My Recent Photography

It’s been a while since I’ve typed anything. So here goes.

This week I decided to get out of the house as I’ve been kicking my heels with boredom.  staring at the four walls is never good or healthy for someone with mental health issues.  The thing about Hull, the city I call home is it is pretty much a central location. There are cities like Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield to the west and the Yorkshire coast to the east.  With most places being over an hours journey time be it by train, bus or car which ever is best or convenient.

Usually I set one day a week aside for me to do a bit of photography. Be it a bit of urban exploration or to do landscape.

The thing you’ve got to remember is that planning and preparation is so very important.  You have to decide is…

1) What you are going to do? Is it landscape, street, urban, documentary etc.

2) Where you are going to it? Is it Leeds city centre or the Yorkshire coast like Spurn Point

3) What equipment will you need? It’s not just which camera be it a professional spec compact for street photography or a big full frame D-SLR (Digital- Single Lens Reflector) for landscapes.  It could be what clothing to wear.  It’s not much point going to Spurn Point where the wind gets very cold, it rains a lot  and you’re not carrying a wind/water proof jacket.  Plan for everything.

4) How are you going to get there?  Car, bus, train or walk?  If you’re going to drive where will you park that isn’t going to cost a fortune or how much fuel will you use?  Small things that add up.

5) Travel Time- Getting there to make the most of the time you have there.  If you’re doing a sunrise on the coast it’d be a good idea to know when sunrise actually is and how long it’ll take to get to your chosen location.

6) The weather- Which weather will add to the image.  If you want a bright sunrise it’s not much point going if it pouring with rain.  So check the weather forecast.

Over the last month I have travelled to places like Leeds, Hornsea and Spurn Point with each of these points in mind.

Sunrise over the North sea at Spurn Point-

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Me, standing on the beach at Spurn Point waiting of the sunrise

For this I got up at 4 o’clock in the morning (yes, there is a 4 o’clock in the morning) to get out of the house for 4.45am to travel the hour or so.  When I go there it was 5.45am-6.00am and still dark.

When I got to Spurn point I then trekked for over a mile through the darkness to a point I could set up my camera on a tripod to take images of the sunrise.  All told I took nearly 50 photographs to get that one image.  Which is the one below.

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Sunrise at Spurn Point over the North Sea

It was cold, windy but satisfying to get that one image which says everything.

 

Morning at Hornsea

On another day I decided to take images at the seaside town of Hornsea on the East Yorkshire coast.

With these images I wanted to show the emptiness and quietness of Hornsea when the town is out of season and free from tourists.  During the summer season the beach, chip shops and seafront cafes are full of tourists and day-trippers from all over the county escaping the town and city.

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The closed chip shop

There is a strange disquiet at seeing chip shops and seafront cafes that only a matter of weeks previous were all hustle and bustle filled with patrons are now closed and quiet almost as if their in a hibernated state waiting for the seasons to change and summer to return and then and only then do they wake up for summers business

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The closed seafront cafe at Hornsea

The beach was also empty bar a few hardy dog walkers.  During the summer time the beaches are usually full of day trippers making the best of the fickle Yorkshire summer.

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Where the sea meets the sky at Hornsea

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The beach at Hornsea

 

Leeds City Centre

Just to do something different I decided to get out of my comfort zone and travel to the city of Leeds to do some street photography / urban photography.  To this I set off at 8am to travel the hour or so to a park and ride to travel into Leeds itself

Being bipolar I usually shy away from situations that make me uncomfortable but from a creative point of view that is not always good.  So I go to places that are new, different and uncomfortable.

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Busy street in Leeds

Street photography always takes me out of my comfort zone due to the fact I’m not entirely comfortable or confident with singling out interesting individuals and capturing images due to the chance that people can be confrontational.  Lets face it you can’t get into an argument with a landscape.

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Busker in Leeds

However that doesn’t mean that there aren’t interesting things to behold as you can see by the next few images.

