'm not sure, but for some reason, I feel It may do me some good to write this down.
Depression has life-changing effects on the people who suffer from it and those around them. The isolation, worry, and fear that comes with this invisible affliction can stall or even stop progress in your life. Those who like me, have this mental illness can often feel like they’re all alone in their struggles. But, according to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression, Wow not so much on my own really then.
If I'm honest, depression has been a companion most of my life, certainly since I was a teenager anyway. Its only recently after finally seeking help that I have come to realise just what a weight I have carried for so long. The last decade has been bar far the worst period which is hard to believe as the events over this time would be a blessing for most. Emigration to a new country and the birth of two wonderful children, who would not love life in my position?
No amount of support or kind words from friends can convince me otherwise. Happiness and success feel out of my reach. The ever-present self-doubt, like a grey fog, constantly engulfing my mind, always there with the voices chipping away at my self-esteem. That is until I picked up the camera. I'm not saying it is the answer or cure but it has certainly helped me through some of the darkest times. It's not easy but at last I have found a true passion in my life.
It's no secret that many artists and creative types suffer from mental illness. I know that personally, when I am at the bottom of my own well, I try to photograph, often feeling unmotivated, or like everything I make is rubbish. I try and let photography help me through. When I am feeling the pull-down, I plan trips. Trips often a year or more into the future , give me long term goals, I enjoy the planning and research it brings. Imagining new places, and creating real plans to get there, is usually enough to keep me from getting swallowed up. It's possible that this is me running away, but I prefer to look at it as a reset. I have been to many amazing places because of these trips: Iceland, New Zealand, Scotland, Bolivia, Chile and Australia. I never have enough money really, but for photography it doesn't bother me, the cheapest accommodation will do and often I have to live off a bag of chips and willpower to get myself around, it helps me cope with it, so I don't care.
Amazingly when I go away I leave my illness behind, or it stays locked away in its box at the back of my mind. Probably since I’m so focused on creating images, it lets me feel pure joy without analysing or judging myself. I feel no worry., I hear no voices. A feeling I crave so much now....to just to be happy!
I’ve come to understand a big part of my recovery is relearning. By this I mean I need to learn to know and like myself, who I am and what I want all over again. Somewhere long ago, I lost these things. Self-sacrificing to such an extent that I erased my own will and identity. Every time I’m out there with my camera, I gain back parts of me I thought lost or just can't remember. These are good experiences, moments to cherish that make a big part of my life worthwhile.
I am hoping that I can break this cycle, as each time the recovery seems longer, accompanied by a feeling of less energy than once before. When the bleakness really comes on full-force, no amount of trip planning can pull me out.
In the past I would wait for the next wave of depression to come crashing through my world , I always knew it would come back and probably always will , but just never knowing when. I am hoping now though to be more proactive with self-awareness., trying to recognise the signs, ( although sometimes you just find yourself in the middle of it again, with no idea where it came from). Instead of waiting, I am starting to try to shoot my way out of it and along with the trips, comes the need to be fit enough to go to the places I would like, so as a bye product I now take more exercise than I once did. In-tern not only good for my physical health but helps with the mental side of things too.
Look I still struggling with feelings of inadequacy, and loneliness. I'm trying to take deep breaths, reach out to friends, and keep pushing through. Possibly this is what the article is all about, trying to reach out? I am lucky to have my wife, and our children, and to live in a country of beauty to draw inspiration from. The world is a beautiful place and I want to see and capture as much of it as I can.
I have made a promise to myself to try to keep shooting, no matter what.