Fatigue sets in ...
My trips are about using creativity to cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It's therapeutic, but very hard work for me. Every journey presents its own challenges, physical, mental and spiritual. By going to different countries I push myself to the limits of my endurance with regards to the physical pain in parts of my body. Most of the time I carry a 12kg camera bag packed with photographic equipment and some survival equipment, just in case something bad happens or a situation develops that I need to get myself out of. Pushing my boundaries is an important part of my coping mechanism. If I didn't push, I'd give in to the PTSD ... and cease to exist.
There's a price though. After every trip I end up completely drained. The pain levels are high and it takes quite a while for my body to re-charge. But that's ok ... because I achieved my objective, survived another trip of pushing myself ... and brought back some images.
You won't find me lounging by the side of a pool ... simply because I don't go on holidays.
As rememberance day approaches, my thoughts turn to my friends that have served and the lads that I have met at 'Combat Stress'. I find myself wondering how they are ... whether they're coping ok, making poppies and having a bit of banter or subdued having opened up to their individual trauma counsellors. Some of the art created by the guys using the Occupational Therapy centre is amazing. I used to like sitting there, making some poppies and having a laugh with the guys ... and also enjoyed watching the guys paint and sculpt various things ... lost in the moment of creativity ... temporarily freed from their personal hell.
I remember their solemn faces as we've sat in groups and talked things out together ... seeing the struggle within etched on their faces ... yet getting strength from each other ... knowing that you're amongst brothers, where there's no shame or judgment ... just the fight to open up the valves and let some of the crap out so that we can go back to our isolated existences and carry on doing whatever it is that we do - until the next time we need more release in a nurturing, safe, secure environment.
I don't know when my next trip is - I wanted it to be this week as one of my friends is there and we support each other outside of the therapy sessions and have a laugh too. Strange isn't it? We sit and talk about our pain and the things that we go through and yet we still laugh. Sometimes we laugh so hard that our sides hurt - really badly! Whatever we may have lost on those various areas of duty, our sense of humour wasn't one of them. We'd be doomed without it. It's kind of like a last line of defence. If we stop laughing, then something bad's about to happen. Sometimes we just use the laughter to hide our pain and experiences ... I guess it can be difficult for a civillian to know what's going on inside a veteran's mind. Sometimes, we don't even know, we're just too busy coping and surviving ... that's the current battle and it's a tiring one.
Nothing much seems to have happened with regards to raising funds for the proposed exhibition through selling the book - 'Words of a Wolf - Poetry of a Veteran'. BBC Radio Nottingham interviewed me about the book the other day - you can hear the interview on: http://www.wolf-photography.com/html/woaw/woaw.html. I sincerely hope that some other agencies/organisations will help to raise awareness about this project. The book needs to generate enough capital to run a national rolling exhibtion of poetry and photography to raise awarness of PTSD in veterans, demonstrate the use of creative therapies as a coping mechanism and sign post sufferers and their relatives to agencies that can help them.
I'm not sure what the position is with Waterstones at the moment with regards to the selling of my book as Gardners, their main distributor, aren't being clear with me as to what's going on. I'm assuming the original buying contract is still in operation ... but it's different to being on Gardner's distribution list. A lack of contacts doesn't help the situation ... and the PTSD presents enough barriers to keep me out of the loop most of the time.
I'm hoping to have all the images from Malta and Egypt ready for publishing on my website (http://www.wolf-photography.com/) this week - including the images from the film set of 'Game of thrones'.