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The Gorilla

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Leeds City hall

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Old Church in Leeds city centre

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Statue framed against a building in Leeds

Well I hope you enjoyed reading my blog.  Please share and comment.

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Posted in Bipolar disorder, Blogging, Mental health, mental health issues, photography, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Kieran and me

After the reasonable success of my last blog about Kieran I want to talk about my relationship with Kieran and how we basically live together.

Kieran and mines relationship is far from ideal.

It is a relationship full of love, anger, compassion, frustration, hope and strain.

Having my own issues regards my mental health is bad enough but adding Kieran’s autism makes things worse. Kieran does not understand why I can lose my temper and get angry so easily and quickly. This coming from a man who was described in the Army as “notoriously patient”

My issues are complex and so are Kieran’s. He is not stupid by any stretch of the imagination. He’s a smart, funny and intelligent boy when he applies himself. He makes insightful observations of life and people. Unfortunately he doesn’t think it but says it out loud.

There have been so many incidents where he has said something about someone and I’ve wanted to vanish in to thin air because of it. One incident was when we were walking to school past a transgender person when Kieran pointed and shouted “Look! A man-woman”

You have to make allowances for Kieran and children like him. My family and friends do it all the time. Unfortunately other people who don’t know Kieran and autism, understand Kieran and autism or have the most basic elements of compassion towards children like Kieran and autism. You know the type- the type that sees Kieran flapping his arms, hear him talking a little too loudly or have the misfortune to witness him having an autistic meltdown, give you that look and “tut”. The type who freely offer unsolicited, unwanted and unwelcome child rearing advice with out a clue as to what is actually happening. The ones you smile at, grit your teeth and you think-

“you can fuck off.”

Kieran’s many traits deeply frustrate me and it’s that feeling of frustration and helplessness that angers me. Kieran will do something daft and I snap at him. Sometimes it will be at something where he has put himself or someone else at risk. Most of the time it because I’ve had to repeat myself endlessly to do something like put his shoes and coat on as we have to go somewhere. Other times it’s because he damaged or destroyed something then it’s frustrated anger. Sarah is constantly reminding me to breath and calm down. Easier said then done.

I am ashamed to say I get very cross with Kieran at times and he genuinely gets scared. In fact he runs and hides. It’s not his fault. I don’t know if it’s the toxic combination of my bipolar and medication grating with his autism. However I put it to a much simpler explanation-

I’m a man, a flawed human.

A friend asked how I cope with this frustration- it’s again really simple, I remove myself from the situation and catch my breathe.

The one person, no wait two people I haven’t mentioned in all this is my wife Sarah and our youngest son Brendan. Both are witnesses to mine and Kieran’s fire and ice situation. Sarah has to mediate between Kieran and I. As for Brendan, he asks questions of me and accepts Kieran’s behaviour as situation normal.

Don’t get me wrong I love Kieran with all my heart, soul and being but I am so frustrated by him too.

Well I’ve said enough. Please feel free to ask questions of me and Sarah by messaging us.

Posted in Asperger, Aspergers, Aspergers, Aspergers Syndrome, Autism, Autistic Spectrum, Bipolar, Bipolar disorder, Mental health, mental health issues, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kieran.

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There are many aspects to my life. My bipolar [BD], my photography and my family. These three things make up my life. Another additional aspect to these three is Kieran who has Aspergers Syndrome [AS], which is on the Autistic Spectrum Disorder [ASD].

Kieran is a unique child. He is loving, friendly, intelligent, beautiful, well mannered and curious of things. I would have said “special” but all our children are special be they additional needs or neurologically typical [NT].

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Kieran was diagnosed at an early age, I think he was about 3 years when the nursery he was attending noticed that Kieran was different. He did not play with other children, he played alongside. He wouldn’t make eye contact or communicate properly. He was not meeting his milestones in nursery. He was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome [AS] at 5 years old.

