I have lived with dystonia (a neurological movement disorder) and chronic pain for over 20 years. The very active life prior to dystonia is night and day compared to the forced sedentary current version of myself. Due to the pain and involuntary muscle contractions I live with, I have had to make changes to my activities. One of my favorites is photography.
I love to tap into my creative side and photography does that for me. By no means am I a great photographer. I am a novice at best, but I have been able to capture some good shots here and there. Thankfully I have YouTube videos to guide me along and some forgiving technology to make things look better than the guy shooting the pictures.
The photos I enjoy taking most are sunsets, wildlife, and the beach. Nature is the perfect canvas for capturing beautiful images. It also provides me with the grounding I need to keep my symptoms in better check because being out in nature is where I find peace and serenity. Nature is my refuge and helps take my mind off my pain, and being able to capture those moments with my camera makes life more enjoyable.
Over the past five years, I have replaced almost every store-bought piece of artwork on my walls with my own prints, bringing the outdoors inside so I can enjoy them all the time.
In a word, photography helps me practice mindfulness. To me, a very simple definition of mindfulness is “paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment.” When I am out in nature, I am acutely aware of my surroundings. I get lost in a very comforting space, seeking out my next creative shot, making photography an excellent tool for me to practice this very helpful discipline.
It makes me feel good to see what my mind creates. I can barely draw a stick figure with my hands. I can see what I want to draw in my mind but there’s a disconnect down to my hand. This is different with photography. I see what I want to take a picture of, and it usually comes out the way I planned. This is a very gratifying feeling. I don’t get too many gratifying feelings living with chronic pain and dystonia.
As I said, I am just a novice and don’t plan to become an expert. It’s not about that for me. It’s about getting lost in the subject that I am capturing with the camera. It’s about feeling more grounded and at peace and at one with myself and my surroundings. It’s about taming that fight/flight/freeze stress response that is created by chronic pain that I live with every day.
The more I can tap into my creative side, the more I can produce the feel-good hormones, so the rest of my day is more enjoyable.
Photography has become much more than a hobby. It has become a form of self-care. I hope you are able to find some things that provide you with as much joy as photography does for me.