It's fair to say I've packed a lot into this life so far; I've been a soldier, physical training instructor, mental health specialist, father to five awesome children, photographer and a police officer to name but a few of the milestones I consider to be important. If there's a thread that's woven through the tapestry of my whole life it will be adventure, and the quests to find it. From running the fells of the lake district at 13, through to 2010 you will have found me trying to score my drug of choice - adrenaline. That all came to a crashing halt after I had to subdue a mentally ill lady with a samurai sword who wanted to star in her own version of Kill Bill. The completely unexpected PTSD - I've been in worse situations, trust me - that followed took me to rock bottom in a fairly rapid fashion, and there I stayed for some considerable time. I'm now very open about my mental illness; how it's affected me and the people I care about, and my ongoing fight to get back to some kind of wellbeing. If anything is going to reduce the stigma that still surrounds mental illness then listening to real people and their experiences has to be up there.
This page is about my emotional and physical journey as I push myself to having some semblance of the life I had before 2010. More than anything I want my website to be an inspiration to other people in similar positions to the one I found myself over a decade ago. There is a life ahead of you. It might not be the life you envisaged, and parts of it won't be the life you want for yourself, but it can still be meaningful and fulfilling. Talk to people who matter, accept the help that's offered, or demand help if there is none. There's always hope, and I'm certain better days are ahead of you. Feel free to get in touch with me and let me know if I'm making any difference, but I'm no longer a therapist, nor am I any kind of substitute for professional help like your local mental health team, The Samaritans, MIND or Rethink. I've added links to a number of resources below. Please take a leap of faith and ring someone if you or a loved one aren't coping. There's no shame in asking for help - I did, and despite the symptoms I still have, and everything I continue to endure, I'm so glad to be alive.
Polar bear on Ice Island, Svalbard
The old adage 'a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step' is never truer than when you experience sudden, life-changing mental or physical illness. Trying to rediscover and recreate your old self, as I found to my immense cost, is nigh on impossible. Letting go of those preconceived ideas around your identity is, I would argue, the critical first step in what will be an onerous, often fraught journey towards the destination that is your new self. Add the equally well-worn but perfectly suited phrase 'before you judge a person, walk a mile in their shoes' then you'd have two of my most important mantra's in this occasionally overwhelming, often strange life I now have. It's fair to say every day brings various challenges for all of us, and I'm certainly not walking around thinking I'm the most disadvantaged person on the planet - far from it in fact as I recognise the blessings I still have. But how do you begin to tackle the problems a serious and enduring mental health problem like PTSD bring to the table? How do you climb up from true rock bottom - you know, the kind where your day starts and finishes with you wanting to kill yourself - and start to live a meaningful life once more?
I don't pretend to have all the answers but one of the things I've set out to do since I became more resilient was to get my experiences out there in the hope they give other people an insight into how to improve their own wellbeing. 2023 will once again see me blogging more, running workshops, doing more mental health and television work and presenting my book 'Wildlife Photography: Saving my life one frame at a time'. For those of you interested you can order it via Hubble and Hattie using the link below:
As always, I look forward to hearing from you and how your photography is progressing.
Arctic fox in Longyearbyen, Svalbard