With AS we had to deal with Kieran’s idiosyncrasies. Like always having an iPad, avoiding things or places that could cause a sensory overload and therefore cause a meltdown. The looks you get when Kieran has a meltdown are painful, not only do we have to deal with an upset child but the looks of unsympathetic strangers who have no idea, not a clue about Kieran and what is going on.

We, Sarah and I, wanted to give him, Kieran, our best and we placed him in a Mainstream school. This however did not always fit in with Kieran as Kieran did not always fit in. We had to fight to get him the things he needed like a Teaching Assistant [TA] who knew and understood Kieran, autism and his needs.

Things came to a head when something as simple and mundane as lunchtime became a problem- Kieran had to come home for his lunch due to the school not having adequate cover for lunchtime from his TA or others. This caused friction between us and the school. Eventually he was at school for lunch twice a week then three times a week and eventually after someone pointed out that the school was inadvertently discriminating against Kieran he was allowed the full five days of the school week.

Another battle in a long fight for Kieran.

Thing is as Kieran became older and grew and matured the differences between him and his classmates became obvious. His classmates were changing and maturing at a different rate to Kieran. When I watched him in the playground when I dropped him off at school he would be on his own, in isolation from the others. His classmates had developed friendships and had their own groups.

That is one of the problems with autism. It is an isolating social disorder as well as a neurological disorder. This is not to say he did not have friends. Kieran does have friends. Kian and Shana. Kian who gave him the friendship that is so important and Shana who would watch out for Kieran and protect him when the less than considerate and tolerant members of Kieran’s class took advantage of him by bullying him. These friendships are special and important.

When Kieran left mainstream primary eduction to go to a special needs secondary school. The school had a leaving party for the pupils. The parents who organised it, Caroline and Annabell, arranged the party they had with Kieran in mind and went out of their way to make sure it was suitable for Kieran to come to it. They made sure it was not too loud and not a sensory overload. Kieran protested to me that he did not want to go. Eventually we persuaded him to go even if it was just for 5 minutes.

You know what- he went to the party and stayed the whole evening. In fact Kieran was the only one to dance with another girl. Go Kieran(!)

Kieran is so very different from his younger brother Brendan. Brendan would be described as Neurologically Typical [NT]. Brendan can be a precocious, funny and compared to Kieran wonderfully, wonderfully boring. Sometimes I feel Brendan is 9 going on 15 years old at times.

DSC01506.jpgBrendan and Kieran have a loving but difficult relationship at times. It genuinely makes me sad that Brendan, the younger sibling, has to play the role of the big brother for Kieran.

Sadly at this point in Kieran’s life I cannot see him going through life with the guidance or supervision of others in his future. Be that me and Sarah, little Brendan or a responsible adult supervising Kieran.

But just because I cannot see it happening now does not mean it is impossible. Kieran is settled at a special needs school that can tackle Kieran and his traits.

Well I have written enough at the moment. In my next blog I will talk more about how Kieran’s autism affects me and my bipolar.

Feel free to message me and Sarah with any questions.

Posted in Asperger, Aspergers, Aspergers Syndrome, Autism, Autistic Spectrum, Mental health, mental health issues, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Bipolar Me- Jobhunting continues

It has been a struggle to maintain a sense of purpose and momentum when it comes to the job hunting front. My personal morale is a delicate and precious thing that I am painfully aware of is in short supply. I want to work but it’s not just a case of picking a job at random. It has to be a job that will challenge and maintain my interest.

The job also has to be able to support me, Sarah and the boys financially.

It’s depressing going through the classifieds on job sites like monster.co.uk and indeed.co.uk seeking that job that you can think to yourself- I can do that. Their either not financially viable or the job title or description is seemingly over complicated. Whether this is on purpose or not I have no idea. I only speak two languages English and bad English.

