On depression, photography and mindfulness

For a long time I have had struggles with the constraints of depression.  The way it just sneaks up on you sometimes and threatens your overall well-being in a matter of days.  Sometimes the overwhelming sensation of falling, like Alice going to Wonderland, just takes too long to subside, and the journey may seem long, dark, ominous, and bleak.  Then there was the longest battle I’ve had with this dark side of humanness: two years of depth, with a lot of prayer, a lot of support from my husband (who really made an attempt to understand what was happening to me), and the determination to take that daunting climb out of that underground cave.  I went from studying the effects of the Stanford Prison Experiment (of which I felt my circumstances were similar to), to having a collection of positive quotes and even studying a textbook on positive psychology.  I’m not crazy about taking pills for any condition, especially if I am aware of alternative methods, such as proper psychotherapy and psychiatry skills, so whatever I was prescribed was short-lived and really did not have the effect on me as the doctor felt it would. Only I knew what I needed and I sought it out as vigorously as I could.  Still, I was not completely out of the hole.

As I began feeling physically better (I was suffering from a severe case of gouty arthritis on the knees), I wanted to go out more, to socialize more, to change my perspective more.  Slowly, but surely, that is what began to happen.  My husband and I moved from one place to another and the change was exactly what the imaginary doctor ordered.  We went from an overcrowded and loud city to a rural paradise that only God Himself can create.  I was born and raised in the city, but my heart and soul were meant for the countryside.  My husband and I still struggled, but the environment was set up to be able to surpass the struggle, or at least go through it with a much clearer mindset.

We arrived in rural upstate New York toward the end of July and was very surprised with what I saw.  Of course this was not my first time traveling from the hustle and bustle to an absolutely serene countryside.  But it had been a few years passed for me, and my body, my mind, and my soul and spirit welcomed it with such wide open arms.  The air was cooler and cleaner and everything was so green.  In fact, we were in Greenville, NY, part of Greene County.  No lie.  Oh and we lived right across the road from a creek.  But I digress.

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Basic Creek, NY 81 (West), Greenville, New York 12083 (Original photo by Yvette Roman)

That August, my husband bought me an HTC One M7 smartphone and I loved the equalizer on it very much when it came to listening to music, but, little did I know the larger role this phone would play in the upcoming months.  As the summer months turned into fall, which then turned into winter, I found myself falling again into the throes of darkness.  This time I decided to take a proactive approach to this situation.  During previous studies I had encountered several ways to fight the battle against depression, including but not limited to, eating well, taking supplements, daily exercise (even simple walking), meditation techniques, and mindfulness.

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This tractor was just sitting there, near the bank of the creek. Greenville, NY (Original photo by Yvette Roman).

According to Wikipedia, mindfulness is ” the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment, which can be trained by meditational practices…”. (See Mindfulness).  Wildmind.org also defines mindfulness as ” … the gentle effort to be continuously present.”.  (See What is Mindfulness).  Wildmind also states that “in mindfulness we’re concerned with noticing what’s going on right now.”  So, I took that very seriously and began searching for ways to practice mindfulness by noticing what’s going on here and now.  I decided that it was time to take whatever I’ve learned so far about battling depression and putting it into action.  I will take up photography.  So I did.  With an HTC One M7 smartphone.

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I love barns and sheds. They have such character! Greenville, NY, along NY 81 East. (Original photo by Yvette Roman).

Because I also have a physical disability (arthritis) I decided that walking, not briskly, but at a leisure pace, fulfilled the physical exercise portion of the no more depression workout, and allowed me to also take in the scenery with a different eye.  And I saw everything!  The sky, the bare trees, the old pickups nestled in their parking space, a field tractor near the creek, the snow, the sun, the signs….everything.  I attempted to learn what I could about my smartphone camera: ISO, shutter speeds, special effects, macro, etc.  It was a little frustrating at first.  I was seeing everything around me with a different set of eyes for the first time and I had an innate desire to capture what I saw with my eyes on digital film.  It wasn’t working out.  But mindfulness isn’t about rushing into anything, it is about being present in the moment, sort of like living in the moment.  So I learned a new craft, slowly.  I became better in my photography as time went by.  I learned more about the technicalities of photography in general (there is so little out there about smartphone photography techniques).  I joined Facebook photography groups.  I even created my own photography group entitled, Nature Photography. (See Nature photography. This is a private group.).

This is the center of town, near the cross streets of NY 81 (going east/west) and NY 32 (going north/south). Greenville, NY

Today, I still consider myself an amateur photographer and I photograph when the opportunity strikes (always!).  I still haven’t upgraded from my smartphone to a digital camera but that’s okay.  I still haven’t learned fully about other functions and ways to manipulate the way photos come out.  I try my hardest to publish my photos in its original content, meaning no special effects and no editing, like the one shown above.  I think and feel that my photos reflect their honesty that way and can also be seen differently and more creatively if naturally blurred or if the environment is naturally two-toned.

Basic Creek, overpass view, facing southwest. Greenville, NY
Car bridge facing Red Mill Road, off of NY 81. Greenville, NY (Original photo by Yvette Roman).

There are many ways to fight the depression monster: one is learning something new, another is practicing mindfulness, yet another is watching what foods you put into your body.  I searched Google for many, many days trying to find creative ways to do things and new things that I can learn to do. So, if you find yourself having a blah moment, suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, depression, or anything that clouds your mind, first seek the advice of a physician.  Second, do some research.  Third, do something new and different.  The list can continue from there.  Live your life now, my friends, not tomorrow.  And if you have other helpful links, please feel free to share.

I am grateful for you and I hope that you live in the moment.

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At the boardwalk headed toward the beach, Kure Beach, North Carolina. (Original photo by Yvette Roman)