Posted on May 27, 2019
With it being mental health awareness month I contemplated openly discussing my love hate relationship with my own mental health and share my stories and tips on how to deal with it if you’re struggling.
So buckle up buttercup. This is a judgement free zone and may come as a shock to some.
I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression and PTSD at a very very young age. Like, started seeing a counselor at like age 11 and saw one until I was about 16/17. Let me be hopefully not the first to tell you that seeing a counselor does NOT make you weak. You are just working through your shit and sometimes it helps having a paid professional who has no personal ties to you to talk to.
Without going into the heavy details my childhood compared to most was a little rocky. Overall it shaped me into the person I am today so I can’t pity myself for it. Shit happens. As my grandma likes to say “you were the one who had a bad situation and instead of dwelling on it you used it to better yourself”, cue water works right before my college graduation.
I learned at a very young age how to cope with my thoughts and how to process things in a different way when something bad happens or just thoughts in general. At age 25, sometimes I still struggle with how to handle things in a healthy way. Guess what though? That’s okay. There is no age limit.
I did my time trying out different medications. It’s not for me. I know some people who swear by it and love it but for me personally it left me foggy and sometimes made the awful things running through my head much much worse. Sadly, it also is like a trial and error when it comes to medication because not all works for everyone the same. Plus the withdrawals…oh my gosh the withdrawals can be a bitch. I’ve heard weed helps for some people as well. That’s a negative ghost rider for me as well. When I was younger whenever I did smoke I’d have anxiety attacks. I did not like not being in control. I never have and most likely never will.
Ways I have combated my own head:
One topic I wanted to talk more about is post traumatic stress disorder. Guess what…it’s not only a war thing. When I was younger I had a pretty mild case of it due to some situations that I couldn’t process and over time the thoughts went away. A lot of therapy helped. About two months ago I was diagnosed again with PTSD only this time it was a lot…heavier than I expected. The ironic thing was I made jokes like “I bet that shit gave me PTSD”….welp.
The thing with PTSD that I’ve learned recently is that your triggers don’t have to be a direct link to the thing that caused it. As my lovely counselor says it can be literally a feeling and then BAM there you are. Another scary thing, one second you can be fine and another you can have an extremely visual nightmare or I call them “daymares” (because you can be wide awake) and boy can it mess with your head. They can be flashbacks to the event itself or just horrible visuals. I remember back in October/November I kept having daymares for like a week straight. I could be sitting in my office at work or shooting a concert and randomly I would picture someone close to me dying right in front of me. Different ways sometimes but overall it was the same result. Then the uncontrollable urge to start crying happens. Imagine being in a public as fuck place and randomly start to cry. lol I laugh because I just remember myself working the Allen Stone show and standing on the stairs taking photos and realizing I was crying. There was ZERO reason for me to be sad at that moment.
That’s PTSD. It’s like a hidden bomb within your head and one second you are fine and the other it’s like “time to cry bitch” or “Oh, life is going perfect and you’re happy? Here is a nightmare of this person blowing their brains out at your front door one night and another night let’s have them OD.”
I warned you to buckle up.
The mind plays games with you. Sometimes (for me personally) the visuals can mess you up so horribly that for a day or so you really have to question “did that happen or did I imagine it?”
I’m not a professional but even anxiety and stress has caused nightmares. There have been a few that shook me to my core. One being that (and if you know me personally like my mother who reads these don’t call me freaking out hahaha I’m good.) about four years ago I had a dream that it was me standing in our doorway of my bedroom. Crying and borderline psychotic laughing I guess and just outright blew my brains right out. I woke up in the middle of the night screaming and in a cold sweat. No reason to have it, but after a few days I realized it was due to stress.
It was like a visual representation of me losing my shit and mind.
This brings me to my second topic, anxiety. Over the last few years I’ve noticed many people now have “anxiety”. I don’t know when the entire planet (exaggeration) became so anxious but if you do have it I feel your pain. It’s crippling. It really is some days. Some days I wake up and have to physically make myself get up and go about my day. It makes relationships hard as well. Some days I’m happy as can be and then other’s I can fall off the planet like no one matters to me and just be a hermit. When my anxiety is bad I’ll either forget to eat or eat everything. There have been days where it will be like 10 at night and it dawns on me that I hadn’t eaten a single thing all day.
