The Year I discovered Mental Health
The year in numbers
– 20 weddings, 1 elopements, 1 destination, 40 silly faces, 17 venues, 6 bowties, 4 second shooters, 1 new lease of life and many a new friend –
the year in words
As the new decade turns, I reflect on the last – by and large it was a glorious time for me. The year 2019 itself was interesting, it started on a down but as the year went on, I found a new lease of life and all round greater positivity. I met a lot of incredible folk; danced with the greatest couples; got to photograph abroad again; and a personal highlight was that day I went exploring with the beautiful Raoul + Lie – whom had eloped from Belgium. I won a range of awards – winning a This is Reportage Story Award meant a lot to me – and generally developed my style to the point I want it to be! On the flip side, and the reason I titled this post ‘the year I discovered mental health’ is that, I had a little affair with mental health – writing it down is a positive reminder for the future me – however please feel free to skip a few paragraphs for those who don’t want to hear my waffle!
The Mental Health Bit
Every year I tend to write “this year has been the hardest of my career” however this time I would like to substitute the word ‘career’ with that of ‘life’. This year has been the hardest of my life.
When I say this year, it is partly a lie. In truth the roots began to grow towards the end of 2018. Many people see wedding photography – the job – as a dream; a vocation that solicits a way to easily monetise a hobby whilst enjoying a large amount of downtime. To a large degree I could agree. What they don’t mention in the job description is the solitude; that moment after a wedding when you arrive back to an empty house after spending the day photographing couples surrounded by happiness and love; the hours of sitting in front of a computer screen during the summer months; the general stress of managing every aspect of the business and all the pressures of that; all the weekends of missed events; the Friday night catch up with friends; music festivals; weekend events; and wedding’s of friends – I now regret not going to see my friend Steph walk the aisle.
The reason I write this is not to complain about my life choice -I absolutely love my job and wouldn’t change it for the world – but to highlight the importance of mental health and how it can affect anyone. To most I always appear as a jovial confident chap. I am this but I also have my days of not and in this case my need to be independent was my downfall. A whole array of factors began to take its toll – the specifics are irrelevant in this text – they had chipped away and then it happened, the main catalyst to start my aforementioned affair.
In March I underwent surgery on my neck to remove a lump that had been growing over 9 months – It was benign – it was the first time in 31 years I had been to the doctors for any reason other than routine inoculations. I found the whole process a struggle, I began to suffer from major anxiety which lead to me noticing every aspect of my body. I began shadowing messages, removing myself from social media, and generally the people around me. I was my usual spritely self on exterior; interiorly I was a never present. I had convinced myself I was dying, to the point that I began to plan for it and would forward on referrals for future weddings thinking I wouldn’t be around to shoot them.
Obviously I am glad to say I am still here, and can see in hindsight that I was in the awful grasps of this disease. I am coming out the other side, stronger for it. I put together a whole plan and integrated it as routine, moved into a shared workspace, started dating again, got back into exercise, used mind app, and took up yoga. I stopped drinking and began to eat and sleep a more scheduled routine. I actively seeked to rekindle lost friendships, spent more time with my brother and then welcomed the most beautiful nephew into the world.
Mental health is a vicious unknown – a smile goes a long way, and hug is better. You wouldn’t condone bullying on a playground so why do it on social media -even in jest it can be harmful as often you don’t know how the person the other side is feeling or what they are going through. Work is good but not the most important, actively spend time with your friends and family – walk past a stranger and say hi with a smile! It could be the best thing they hear all day.
A year ago I was sad, reclusive, fearful, burdened with a heavy mind. Today I feel motivated, excited, and much less anxious – I feel more positive and have changed the values of my life. I want those to know how I felt, only so I can educate as best I can. Ultimately I look forward to the day. I feel love again and for the first time in 18 months, I run with a free mind.
whoever you are, however you feel and whatever you are doing right now, take a moment to think, breathe and if you get stuck in a metaphorical rut, just remember the below phrase and the idiot that told you.
“IT NEVER RAINS FOREVER“
trust me when I say it.
the future and 2020
With a new decade comes new challenges. The first is to rebuild my business. All the above has caused a dip in my weddings for the forthcoming year – so plenty of dates free if anyone needs – I want to rebuild and get to a level of bookings I am happy to sustain. I want to further grow my reputation, and hopefully pick up an award or two along the way. I want to reconnect with friends who I haven’t seen for a while. I have launched a lifestyle section to my website – and now offer family or couples shoots to anyone who wants to have some zany portraits! I would love to second shoot further so if anyone has dates then fire away and finally I plan to do more for myself, to get back to my artistic ways – I want to create artistic photography for personal reasons, and have already lined up an exciting project that is a reflection of my past mental health experiences which I hope to use as a tool to raise awareness. – Follow @iamgravitate (IG) for this development.
To end I would love to say thank you to all that have helped to make my year so fabulous. A special thanks goes to Matt Grainger, Rachel Hayton, Emma Anderson & Lauren McGuiness who have all photographed alongside me at some point throughout the year. Also a massive thanks once again to Hayton, all my Family, Jeanne, Craig, & Chelsea who knowingly or not helped me through my worst times by just being there. Finally the greatest thanks to my ‘Speckled Hen’ – a best friend, sidekick and my all round favourite human being – your smile is infectious, your eyes emit warmth, your heart is pure and you motivate me everyday to grow and challenge myself. I am forever indebted to Ventura for our encounter.
Below are some of my favourite images and moments from weddings this year. I hope you enjoy!! Enjoy a happy and eventful 2020 and forthcoming decade everyone!
Lots of Love
TWENTY NINETEEN – THE SLIDESHOW
TWENTY NINETEEN – THE PHOTOBLOG
A Final Note
I’d like to leave you with an image from my first wedding of 2020! I was lucky enough to be at a wedding in which 4 couples ,all of whom I had photographed, were there. It is a lovely reminder to me of how much my art has had a positive effect on the lives of these people and more. It is a reminder why I should and want to continue.
WANT TO BOOK OR FIND OUT MORE?
If you like what you see and are interested in finding out more then please don’t hesitate to contact me to arrange a meeting. I will also be attending various fayres throughout the year so why not pop along and say heyeeellllow!
Here are the ones currently confirmed ones.
Sunday 23rd February – Blaithwaite House