Hi, I am Angie and I have an addiction. Well, not have an addiction, but had an addiction. It’s not the kind of addiction you are thinking of, in fact, far from it. I’ve never tried alcohol, drugs, or smoking- I don’t even drink coffee. Substance addictions run in my family and have brought a lot of pain and sorrow to those closest in my life. All the pain, fear, suffering, and life-sucking I have seen from addictions gave me the opportunity at a very young age to make the decision to stay away from those things.
No, my addiction started long ago not from a substance, but from a little something called depression and another little something called anxiety. Through those two things, I created a dark addiction called negative thinking.
Many say we don’t have control over depression and anxiety, and at times it was so bad that I truly couldn’t control it. I wanted my life to end; I wanted to be pulled quickly from the pain and from this existence and any other existence that might be out there. I hated what I had been through, I hated who I had become, and I hated that life was so difficult.
I have, however, suffered from these things long enough to know that for me and my body and my mind, I can absolutely control the way I think about myself and my life. I can also be lazy and let it run rampant. I can fall into my old addiction of negative thinking and negative self-talk which then leads back to where I started- to depression and anxiety and a dark path of self-sabotage, self-regret, self-pity, and self-disappointment. It’s a path that is extremely hard for me to get out of, so it’s better if I just stay far away from it.
Shortly after my mom passed away about six years ago, my best friend’s mother who was in her early fifties got lung cancer and was quickly fading. I asked my friend if I could take a few photos of her with her mother and her kids. I went to see this beautiful lady that I had known for many years. She was Miss Arizona at one time in her life, gorgeous and stunning. She was now just as beautiful as ever, with much of her life stories written on her face. I watched and snapped away as the faces of the children lit up as their beloved grandmother laughed and played with them. My friend and her mother both have beautiful brown golden eyes and large dimples. I captured their smiles and hugs as they shared some of their last moments together.
A few weeks later she passed away. As I looked through the photos, the tears began to flow- for her and for her family who were now with out a mother, wife, and grandmother. I continued to look at those photos as well as other images that I have taken throughout my career and a thought came to me, a thought that had never crossed my mind before.
I felt inspired, but wait- I took these photos. Did that mean I was inspiring? For the first time in my life, I was inspired by me.
Was that possible? Could I really find inspiration from my own life, from myself? I spent many years mad and sad at the person that I was and the obstacles I had faced. I was never good enough, never pretty enough, never strong enough, never smart enough, and always angry at life. Somehow, in that moment, I felt a great love, compassion, and respect for myself that I have never felt before. It was glorious! To have love for myself is a beautiful feeling. I decided right then and there to dropkick my addiction of negative thinking. The negative self-talk of “I suck at life” was now over for good.
The internet is such a blessing in our lives, yet it is also a curse. We have easy access to inspiration and ideas of all kinds. Sometimes, instead of getting inspired we end up trying to emulate others’ work. Earlier in my career, about 10 years ago, I would do just that. I wanted to edit like so and so and pose just like so and so. I wasn’t looking for inspiration, I was looking for people to be just like! How was that using the creative brain I’d been blessed with? How was that helping me grow? How was that getting inspired? It wasn’t.
I have realized over the years that finding inspiration outside of myself wasn’t helping my art, it was only hindering me from being great. I stopped looking at photography blogs and continued to get my inspiration from things I love, such as music, movies, books, my family, nature, and my life- the good, the bad, and the ugly. All that has happened in my life has now become my inspiration.
I don’t tell you these stories for sympathy or to sound as though my life is any harder then anyone else’s. In fact, my life is very beautiful and I am grateful for it all. I share these things because they have made me who I am today. If not for my darkest days, the love I have developed for myself would not exist. It was by suffering these things that self-love has grown and flourished. My depression and anxiety have become one of my biggest blessings and biggest inspirations of all. I can now find inspiration and peace amongst the memories of pain, fears, and loneliness.
There is no one in this world that is not or cannot be creative in their own way. We all have been born with a vast amount of creativity inside of us and that is where we will find it, deep with in us. You won’t find your creativity inside of me or inside your neighbor or your favorite photographer. It’s somewhere in the blueprint of your heart and soul, and maybe you haven’t found it yet, but you will, and when you do it will be a moment of everlasting beauty and inspiration.
Our “What I Have to Say” Wednesday series features established photographers and artists with messages they just can’t keep inside. Authentically and honestly, our writers share words of wisdom to challenge, encourage, and inspire.