How reading and photography helped me deal with my mental illness

How reading and photography helped me: Being creative or reading a good narrative helps ease anxiety and despair

Different nations observe Mental Health Awareness Month at different periods of the year; for instance, the USA observes it in May while Australia observes it in October. However, there is one mental health-related occasion that is recognized globally on the same day: World Mental Health Day, which was established on October 10 in 1992 and continues to this day to promote awareness of mental health issues.

Whether we realize it or not, the majority of us have experienced mental health disorders, either directly through our own suffering or indirectly via indirectly witnessing and perhaps even supporting a loved one who is going through a difficult period. Many of us, like myself, don’t even recognize we have a problem, but it’s occasionally advisable to discuss potential triggers with another person.

Know that you’re not alone and that there are things you can do to get through the difficult times if you’re one of those people who doesn’t feel comfortable asking for assistance. One of my coworkers, for instance, utilised ChatGPT to get over his loss, and another used cameras and photography to concentrate his creativity.

For a very long time, photography has also served as my emotional support system. I’m happiest when I’m holding a camera, and I’m fortunate to work a profession that allows me to pursue my passion.

I’m an avid reader as well, and I usually have a book open in my lap while I’m awake. Well, “book” isn’t entirely accurate because I switched to digital years ago and now use an ereader to make to-do lists and notes in addition to reading.

However, the technology itself isn’t really what matters; rather, it’s about how it helped me get through some difficult moments and might be able to do the same for you.

Reading to escape

When it comes to dealing with mental health difficulties, escapism is a somewhat complicated notion, but when used properly, it may be beneficial. Since I was five years old, I’ve been reading, and as an only child, books were always at my side. I believe it’s accurate to say that I was utilizing Enid Blyton’s characters to combat loneliness in retrospect.

For me, reading is a habit rather than a pastime. Every day, even if it’s just for a short while, I have to read. Despite reading a variety of genres over the years, I now strongly prefer books that allow me to escape, primarily fantasy and cyberpunk. Because those cultures and ways of existence are alien to me and require my imagination to create, I avidly consume books on ancient and mediaeval history.

Given that I acquired my first ereader, the Kobo Glo, in 2014, I haven’t read a physical book in a while. I acquired my first Kindle after it broke a year later after falling off a shelf. I already own a number of these e-paper tablets as a result of my work as a reviewer, and I always look forward to the opportunity to test some of the top ereaders available right now.

You may argue that reading a real book is the best experience there is, but I’ll counter that by arguing that the feel of the paper and the sound of the page turning are unnecessary because they won’t even register if you’re deeply immersed in the book. You’re probably not reading the correct book if all you’re thinking about is the physical book’s “feel.”

The correct book can also assist you in overcoming sadness, anxiety, and tension. In reality, bibliotherapy, a little-known subfield of psychotherapy, focuses on the benefits of reading for mental health.

Books to read to help fight mental illness

A bibliotherapist is someone who enhances your mental health by combining literature with conventional therapeutic methods. A second sort of “lite” bibliotherapy is offered by some libraries across the world; in these sessions, you receive book recommendations based on key life situations you’re dealing with to help you cope.

I recently experienced something similar. I had to first complete a quick survey that Kobo had set up, which questioned me things like, “Who is your favourite author,” “What are your favourite books,” and “Are you experiencing or will experience a significant life event.” Examples of the last one include getting married, having a child, celebrating a milestone birthday, ending a relationship, divorcing, and more.

The bibliotherapist, Lucy Pearson from The Literary Edit, came prepared with some book suggestions for me based on my responses. Even though I had already read the majority of the books she suggested, I appreciated that I wasn’t pressured to read anything in a genre that didn’t interest me.

A bibliotherapist might suggest books they feel might relate to your experiences. For instance, they may advise a book (or novels) whose main character is going through a similar experience if you’ve lost a loved one and need help coping with your grief since it might help you feel less alone. Both fiction and nonfiction book recommendations can benefit children. And it makes no difference whether you like to read books on paper or on an eReader.

Channeling Creativity

I read regularly, but my hobby is photography. I’ve already mentioned that I’m happiest while holding a camera. I started taking pictures in my mid-thirties; however, I didn’t own my first camera until I was in my late-20s, a Canon point-and-shoot whose model number I have forgotten.

A few years later, I upgraded to a Panasonic point-and-shoot camera with an 18x optical zoom and manual mode, utilising the latter to instruct myself in how to change settings for the best photo. At this point, I started to understand that I enjoy taking photos. The fact that the images weren’t of a professional calibre didn’t matter because I seemed to enjoy the experience.

Around that time, everything started to feel as though they were disintegrating. I won’t get into the graphic specifics, but by 2010, I had reached my lowest point as a result of significant life changes. It was the most uncertain and terrible time I’ve ever experienced. And as was to be expected, the tension and worry of the moment had an impact on more than just the mind. I required surgery as a result of my hormones going crazy.

I was able to avoid it all by snapping pictures. I purchased a Canon EOS 600D DSLR and a Sigma 18-300mm zoom lens in 2012. Due to the negative effects of depression on my health, I was unable to leave my apartment for a few years. During that time, I would shoot pictures of the sunsets from my balcony (which were actually pretty lovely) or the fading autumn leaves on the plane trees outside the building.

I discovered that concentrating on improving my photography skills got my mind off of myself and on other, more productive things, such as framing the shot, choosing the optimal settings, and so forth.

I’ve continued to take photos. I’ve improved as a photographer over the years by experimentation; I’m completely self-taught and unquestionably not a professional. In addition to feeling better emotionally, I learned a lot about the technology behind cameras and lenses. This gave me the opportunity to write about photography, and I was given a job that allowed me to follow my passion.

I believe that photography has improved me personally by teaching me empathy and patience. It has also aided me in acknowledging my mental health condition so that I no longer feel the need to conceal it. I am therefore one of the fortunate few.

Even if it takes a lot of guts to do so, being able to express what we’re going through can be helpful, and conveying that story through photography or film can be a wonderful creative outlet. If you enjoy being creative, there are annual photo contests with the issue of mental health, such as Out From The Mist, that accept submissions. For photographers and content creators, it’s a fantastic and secure venue to share their experiences.

utilising the influence of hobbies and exercise
My particular mental supports include reading and photography, but there are other things you can do. Running or walking, attending a gym, practising yoga or meditation are all excellent options for maintaining both your physical and mental wellness. Start using one of the many mental health applications available.

Not a fitness fan? You may learn to knit or crochet or start a scrapbook. If you enjoy creating arts and crafts, you could think about investing in a machine like the Cricut Joy so that you can sell your creations on websites like Etsy and earn some additional money.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, almost everyone experiences stress or anxiety at some point in their lives. It is up to each of us to seek out support or find activities that make us happy and, maybe most importantly, to stick with them.

Visit the websites of the Mental Health Foundation in the UK, Mental Health America in the US, or SANE and Beyond Blue in Australia if you want to learn more about mental health or are eager to get treatment.

Leave a Comment