Mar 202018
 

Part One – Feel

I was watching a news story where an amputee (one leg) used his disability to raise over a quarter of a million pounds for charity and go some way to finishing his Fifty-Two by Fifty-Two bucket list, which included such things as climbing Everest etc. And while I applaud the guy for his commitment, (he’s got so much commitment that he’s actually up for a nationally recognised reward), and his support of others like himself which he uses to help raise money for other amputees to get their own cool, well fitting legs so that they can too can also follow their dreams. And yet I sit here day after day, legally disabled and I’ve got no commitment. No commitment for anything at all.

I wondered why would the public get behind the afore mentioned amputee so much yet I can’t get five likes on a Facebook post about mental health and I can’t get more than three comments on a post asking my friends to sign a petition against Terry Richardson, an awful (read bad) photographer that shoots for magazines like Vogue yet uses his celebrity to sexually abuse models, and the media that uses his work (and supports the #metoo campaign) knows this yet hypocritically does or says nothing? And I also wondered does the above amputee’s amputation make him more disabled than I, and if so, why so?

They say that perception is 9/10ths of reality. I’ve said it before about photography: The worst photographer in the world can spend money to turn up to a gig with a quality DSLR, a few spare professional lenses, a fake Rolex on his wrist and a MacBook Pro and the client sees a professional photographer. I could (the pre depression/anxiety me), (not trying to big myself up, but rather trying to illustrate a point) probably turn up with an iPhone and take better composed and lit photos, make the customer feel more comfortable and give that customer an overall better and professional service than the bad photographer with all the gear.

So an amputee looks disabled whereas someone with mental health problems looks like you. (Unless so severely mentally disabled they’re ‘window-licking’ and riding the special bus) Generally though, a person with mental health problems looks like the person next to you on the tube, or the person opposite you at the bar. Being mentally disabled generally has no outward sign, no ‘look’, you don’t get a cool, Terminator style, carbon fibre leg. You certainly don’t get people saying about you; “he’s so brave, motivated, strong, admirable etc” and sure, I’ll back his attempt at Everest because of that cool leg.

As a ‘depressive’ even your best friends shun you eventually let alone workmates and the public. I can think of many friends lost to my depression. Even one that said she’d love me forever (platonically) and we’d always end writings together with the phrase ‘to the moon and back’ avoids me now. (Like the last friend that ‘loved me’). She disappeared from social media one day, from other friends of mine as well, she was well loved, but she had her demons too… Disappearing like she did, for so many years now, she might even have died, or maybe she moved from California to Sweden to be with the man she loved? No-one knew. Until recently. I found a live profile of hers on Instagram. It wasn’t there while I was logged in, but there it was updated two days before when I was logged out. Her photographical style was unmistakeable. The profile was from Sweden and I was blocked from it. Now I end things with ‘to the moon’. Nothing is going to come back from it. The only happy thing to take from the story is supposedly the move from Cali to Sweden happened and I pray that she found her happy place.

I’m happy to lose people to their own happiness. I’m sad when they just shun me because I’m toxic. I’d like to think she found her happy place.

I’ve said many times to my Dad that I’d rather have lost a leg than feel like I feel all day, every day.

Reading that, how does that make you feel about me? That I’d ‘honestly’ rather lose a leg than suffer acute depression and anxiety, Asperger, self-harm and be ‘actively suicidal’. (Actively suicidal: A medical term meaning to have a plan (method) with which to commit your suicide and you think about committing it more days than not.)

But me, I’m not trying to climb Everest, walk across the North Pole, cycle across America. I’m not asking for your money. I’m asking for your time and support so that I can write a book that tells my own story and maybe helps others in a similar situation. Sometimes I’m just asking you to sign a petition or react to a Facebook post.

The loss of a leg means coming to terms with many things: Home as a confined space; Maintenance of symmetry and dignity in social relations; Reconstitution of bodily confidence; Hope and willpower as driving forces; Establishment of a meaningful role in life; Dependence on care and rehabilitation initiatives.(1)

Depression, anxiety and Asperger combined lead to similar symptoms, similar but different. So let me tell you what depression means to me if you can be bothered to read on and how it affects my daily life. But it’s going to take some work from you to fully appreciate what I feel. To understand. Or, like signing a petition, is that too much to ask from you?

I need you to think back now, here and now, to the loss of that ‘one’ special person in your life, be it a lost love or beloved relative. I mean that really special one, the one that still hurts, the one you still miss. The person that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with or the relative you turned to when no-one else would listen or could help. In my case I have both, a girl I wanted to marry with all my heart and my Grandad, one of the last few ‘Gentlemen’, who’d suffered at the hands of the Japanese and still came back a respectful man who held down high positions at work, supported his family, doffed his hat at women in the street and to passing funereal processions and taught me chivalry amongst many other things on our early morning walks through Spanish fish markets and along Mallorcan streets during our many holidays together.

I fucking miss them both. The lost love, and my Grandad.

Think about your own similar losses and imagine them freshly minted. Remember how they left a numb feeling in the pit of your stomach that boiled and roiled, That even though numb was also too a physical pain. It physically hurt knowing you’d never share closeness with that missing person again. Take that pain now! Relive it, roll it around in your mouth, taste it. Feel it churning the pit of your stomach, let yourself well up with tears remembering again all the things that person meant to you but most of all feel that painful numbness in your stomach, feel it tightening your diaphragm and making it hard to breathe, making you gasp for breath Feel that pain once more and start the circle over again. ‘Know’ in your heart that life will never be good again, you’ll never feel happiness again, life has been as good as it will ever get and it only goes downhill from here. LIVE that pain.

Done it? Feeling it? Good!

