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Hannah’s Story

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Hello!

For those of you who are just joining me in this journey, let me give you a little background about myself and the reasoning behind my passion for photography and drive to become an advocate for mental health and self care.

6 things to know going into this post:

  1. I was homeschooled

  2. I have 4 siblings…. 2 younger sisters, 2 older brothers.

  3. I bought a car when I was 16

  4. I’ve had a job since I was 15 (Working in Aquatic. Swimming Pools, Oceans, Lakes. Teaching swimming lessons, first aid, lifesaving courses, lifeguard, etc.)

  5. I’m a terrible sick. When I get sick, I feel incompetent and like I’m not good enough because I struggle to take care of others. Even thought being sick is out of my control. It’s something I’ve always struggled with. I’m working on it….

  6. I love hiking and being in and around the water.


In 2014, bad went to worse in a matter of weeks. The world felt as if it was falling apart. 
During that time, I started to shut down and push people away. I cried myself to sleep every night and spent most of my time in my room in the dark. At that point, I hadn't really been exposed to mental illness or been aware of mental health and the impact it can have on a person when left untreated. 
This went on for several months and I wasn't sure what was wrong with me or how to make the darkness and awful feelings disappear. I stopped crying eventually and my emotions and feelings started to turn off. I felt numb emotionally and mentally. Remember that scene in Inside Out, when the brain starts to turn grey and they loose control of everything? Yeah, that was me. I put walls up all around me and didn't let people in. I'd brush them off by saying "I'm fine", "There's nothing wrong with me" or "I'm just tired". (Too be honest, I still do this…)

As time passed, all my efforts to become better didn’t work and I continued to get wors. I did however, became a master of hiding my feelings, covering up scars and putting a fake smile on. At one point I did try and attend counselling, however, it did not end well. I may have been told that I drew the short straw in life and was wished good luck in figuring out how to deal with it.

Christmas of 2014, I had bought my very first camera. Canon Rebel T3. Now, this was a big deal for me. I don’t exactly remember what got me into photography. I just remember that I did not put down that camera for a solid 3 months. Pictures of lights, cats, flowers, leaves, gravel, etc. You name it, I photographed it.

Little did I know, photography would become my only HEALTHY way of releasing and expressing how terrible I felt. Looking back, I am glad I was able somehow able to replace the thought of blades with photography.

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2015/2016, was one of the worst years. Anxiety was taking over me, depression was my closest companion. I was working 20-25 hours a weekend and attempting to finished high school. Staying out of the house as much as possible, but never really enjoying being at work. There were some individuals there who felt that they were better than I and when I didn’t engage with their flirting or let them give me hugs they decided to show me that I was just a little girl who couldn’t do anything and so they threw me into a trash can. This was not the only time I was bullied, it’s just the one that sticks out in my memory. (And yes, my work dealt with the situation appropriately and it never happened again.)

Still struggling to decided what I wanted to do with my life, I tossed a coin and it was a decision between business and photography and OH MAN OH MAN am I so incredibly thankful and overjoyed that photography won.

When I started college in Fall of 2016, my devotion to photography and exploring the outdoors had become the centre of my life. The first year at a “real school” was enlightening and terrifying. You know those stories of the homeschooler finally going to college. Shy, inexperienced, quiet? Yea, that wasn’t me. I was the loudest one in the class and used sarcasm as a way to make friends. By Christmas time I had learned and experienced so much. Something happened over Christmas (Don’t remember what it was) but when I returned to school I was not doing well. I would spend all my time avoiding people, never eating, spending as much time at work as I did at school. Eventually it got to the point where I became very sick. And ended up with sever anemia. During the month of May it fluctuated so much that it caused even more health problems. Now I’m just stuck with mediocre anemia. But as I learned more about my passion (I was taking a diploma in Photography) and the opportunities it brought with it, I realized there was more that I could be doing and that even thought I was struggling health wise, I didn’t want to give up yet.

Summer of 2017, was a hard one. Struggling with sticking up for myself when it came to dealing with coworkers and my social life. I was finding all my self worth into anyone who was willing to “care”. But when it came down to how they treated me, I took it out on myself. All of their disrespectful and hurtful behaviours turned into me feeling as though I wasn’t good enough. As if I needed to do more, be more. This made for a difficult two months.

Hear me when I say this. Putting/finding your self worth into someone else is easy to do but hard to heal from. If you’re reading this and you can relate, do yourself a favour and evaluate the situation. If you’re stuck ask for help. I didn’t and even though valuable lessons were learned that summer, I am still dealing with the repercussions. That summer helped build the fire inside me to fight for what’s right and to not let anyone deal with anything alone. But I wouldn’t wish those feeling onto my worst enemy.

During the middle of the summer I was surfing and ended up getting a concussion. (That story is actually quite funny.) For the first week, I acknowledged I had a concussion and after that I went on living life like nothing had happened. This did not end well for me. By Christmas time I had gotten some serious vertigo and ended up blacking out and hitting my head again. This time, I was put out of commission for a few weeks. No driving, no school, no nothing.

No school was the hardest. I had one semester left and the fear of not graduating was stressing me out beyond repair. Having a concussion broke me inside and there was nothing I could do. Now haven taken time and started the journey to healing, I realize that having a concussion was changing me, for the worst. And I did end up graduating on time, thanks to the AMAZING instructors and faculty at NSCC for never giving up on me and supporting me through the injury.

Instructors form NSCC’s Photography Program - Shannon and Ingram

Instructors form NSCC’s Photography Program - Shannon and Ingram

That bring us to now. Less than a year after graduating. While running a photography business I am diving head first into become a mental health advocate and helping create a better future for the generations to come. Doing this through the power of photography and with the helps of others who have a similar drive and passion. You can learn more at Pics 4 Passion.

Pics 4 Passion is in the process of becoming an organization that supports young people in learning and implementing self care into daily routines as well as encouraging them to pursue their passion and hobbies as coping mechanisms. Striving to encourage young people to continue or start implementing skills, passions and hobbies into their daily routine that are healthy for the body as a whole. This idea came to me because of how photography (my passion) has helped me so much.

Thank you for taking the time to read all this. There are many more stories, but I won’t trouble you with those right now. I know life can be hard. It can even seem impossible sometimes. But please, please, please try and remember, there is more to life than just surviving. God put us on this earth so we could live a life of happiness. He never said it would be easy but he said it would be possible. So when those thoughts and feelings of “Why me?” come into play, whether you believe in God or not remember everything happens for a reason and sometimes we are not meant to know those reasons.

I’m not perfect. I’m not that strong. I’m not that funny. But by golly I am stubborn. And that Stubbornness and my support system (faith, family, friends) is what has kept me here all this time. I refuse to let my negative thoughts be right in saying “I’m not good enough" or “Others would be better off you weren’t around.” I pray that you can find the strength to stand up for yourself.

It’s going to be long. It’s going to be difficult, but you my friend will be get there.

And when you do get there, it will be so freeing!

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