(P)repare (T)o (S)top (D)reaming

I’ve been putting off writing this ever since I took these photos back in July. It’s not triggering or upsetting, it’s simply just too much to explain so others may fully grasp the severity of PTSD. Truth be told, I still don’t know what to say. I’ve had this screen up for over an hour without anything on it besides these photos, so I guess I’ll start with the most vulnerable memory I have…a doctor’s appointment.

It was one of “those” appointments, post trauma and full blown triggered. I would always schedule my time slot right before lunch so the waiting room would be empty when I’d leave. I hated seeing people. I literally looked like a zombie walking out of the room from all the crying and body pain I had. Thankfully, my Family Doctor remained one of the very, very few people in my life that I felt safe with and I could completely open up without fear of retaliation or judgement. During this meeting, I remember being at my worst. Unable to speak more than a few words at a time, tears never ending, and having the longest loss of appetite I’d ever had. He knew that photography was a core part of what makes me “me”. While I was stuck in a moment of being unable to speak a word, he shared a story about when he was a young man with a new family and had so much joy taking film photos of his kids. It was comforting to share something personal that had nothing to do with my illness and made me feel like a human being. As I walked out of the office, he let me know that he had something for me next week when I came back for my follow-up appointment. I didn’t look that much into it, but thought how kind it was that he was thinking of me as an individual.

I returned a week later with no expectations or ideas. We went through our time together as we always would. Talk. Cry. Cry some more. Cry again. And then he excused himself to go grab something from his office. He came back with a sturdy black bag covered in pockets and zippers. He opened it up to reveal his old camera with all it’s equipment…the one from his story he had told me a week before. He explained that it was collecting dust in his garage because he didn’t have time to take it out anymore and he would rather give it to someone who would love it as much as he did than sell it for a few extra dollars. He told me that he believed I was still there, despite my PTSD and how much I felt like an empty shell of a human being. He was one of the only people in my life that encouraged me to take my pain and turn it into art.

When I got home, I opened the bag and explored its contents. Inside was a Canon A-1 35mm camera with a 28mm lens along with 4 other various lenses, filters, battery packs, and a few rolls of expired film. Though I still was too damaged to think about using it, I was so grateful. Words couldn’t describe the feelings I had even if I tried. I put it up in my closet. It collected dust, but I never forgot that it was there. I just wasn’t ready yet.

Before July of this year, I used it a few times, but still hadn’t felt connected to my passion like I used to. Then my sweet friend Liz asked me to go on a photo field trip with her, to a town I had never been to, and shoot my film cameras that I hadn’t really shot with. That day resulted in some of the most personal photographs I have ever taken.

Each of these 5 photos represent what PTSD is and the 4 major symptoms that are attached to it. I may never be able to verbally explain to you how this mental illness has affected my life, but I hope you are able to feel it through these images. The hope you have for your life and instantly being robbed of it. The distinct contrast between safety and fight or flight. The loneliness. The fear.

Enjoy.

***Photographs created using the Canon A-1 and expired black & white film***

(P)repare (T)o (S)top (D)reaming/Self-Portrait

(P)repare (T)o (S)top (D)reaming/Self-Portrait

Negative Thoughts and Beliefs   “Feeling like your life has been taken from you. Feeling distant, having a loss of interest, and difficulty feeling love or happiness.”.

Negative Thoughts and Beliefs

“Feeling like your life has been taken from you. Feeling distant, having a loss of interest, and difficulty feeling love or happiness.”.

Avoidance   “Actively making an effort to avoid thoughts, feelings, or people that remind you about the traumatic event.”

Avoidance

“Actively making an effort to avoid thoughts, feelings, or people that remind you about the traumatic event.”

Re-Experiencing   “Reoccurring nightmares, flashbacks, and strong feelings of distress.”

Re-Experiencing

“Reoccurring nightmares, flashbacks, and strong feelings of distress.”

Hyperarousal   “When your body suddenly kicks into high alert as a result of thinking about your trauma.”

Hyperarousal

“When your body suddenly kicks into high alert as a result of thinking about your trauma.”

Amanda Gallagher