Wedding photographer Josh Wyborn shares his mental health story and the turning point which made him realise he needed to take immediate action to get support.

Josh’s problems started at school – he had a difficult time due to dyslexia, bullying and severe migraines, which all affected his mental health. A passion for art and photography inspired Josh start his wedding photography business.

Trigger warning – this post mentions suicidal thoughts. There are also some swear words, so please stop reading here if you are offended by this.

Diary entry from 31st December 2019…

“Have you ever stood behind someone at a pedestrian crossing and had a random urge to push them into the traffic? Kinda terrifying really, after you stop giggling to yourself, if you ever have had that.

Recently over the last 8-6 weeks whilst also feeling half awake and half asleep struggling to concentrate on anything these kinda thoughts have been interrupting my daily life. but not for others, it’s me in the traffic. Or it’s me crashing my car whilst driving about. Wondering if anyone would notice or care.

I wont lie to you, its rather terrifying having invasive thoughts pop into your own mind as if they’re your own. Thankfully, so far, I have acknowledged them for what they are. Suicidal thoughts, which, doesn’t actually mean I actively wish to end my life.

In the past my mental health has been more about lack of self worth, generic loneliness and daylight. Problems which can easily be solved by just getting the fuck on with work and keeping busy with a daylight lamp on in the office.

It’s also solved by being open about such topics when asked if I’m ok.

This new invasive side of it is new to me and so I’m calling it out. Today I’m heading to the Doctors in search of a new professional direction for help.

Previously I have not used medication as I know it’s just shit I need to get on with. But having thoughts like this almost every day, sometimes several times an hour or minute, is affecting the ones I love and my own behaviour. Which I’m not happy about.

Hopefully, a readjustment of my brain via medicine might just do the trick with these thoughts.”

Getting help

While the above was true, it was whilst I was heading back from a wedding on the 28th of December when for the entire drive all I wanted to do was crash my car and kill myself, for an hour, fighting with myself. The wedding itself was amazing with an incredible couple who are now close friends! Which made it even more strange. 

Because of this as said above, I visited my GP to talk about anti-depressants and help that they can give me. Now 10 weeks in I’m feeling a lot better for the most part. I would encourage anyone who is struggling to visit their GP and seek help, alongside positive podcasts and the likes of this blog.

About me

I’m Josh, I’m 28 and I’m a Lake District based wedding photographer, photographing weddings and elopements all over the UK and destination weddings too! While it was never my intention to be a wedding photographer, thinking about it I kinda guessed they didn’t exist in my youth.. no one grows up wanting to be one!

I did in fact want to be a “digger man” and once threaten to run away from school because I wanted to be a digger man and I already knew how to dig!

School wasn’t fun for me as I’m on the spectrum I didn’t fit the mood set out by school. In fact sadly, upon reflection, a lot of my depression triggers come from school. Either bullying at school for being different, or from teachers. One teacher put me in a bin when I was in year 2 because my poem was “rubbish” and so was I… another teacher ripped up an essay infant of me in year 11 for my GCSE’s even though I spent hours on end trying to write it… it wasn’t good enough.

However, Art and music were always there for me. My way to calm down and express myself, along with digging holes in the garden. My best results came from Art at GCSE and so I went to college to study Fine Art.

Whilst being a teenager and studying art I found that the photographs I was taking from a young age for the basis of paintings, were in fact art in their own right and that I could remove the middle man of paint or pencil from the equation. It was also where my best marks were found to be, so naturally at university I niched down yet again to study photography.

My ‘why’

I wrote about my why for international day of happiness over on my blog. Here’s an extract…

It’s funny, I talk a lot about who I am, I talk a lot about how I do what I do, but it’s rare that I talk about why I do what I do. I guess I just wanted to open myself up more to you all to understand the ‘Why’.

So let’s take this right back:

I have always been into the arty side of life more than the academic which is a natural thing to do as I am a dyslexic as I have previously written about. In fact later on in life at high school, I used to get crippling migraines on days where I did not have an art class or music class. I guess my brain just can’t live without a creative outlet. While at high school I played bass in bands with friends and I took my camera out to photograph landscapes and to do street photography. It was in these times that any migraines or issues just dissolved away.

It was in high school I started to get down about life, and some of it was just teenage blues, but some of it was much more than that, this was the start of a huge part of my life that is the basis of my ‘Why’.

Moving on to college where I just studied art my migraines stopped, and I got as creative as I could, and I started to see that the photographs I took for painting inspiration were, in fact, an art of their own right. It was also the class that I got my best grades in and so the natural progression to become more photography heavy in my art began.

I got a buzz from street photography and an inner stillness from landscape photography that kept my mind away from itself.

At university, stresses and strains sadly caused my mental health to go downwards and so again I pretty much always had a camera on me or near me. I would jump on my motorbike and ride away every day somewhere in the lakes or into Scotland ready to photograph a landscape. I never had a plan for a shot I just rode and rode until I felt the time was right to get off and take a photograph of the landscape I was in.

My final major project at university was called “Placebo” where I opened up about my mental health, possibly for the first time and I admitted that photography is my placebo away from my depression.

It’s not a secret that I never intended to be a wedding photographer, I, in fact, wanted to be an international landscape photographer with my work in galleries across the world. A life where I could spend my days exploring the world and documenting its beauty.

