As someone who has managed depression from early childhood into adulthood, I have learned a variety of different coping mechanisms to help me. Different things work for different people, just like the same coping mechanism won’t work for every situation. And it is extremely, extremely important for someone dealing with any kind of problem, not just mental health-related issues, to find something that works best for them.
In an earlier post, I spoke about how art was a major coping mechanism for me. It is incredibly relaxing to sit down to a reference picture on my laptop and simply draw. It takes a lot of concentration to look at the detail, the shape of an individual’s body, and then to attempt to make it lifelike. Over the previous weekend, I spent all week working on my Wonder Woman drawing. And just because I am absolutely so, so proud of it…..
Art is great. Art is relaxing. Art is creative. However, it doesn’t work for every situation I face. My depression may be much better managed lately, but it doesn’t solve the loneliness, the anxiety, the inability to feel like I fit in anywhere. And art is only productive when I can sit still, stay inside, blast my music, and concentrate. When that simply cannot happen, I venture outside into the beautiful world we live in to focus on my next simple hobby: photography.
I discovered photography through a very good friend of mine I met online when I was 15. He suffers depression issues like myself, but he uses travel and photography to cope with his issues. He introduced me to the art of photography, and how to find the beauty in the natural world. And you don’t have to travel far to find it if you look close enough. My friend takes amazing trips around the Canada and the United States. In fact, he is currently touring a beautiful lake area in Canada, and I am absolutely jealous!
I spent many years watching his photography grow while secretly wishing I could afford a camera of my own to take better pictures with. Let’s face it, cell phone photography even 10 years ago was not what it can be today… if you spend enough money. About five years ago, I was finally able to afford a Nikon D3200. My photography hobby burst with potential.
There is something being out in the fresh air that really wakes you up, and it makes you be mindful of the world around you… if you put your cell phone down long enough to look. I live paycheck to paycheck, and having food every paycheck is a coin toss anymore. Therefore, traveling to Canada or some great place in the United States has been out of the question. However, there are many little areas you can find in the Mid-Atlantic region. You just have to look for them.
My absolute favorite area to explore is Rocky Gap State Park in Flintstone, Maryland. It is a unique area in Western Maryland that is home to a man-made lake. Out of all of my travels to other state parks in the Washington County and Allegany County area in Maryland, Rocky Gap is by far the greatest. It feels natural. It looks natural. It has a trail that circles the entirety of the lake, which a lot of people venture towards for walking, biking, running, etc. Rocky Gap was my own little oasis after my mother passed away and I went back to FSU for college. Classes started at 8 am, so I got up before 6 am to drive the 45 minute drive to campus. I often stopped at the lake on my way there, which often put me at right after sunrise. It is simply breathtaking in the morning when the world around you is peaceful. The various critters that call the lake home are still out and about. My camera never left my side, and I often sought out the critters around the lake. There were mornings when the fog drifted over the lake. It was simply peaceful. This is a photo I took during one of those mornings…
The beauty of this lake never bores me. I often stopped on my way home to sit by the lake and think. Many problems have been solved there, many anxiety attacks calmed, and friends made. I post a lot of my drawings and photographs on Twitter, often tagging the relevant people to my tweets. I often posted Rocky Gap photos, tagging the state park. The head ranger enjoyed seeing my photos so much that I was invited for a private aviary tour. I met a lot of owls who made me grateful for the experience I was given.
I ventured out of Western Maryland and into West Virginia to visit Harper’s Ferry. It’s not only a beloved place for history lovers, but it is great for nature lovers as well. Whereas at Rocky Gap you are immersed in a quiet, peaceful environment, in Harper’s Ferry who are overwhelmed by the mountains. The Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet here as well. You can hear the water rushing, and you can smell the fresh, clean air. As a history major who preferred classical history over American history (yeah, I know…), I was not so enthralled with the historical background of the place. I loved the nature aspect. My best friend and I walked the C&O Canal bike path that runs parallel to one of the rivers, and we made the hike up to a rock formation known as Jefferson’s Rock.
From above Jefferson’s Rock, you are blessed with this view…
I grew up in the Southeast Missouri. There were no mountains. There were no fantastic scenes such as this.
I was extremely lucky to have traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for a weekend trip with the history club I was involved in. We toured the “haunted” penitentiary there. We visited the “Rocky Steps” outside of the museum. We toured Betsy Ross’s house, the site where Ben Franklin’s house used to be, and Independence Hall. It was an incredible experience, and such a fantastic opportunity to take photos. I was the only one who brought a camera, so I took as many photos as possible. After spending two days in the city, I took over 1,000 photos. And, I captured this gorgeous view of the city…
I have learned that travel and photography has been a huge coping mechanism for me. It is great to capture small moments in life, or big ones, that you can cherish during rough times. I often find myself considering to move to Philly for graduate school, and I become so excited with the thought of spending every day capturing new moments and discovering new things.
One day, I hope to travel away from Western Maryland. I would love to travel the world. This January, I have been given the opportunity to escape to the Dominican Republic for a service/volunteer trip if I can raise the money (visit my Trip Funder site… http://personal.efcollegestudytours.com/secure/make-donation.aspx?poid=D3E7D5BA&utm_medium=web&utm_source=paxsecure&utm_campaign=fundraising). One day, the Mediterranean will not only be my travel destination, but also my area of study at an university to study classical history. Hey, a girl can have dreams!
Speaking of Mediterranean destinations, my favorite actress, Eva LaRue, is living the dream I hope to one day live myself. She travels around the world, and she shares photos of her own journeys with her followers. She recently returned from a long tour of Croatia. She uses a blog to share her experiences, and tips, with her followers. If you are interested in trips to Croatia, Italy, Paris, Turkey, and other trips around, I highly recommend visiting her blog for tips, photos, and tid bits of her own experience. You can visit it at: https://evalarue.luxury/.
Many of us get caught up in our own little worlds, and we never take a step back to realize there is a larger, beautiful world out there. It is easy for us to get caught up in our own problems. I can’t count how many times the world felt like it was falling apart, but taking a short drive to the lake has helped me piece my world back together. When drawing can’t be there for me, photography and travel sure help. Being connected with the wildlife one can find, or simply laying on the beach and listening to the waves lapping against the shore is healing.
I hope many of you are able to discover your own favorite oasis you can escape to when things get tough. I am so, so glad that I can venture into my own oasis to enjoy the nature without the depressing weight of the world on my shoulders.