At first I thought I would just contribute a paragraph, I think that was just out of fear, because writing this will mean writing down things I have only just started to accept myself. I have now decided just to blurt it all out to you, a complete stranger, as part of my therapy I have to write down my thoughts...my inner dialogue...I haven't sat down to do it yet. I keep putting it off. Maybe this is the best place to start.
Shortly after my wife died in June 2012, I felt adrift, I was claiming benefits, with three school age children to care for, trying to find a job and pick up the beginnings of my photographic career which I had put on pause in 2004 to become my wife’s full time caregiver.
We got by with the generosity of friends, family and the local school. I carried on for about four months. At that time I would sit and tell my friends how things were going, like how many freak outs I had had when out shopping, how long I had sat crying in some part of the house, how I started freaking out every time I saw an ambulance with its sirens going... they used to say “You are a mess mate, you should go to the doctors and get some help!”
Begrudgingly I got an appointment, I completely lost it talking to my GP, total meltdown, I felt such a fool. I had read lot’s about war photographers suffering with PTSD, people like Giles Duley being blown up and loosing two legs and an arm, people who had been with Tim Hetherington in Syria, that’s a reason to get PTSD, who the f**k was I to be diagnosed with it, what had I done here in a rural town in England?
My therapist told me that PTSD is when extraordinary things happen to ordinary people. Sure I had lived through some extraordinary times, but no more so than anyone else I thought. The therapy was like torture at times, talking about things I had programmed myself not to talk about...both remaining grandparents dying within six months of each other I was working overseas and unable to attend their funerals, my uncle had died by suicide in 2010 and my wife’s death...none of it had been properly processed, no real grieving done for anyone ever, I had just filed it away in the dark recesses of my mind…
Eventually I began to feel I would be better off if I stopped going to therapy. The dark clouds had started to lift, my therapist had told me to think of a time in my life when I was at my most happiest and confident, to just “Keep on focusing on that and try and find that person inside of you and do whatever it takes to get back to that frame of mind.” I had spent over a decade giving myself to others, disassociating myself from my emotions. It was now time to focus on myself.
I started traveling around the country taking pictures of political demonstrations, it was how I had got my first break as a freelance photographer when I was 17. I got published, I even got my first front page. Then I started working on my first book.
Yesterday was my wife's third anniversary, for the first time I was not filled with trepidation about how I was going to cope with the rush of emotions that would undoubtably come, in my head I have this quote, it's David Carr the late New York Times reporter heard in a documentary saying "It's ok, we're gonna be alright." We have a sort of shrine to my wife in the living room on the bookshelves, I burn incense for her, I still talk to her, I wear a ring she gave me on a necklace. Years ago inspired by Peter Beard I used to keep a journal full of collages and scribbled notes, during the course of my therapy I started doing this again, all acts of catharsis to continue to soothe the pain.
Aside from my photojournalism I chase sunsets and sunrises…