SAM_0403My name is Bob O. The task of taking photos originally began in response to a comment that was made on the evening news of a local TV station regarding “schizophrenic weather”. People were negatively impacted by this statement, which was inappropriate and did not make sense. This comment highlighted the stigma those of us with mental illness face daily. Lengthy discussions resulted in some of us participating in a Photovoice group where we could capture photos that reflect experiences that people with mental health and addictions face in our community.

Originally these photos seemed a task, but surprisingly this experience became enjoyable. I learned how to use digital cameras and print photos at a camera kiosk. I walked the streets of Hamilton and actually stopped to pause and notice things I often take for granted daily. This experience became one that was much more personal. I had the opportunity to reflect on my life, what it had become and share it in an artistic manner. I would have never previously considered myself artistic. I have been in hospital for 3 months I feel better and have taken some steps forward. As I approach discharge I will attempt to resume my normal life – the journey has just begun. Despite everything that has happened in our lives we continue to move on similar to how water will always flow around objects. No matter what obstacle is in front of us – life goes on.

Circle of Life

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This is the circle of life. Though it may be cracked the circle never ends. Despite a few circles being broken there are still many that remain intact…it’s a survival thing. In all areas of life there is both light and dark. The dark represents the hurdles, the negativity whereas the light represents those positive experiences and moments of growth. While we are in hospital we are protected from the outside world. We are sheltered from both pain and hurt. During this admission I have begun to become more comfortable with saying no and am beginning to take steps so that I am no longer treated like a doormat. It’s a challenge for me but I will get there. The cracks also speak to the cracks in our personality… cracks that we all share. I am saddened at the thought that although I was able to receive the help that I needed there are many individuals who fall between the cracks in our system.

My Little Hole

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This hole depicts the loneliness that I once felt. During this hospitalization I came to the realization that we’re not all alone. I had created my own loneliness when I was totally isolating myself. I created it on my own. We have all had the experience of feeling that there is a piece missing from our lives. The awareness of this piece may cause us to feel despair, loneliness, negativity, and anger. Sometimes rather than dealing with emotions I choose to isolate and self-medicate. I didn’t like interactions and I begrudged having to do things. But that has changed. I don’t feel like that any longer because the medications have helped. That hole has been filled.

Changing Perspectives

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Prior to this admission I was very aware of the sense of experiencing a hole in my life. This hole brought up a number of negative emotions. I tried to deal with these feelings by isolating and self-medicating through alcohol. Unfortunately, the void was never filled. The alcohol did not solve my problems, rather, it blurred my perspective on reality, worsening my symptoms and resulting in me needing hospitalization.

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During this admission I have come to see that we all have holes. The challenge is in deciding whether or not we choose to come out of the shadows and be open about them. The issues may include poverty, job loss, strained relationships and/or addictions. By being true to ourselves and acknowledging them we can begin to ask for the help that we need.

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We all have tunnel vision. We all have dreams, hopes and expectations out of life as we “reach for the sky”. It is difficult to accept when our path is altered, particularly when illness plays a role. However, by being open to new ideas, taking ownership and responsibility for ourselves, setting sights on new goals, working towards them a step at a time and noticing the beauty that surrounds us we can still lead meaningful lives.

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