How photography helped me manage my PTSD – Guest Blog

How photography helped me manage my PTSD - Guest Blog

Matt Dolinski discovered that photography helped him managed his PTSD and other mental health issues. Starting by taking photos on his mobile phone, Matt is now organising ‘Photo Walks’ to help others find peace in nature, and he shares his story with us here. 

“I have suffered from mental health issues, ever since I can remember.

It all started when I was young when I got sexually abused, when I was 11 years old. I kept this a secret for a long time, up until I was 17. Having this on my mind every single day was so hard, as you can imagine. I never told anyone about it.

I had a tough life throughout secondary school when I was bullied on a daily basis from the kids from my year, the year above and older ones too. It was horrible. I would have my head shoved in dog bins, people breaking into the school and throwing bricks at my head. My house was vandalised at one stage and I even had to have the head of year drive me home from time to time, for my own safety. The Police were involved on a number of occasions, which made things very scary for a young person.

Whilst all this was happening, I had to watch my Mum get sick from breast cancer, which she fought hard against, for a number of years until she died just before Christmas, when I was 17 years old.

After Mum passed away, I lost 3 of my grandparents all in a space of 8 – 10 years. So with everything that happened to me before, it got too much. I was self harming, abusing drugs and drinking a lot more than the average person.

Having said all that, I was always able to hold on to a job and work.

I’ve had counselling since I left secondary school from the College I attended. I’ve also been getting help from Talking Therapies for CBT. It’s been on and off with them from one to one sessions to group. I had a break from them up until November 2021, when I had to seek help again from them with one to one sessions again. This week is my last session.

I took up photography during the first Lockdown, when I would go for walks at the local nature reserve which was by my house and I’d use the camera on my phone. As I got more and more into it, my Dad gave me his old Nikon which I’d use. Then as a Christmas present, my wife’s Dad then gave me his Canon camera. Ever since getting these, it became a very fond hobby. I love taking photos of wildlife and nature.

PTSD has affected me in a negative way as I always felt that it was the past never wanting to let go of me. However, I have come to the realisation that it was me, never wanting to let go of the past. I was always living and dwelling in the past.

I have a mind set now that I will not allow the past to define me and bring me down. It was destroying me and it was not a life that I wanted to live.

My photography helps me in a big way because when I am out in nature, everything from the past is silenced in my head. I don’t even think about it. I’m just in the moment and everything is quiet and I’m at peace.

Would I change what has happened to me? I used to say yes but thinking back now, I would say no. It’s made me the person that I am today. I want to help, inspire people. To show people that it’s okay to not be okay but it’s not okay to give up on yourself. I want to show people that they are not alone. To show them that even though it’s hard changing your life, it’s not impossible. You just have to dig deep down within yourself and push yourself forward. Even if I can show one person this, then it’s worth it.

I have gone through hell and got to the lowest that I could be. The only way I could do is go up and I will keep climbing. I have a wife and 2 kids and live in our own home. I’m proud of myself for being able to accomplish with having my own family and I have given my 7 year daughter my Nikon, which she likes to use when she comes out to take photos with me.

Now, to help others, I’m organising a photo walk for people who are suffering.

­­The idea is to help get people who are struggling to meet up with others who are in the same situation or have other issues going on. I’m trying to ensure that people don’t have to shy away or feel ashamed if they have something going on with them or have had issues in the past.

Nature is such a great treatment for mental health and I think photography helps with that too. On the walk, no one needs to take photos if they don’t want to, and they don’t need to have proper cameras or expensive equipment. The camera on their phone is absolutely fine – just how I started!

I’ve learnt from my own experience that you can go to therapy once a week or whatever but it’s important to do something between your sessions. Do something positive during the times that you’re not with your therapist. If feel very passionate about that – and this is my way of doing my bit to help others.

A motivational speech that I have lived by is – “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or even a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit however, it’ll last forever” – Eric Thomas

You can see more of Matt’s photography on his Instagram page

Cover photo by Oziel Gómez

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