Life through a different lens

Since I have been procrastinating over this blog for so long there have been occasions where I have plucked up the courage to talk about my little idea. One such occasion was weirdly enough at a work Christmas night out with Ste who had joined my team during my long spell of absence last year. We ended up hitting it off really quickly that night and both spoke our personal journey’s to where we are now, clichéd I know. As well as our mutually sexy careers in continuous improvement Ste also had his own photography business. We joked that if I did start my blog he could help me out with some pictures. No blog is complete without good images or so I am told. 
I’m sure he left that conversation with a similar view point to me, such a nice idea but it will never happen. But once I had my first few posts under my belt (unpublished at this point in time, lets not get cocky) I plucked up the courage to bring it up again with Ste. Luckily he remembered our conversation and was immediately interested in working with me on what felt like a vanity project at that time. I was honest about were I was and didn’t relish the thought of having my picture taken but Ste reassured me it would all be ok and he would look after me. I also knew there was only going to be a short period of time I could get away with using old Instagram pictures for my posts. 

We picked a date and studio for the shoot and discussed ideas but as the big day approached I realised just how nervous I was. I ultimately had to ask myself why? I take daft selfies and post silly pictures with friends but this was different. The thought of being alone in front of a camera with someone else editing the shot terrified me. I think it is the vulnerability of it all, even with an inch of make up and my favourite clothing armour I would be totally alone and not in control.  Plus in a very British way it felt like a really self indulgent and narcissistic thing to do. Ooooh look at pictures of me, utterly ridiculous.

The shoot itself went well, Ste and Rich worked so hard and did their best to put me at ease. Afterwards I told my husband it went well but I knew deep down inside I was disappointed at how I had done, but that just tends to be my default position, overly critical. Ste did a fantastic job with his fiancé Rich setting up interesting shots and trying to get me to come out of my shell and they seemed really happy with what they were getting.

No matter what though, there was just a little part of me that couldn’t let go and be totally comfortable. I couldn’t be myself, I kept over thinking it and holding myself back. I could beat myself up about this for weeks on end and wish I had done it differently, allowed myself to have more fun and be more creative. I can wish that I’d done better for Ste and Rich who took the time to help me out, but what would that really achieve?

The other option is that I can choose to learn from this experience and take something positive out of it. First of all, I actually went through with it even with the level of anxiety I had coursing through my body. I’m at a point in my life where I am learning to like myself again. My confidence has been obliterated over the last year and I have had a fight on my hands just to feel comfortable in my own skin again. Chronic pain does that, it has the ability to suck the life force out of you, leave you feeling broken and worthless. It feeds this voice in your head that tells you “you aren’t good enough, you’re a burden, you’re ugly and you can’t achieve anything so why bother trying.”

Last summer I officially hit rock bottom and I was luck enough to recognise where I was. The doctor telling me that I was suffering from anxiety and depression wasn’t a great shock but it still felt overwhelming. I was annoyed at myself, I had been dealing with this illness for so long so why wasn’t I coping better? Why had it all caught up with me now? 

Very soon after that I was attending the weddings of some of the nearest and dearest in my life. Two weddings in two different countries over two days, what a challenge that was already and add to that my level of anxiety and self hatred. It made for a potent  combination. Looking back now that whole time was like having an outer body experience. I was there in body but not in spirit. I didn’t want my picture taken, I didn’t feel as sociable and I was having panic attacks it was so tough. I was skin crawlingly uncomfortable and for anyone who knows me, socially awkward is not how you would normally describe me. I normally relish catching up with people but instead I was kind of rude and didn’t really want to talk to people and explain to them what I was going though health wise at that moment in time. In all honesty I was terrified if people asked me too many questions I may have a break down right in front of them. I kept that kind of behaviour behind closed doors when I could.

I have a long way to go but I am making good progress and even now as I am writing this I am flying to a friends wedding and my level of anxiety and trepidation is no where near as bad. There’s no sense of dread or foreboding, I’m not terrified to see people and I don’t have the urge to turn around the plane and get back to my happy place at home with my pooch.  The thought of pictures still makes me feel uneasy but I am going to make a big effort to document the celebrations and not avoid the camera lens.

Wedding photo. I did it!

Getting back to my photoshoot, I may hate the way I look in some of the picture but that’s my issues and nothing to do with the pictures. I also do think that the time with Ste and Rich has helped a little. It’s made me realise what I would do differently next time (lesson learnt) but, it has also given me a little spark of confidence. Surprisingly enough not all of the pictures where hideous. Some of you may think I am being ridiculous even saying that but that is how I genuinely feel. This is not about fishing for compliments to boost my ego or looking for validation because being truthful it barely even permeates my armour right now anyway. People could give me all manner of compliments and I just can’t compute them, I can’t take their words on board. However, I’m working on it and hopefully soon someone will tell me I look beautiful and I will feel that way too. Until then I will smile politely, thank them for their kind words and try not too look too bemused. Because after all, we all have periods in our life when we don’t feel good about ourselves and I know I am not alone in my struggle. I just pray for the day I wake up look in the mirror like the person I am. 

6 thoughts on “Life through a different lens

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  1. Natalie, I do not know you well (I am a friend of Oli Cann) but what I do remember very well from the few times we’ve met is your warmth of character and killer wit. While it sounds like you are having to work hard to overcome the challenges that come with your situation (I am sorry to hear about these!), I must say that even through the written word it is easy to tell that you’re still just as charming and the way you’re facing these challenges head-on also makes you an inspiration for the many people who are also having difficult times, for whatever range of reasons that might be, in their own lives. Keep on writing and keep on fighting! Love to Denny too

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    1. James I haven’t been on my blog for a few weeks so sorry for late reply. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, it means a lot. Hope you, Abi and Belle are doing well xxx

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  2. Natalie- not sure if you remember me but I went to university with Denny and we were fairly close friends for the first two years. Denny is a top guy, but like the other James in this thread I remember you being the life and soul of the party. It’s crazy to think how much pain you must have been in even then. It is great that you speak out about your illnesses and all that you have to endure. My wife has auto-immune issues and anxiety affects her all the time. Thank you for sharing your story and keep the blogs going. Good luck with everything.

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    1. Hi James of course I remember you. So nice to hear from you and thank you for not only taking the time to read my blog but also comment on it. Sorry I haven’t gotten back to you sooner, not been on wordpress much with being on holiday plus a bloody flare up. So sorry to hear about your wife and hope that she is ok. I know all too well the impact a chronic illness of any kind can have on your confience and the anxiety that comes with that. I wish her luck in her fight and reminder her she is a warrior, even if she doesn’t feel like it sometimes xxx

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