For me personally, not speaking for everyone, it can also make you question the people around you. For instance I am sometimes in a battle with thinking “do my friends even like me?” and I’m talking friends I’ve had for YEARS. Friends that if they didn’t like me they have a really funny way of showing it haha. Then, ya know relationships. I remember a few years back when I had started taking prozac and needless to say…it did not agree with me. My boyfriend at the time was working out of town and I was withdrawing because I just did not like how it made me feel and just not having a fun time with it (haha). At first he thought I was over exaggerating and then one night I vaguely remember going on a rant about being a burden. My head went to a dark spot and he realized I was not exaggerating after all and was really struggling with the coming off the medication and his mom came and checked on me because he was so worried I wasn’t okay. For the record, I wasn’t “okay” but I was “okay”. If that makes sense. After my attempt at 16 and seeing it’s toll on my family and then seeing and feeling the affects of my best friend dying….don’t worry. My ass isn’t going any where. For anyone reading this who may need to hear it… NOTHING AND NO ONE IS WORTH LEAVING THIS WORLD. There is always a light at the end of that tunnel and please for the love of whatever…remember that. There is always a sunrise. Every morning. Without fail. Make sure you see that.
But it’s moments like that…being with someone who sometimes doesn’t always love themselves is a struggle. For a while I hid my anxiety from guys I talked to or dated. I was embarrassed and also thought they’d be like “oh this bitch crazy” haha It takes a special person to handle it. Friends or partners.
There is a Halsey song that I feel like if you have any form of mental “disorders” or what ever you may relate to. Her lyrics “I’m well acquainted with villains that live in my head. They beg me to write them so they’ll never die when I’m dead. And I’ve grown familiar with villains that live in my head. They beg me to write them so I’ll never die when I’m dead.” hit home. Because if you have EVER had an anxiety or a panic attack you’ll know when I say…they’re fucking terrifying. Once you have one though you fucking remember the warning signs. One thing that I started doing was when I started to feel anxious or like an attack was coming along I would count with one hand to 4 over and over. Like thumb to pinkie, to ring finger, middle and pointer. 1, 2, 3, 4 until I could feel myself catch my breath. Now sometimes sadly that plan fails haha then your whole body (or for me my back and shoulders) tense up and you (well me) do this nervous tick of like rolling your shoulders. As a way to shake it off basically. I’ve drawn blood on my palms from my grip during an anxiety attack.
*claps hands together* “And that kids is anxiety as told by Hunter.”
As I am writing this I can feel the anxiety build. Because I’m a very open person for the most part. I used to not be and then I got to the point where I’m like “I kind of just don’t give a fuck what people think at this point I can’t change it.” I’ve openly discussed my suicide attempt at 16 (which if ya didn’t know…ha well), my best friend’s death and it’s toll on me, my personal struggles with feeling good about myself and battling your own self destruction to not push yourself further. There are some topics however I am still terrified to open up about. I have them saved in drafts and will I publish them one day? I don’t know. Should I? Maybe if I think it would help someone.
My own mental health…falls into that category. Why though? Because even though we are slowly becoming more and more open to talking about mental health…there is that fear of judgement. There are so many platforms that have the #itsokaytonotbeokay or something along those lines but not everyone shares their stories.
Share your stories. Share your struggles. Don’t be ashamed of your demons. Blow them up so that they don’t scare you anymore. Like (total nerd mode) Boggarts in Harry Potter. Don’t let fear take over. Yell Riddikulus and turn that shit into Snape wearing lady’s clothes.
That’s all I’ve got today. More than I expected but ya know what…if it helps someone then great. Fellow writers…isn’t this a bitch? You feel this urge to share personal stories.
Much love as always,
If anyone reading this is struggling and needs an outlet.
Suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Posted on March 19, 2019
10 points to whatever Hogwarts house you are if you get my reference in my title.
This post…is going to be a two part thing. There’s two topics I want to touch on and it’s just going in one long ass post.
This past weekend I did something I never EVER thought I’d do. I know people travel alone all of the time but those who know me…will know THAT IS NOT ME. I am an anxious person and I don’t dislike being alone by any means but in certain cases I don’t like to be alone.
Well. This bitch went against everything in her head and went to Atlanta alone (for those who don’t know because why would you really…I live outside of Charleston, SC). To a concert. Alone. Stayed over night. ALONE. Wandered the city the next day A-FUCKING-LONE….and ya know what? It was awesome. Like I didn’t go to Foo Fighters in Columbia (which is like an hour and a half away) because I had no one to go with me and was an anxious mess for many reasons but WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT GIRL?!
If you read my previous post Go ahead and brush ya shoulders off.. you’ll know that it’s been a weird time in my life to say the least. While I was gone I was getting texts and snaps from friends saying how proud they were of me for going alone. It was wonderful though. The only part that was a little…eh..was in between bands when I’d go outside and knew NO ONE and everyone was laughing having a great time and there I was…looking through my camera at the shots I got. The only time I was approached was to be asked if I had a lighter. But, I told myself that as I get more into show photography there are going to be shows where I am alone so I need to embrace it and get used to it. Which is my second topic I’ll touch on. After the show I grabbed food (because I was STARVING…I felt like I couldn’t concentrate on taking photos of State Champs by the end of it because my damn stomach was yelling at me) and crashed at my hotel. Slept like a dead person and had to rush because I woke up an hour before check out. Then I just winged it. I felt like Phoebe from Friends…I didn’t even have a “pla”. I looked up the nearest coffee shop (that wasn’t a starbucks) went there, edited some shots and then picked a parking garage and walked. Road the sky view thing..and when the man was like “just you?” I legit laughed and said yep. Then made my way for lunch. Ended up at The Porter and had a beer, some delicious appetizers and a blackberry cobbler. Y’all…the looks I was getting were priceless. The looks of “is someone joining her…?” “was she stood up…?” those looks. But it was glorious. I’ve taken myself to movies before and obviously have had to eat out alone before but this situation took the damn cake.
For the first time in a long time I’m becoming content with being alone for a bit. I’m going to be 25 in less than two months, I’m single, I’ve got two steady jobs and I found something I am in love with rather than someone I’m in love with. Also, my lovely roommate is moving out (remember that engagement shoot I did?) in roughly ten days and I have not found a new one but…that’s okay. I’d rather try and make it work alone than just pick someone for the sake of picking a new person.
I’m redoing my apartment to fit me. My long term boyfriend and I lived together for about three years and we obviously purchased (I purchased actually) things for our house. I sold my love seat ($50 to get it gone haha) gave away my coffee table, will be giving away some other items as I replace them and bought a gorgeousssss emerald green couch. If anyone knows me knows my favorite color is this shade of green. Even my Fiat is Emerald green.
Basically…when I said 2019 was going to be about loving myself more…I wasn’t kidding. I’m putting work into myself rather than anyone else. I spent the better part of half a decade (yep) making sure someone else was happy and healthy and basically alive to where I became so unhappy I forgot who I was as a person. I just knew myself as “that” person.
Which brings me to my second topic. Life’s Sidebar. When I started this blog in 2016 it was to become a creative outlet for me while I was struggling trying to figure out what my life was. Then March 18, 2017, basically two years ago yesterday I made my second Instagram @lifessidebar and it was going to be an extension of this blog but I was talked into doing Rodan & Fields (which I will say…their products are actually pretty good haha I just didn’t make the time and wanted the discount haha) and was playing around with like recipes, music I was listening to, products I was using and it felt so fake. It was like a weird version of me that I was like eh this doesn’t fit. I was however doing car chats which I actually did love doing. Those were fun. Fast forward to August 2017. I started interning at Music Farm in Charleston. Part of my internship was taking photos during the shows. Now, I’ve gone to my fair share of shows/concerts over the last decade and of course took photos but I never really took the time to just pause and really try but since I knew these were going to be shared on their socials I was like “Hunter get good shots!” and the more I took…the more I went “oh wow…okay I’m enjoying this.” Concert photography became my happy place. It was my escape from reality and for those couple hours I was in a spot where I felt like myself. It wasn’t until maybe February 2018 that I was like “I really want to do this on a serious level” and I was starting to get more feed back on my photos.
I want to point out…I wasn’t using a fancy camera. I was using my iPhone: 7, then 8 plus and then the XS. That’s it. It was my phone, VSCO and that’s it. It wasn’t until I was dating a guy who pushed me to actually look into cameras and using one that I made the change over. October 21, 2018 was the first time I ever used a legit camera. Ever. I didn’t know what I was doing and as he was explaining how to use it (like ISO etc) I felt so dumb. It was all foreign to me and I had no idea it was more detailed than just “snap and shoot”. He answered all my questions and was patient and without that push I probably wouldn’t have taken the jump when I did. So thanks O’Connell.
When I posted about that day being the first time I ever used a camera there was a bit of shock on my feed. No one knew I was using my phone camera (ha-ha) and it was actually really almost rewarding (I guess that’s the word) because I didn’t think I was “good enough” (still don’t really haha).
Fast forward again to January 2019. I finally broke down and made a big purchase. My black betty (love her). She’s a canon t6 and she doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles but she’s my first camera. I still don’t know WHAT THE FUCK I am doing. There’s so much I have to learn you guys. So much. I want to take a class forreal but until then I know some basics. On January 27, 2019, I shot my first show with my canon. I emailed a month prior and got on the guest list for August Burns Red to shoot photos (internally screams still) and I remember being so nervous. It was at Music Farm so it’s not like I hadn’t taken photos there before but not for one of my favorite bands “professionally”. My ex (it’s okay to stay friends with some ex’s btw, sup adulthood) even told me “if you feel stuck using the camera just take out your phone like you normally would and do what you do” because I was that nervous. I was like thinking “I’m going to take all these shit photos” etc.
Well, you can see here, and here, and lastly here, that I was wrong. I cried you guys. As stupid as that sounds…I took a moment and stood on the stairs in the venue and was looking through my camera at some of my shots and got teary eyed. It was a rush of emotions all at once because even now a year ago…or a few months ago I would have never thought I would have done THAT. Ever. There’s photographers I look up to and one I was standing next to shooting the show.
About a week or two or something another show came up and I emailed and got a pass for just practice etc and….I hit a wall of panic. When I say I was driving in my car crying…I was crying. It was at the Performing Arts Center and I was legitimately mentally tearing myself down. “You have no business going” “You are out of your league” “You don’t know what you are even doing Hunter” “You don’t belong there” and lastly “You’re still just an _____’s girlfriend”. It kept running through my head over and over until I was in bed with a headache and feeling all kinds of low. That’s the bitch about anxiety. It will knock you off your feet when you are even feeling your happiest.
After a talk with my roommate and myself basically I talked myself into going and I’m glad I did. I didn’t stay for the entire show because my head was throbbing but I stayed for a decent amount of time.
(legit trying to not get emotional writing this out)
Fast forward again to this last weekend. I knew I wanted to shoot State Champs & Our Last Night for The Living Proof tour. There was a show in Charlotte and Atlanta. Charlotte sold out so I picked Atlanta. I didn’t really have anyone to go with me and at first I was like again I can’t go to this alone…until finally I was like “Yes bitch, you can”.
I take little moments during big moments of my life or what I’m doing and just stop and watch. Which I did. There were a couple moments during the show I just stopped shooting and embraced what I was doing and where I was. I again saw a photographer that I looked up to and got to shoot next to her.
As I’m typing this…I’m still getting notifications from Instagram for likes on one of the posts I did from that night. Currently it’s at 387 likes and another is at 227. (WHICH IS FUCKING CRAZY LIKE HOLY BANANAS) The most I’ve ever gotten was maybe 150 and otherwise if it’s at almost 100 or more it’s a photo of me (which cool but ya know….lol as a starting photographer…) I tried that promote feature and didn’t expect it to help exposure for these two photos and it helped. Instagram make it easier for people to see shit! When I say it blows my mind that not only that many people have seen my photo…but liked it…mine. My photo. I’ve had my camera maybe two month’s and still don’t know what I’m doing and still feel like I’m out of my league in the photo pit. I’m humble because I know it’s a fluke. It’s not something that will always happen and I know there are so many talented artists out there better than me.
But I’m also grateful and so in shock that this is my life at this moment. So, not bragging by any means but just so shocked and it’s a cool feeling.
I work in property management outside of Charleston, I have a cat and basically no one special. I do NOT say that in a bad way because I love my little life haha I just mean I’m a nobody.
So getting to shoot certain shows and those artists seeing that work and liking it. Even asking you to send them photos….it’s just amazing and I’m so happy.
For the first time in a very very long time I am so happy. Again, I found something I’m in love with. I don’t expect to be the next big photographer but shit I’ll try my hardest.
You can see my photos here or Instagram.
If you made it this far…which if your ass read all of this bravo. Just fucking bravo because this was a lot longer than I expected. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone following this website, my facebook page, my poor sad twitter page and my Instagram and all of the support and love.
For old times…if you made it this far leave a watermelon on a post.
Posted on January 31, 2019
The other day someone who I have not seen in forever made a comment that has stuck with me.
“I’m so glad you got out of that. I always felt like it brought you down when you’re a cool girl all on your own.”
You don’t think about things like that until someone points it out to you.
Year 24 I feel like has been a year of growth. I’m still working on myself. It’s going to take time but progress has been made for sure. I still have a couple months until I turn 25 (wait what…I feel like I just had a birthday…) but I feel like I aged more this year than any other fucking year of my life.
One adjustment is the whole being “alone” thing.
Why are we as humans so scared about being alone? At the end of the day you have yourself. Surprise surprise right? Only you can be responsible for you. You have to remember your self worth. Yes, have your breakdown nights where you drink too much and get emotional. Do that shit in moderation though because the next morning you wake up thinking “bitch, get a hold of yourself because you are awesome.”
