Crohn's Disease Awareness · film photography · health · life · mental illness awareness · Photo essay

Creativity and Managing Mental Health

Lately I have been fighting a bout of depression, self doubt, and just an all around lack of motivation to create. The other day Kelsey pushed me to go out and take pictures because she knew it was what I really needed to do. I took my Hasselblad to Tradition, FL and it really did feel good to take photos. I wanted to share them because I believe it is something we all go through when struggling with creativity and managing mental health issues.

Creative Ruts and Mental Health

I’m going to be honest, continuing this website and my YouTube channel has been a lot. It’s been a lot of good with meeting a lot of nice people in the community, being inspired and creative. Just being able to share what I love, film photography, has served as a badly needed distraction from dealing with my illness.

However, the negativity and stress has also been a lot. It may seem like nothing to other creatives, but putting in hours of taking photos, processing, scanning, editing, filming video, editing video, etc. with very little of the energy my body leaves for me to do anything other than fight an auto immune disease, among many other things, can be extremely draining.

Me: Exhausted

Small things like getting thumbs down on videos, after only a few days of posting it, can really hurt especially after all of the emotional weight put on it because it is my art and I am opening it up to strangers. Now don’t get me wrong, I am well aware that this comes with the territory. Many of you will be thinking this is what I get for making my work available to the public and putting myself out there. Why is that though? Why do people feel so emboldened to see someone’s work and give it a dislike or a critical comment?

When Too Much of a Good Thing Becomes a Bad Thing

I’m not going to lie, I have thought many times about stopping all of this. The stress alone can be debilitating, especially when dealing with a disease that is triggered by emotional and physical stress. Then I receive messages from kind people in the community saying how much my video has helped them, or a comment saying how much they enjoy my content, and that keeps me going another week. Those people are the reason I continue.

Kelsey developing some film

I genuinely love helping people in this community and talking to them about film photography. I’ve even had to recruit my fiancé to help me process film because there are days that I am just in too much pain, or too overwhelmed to do it myself. I absolutely hate doing this because I want it all to be my doing, but it is necessary.

Color Film Processing

Creativity and Managing Mental Health

I do believe constructive criticism is important as an artist. Constructive being the key word here. I’ve gotten many comments from people kindly suggesting how I could shoot a film stock next time or how I could try developing it, and I welcome that kind of dialog. After all that’s why we share isn’t it? To have a dialogue with other people who are engaging in the same arts as we are. However, when someone just thinks they know more than I do and they leave comments disparaging my inteligence and my ability to do these things, there is no purpose for that other than to hurt me. I ask kindly that if you feel the need to do this, please move along.

My health has been critical for the past 11 years with nonstop hospital and doctor visits. Countless procedures and medications have left me with more damage than the disease itself. Finding my love for film photography and the community that shares it has been a God send. I’ve written about that many times. I think it is this importance that makes it all the more difficult to bear the negativity.

I’ve recently had a respite from the never ending nightmare that’s been my life for the past decade when my current medication made me stable for a little over a year. I started to feel an urgency to live life while I could. Planning for a family, marriage, a new home, and more. Only one problem, now that I was well enough to live, a pandemic was stopping life totally.

I made the best of it anyway. Drowning myself in this blog and my YouTube channel hoping to soak up every ounce of this passion while I still could. I loved it so much, until two days ago when I had my routine test results come back. Until then, they had been trending downward and I really thought this next one would be it, the big R. The ultimate goal for anyone like me. Remission. Instead, my levels were suddenly as high as they were when I left the hospital two years ago.

It felt like a literal punch to the gut. All my plans, my hopes, and goals just like that, suspended and pushed farther out of reach. Up until now, all the little things I’d dreamed of that made up a normal life were always in the distance and just as I felt like I was closing the gap, I stepped in cement and the road to my dreams continued without me, further in the distance where I no longer can even see it.

A Roll of Portra in my Hasselblad

As you can imagine, this has put me into a bit of a depression. It has taken all I have to force myself to write this article. I constantly worry now about putting myself out there, but I have loved this far too much to let it end, and I hope it helps someone.

Hasselblad 500 c/m with Kodak Portra 800
Hasselblad 500 c/m with Kodak Portra 800

When Kelsey got me out to Tradition with my Hasselblad, I loved looking around for compositions. All the spring colors were popping and if my body would’ve let me, I could’ve gotten out of the car and walked for hours shooting all of the compositions catching my eye.

Hasselblad 500 c/m with Kodak Portra 800
Hasselblad 500 c/m with Kodak Portra 800

Unfortunately, my body doesn’t match the energy of my mind, but nevertheless, I caught several photos that I am really happy with. I hope you like them too.

Hasselblad 500 c/m with Kodak Portra 800
Hasselblad 500 c/m with Kodak Portra 800

We parked the car and I walked down an alleyway to get a photo of this classic Mustang. I was really scared because I wasn’t sure if the owner would come out and yell at me. I really had to fight all of the negative voices.

