'Photography was such a great distraction, it allowed me to concentrate on something totally different to the exclusion of everything else.'
When I joined the fire brigade back in 1984 I had no idea what lay ahead of me, it was the start of an adventure and a chance to make a difference in people's lives. I had no idea what a difference it would make to mine.
Like many other emergency service personnel I had some gruesome experiences and I dealt with my responses and feelings by putting them in a box to deal with later. However, 'later' never came and before I knew it my box was starting to fill up until finally it overflowed, I couldn't put the lid back on and years of sights, sounds, smells, emotions all came flooding out uncontrollably.
This made me ill, although I didn't realise it at the time, and I was diagnosed with accumulative PTSD as a result of my service experiences. I was lost and floundered for some time before I could get back in the saddle and return to work, but I did and finished my career after thirty years service in 2014.
What helped me a huge amount was being able to focus my attention on something other than work. I'd always had a love for photography and the digital era made it much easier and affordable for me, so I took the plunge and bought my first DSLR. Before I knew it I had a small, but very well equipped studio in London where I produced head shots and portraits for people in the entertainment business.
Photography was such a great distraction, it allowed me to concentrate on something totally different to the exclusion of everything else. When I was working in the studio, on location or in front of the computer carrying out post production processing that was all that was in my head ... what a respite from what was normally there!
I get great satisfaction from going from the click of a shutter to the finished image and seeing and hearing the response from people who see it and while I'm immersed in that process, nothing else matters.
Now, I'm not claiming that my photography is a miracle cure for my responses to my PTSD but it does provide a coping strategy for me to distract my thoughts when they become intrusive or unwanted and I now feel that I manage my responses in a positive way.
Who knows, it might just do the same for you?