I am pretty open about my relationship with my own mental health. I believe we tolerate each other and that is because we acknowledge one another. Every once in a while I can feel the walls come in, the imposter syndrome creep up and the brain fog float in like on an Atlantic breeze.
Sitting in the office one day, having a frank and honest conversation about mental health with my good friend and colleague, journalist Anne O’Donnoghue, I explain some of my wild thoughts and struggles with the subject. Good days and bad days come in waves and it is so important to acknowledge them and talk about them. We tell everyone we have a cold, why not the then do with discuss when our mind might be under the weather.
It is odd to say, but what I have realised lately is that when you put your thoughts and ideas out there, express them, discuss them, the universe has a way of sending something back. This time it was June Curtain. Myself to and Anne where off to Spanish Point to meet this woman who despite a tough few years after suffering a personal tragedy, decided she was going to feel well. Taking up sea swimming, her story grew far and wide on social media and now she has built a Tribe who meet, swim and I’m sure support one another.
Myself and Anne were very excited to meet June, and we discussed how we might capture her. Anyone who has been photographed by me, knows I like to talk. One, it’s because I have always suffered with a form of social anxiety and two I realised that it opens conversations. I never want to take a picture of someone until I understand a little about who they are. I like to think that after I take their picture I know quite well who they are. Having a photograph taken is quite a magical experience. The camera can bring out the insecurities and vulnerabilities in the most confident of people. To put someone into that position you must be willing to guide them, make them feel at ease, take responsibility.
Thinking about photographing June, a sea swimmer, I knew we could not just rock up and take picture of her in her swimming gear and disappear home. We needed to understand, to feel and to experience. So I suggested to Anne we bring along our swimming toggs and join June for a swim at Spanish Point. Anne, the partner in crime that she is, I think replied with ‘eh, of course we will Phill!’ Role on one week and one Friday evening Anne is standing in the Atlantic Ocean and I am trying to remember how to use my camera as the intense cold takes hold of my body. And there was June, her infectious smile offset by the setting sun. Her warmth radiating from the icy sea. As I floated in the cold Atlantic Ocean as the sun creeped lower, I realised it’s ok to feel cold, it’s ok to feel pain, it’s ok to feel scared, it’s ok to feel happy… it’s ok to feel, because all feelings pass and to feel is to be alive, to feel is to live.