Content warning: mention of rape, childhood abuse
I’m writing this blog, mainly because a) I’ve been neglecting my blog b) I’ve stopped sharing my personal life here, for the most part. In the last couple years, I’ve gone through a lot of growing and difficult transitions. I vacillate between wanting to be professional and hope that fellow vendors see me that way and…wanting to be myself, entirely. It’s a tough balance to strike and admittedly, I’ve been leaning towards a more conservative approach. I’d like to change that. So here is my first truly vulnerable blog in a long time.
I feel like I’ve heard it a million times before from, other photographers: “I do this because I love love!” or “I just have so much PASSION for photography!” Sometimes, their Why has to do with their family (not knockin’ this), sometimes their Why has to do with money. I don’t think any of those are wrong reasons to be in this industry, except to scam people for money. I hate those people, but I digress.
But when it comes to my Why, it goes a little deeper and begins with my childhood.
Let’s back up to parts of my life, that were not the best (biggest understatement of 2019, so far?). My dad was an abusive Narcissist, who is now in prison until he probably dies, for pedophilia/rape. Lezbihonest, I’m still unpacking what it meant to exist with an abusive rapist Narcissist for 15 years of my life. That’s a long time. My very first childhood memory was him taking a toy away from me and throwing it across the room, to see me get upset. I was an excitable child, exuberant and passionate. So naturally, I was diagnosed with ADHD and drugged with Ritalin for years. The adults in my life had zero clue how to channel my energy, energy that eventually turned into mischief and rage.
Any time I got excited, my dad would punish me. I loved of my Christmas presents? Great, now I’m not allowed to touch them for hours, until he says I can. Sleeping soundly? Awesome, he liked to flip the light on, screaming loud enough to scare me awake. As many days as possible. Excited to be somewhere? I better calm down before he takes me to the car and spank me. And his spanks weren’t corrections, they were beatings. I even remember being fourteen, at Disney World, anxious and terrified I would be too happy and he would notice. I would anxiously watch him for any flicker of mood changes, wary when I saw him happy.
This went on for so long, holidays spent grounded, emotions not permitted, safe spaces violated…I just shut down. I buried the best parts of myself deep down inside myself, for safe keeping. Instead, I focused on rage. I spent nights contemplating his murder. I packed my bags to run away more times than I can count. Occasionally, we would have screaming matches and it was the only time I could really let out some of that pent up frustration. But only rage was acceptable; crying was punished.
Do you know what experiencing rage for years does to you? It gives you Borderline Personality Disorder. It makes you incapable of relationships with others. It creates a warped sense of what healthy looks like. It makes you hate yourself harder than any enemy would have energy for.
By the time I was seventeen, I couldn’t feel anything except anger. That was my daily existence, finding things to be angry about. I was in art therapy for young adults, but unpacking this shit takes years and I could only do the art therapy for a few months. It was a good start, but barely scratched the surface of the depths to my trauma. I didn’t go to steady therapy again until I was in my thirties. Instead, I traveled.
I traveled the world, in hopes I could find something, anything, that would help me feel anything but rage. I became obsessed with the Holocaust and didn’t actually quite understand why for a long time. In the last ten years, I’ve been to four concentration camps, over a dozen Holocaust museums and numerous books written by survivors. Why did I do this? Because I was so numb, the only thing that could make me feel something was one of the greatest tragedies of our generation. My childhood felt like a holocaust, vastly devastating and irreparably damaging in some ways. Seeing others that suffered far greater, comforted me in a weird sick way.
I wept in front of walls with the names of dead children in Terezín. Stared at the claw marks on the grey gas chamber walls in Auschwitz, experiencing ultimate shock and disgust. Read books of survivors and reveled in elation for their perseverance and survivor tenacity. Felt the energy of a medical experiment building in Sachsenhausen and felt nauseous with dread. Then I would go on about my day, more grateful for my existence than I had been the day before. I needed real perspective, to gain a foothold on myself as a meat suit on this earth.
The method slowly began to work. I grieved with elephants in Thailand. I found myself in Prague and wrote my first book. I hiked a glacier in Iceland and discover I’m shit at ice climbing. I ached for a place in this world, in over two dozen countries. I just wanted to feel, I just wanted to be my truest self.
So being a wedding photographer was a natural step towards what I needed in this life. As has time passed, I learned about how as an empath, I can experience and even absorb other people’s emotions and energies. I would go to weddings and cry in joy, the energy exalting and satisfying. Between photographing weddings and travel, I slowly healed and learned how to feel. I would even dare to say photographing weddings saved my life, in conjunction with traveling.
It’s coming up on my two year anniversary for therapy. I’m so pro-therapy, it’s not even funny. I can happily say I can now not only experience emotions, I can regulate them and understand them as a human has always been intended to do. I don’t have that rage anymore and you know what? Fucking good. It was exhausting. I’m learning that I am a being of light and kindness (the latter of which I’m still adjusting to haha!), I just need to let myself do what I do best. I still panic, hard core, when I experience a new level of happiness. My brain used to practically shut down when I experienced happiness for too long. I had to work the emotion like a muscle, flexing it and resting it.
So back to my Why: I am a photographer because I like to feel things.
No more, no less. I don’t make a lot of money doing this, I’m often more tired than not. But this business, these glorious and beautiful glimpses into stranger’s lives…it’s my drug of choice. Even when a hot summer wedding makes me feel like I’m dying or a rude guest pisses me off, I wouldn’t trade those highs for anything. I get an opportunity to see the best in humans, when I spent so long experiencing the worst and I need that, as much as I need air to breathe.
I’m not even close to who or where I want to be in this Universe, but wedding photography has definitely helped me get there. I am so grateful for this talent, these learned skills, my insanely amazing clients, for helping me heal. Assisting me in being my biggest and brightest self.
*phew* okay. There we go. If you’re still here, you rock! Have a wonderful weekend and be kind.