I wrote an article back in January about my struggle with anxiety and my illness. If you haven’t read it, please take a moment to do so, because it will give some backstory to what I am about to write without having to repeat it.
Basically, a couple of years ago, before I started really getting back into film photography, I was suffering from horrible anxiety. I explained it all in length in the aforementioned article, but now I wanted to give sort of an update.
It is a special kind of hell living with a mind that just doesn’t feel safe in certain situations. If you have anxiety disorders then you know what I mean. If you don’t, then the easiest way I can explain it is picture yourself in any moment in your life where you felt out of control. Picture that fear that you felt. Remember the uncertainty of that moment. Now what if everyday situations made you feel that fear?
My doctor told me it would never be cured, I would deal with anxiety in some form or another for the rest of my life. I remember one therapist I went to as a young teenager told me that my anxiety issues were like a stack of books, and as I grew older, if it kept going untreated, that stack would rise above me and I would never be able to get out of its shadow. That has always stayed with me, because it proved to be true.
After my first very traumatic stay in the hospital, I had so many bad experiences with doctors that slowly I began to fear going to them. I was diagnosed with PTSD and my anxiety grew so bad that weeks before an appointment I’d be pacing back and forth at home. I tried breathing apps, meds, lavender, everything, but it just kept getting worse and stress only made my Crohn’s and colitis flare up worse. Then every hospital stay I’d come out even more damaged than before.
As I mentioned in that article, film photography and creating videos for my YouTube channel has given me something to feel proud of again and my love for vintage cameras has given me something to distract myself from the sadness, fear, and pain I have had to deal with this past year.
When I go to an appointment I carry a small camera with me and on the drive there I am so focused on what shots I can take from my window that I forget where I am going. I even take pics inside sometimes.
During the appointment, I think about what photographs I will be able to get when we leave. A lot of my doctors are located by the water, so I actually look forward to going there.
My PTSD was so bad for a while that I could not look at the view below, because it was my view for two months in the hospital. If I looked at it, I felt sick to my stomach. Slowly as I have made new memories, going to doctors appointments near the hospital, I have replaced those bad feelings with good. Now I can look at this view and appreciate its beauty again.
I have finally gotten some answers about why my left side has numbness and tingling, as well as the extreme pain I was going through after my last hospital stay. (If you don’t know what im talking about here’s another article.) That has helped some of my anxiety subside. It is so important, as a patient of any sort, to seek out the answers. I have learned that not all doctors know what they’re talking about. I have almost always had to do my own searching for answers. If you’re going through any kind of illness, search for those answers until you get them.
My fiancé has been a huge support for me as well. She always comes with me to my appointments, which helps my anxiety as well. This allows me to sit in the passengers side and take pictures to and from my appointments. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have someone in your life who understands your illness, or who is patient with your anxiety.
There are a lot of people out there that would say tough love is the answer, or you’re being weak because the mind is something you can control. “Its all in your head.” Emotional pain is not something that can be seen so it’s often swept aside as a weakness. To me that’s like saying a virus in your computer is just your computer being weak. Get an antivirus program and suck it up. That virus meanwhile does irreparable damage to your computer. Even after it’s been removed it’s never the same.
I have always loved art. When I was in elementary school, the assignments often would ask, what do you want to be when you grow up? My answer was always an artist. I did grow up and got two degrees in Art. When I was diagnosed, I had to quit my job at an ad agency and I opened my own business as a website designer. I hated it. I didn’t like the technical, I only liked the artistic parts of designing the site. Soon because I was running it alone, and as I grew sicker, the stress became too much. I had to shut it down. That has always haunted me.
Somehow though, now that I have been doing film photography, I am finally feeling those feelings of accomplishment again. While it isn’t making me any money, it has given me something much more valuable.
I have always expressed my self through art. When I would feel sadness, I would often draw and you could see my feelings in the strokes I took with my pencils.
Now when I am feeling something, I express it with my photography. I feel an urgency while taking the pictures and even though they may not all come out as something artful, I have found that my best work is often when I was feeling something at the time.
I decided to write this article because I mentioned on my instagram that I often took my cameras with me to appointments as a therapy camera. Kind of like a companion dog. I received many messages from people saying that they suffer from anxiety as well and they were going to give this a try.
I hope if you are reading this and you suffer from anxiety, this gives you something to try. I know how scary it can be when you feel as if you’re out of control. Even if it’s not photography, find something you’re so passionate about that you can’t ignore it.
Here is another article I wrote on this subject.
Until next time, stay motivated, and keep shooting.