TRIGGER WARNING - DEPRESSION AND SELF-HARM
I'm not quiet about my own struggles with mental health.
Sometimes you'll see me post frequently. I'm an open book... I also know my story has the potential to help others by knowing they are not alone, and that change is possible.
This particular photoshoot idea with Zoe was based on an idea on instagram I'd found. It was a lot more airy and bright than what I did with it, but I felt it should be so much more moody. We all live in shadows, our inner thoughts can consume us, so it seemed more fitting to do more of an "out of the shadows, but not out of the dark" style. I'm still on my own journey, so I understand what it's like to sit halfway... usually sliding back into bad habits.
My story really started when I was about 18 years old.
I'd just left high-school, and life was really catching up on me. I'd always felt a prolonged and deep sadness even back in primary school, so this wasn't exactly new to me. I'd never really felt like I fit in, and I don't know if I can ever say I've truly felt comfortable around people. I'd never felt good enough for my family or friends. But having just left the most secure thing I'd ever know in my life, I was lost. I was finding that my high-school friends no longer had time for me, but plenty of time for themselves. I put that down to the fact I'd chosen to go straight into work (my trade) rather than study further. A year after leaving school, I finally decided to speak to a counsellor, and so spoke to my doctor about a referral.
Safe to say, this never happened.
I waited and waited, finally receiving a letter to say the mental health resources people (or whatever you want to call them) would be in contact to set up an appointment. Awesome, I thought, eagerly waiting to see what could happen and if anyone could help me. Nine years on, and that never eventuated.
It was difficult over the next few years. I felt let down. I felt like even the people whom were paid to care, didn't/couldn't give a crap. From there, I was pretty much in a never-ending whirlpool - one that would send me through various emotional states quickly. All I know for sure, is that most of it was spent in sadness.
Fast forward to 2019 and a lockdown.... I was in a pretty bad way. We'd already agreed through work that because I had a few weeks holiday owing, I'd be first to sit back. What I wasn't expecting was to be completely left out of the loop and mind. Emails we received, didn't even have my name on them. At all. There would be lists of people in their 2 week shifts... my name... well, non-existent. Work knew I'd just started counseling too...
In the months before lockdown, I had finally decided to try again with talking to someone and seeking that help. Unfortunately in the very first session, the counselor told me that "no-one would ever like you when you're unhappy". Safe to say that combined with the fact that he didn't actually try to figure out anything about me - just pressured me into trying to join clubs and sports - I just clammed up. The next two sessions were a complete waste of time, but I said I'd do it. I said to myself I'd give it one last crack. My fourth and final session was a phone call the day before we went into level 4 lockdown.
That's of course when I started self-harm.
Now. I'm not glorifying this. I'm not promoting it. But I feel people who haven't gone through this mental state should have some help to understand the "why".
The first time I ever actually felt the need to do this to myself, I was so worked up over it and the expectation of pain and blood that would eventuate, that I threw up most of the night. I didn't cut myself that night, but about a week after that.
It was no where near as "bad" as what I'd expected... and there was this sudden rush of relief... it was almost like my body and mind went "It's not so bad after all". Things just automatically felt so much better and I felt a bigger hope for life.
I guess in a way, every time I practised self-harm after that, I was chasing that same feeling.
This lasted almost a year.
I met my current partner in level 3 as I'd gotten talking to him during level 4 over tinder. It was a good few months before we actually started dating - he'd be away with work a lot, or out in the shed with his projects, and I just wasn't in the headspace for a relationship. I'm glad it all worked out though, as he's been an amazing support and help with getting me through it all.
I won't say that cutting myself doesn't still come into my mind every now and then - I don't practice yoga nearly as much as what I used to - at the start of the year I came off of anti-depressants, as well as changed jobs (to a completely different trade I might add). In the last few months I've been diagnosed with endometriosis.. which was pressure from my partner as this was a journey I've been having with Docs for around 8 years. There's been a hell of a lot of change and situations this year that have been completely overwhelming, and this is why I needed to take a break from model shoots over winter.
Knowing I'm not alone, and being part of such a supportive photography community has definitely helped.
These images created with Zoe are a reflection of our journeys - our journeys into self love and with life and general.
The most important thing to realise sometimes is that you really are not alone out there.