‘That’ is what depression is. Forget ‘woe is me’ as you put the back of your hand to your forehead like a parody of a bad period drama and state “oh, I’m so depressed”. Depression feels exactly as I’ve just described, that gnawing pit of hell boiling in your stomach where the only light at the end of the tunnel is a train heading at high speed towards you and you ‘know’ with all certainty it will hit you as there isn’t enough room to the sides of the tunnel to escape it. And far from killing you, it’ll only leave you more disfigured, broken and disabled than you already are. Death is for the suicidally brave or the lucky and I’m far from that lucky. Depression is the absence of hope. A black sticky mire. Little wonder Churchill called it his ‘Black Dog’.

Even my close family and friends know that one day I might kill myself and not to blame themselves because they all did the best they could. Some, my Dad for example did all he could and more, has been the most surprising support of all. The least likely yet the most caring. He’s gone above and beyond what anyone could ask for yet still he knows that one day I might find life unbearable and take my own, end the pain in one extra large dose of Tramadol, Fentanyl and Morphine washed down by a bottle of ‘overproof’ rum. (My actively suicidal’ plan). Forget all that bull about suicides go to hell. I’m a Christian and believe and regularly ask forgiveness for some of the shitty things that cause my PTSD and anguish. That belief and asking for forgiveness is enough to get me into Heaven and its promised happiness. But. If I’m wrong and religion is just a man-made fantasy to give us hope then I’ll just sleep forever free from dreams and pain. Suicide is a win-win situation. I can’t go wrong with suicide and Pascal’s wager. I’m certainly brave and willing enough but Sid (my dog) needs me at the moment. I’m his friend and his Alpha. The number one in his life and he’s the only one that won’t understand my death. He’ll not grasp the concept of release and will only feel loss at my absence. How could I do that to my best friend when all that he’s ever given me is love and he’ll only feel the sense of loss that loss brings? I just can’t…

So if my day to day existence is one of that roiling pain at the very centre of my core, what does my head do? Where is my head at and how does it try to make sense of that pain and deal with living with it? Every day. Living with that pain not until I get over my lost relative or meet my next special someone but all day, every day for the past fourteen years. Fourteen years of that pain that I asked ‘you’ to remember and feel again but that is already subsiding in ‘you’ but never me, once more.

<edit>Actively suicidal: For the first time ever (20th January 2018), I’ve just finished writing my last will and testament and my suicide note? I’ve never felt depressed enough to write a suicide note, but now I am, and have.</edit>

Part Two – Me

I’m currently (at the time of writing this) letting a friend down, I owe her some photos. I’ve taken them but for the love of God I can’t post-process them no matter how much I want to. It’s easier to sleep all day every day or play video games. The last time I went out and did something positive was exactly a week ago. In the seven days since, I haven’t showered, washed, changed my clothes or shaved. I often sleep in my unchanged clothes in a bed that looks like a tar pit due to the fact a muddy unkempt dog sleeps in it too. I’m hating every advert for Christmas with a passion. I’m scared of everything. Even when I do go out I take a combat knife big enough to skin an elephant because of my anxiety. Yet inversely I’m actually scared of very little and certainly not scared of anyone that might try to hurt me or mine. The saying to never corner a wounded animal rings so true as I wrote that. Never antagonise a man with nothing to lose. What ‘have’ I got to lose if I stab a would be attacker in the head? What is prison to someone with suicidal tendencies? Prison is just another cage no different to my self imposed one. At least in prison they’ll control my diabetes rather than letting me slowly use it as a long and painful way to die by not having the commitment or willpower to control what I eat or drink, at all.

I steal when I’m out. Not from friends or people, never from friends or people, but from organisations, shops. from Oakley and Starbucks only. Only but always. Not because I need for anything but because the rush of adrenaline changes my mood for a short while and because it amuses me that I focus on just two brands, one of which is pointless. How many fucking Starbucks cups and beakers is too many? At least I like Oakley sunglasses.

I self harm, blatantly by cutting and inadvertently by my lack of care of myself. The cutting is never for sympathy, it’s often on show but I never bring attention to it, it’s just because my inner forearm is the easiest place to cut. People that know me pay no attention to it and know that I abhor platitudes and sympathy. I do it because like the adrenaline from theft it makes me feel different. Cutting and often a spray of aftershave or squeeze of lemon causes a bright flash of pain, the complete opposite of the numbness I feel all day every. Clean, bright, white, shiny pain that overrides the numb. The cutting is never uncontrolled, never done in anger. It is controlled and deliberate. Cross hatched to fit as many cuts as possible on my forearm and cross hatched to overlap and cause slightly deeper welts at the points where the cuts cross. Never too deep but never quite superficial either. Think of the depth as somewhere between a paper-cut and a slash. I’ve always got a blade sharp enough for control. Whether it’s the eponymous box cutter or a scalpel blade. Never cut with a blunt knife! Never cook with a blunt knife either. You’re more likely to hurt yourself with a blunt knife, amusingly enough.

I impulse buy, not because I need anything new but because knowing something new is coming through the door tomorrow is a short lived salve for my pain. The same endorphins released by gambling and serial dating are released by impulse buying. It’s an addictive, seemingly harmless way of self medicating but just as addictive as drink or smoking. And just as hard to give up. You could say that compulsive (let’s really call it what it is) buying is harmless where drink and cigarettes actually have a detrimental affect on your health. While that’s true, the money could certainly go to better uses. I could save it, I could use it to pay for dog walking and sitting, I could eat more healthily and I could certainly do with the space that buying shit all day takes up. You can only play so many games a year, I think if I never bought another game for the next year I would have enough games to see me through the next twenty years if I aimed to complete everything.

