Finding my Roar through COVID-19
When I started The Picture Healer, in March 2020, I had no idea what was about to transpire in my life, or on a worldwide level. Had anyone suggested a deadly pandemic was about develop affect everything we took for granted; I would not have believed them. That’s the stuff you see in movies when, at its conclusion, you find yourself thankful that it was just a movie and not real life. Yet, looking back over the past ten weeks, COVID-19 has changed our world to the point where walking down the street requires an inner sense of heightened caution. People are not just people anymore; they’ve become potential carriers of this deadly virus. Gone are the good old days of walks down the street, hugging the friends we meet along the way.
The Picture Healer began as a platform, born primarily out of an internal sense of desperation to pull myself out of the grips of a deadly eating disorder. I needed to try something different, push myself out of my comfort zone and commit myself to on-going traditional mainstream treatment. At the time, for the sake of my life, something fundamentally different needed to happen. Something purposeful, progressive, and ultimately life changing. My eating disorder had deprived my life of purpose, of goals, of knowledge of who I was, where I belonged, what I stood for or even what I was good at.
This vital missing piece of my life’s puzzle, suddenly reemerged one day. I grabbed hold of It without hesitation and followed its lead, wondering where it might take me. Oddly, this puzzle piece came through an unexpected means. The creative art of photography slipped effortlessly into my puzzle like it was always meant to be there. I discovered this on the very day I received a new camera. It brought a sense of mystery and excitement with it and from this point the thought of capturing ’that shot’ has filled me with a whimsical, childlike sense of hope and possibilities. Suddenly I sensed a purpose within myself.
My new love, photography, an activity in which I can become exquisitely lost, presented the solution I had been seeking. I felt excitement at the prospect of going out and taking photos and as it turns out, this was the defining point in directing my journey towards somewhere pleasantly new. I proceeded with caution, my mind chanting, ‘this won’t last long, and I’ll be a terrible photographer anyway’, but I persisted. Maybe I put a little unnecessary pressure on myself, when all I needed to do was keep on moving towards those feelings that were so unlike any I had experienced before, and the skills would have fallen in place with time.
Yet as COVID-19 emerged, it triggered my ED, encouraging this part of me to become stronger than before. As I felt my brief new sense of freedom beginning to drain slowly from my body, I knew that COVID had paved the way for my ED to dominate me again. I’m not suggesting I’m unique or special. Everyone continues to suffer on some level. For some the loss of human life is at the forefront, for others making ends meet has become problematic due to the loss of employment, others are barely holding onto their businesses, whilst for our elderly and more at risk, the most heartbreaking impact has been the necessity to cut themselves off from their families. Imagine grandparents living alone, but who desperately want to see and give their cherished grandchildren a big smooch cuddle, yet the risk of doing so is too great.
The Picture Healer wasn’t created merely for my own personal gain. Regardless of the ED diagnosis an individual receives, we all struggle in similar ways. My intention therefore was to show others that moving past a life-crippling eating disorder doesn’t necessarily have to follow a set of predetermined steps; everyone’s journey is likely to look different. It’s okay to take the recovery bits that work for you and combine them into your own uniquely designed treatment plan. This is what has occurred for me. The discovery of my photography passion is working better than anything else I’ve tried. If my story helps you to find your own path to freedom, this will fill me with an amazing sense of achievement and purpose.
Yet, the Picture Healer hasn’t progressed in the photography direction I had anticipated. With the emergence of COVID-19 and events following, The Picture Healer has taken a different turn. My thoughts, feelings and actions were under ED’s influence again. The most insignificant things were blown out of proportion within my anxiety-ridden mind. I was barely existing through pure and unrelenting fear of the unknown. COVID-19 and ED are similar in traits, dictating and controlling decisions, magnifying flaws, and playing on insecurities. I have wondered if COVID-19 has become my new ED, or maybe they have conspired and merged in order to collude against me so that the power is forever out of my grasp. Maybe you are experiencing something similar.
Evidently, all this drama has had a flow-on effect on my writing, revealing a deep part within myself that I had no idea existed. Words have flowed with conviction as my real views and opinions have candidly begun to spill onto the page for all to see. Where has this part of me come from? Something has begun to change but I’m not sure what that something is yet. What I do know is that in a time when opportunities to shoot photos has been nearly impossible, writing has stepped up for me, it has become the one vital component that has saved me from taking a major step backwards in my recovery and well-being. Writing has been my savior and opened my eyes to lessons and home-truths I possessed but had been suppressed.
Today, as we begin to move forward in a world where COVID-19 has become the new norm, one lesson has come through strongly. I have realized that I’m not alone in having an eating disorder or feeling how I’m feeling under such intense stress. The effect of this insight has been significant. I’ve always felt painfully alone with my ED and in the beginning, COVID-19 brought with it a huge sensation of being pulled back into that painful, lonely world. Yet an unexpected conversation helped me to see life differently. This conversation revealed to me the endless list of untruths I had been led to embrace, and in doing so, exposed how common ED’s are in our society. The conversation was unexpected, but I am eternally grateful to this person for being strong and compassionate enough to show a vulnerable side to help me remain grounded.
So, where to now? Many of us continue to experience anxiety surrounding our daily decisions and generally, the push to reengage in life and do things that were deemed not safe just days ago. For some of us, this has been a welcome change, for others, it may seem like the scariest thing in the world and this is okay. None of us should feel weak or alone for feeling this way. At times I find myself second guessing and overthinking everything I do, particularly when it involves taking a step outside my front door. Now, I’ve not hidden myself during this time, not emotionally anyway; I’ve remained an open book for everyone to sense the inner mayhem that ambushes my thoughts daily. Fear no longer comes into play when publishing my thoughts and struggles on The Picture Healer. I feel uplifted as I become more honest and transparent. I feel my confidence to express my views without fear of retribution, after all, my opinion is as valid as anyone else’s. If you don’t agree with the words I write, that’s life in all its beauty because we have the right to disagree! That in itself is growth.
My strong stance regarding COVID-19 hasn’t and is unlikely to waver It continues to haunt me in a way that makes me want to apologetically speak up. At this current time, I am feeling angry towards the thousands of people who ignored medical advice, not to protest, when we’ve already had to sacrifice so much. To march in the streets just as our restrictions had begun to be eased, shoulder to shoulder, some without masks, was unsafe. These people were protesting for a cause during a time when mass gatherings have been banned. So why was it allowed to go ahead when a family who has lost a loved one is limited to selecting up to 20 people to attend a funeral? The pictures from across the world leave me feeling shame for what man is capable of doing; tearing apart countries, destroying anything within their path including historical monuments, even throwing bikes and other objects at the innocent police horses who were clearly frightened. I wonder how many of these activists are also animal activists. I’d say that would be a considerable number and just goes to show how fleeting an interest in a cause can be.
Why could these people not wait until it was safer to engage in such large gatherings? Until we’d spent some time out of total restrictions, had come to grips with COVID-19 and developed better risk management? This is a no brainer to me because everyone’s life matters, no matter what their skin color. I wonder, are the marchers now self-isolating for 14 days?
Now I worry about our elderly society and people with medical conditions who will need to bunker down for longer, for fear they are at an increased risk of contracting the virus. I fear for our medical profession who will have to put their own lives at risk again in order to care for the people who may become affected by a spike in new infections, to all those people who have or may still lose their very livelihood’s due to workplace shutdowns.
And what about our children? The idea that they may be forced out of school and back to home learning again is not unrealistic. Why should they miss out on their vital years of education because protesters put their own agendas first? In Australia, education is a right, not a privilege, children are our future but what future will they have if their education continues to be disrupted?
The thousands of people who marched in Australia over the past weekend have put our country at risk of experiencing a spike in new virus cases. Now we all must live with the consequences.
Take Home Message:
I like to find a positive way of getting the most out of each blog I write. I do this not only for my own benefit but also for you the reader. I hope my experiences can assist in helping you through your own turmoils. Yet, as I sit here, I feel my own inner turmoil, my head is working overtime as I try to find a positive spin to bring this blog together. I’m not going to try and sugar coat it in anyway because I know that you are all too smart for that. What I can give you is a sense of some of the important things I have discovered during this difficult time.
- Life is always going to be unpredictable, that’s what makes it life and living. The best we can do is try to adapt, make the most of a bad or good situation. These situations are usually fleeting. Find outlets as I have, first with photography and then writing. I can’t stress enough how important writing has become for me, nor how much my writing has progressed through this difficult period.
- As sad as it is, we can’t change what is happening in the world. All we can hope to do is the best we possibly can in a bad situation. Also, as we live with COVID-19 hanging over our heads, try and be that person who does the right thing by others. It’ll make you feel positive and give you good fuzzy feelings about yourself. This is nice. In particular, a smile when passing others on the street is an essential right now, and a smile can go such a long way.
- Show yourself and others compassion. It’s perfectly OK to struggle. Talking to a trusted friend can be helpful, likewise, listening to the concerns and struggles of others can help put things in perspective. We’re not struggling in isolation; everyone is struggling in their own way.
- Photography and writing have given me a new lease on life. The writing emerged strongly during isolation, whilst I was forced to put photography on the backseat and find small ways of staying connected. For me this mean, exploring a new area of experimental photography. You may think you have no talents or skills, I certainly thought that way, but you’ll never know until you try. Use your passions to lead the way and know that mistakes are to be expected (some of my experimental photography has been disastrous!); you just need to stay persistent and not let that negative voice inside your head convince you otherwise.