Take your photography to the next level and beyond...

  • NEWS

Why not join for free today?

Join for Free

Your total photography experience starts here

Photography and coping with depression

p12owe 5 101 2 United Kingdom
2 Jan 2013 9:26AM
This time of year can be a wonderful time of celebration, of families coming together and for many, the hope of new beginnings.

For me this time of year has always been a dark and very lonely place. Seasonal affective disorder plays its part, but is not the main trigger. I will not bore you with detail, suffice to say that the causes are rooted in my childhood and can neither be repaired nor erased.

So what does all this have to do with photography? It is simply this…

For most of the year, the melancholy that feeds my enthusiasm and creativity in art, music and photography is the very thing that now quells and supresses any desire to create anything at all. As I write this, I have all of my camera equipment laid out in front of me, with absolutely no inspiration or will to use it.
I am sure on a site as diverse as this, there must be many other people who have been, or still are, sufferers of depressive episodes. So what I am wondering is… does anyone have any suggestions for positive coping strategies that will allow me, or anyone else reading this, to ease or mask the feelings of lethargy and hopelessness and somehow spark that creative enthusiasm once again????

Join ePHOTOzine for free and remove these adverts.

Fogey 5 96 13 United Kingdom
2 Jan 2013 10:15AM
I know exactly where you're coming from.

Will power is my answer to your question. Dress up warm and go for a daily walk is my advice - wonderful for depression. Certainly take the camera with you, not specifically to take photographs, more a 'just in case' attitude.

You don't mention whether or not you have somebody to confide in, but what you say tells me the problems you speak of are unresolved, hence the depression. I would have thought a visit to the doctor would be in order to get some professional help.

You are right - childhood traumas are normally there for life, but it is how you manage them that counts now. Simply by having a proactive approach and doing something about the problems that are so badly affecting your life, will engender a spark of hope for the future. Much better that, than wallowing in self-pity. I'm sorry if that sounds a bit harsh - but I would guess I am not too far from the truth.

In short, get up and do something about what is bothering you, which takes some will power. Get your doctor to prescribe some anti-depressants and arrange to talk to a professional who can help to lay these ghosts of yours to rest.

Good luck for the future.
seahawk 11 1.2k United Kingdom
2 Jan 2013 10:23AM

I sympathise, I sometimes lose the creative urge as well.

One method that was suggested to me by a friend who's a painter (artist, not decorator) and has the same problem, was the 'new project' idea. Set yourself a new mini-project doing a type of photography which you've not tried before (in my case it would be still-life or wildlife, neither of which I usually do) and set out to do some images for one day. The idea is that doing something different stimulates the creative juices again. Obviously the project should only involve the gear you already have and should be simple to organise.

My artist friend also tries the 'paired-painting' exercise; she goes round to another of her friends' who's also an artist and they both try and paint the same subject in a set time and see who's result is the best. This is usually lubricated by drinking wine as they go along, apparently. The results are often rubbish, but not always, and it's a good laugh if nothing else. In other words, do you have a friend who's a tog so you can go shooting together as it's good company and you can bounce ideas off each other.

My next mini-project is to do abstract black & white landscapes as this is the ideal time of year for it.

I hope these ideas are of some help and I also hope that other ePZ members who read this can come up with some ideas as well.

Best of luck

All the best and Happy New Year

JackAllTog Plus
9 5.0k 58 United Kingdom
2 Jan 2013 10:23AM
Hi Peter,

There are a few forum topics about this - one is here https://www.ephotozine.com/forums/topic/depression-100470

There was another started a few years ago and added to recently that was great, but i can't find it at the moment.

I'm lucky that i'm too distracted by any new shiny thing i see to get down about the tricky stuff, but it seems facing up to it and discussing it is a key to living with it and not letting it take over your life. I wish you the best in finding how to deal with yours - the photos you produce photos bring joy and inspiration to me so thank you for that.

I hope you soon find a suitable project to give you direction again.
If SAD plays a part then doing a few hours of still life with these daylight bulbs might hep a bit - http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/105w-CFL-Photography-Bulb-Daylight-Balanced-5500k-E27-/200544958021?pt=UK_Photography_StudioEquipment_RL&hash=item2eb1693645
Just turning them on cheers me up. though you may then want sunglasses.

Wishing you a Happy New Year.
ErictheViking 5 124 102 Scotland
2 Jan 2013 10:34AM
Hi Peter

This is a topic I've read before on the forum and I think it affects many people, including myself and we all will have a different reason for why we get depressed and / or how we help ourselves out of the depression.

Firstly I'd like to congratulate you on the images you have in your portfolio, they are imaginative and the range from visual images to works of art I find inspiring.

Its good to hear you ask for positive coping strategies because being positive has to be the first priority without the desire to improve a situation you will have no will to move on.
For me its as simple as trying to plan what to do tomorrow - each day I look at my thoughts from the day before and I tackle them according to how my mood is that day. I'm sure you are aware that mood fluctuates so making plans on a day when you mood is high and then considering them on a day when you mood is low could trigger thoughts of inadequacy or failure but by making a conscious decision on the actual day you work with you feelings and not against them.

