Oh Anxiety

Tomorrow is RUOK Day here in Australia. Today’s post wasn’t going to touch on mental illness but i feel like I’m surrounded by it at the moment so it feels like I should write something about it.

Someone close to me experienced anxiety for the first time in their life recently & I felt it was an eye opening experience for the both of us. Person X (an easy way to reference this person without giving them away) had up until recently gone through life without experiencing a mental illness. Sometimes I would think how lucky X was, to not have first hand experience of being mentally unwell. I would occasionally feel a little jealous of X, because of my familiarity with mental illness. I’ve had diagnosed depression three seperate times & am sure I had it in my late teens although it went undiagnosed. This coming November will see the third anniversary of my diagnosis of Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

So when X was given an anxiety diagnosis I knew I’d be able to offer support. I watched the mind of X (yes, writing that makes me think of an old school spy movie, but I’m committed to using it now so I’ll chuckle to myself & keep writing) loop over & over in the anxious way I know intimately. A thought would occur & despite reassurances from me or others it would loop over & over on a constant thread of what if.

“But what if this happens? Or what about that scenario. Won’t this other thing then take place?” Over & over & over the same things were repeated, making me wonder sometimes if I was being heard at all.

It felt a little like I was having an out of body experience. I watched X run through their anxiety & think to myself ‘this is what I do.’ My mind will latch onto a thought, an often ridiculous, impossible or sometimes catastrophic scenario & loop it over & over in my mind, seemingly unable to stop. I would sometimes feel tired from repeating my words to X & knew in those moments X had felt the same tiredness from conversations with me.

Or I’d be reassuring X to try to stop the anxiety & knew that X had been in this exact same position, offering reassurance & support to me while feeling the fruitlessness of their words washing over me & having little effect. This must be why X has expressed the desire to flick a switch & turn anxiety off.

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There have been people other than X talk over their anxiety with me this year & other years & I’ve done my best to offer support, letting them know I’m here for them when they want to talk. Or sit with them when they need to get angry or just to offer a shoulder to cry on. If I can offer them just a tiny bit of support, to let them know that they are loved, then I hope that it helps them in some way.

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So what is the point of this blog post? I’ve touched on living with anxiety in previous blog posts & I will again in the future. It’s a constant on my life & touches everything thing I do. Increasingly it’s impact is smaller on my life, due in large part to my daily anxiety medication & frequent GP & psychologist visits. I’m learning to use my experience with anxiety for good; the above photo forms part of my small but growing body of work trying to photograph the world as seen by me through the lens of an anxiety attack.

If you’re one of the lucky ones to have not had a mental illness you can still be supportive to those who have. You don’t have to have experienced something to be empathetic. But if you feel you would like to learn more, there are countless places online to learn. Beyond Blue is a great place to start, Sane Australia is another. Spend a few minutes getting to know the signs of someone who might be experiencing an anxiety or panic attack. Learn how to ask someone if they need help. Or to tell them that you’d be happy to sit with them so they can talk to you. Learning these things will benefit you & possibly allow you to see signs of someone’s undiagnosed mental illness. Do it with compassion & love. You’ll be a better person for it.

Beauty In The Everyday

For several months I have been taking photos of my friends during some of our pole fit classes. Initially I began taking photos after badly injuring myself as a way of staying in touch with what was going on at the studio. It quickly became the highlight of my week. I began to realise that I enjoyed taking photos of the everyday going’s on during classes. There are so many ordinary yet beautiful moments taking place. A smile to a friend, shared laughter at a mistake made or celebrating the feeling of ‘getting’ a new & tricky move. All these things & more occur all the time. They may at the time be small moments but as I go through the images I’ve made I realise that collectively they form a bigger narrative. One that shows the beauty in the ordinary moments as women get together to gain strength & fitness through the use of a pole, a Lyra hoop or aerial silks. They also form an unbreakable bond through friendship.

Not Quite Right

First attempt at double exposure using my Fujifilm X-Pro1

I spent some time trying to discover the best way to visualise my experience of living with anxiety. After looking at different styles of photography and painting I settled on double exposure photography.

Being completely new to the genre I decided to dip my toe in the water through the use of an app for my iPhone. I quickly realised what worked well for my particular style of image making and began making images that I am happy with. This past week I made my first attempt to create double exposures using my Fujifilm camera. The somewhat dire feeling of the landscape I had set out to photograph suited the feeling I am looking to represent.

Yet I don’t think I’ll ever be able to capture just what it is like to experience a panic attack through a single photograph. There is too much going on in my mind when I am overcome by a panic attack. Racing thoughts that cannot be contained, anger quickly turning into destructive thoughts, sheer panic that cannot be contained. Or even when my mind starts racing towards anxiety, but is able to be reclaimed by the remaining non anxious part of my mind. It takes so much mental willpower to control my mind from becoming panicked I am often spent afterwards.

I think the only way I can really express all of this is through words. Perhaps what is needed is a body of work, images interspersed with words, attempting to show just what it feels like. It’s possible that this project won’t work. It’s possible onlookers – especially those who have never experienced mental illness themselves – will never truely understand what it’s like to live with anxiety. Maybe, just maybe however someone will see my work, who themselves has anxiety, and will feel comforted in knowing that someone else feels like they do. If nothing else that’s all that I can hope for. To help someone in some small way.

A Cityscape Favourite

I’m late to following up my last post; I’ve went away for a few days, got home & life caught up with me. Anyhow, returning to the subject of favourite photos from 2018.

