I talk a lot about stories and celebrating everyday lives - and it's something I hold dear to my heart, but sometimes I worry that the life I'm depicting in photographs isn't truly my everyday. More and more I am becoming aware of the fact that it's just as much about absence as it is what is depicted in the frame. What we choose to keep out of our images, whether conscious or not, can be as impactful as what we keep in. And as much as I may think I am being authentic by showing the bits and pieces of my everyday life, there are still parts I leave behind. Mainly, the ugly parts. Maybe that's okay, maybe we don't need to lay it all out on the table to prove anything. Still, I'd like to think that keeping it all inside so that no one else knows, so it somehow doesn't exist has done me absolutely no good.
I've written a few times (or maybe I haven't, maybe it's still all drafts - see above quote) about dealing with anxiety but always from a place of distance. Distance is a really great place to be when you deal with this crap, but I also want to start sharing about the right now. So this is my ugly right now.
I'm at the point where something so completely trivial like needing to get gas on the way to work when I'm already running late sends me into a hopeless bout of ugly face crying. Or that right now, in this moment, positivity irks me and my "let's do this!" attitude turns into wanting to give the world the finger and lay in my bed all day and watch marathon travel shows about other people living out their dreams. Wanting to feel nothing and do nothing sounds like a good plan, except that I can't quite sit still long enough without feeling a panicked urge to move. Or that I can't sleep because I'm up obsessively worrying about every single thing in my life as well as things I have no control over. The thoughts just cycle over and over until I'm in tears, frightened that they'll never stop...but somehow around 1:30 AM I've managed to finally pass out. And that I am so terrified of telling people how stressed out and overwhelmed my life has become because the merest mention of it makes me feel like I'm bragging and inherently selfish (like right now), even though I will never, ever feel that way about anyone else. So it all stays bottled up, until even I'm in denial about it, until it manifests itself out as ugly snot gas station crying, long blank stares and an overwhelming, urgent sense of panic, fear and dread. And instead of thinking "All things must pass", I'm thinking "Really?! Again?!". And confusing the hell out of my brain by simultaneously chiding myself for not being more grateful while being pissed off at myself for constantly minimizing my feelings.
All these neuroses tiring you yet?
The great thing about a year of therapy is that I can now say "well shit this ain't normal" but it doesn't change the fact that my brain is still capable of processing things irrationally. It's like having really great insight with zero action plan. And really, when it comes to dealing with anxiety, depression, or any other mental illness, it never goes away. There's no cure, there's just learning to manage it and knowing that each time the fog rolls in, you can navigate yourself out of it a little faster every time. I know this isn't who I am, and I know this isn't going to last forever. Had you asked me that 10 years ago I would have told a different story.
I'd like to think it's just as important to talk about the bad as it is the good. These moments still matter as much as the better ones. Without the negative it's so much harder to appreciate the positive. But the thing is, I don't know how to photograph the negative, because to me picking up my camera means being inspired by the world. It means being grateful for all that I have and the beauty that surrounds me. And it's nearly impossible to feel those feelings when all I want to do is...well, nothing at all. I struggle with the absence.
I guess I want to share this because even if it's not something we see often, it's still there. It exists and it's valid and it's not worth keeping inside to feel ashamed about.
So let's hear it for those who push past the darkness and keep shooting. They are doing something which can seem all but impossible to take on, especially if it hits close to home. Because right now, me trying to take pictures of these feelings would amount to a cliche worthy of being in a migraine commercial.