2020 is a goddamn clusterfuck.
There’s no denying the difficulty of these “unprecedented times”, but let’s get something out in the open, right off the bat. Let me answer the R U Ok question, that makes today so important. Call this post narcissistic/self-indulgent/egotistical; I actually don’t care what you say about it aha. I think if one person reads this, and takes away some piece of information that helps them in their mental health journey, then it was worth writing.
So. I am ok.
For many years I didn’t know whether I would be. And for a long time I never thought I’d be feeling how I feel today – happily content. I’m not elated, or joyful, or anything extraordinary – just content with where I am in my mental health journey. And that has taken a tonne of work to be at this point.
I’m going to skip over the whole COVID shitshow antics briefly and just give a suuuuper brief summary of my mental health. If at any time reading this you feel a bit shitty about yourself, please scroll all the way to the better. There’s some resources that I collected to provide immediate help.
So. Jake’s the name, and generalised anxiety disorder (with a sprinkling of depression in the past, to taste) is the game. Anxiety is best described as “a general feeling of dread or unease that colours your whole life”. My WHOLE life – not just situations with large crowds, or public speaking… my WHOLE life. Every moment of the day is tainted with some level of anxious thinking, but much less so now than 5 years ago. It’s a real bitch of a thing, and something that I just thought was ‘normal’, or that might just go away. I spent the better part of 24 years being anxious AF and not doing a goddamn thing about it, and have now, at 27, come to a point in my journey where I feel indebted to the various people/systems that helped me, and I want to share in the hope of giving back the same value.
Why am I sharing all this? Isn’t it a bit TMI?
I’m sharing this because I think it’s super important for blokes to truly LIVE the destigmatisation of talking about our mental health. Not just talk about the importance of talking, but actually live the message by actively showcasing vulnerability and openness as much as we showcase stoicism and physique or whatever else is ‘manly’. It’s ok to not be ok, but it’s not ok to suffer in silence.
YES, I’m a wedding photographer, and NO, I’m not a therapist – but I am a bloke that really cares about helping people and LIVING the message of authenticity and vulnerability.
I think it’s important in my work for me to continue to analyse and attempt to understand the different things that people go through – me sharing my story will undoubtedly open my eyes to the struggles of others, as people are likely to reach out and contact me with their own experiences. If I can learn about others’ journeys, and be a more compassionate, empathetic human then that’s a really vital asset to my work.
If you think this is TMI (too much information), then perhaps it’s not worth following my accounts, as I tend to share lots of things beyond strictly wedding photos. I feel like I have so much more value to offer than just photos. The human experience is deeper than the surface level stuff, and I think that my work naturally involves a lot of interpersonal skills as well as appropriate self-care and reflection. All of this together allows me to be my best self, and offer the best experience to my couples.
The main takeaway I have from everything.
Don’t suffer in silence. That’s it. If you’re feeling low, or flat, or unhappy, or anxious, or manic, or irritable, or anything out of the ordinary, you need to find a way to seek help. It can be as simple as putting your hand up to a loved one, and saying “I’m not really ok, and I’d like some help”. I encourage everyone feeling low to either begin by telling a loved one, or their GP – whichever feels more comfortable. Here’s how I approached my GP when I first decided that I needed to deal with things:
I walked in and my GP said “How can I help you today?” And I just went:
“I’ve been feeling really flat and to be honest, depressed. I’d like to get some help with my mental health, but I didn’t know where to start, so this is my very first step”.
Once you say that first sentence, “I’m not ok but I want to get help”, it becomes so much easier from there.
Particularly during these COVID times, it can be really difficult to stay on top of things. With lockdowns impacting us all, and feelings of isolation prevalent, it can be a really heavy period of time. I have had so many people postpone their weddings, and whilst I won’t harp on about it, I will say this. I am SO lucky to have such kind, empathetic couples that truly understand what it’s all about, and that truly feel for me just as much as I feel for them. No-one has been rude, no-one has been snappy, and no-one has treated me with anything but respect. And I am so grateful for this.
For those of us that have dealt with poor mental health before, we almost have a big of a leg-up on the rest of you mentally healthy f***ers! So please trust me when I say that it’s vital for you to not bottle this shit up – you need to discuss it either with a loved one or a professional, and get the care that you deserve. You won’t feel this way forever.
I encourage everyone that is feeling a bit overwhelmed by anything, COVID-related or not, to seek help. If not from your GP, then here’s a list of resources for you to consider:
Beyond Blue have an incredible support service available, either via a phone call, live chat, or email function. There are also forums to discuss and share with others.
Mensline – fantastic help service for blokes.
Headspace, with help and support for youth.
And as always, 000 if there is an emergency, or an immediate need for care for you or someone you love.