It was only when a university friend asked me to photograph his wedding that I saw it for what it was, I got the same feeling of photographing a fine art landscape and the same rush and buzz of street photography all in one! Plus the bonus of getting to know cool couples and documenting their days in a brutally honest yet beautiful way. It was perfect!

I’m now two years into a position where my entire world and life is wedding photography. It still baffles me to this day that I get to do this for a job, and I genuinely love my job!

So, thank you, to my followers and to my clients for keeping my placebo going. You are all awesome and in honesty life changing to me.

So again, thank you.

If my business hadn’t worked out, I would probably have gone back to being a sound engineer and crewing shows. That or l’d be a computer geek for someone… or a digger man…

Things that are important to me

A lot of things are important to me, mainly family I guess and the love for art, if i can say that without being a total hippy! Trying not to be a walking cliche, being true to you, skill-sets, and what you love is important to me.

The idea that we all need to be a high flying business person really grinds my gears. Its not true at all, we all need to have a role in the weird world we’ve made, be that a bin collector, sales assistant in a shop, wedding photographer or an accountant. we all have skill-sets to use, lets start using them and working together in our communities rather than looking down on people.

The lowest point

At the end of 2019 I was driving home from a wedding for an hour and almost every minute a thought in my mind was telling me to crash the car. I knew it wasn’t right and I called it out for what it was but still it was very hard after an hour of arguing with yourself wondering whats wrong with you not to give in. That was utterly terrifying.

The most amazing point

Going full time photographer just over 3 years ago was life changing; my migraines almost completely stopped and I had freedom to create work for myself and take on clients who previously I did not have the time for.

Every business has ups and downs and it’s the pros who weather the storms. It has now been 7 years from my first wedding and the last 3 of those I have been a full time wedding photographer. I even have a % of another company which I help run with two friends and that’s another exciting business which is growing and moving forward in the wedding and events industry.

Coping with stress and overwhelm

I didn’t used to cope so well, but in general I am good at being logical and calling out moments of madness for what they are. Like when I was in the car thinking those thoughts, I knew it wasn’t right and i kept myself from them as much as I could. 

Being where I am in Cumbria is amazing and I adore venturing out with my camera to take some landscapes when I have the time to do so. Even if I just go for a drive it keeps me sane… That or I go dig a hole and fill it back in again…

Being a Calmpreneur

I’m logical, potentially annoyingly so. In fact, I know from those around me it’s annoying. but I write problems down – I think about them and I think of ways to combat them and to overcome them, whatever they may be. It’s possibly the hardest part of my recent bout of mental health depression is that it has no reason, all the stuff that affected me in the past has been dealt with. 

Advice about coping with mental illness

Be open. To any one who asks.

I’m crazily open these days, I got fed up of telling people I was fine when I wasn’t. It also doesn’t help anyone! How can friends and family help if we’re not honest?

Even my clients on wedding days ask how I am and how they can help me if I’m not feeling great… I mean, what kinda relationship is that when a client on their biggest day of their life so far is asking how little ‘ol Josh is doing? Honesty is a beautiful tool to use.

A few social media tips

  • Unfollow the shit
    Honestly, social media is mainly fake, leave the groups you find annoying. Unfollow people who don’t inspire you. Have a really good cull and just focus on you.
  • Be you
    Don’t be sorry for being you. We hear it all the time but its true. There are loads of people doing whatever it is you do for a job. People don’t buy you because of your job, they buy into you for you. So be YOU. 
  • Stop creating shit,
    If you think you’re one of the people that will lose followers if everyone unfollowed the shit, then change what you’re posting. I believe social media is changing and everyone is getting fed up with seeing the same cheesy caption crap they see everywhere else. People want real people to invest in. Stop enabling the fake.
  • No one really cares, I imagine
    I talk to a lot of people who are worried about what to post and overthink everything… don’t! Just post it – it will connect with people. I honestly just get a photo I like and post it. Job done. If I decide later I was wrong or I didn’t like it or whatever… I can press delete… Also it’s on the internet, it will be gone from people’s feeds in a few hours anyway… I really doubt anyone cares. so just keep trying and see what happens. The most dangerous thing to say in business is “I don’t know, I’ve never tried”.
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Connect with Josh

I’m Joshua and I take photographs. I’ve been doing it a long time; ever since I was knee-high to a tripod and got my shutter finger on my father’s camera. I’m a bit taller now, 6’5”, which gives me a unique perspective on things. I’m also colour blind so I prefer to work in black & white where possible. I tend to see things in terms of tone and shade but I’m happy to work in colour too if that’s what the job requires. I can turn my lens to anything, be it commercial, fine art, landscapes or weddings. I know my ISO from my elbow and I’ve got the certificates to prove it.

I revel in recording the ever-changing play of light and shadow on the rugged, landscape of the Lake District fells near where I live, but I’m just as happy photographing a band in a dark, sweaty pub or a taking a studio portrait.

I’m influenced by the masters of the craft: Ansel Adams, Don McCullin and Robert Capa to name but three, but I consider my work to be rooted in the contemporary. I am constantly trying out new ideas and techniques to improve my shots. I work mainly in digital but I have a solid background in darkroom techniques which gives me the skills and knowledge to know what a makes a good photograph and how best to obtain it. Oh, and call me Josh now we’ve got to know each other a bit.

Head to joshuawybornphotographic.com to learn more

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