October 27, 2017
I find going on holiday incredibly stressful, not because of the holiday itself but due to being self employed and fearing that at any moment the holiday peace will be shattered by a client with a planning deficit and an empathy malfunction. Last year was a little worse than normal due to an impending doctors checkup (post-holiday) to find out if there’s a problem with my eyes as a side effect of diabetes, something I have to look forward to again in a few days time. To try and decompress a little before the holiday I went for a hike in The Chiltern Hills up near Christmas Common as a mini photographic trip. Annoyingly due to lack of reception causing Google Timeline to lose me and my forgetting to take my GPS tracker with me I can’t pinpoint exactly where it was. Either way I know it was somewhere between Christmas Common and Turville Heath. I will openly admit that my love of Christmas Common is as much down to the name as to the location itself (although it is lovely), there’s no clarity on how it was named as such, Wikipedia stating that it could be down to a truce on Christmas day in 1643 during the Civil War, the Christmas family who lived locally or the coppices of Holly Trees (Wikipedia entry on Christmas Common).
In the end I didn’t manage to take too many photographs, I was having trouble with my vision, which as it turns out was down to stress and headaches rather than diabetic side effects so putting the camera up to my face was just a distressing process. I did find a fantastic circular walk through some beautiful woodland full of fungus and less full of people which I’ll try and rediscover some day. Here are the shots I kept…
March 17, 2016
It’s been a long year already and bought some unexpected changes, some harsh but which have over time worked out for the better. I’ve been putting off writing this for a good few weeks and that’s probably a good thing as I now have a better aspect on everything. A little distance helps the focus.
At the beginning of the year I had a checkup that came with the unpleasant news that my diabetes had become far worse over the previous year. This was particularly shocking as prior to this it had been under control to the extent I had been given the official “sod off, you don’t need our help any more” from my doctor. At the time of the checkup it was worse than when I was first diagnosed and seemingly in decline. Since then I’ve made some severe changes to my lifestyle (which was hardly excessive to start with) which will hopefully have put me back on track, I won’t know for a few months until I next see the doctor.
More importantly (to me), I have been struggling with my mental health. This is not a recent thing, it fluctuates like a wonky LFO in a cheap synth. Over the last few months the lows were getting lower and the highs were not happening, I’m actually grateful for the doctors appointment for the diabetes because it enabled me to bring it up without needing to make a specific appointment, which I wouldn’t have done. In a hilariously understated middle class manner I mentioned I sometimes felt a bit sad (translation: spend a lot of my life crying in car parks) and was there anything he could do. I’ve been referred to a counselling service and am currently doing an initial course of CBT. This is really helping. I’m in no sense ‘fixed’, nor do I expect to be but I am dealing far better with things that I have been previously, I am incredibly relieved to have started this process. At this point I’ve been diagnosed with depression and generalised anxiety, I have problems with self esteem (or would do if I had any at all). I’m getting better.
I was initially wary of mentioning my mental health online, especially on this blog which is superficially about my art and photography but I feel it’s important for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s had a massive impact on my life and has certainly influenced my creative output to a severe extent, predominantly by crushing it for a long time. Secondly, one of the reasons I finally spoke to my doctor was because I had seen other people publicly discussing their mental health problems and how they deal with them (among others Wil Wheaton, Rob Delaney and John Green). There is a stigma here, one I have felt deeply and they had helped give me the impetus to finally do something to try and fix my situation. While I am not quite at the level of those mentioned above I hope by openly and frankly discussing the subject I can in some small way help the discourse and possibly convince you to seek help if you need to. Seriously, feeling a bit sad on an all to regular basis? Go talk to someone. Always stressed, never sleep? Go talk to someone. Feel trapped in your own body and constantly screaming inside? Go talk to someone? Crying in your car five days a week? Go talk to someone.
