How Photography Helps Me Deal with ADHD

The words of my Year 9 teacher Mrs. Lawson are hard to forget.

He’s just weird. Plain and simple. He’s one of those kids that will end up bouncing off the walls forever. Useless really. He talks too much, is over friendly and easily distracted. He needs heavy medication.

She was complaining to the principal about my inattentive behaviour and general nonchalance toward the school system.

You see, I was the round peg in a square hole. I faked high school enough to get by and get out. For me it made no sense. Teaching me things that I hated. I had grand day-dreams during electronics or maths that I would do something great and be successful. I didn’t realise at the time that both of those are totally subjective.

I like to do a lot of things alone. Yet I crave social interaction. In fact I love people so much that my job is the exact thing perfect for my life. Being a wedding and portrait photographer – people are my jam. I tried landscapes once, and got so bored I feel asleep.

Having ADHD is a curse as well as a blessing. I can talk to anyone. Annnnnnyon. And make conversation. To the point where they start getting suspicious as to why I’m so friendly. I can stay awake for 28 hours straight (my record) I can sense and feel things really intensely and tiny little nuances that help me interact with people. I can think on my feet so ridiculously fast that I often wonder if there is someone else in here with me. An autopilot if you will.

ADHD feels like a waterfall in your mind. Like standing under a waterfall of moments, emotions, thoughts and feelings. The weight of it all is crushing as it wears you down. Medication is the only thing that slows the water down enabling you to think. Sadly though, medication is the very stuff that makes you lose your personality. You change and become a dull version of who you are.

I say things before I think. Before I take the time to think about people’s reactions

Oh, Stu, you’re just too full on. Calm down, don’t be so happy. Don’t try to be too friendly. I get so sick of people telling other people how to live. To take it to a grade 3 level – you’re not the boss of me.

Now photography. She’s been my saving grace. The bane of my life and the rebirth of who I am. You see I was lost before photography. I had no hobbies or anything at all that made me a tiny bit special. I make pictures for a living. How many people can say that?

As soon as I pick up my camera I feel whole. As soon as I start the process of creating an image I feel like I’ve made something. That waterfall stops and my mind starts processing the hundreds of variables needed in order to make a technically great image. The light, the weather, the subject, aperture, shutter speed, lens choice etc. it helps me focus and break my overwhelming.

If you have a kid with ADHD – celebrate his or her weirdness. Give them a camera and watch what happens. It will be the best thing you ever do.

  • S.
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