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Jacie: How Anxiety Affects My Photography

The internet is filled with blogs about mental health. I'd like to add my perspective to the mix, but through the lens of photography.

First, some background information. I have always been an anxious person. Believe me, my parents can vouch for that. There is no trauma in my past that has spurred my anxiety; it's just how I am. My anxiety manifests itself in a number of ways, but the most obvious is through my sleep (or lack thereof). I've always struggled to get good sleep. Counseling in my childhood helped quite a bit. But, as a freshman in high school, my insomnia returned with a vengeance. I didn't sleep for weeks, so we tried going to a variety of doctors. It was then that I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (duh) with a tendency for OCD an depression.

Now, let me explain Generalized Anxiety Disorder. GAD can manifest itself differently in different people, so the symptoms can vary greatly. But, let me assure you, it's more than just being a "worry-wart." GAD takes normal, everyday worries and turns them into obsessive fears. GAD can prevent individuals from pursuing very normal, safe, happy activities because of these unrealistic fears. Furthermore, GAD can't really be turned off. The worries come unceasingly, no matter what logic one might use to keep them at bay. Here's an example I shared with a friend - it's completely normal to be afraid of sharks, but to obsess over that fear and let it stop you from swimming in a pool or taking a bath is unhealthy. To sum up, GAD is unrealistic, unrelenting worries that affect daily life.

GAD has affected me in a variety of ways. Some of them are good, actually. I know a lot of safety skills. I'm a terrific planner. I'm thoughtful and forward-thinking. I can also exercise compassion and empathy well. On the down side, GAD leaves me feeling nervous all of the time, and sometimes I also feel suspicious and paranoid. Because my brain is constantly working overtime, and because I don't sleep well, I'm often exhausted. Anxiety attacks can also give me severe, long-lasting headaches and stomach aches. Sometimes, my chest and heart hurt for no reason (I already checked multiple times with my doctor - these aren't heart attacks). This is all particularly frustrating when I can't identify the source of my anxiety, and that frustration can heighten my emotions and physical symptoms.

Because I've had anxiety issues my entire life, I've had a lot of practice developing coping mechanisms. First, I know who to trust. My husband, close family, and friends know about my anxiety and, while they may not have all of the answers, always show their love and support for me when I get worked up. I've gone to a few different counselors, who have taught me various breathing and visualization exercises. They also encourage me to make plans, try new things, change my perspective, calculate risks, push myself, and find comfort in my happy place (on my couch with a blanket and ice cream reading a good book or watching a '90s sitcom). I've worked with my doctor to find medication to help me sleep, and I take it as needed. I pray and read scriptures, taking note of peaceful and comforting insights. These are huge blessings in my life, and I'm grateful for all of them.

Despite all of this, I don't want my anxiety to stop me from living my life. I love adventures with my husband. I love traveling to new places. I love learning new skills - like photography - and having a business that I can control. So, as your photographer, here's what you should know when it comes to my anxiety:

1. Anxiety will not stop my from doing my job. I will meet new people, travel to new locations, and try new methods the serve my clients as best as possible.

2. I do not want to be treated differently than you would treat other people. You should ask me questions, expect good service, and hold my work to high standards.

3. I love planning! I will likely over-communicate with you, long before you really need all of the details. Planning helps me feel in control of a situation. When I plan ahead of time, there are less surprises affecting our session. That means we are both likely to feel successful and satisfied at the end of the day. Honestly, I am actually very proud of my planning habits and consider this the "upside" of having anxiety. Trust me - I have a plan!

4. Be flexible with me. Consideration goes a long way. If we get a surprise shower or if construction is blocking our scenery, please be patient with me as I go through my back-up plans and assess our options. No one can control everything, but I try to be fair with my clients and always offer my best work. No matter the situation, if you can show me consideration, everything will work out just fine!

I'm a proud photographer, but mostly I'm just a human. I appreciate you learning more about my work and about me; it means a lot. There is so much more to me than anxiety. Still, this seemed like an important topic to discuss, and I am grateful for the understanding of my family, friends, clients, supporters, community members, neighbors, etc. as I try to live out my dreams.

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