My garden is more often than not overgrown and my flat remains undecorated even after three years in London. When I say I don’t go out I mean I don’t go out. Not even into the garden. Not if I can help it. Both the front and back garden need attention. The front garden is a bone of contention as there are three people in this building and no-one cares what the front looks like seemingly apart from me. When I have brought it up with them, that from the steps down to my basement is my responsibility but the stairs upwards and the shared area would be theirs I am met with blank stares and outright refusals. How does that make me feel? I already struggle but to be ignored when all I want to do is improve the front for all of us is freakily annoying and makes me rebel and not do anything. Perhaps we all feel like me and we’re all tramps? A building full of mental health sufferers that refuse to tidy the front garden. One day we’ll be fighting our way through empty crisp packets and nine foot tall Buddleia trees. At least the butterflies will be happy!

The back garden is mine and mine alone to deal with. Even so, I find it so hard to go out there. It isn’t like my Cornwall garden where only one house overlooked me and the garden was big enough to find privacy if I wanted to. In London, at least a hundred windows (I counted) overlook my property and again, unlike Cornwall my garden is paved, doesn’t overlook the Percuil river and the sun is mostly blocked by trees of some description and the houses next to and behind me. In Summer it isn’t a garden for sun-lovers, it’s a garden for digging weeds from in between the paving stones. In fall it isn’t a pretty garden with an Acacia tree changing colour, it’s a nightmare of wet leaves and hidden Sid poop. Even the most diligent of gardeners would struggle with the amount of leaves that get deposited over my few square meters. I tried originally to have an area that would be similar to a mulching/recycling plot. It filled after the first winter and tree/rose pruning. Now, in my aim to look after the environment I have an area overflowing with leaves and branches. So much so that the bench I used as a boundary has now become part of the mulch and is slowly rotting away. It’ll make a great home for stag beetles eventually.

My sleep-hygiene is absolutely screwed, I sleep at odd hours (I’m editing this at 03.09am) or don’t sleep at all. At this very moment I am awake since 4 am and a Paloma Faith concert on BBC catch-up. I feel that I’ll have to go and give the garden a quick go over after writing this if I don’t go to bed (I didn’t). Yesterday I woke at 9.30 am when Lolita dropped her dogs off. I went back to sleep until 11.30 am, fed Sid and the girls, played some Destiny 2 on reset day, went back to bed at 4 pm. Woke at 7 pm to feed the dogs again, Lolita came and left by 10.30 pm and I fell asleep. As already stated I was awake again at 4 am, sore from being asleep on the wooden floor. This was a pretty average day. Some days I might sleep for a full 24 hours only waking when Sid feels like eating (I keep the backdoor open for him for toilet) or I might be awake for 24 hours. It seriously makes you tired even when you spend so much time asleep. It’s no lie that we need eight hours on average and at regular times. I feel like I live in a world of permanent jet-lag. I’m never quite sure what time it is apart from being guided by what’s on the TV. If I’m watching Jeremy Kyle it’s generally morning, if I’m watching Jeremy Kyle and there’s a guy in the bottom right signing for the deaf it’s between 12 am and 9.30 am. If someone is quizzing or selling their old shit at auction it’s some time during the afternoon. It’s no way to live a life.

My health lies in tatters. Eventually my hope of having a limb amputated will come true. The dietician I should be seeing refuses to see me until my mental health is sorted. In the mean time I live on a diet of chocolate, cake, processed scum with chips and beans and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. Plus more coffee with a side order of tea. The diabetes were it human would be having a field day. Crisps, chips, battered fish, pizza, burgers, sausages, milk shakes, chocolate ice cream, nothing is off limits to the depressed and slobified diabetic. My blood sugar level reads like a darts score card (180!) but due to the 30 odd tablets I take a day my cholesterol level is apparently brilliant. The diabetes and the neuropathy are the main worries though. Neuropathy is dead nerves… The same thing as missing limb syndrome. Because the nerves are dead the brain gets confused and makes them hurt or something. The same as if they were actually missing. This pain is like burning pins and needles although parts of the limb actually don’t feel anything. Confused yet? To combat the burning pins and needles, so the pain doesn’t become a distraction and the only thing I concentrate on (it’s THAT painful at times) I take Tramadol by the bucket load. At least sixteen 50mg tablets a day. I’ve actually taken thirty-six 50mg tablets in a day just out of curiosity. As an experiment the results were inconclusive: I actually felt no different to normal. But. Even 16 a day must have some negative effect? Even the Dr. at the pain clinic this week said that sixteen would put a horse to sleep so must affect the way I move through life and think. I think she was saying that I’m the equivalent of always being on an opioid bender. As opium is a narcotic the likelihood is that my mood is completely suppressed. With the help of a rehab clinic she wants me off of the Tramadol or at least on a licensed dose; two to four tablets a day. Maybe it’ll make a difference especially if another pain killer with anti-depressant effects is doubled it might have positive results. I’ll have to wait and see.

My career lies in tatters due to my inability to commit to anything or complete anything. My book remains partly written, the photography for it mostly unphotographed. My portfolio remains old, I have few fresh ideas anymore and the ones I do have remain just that, ideas. I feel like the media, however respectful I am has made it hard to approach new models without seeming creepy. I do lack a few things, lights and back-drops for example that are beyond my means that would enable me to control light well enough to be seemingly little more than a man-with-camera. I thought about a go-fund me page but seriously, if I can’t get people to sign a petition how am I going to persuade people to give up £3000 or so? Especially when ‘friends’ have recently made a mockery of the GoFund me site (similar funding sites are available) and such by asking for leisure products and holidays from myself and mutual friends.

I’ve been on my own for about seven years now, not because I want to be but because I want a partner not a nursemaid or someone to heal me. I want to be an equal part of a relationship and not the lesser half. Even there I sabotage myself because truly, the girls I fancy are the same ones I’d photograph. Women of my own age I see as friends only, not as potential partners. Women in their mid 20’s to 30’s appeal to me far more. Perhaps I don’t want the same baggage as I come with or perhaps I need the same spontaneity that I come with. Perhaps I need a Tekken competitor as much as I need a bed-partner and travel/life companion?

