Slightly above the water

I’ve been slightly taking the easy route out of my portrait series – not my intention. I tried to think about a visual that would explain my headspace and for now this is the best I can do.

self portrait 23/52

I try not to complain. I know many people have it worse than me, mentally, physically, everything. This doesn’t invalidate my struggles but it does make me aware of my privilege in the world. But there are many things I am struggling with right now.

Last month was mental health awareness month and this month is pride month. Both of these months really are personal and close to me. Both of these things are not talked about enough as we are kids and are not normalized… therefore we either do not associate with them when we should or we find out super late in life and never get the coping skills or tools we need when it gets hard [mental health]. For pride month – it wasn’t a normalized conversation growing up. As I got older I realized I wasn’t straight – but I don’t think I felt like it was okay for me to say that until about a year ago when I was around people who felt the same way as me. However, after marrying a dude and being with him for 15 years I didnt even feel like I had a right to tell people I wasn’t straight – but I think now that I am around a community that accepts me for me, it’s been much easier to let people know where I stand in my own feelings.

As I age my OCD is getting pretty loud. Emotionally and physically. People normalize the idea of intrusive thoughts, and while it is true that one in four people have them, for those of us struggling with some mental hinderance, these intrusive thoughts are loud, do not represent us, and never slow down. I talked about the book Brain Lock before, and I talk to my therapist about this a lot. Intrusive thoughts are just thoughts – they don’t represent the people they victimize, and they need to be acknowledged and moved on from. But the person has to know – that they are just thoughts. We consume so much information in a day. We read constantly. We can watch movies and invest our time in media that have nothing to do with what we believe in – but because of this, the brain is always consuming, always revisiting, even when it is against our will.

My hypothyroidism feels like its speeding up. From new facial hair growth [light.. but there], to slowing of metabolism, to tiredness, to many different symptoms arising. My hypothyroidism was one reason I started to seek out treatment for my eating disorder. I can literally eat nothing and work out 2 hours a day, and see the same progress as I do when I eat a good amount and work out for an hour. My thought was kind of, what’s the point of living miserably if my body is literally going to do the same thing with both tactics. So although it’s not been easy to deal with – its the best thing for me, my body and my mental space.

The last thing I’ll discuss is the state of my family. My grandparents on my paternal side both are not doing well. We just lost my cousin [who was more of a brother to me] a few months back, and to be honest I will never be ready for another loss but I definitely don’t feel ready right now. I visited them on Friday and a few moments tore me to shreds. My grandpa has been having moments of forgetfulness in the middle of the night. Seeking and searching for people that don’t exist or waking up on the floor. He has been having mini strokes and I went down there, not necessarily because I had time but because I made time. I wanted to see him in a decent space before it’s too late. I wanted to tell him the things that I thought of him, I wanted to have the conversations we needed before it wasn’t an option. He was emotionally… sad, and a bit unstable. He had a few moments of breakdown asking my family to not place him in a nursing home. Although the younger versions of us would say easily, “that’s what’s best!,” there are big moments of empathy in this situation of how difficult this would be to face, and sadly something that we probably all will. To lose your independence and the home you built with your own hands? Y’all, that’s so so incredibly difficult. I cannot even fathom.

The next moment that took me out was my brother showing images of his daughter to grandpa and grandma [my brother went with me]. Grandpa said, “I just wish I could watch her grow up, and maybe I will but it’s not looking like it.” My grandparents have literally been prepping to die for the last 15 years. I type this with a bit of laughter because awhile back they bought their own grave spots and we all were taken back by it, but also just chuckled in the optimism. This is the first time their health has actually waived warning signs to them, and again – I cannot even fathom the confrontation. This is the first time that I think there has been a true confrontation in everything. It’s made them a bit more emotional, and a bit more willing to share their feelings with us.

This image stands for many things for me. 1. The attempting to drown out the noise of OCD. The attempt to keep breathing when the air is limited and the water is rising. The attempt to relax in a state of panic – or to avoid the panic in totality. 2. The willingness to keep breathing when my body feels like it shouldn’t. When my body wants to just disappear under the surface, my mind allowing me to look past the water line. Again, hypothyroidism or not – my body does so much for me – appreciating that amount of air I am getting is enough. 3. The feeling of loss. Loss of the familiar – people I love – making the next breath a bit more challenging but still doable.

It’s interesting when I am in this mental state I fear my clients will get worried about their images/work I am producing – but it’s quite the opposite. Although I don’t love where I am at, and I don’t love utilizing my busy life as a distraction – it is. All of these things make me a better photographer. My OCD and eating disorder make my highly aware of schedules – making my clients feel on top of the world – getting my job done when utter chaos comes in [at weddings lol]. My overcoming and confrontation of my ED and hypothyroidism makes me aware of all insecurities and body image issues. It makes me want my clients or anyone I engage with to fricken know how beautiful they are. No matter the size, race, gender, shape – you are worthy of the documentation. And lastly loss. Although I’m a bit touchy with my own, it makes me seek out relationships to document at events – focus just a bit longer on the grandparent and parent images – and to really seek importance in my documentation.

Photographers love to take pretty photos of the couple on their wedding day – but when you ask someone to show you an image that really means something to them, they will never pull up a posed image on a mountain, but they may show you an image of them hugging someone, talking to someone, holding someone, or maybe will show you the last image ever taken of someone. Think about these moments. Capture THESE moments.

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