The thing that is silently killing me inside is the waiting, the waiting for a response be it positive or negative. One job I applied for hasn’t even got that companies get out of jail card- “If you have not heard in X amount of weeks assume you are not successful.”

I know it is an employers market at the moment but it doesn’t hurt to send a email.

At the moment I’m going to the Veterans Job Club in a bid to help me find a job. At the moment I’m steadily putting things in place to help me get my bus driving license back. However there are so many hoops to jump through to get it.

The first major hoop is the medical and then there is the eye test. Then I have to wait to be investigated and for the person at the ministry to decide if I should receive my license or not.

In the mean time I am applying for voluntary work to bolster my CV and prove I’m not idle.

With having the issues I have I find job-hunting a frustrating and vexing task. It isn’t helping my mental state. One thought I’ve had is to go self employed as a freelance photographer but I am in no position to do that, financially or mentally. I know it’ll be taxing.

What to do, what to do?

Well I’m going to sign now and post this.

Posted in Bipolar, Bipolar disorder, depression, Mental health, mental health issues, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bipolar Me- Job hunting and interviews

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog.

It’s been a time of big decisions for me. One decision I’ve made is that I am going to attempt to return to the world of work, whether I am ready is a matter of discussion. I feel ready but until I actually return to work I do not know.

My work experience with the Hull Daily Mail shows that I am capable of getting up and going to a place of work.

To be honest the prospect of work excites me and scares me in equal measure. The fact I haven’t worked for close to 5 years may not work in my favour. Mental health issues not withstanding, it’s a long time not to be in a paid job. It’s not as if I’ve been idle – I have been active. Active as in my photography, education courses and volunteering.

Being in the benefits is a trap. One that is difficult to escape.

The pros are I would get my dignity back and to be honest there is no greater therapy for people like me with bipolar, depression and anxiety then that of activity of work.

The cons are I would lose the benefits I have come to rely on. One of the benefits I would lose would be no more free medicine. But in the same breath, and this is contradictory, I want to pay. I want to pay into the system that has helped (and hindered) me and my family.

To this end I have applied for jobs online. 4 jobs so far, not a lot but small and vital steps. One at a supermarket, one working on the trains, one in security and one in a call centre. One rejected almost straight away (the security job), I am still to hear about the from the supermarket and train jobs but the call centre job I heard from almost immediately (I will come to that later.)

Whilst I am job hunting I have decided to apply for the return of my Category “D” driving license or Bus / Coach driving license to the rest of the world.

I decided to telephone the DVLA and ask what the chances of getting my bus license was. Their answer was simple – I could apply for it (doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll get it though).

All I have to do is fill in the correct forms, have a medical examination and a eye test. The medical will cost approximately £80 and the eye test £15. On the scale of the world £95 is not a lot of money, but it is if you haven’t got £95 to spare however I am getting help with these costs. I do not expect it to be a smooth or easy process. I have to prove with evidence from the doctors that I am psychologically stable. I am confident and optimistic that I will get my license back. I have to be.

Well back to the call centre job. I am not naming the company for reasons of etiquette and legality (I don’t want this blog to come back to haunt me). I will say they are a company local to Hull.

I saw the advert for the job on a job search website late on Sunday night, read the criteria for the job and what was expected of me. I read it and thought to myself – I could do that but I have doubts. Noted the telephone number and rang them Monday morning. They were as keen as mustard to speak to me and interview me. This felt a little rushed to me, I said I’d forward my CV (resume) to the email address supplied.

With in hours they rang up and asked me if I’d like to do an interview over the phone. Which I did. I did point out that I had bipolar, which didn’t seem to phase them. I was asked if I could come in for a group interview on Tuesday or Thursday afternoon. Knowing I would need time to physically (ironed shirt, polished shoes and clean myself up) and psychologically (anxiety can be debilitating) I elected for Thursday.
In the meantime Sarah and I discussed the pros and cons of working there. Sarah was concerned that it was a busy, pressurised, target driven sales environment that I might not be mentally resilient enough to cope.

