I have had mental health problems for 10 years and have a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. I live in a state of pretty much constant internal chaos, mood instability, destructiveness, impulsivity and the turmoil, unrest and despair that come with BPD. But I use photography as a form of therapy and a way of noticing the beauty and magic in life, the simplicity of objects and the complexity of nature. Photography puts things in perspective; it is a way to focus on the “bigger picture” of life and to overcome my individual problems.
I am only in my “photographic mind” some of the time, when I am low I lose interest and motivation to take photos. However, perhaps my mood instability has lead in part to some of my creativity and my more “quirky” images.
Photography is a creative medium that promotes initiative, meaning, self-expression and power. In one sense it can be used to communicate and document the reality of daily life and expressions and experiences, but it can also be used imaginatively and artistically as a way of creating new realities, especially when you use photo manipulation software. It is a bridge between the conscious and subconscious, inner mind and external world. Taking a photo gives a photographer power, it is based on a decisive moment and is based on perception, interpretation, and creativity. You can choose what to emphasise, include and what to leave out.
The actual process of taking a photo is therapeutic in itself. By having the sense of choice, and power in what to capture, inspiration and creativity to compose a shot, by setting up the camera, I can gain a sense of order and calmness in my otherwise troubled and chaotic , powerless mind. It feels a means of cathartic healing and distraction and respite from my distress. Taking a photo and capturing a single moment in time, sometimes that may never happen again gives a grounding in reality. Somehow it makes me feel more resilient and better able to cope.
Photography can give you a reason to get out and about and focus. Portraits can give a sense of who we are, who we have been or in a construed fantasy world who we would like to be. I have a very negative self-perception, but have created a few imaginative self-portraits where I think I look kind of ok.
Photography is a means of a sharing narrative and can be the basis of conversations and discussions. I have had a lot of positive feedback from various people about my photos, this gives me a sense of “being good at something” and a sense of achievement. Taking a photo gives you an ownership of your creativity – it feels good to get praise for my skills and gives me confidence in my abilities.
When I am out somewhere with my camera I feel a different person. Photography is just a hobby, I don’t think I would want to make a career out of it because then I might stop enjoying it. But it certainly acts as a form of therapy and has had an important place to play in my recovery process, of which I’ve still got a long way to go!