Nature at home
There’s no denying that we’re living in ‘unprecedented times’. (Is anyone else sick of hearing that phrase?)
Many of us are now spending the majority of our time at home, and no matter what your level of pandemic lockdown is, it’s tough.
But this isn’t the first time I’ve found myself stuck at home! Last time it happened, the natural wonders I found in my own small backyard helped me through.
Trapped by my own mind
In 2011, about a year after my husband Nathan and I moved to the Sunshine Coast from Sydney, I became extremely unwell with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
I had unresolved trauma after spending five years as a NSW Police 000 operator in Sydney. I didn’t realise I was traumatised, though—I thought I was fine!
However, my new job on the Sunshine Coast was a perfect recipe for disaster. I was a receptionist in a mental health clinic dealing primarily with suicide intervention and drug and alcohol addiction, where I witnessed some pretty horrible things. I was also badly bullied by a colleague.
By the end of 2011 I was severely mentally ill, and I had to quit my job as I was no longer capable of doing it (which was, of course, actually a good thing, but I couldn’t see that at the time).
My PTSD symptoms became so intense that I struggled to leave the house. I had panic attacks, bouts of intense crying, severe depression, and anxiety. My self-esteem was in the toilet. I worried that I would never be able to work or even function in normal society again.
The road to recovery
I started seeing a wonderful psychologist, and my doctor prescribed medication to help with the anxiety. My former workplace re-employed me in a new role in a different business unit.
Overall though, I was still a mess. Every day was a struggle.
In early 2012, Nathan gave me a camera for my birthday, and I started photographing insects, birds, and flowers in our backyard and at our local beach.
I’d always loved nature, but I couldn’t believe how many creatures were out there once I started looking closely!
The following four pics were taken in March 2012, during what was probably the worst week of my life. I couldn’t leave the house, and was so sick I truly thought I might die. (Click on any image to learn more.)
Nature photography is one of the things that saved me. It took me right out of my mind, and gave me something to focus on beyond my own problems.
The healing power of nature
I started to realise there was a whole world out there that I hadn’t ever noticed—a real-life game of Pokemon. Gotta catch ’em all!
More than that, though, was the appreciation I found for something bigger (and many things smaller) than myself. The natural world didn’t care about my problems—every animal or plant I spotted had its own stuff to deal with.
No matter what was happening in my life, all this other life was continuing around me. It was reassuring, and very inspiring.
I started sharing my wildlife pictures on Facebook and a citizen science website called Project Noah (PN). The PN community members were incredibly supportive, and generous with their time and knowledge. They encouraged me to learn as much as I could about the creatures I was photographing.
Slowly, I healed. (It took a really long time.) But I never stopped looking for and photographing the marvels hidden in my backyard.
There’s always something new to see
Fast-forward to 2020, and once again I find myself stuck at home (for the most part). I’ve certainly experienced all the mental ups-and-downs that come along with that, but one thing I haven’t experienced is boredom.
I don’t think I’ll ever be bored, as long as I have access to a garden!
Here are some of the cool things I’ve photographed at home during March and April 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, what’s in your yard?
Or your street, or your local park? Or even your balcony?
Go on, have a good close look at some plants—see what’s flowering, and look through the foliage for insects.
Listen for birds or frogs calling in your neighbourhood, and see if you can spot them. Got a spider or a moth in your house? Don’t freak out—take a good look instead!
There are plenty of online resources available to help you identify whatever you find.
You might even like to take photos and contribute them to a citizen science project such as iNaturalist, QuestaGame (great for kids), or Project Noah. Your pictures don’t have to be great quality—just good enough for someone to be able to identify whatever you’ve photographed.
If you need help, or if this story has raised any issues for you, please talk to someone!
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