Through a Lens Brightly: February update

Finally we’re seeing signs of spring with the first snowdrops and crocuses emerging in parks and gardens. The above image was taken in Fog Lane Park, Manchester, close to where I used to live before moving to Fallowfield. I always think of February as a pale amethyst colour and these crocuses may be a reason why.

I am making steady progress with the book, despite feeling the pressure of working full time and writing as well. At the moment I’m focusing on a spin-off research paper, based on my survey of over 600 photographers about photography and its impact on their mood and wellbeing. I mentioned last time that I’m collaborating with a psychology postgraduate on this paper, and we’ve started putting together and editing the content for submission to a journal.

The book will also feature the results of the research, as well as many of the personal narratives that people so kindly took the time to write. It will explore deeply the different reasons why photography as a hobby can be so uplifting and therapeutic, especially during the difficult times that so many of us have experienced recently.

This leads me to the perpetual debate about whether we are “medicalising” common mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, instead of treating them as normal human responses to stressful events. I can only speak from personal experience, but my disordered anxiety didn’t feel like a response to anything, let alone a normal one. Most of the time I had no idea what I was anxious about. I just got these horrendous uncontrollable adrenaline surges and feelings of panic.

Finding the right medication and a good therapist changed my life. The pills don’t “cure” my anxiety and depression, but they control it enough to enable me to function reasonably well in the world with minimal to no side effects. I appreciate other people’s experiences differ, but I strongly believe no one should ever be shamed or stigmatised for seeking medical treatment for any mental health condition.

I also believe that making other life changes and developing creative interests has helped me enormously, with photography being the most powerful. For me, medical and lifestyle remedies complement each other, rather than being in conflict. The medication helps me to get out of bed and leave the house with my camera, and my camera opens up new possibilities of seeing the world.

I will update you again at the end of March, by which time I’m hoping to be further along with the research paper, as well as having a lot more photos of spring flowers.

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