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I decided to make a blog just for my band photography.

Originally I wanted to write all my thoughts down about the last gig as a form of therapy about the residual emotions that usually like to hang around after I shoot a gig. Now, I kind of just like talking about my photography and the Australian music scene.

Either click on the photo above or check out The Ultimate Lost Through the Lens

The Night I Lost Control of my Mind

Nobody wants to see a good mood end and they will not exactly want to keep enjoyable emotions under control. They want to experience it all and encourage the feelings to get even stronger. The problem is that during this time they will just think what they are experiencing is completely normal.

For some of us those good feelings need to be kept on a tight leash and you’ve just always got to be aware of the unnatural high, though it feels good, can also take your mind to wild places where fantasy and reality entwine and it gets harder to unravel the truth from fiction. When the ride finally ends it’s like having a really enjoyable meal taken from you while you’re still eating eat, still hungry for more.

I don’t really want to reveal too many details from the latest manic episode. I don’t want people to remember me as having a good time with them and suddenly have to think, ‘oh, well she was just ill.’ I had fun catching up with a lot of old friends and learned a whole lot in the day, about myself and how the usual organized, self-aware girl with control over most her behaviour – despite being impulsive – can suddenly lose control of it all.

I suppose it all started a couple of days ago, a week really. It’s hard to tell when another manic episode begins because sometimes I can’t tell the difference between a normal happy mood and, the milder hypomania and the more serious mania. All I really have to go on is the physical sensation of a sped up brain, hypersensitive senses and strange behaviour patterns.

I went through another depression from failing to meet up to my own expectations after a gig and I just had to get my thoughts in order to overcome it. Then on the day I was finally putting up my latest photo gallery I got a lot of positive feedback and just a lot of things happened that surprised and overjoyed me. Little bits of good news kept being revealed to me over the days. I was still dropping into depressive moods but nothing too serious.

Although I tend to open up a lot in this blog I still keep some thoughts hidden because of their delusional and obsessive nature. They make me really feel like a crazy person which is probably why sometimes I don’t mind seeing myself that way, because it’s at least truthful in some ways. Let’s just say I fantasize about another life and get so deep into these day dreams that I might one day do all I can to make them become a reality. I think subconsciously I’ve always made decisions that would slowly build up this fantasy world coming true for me, but then it can become so intense I want it now. I stop enjoying my regular life and would rather slip back into fantasy. I would ache with anxiety just to have this life come true for me.

It’s something that also scares me about myself. I would have never thought I could become someone that would get that obsessive about something. So, I usually try my best to avoid having the thoughts or do something that keeps me distracted from them. For a long time it worked until recently when I decided to risk pushing the fantasy a bit more.

So, I was getting some good news and feeling hopeful, which distracted me from the more anxious thoughts about my future in employment and independent living which also crossed over with this fantasy life – but I had made my mind up about it being time for me to get back to work and move out on my own, and move to the area I’d rather live in which would really help my photography out too.

Then an event happened, a day of celebration really. Looking back my anticipation mixed with my good feelings and rapidly growing euphoria, felt like the building up of an important movie scene. All the elements were being put in place so the audience could get as hyped up about the scene as the protagonist was and they will be going on an adventure together, and experience the crash that would soon come together as well.

One day I was strangely ill. I have epilepsy and get migraines quite a lot and sometimes if I don’t eat enough I get severe blood sugar crashes. So, I was just monitoring the symptoms while getting ready to go out and photograph another gig. But my symptoms increased; severe fatigue, motor clumsiness, having my eyes playing tricks on me and struggling to articulate my thoughts. It wasn’t that unusual for me to experience but there was no identifiable trigger. I was in a very silly mood too and it got in the way of me concentrating on tasks that needed to be completed.

I’ve had milder symptoms like that before starting another full manic episode, usually one that lasts for days and weeks. I’m not very good at picking up on the signs as they happen though.

My memory from the morning of the party is hazy. I just remember that I bought a six pack of beer and starting drinking as early as 11am. I got stuck with the arduous task of making decorations for the party so I grabbed another beer, turned on some music and had a surprisingly relaxing and enjoyable time.

