On Invalidity Pension
Why did you say yes to this campaign? What was your WHY to participate?
It’s been a few years since I’ve been able to do something nice for myself, for a number of reasons, but mostly financial. I saw a picture of an ex-colleague on Facebook, and read the details of the Eternal Grace campaign, and thought it was exactly what I needed.
Tell me a little about you and your story:
I’m 62, the eldest of six children, and the only one single with no offspring – by choice, I hasten to say! I’ve always been a bit of an outsider in my family. I’m an introvert, and happiest in my own company, though I do let people in from time to time! I’m an alcoholic, sober for nearly 30 years, and I have Bipolar II Disorder. Medication helps, but I still have swings, and haven’t been able to work for about 7 years, following a breakdown at work. Not being able to work took a lot of getting used to, as it had defined me for so long – like a lot of people, I think. Being on Invalidity Pension seemed shameful, somehow, especially as my ‘disability’ is unseen. (I don’t think of it as a ‘disability’ myself, though it does prevent me from doing certain things). It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve reconciled myself to the life I have now and become OK with it: for a long time, not having a ‘purpose’, which I had always assumed to be work-related was hard, especially as I had had a very demanding and fulfilling career prior to that. Work also allowed me to wear a mask – nice clothes, make-up every day, a nice car – all the so-called trappings of success. I also had to re-define my notion of success: nowadays, success can mean anything from getting out of bed in the morning, to walking the dogs, to going for a sea swim, to eating properly. On a good day, all of those come easily; on a bad day, sometimes I can’t even manage the first. Medication is the foundation, but on its own can do little more than keep me functioning. I’ve had to learn various coping strategies, recognise – and accept! – my limitations and not put myself under pressure to do or be more than I am, and be OK with who I am now that all the externals have been stripped away. And I am: I like my life; I love where I live; I have a couple of good, close friends; I have excellent psychiatric and therapeutical support, and I have my dogs. And I am actually grateful to be away from the demands and buzz of the working world.
What do you see when you look in the mirror?
Someone who has finally found peace with herself, and has let go of the need (desire?) to have discovered the secret of looking 20 years younger and be a size 12!
Describe yourself in 3 words:
Content, kind, empathic.
Do you feel like you have changed since turning 60?
I turned 60 nearly three years ago, and yes – it has been since then I have learned true acceptance, and an ability to let go of unrealistic expectations of myself.
What advice would you give to your younger self about caring for yourself?
The most important journey you will take in this life is the interior one. Getting to know yourself, learning to love yourself (a lifetime’s work), following your own path is what life is really about at the end of the day. It’s not about making lots of money, owning a house or possessions, following the latest trend, having thousands of followers on Facebook or Instagram or whatever the latest online platform that you HAVE to be on is. Sure, some of those things are important, but they are not the measure of you or your true worth.
What do you consider self-love?
Self-acceptance, first and foremost; not allowing others to define you; doing what you need to do to be at peace with yourself and the world, regardless of the demands of that world and others in it; to nourish yourself in whatever way makes you feel nourished.
What do you love most about your new portraits? Is there something new you discovered about yourself?
What I love about my new photographs is how gorgeous I am!! I booked the session when I was feeling ‘fat and ugly and old’, because I needed to do something nice for myself, and it worked. I also love how soft and feminine I look. I’m a big woman, and often when I’m standing beside a woman who’s smaller than me, feminine is the last thing I feel, but that’s changed as a result of these photographs.
What was your favourite part of working with me?
It was fun! The time flew by, I laughed a lot, and felt so at ease with you that I was happy to be guided by you and where in ‘real life’ I would have wanted to cover up, in that studio with you, I was comfortable being vulnerable, and I LOVE the results!!