Bear in mind please that these effects of my depression are only skimming the surface. If I were to write everything I feel I’d be writing a book. Wait… I am meant to be writing a book on this. But maybe, just maybe, if you read this far you’ll have a better understanding of me and what I say and do. Sure, I’m not politically correct but I don’t care for political correctness. It makes me feel icky. I’m respectful and polite in my own way, a way that was taught to me by my Grandad. What was good for the 40s and 50s when men were gentlemen is good enough for me today. I might make the odd off colour joke about a particular woman but never in bad taste or meant to offend. I might make racially/physically/religiously inappropriate comments, but again, never to offend and often because I believe we have become TOO politically correct and I’m never going to stop calling wusses gay. None of my gay friends are wusses and very very few of them are camp. They know that my use of gay isn’t so much an insult to homosexuals and lesbians rather it’s an insult to people that I believe are the caricature of camp gayness and as such get the gay moniker thrown in their direction. I’ll also never get why black people can use the word ‘Nigger’ but white people can’t or why freedom of speech only applies to those that generally lack it. Let Muslims tear down a Christian religion or burn the UK/US flag outside the US embassy but question whether Sharia law is relevant in Manchester and the thought police will be knocking at your door at four in the morning and ‘racist scum’ will be sprayed across what remains of that same kicked in door.

If I jump into the Thames or steal deck-chairs/sunglasses or use an inner tube to fire conkers at people on a river path you have to cut me a break. Sure, I’m probably in the wrong but I’m also probably having a ‘manic’ moment (meant psychologically) where my thoughts translate into actions I cannot control. I think, therefore I am. I think, therefore I say. At these times no offence is intended but I’m doing/saying the only thing I can even if you personally feel it’s wrong. Please cut me a break. It’s physical Tourettes. Cuntprickballsacks!

Part Three – Bleeding…

So there you have an Andy breakdown. I am FAR from perfect. I value each and every one of my friends and take people as I find them. I judge by my own standards. We all do. If you’re a woman and want to grow a beard or have hairy armpits, have hairy armpits (just don’t show me). If you’re a male plus size model I don’t give a toss. Be a male plus-size model (just don’t eat my cake). If you want a diet coke. Have a diet coke. I believe in freedom of speech. Even the Social Justice Warrior and the Bedroom Cyber-Bully should have free speech. But with a caveat: There was a description suggested this morning for internet etiquette that I loved: 1) Would you say what you’re saying online to the same person face-to-face? Pretty much ninety-nine times out of one hundred, if I say something negative online I’d rather be saying it to your face. 2) Is the article that you’re going to comment on clickbait designed to elicit a negative response? If yes, don’t click on it and deny the owner of the site the financial marketing/advertising revenue generated by your click. If enough people remember this the demographic of internet marketing will change. 3) Just think before you get involved in an online debate. We unfortunately live in a decade where people are offended or triggered by everything, even by being offended. People are thin-skinned and our overt political correctness has led to virtually any speech becoming un-pc in some way. If you’ve nothing nice to say, say nothing. This won’t apply to me as I’m Aspergic but not all of you will have this excuse. Try to be kind. Even to the spazzers like me.

I’m definitely not saying be sympathetic or patronising to me. Even last night my dog sitter asked me what makes me so special when we all have problems and are all dealing with our own demons. Nothing makes me special. My only failing is that I’ve been knocked down so many times that this time I’m finding it hard to get back up again. A friend once said that that was what she most admired about me; my ability to get back up and reinvent myself slightly after every knock-back. Only an idiot would try the same thing time and time again and expect a different result. No? Isn’t that the definition of a moron? Keep repeating exactly the same thing expecting a different result? While a true genius is someone that knows a little about everything not everything about something.

This time, after selling everything I hold dear after a business failure, the loss of all my syndication money after my blasphemous stint, a search for redemption and faith ending in a proposed exorcism, the loss of an important long-term relationship, the loss of four important friendships, the miss-reading of four potential (in my head only) relationships with girls I really (really) liked, a total relocation from one of the prettiest places ever to somewhere not pretty at all, (for work and bucket-list reasons that so far have failed) and chronic illness. I’m finding this one extremely hard to bounce back from. I’ve also lost the support of the people that would normally help me bounce as even the best of friends have limits. It fucking hurts. And as that hurt becomes deeper it becomes a depression. It’s more than a sadness; far deeper down that dark pit or despair and far less forgiving.

Since 2004 it’s taken it’s toll. It’s cost me jobs and businesses. I been precious about my work to the detriment of a business, I’ve nearly worked with Santa Cruz surf and skate, I would’ve been the first person in the UK to shoot advertising for them. I’ve worked with some great models, some became friends, some of those friends I’ve lost, I’ve dated some real stunning girls and lost them, I recently found I was shooting glamour before 1986 but didn’t become a photographer for real until about 20 years later. I’ve met a bunch of my punk heroes, most are amazing but John Lydon was a prick. Good or bad I’ve stopped bouncing back for a while. I cycle and swim for my health but think cycling is a waste of time; riding in circles with no purpose. And swimming will only benefit me (really benefit me) when I’m back home in Cornwall or can effectively do the front crawl again, (where did that ability go?) I don’t think London will ever feel like home again unfortunately but at least I recognise that now. Cornwall has become my spiritual home. I want to be back by the sea. I want to be able to take someone back home with me and start again. But only after I’ve been able to finish what I started here. In London.