I was pretty chatty that day and willing to take photos, even though yesterday my internet connection went dead and didn’t come back the next day. I did have a mini meltdown over it and I was pretty shocked with myself that I couldn’t just go off and do something else like I normally would. That eventually got fixed so it was a non-issue from there.

So, I’m drinking, I’m chatting and eating. I can’t remember much more than that. I think I was a super amount of impulsive too. It could have been the beer I was slowly getting through or it could have been the drinking while experiencing a manic episode.

Yeah. Looking back I can tell I wasn’t in control of myself. I know that now. On the bright side I was able to chat to different groups of people pretty much all throughout the day and night and not have too many negative feelings. My anxiety did kick in when I started on the red wine. At this time I was also told to take it easy so I reassured people by saying, ‘I’ve been drinking since midday’ – as if that was enough to say I could control myself.

Looking back I can’t understand what was going through my head to think it was a good idea to drink for 13 hours straight. I usually don’t drink much because I’m usually at a gig and need to be able to take photos and save some money for a cab. So, there’s this desire to drink a bit more and when I watch others drinking a whole damn lot I just feel like I’d like to do that to and be normal. I don’t have much of a strong body for drinking. I used to drink a lot in my early 20s but now more than 5 beers is risking having some sort of physical health problem. Since I developed bipolar my moods have been completely thrown around after more than an average night of drinking. It might happen immediately or might take a few days to kick in. Usually I become depressed first, recover and then slide into a mixed episode with a higher than usual anxiety (basically paranoia), and then another manic episode will start up.

When I barely drink my episodes don’t get much more severe than hypomania; an all-round good feeling with a few creative ideas here and there. Lately I’ve pushed myself back into delusional thinking and paranoia. Besides the end of week consumption of alcohol I’ve also barely been sleeping, been eating poorly and not keeping up with my exercise routine.

Either I can once again get more control over my moods or I’m coming into another manic season. This is when moods become one extreme or the other at certain times of the year and stay that way for months. The start of the year I had high anxiety and occasional depression but not much mania. It’s kicked up a little bit since then and the PTSD related anxiety went back into the background of my troubled thoughts.

So anyway, back at the party, it’s night time and as I’ve mentioned I’ve been drinking all day and barely eating much at all. Finger food really. I’ve had my perfect fantasy world playing at the back of my mind for a few days now. I know I’m supposed to stay on top of it so I don’t slip back into my delusions but then something happens that blurs the line between reality and fantasy yet again, but I still think I’m fine, but I’m now focused on making that fantasy a reality again so I begin to turn every conversation over to or around that subject. I’m over the party. I don’t care anymore. I just want the chance to make my fantasy real because of how good it makes me feel. The problem is I convinced myself that it could happen.

But eventually the good times end and I think it happened around 5am. I was struggling with negative thoughts but trying to ignore them. My whole body was also on fire which is how I tend to experience hangovers. Even though it was a pretty bad one I couldn’t stay in my fantasy any longer so I had to get up and get on with life, but then everything happening around me kept pushing me back into it. The state of the house was making it hard for me to make my own food or wash my own clothes. I gave up after that. I had a huge anxiety attack and had one of the more severe suicidal ideations; the ones where I think it’s going to happen, even dreading that ‘I can’t believe I have to do this,’ instead of the usual hating myself so much I’ll just replay a few scenarios in my head and then I eventually get over it. It felt like I would never feel any better and I just wanted a quick end to my pain. But it did get better, though I did keep falling back into those thoughts. They didn’t get as serious as before but became more paranoid.

I’ve been in a pretty terrible state both emotionally and physically. At times it feels like my pain won’t end and then some light shines in, only to vanish after a short while, just long enough to calm me down.

I haven’t left the delusional woods yet but I’m more aware and can try and assume some control over my thoughts. It’s like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to keep me grounded in reality rather than replace negative thoughts with a more positive turnaround. The problem is I can become too positive and completely lose touch with reality.

Things are steadily getting better for me. I’m returning to routine and normal life. What is normal for me, at least. I’m unsure if I will ever lapse so far into a delusional manic fantasy world again. This is from the absence of drugs, even medication. It could serve as a warning to what I’ll be like on anti-anxiety or SSRI meds. It could be the result of having to manage the stress that came from being told I may have to start getting ready to go back to work, with the odd threat of having my pension cut and I’m getting closer to going overseas – there’s just a whole lot to be anxious about right now, especially for someone with a severe generalized anxiety disorder.

I’m unsure about what will happen next. I just have to go to my interview (after a panic attack about going to a place I haven’t been to in years, needing to ask for a lift) and tell them why I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to work yet. I’m not getting any treatment for my autism, ADHD, bipolar, anxiety and even seizures. My fear of change just stops me from getting help when I desperately need it. I do want to get ready to go back to work but it needs to be done properly. I need a therapist who will listen to me and a psychiatrist who will not brush off my concerns about having a mood disorder and believe me when I tell them the meds they prescribed me gave me serious side effects.

On the plus side, my photography is really picking up. One well known band in particular seems to really like my photos.

But life goes on. The comic books and sci-fi shows keep flowing and still more preparations for this overseas trip need to be taken care of, and then I can return and see/photograph more bands again.

Life Goes On

Here’s an update of sorts on my life. I’ve had way too many thoughts to come up with a single subject to write about this time.

Lately, I’ve not been doing much aside from playing Mass Effect 3 for a few hours a day. On Sunday I clocked over 4 hours which to hardcore gamers is nothing but to someone who likes to divide their time by doing a variety of tasks I was beginning to feel a bit…non-functional.

You see, I have this problem where I can get stuck on doing just one thing and then forget to take care of my basic needs, like buying food and making my own healthy meals. I showered today, right? Yes. OK, good.

So, as I was saying I’ve been playing a lot of Mass Effect 3 and getting pretty far with it. It’s always surprising when I’m actually good at a game. I’m expecting to get so stuck soon that I’ll just quit the game in a fit of rage.

Something interesting to note about playing through ME:3 is that during the dialogue scenes where you get to choose what Commander Shepard says and decide where the game gets to go, I’ve not only been learning that my decisions have some real consequences but I’ve also picked up some extra social skills along the way. I’ve noticed how Shepard does take care to speak warmly to people even when you just select ‘goodbye’ as a piece of the dialogue. He doesn’t just say ‘bye then’ but will gently reveal that he’s going but will try to reassure the other character he still cares about their situation. If it was left up to me I’d probably just say ‘bye’ and leave it at that. Another thing I picked up which could help me with my erm, defiant reactions, is that I’ve learned not everyone will be pleased with the decisions I made within the game even if a few others might. For example I helped a race called the Krogan get more power by having them cured of the genophage; it sort of limited their growth as a species. The Salarians weren’t impressed with that. Even my own General Hackett wasn’t impressed that I freed a creature created by the Reapers, our enemy. Maybe I was a bit naive in believing her when she said she’d help fight them. At least I didn’t free a psychopath or work with a ruthless gang just to help win the war. However, I think I made a bad call not letting the Grissom students join the fight. Fortunately, I have saved my game on several slots and I can replay the mission to see what having the students fighting alongside me will be like.

Yep. A video game is teaching me social skills. Add it to the list of emotional family drama shows and science fiction which have also helped me develop socially.

Ever since I came back from seeing and photographing The Ape I feel like I’ve lost the spark of life. At least I had been. I don’t do very well with transitioning from one thing to another and once it was over it was over. I really wanted to meet them and my anxiety seemed to resurface at the moment the opportunity arose. It was a fine mix of social anxiety and avoidance that made me decide neh, I don’t want to do this. I was so set on going to Free Comic Book Day the next day that I thought it justified making a quick exit. Plus I had to work on the photos. Enough excuses, kid.

Then I felt incomplete and for several days just wanted to go back to try again. But I have to wait a really long time to get that chance again. My main aim of the night was to take certain type of photos of them, particularly what I call ‘rock moves’ which I kinda aced, but I missed out on few good shots, mainly because my lens wasn’t wide enough and the one lens I needed I decided to leave at home.

Leading up to the gig I had this whole theme of loneliness surrounding me. I had been struggling to talk to other MARVEL comic book fans and knew that I would literally know just one person at the gig who I also couldn’t go up to talk to. But fans did start talking to me. I had never realised that just hanging alone by the stage with a drink would make me appear to be so isolated. I guess I do look that way but I’ve got one aim: take the best photos at all costs, and that is what I accomplished that night. I even spent two days post processing the photos and was glad I sacrificed all that time to produce some pretty damn good looking photos.I kind of wonder at times whether using flash was the right call. The Ape’s lighting has always been challenging to work with and when I used the flash I barely noticed it. Actually, I think I was too over focused. I barely noticed anything going around me.

It took me awhile to get back into my interests or to even want to keep living my normal life. There’s a lot coming up but at the time I didn’t want to do it. I basically have two functions: zero motivation or extremely excited about my life and everything. So, I may just have been lacking motivation again. Then I made the decision to start playing Mass Effect 3. I didn’t think I could even get past the first cutscene because it was so damned long and then there were so many options I felt like pulling my hair out. But I was able to focus for a bit longer this time and carefully selected how I wanted my soldier. I’ve clocked about 15 hours of gameplay so I’m pretty happy about that. I even want to play a few more games.

I was still having trouble motivating myself to keep going to gigs and taking photos, mainly because it was hard enough to get the clearance to take photos. I can’t always rely on one helpful band member to get me in to take photos. So, I resigned myself to the fact that I’m probably just going to have to risk taking in my camera to Dallas Crane and I no longer felt like going. Then the support band, Greta Mob said they could get me in and ask me to take press shots of them. Nervous, excited and so very ambitious I decided to take them on. Then, I hear back from Pete Satchell from Dallas Crane. Sure, we could get you in.

Now the spark has returned to me, though it does wane at times. I’m pretty good at thinking the worst about a good opportunity. For now, I’m just waiting to see what happens on Saturday. I’ve kind of put myself into quarantine to keep me hidden away from the masses of sick sniffling and coughing people who carelessly spread their germs on someone who can’t affect to get sick.

Still, it’s hard to get through each day. Not long ago the only thing that could bring me happiness was the prospect of playing Mass Effect 3 for a few more hours a day. Could be depression or it could be that I don’t really care about anything except going to this gig. I was like this with The Ape, although with less anxiety. I was looking forward to Free Comic Book Day too. Then on the day I had extreme anxiety and then depression (thanks beer) but you know, I got over that. It might have taken a week but I got over it. I was a little ashamed of my behaviour that night and some thoughts I had that were just ridiculous to have because things turned out to be the opposite. Life goes on. And can I be any more vague than that?

But I do have things to look forward to. Tomorrow night (or tomorrow – depends on my patience) new Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D premieres and it’s the season finale. I also have my S.H.I.E.L.D Origins comic book to read. Are you detecting a pattern here? Plus I’ve got new Big Bang Theory to watch as well as a few re-runs of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Tomorrow I’ll add Parenthood to the list. Yeah, don’t ask. Two characters have Asperger’s syndrome in it – we could be best friends! They make me feel normal, like Sheldon Cooper does. Ray Romano surprisingly makes a good autistic character.

I seem to be the kind of person who has to constantly give themselves things to look forward to do to keep my motivation going. I think it’s got to do with my ADHD. My mind is often struggling to focus while my thoughts are racing so to give myself some few minutes of stability I will just come up with a variety of things to do. When I don’t do this I get bored, under motivated and become easily depressed, empty, longing for something that I can’t see. I jump at any opportunity when my mind finds that focus, even if it’s just for an hour. And I’ll stick with it until exhaustion.

And after Dallas Crane there’s WAITS to see who are made up of ex-members of After the Fall including my buddy Mark, so I can actually talk to someone at a gig again. Then there Charles Jenkins and the Zhivagos. Such band members include Davey Lane and I’m always going to go up and say hi to Davey.  During this time I should also get more prepared to go to Portland. At times it’s the last thing I want to do but it could be a good experience for me. Also, I get to see one of the more likable members of my family. I’m kidding of course. I do miss my big sis though. And I want to become best friends with her pug.

I’ll miss seeing my Australian bands. That’s why when I’ll return I’ll be seeing The Used and Taking Back Sunday. Heh. I’ll at least get to see Darren Middleton again. I just love Australian music more than any other type of music. I still love my welsh rockers Funeral For a Friend and Thursday/Bayside/Jawbreaker/Cursive/Anberlin/etc who all come from the US, but my loyalty lies with the Australian music scene. People in my family have been hinting to me falling in love with Portland so much when I’m over there I will move there, but I won’t. I want to move to Melbourne, or Wales. Or Canada. Nah. I’m not that obsessed with Stargate anymore.

As I’ve been getting older my music taste has been changing so I’ve been going to a lot of gigs where the music and music scene is quite new to me. Sometimes I neglect to listen to the bands from the old scene. I kind of feel a bit left out about not knowing much about the history of the Australian rock scene or most bands people talk about. I can make more sense out of Star Trek than I can Rockwiz, but I am learning. At times I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot, but then I’m glad I never just stuck with one genre or sub genres throughout my life. At different parts of my life I’ve been pretty obsessed with a variety of music. As varied as emo/punk/hardcore is. I also like folk music and recently I’ve been getting into You Am I, Dallas Crane, The Gin Club, etc. I still listen to bands like The Used with a sense of guilty pleasure and I listen to bands like Jawbreaker, Refused, Thursday and Brand New as though I’m experiencing something incredible few people have, because I hardly know people who listen to them anymore. Basically put those bands make me experience far deeper emotions than most of the Australian rock bands can. Scientists say that we always feel nostalgic about the music we listened to as a teenager and because I’m autistic and a few years emotionally delayed my teen years were experienced more in my early to mid 20s. Some of those songs made up the soundtrack of what was happening in my life at the time. At least two or three were break-up records.

I’m an analytical person and much like Data from Star Trek or Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory study the behaviour of people to get a better understanding of them, I’ve decided to focus on the different demographic of music fans and how it manifests in them, i.e teenagers probably get the most obsessed. They have posters on their wall, frequent fan forums, wear the band’s merch and learn pretty much all they can about the bands. I’m partly still in this demographic though I’m not really into the hero worshiping thing like they are. I’d rather have a drink with a band than get an autograph. I’m over collecting 10,000 set lists too. Then, I wondered how the older fans (40+) differed from this. I’m still conducting my research so I don’t have much to put forward yet. But in time I might be more capable of articulating my thoughts on this matter. One can speculate they spend less time in fan communities and being obsessed and their love of the band is pushed to the background as they work, raise children and whatever else they do. And gigs are a place they can unwind. They stand back in the crowd and watch from afar. Unless they’re my best friend. But I’m basically looking for a general picture here and not the exception to the rule.

Moving on.

It’s disappointing to me that the bands I used to always see and photograph have become difficult to get photo access to. Anberlin are playing one last show ever and I probably won’t get to take photos. I’m seeing Taking Back Sunday and probably won’t get to take photos. All I really need is the Dwarf to send me an e-mail asking people to apply to take photos at those shows and I’m in. But at least now I can rely on The Ape, Dallas Crane and You Am I to get me into take photos. And depending how much Matthew Davies wants to help me I might get some photo access to Funeral For a Friend.

So, life goes on. It goes to Portland, returns to buy video games and read more comic books. It goes to more Australian gigs (and a few overseas ones as well) and takes photos. It reignites and loses the spark to enjoy everything that comes its way.

Eventually it will get a job and on some medical treatment plan.

The Trials and Tribulations of an Autistic Band Photographer: Part 1: Meeting the Band

Firstly, don’t give me any of that person-first language garbage. If I want to say I’m autistic I’ll say I’m autistic. I actually have autism and you don’t – so leave it.

Now that’s all over with I can continue. I’m not going to describe every autistic symptom that affects me as a band photographer; instead I’ll just focus on my lack of social skills.

It seems like such a small issue but people with autism can become very depressed about not knowing how to speak to people. Some focus a lot of not being able to get a date but for the moment I don’t even want to try that, because I struggle to get along with people at all. I’m not sure if I like anyone that way. I’m so blinded by my own rage at people and myself about getting into arguments or feeling like everyone is trying to manipulate me, that there’s not a whole left to find out I can feel that way for people at all.

One of my major problems is being able to meet and talk to the bands I love the most. I was even told it was such a small nuance and it is but I have to work really hard just to achieve something other fans can just go up and do without even thinking about it. They want to do it so much that they bound up to the band. Then there’s me. Sometimes I’ll ignore the fact that I want to go up and say hi but something is holding me back. Other times I’ll be torn apart by it, usually much later on in the night and after I left the venue.

