Every week I try to make some time for a mental health day. Sometimes the plan is to just go and sit in a cafe and have a quite coffee and a cake, sometimes it just go for a walk. Most of the time its a walk with a camera and take a few photos.
Well, todays mental health day is going to last for two days. Today I am going to go out with the cameras (yes more than one), tripod and a good book (more on that later). I am heading to a couple of parks to take some photos for Tams walks book. It’s a project we have started and it’s to help him cope with days not a school.
Most of the time I plan a mental health day but sometimes it is just the accumulation of a few bad days or the feeling that things are getting bad. This week is a mixture and also the anxiety of how Tam will do at the weekend. Probably worrying about nothing but the anxiety is there. Thats ok, I have just learned to use anxiety as an indicator and facilitator to doing something positive to help me cope.
I have the day split into 2. Things I need to do for me and Tam (plenty of them) and then with what is left is my photo walk before Tam gets back. Now I dont put any pressure on myself to take any photos. If I come back with none thats ok. It more important to get my mind in the state of just being present in the moment and forgetting about the past and not worrying about the future.
So chores done as much as I can for the day it’s off for my walk. First port of call is the bench that me Bev and Tam used to sit at in the park. A quiet place that we used to make plans and talk about the challenges we had. Its a little connection and a place to centre myself. After a few minutes there I make a decision about which way to walk. Normally a random decision and sometimes a difficult one. Depends on how I am feeling. One day it was no direction and I just sat on the bench for a few hours watching the world go by.
Why is photography good for my mental health? Well simply put, it forces you to slow down and look at the world. In deciding to take a photo (freeze a moment for later) my brain and eyes have to engage with the surrondings and see. That is so important I am taking the time to see. See people, buildings, landscapes. It’s all about slowing down and being in the moment. Not thinking about the past, not worrying about the future. The biggest worry I have in this time is did I capture the picture that I felt was worthy of freezing in the camera. I will find that out later, if I did great if not its a learning experience.
I had not quite finished two rolls of film so I went for a bacon sandwich and took the final photos. Then a different few hours. Developing the film.
Now developing film at home requires a lot of care. The chemicals have to be the right temperature, you have to get the film out and onto reals in absolute darkness, you really cannot see what your hands are doing and then you have to keep to some precise timings.
If all goes well, magic happens. The images captured come into sharp relief and you can marvel at a process of lots of moving parts that still feels like magic. Some photos will not be in focus, some will be motion blurred, but some will be sharp and well framed. The failures are just as precious as learning experiences as the successes are good enough to frame.
I find peace in this process. I find personal joy in a well framed and sharp photo of a subject that I thought worthy of capture. The process lets my brain rewire for the challenges that Tam has and lets my subconcious silently process how to move on.
And the reality (some photos taken by Tam) -
How does all of this help Tam. Well thats an easy answer that I found hard to accept. I need to be healthy mentally and physically. I found it hard to accept because I was trying too hard to do everything. I was running on empty for so long that I was failing more and more. Taking time to recharge and doing something for ourselves, no matter how small or large, helps with perspective. It help with the long sleepless nights, the meltdowns and all of the other challenges.
A phrase I was constantly hearing from professional around me was “be good to yourself”, or “stop being so tough on yourself”. It is hard to see how to do this and what I have talked about is one of my steps to giving myself a break and being me for a little slice of time.
Well with all of that said I hear you say “how would that work for me?”. My best advice is make it work. Find something for you, read a book, go shopping (for yourself), visit friends, pick something and make it for you. Then pick a day. It’s hard to do, there is always a million other things to do. Well add your mental health day to the list and make it one of your top priorities. No one else will do it for you, so be good to yourself and do it. It will benefit you and the people around you.
Just in case you are sitting asking, where do you buy film? Well we get all our film at https://analoguewonderland.co.uk go have a look.
Next Episode : Mental Health Day - Blitz cleaning the cupboard.