That the basic wage of £17,000 would not be enough to sustain us financially and keep the roof over our heads. The fact we have the bare minimum of savings to rely on until those wages should I take the job finally be paid.

I pointed out that it was just an interview, nothing more. If nothing I would get valuable experience and practice of being in an interview.

Thursday came and I arrived an hour early in town. I get anxious about being late to the point of it almost being a phobia. It’s a hang over from being in the military. Always 5-10 minutes early for a parade, always!

I got to reception twenty minutes early and joined six others there to be interviewed. There was so many of us in the reception that they had to move us to the canteen to wait. The interviewers finally arrived and took us to a training room as opposed to the interview room that they usually use as it was being used for a meeting. Çe la vie.

In the group we had to introduce ourselves and give some background on ourselves. Then we were given a laminated piece of card with a random item pictured on it. I had a black and gold watch. We had to give a sales pitch for the item. So proving one can think on their feet.

Then I was taken on my real test- the call centre floor. It was busy, crowded and noisy. A true test of me and how I deal with my anxieties and the methods I have put in place to deal with them. I was put with a young lady to listen in on the sales calls. Lets just say – I coped.

After which I was asked if I could do a one to one interview with one of the managers. I was asked how my mental health issues would affect me working in the call centre. I was open and honest with them. I said I had things in place in my mind to help me cope with the demands placed on me.

They seemed happy with that answer, usually I get a glass eyed look.

They said they would be in contact the next day. With that experience behind me I left with a positive step in my stride. I had not cracked or crumbled in the face of a difficult and testing environment.

The next day I got the call- I did not get the job.

They didn’t think I was suited for sales but I would be more suited to customer services for which they had no placements. My name would be kept on file.

Am I disappointed? I am a little as I had put effort in to the task at hand but from every negative you must draw a positive.

The positives are I went to an interview early, clean shaven, smiling and I presented myself at my most confident and able light.

Now this proves to me and hopefully to you the reader that having mental health issues is not something that can hold you back if you apply yourself.

Well if you think this has been any help drop me a line or two. Follow my journey on twitter at @lash1978. Thanks for reading if you got this far. Have good mental health.

Posted in Bipolar, Bipolar disorder, Blogging, depression, Interview, Mental health, mental health issues, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bipolar Me- Work experience Day One

This week has been extraordinary .

I went on works experience with the Hull Daily Mail [HDM], the local paper in Hull and the East Riding. This came about due to my blogging about photography and my mental health issues. After I was interviewed with Allison, the deputy editor Jamie contacted me and asked if I wanted to do some works experience. An opportunity I’d jump at.

After a few emails between myself and Rob the photo editor at the HDM we settled on a date and a timing for me to come in.

On the day I arrived at the HDM offices half an hour early for three reasons. One, I am an former soldier. Soldiers are always on parade 10 minutes before, it’s ingrained. Two, I get really, really really anxious if I’m late, close to a panic if I am late. And three- It shows willingness.

Unfortunately Rob the photo editor was away on holiday so his senior photographer Kate had been deputised to fill in for him. Kate is a wonderful photographer who I’ve met out and about.

They actually thought I was meant to be in earlier but there had been miscommunication somewhere but it wasn’t a problem. I was paired with an affable gent called Les who freelances for the HDM amongst many things.

Les had been tasked with some briefs for the day. The first task was to get images of a cricket match in Beverley. We arrived to see that the match had already started, so we set about taking images of the cricket action.

Taking multiple shots of the bowlers and the cricketers replies by striking the ball. Unfortunately my shoots were all taken at a distance so my lens was not adequate enough to get close-up shoots of the action but I persevered.

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For the next brief we headed to the centre of Beverley to take photos of the Thai Palace Restaurant. The brief was to collect photographs of the exterior, interior and photograph some of the food on the menu.