It sounds so easy when you’re well “Go talk to someone” but I know it isn’t. If you are already struggling it can seem a massive scary challenge, especially if you are struggling with anxiety or social phobias. But please try, it can get easier. When I first spoke to my doctor I had all these fears about what was going to happen next. Would I be thrown out for wasting time? Would I be made to take terrifying drugs? Would I be laughed at and publicly ridiculed? None of these things happen, instead a very kind, patient and incredibly non-judgemental lady from the NHS talked to me for a while and helped me work out what would happen next. I’ve had nothing but kindness and care from the people who have been dealing with me.
I will talk more about this another time but for now I just want to say again, if you are struggling please talk to someone, it doesn’t have to be your doctor (although that’s a good starting point), just tell someone you can trust, it’s a starting point. It can get better.
There’s a lot of words there for something I was intending to get into one short paragraph, I should probably split this into two separate entries, but I’m not going to, this was intended to be an entry about photography and work/life balance and dammit it’s going to be.
Short break? Here’s a picture of a horse:
One of the biggest causes of woe (as has been chronicled here before) is my work/life balance and the anxiety that comes with it. As I’ve been discovering over the last few weeks this is a difficult and complex relationship which isn’t going to be fixed overnight. Back in January I had this plan (which I’ve since abandoned as bullshit) to work double shifts for a couple of weeks at a time then take an entire day off to go exploring and be alone with my thoughts. The idea being I would get a proper work free, responsibility free break. This was my first attempt.
I planned in advance where to go, Scott had told me about a bit of particularly beautiful forest in the Chilterns (near Turville) where he takes some amazing photographs. Scott even sorted me a map which I left at home because I’m a dick. Because I’m slightly less of a dick I had roughly memorised the route.
I set out at 8am at the starting point (outside St. Mary’s Church in Turville) then immediately panicked because I had my first telephone appointment with my mental health supporter at 9am and there was no phone signal. So I drove round for an hour and eventually made my way halfway home to a car park in Henley which had reasonable signal.
10am tried again. Annoyingly I’d missed the best sunlight and the beautiful frost which had covered the hills had mostly melted away. I did not give up. I followed my route saw some amazing scenery and the first proper moments of calm in a long time. I saw few people but those I happened upon were without fail friendly and welcoming.
After a while it became clear I had got lost. Mostly because I had been walking the circumference of the same field for 30 minutes and had no clue which way I should be going. After explaining this to a disinterested horse (see above) I had a bit of a panic. Initial feeling was to give up, find a car park to cry in then go home. Instead I opted to follow footpaths at random to see where they took me. This was infinitely better than crying in car parks, I strongly recommend it as a course of action.
It was a good day. I checked my email more than is sensible, I checked my voicemail more than is necessary, I thought about work more than I wanted, but I didn’t give in, I didn’t go back to work halfway through the day, I didn’t take any work calls, I took some reasonable photos and I found some personal space. I need to make this part of my regular existence but that’s a battle I still need to fight.
Things I learned:
Here’s some of my favourites:
August 5, 2015
I’ve been out practicing with the camera at Braywick Nature Centre on my lunch breaks (also I need to get some exercise before I can no longer fit in any of my clothes and I need some peace and quiet before I explode and take out most of Berkshire). It’s only a ten minute walk from my office in the centre of Maidenhead and it’s usually devoid of anyone other than the occasional dog walker.
There’s a beautiful array of wildflowers at this time of year and if you’re quiet you can see a whole host of wildlife, I’ve spotted herons, kingfishers, several armies of ducks, deer, rabbits, foxes, squirrels, weasels (I think) Green Woodpeckers and all the assorted wild birds and insects you would expect.
I’ve made a video slideshow of some of the pictures I’ve taken there recently along with an audio track recorded on the moorland there.
Here’s a few of the photos, you can see the rest on flickr.
You can read more about Braywick Nature Centre.
You can read about the Save Braywick Park campaign on Facebook.
Incidentally, I’m making more use of my Facebook page now, please pop over and give it a like for semi-regular updates and links to artists I like – Anxious Silence on Facebook.
I am Bob. This is my blog. It is an outlet and a substitute for real life. It contains my art, photography, illustration and thoughts on mental health (I deal with anxiety on a pretty much constant basis).
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