Watching garden birds in your local area, butterflies and bumblebees descend on the flower beds, or simply the sunlight through the trees, has been a welcome break from our locked down dwellings. But when Trevor Parsons, a wildlife and landscape photography from Dorset, experienced his second mental breakdown in 2013, nature really stepped up to the plate. We recently caught up with Trevor to hear about his story and learn how he is using his experiences to help others.
I’ve had two mental breakdowns; one was in the 90s and my second one was in 2013/14. I had it due to pressure at work; I was constantly worrying, I wasn’t sleeping or eating properly. Your body can only take this for so long and one day I ended up breaking down and crying at work, I was picked up from work and they didn’t see me for ten months. I carried on spiralling further into depression, anxiety and paranoia and it got to the stage where my parents had to bring me back to the family home to look after me. One day I had a paramedic fast response car and the Wimborne mental health team in my home, I wasn’t violent, I just didn’t have a clue what was going on and the only way I could think of getting out of the cycle was going into hospital. I basically begged my way in (I wasn’t sectioned, but I didn’t care if I was) the Wimborne mental health team took me to St Ann’s hospital, Poole. I’ve never met such a kind, caring, dedicated bunch of people as their staff, I was in St Ann’s hospital in Poole twice.
I was eventually discharged from St Ann’s and even though we were allowed out on accompanied visits, I became scared to go outside when I got home. My parents just about got me to my doctor, she knew of my love of nature and said that I should set the timer of my phone for 5 minutes; walk along Bournemouth lower gardens, take some photos of nature and when my timer went off to go home. [She suggested] I write in a diary what I saw and how I felt, and to extend the period outside when you felt comfortable to. You use the diary to chart your progress because when you're going through a mental breakdown you never feel like you're getting better, but by going back in your diary you can see you’ve made improvements.
Just being out in nature so much, it gives you other things to focus on instead of what’s going on inside your own head. What I say is there isn’t an off switch in your head your thoughts and worries constantly spin around in your head. When I was looking through the lens of my camera, I was focusing on that one moment in time and it gave me some much-needed headspace. The Combat Stress charity actually use nature and photography as a therapy tool for our ex-servicemen going through PTSD. It takes time to get over a mental breakdown, all you can do is take one day at a time you do recover, never lose that hope.
Finding nature in unlikely places
In Bournemouth you’ve got your town centre, but away from that you’ve got the upper and lower gardens which is has fantastic wildlife in it. I’ve seen deer and sparrow hawks as well as grey squirrels which I used to feed nuts to when I was going through my mental breakdown (and still do!), there’s something special about a creature from the treetops coming down and ever so gently taking a monkey nut off you and eating it while sitting on your lap. You also have Bournemouth beach, I used to go down and take photos of the sunrise while going through my breakdowns, there’s something therapeutic about seeing the first rays of golden light skimming across the wave tops to greet you standing on the beach.
The day that sticks in my head the most is when I finally got down to Bournemouth beach again to see the sunrise. It took me about two weeks to build up the confidence to venture that far - when I did see it again, I can’t describe the feeling I had inside. It was like an inner peace had come over me instantly as soon as I smelt, heard and saw the sea again.
One day at a time
I have had the privilege of meeting the likes of Iolo Williams and Simon King on my journey. Their words of advice have inspired me to keep moving, and to try and do the same for others. If you’re going through a mental breakdown now all you can do is go with it and take one day at a time. I’ve said before you feel like a caver, lost in the darkest deepest of caves, you don’t know if you're heading to the surface or not, you’re confused and disoriented then suddenly you glimpse a glimmer of daylight - it could take weeks to reach it but just focus on that point of light. You do get to the end of it and you're out in open again, it’s almost like a rebirth and in my case, I feel a far stronger person now than I did before.
If people would like to read about my story, I’ve a website it’s called naturehealsphotography.co.uk
Trevor is not alone in finding nature as a welcome escape, helping not only his but the wellbeing of those who know him. In the world we all find ourselves in now, a burst of nature may be just thing we all need, whether that is with Wild Windows to raise smiles through lockdown (as our very own Laura Sherwood-King decided) or discovering ways to Connect to Nature in Winter – follow the links to read out latest blogs.
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