The restaurant owners prepared the dishes and presented them beautifully in the upstairs of the restaurant away from the bustle of the lunch time rush. I took some images of the exterior and a couple of internal shoots of the busy diners. I didn’t take any photos of the food, I simply acted as an assistant to Les. Helping take the food to a table and presenting the food on a table we had prepped for individual shoots of each dish. Observing how he took the images using the ambient light and bouncing the flash of the ceiling.

When we finished the task the manager turned to us and said – you may as well eat it now. You could have knocked me over with a feather. We tucked in, it would have been rude not to.

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The next job was also in Beverley. The brief was to collect publicity shots for a popular chain of hardware supply shops. Les and our point of contact arranged a time to meet. We arrived at the location to find were in fact early. So whilst there Les showed me that no time is wasted. Les got out his laptop and edited his images and transmitted them to the Picture Desk via the Internet. Being a novice I did my best to get my images to Kate on the Picture Desk best I could by wiring my SD card to my iPad. Unfortunately my images were far too big to be sent in bulk via my email.

This frustrate me a little, but I discussed it with Les who explained why I needed to take smaller file size images for the picture desk and papers in general. Expediency and speed is name of the game.

When the client called Charles arrived we quickly arranged the people in to the shot and Les took his images and then he encouraged me to take mine.

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With guidance from Les I accomplished this shot.  It was nerve racking trying to encourage people to pose naturally and not feel awkward but that simply boils down to the confidence

So all in all a good day.  One of the best treatments for mental health is to do something and do something you love and enjoy.  It can be very effective in combating the negatives by doing something so positive.

Best part is I was invited in again to work the next day.  I will blog about that in my next blog

If you have enjoyed what I’ve written feel free to contact me and follow me on twitter at @Lash1978.  Until the next blog, have good mental health.

 

Posted in Bipolar, Bipolar disorder, Blogging, depression, Hull Daily Mail, Mental health, mental health issues, photography, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bipolar Me- Interview

Earlier this week I had an interview with Allison Coggan, health writer for the Hull Daily Mail (or HDM). I’ve been kind of keeping quiet about it until the interview actually happened.

To be honest I was fairly apprehensive about the whole thing. I have been interviewed before about my bipolar and associated mental health issues by the HDM but that was with Mind being in the background. Never before on my own.

The interview was conducted at the Hull Veterans Support Centre (HVSC), a place I felt safe and a neutral setting with friends close by.

Suffice to say the weather was pouring down and Allison walked past the centre a few times. She set me at ease. She was a friendly and affable lady.

The interview was a fairly casual and cheerful affair. Thing is I didn’t want to say anything silly or harmful either. Anyone who happens to know me personally in the real world knows I have a slightly screwball sense of humour. My sense of humour is something I hide behind. One counsellor I was a patient of remarked that I hid behind sarcasm and dark humour.

The common trait of anyone who has served in the military is a sense of humour that isn’t to everybody’s taste. If you don’t have a sense of humour when you join the military you soon develop one

Allison asked plenty of questions. Some I found difficult to answer, but questions I nevertheless answered. She asked how I discovered I had bipolar, My journey through the system, how I coped, how my family coped and what I’d say to people who may be about to go on the journey of diagnosis.

At this point in time I will not be quoting the interview by Allison until it is published bar this-

I would say to people to just find a little bit of courage, I’ve seen courage of all different types and it’s not all about running a machine gun. It takes courage to go to your GP and explain what it happening but you are not going to be carried away by men in white coats or admitted to hospital. You need to talk about it to get the help you need – and there is help.”

When the interview is finally published in the HDM I will post the rest of the interview on here sometime in July.

Thank you Allison for a good experience being interviewed.

Well I am going to finish now, follow my antics on Twitter at @lash1978.

Posted in Bipolar, Bipolar disorder, Blogging, depression, Hull Daily Mail, Interview, Mental health, mental health issues, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment