Editor’s Note: This is a highly personal story. From time to time we put techniques aside and look at inspiration.

Mental Illness and life struggles can be a taboo to talk about. Recent public figures have started talking more about it, especially since Robin Williams passed away from depression. Yes, he didn’t die from any other disease, but he lost his battle with depression. Mental illness can come from a number of reasons and there are ways to battle and in some cases overcome. I would like to share my success story.

Ive debated talking about this, but I feel if it helps one person, then its worth it.

The Challenges

Life is challenging, but that doesn’t have to mean the challenge has to be negative. Overcoming challenges can bring the greatest joy weve never imagined. Our mindsets can affect every aspect of our life.

I found myself deeply depressed following an end to a terrible marriage. I had been a stay at home mom with 4 children whom I home schooled. I would do the occasional movie, but more often than not, I was home and I forgot who I was.

Getting My First Camera

When my divorce ended, I was lost. However, in the final year of my marriage, I picked up a camera. A Nikon D40 bought off of eBay. From the day I received my camera, my life as I knew it would never be the same. Here are some of the very first images I ever took on that DSLR. I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew I was doing something special.

I still didn’t know how photography would play out. I enrolled back in school studying Film Production. I did, however, take a non-major digital photography class that helped me see that I needed to do more with photography.

After that class, I declared a double major in both film and photography. Unfortunately, depression took over and with the stress of the divorce, I dropped out of school my senior year. I left school, friends, camera and myself behind.

The Tipping Point

I lost my whole life in my divorce. I left my marriage when the economy was at its worst, and I was one class away from a degree. I had to find a way to make a living and see my kids. I felt a strong force telling me I had to do what I love. It is an overwhelming task to accomplish, and I almost didn’t pull through.

You see, my tiny one bedroom apartment that I couldn’t even afford was being poisoned slowly by carbon monoxide. Carbon Monoxide can cause and enable depression. I was depressed. I cried every day and some days couldn’t get out of bed. I had many thoughts of suicide.

How could I live a happy life? How could I get on my feet? Who would love me? How could I love myself? I could not see any positive answers to my questions. Even my young daughter told me one morning when I was crying, Mom, don’t be sad. I love you. I regret to say, even that wasn’t enough.

I felt I had no chance of providing the life I wanted for them. One night I decided I had enough. I was done and felt I was better off not being a part of this world. Its a place in my head that I would never wish upon anyone and a place that was so dark, there were no other options. I NEVER will see that place again.

Fortunately, a good friend sensed something was off and without calling me or talking to me, his instincts were strong enough that he called the police to do a welfare check. He saved my life. I do not remember much from the rest of that night. I do remember being scared and angry.

My Recovery

I spent the next week in the hospital and for the first time in years, I saw glimpses of who I was. I learned tools for me to cope. I learned about my ex-husbands own mental illness and what I could do to react (or not react) to it. I learned how life is beautiful and that with my talents, I could find a way to survive.

The day I was released from the hospital was also the same day carbon monoxide detectors were installed in my apartment. That evening when I closed the windows those detectors went off. We discovered my furnace had slowly clogged, and during my hospital stay it had fully clogged up, causing a toxic and deadly amount of carbon monoxide in my apartment. I would have died if I was in my apartment during the week of my hospital stay. In a strange turn of events, my choice to end my life actually saved my life in more ways than one.

A Return to My Camera

I left the hospital and I had a new, fresh path ahead of me. My camera was a part of this journey. I was working at a camera store. I was meeting amazing people, and I was taking pictures. I was making money doing photography and clients were referring me to others. I was living life and doing what I loved. I found I LOVED everything about learning how to take better pictures. I took things day by day. This camera of mine led me to people within the photography world who opened doors to everything Im doing today.

It wasn’t easy. In fact, to this day I still struggle with confidence and horrifying thoughts. I struggle knowing deep inside Im better than what work Ive shown. Some days, it feels like Im not getting better fast enough. Some days, I feel like Im disappointing others.

However, some days, Im on top of the world and those days I have to remember its the human thing to feel all the emotions we have the capacity to feel. Its okay to not feel like I have everything together. Its okay to have days where I don’t get everything done. Its okay to not take the most amazing photo. Its okay to fail. I learned how strong I am. I learned how to get back up and heal from my wounds. I learned that people truly care about me. I learned how to love who I am.

Photography saved my life. Photography gave me hope that life is beautiful. Photography showed me a path of love and happiness. Photography changed my life.

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