Photographic memories

old photo

Anyone with clinical depression who has been told to ‘think positive’ and ‘remember the good times’ will know the creepy, forced smile you offer the purveyor of said well meaning sentiments. Because trying to explain to anyone that actually has access to the happy part of their brain that you don’t really want to be miserable, you’ve just lost the ability to feel good, is like being repeatedly slapped in the face with a trout.

Depression is a negativity dump truck, unloading its toxic cargo of sad thoughts, self doubt and unpleasant memories into your cranium every hour of the day. The reason sufferers can’t just focus on happy thoughts is that, temporarily, they don’t exist. All that was once joyful and light has been squirrelled away deep in the annals of your consciousness, to be uncovered once depression’s done playing it’s sick and twisted game. Sometimes it’s impossible to comprehend that happiness was once physically possible.

Enter photography. Photos are genuine, bona fide happiness EVIDENCE. Even when you can’t remember what it’s like to feel joy, you can certainly look at an old photo that captures a moment of happiness and know that it really happened. Is that me grinning like a deranged meerkat as I jumped out of a plane in New Zealand? Yes. Am I actually laughing in that surfing shot? Looking calm and relaxed on holiday with my family? Yes and yes. It happened. Was I on mind bending drugs or under the spell of a magical unicorn? Nope, just enjoying myself.

If the only memories I had were what’s locked inside my head, I’d be in trouble right now. But these glossy, dog-eared snapshots represent a time when I knew what it was like to be happy, and they’re playing a critical role in keeping me hopeful at the moment. The camera doesn’t lie.

So when I’m feeling hopeless, my mind is clouded with ‘I can’ts’ and ‘you’ll nevers’ and I’m convinced the depressed version of me is the only person I’ll ever be, I leaf through some old photos to remind myself of who I was before the big D. A girl who travelled, socialised, danced, laughed, lived and who had fear but jumped anyway. And I tell myself that if I was her once, then I can be her again.

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168 thoughts on “Photographic memories

  1. Wow! I couldn’t have explained the roller coaster of depression better.

    It is what it is but its always good to have throw backs of what makes this life worthwhile.

    Well done

  2. It seems sometimes that if one was not depressed then they were unaware of the realities on this Earth. With greed, war, poverty, hate, and separation it seems that someone who does NOT suffer bouts of depression is absent compassion for humans around the world! Perhaps depression could be seen as badge of courage. Thanks.

  3. I pray you get all the blessings for those you help with this testimonial. You got my mind racing on new projects and programs I can do with my family and community that can REALLY HELP. Now all I gotta do is develop a Photography Club & Curriculum.

  4. depression and photography are things i am acutely familiar with. this piece is beautifully written, with empathy and sensitivity and truths. positive stimuli is important when coping with depression. thankfully, i came through the darkness and i am back chasing light again. i just wanted to commend you on your insightful scope of how memory can be healing, and how easy it is to forget.
    thanks for sharing.
    namaste! x

  5. Yes! Yes yes yes! Reblogging this. You put it so well. The only difference for me is that I look at pictures of my children. I know that even though I’m going to lose L eventually, I have tons of photographic evidence of her zest for life that make me smile if only for a minute.

  6. Reblogged this on just blogging and commented:
    you are still her. i think it is much easier to recall who you are when you have tangible things to remind you of that person who you are. for example photographs, music, videos, friends & co-workers. Being yourself when you have a mental health issue is not always possible. these type of things used frequently should help you on your way to feeling normal daily.

  7. For me, it’s blog posts rather than photographs, but they serve the same purpose when I remember to write down the good things too. Unfortunately I only seem to think to write down all the negative stuff. I really need to make more of an effort to write down the happy stuff too, so that I can have proof that I was happy, that it really happened.

    • I’m a big supporter of ‘good news diary’ type writing. It’s amazing what happens when you force yourself to write down just one nice thing/positive thought that happens to you each day. Thanks for reading.

  8. It’s funny…I never have suffered it myself, but I feel like I’ve missed it by the skin of my teeth. My father suffered clinical depression for fifteen years, and still would if not for having finally found the right course of treatment. My (now-ex) wife, whom I was with for almost sixteen years, suffers from severe depression and anxiety (and don’t let the “ex” fool you; I am still very close to her and involved in her life–we parted ways because of some issues concerning our children, who live with me, too much to describe here). And I work in a mental health clinic, in a program for people with mental illnesses severe enough to have required multiple lengthy hospitalizations; we work to keep them from having to go back. I remember as a ten-year-old child, sitting with my father and a photo album, and hearing him say “was that really me? I don’t know that person.” Depression is no joke, and I feel for anybody who has to deal with stupid people implying that it is. You have the right idea, though, with the pictures and the memories…and just the fact that you’re writing about this says that you aren’t going to take it lying down. I applaud you! Hang in there, keep fighting, and you’ll be that person again.

    • Thanks so much. Sounds like perhaps having been surrounded by others’ mental distress a lot of your life you’ve developed some pretty strong coping strategies. Being around that much pain must be tough – well done!

  9. Beautifully written and just amazing! To understand memory is beyond my knowledge. Its like our minds work more efficiently than the most advanced high end servers. Well written! i like!

    Follow me for Motivation throughout the day! I believe in motivating the world and with motivation i bring you support and you inspire positive change! Allow your mind to venture off to the unknown.

  10. Pingback: Photographic memories | SanojPhotography

    • Thanks very much. Ha, nope ‘fraid my dodgy holiday tan lines and bad-fringes-over-the-years are for private viewing only!

  11. Beautifully written. Thanks for such an honest representation of depression. If only more people understood that sometimes happiness is not a choice, it’s an ability.

  12. Nice post. About a year ago I took a history of photo class, I had to write about a family photograph. It was quite therapeutic– right after I wrote it I had the biggest panic episode to date (a nice release of emotion). It is incredible what vivid memories, happy or sad, of a relationship, or of a state of mind, etc, photographs can bring to mind.

  13. What beautiful sentiments. I suffer from short bouts of depression due to menopause and I totally understand. I think that is one of the reasons I have increased taking pictures of happy moments lately. My daughter suffers from clinical depression and often times, I make sure her “happy moment” is the subject of my picture.
    Thank you for sharing this. It gives me a lot of hope.

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