Asian woman in black bodysuit lying on her back with both arms behind her head. Photographed by Stuart McConaghy of Elm City Boudoir in New Haven, CT

About Mental Health & Finding Meaning In Life

Earlier this year, my mental health hit rock bottom. I had a nervous breakdown. Full-blown panic attack, trembling, crying, body seizing up, the works. It was long overdue, to be honest, but sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can begin your climb. I make no secret that I have mental health issues. I have depression, my mind works against me a lot of times, and what some people may view as lazy is me actually feeling paralyzed. I’m scared, and I have been scared since I was a little kid. And getting older ain’t helping.

I just turned 50. Now, media will have us believe that your twenties are the highlight of your life, and if that’s not your experience you’re doing something wrong. You’re supposed to feel insatiable, absorbing experience after experience like a sponge, and have hit your pinnacle before 30. And if you didn’t, well, tough luck, buddy, enjoy your mediocrity. Of course all that’s bullshit. Many people don’t find their true calling until their 50s, 60s, maybe even 70s, I find myself filled with desire and hunger. The desire to experience. The desire to live. The desire to feel alive. in fact, a feeling that I share with many of the women I photograph.

I know I’m not alone in this, we derogatorily call this the “mid-life crisis,” but living for me is not about status symbols like buying a flashy car and pretend I’m 30 years younger in order to try and date 20 year olds. I think the “mid-life crisis” is actually the realization that most of what you have done up until that moment of realization was a waste of time. Chasing someone else’s aspirations, organizing your life around someone else’s arbitrary rules, and selling your body, heart and soul for way too low a price because we’re scared that if we don’t we might not be able to sell ourselves at all.

To loosely quote Marvin Gaye:

This ain’t living.

I don’t want to merely exist, I want to live.

I don’t want to merely exist, I want to live. Living is about the thrill of experiencing art. The thrill of seeing how something new makes you feel. The thrill of throwing out the old routines and inventing new traditions. 

Middle of last year I did something I hadn’t done in a long while, I fired up Ableton Live, which is a music production app I used a lot back in my days as a professional musician, and dipped my toes into music again. Now, I haven’t done anything I feel comfortable sharing yet, but I’m doing this with a haphazard approach, a sort of “let’s see what happens if I do this” kind of method, and I ended up rediscovering the thrill of both ambient and techno music. I’m feeling the joy of experimentation leeching into where I want my photography to go, and my brain is overflowing with ideas. I now practically live at the art galleries around me. I want to learn how to make artisanal chocolates. I want to learn how to make French breads and pastries. I have ideas for photo projects well beyond what I do with Boudoir, and folks, if you could see what’s in my brain right now, you’d be mashing that Book Now button so hard. I’m not kidding.

Go where your heart wants to go

I think the morale I’m learning is that you need to go where your heart wants to go, consequences be damned. And look out and nurture your mental health, because no one else can do it for you, and once it’s broken it’s fucking hard to heal. Change often hurts. Growth often hurts. But the biggest pain of all is not moving at all.

So rebel, my little ones, and conquer the planet.

No Comments

Post A Comment