The Endless pictures of bottled Water
Yep, I know what you’re thinking, ‘it’s a bottle of water, it’s upside down and half of it is missing! What on earth is she thinking and how could bottled water help anyone learn how to take a picture anyway? Ironically enough, bottled water played a big part in helping me get to know this brand-new camera and inadvertently, steering me on the long path towards getting to know myself.
With little self-belief to step outside of my home in fear of making a complete fool of myself, I started out by taking pictures in automatic mode (my ED insisted I should already be in manual mode because automatic mode just proves how silly I am!) of some pretty uninteresting objects around my home.
Candles, pot plants, kids’ toys, a chess set, I navigated my way around the camera’s numerous settings to try and understand how to work the thing! My small and unfinished backyard was another subject I’d use quite often, pictures of the same old plants over and over again, trying to figure out the key to make my images look appealing to the eye. All of these subjects provided me with a nice and safe place to practice, it felt safe and my ED wanted me to stay right where I was; hidden away within the confines of my own home, only he cared little about my safety (although he’d try to convince me he was), but rather he wanted to take away anything I had left to live for and he was doing an excellent job of that.
Over the previous few years, home had become my world and I’d make up any excuse in order not to have to leave it. “When I weigh x amount, I can go out again”, but x was never enough and during one period when I believed x was enough, my ED managed to sabotage that, always playing a nasty game with my mind whilst all he was really trying so hard to do was hold onto all control of my life, what life? I recall having anxiety attacks before going places where I knew I was likely to see others, often fearing, “who it would be and what would they think.” These self-attacking and crippling thoughts would flood my mind every day, sometimes even in my dreams; the underlying intent of keeping me away from the outside world, keeping me locked up like a prisoner who had committed a terrible crime.
Make no mistake, I’m not suggesting in any way that photography is an easy hobby to take up, on the contrary, DSLR cameras are complicated pieces of equipment, even iPhone have decent camera settings now, I wasn’t even aware of these until recently! So, with all this in mind, receiving this thoughtful gift from my amazing generous family turned out to be something that brought a great deal of frustration for me, “why couldn’t I just take amazing photographs?”
To others, I tried to look cool, calm and confident but on the inside the pressure I put on myself was immense, I felt like a fraud. There were numerous times when I just wanted to put the silly thing away in the cupboard and forget about it, the words ‘James has wasted lots of money on you’, running through my mind continuously, ‘you ungrateful person’; the guilt flows in a vicious cycle.
You see my ED voice was attacking my efforts from day one of opening the camera! Not surprising really, ED has demanded perfection my whole life, even when I’ve just started learning something new, ‘be the best or don’t bother at all’! On numerous occasions throughout my life I have worked my myself to exhaustion in order to do something impeccably; the perfect daughter, the perfect friend, the perfect student and in this case, my ED was adamant I should be taking professional level photos straight away whilst making it abundantly clear that I would never be able to take nice photographs. So why bother then? He also insisted that all my family were laughing at me behind my back and no-one would ever be interested in anything I had to offer, in a picture or otherwise.
In life, regardless of where I was, what I was doing, who I was with, ED has managed to put a big dark shadow over everything; good, great or amazing. This time however, something inside of me encouraged me to push back and maybe claim something for my healthy self.
My take home lesson: Find something for yourself, something you enjoy and something completely separate from an ED. It’s likely to take a few tries, it certainly did for me, but when you can find that one thing that you become so invested in, your ED somehow becomes a quieter, less relevant.
Eating disorders (EDs) are like nasty little monsters. In my story, ED took away any concept of self-esteem and belief that I may have had and this occurred while I was still very young. I was imprisoned in a world of self-doubt and a constant feeling of not being enough. ED confined me to my home and consequently I’ve struggled to develop interests outside of the ED mindset. ED was my teacher, my world, leaving little room for anything else; that was until I started looking through the lens of a camera and began to see things a little more differently. I didn’t know it then, but I was onto something because suddenly I started seeing the real world again for what it was, bit by bit.