I hope all this makes sense - unfortunately my depression is linked with my dyslexia and my dyslexia can mean that I have things I really want to say but the don't leave my brain hence the things I write don't always make sense, so I apologise in advance, say thanks to spell checkers and ask for your understanding.

I do have one golden rule that I now try and follow religiously - I do not try and hide my feelings, but rather I accept what the day offers and chose to make the most of this at the time. Knowing that the future will change as will my mood and feelings.

Enough of the lecturing I have a question for you and all who respond to this thread, would it be good or bad to have a group specifically for people with depressive thoughts to talk and share ideas, give support etc? My thoughts are that this would be an open group but with closed content in the forum to allow free speak amongst the members and an agreement that all things said in the group are private and personal to the group and its members.

My brain is starting to hurt now so I'll stop and see what reaction is generated.

rambler Plus
9 963 17 England
2 Jan 2013 10:40AM
Having looked through your portfolio I think your motivation should be to produce even more images that delight and challenge. You have a lot of talent and an eye for detail which I find delightful.

I too suffer from that all pervasive lethargy and constantly berate myself for giving in to it. That in itself makes my mood low and further suppresses the feelings of self worth that we all need.
I retired 18 months ago and live alone so it is easy to sit around and not bother, but I am not happy with being like that, so how do I cope?

To replace the lack of social contact I have joined a local indoor bowls club that meets once a week, this is just for fun and for that one day I become my other outgoing happy self. That one day has become my focus, it produces nothing tangible yet I get so much from it.
At other times I don't always cope and have what I call my lazy days, I have started to note them down in my diary as just that to make me realise just how many days I do waste. I have also started to plan my days ahead so there is less reason to have a lazy day though I will allow myself to have one as a reward and not berate myself for it.

Photography wise I have just started two new challenges and detailed them on this site in a blog, that gives me the motivation to get up and get out.
I also like to feel the buzz of pressing that shutter button, knowing I have just taken my lifetimes masterpiece, some hope of that but one never knows. Smile

Keep in mind that what has happened in the past has gone and cannot be changed, what is to come is far more exciting,
Why let an unhappy childhood destroy your adulthood, yes the roots are deep but let your head burst into flower.

Fogey 5 96 13 United Kingdom
2 Jan 2013 10:42AM
Eric, a good idea in principle. However, people with deep rooted childhood problems have to be careful about what they disclose on a public forum, however private that forum is.

Having a support group is all well and good and to be applauded, as long as that it all it is.
ErictheViking 5 124 102 Scotland
2 Jan 2013 10:54AM
Your quite right Jeff and the proposed group would not be for openly disclosing any specific problems or reasons just a place to go with people with similar issues who can listen, give support and encouragement.

By keeping the conversations open only to members I would hope this could remove the embarrassment people may feel when admitting to having a "mental health problem"

collywobles 14 4.0k 10 United Kingdom
2 Jan 2013 11:53AM

Quote:would it be good or bad to have a group specifically for people with depressive thoughts to talk and share ideas, give support etc

You are free to start a group up at any ime. It might help many or just interest a few.
Peter_West 6 247 United Kingdom
2 Jan 2013 12:01PM
Hi P12owe, speaking from experience, I to have been suffering with depression, it took me months to realise I needed help, YOU must go to doctors for anti-depression tablets and also importantly counselling, ones no good without the other, like I said it took me ages to pluck up courage to go docs, but now I’m glad I did, even thought its only been a month, tablets have just started to kick in, not had my first counselling appointment yet though, looking forward to that, ''NOT'' believe it or not like you just asking on here about it helped me, and getting loads of replies knowing your not the only one to suffer with it, if you notice Stuart has put the link on which I started just before Christmas when I first asked, but please go to Doctors. Take care Pete
AlexandraSD 6 759 United Kingdom
2 Jan 2013 1:27PM
Strange how depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder are linked together, im not really entirely sure SAD is real. For years i told everyone i suffered from SAD, but winter only lasts a month or two, not all year round like mine was, more or less. I used SAD to mask the real issues, it was nothing but a front.

Depression is the biggest bitch, it rarely comes from nowhere and there is always a good reason for it. Sadly before we climb out of the depression, we need to assess what got us there in the first instance. Now this is quite hard, clarity does not come easily when your heads a mess, but you really have to look deep inside yourself to get to the root of it all. Once you get to it, make a plan of action, if it helps you could always make a 1 or 2 year plan, with achievable goals, which can be anything relevant to your getting out of that depressed state.

The next step is to find some positivity, again this is difficult when times are stressy and messy, but it is do'able over time. Like attracts like, negativity attracts negativity, ditto positivity. Surround yourself with positive thinkers, those with a can do attitude, not the but i cant brigade. Lose the moaners, ditch them, your already down, why let others bring you down further? This may sound radical, but it worked for me, i had 2 friends who were incredibly negative all the time, constant moaners, nay, professional moaners, they had it down to a fine art. After trying to fill my head with negative thoughts last February, i ended up cutting all ties with them, and even now i cant think of any positive contributions they made to my life other than the fact that i am glad i am not like that anymore. Just take some time reprogramming the way you think, read self help books if it helps, i read a fair few during 2012 and i am sure they have had a positive and lasting effect on me.

