I need a break. There, I said it and it’s out there… this post might be a long one, so buckle in.
At this point, those of you who have followed my work for years are now rolling your eyes at me…because you’ve seen me take these “breaks” from my business a few times before only to jump back into it again months later. Some of you probably think “she’s just being lazy” or “she doesn’t have what it takes to run a business” when I say that I need to walk away from this work for a while. Again. But I want to clarify…this time is different for so many reasons that I hope to explain somewhat eloquently.
I am burnt out.
Not only am I burnt out, I’m suffering. Dramatic, I know. But the sad truth is, I live with depression and it’s a daily battle. Many of you know this because I have chosen to be very open about it. Fortunately I have an incredible support system, a medication that works well for me, and plenty of outlets to help me cope with this disease. I’ve spent more than half my life figuring out ways to survive with depression, and continue to find ways that make the days easier. With all that being said…this year took a turn for the worst. I’ll spare you the long winded details, but I went from the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, to the darkest place I’ve ever been. I went through things that no one else on this planet besides my husband knows about. I hit rock bottom, for lack of a better phrase, and I’ve spent the last several months climbing my way back out of that hole. 2018 brought me face to face with some of my demons, and introduced me to new ones as well. I lost my mother in April. I think Finley’s birth, and her death, have transformed me into a completely new person. If you could see a side by side view of present me, and me a year ago, the difference is honestly unbelievable. I used to believe people generally just don’t change, but wow I proved myself wrong. It’s still a little crazy to me where life has brought me, but it’s all good. I’ve grown and opened my mind, but with all this change brings difficulties. The new reservations I hold close to my heart, about life and children, birth and motherhood, religion and family…they’ve all changed my view of the world. That change bleeds heavily into my work, as I’m sure many of you have noticed. And the difficulties that have come my way, they’ve been piling up. Weighing me down. I went from a full sprint in my business, to a slow and painful crawl.
This year was all about births. And wow was it amazing. I’ve known I wanted to add births more regularly to my bookings for a while, but after Finley’s birth I realized how incredibly close birth was to my heart. I belong in the birth world, somewhere. I thought it was photography, but I learned it might be more than that. Attending so many births this year contributed massively to my difficulties, to that weight on my shoulders that was slowly crushing me. Not from needing to be on call basically all year, not from the endless hours in the hospital, not from the long drives home at 3 in the morning 2/3 times a month. Those things I could handle. It wasn’t the work…it was far beyond that. I was leaving every single hospital birth shaking, sometimes having panic attacks in my car. I haven’t spoken in detail on my first two birth experiences, and I don’t plan on it anytime soon, but they were traumatic for me. And since learning so much about physiological birth, I realize even more now how much I was abused during those 2 births. I watched that abuse play out countless times to my clients, some of them not noticing, and some leaving their birth feeling broken and defeated. It began to eat me alive, and I was spiraling. So I made the decision for myself, that I would no longer photograph hospital births after this year. And that helped settle my heart for a short time. But I soon realized that it wouldn’t be enough to just stop there. I began to realize how much of me was consumed with my business, yet I was so unable to succeed in the ways I wanted to.
I looked back at this year, and all the years I’ve spent as a photographer, and finally understood why it is that I keep getting burnt out, why I keep walking away and then coming back for a few years at a time. When I started my business 5 years ago, I was a brand new mother. I was 20 years old, with a newborn, planning a wedding…soon after that I was a wife, I was raising a child, and moving from an apartment to a house. Very quickly after that we were pregnant again, and life kept coming. Fast. Now there’s nothing extraordinary about any of these events, people do this stuff every day. But if you pulled the curtain back just a bit, and saw what I was going through during this season of my life, you would realize how impossibly difficult trying to start a business would’ve been. From the time Jayce was born until about a year ago, I was searching desperately for an antidepressant that could help me. I went through 7 different prescriptions before finding anything that actually worked. That’s 7 separate times of starting a pill, giving it a month, realizing it doesn’t work or makes things much worse, and another month or 2 of weaning back off a pill. This process was killing me. And all the while, I was studying photography, I was reading every possible bit of information I could on running a business, editing, marketing, creating websites, building a clientele, etc. So I was trying to find a way to feel normal and healthy, while also trying to find ways to run a business with 2 small children. This is only the surface. There was also the constant struggle of fighting to save a marriage that needed a lot of work, trying to be a good mother when most days all I could manage to do was sleep…the guilt. So much guilt. Guilt from not getting galleries sent out on time. Guilt from not playing with my children enough. Guilt from all the screw ups I had with clients. Guilt from yelling at my 2 year old because I just needed to edit and all he wanted was to play with me. The guilt has been overwhelming.