I pray for my depressed friends to recover, those that I know of at least (Richard), I pray for my lost and nowhere to be found loved ones (Zana) and I pray for my friends that no longer want to be friends; (Gayle and Hollie but especially Kate). I often pray for them more than I pray for myself. I pray for those that have helped me along the way (Jo, Di, Ros and Pete). In fact, at one time of another I pray for all of you.

Pascal’s Wager again… What do any of you have to lose if I pray for us all? Bear with me please.

(1) Living with clipped wings—Patients’ experience of losing a leg: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3797366/


Dec 152012
 

Colour me wrong but I’m a bit tired now of hearing about how Jacintha Saldanha committed suicide. Today it was second billing on the news after the Connecticut shooting tragedy.

Connecticut ‘IS’ a tragedy. It deserves to be news. My heart goes out to the parents that lost children; however old and also goes out to the survivors.

Jacintha Saldanha isn’t really news. Maybe it was, the first day, due to the connection with the Royal Family. But. Get over it already. Between 4000 and 6000 people commit suicide every year in the UK and the news doesn’t give a toss about them. Jacintha was obviously suffering some form of mental illness. Millions of people are.

The death of Jacintha is merely sad… For the news to be fair it should also list the names of the 11 to 17 other people that will also kill themselves today.


Dec 062011
 

What do you call a Professional Photographer without a camera? I was going to start this missive with a sentence containing the phrase ‘ex-photographer’ but somehow that didn’t work for me. Ex-photographer implies (to me at least) that I no longer ‘wish’ to be a photographer. That I am never going to take another picture or ever pick up a camera again.

Truth is; I am a Professional Photographer without the means to take a photograph. To push that truth a little further; I am also an artist without the means of creating art.

Times are hard the world over. Switch on the TV and one is bombarded with adverts asking you to help impoverished children in Africa, people the world over without food or clean water, mistreated animals and today I saw an advert asking me to help the victims of child marriages.

In the Western World it is almost impossible for first-time buyers to get on the housing ladder although house prices are at an all time low. Gold prices have been as high as they’ve ever been yet the common-person does not have the money to invest, rather, judging by the amount of adverts, people are being actually being urged to sell their gold (to survive). The rich get richer! Inflation rises. The cost of food and fuels rise almost daily and now, because of the recent flooding in Thailand, hard-drive prices are set to soar, thus driving up the price of computing again.

Those same times that are hard globally are also being hard locally; having said that I’m a Professional Photographer without a camera it makes perfect sense that I’m incapable of earning a living as a photographer.

In fact, since moving to Cornwall, whether because of my terrible marketing skills, a run of bad luck or my refusal to work as anything other than a portrait photographer I have only had one paid gig. Even that was sold at a fraction of the price that my last London job cost the client.

I am a photographer without a camera because living in Cornwall, as I do, as many others do, requires a circus full of skills; One has to constantly juggle money and possessions. It is a fine balancing act to keep ones head above water, one is constantly trying to escape from poverty, one has to tame ones debtors and one constantly hides behind the tears of a clown.

The constant juggling of finances is the hardest. Rent, food, water, electricity, heating, pet bills, travel, broadband connection, cell phone, TV license, addictions and quality of life: Rent, because luckily I live in a hovel, is covered. As to the rest? The water board have taken me to court. Luckily, they are the one service that can’t disconnect you. Food is juggled with electricity is juggled with heating is juggled with the broadband etc. It is ALWAYS food vs. pet bills, pet bills vs. electricity, electricity vs. travel, travel vs. cell phone, cell phone vs. addictions or addictions vs. quality of life. There is NEVER enough money to go around. There is NEVER a time when all of ones needs (according to Maslow) are covered entirely and comfortably.

Hence the fact I’m a photographer without a camera. To survive. To SURVIVE, I’ve had to sell it.

Since I came to Cornwall I’ve lost virtually everything; My physical health has deteriorated, my mental health has deteriorated. My mother has stopped talking to me, she will continue this to her death bed as her own mother did to her, my relationship with my father is strained and all my sundry family with the exception of my daughter and sister refuse to have anything to do with me.

I have lost my girlfriend of six years (along with my laptop and cordless drill) to another man and at least sixty percent of my friends are no longer friends.

To survive Cornwall I have sold: My £600+ ($960) mountain bike, my canoe, my Xbox 360 and games, my DVD collection, excess current generation video games I would like to have kept but no longer played, my entire collection of retro consoles and games dating from the eighties to the current generation (some of which will be forever irreplaceable), the gold chain I got for my twenty-first birthday, my car, a collection of rare Japanese toys and dolls, a hand forged Samurai sword, a Canon GL2 professional video camera, two pairs of Elinchrom Style RX 600 strobes and assorted diffusers, softboxes, umbrellas, dishes and reflectors, radio triggers for the strobes, my Canon 1Ds Mark II, a Canon Speedlite 430EX, a Canon Speedlite 580EX, a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens, a Canon EF 85mm f1.2L II USM lens, a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens, a Canon EF 24-70 f2.8L USM lens, a Canon EF 2x II Extender, various professional Hoya filters, all of the studio backdrop equipment, a Manfrotto monopod, a Manfrotto tripod, a Leica D-Lux 4 plus accessories and the Nikon S3100 I replaced the Leica with (although not for monetary gain but because it was utterly rubbish!)

I’m sure there’s more but you get the idea?

I have considered suicide but I have a responsibility to those few that still love me and my dog. I have considered suicide but I think I’m such a fuck-up that I’d mess it up and end up as a cabbage in a hospital bed. I have considered suicide but tomorrow might be a better day.

I live in hope that tomorrow is a better day! But tomorrow never comes as we all know. There is only today. There is only today and only I have the ability to make today better.

But most days I can’t, most days I’m not strong enough.