Ever since I was 18 or 19 and I still hadn’t made any friends of my own there were a few people from bands who I considered my friends. I met the singer from Funeral For a Friend that way. It took years to have a conversation with him but I never gave up and now I know him, and I do not take such a friendship for granted. Then I started to become friends with their fans and didn’t care so much about meeting other bands. Recently I’ve started to feel alone again and have tried to meet bands again. Sometimes it works and sometimes it just feels like the most impossible goal to reach.

I do know some band members and have great times with them but it’s getting so much harder now to meet new people. I’m no longer in a music scene I feel comfortable with. The emo/punk scene was just so familiar that you knew that even if you didn’t know somebody you soon will or that you would probably get along because we all listened to the same bands, and we all dressed like each other. It was the whole all ages thing too. I could rock up to an all ages gig alone and end up talking to about 10 people while waiting in line.

Now I go to a gig alone and I stay alone, unless I know someone from the band. Last time though I did have some middle aged fans taking pity on me but I felt too uncomfortable about the age gap. Sometimes I don’t realise how young I still am and look.

Although I can get really down about this and just feel like it’s an impossible task to accomplish and that maybe the band members don’t even like me enough to want to say hi, I still want to try, to work on it so that one day I can meet them and talk to them. I don’t think anyone without autism or social anxiety can ever understand how lonely and depressing it gets for us who literally don’t know what to say to people, unless we’re impulsive and thus say something embarrassing which we will regret or talk about a special interest which people may find odd or immature, or give us the ‘nerd’ label. The depressive episodes that focus on these facts can be horrendous. I used to want to step into a busy street and quickly end the pain. Now I just play suicidal scenarios over in my head. At least I know now that my thoughts are false and my depression won’t last forever. Then I become manic and act like I already know the people I wish I knew and that I’m always going to be capable of talking to them.

The only time I’ve been able to go up to a band member and talk with ease was when I was taking Ritalin. But the last time I was on Ritalin I felt I was talking too loudly and speedily and was so very intense. I don’t think taking speed should be the answer to my problem, though sometimes I think it’s the only answer. And by ‘speed’ I’m talking about actual speed, not Ritalin.

I could always go on a longer acting dose of Ritalin which means it won’t all go into my bloodstream at once but take its time. I would really love to have my symptoms more under control but with a under medicated mood disorder it just might make me even more depressed.

I am depressed right now. I went from depressed to angry to more euphoric to highly anxious and again to depressed. So I will just have to recover again.

I’m just getting sick of missing opportunities of meeting or talking to band members when I go through so much just to get to a gig. I’m always anxious weeks before I go to a gig. I don’t drink until that night too and drinking can sometimes trigger a depressive episode in me. But when people talk to me I kind of snap out of it. When depressed I end up drinking a lot even though it just makes me worse and something must happen when I start hearing music and taking photos of the bands because I begin to feel better, sometimes even becoming hypomanic. But because of the shifting around of moods and the stress I go through from them when it comes to going up to a band member and having a little chat I can’t do it, and I like to blame it on my moods. I tell myself it’s ok if you don’t because of what you just went through. It’s understandable.

These days my social skills are a lot better than they were before. I can talk to strangers with ease so can talk to other fans if they come up to me. But when I watch them easily go up to the band and talk with them with their hopeful faces about getting something signed I feel jealous. I suddenly remember who I am and what I have. I’m always going to struggle to do that one thing they decide to do on a whim. “Hey, let’s buy some merch and see if we can get it signed!” “Okay, great idea!” I could always go get something signed myself but I don’t tend to do that anymore. I don’t see the point apart from an excuse to meet a band member. Anyway, once those moods hit they will take anyway any confidence I have about going up to the band. Last time I was just under prepared and highly anxious.

I don’t want people to pity me, I just want to be able to talk to the bands without having to worry about it, like most people can. It takes years and years of effort with several photo galleries under my belt just to have an average conversation with them, in the stuttery and impulsive way I have conversations with people, drunk while on stimulant medication. Or maybe just drunk now.

Such a tiny thing sparks such depressive feelings, even suicidal ones. If I didn’t care about it I wouldn’t try and would be fine, but the fact is that I do care about it and will keep trying until I succeed. I’m well known for my intuitive problem solving skills and the many ways I’ve thought up about just achieving a simple two minute chat with certain band members would make you laugh.