So that brings me to now. I’ve found a medication that helps so much. I’ve found some stability in business and in motherhood, but I’m not really growing in either. Things have calmed down for the most part. And I can see a little more clearly now that all the noise has faded. I want to be the best business woman I can possibly be. I want to do all the things. I want a beautiful website, I want to blog every single session I shoot, I want to post on social media daily and increase my reach, I want to book clients, I want to fill my calendar and stay busy all year long, I want to learn new editing techniques, I want new gear (more like NEED) and I want to insure myself and my belongings in this business. But this requires time, energy, and money I don’t have. I also want to be a better mother. I want to solidify my parenting choices, and stop tinkering in different discipline methods trying to figure out what works without really being consistent. I want to learn to control my anger with my kids and my family. I want to learn to work through my emotions in a healthy way, when I’m having a harder day. I want to be able to keep my home clean and comfortable for us. I want to master being a home school mama, and do the very best I can for my kids so they get the most out of their time with me. I want to make memories with them, memories that aren’t rushed, memories where I’m fully in the moment with them, not letting my mind drift off into work related stuff. But this requires more time, more focus, more energy, and probably some therapy that I just don’t have right now. I am too divided. I believe one day, when I have figured out how to be a mother and wife now that my mind is (mostly) healthy, I can do both. But I realize now I have to give myself time, and LOTS of it, to train myself, to teach myself, to give myself grace, to stop and take a deep breath, before I can do either to the best of my ability. I have been tearing myself in half for years, and I think I just need to stop and pick one thing to focus on and improve on. The obvious choice is going to be my children. I will do anything for them, and that includes sacrificing my business that I love very much.
This is the text I sent my husband when I finally decided to even consider “quitting”, and I think is sums up pretty well where I’m coming from:
“I think I need to stop photography (the business part of it) for a while. I want to pursue art and painting, and use those as a tool to bring in extra cash while I take my “business break” from photos. I just feel like right now, I need to put all my effort into the kids. I want to be a better mother so badly. I want to give homeschool my all. But I’m torn in so many different directions already, with trying to keep a clean house, trying to manage my depression and anger, trying to keep friendships stable, etc, and then adding trying to run a real business while being on call for births all the time and busy weekends shooting and trying to market and so on…it’s too much. I can’t be a great business woman and a great mother right now. I’m mediocre at both bc I can’t give my all to both. And my family comes before my desire to build this business. I have so much time to do that, and very little time to be a mother. I just don’t won’t to regret not giving everything I have to them when I needed to. And putting my all into changing and growing into the person I want to be, before it’s too late. It’ll never be too late to really dive into being a photography business owner. I can put it off a few more years. But there will be a day when it’s too late to be a good mother. And I just can’t let myself miss this time anymore and waste it away bc I’m trying too hard to be too many things.”
We spoke the next day about it and he told me that he thought about mentioning to me that I should take a break, but never wanted to interfere with my success and happiness doing the job that I love. I think that solidified even more for me that this is something I need to do. My husband could see my internal struggle clear as day, and despite us probably losing a big chunk of money every month by letting go of my work, he is supportive and happy for me to make this change right now.
So where does this leave me? What will the next how every many months or years look like? I’m not sure. Like I told Jamie, I know I want to spend more time doing art work. It’s more relaxing for me, it’s much easier to do with my kids, and I can still contribute a small amount to our bills by selling it. I also know I will never be able to stop using my camera. I will hopefully be able to focus more on documenting my children as they grow, and spend any extra time I have learning new things to prepare me for the future, without the pressure of learning fast enough to implement it in my business right now. I will still photograph my very close family and friends, because there is very little pressure when working with the people I love the most. I will probably offer a session here and there on my business page, if we get into a crunch and need some money. But other than that, I’ll be taking my time to better myself. And when I come back…I’m coming back strong. I want to be the most professional person I can be for my clients, and provide a service worth paying for. And I plan on spending plenty of time bettering myself in that department before officially coming back. I will still blog. I will keep my website and Facebook updated, I’ll try not to disappear. But it’s no longer going to be an equal priority as my family. They will be first no matter what.
I think this change is going to be so good for me, and for this business one day. I’ll be able to look back at this sacrifice and smile, knowing that any success I have is thanks to this. Thanks to taking care of myself. Thanks to putting my children and husband first. I can’t imagine ever regretting that.
I’m really sad that I’ll have to turn down clients, but I have a handful of photographers who I’m so happy to support and send clients their way. I also have a handful of clients who will receive a message, stating that I’ll be here to document anything they want. Those of you who have supported me through very difficult times, who have become dear friends, you probably know who you are, but I’m not letting you go lol.
I have learned so much about myself this year, about what it takes to be a photographer (it’s so much more than you think…) and about self care. I hope that everyone I’ve worked with can understand how important it is for me to let go, and trust my heart. To drop everything else and hold fast to my family. To work on myself, in order to give them the very best lives they can possibly have. I love photography so much, that it tends to compete with the truly important things in my life. It’s time to put it to the side, and give myself a chance to enjoy life with my kids now that I’m healthy and happy again. To form new, productive habits as a mother. To learn with my kids as I teach them at home. To put more into my marriage than I ever have before. And to just thrive. I owe it to my family. I owe it to myself. And I owe it to you all. If I don’t do this, I’ll never be more than a mediocre photographer who’s disorganized and sloppy. I have to be better. And it starts at home.
I’ll be finishing out 2018, shooting everything I’ve booked and maybe taking on a few more sessions to finish out strong!