The final step, dont hide away. It is all too easy to shut ourselves off from the world when we are in this state of mind, the world is a better place without our woes. The world is full of woes, what difference does a few more make? Depression does not mean you do not count or matter, and it certainly does not mean you should hide away, thats the last thing you should do, anyone should do.

My heart does go out to you, depression is not easy to break when we are in the midst of all that darkness, but i think you made a big leap forward already just by starting this thread and asking for help and advice.

I would love to be able to say that counselling helped me but in truth, i have not had much yet, i saw a social worker last year, then a psychiatrist, who then referred me to a specialist clinic, which i am still waiting to hear from. If i had relied on those outsiders to get me out of my depression then i would still be in that dark place i was in this time last year. Ultimately it was me who got myself out of it, no counsellors, no psychiatrists, just me and my head. It wasn't easy and it took me a long time to get there. After a lifetime of ignoring the real issues i had a real battle within myself, but in the space of a year my life has changed beyond all that i could envisage. By all means, get professional help, that is what they are there for, but do not rely upon them solely to get you better, only you can do that, and i say you have a bloody good chance of getting there.

One more bit of advice, stop wearing black, bright primary colours do wonders for our spirits, so what if you end up looking a bit Lego, wear reds, yellows, greens, purples every day, even if its just socks for now. We tend to dress differently when depressed, as the colour vanishes from the world we reach for the blacks instinctively, dark, nondescript clothing, ok for goths.... Smile Seriously though, bright colours do help, its all about conditioning the mind to find our sweet spot, good luck in finding yours.
brian1208 Plus
14 11.4k 12 United Kingdom
2 Jan 2013 2:40PM
Peter, my heart goes out to you having been in but escaped from the worst effects of a depression based mental breakdown some years back (for similar reasons to you by the sound of it).

I can only reinforce what has been said about getting help via the medical / counselling services, it can work (did for me). My way of coping these days when I feel the sense of dsapair trying to come back is the mantra "it happened, it wasn't my fault and it made me who I am today" then I try to think about the more positive benefits of where I am now and what I am going to do in the limited time I have left to me (I'm in my 70's).

Exercise and other displacement activities can help but you need to tackle the underlying, recurring causes too.

On the Photography front, when I run out of inspiration / enthusiasm I set my self some "Exercises" like practising still life , playing with indoor macro etc and my current one, trying to remember how to shoot water-droplets. I also read a lot and spend time searching the web for background information on whatever exercise I have in hand. (but what works for one person may not for another)

Good luck and I hope you find the route through this difficult time
jadus 6 1.2k 3 United Kingdom
2 Jan 2013 4:08PM
Dear Peter,
First, I would like to say thank you for the fact you have shared how you are feeling.
Second, I generally become depressed at this time of year, often thrown into a flashback to something horrid that happened some forty odd years ago.

How do I deal with this?
In the first instance I worked with an art therapist who enabled me to listen very carefully to what my depression was showing me about myself. I have made friends with the depression, because without it i would not have survived the horror called childhood!
Through my cameras, painting and collage, I am able to give a voice to the fragments of memory that are trying to emerge. For example, on december 21st 2012 I felt moved to visit a really remote place and photography the desolate landscape. The next place I need to visit is Eric Morcombe's statue. I have no idea why - it is simply what I am moved to do.

What has worked for me is finding the light on the inside. No matter how dark it is outside so long as my internal light is switched on I'll be fine.

It is a long hard journey - but as that old saying goes, and is reflected here, you are not alone.

All the best

p12owe 5 101 2 United Kingdom
2 Jan 2013 4:35PM
This thread has produced some great suggestions, but one thing that is apparent is that depression effects people in many different ways. It therefore follows that what is right for one may not be the answer to someone else. Someone mentioned "wallowing in pity" earlier. I can honestly say that for my own part, this has never been the issue. Guilt, self-loathing and anger yes, but pity, no. I have never considered medication and not sure I could. The suspicion that my creativity is born form my "damaged" self leads me to the conclusion that to dull those senses with medication would somehow ruin that small part of me that still functions. Simarlarly I have always avoided counselling in the belief that some boxes should be closed and never be opened again, though as I get older, those once secure boxes are developing more and more holes!

I like the idea of a project, though the only thing that comes to mind at present is perhaps a series of images about depression (I'm not sure whether that would count!)
2 Jan 2013 4:45PM
Exercise always helps me when I feel depressed. Whatever fitness level you have, from a gentle walk to a hard run, I find it releases enough endorphins to make me feel good, if only for a day or two. If you can combine a nice walk with a bit of photography then that would be ideal.

With regards to having all your equipment laid out and having zero enthusiasm, I often feel the same about many activities. The hardest part is the effort of picking up the equipment and getting started. Once you've got that out of the way and started participating in your hobby, you'll wonder why it was so difficult.

Your situation sounds a bit more serious than mine, but I find it sometimes takes a routine change to break out of a depressive cycle. Sitting around dwelling on my problems can become a habit, forcing myself to get out and about can help give me a boost and help me feel more positive.

Sign In

You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join For Free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.