This cityscape (is that even the right category? Does that even matter?) was taken on my last day in China which was a Saturday. It is of the Bundt in Shanghai. I love it because it reminds me of my time there, but also because of those clouds. The day prior a typhoon went through Shanghai. I arranged for three of us to experience a half day tour of Shanghai on our last day there & our guide explained we were lucky to see clouds like this. She said the typhoon had blown away the smog usually seen in Shanghai (although she also said that the smog isn’t as bad as it used to be), leaving behind a beautiful sky full of fluffy white clouds.

I also love the juxtaposition of towering buildings overlooking the water on which floats both rickety boats & modern flashy ones. It felt like a true Chinese scene, modernity crashing up against China of old. I hope one day to return; for now my photographs will have to do.

Noticing The Details

As every photographer who is trying to photograph something that qualifies as tourist related knows, it can be difficult to photograph a thing in a way that isn’t commonly seen. I suspect in many cases when taking photos for a client they don’t necessarily want something overtly different, particularly if the image is in some ways abstract in the context of the larger thing. Luckily for me my client, whose family own three paddle vessels, doesn’t mind me attempting to capture the unnoticed details of their vessels.

I was drawn to this rope, wound as it is, awaiting possible use. I felt compelled to capture it. I still quite can’t voice why it is that I like it.

It could be because it’s not something I imagine when I think about paddle vessels. It could be that I know the rope and metal were at one point in a natural state unrelated to the finished product I see.

Perhaps I don’t need an explanation as to why I like it. It simply exists as something that I appreciate. And might actually print and hang on my wall.

A Black & White Setting Sun

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This is a photo from 12 months ago that I found today whilst looking for another photo. As often happens.

I like that its in black and white. The blue colour of the sky wasn’t dramatic enough for me. Shooting in black and white is one of the things I love about my X-Pro1. Whilst I feel that I can see how a photo will look in black and white it’s nice to be able to look through the view finder as I’m taking a photo and see how it will appear as a black and white image.

Looking With Different Eyes

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Whilst taking a holiday is good for the soul, sometimes it can also be good for the mind. On holiday only days ago, I made sure I took some time out from catching up with my dearest friend to look for things of interest to photograph in her home town.

I had no expectations or goals to meet. I was on foot & alone which meant I was able to take as much time as I needed at any given location. I was happy to meander & observe the world around me.

I found myself lost to the beauty around me, capturing some of it with my camera but also happy to simply observe it. The sounds around me were particularly electric, consisting mainly of the raucous squarks of sulphur crested cockatoo’s.  I stopped & observed them a number of times during my walk, enjoying the site of large flocks of them & marvelling when for a few brief seconds they ceased their seemingly endless noise.

When my few hours of photography time was done I felt relaxed & at ease. That’s when I know a photography outing has been a success. Sure the resulting photographs are important to me, but equally as important is the feeling of reconnection, mediation & happiness. All I need to do is work out how to get that into my life a bit more often.

Kim

Not Perfect, But Not That Bad

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Often when I view my photos when I return from a photographic outing, I find myself disappointed with the results. I see flaw after flaw & rarely notice anything that I like about them. Yet when I return to them later on, after a a week or more, I seem to be able to see something that I felt wasn’t there originally. Something happens in that time frame, which allows me to see the photos in a different light.

I think the time gap between first & second viewing puts space between what I had in my mind creatively & the resulting images. In fact often I forget what it was that I had intended to photograph. This space seems to let me see the images for what they actually are. By no means do I think I create a perfect photo, but more often than not if I give my images time, I find I’m happier with the results.

I also notice this experience with sketching. I’ll sit down & made a sketch of something & when I’m finished I feel satisfied with undertaking the act of drawing, but don’t think much about what I’ve drawn. Yet when I go back & look at that sketch again, I see that what is on the page is actually ok. Sometimes I’ve even made a sketch that I can say is good.

So I’m trying to learn to put distance between the completion of a photo or a sketch & making a judgement on the quality of what I’ve produced. I hope each time I try this I’ll get better at not judging my work so harshly.

Kim

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When Travelling

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I love the opportunities that are presented when holidaying at a location that I’ve stayed at before. Although nothing beats the thrill and excitement of visiting a new destination, there is satisfaction to be found in returning to a place I know. It becomes intimate to me in a way, by knowing where good coffee and food is to be found, or which side streets to use to get somewhere quicker. Or even knowing that wandering the length of a particular street will provide ample architecture to photograph/

Sometimes it’s a simple as returning to a site I admire, preferably when the conditions are favourable for photographing it in its glory. But other times magic can be found by viewing a location from the eyes of someone else. Whether it’s a self guided walking tour, a thematic tour (architecture, food, drink) or a guided tour by someone who knows their city and its intricacies, viewing a place in this way is always fruitful.

Last year David and I took a short break in Adelaide, with the primary goal of attending a show we had tickets for. We took the opportunity to do something different, and paid to be part of a walking tour of Adelaide city with Graeme Fanning of Down To Earth Tours. Surprisingly it was the two of us and Graeme, which made for a terrific opportunity to drink in his knowledge of Adelaide. For whilst I have visited Adelaide multiple times, I had never really taken the opportunity to learn about how the city came to be. It was a fascinating walk, and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in this kind of thing. We enjoyed it so much that if given the time on a return visit to Adelaide we would take one of the other tours on offer. And we’ll certainly take tours like these in other locations we visit.

Kim

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