Why I Am Leaving Photography... and May Never Go Back!
The first reason: it’s the chronic pain and my chronic conditions. I was born with 4 chronic conditions, and as an adult, they are catching up with me in new ways.
#1 Beckwith Weidemann Syndrome
#2 Congenital Heart Defect (One my 2nd pacemaker)
#3 Medullary Sponge Kidney
#4 IBS (the least severe of the 4, fairly common)
Add all those up and as you grow older - crouching, bending in weird ways, and being on my feet for long periods of time, only makes it worse. Even a 1-hour shoot started to set me back a week.
I know it’s hard to believe that. And many of you may be thinking “well I have my own chronic pain or chronic conditions, and I still do x,y, and z.” or “I know this person who has a chronic condition, and they are still able to do x,y,and z.” I see you, I hear you, and I’ll never ever belittle the pain you or your loved one experiences or how much strength it takes to do what you or they do each day. We each have our own capacity to be able to do all we do in a day, especially with whatever situation we are in, whatever body we born with, whatever mind we are given.
This is not a post to compare one person’s pain or situation to another. This is a post to unite us and simply say, it’s hard and it’s not fair what we have to go through sometimes. We all do what we have to, so we have the best quality of life we can have. For me, I had to come to the realization that I needed to stop photographing. That was one of the hardest things for me to wrap my head around. Photography was my entire life. I started being interested in it in middle school.
Then as a professional photographer since 2011, I was a wedding photographer that photographed 20+ weddings a year. I was a family photographer, a newborn photographer, a social activist photographer. I did all the photo things I could. And I loved it. I loved taking photos. I had ever since middle school. I loved making people happy. I loved seeing the looks on their faces when they saw their images.
As I grew more into adulthood, my chronic issues started to become a bit more painful and annoying. Then, my husband and I decided to create our own little family. I got pregnant and when I hit the 3rd trimester, my chronic issues flared up. It started to really take a turn for the worse.
I had my son in 2017, and it wasn’t the magical experience I had hoped for. I love my son. He makes me a better person. He lights up my world. Him and my husband are both the best things that have ever happened to me. But, the delivery process was horrific. I hemorrhaged so much blood when I delivered my son, I was barely conscious when I was holding him for the first time. The first time the nurse took me to the bathroom post-delivery, I almost passed out on the bathroom floor. I remember telling the nurse,”I can’t see anything!" as I clutched to the toilet to prevent from falling. Then I started to only hear ringing. She ended up being able to safely get me to the floor of the bathroom.
When we came home from the hospital, my recovery was difficult physically and mentally. My body never “bounced back.” And whoever coined that term, should have a stern talking to! Bodies postpartum are forever changed. Our hips physically widen and stay larger than before. You can’t make bones “bounce back.” Also, my syndrome became harder to manage due to the changing of my bones and joints. I felt guilt and shame for my body physically changing in this way and feeling more pain. And instead of accepting my new pain, exhaustion, and body, I did what many people do postpartum, I hustled harder and pretended I wasn’t in pain. I went back to photographing weddings full time. I photographed 17 weddings in 6 months. That was a poor choice. And my body and mind paid for it.
Fast forward to October 2018, I photographed my last wedding. I photographed sessions throughout the year. Even though I slowed down my photography from the year prior, my physical health was still poor. I experienced some of the most intense pain I ever have in this life from September 2018 through January 2019. There were days I cried all day in bed, barely able to move or eat. I went to the ER multiple times. I didn’t want to take intense pain medicine because they made me feel unlike myself and I did not want to miss out on moments with my son. Then, I met a kind friend who encouraged me to have compassion for where my body was at. I tried taking ibuprofen and tylenol in the day, and a more substantial pain med at night. I had a plethora of chronic conditions and experienced other symptoms besides extreme pain. I also had blood clots in my urine for over 48 hours. I had a surgery on January 10, 2019 to figure out what was going on. Bless my surgeon, she discovered which symptom was to what condition. The blood was due to the innumerable amounts of kidney stones within both my kidneys. I only say innumerable because when I asked them how many, that was their answer. They couldn’t give me a definite number. There were too many to count. The kidney stones were the cause of the blood clots in the urine. The pain was due to my syndrome and the issues with my muscular, skeletal regions in my hips, pelvis and legs.
Steps for a better quality of life? Regular checkups every 6 months on my kidneys and bladder to make sure everything is okay in there. Regular physical therapy visits to continue to relieve the pain throughout my lifetime. Avoiding activities that can exacerbate symptoms like the type of things you do when photographing.
When people seem to not understand why I have reduced taking photos and am thinking of stopping it all together, I feel for them. I have only received the next steps myself this end of January 2019. I feel for them because I’m still in the mourning stage myself. And I have still taken on a shoot here or there, but then, like I said in the introduction, it can set me back a whole week. And I have to remind myself not to forget that pain in the moment, because it’s not worth it. I can still serve and love others without a camera in my hand. And that last sentence is the most powerful sentence I have written about my own realizations this 2019, yet.
Who I am has not changed. I’m still kind, loving Bri who wants everyone to have a more joyful life. I will just fulfill that purpose in another way now.
Please know, if any of the above resonated with you on a personal level, you are not alone. Who you are inside, be true to your core. The vehicle in which you share your gifts may change and that’s okay.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for supporting. Thank you for being open to this change in me. I’m still learning to be fully open to it myself.