That’s not to say I won’t, I want to, but I lack the means to make today better at the moment. A good day today means I got up, I shaved and showered, I brushed my teeth and I got dressed. That’s on a good day. A very good day meant I probably fed myself and washed up, maybe did a little cleaning, maybe took the dog for a walk. An extremely good day maybe saw me thinking about the future a little, maybe I got out to town where the people are and maybe I called up a friend for a chat.

Past that, I struggle.

That’s not to say there isn’t a plan. I’m not totally done in, just done in enough to not be able to pick myself up and dust myself down alone.

I can’t help but think about the past and the future; this just weighs me down and makes the present crap. There is so much baggage in my past and try as I might I just can’t let it go. A lot of the past put me exactly where I am now. I analyse and over-analyse. I know I can’t change it but I can’t seem to forget it either. It’s a painful circle.

The future also seems more important than the present and perhaps I’m making a mistake there too; Without some kind of success in life  I won’t be covered for retirement, I’ll never amass a decent state pension at this late stage and I’m not getting younger day-by-day. Each year I seem to feel my age more acutely than the last.

I’ll never realise my dreams through regular employment; they’re modest dreams by anyone’s standard but probably beyond the means of say, a civil servant in this financial climate. Especially a civil servant that’s never left a regularly paid job by his own volition; I realised the other day that I’ve either been sacked or been asked to resign from every job I’ve ever had. And I’ve had a lot!

I realise also that I lack having someone to love. As crass as it might seem, success means you get the pick of better women. Financial stability is probably the modern version of having the biggest club and the best furs from back in the caveman days. Very few women love a failure! The cavemen failures were the ones the mammoths trampled and the sabre-toothed tigers ate. Today’s failures are the financially and emotionally challenged.

This year has been terrible! I’m not going to live another year like this! I’m not! Either I make it next year or it’s that trip to Thailand I always spoke of… I can’t do this any more. I just can’t.

This year was worse than last which was worse than the one before that which was looking to be a pretty good year until the October.

2008 was the year it started to come together and also the year when it started to fall apart and it hasn’t got better. Two thousand and fucking eight! Just when all the hard work began to pay off the situation changed, I made a knee-jerk reaction and it was downhill all the way from there. Here and there I managed to grab a rocky outcrop or a tired old shrub on my descent but the rocks never held and the shrubs uprooted. In mountaineering parlance I need to find an old piton or cam wedged tight into the slope to belay (I probably shouldn’t mix nautical and mountaineering metaphors but it works…) my fall and give me half a chance to climb back up again.

Somehow, between now and March 2012 I need to find a minimum of £8000 ($12500). Yes, eight thousand pound to get myself back on track. I have no idea how! That’s just for the camera, a lens and a flash. I’d actually like £14400 for equipment and another £3000 to buy me some time in London but £8000 would be a start! With £8K I can start to take photos again and stop being whatever a photographer without a camera is called.

Donations gratefully accepted… Email me for my PayPal account details and you’ll have my eternal gratitude and a mention in my first biography. If it’s a good enough idea for Katie Price it’s good enough for me!

Mar 312011
 

If my life were a Role Playing Game, right now I’d be levelling up in photography and my relationship status would be set back to zero: +4 commitment to life, -2 happiness, +8 peace of mind and +/-9 positivity.

Finally, along with causing abject depression, my commitment to photography and a photographic career has cost me my six year relationship. My partner decided enough was enough and were I to continue along the path I have been walking she’d walk herself; Thus, she’s left me for someone else more stable. Leaving me with a rented property I can ill afford and our dog.

I got the dog! You have no idea how happy that makes me. Sid (my orange coloured Cocker Spaniel) is my rock! We shared pancakes today, sat on the sofa, scratching our fleas, catching up on the past few episodes of The Event.

I read an article the other day on the theory that time seems to speed up the older one gets.

We’ve all heard that, right? Okay, according to a study done by the University of Cincinnati some time in the seventies this effect is so pronounced that if you’re twenty today, in terms of your subjective experience, you’re already half way through your life even if you live to be eighty. If you’re in your forties, (again assuming you’ll live to the ripe old age of eighty) your life is seventy-one percent done.

So my life is (subjectively) over seventy-one percent finished, my career hasn’t started yet, I’m broke, I live in rented accommodation in purgatory Cornwall, my family have all but disowned me, my daughter lives back in London, I’m in ill health and my partner has now left me. But, I do have my dog.

I have my dog, a portfolio of work I’m quietly pleased with, a nomination for a photographic award I’m not allowed to talk about as I’m far from a finalist yet, an article published in a professional photographic magazine this month and a plan.

+9 positivity indeed! Life could well be worse… (that wasn’t an invitation).

Actually, for the first time in my life I have three plans. I have a plan A, a plan B and a plan C. Plan A is my master plan. The one I’m not discussing yet apart from to very close friends and the one member of my family still talking to me.

Plan A is my career saving plan. However, if I fail to define myself as a photographer is my life really over? According to studies by the University of Cincinnati blah blah blah it already is so why worry?

I’ve still got roughly twenty-nine percent of my life left so I might as well make the most of what little time I have left, possibly, (probably), I should stop being a depressive drama queen and start making the most of what I do have. Hence; plan B and plan C.

Reading this back to myself to spell check and proof, perhaps I’m actually an undiagnosed manic depressive and this is one of those bouts of unbridled mania that comes before another big low. It certainly sounds like it might be. Next time you’ll be reading my obituary!

If plan A fails I could? forget being a photographer and accept that my lot in life is that of an ex-pat living in Cornwall. I could get a minimum wage job flipping burgers for one of the chains or get a job in some extreme sports or surf shop and in my spare time make the most of what this (don’t believe the ‘sunny’ hype) rainy county has to offer.

I could finally learn to surf. I could visit (with my dog) the three hundred or so beaches I have yet to see including that blasted Kynance Cove I’ve failed to get to for two and a half years now.

I could visit some of the beauty spots I have still failed to visit and I could walk the moors (again with the dog and wearing those very expensive walking boots I bought pre-Cornwall convinced I’d need them and that I’d be walking the moors all the time although as yet I’ve failed to do anything but drive through them very fast in an attempt to get somewhere else).

I could fly my kites, I could take up bird watching, I could regain my fitness and by working that minimum wage job perhaps enjoy being self-sufficient again albeit on a reduced budget.

If I were sensible this life might even offer a way to come off of my blood pressure, my cholesterol and some of my diabetic meds. I’m sure it’d be on the right track to coming off my depression meds and might even be an incentive to give up smoking if fitness were a way forward to happiness. Who’d have thought it? If not gushing I do sound vaguely positive.

But wait, there’s more! I did say there was a plan C no?

If, upon reflection, plan B seemed too mundane were plan A to fail plan C would be to sell everything I own barring the dog and take to travelling.

I’d be like those intrepid photographers of old… Just me, the dog and a trusty Leica. Travelling the world (rabies shots permitting (me not the dog)) and documenting the sights. Sure, pretty much all the sights have been documented, but not by me. Have you ever seen a Pygmy wearing a gas mask or a Inuit gimp? Neither have I!

I have friends across America, I could start there by bumming some accommodation; New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas and San Francisco. That’s a start no? Is the French Quarter of New Orleans still standing?

From the US I’d like to see some of the Caribbean, I’d like to travel to North and South Vietnam and I’d like to see the Killing Fields of Cambodia. I guess I’ve seen too many war films. I’d like to go to Thailand and Japan. I’d like to visit Prague and  St Petersburg and (vaccinations permitting again) maybe hook up with some of those beautiful East European prostitutes one reads about.

If I get bored or too despondent I’ll buy myself a drug overdose in Phuket, wander off into the jungle and never be heard from again. Leave ‘em wondering. It’s a good job that my model release forms state that my beneficiaries can gain monetarily from the sale of my pictures. A dead artist is often seen more favourably than a live one.

It all sounds good on paper. However. There is still the not-so-small matter of my crippling procrastination to deal with.

As a brief aside; I do this a lot don’t I? I recently came across a theory that if you have to make a choice, flipping a coin is a good way to make it. Not as random as it may seem, the theory goes that once you’ve attributed your choices to either heads or tails and while the coin is in the air you instinctively know which way up you want the coin to land. THAT is the option to pick. Forget chance. You just go with that gut feeling.

Hmmm, if only I could find a three sided coin… In the meantime I think I’ll just sit here and procrastinate writing about how good life could be if only.

Jan 312011
 

I read an article written by Grant Scott in the August 2010 edition of Professional Photographer magazine. It was about the loneliness of being a freelance professional photographer.

While at times it seemed like an layman’s guide to depression some of it most definitely struck a chord with me:

As photographers, we do sit in front of our computers staring at the screen wondering who to contact next looking for work and how. We do wonder why nobody replies to our emails, returns our telephone calls or rings us with the perfect job. We do look at other photographers sites, compare our work to theirs and wonder “why are they busy and I am not, what do they have that I have not?”

Without the social elements of an office or studio full of people it is hard to get up every day and motivate yourself to create new reasons for people to come and see you, it is hard to find new clients and it is hard to remain creative and continue the daily slog of self-promotion.

It requires a huge amount of determination, self-belief and stamina to keep going. A photographer works in a profession that requires huge self-belief in ones work and oneself. We have nothing to sell other than our personality and creativity. When either or both are rejected our self-belief takes a battering and the more it happens the more our self-belief declines dramatically. Few of us have anybody close to us that understand the pressures of being a professional photographer.

We try, we desperately want to, give out a successful, positive persona to persuade our prospective clients they are buying into a success story. Thus we lie.

When we are asked how we are doing, how the recession is affecting us and how we are enjoying things at the moment, we lie. We try to juggle the truth; we create two versions of ourselves, the real one and the public face that meets with the client and exudes success wherever and whenever one advertises.

It is a hard act to maintain when you read the photographic press and see the success others are having. It is a hard act to maintain when you see the success your peers are purportedly having. It is a hard act to maintain when in moments of ego and extreme self-belief you compare yourself to the truly successful in the world of photography and know ‘I could have done that.’

There is a subtle difference to the paragraph above and the old joke about photographers; How many photographers does it take to change a light bulb? Fifty, one to change the bulb and forty-nine to say “I could have done that!”

Sometimes, if budget and equipment were not an issue some of us really could ‘have done that.’

Sometimes, the editors and creative directors that we as photographers are applying to for work forget that the Crewdson’s, the LaChapelle’s and the Leibovitz’s of the industry are teams of other creatives including assistants, lighting assistants, make-up artists, stylists, post production teams and marketing assistants. They are not freelancers working alone.

In fact, Annie Leibovitz tells a story in her book; At Work, where Dorothy Wilding was employed to photograph The Queen and wasn’t even in the room when the photograph was taken! Apparently Wilding’s assistants, who were trained in her style, often went out and took photographs for her. Often, she wasn’t in the same country. At one time she employed around thirty-seven people in her studio.

In his Professional Photographer article, coincidentally, Grant Scott mentioned a book called ‘Shoot the Damn Dog’. It was written by Sally Brampton, the woman that launched the magazine Elle and then suffered a clinical depression. She recovered (or so she’d thought) and became the editor of Red magazine, a position she was fired from due to ongoing depression. I’ve just finished reading the same book. On page sixty two Sally describes how she felt after being fired:

She felt that her self, her sense of worth and her calling was that of a successful magazine editor. By being fired, by losing her job as an editor of a mainstream magazine she felt that she’d failed at being herself. If she was no longer fit to be an editor then what was her worth? By failing in the role of an editor she herself had failed. What did she have left if her self had been taken away and she had no way forward or way to regain that self?

