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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Social Anxiety/Persistent Depressive Disorder as a Photographer

In 2004, I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder and Persistent Depressive Disorder: this pretty much meant that occupations dealing with people on a day-to-day face-to-face situations was out as most contact meant that I would prefer to dive head-first into a gopher hole and not come back out. This meant that social photography such as portrait or wedding photography was out. For the longest time, I tried to deny it; that if I suppressed it far enough down inside, that I could make it go away. It returned, worse that before, to the point where the only time I ventured out was when I needed to do something or go absolutely crazy – I almost became a hermit. In fact the only people that I could stand to be around were the friends who I knew personally, that I knew weren’t threatening; and even then only on Facebook.

Why Are There Eyes On Me - How Do I Turn Invisible?

Why am I exposing myself this way? Because mental illness needs to be addressed. Most of us who struggle with mental illness every single day aren’t doing this because we want attention or are lazy or don’t want to work. It’s that we have an illness. We struggle with it every single day but we find a way to deal with it, in a way that it doesn’t incapacitate us. I use photography as my balm first, a business second. I prefer to shoot landscapes/wildlife as a way of healing my soul.

Photography is a business where those who know how to socialize thrive; in the genres that involve contact with people everyday. For those of us who have to deal with social anxiety; for those with persistent depression, wondering if we’re good enough or whether we’re defective, it’s mental torture. We are our own toughest critics. A lot of us become gear-heads – thinking that the latest new gear can improve our photography to the point where we have a break-through and can start earning money with it.

So how does one become an photography entrepreneur when saddled with SAD/PDD? One: you pick a genre which is the least threatening. Two: When you pick your genre, you find a way to make your images stand out from the rest (a goal that I’m still trying to reach), Three: You need to separate yourself from your safe-zone (most people who are socially anxious hate going out into the big wide world because there’s a lot of what we perceive as threatening people in it (that’s not the truth in the world, it’s our skewed perception of reality and that’s what we have to deal with everyday) – we’d prefer it if we could stay inside our home. We have to grit our teeth and go out and make the effort to get out there and do what we need to do or else we don’t develop the portfolio that we need to in order to get our business off the ground.

Every day is a struggle, but the payoff is worth the effort. I know that with persistence, I’ll get there someday. I’m not going to give up and I don’t intend to give in to the phantoms in my head telling me that the world is a “scary place”. Those of us with Social Anxiety and Depression may be struggling to keep our heads above water emotionally, but we are by no means broken. We will stay fighting to survive, persevere and eventually succeed. And as long as we’re still breathing we’ll fight, every single day to stay that way.

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