How Photography Relieves Me From Depression

(Written January 2017)

Finding words to describe to which depths depression can take us can be difficult. But, it sure can be a very unpleasant place to be. When the dark thoughts gather up around us, a sense of hopelessness and apathy can rise which we feel will never go away. Add anxiety and it doesn’t only feel like we’re alone in a wasteland without directions, we are simultaneously on fire while pushing our tears back or breaking apart inside them. It feels like we’re being force-burned and cut with a razor-knife inside the chest. Drowning in our emotions, over and over again.

So, what’s gonna rescue us from these personal hells? Are there ways to break the downward spiral and regain some strength and hope for ourselves?

I believe hobbies can be a part of this, and I’ll try to clarify why and how I think this is.

First I will be honest. There are periods when depression makes me feel hobbies and interests are meaningless to engage in, and anxiety frightens me too much to even consider pursuing them. I feel quilt for the idea of choosing to spend time on something I enjoy, as if I wasn’t worthy of it and should instead give all my time for the benefit of others first and always. Or anxiety hits with it’s fake reminder that people will talk down and hate me for doing it. What could be a more perfect barrier?

However, there are those days and moments when my strength is a little more on the plus-side of things. When I really miss being out shooting pictures with my camera. What I’ve learned is that I need to pay attention to those emotions and act on it. If I can manage to get out of the apartment with my camera in my hand there’s so much to be gained:

When I photograph I usually stay out for hours. That means I breath in fresh air.

I also tend to walk a lot to find the right spots for my shots. This means I get some exercise.

If I’m lucky(at least for my health, not so much for photo-friendly lighting, though) there’s sunshine to take in. But, all weathers will do.

Often I choose to photograph in nature. To me nothing can beat the calm experience of that.

Sometimes I forget that I’m depressed altogether, probably since I’m so focused on taking pictures. It lets me feel pure joy without analysing or judge myself. I feel no worry. When I capture an image which I’m satisfied with I feel that I’ve accomplished something that day. It’s a good feeling. Coming home to relax from a day outside is rewarding in itself.

The path with depression is different and individual to each and everyone of us.

For me I’ve come to understand that a big part of my walk in recovery is reexperience or relearning. By that I mean I need to learn to know myself, who I am and what I want all over again. Somewhere along the road I lost these things by being self ignorant, self sacrificing and a servant to others to such a degree that I erased my own will, my own identity.

Every time I’m pursuing photography or another interest of mine I take back parts of me that I’ve lost; and that are the good experiences, moments to cherish and make the long run worth while.

I’m not meaning to make it sound easy. I know it can feel impossible to get back on track. But, we must believe that we can. One step at a time.

If shadows rise on you, don’t let them judge you or steal from you. Acknowledge them as real, but not as truth. The storm will eventually calm, and when ready you’ll take another step towards healing.

If depression stole a hobby or interest from you, don’t give up getting that thing back. Even if it seems a big step, start by simply thinking about it.

Don’t be hard on yourself for not being able to do it all the way at once.

Take it easy, the best way is at your own pace. Take whichever step you can. You’ll get there.

Don’t do it for anyone else, do it for yourself. You’re incredibly worthy of experiencing good moments, or making some new ones.

I believe in you!

Experiencing The Depression Aftermath

Looking back 2 years to see what has changed in a mental illness recovery journey.

It’s been little over two years since I walked into an emergency room. Desperate, in tears, suicidal, alone. I had decided to live, but the task of managing by myself had become far too dangerous. The previous night I was close to going through with a suicide attempt. The inner darkness and pain I experienced is the worst I’ve ever encountered. I tried calling a suicide hotline, but couldn’t get through. Fortunately a friend answered the phone at 2am, and talked me through the emotions and turmoils the following hours. She was a major part of why I didn’t die that night. The next day I went to the emergency.

Since then I’ve been through about 1,5 years of weekly counsellings, been on antidepressants for 2 years(still on it), meditated for a total of 47 hours. I’ve been through a 6 month long severe relapse. I’ve released a 3 song EP. I’ve read numerous books. Gotten to know a lot of kind people in online communities. I have been running 2000km and photographed 10k photos. The tears, however, can not be counted. But, I’m happy to say I’m not crying much nowadays, and I’m smiling a lot more.

It’s been 730 days and I’m finally experiencing a real and lasting relief from depression.

So how is my life different now compared to two years ago?

Back then I had anxiety meltdowns in tears almost every day, I felt depressed all the time. I viewed life as totally meaningless and I was trapped in apathy concerning it all. I felt hated by life and was convinced I was only but a burden to everyone around me. I spent most time isolated alone, and sadly lost a lot of friendships. My thoughts about myself was very destructive, I had lost all sense of my worth. I slept poorly. My appetite was very low and I was exhausted and tired in every cell of my body. Depression had me captive and I almost completely surrendered to it.

Today my life is very different. Most days I feel positive and content about how things are. Anxiety occurs very rarely and it in no way lasts as long a period as it used to. Depression is something I experience once each two months or so, but it passes within a day or two. I feel energised from exercise and can pursue interests and hobbies I thought I had lost forever. I’m in control of my mental illness, it’s no longer in control of me. I’m experiencing enjoyment of life I didn’t feel for over 10 years. I’m making new friends and I’m able to socialize again.

If you’re reading this and suffer from depression or anxiety I want to encourage you to seek help. Don’t give up until you find the help that works for you. I’ve experienced a 10 year depression, but also made it through it. You too can do that.

And to you who have a friend or a close one with depression, please don’t give up on them. If you stay you might be the lifeline they need in their most critical moment.