That struck a chord with me too… If I fail at being a photographer then what do I have left? I define myself as a photographer. I live to be a photographer. If I cannot be a photographer then what do I, myself, have left? I cannot answer the question. I have no answers. I do not see myself as anything but a professional and successful photographer.

For one moment in time, on this blog, I’m going to refuse to lie. The public face is going to be the real face. The real face is going public. Maintaining a show of success where there is none is laborious and wearisome. Trying to maintain momentum and enthusiasm in the midst of a clinical depression is nigh on impossible. Motivation and creativity are all but impossible when you’re this lonely and depressed.

Within the past month I could have and was more than prepared to die, which I would have were it not for a sentence spoken to me. I can truly understand why photographers and other creatives commit suicide.

I did not know them or could ever purport to know what they were thinking at the time but I can sympathise with Diane Arbus, Bob Carlos Clarke, Warren Bolster, Terence Donovan, Pierre Molinier, Francesca Woodman and the many other not so famous unnamed photographers that have committed suicide.

I will leave the last words on suicide to Kevin Carter, a Pulitzer Prize winner. Part of his suicide note read; “I am depressed… without phone… money for rent… money for child support… money for debts… money!!! I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain… of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners… I have gone to join Ken (his recently deceased colleague, Ken Oosterbroek) if I am that lucky.”

I have no idea what the statistics are for photographers as a sub-group but in the period 2009/2010 1.25 million people in the UK sought help for mental health issues. 33% of all General Practitioner’s time was taken up by mental health disorders. At it’s current rate of increase, by 2020 depression will be the 2nd most disabling condition behind heart disease. 10 times more people suffer from major depression now than in 1945 and in the UK alone more than £100 billion is spent per annum on mental health care.

From Wikipedia:

The criteria below are based on the formal DSM-IV criteria for a Major Depressive Episode. In order to be diagnosed as suffering from a major depressive episode, the patient must meet the following criteria:

Over a two week period, the patient has consistently experienced five or more of the following symptoms, and these behaviours must be outside the parameters of the patient’s normal behaviour. Either depressed mood or decreased interest or pleasure must be one of the five (although both are frequently concomitant).

  • For the better part of nearly every day, the patient reports a depressed mood or appears depressed to others.
  • For most of nearly every day, interest or pleasure is markedly decreased in nearly all activities (noted by the patient or by others).
  • Although not dieting, there is a marked loss or gain of weight (such as 5% in one month) or appetite is markedly decreased or increased nearly every day.
  • Nearly every day the patient sleeps excessively, known as hypersomnia, or not enough, known as insomnia.
  • Nearly every day others can see that the patient’s activity is agitated or slow.
  • Nearly every day the person experiences extreme fatigue.
  • Nearly every day the patient feels worthless or inappropriately guilty. These feelings are not just about being depressed, they may be delusional.
  • Noted by the patient or by others, nearly every day the patient is indecisive or has trouble thinking or concentrating.
  • The patient has had repeated thoughts about death (other than the fear of dying), suicide (with or without a plan) or has made a suicide attempt.

Since my ill-fated photographic studio closed in 2009 I have experienced all nine of these symptoms virtually every day. I am still experiencing most of the nine symptoms every day and yet I am still trying hard to maintain an outward facade of success. It is beyond tiring and most days I fail. Today I am being honest about my failure.

Since I took up photography as a profession I have failed (by the definition of being a ‘professional’) and have therefore failed to be the essence of who I perceive myself to be. If I am not a professional photographer then I am just a photographer, a hobbyist.

Yet, in times of clarity I know I have the talent. I can be a professional photographer. I can be a great professional photographer.

When I need reminding why I do this I try to read the compliments on my website and take them on board; unlike the testament from Mrs. Smith in Blackpool on how Union Meerkat Insurance provided her with the best service ever, the testaments on my website are real and verifiable.

I became a professional photographer because that was my dream job. Being a professional photographer would also pave the way for my other dreams to come true. So far I have failed and am crushed by depression wondering, like Sally Brampton did; if I am not a professional photographer then who am I?

I know I am not a corporate slave. I am not a member of the service industry, neither am I a cook or a mechanic or a lorry driver. I am not a wedding photographer and neither am I a photographer that sells shoddy ‘portfolio’ photo-shoots to ill-informed want-to-be models for thirty quid a time.

I want to be a PROFESSIONAL, PUBLISHED, WORKING, ARTISTIC, photographer/artist.

But.

I sit here at the computer, lonely and depressed wondering who to contact next and how. I have the weight of fear, anxiety, procrastination and depression crushing me everyday and I have no one to turn to for help.

My counsellor is only words in my ear once a week. My closest friends don’t have the experience to help me and as yet, even though I’d be loathe to share my plans with peers I don’t even have the peers with enough experience to help me. I am the one they often turn to for advice!

So.

I sit here at the computer, lonely and depressed with a plan to turn everything around. A plan that I know will work, wondering who to contact next and how. Knowing that when I do know the right person to contact, I’ll have to put on my public face full of lies and stories of success when underneath, my current defeated self is cowering with fear, procrastination and depression.

I have spent hours on my plan. It is a story, in itself, of self-discovery. It is biographical. It is life changing. It is my dream, it is my dreams come true. It is altruistic in parts, it is self serving in parts. It is a wonderment and an abhorrence. It is a thank you and a fuck you. It is charity and it is greed.

I sit here at the computer, lonely and depressed with a plan to turn everything around…

I need encouragement when my motivation fails. I need someone to have belief in me when I fail to have belief in myself. I need someone to help financially support my plan for the next three months.

Who the hell do I turn to?