Guest post by Elaine Simonsen…..
The following is part two of Elaine’s battle with OCD and how photography became therapy for her. I have battled depression a few times, so I can relate to her story. Take a moment to read through this – it may help someone you know.
I told you about my struggles with OCD and anxiety/depression in my first post (you can reread that here). Well, It took a lot of nerve for me to come out and tell you about my struggles. I had to be brave; it’s difficult to be vulnerable with anyone, let alone strangers. But you know what? I’m okay with being vulnerable if it helps another person.
Maybe you struggle with the same sort of illness that I do, maybe you struggle with your own difficulties, or maybe you know someone going through a rough patch in their lives. If I can be open, then hopefully someone else will get the help they need. I’m so thankful that my friend, who spoke out to me, was brave enough too. It takes a lot to go out of your way to help others. It may not be your natural response, but it can be something that you think about. If you hear of someone needing help, offer it. I needed my friend; I don’t think I could’ve come out of it by myself.
After she and I discussed my symptoms and she told me about her own struggles, I got help. I went to a counselor who specialized in OCD and anxiety. I learned so much about my brain and how it worked! It was so interesting and the way he was describing OCD, I kept thinking “yep, I have that. yep, I do that”… It was almost a relief to know that what I was dealing with had a name and it had treatments that work well.
I spent a good part of the year in therapy learning coping mechanisms and strategies for dealing with the intrusive thoughts. I also started taking a medicine that would help. After awhile, I realized that my brain still formulated the thoughts, but it was easier for me to realize that they were not real. It was just my OCD. I know there are many arguments for or against medications to treat mental illness, and I don’t lie on any one side. This plan worked for me, but I’m not saying that it’s the only thing that would work.
The one thing that did work for me was photography. It truly made those thoughts just disappear. Not only the actual act of photographing things, but editing the photos as well was therapeutic. I mean, I would spend hours editing photos. Meticulously going through them with a relaxed mind and just loving the relief I had from OCD, even if it was just for a little while. That’s when I really started honing my skills using Photoshop Elements. Luckily, I found Everyday Elements and Amanda. I started taking all her courses online about the editing software. I continue to take classes to this day. But at that time, it was what I needed to get my mind off of my thoughts. I really immersed myself in the subject.
I started to notice, that my life was getting a bit easier. I was fighting with my husband less, feeling more loved by him, my kids were happier now that I was involved more, and I was relaxed and confident in myself. I needed that! I started taking on clients and starting my business. I realized that even though I knew how to edit pretty good, the photos needed to be good straight out of the camera!!
That is what I mean when I say photography is not THAT easy. I knew all the information about shutter speed and f stop and ISO and lighting, but how they all worked together was lost on me. I would have great sessions, and then I would have not-so-great sessions. Some photos turned out just right, while others were completely out of focus and I missed the shot. What was I going to do? How was I going to learn how to take a good picture? I WANTED to photograph families and I WANTED to be good at it. I needed to feel confident, I needed others approval. Photography was NOT SO EASY… but I was going to try my hardest to be the best I could be.
To be continued…
(Two of the images were ones I “got right” and was actually paid for them! Yay!)