Also… IT’S. OKAY. TO. CALL. YOURSELF. BITCH. it’s not always in a mean way. I do it all the time when I have to have a talk with myself.
Sometimes you need to have a talk with yourself. It’s not crazy believe me. You have to be your own cheerleader or that dude at games that pumps up the crowds and gets the people going.
Physical health is important but mental health is possibly even more. For real though. Lately, I have felt hypocritical if I’m honest. So this is a letter to whomever needs it as well as to myself.
You can get so down and so anxious that the only thing you want to do is stay in bed and binge watch Gilmore Girls or The Office until you pass out. As Lorelai Gilmore says in her most perfect way
“Get back in your pajamas, go to bed, eat nothing but gallons of ice cream and tons of pizza. Don’t take a shower or shave your legs or put on any kind of makeup at all. And just sit in the dark and watch a really sad movie and have a good long cry and just wallow. You need to wallow.”
Yas freaking queen. *insert those hallelujah emoji hands*
Once that’s done though, be the boss bitch you are and pick yourself back up. It’s okay to not be okay. It makes you human. If you didn’t have low moments I’d be a little worried about you.
For me personally, whenever I am stressed out or anxious I become the worst workaholic EVER. I will keep myself as busy as possible even if that means working insane hours to avoid having to just sit and be with myself. What’s that saying I hear the younger generations say? “Bish what?” Because legit bish what?? No. Like Steve Carell yelling no over and over. Just no. Because all that is going to do (and I say this from experience) is make you crash and burn one day and you’re going to look like an exhausted mess that starts crying and not realizing it because you’re so damned tired. (waves to herself as she was working a show in October…ha ha)
Basically ladies and gents…again it is okay to not be okay. Just don’t lose yourself in the process. Water yourself like you would a plant (also stay hydrated because that a legit issue too…I feel you on that). You’re going to grow daily. It’s okay if you’re not in the same place you were a month ago…shit even a day ago. So much can change in a day.
That’s all. I’ve gotten better about being more open about things. (Y’all seem to like it too so win?)
Okay, go be awesome.
“Boss up and change your life.” – Lizzo
Posted on January 1, 2019
I make the joke that 2018 was basically two years in one for me.
Because looking back on January 1, 2018 and yesterday (New Years Eve 2018) I don’t feel like the same person.
Everything in my life changed this year. Literally everything I was used to.
Last New Years I had bronchitis. I was extremely sick after wandering D.C. with a cold in 30-40° weather for two days. To me that should have been a sign that 2018 was going to be a shit show haha.
January, I gained a promotion in my job. (Yay!)
February, I found out I needed to have a lumpectomy for breast tumor Norma.
March, I had said surgery.
April 1st…was one of the worst days ever and the days following. Which led to us saying goodbye to one of our dogs.
May, I graduated from college and turned 24 (yay!) on the same day but was crying during my college graduation ceremony because my at the time boyfriend didn’t show up.
The end of May and June were both a blur for me personally. A lot of personal things changed and set the path for an even bigger change.
July, I ended a 6 year chapter of my life and basically started over.
From January to July I cried a lot. I was extremely depressed and I honestly didn’t realize how depressed I was until I ended everything. I had lost weight due to stress and basically chain smoking. I was drinking very heavily after I broke things off for about a month or almost two. I went out a lot more than before because I could. I felt numb. Like I didn’t really know what to do because it was like a huge weight was gone.
Then it was like a light switch.
I started laughing more. I started doing better at both jobs. I was able to concentrate more on me.
I started to feel happy again. My nightmares started to go away (that I had been having for about eight months) and I wasn’t waking up in the middle of the night panicked. Friends and family stated they saw a difference in my demeanor and just saw how happy I was overall.
I became more open to letting people in again. My coworkers and friends talked me into dating again because I was scared to. At first I was worried about what people would think. “Oh my gosh she moved on so fast!” “Oh wow it’s only been a couple months.” “She obviously didn’t love ______” the list went on in my head. Then those around me told me that the people who matter know everything and won’t judge me.
So I said fuck it. The support was overwhelming and it was actually wonderful.
When I say 2018 felt like two years it’s because one felt very dark and very lonely and the other one was a breath of fresh air and full of happiness and love. As corny as fuck as that sounds but literally I can’t think of anything bad that has happened since July for me. I even quit smoking.
If 2018 taught me anything it’s that sometimes you have to do what scares you to do what’s best for you. There is no rule book. You have to do it on your own.
Here’s to 2019. If it’s anything like my last couple months then bring it on.
No Instagram images were found.