Hasselblad 500 c/m with Kodak Portra 800
Hasselblad 500 c/m with Kodak Portra 800

I processed the film myself in Cinestill C41, and I am really beginning to love processing my own color film. It’s a lot easier than black and white in that you don’t need different times and agitation for each roll of film.

Hasselblad 500 c/m with Kodak Portra 800
Hasselblad 500 c/m with Kodak Portra 800

Keep Going

I’ll continue my channel and this website because it is what I love. I don’t think I could live without expressing myself creatively. Film photography has become the outlet that I need. I hope you’ll continue to follow me and I hope you’ve enjoyed my content so far. If you are experiencing depression, or are in a creative rut, keep going. All we can do is keep going. There is no other alternative. Why not do it while creating beautiful things?

To hear more about my day out shooting and my experience with mental health, you can watch my video below.

Until next time, stay motivated and keep shooting.

If you’d like to buy a Hasselblad:
Ebay https://ebay.us/nmSw9n
KEH http://shrsl.com/2wdgs

12 thoughts on “Creativity and Managing Mental Health

  1. Good Morning Dear! I read your piece, and it’s taken me until this morning to respond. I felt your writing very deeply. I haven’t been in my jewelry studio for well over a year, and probably haven’t touched my cameras in about the same time. Sometimes when I go out, which is rare (I have MS and am a senior) I do make some images with my camera phone because I feel inspired. I have an amazing Leica M3 which took me a lifetime to afford, and now it hangs on my door looking at me. I know from past experience that there WILL come a day when I will “get to it,” like it was just yesterday, as I’ve been in these funks before, even though they’ve been long periods. What I have been doing is writing in my journal. It seems when I am making jewelry or making images, it is my journal that sits on the shelf lol. So, for me, what I’m trying to say I guess, is that it helps to have a few creative outlets, and hopefully at least one will come to my rescue in “those times.” Oh, and I also invested in very high end color pencils, and I have great coloring books. I do that sometimes, and of course, I read, actually devour books. Lastly, I try not to beat myself up for what I’m not doing, although we both know that sometimes even that’s not easy. “Keep going” as you wrote, and know we are here, and that even there are “silent readers” as one of your commenters said!

    1. Thank you. My aunt had MS so I know what an impact that disease has on ones life. You’re right it is good to have more than one creative outlet. I love a good set of colored pencils. I appreciate you and thank you for your kind words.

  2. I always wonder why people press the dislike button. I can remember the only times I did it was because the video was downright hostile, dishonest or misleading. But for everything else…maybe people feel empowered by that button?

    Nevertheless you do what you love. You need to like it first and foremost and then others will come and appreciate your craft and art. No matter how hard it is sometimes I always felt the need to express myself and create come back. But I can understand the difficulties when health problems and the pandemic come together. I had trouble with depression and I was on track on doing things to get better when the lockdowns hit… it is a challenge everyday dealing with both of these things. I feel with you.

    I actually love the pastel colors. Is this only the film itself or does the light in your part of the world cast things this way?

  3. One thing I have found is that there are more people out there that read your blog and love it, but never say anything. They are the silent readers, the invisible ones. It’s weird but I find myself writing for them. It helps to imagine them there. In the end the only people whose opinions matter are those of the ones you trust and love. And yourself of course.

  4. Like Jim said, screw the haters.

    We all know that the arts are subjective and that the work we produce may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out why so may “high art” types feel the need to be insufferable pricks about their snobbery. If you don’t like a piece of art, just move on – no need to throw shade on the artist. As if their opinion was more impactful than a fart in a hurricane…

    I believe negative people are often that way more because of their own lack of ability or insecurity, so consider the source when you encounter them. and their criticisms. Just remember why you started pressing the shutter in the first place.

    To be as open as you are about your challenges and to be open about your limits takes a lot of strength, so kudos to you. I have a few people in my own life who suffer from autoimmune diseases and I’ve seen the challenges they face having an “invisible” disability. I imagine getting your “shutter therapy” is a good way to stay sane!

    I for one, am loving your B&W work and I’m enjoying your journey as you develop both technically and artistically, so count me as a fan for what its worth!

  5. Add “willing to develop my film for me” to the definition of love (and marriage vows for that matter).

    If you play any kind of video games, I recommend Life Is Strange (Season 1), an interactive story, as an unconventional source of inspiration. Part of the main character’s arc is that she is an art student who uses Polaroids as her medium, and you can take shots throughout the game in addition to major story elements that involve said cameras. Great to play with your partner in the room – kind of like a movie where you make choices to affect the final outcome.

  6. I find your blog to be encouraging. I so enjoy reading about your experiments and seeing what turns out. I can well imagine that sometimes it’s very hard to keep publishing, given your health. And I can well imagine that you just want to throw up your hands and give up when people say or do unkind things. I hope you’ll extend a virtual middle finger to the jerks and keep going — at a pace you can sustain when you’re not feeling well!

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