There is a story behind this photo of Beth. It isn't the story you might think it is. The story really has nothing to do with Beth. The people that were around while taking the photo likely didn't know why I choose to take this photo. The reason of course is that this photo as much as I like it had nothing to do with photography.
You see, as many know, I have Agoraphobia.
It is a word that often misunderstood as just a fear of open spaces as well as what a open space is. See it is a disorder that causes very bad anxiety in specific situation. Open spaces (where you might feel exposed) Market Places (Agora is a Greek work for a Market, a Gathering place or a place of Assembly.. ie a place with a lot of people) It can also include Social Anxiety, Location based anxiety and anxiety based anxiety and a few other things.
The anxiety with associated with Agoraphobia isn't what most people think of when it comes to anxiety. For me when my anxiety builds it is like being on a rollercoaster that moment right before you go over the top and your heart is in your throat. That is the kind of Anxiety that a person with Anxiety Disorder or Agoraphobia is dealing with. The big difference is that you don't always know what is causing it and it doesn't go away, you are sitting there with your stomach upside down, your heart in your throat, and a heavy pressure on your chest making it hard to breath... non stop. Your whole body is demanding you run away because you are in danger. For me that is what it is like to go grocery shopping.
For most of my life it was manageable. I didn't date a lot because if that is what it is like to go grocery shopping think about trying to ask a woman out or make new friends. I've actually had times of mutism where I had to text a girl I was seeing sitting next to her because I literally couldn't get the words out. Day to day though I was functional if not a little cranky at times.
A few years ago though I had a trauma that resulted in my Agoraphobia becoming significantly worse. To the point of being shut in for a while and making it so that having people closer than a few feet of me was intolerable. It made it impossible for me to go to my job, shop for my self and do much of anything really if there were people around or I wasn't familiar with the area.
Over the last few years I have been learning ways to deal with this new normal for me. Trying to get as much of my life back as possible. It hasn't been an easy journey. I've had many success and many failures. I've gone back to work 3 times... and I am hoping for a 4th.
That doesn't mean I'm healthy though. Learning to manage doesn't mean I'm not prone to new attacks and don't have more work to do. Even when I appear healthy outwardly internally I can be in turmoil. Which is why I took this photo.
During the photowalk we had gone through Kensington Market, I had been in town for a while and had already taken on little people break. By the time we got to Kensington Market I was starting to get a little anxious. Nothing I couldn't handle for a little while though. By the time we were leaving though it was getting to be a bit much. I needed a break from the crowd and the chaos. So I saw a alley with nice colours and figured I'd see if I couldn't get a photo. It gave me a break from the crowds. Got me of the streets, let me focus on something else and gave me a chance to breath a bit.
I wasn't going to tell this story. My Google+ page and Public Facebook is generally not a place I talk about my anxiety. I do on occasionally but it is generally my public face. It isn't something that needs to be talked about constantly. Though I do have to deal with it constantly and I could likely provide an anxiety story for each photo I take, it isn't compelling reading to me. I don't need to talk about the fact it takes a week of mental preparation to travel to Toronto and I couldn't do anything on the Sunday after the walk because I was exhausted. In fact it was 3 or 4 days before I was feeling myself again. This is not things I should have to talk about. Particularly when I'm starting my strides in leaps and bounds with my health over the last few months.
Sadly my insurance company recently decided that because I take photos in the privacy of my home, my safe place, and that I occasionally go out to take photos once every 6-8 weeks that I must be ok to go back to work because I can handle one day of activity every 2 months. That because I have a website that I use to protect my photos from theft and allow people (should anyone ever do it) contact me to take photos for them. That I must make money from my photography. Even though I don't make any money from my Photography. The photography gives me purpose, that is why I do it.
My Photography is part of my therapy. It allows me to get out when I feel up to it. The Camera tends to help prevent some of the social anxiety as there is a reason why people might notice me that has nothing to do with noticing my anxiety. If I look anxious or odd it is the Camera not the person they see.. or at least it is in my messed up head. It allows me to work on dealing with my anxiety with a little more control. It also allows me to go out at 6am and see the sun rise.. with no other people. You'll notice there are no real summer photos of Niagara Falls as it is much to busy for me to go near. It is hard for me right now to even walk up the street without having that rollarcoaster feeling the whole time become overwhelming.
This is the third time my insurance company has said nope we aren't going to keeping paying benefits, we won't help you get back to work and you have to prove that our accusations aren't true because we think you are a liar.. even though part of your condition makes it nearly impossible to be deceptive in that manner.
Why am I writing all this? Well partly to vent and because they used my Google+ page, my public persona and my participation in the Chrysta Rae Scavenger Hunt as evidence that I must be healthy. So I am writing this here for them more than anyone else. A company that has caused me to have to have people track me for a few days to make sure my anxiety didn't cause me to endanger my self trying to escape it. Left me nearly shut in for several weeks, prevented me from getting healthier because I'm actively trying not to get worse with a constant fear of how I will pay my bills and feed myself during the appeals process. I'm putting this here because if they come looking to make up accusations by misinterpreting (seemingly intentionally) my public face that this post may be a reminder that this is my public face and not the whole me.
So ya that is the story of this photo and a little more.