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Photography helps Billingham man with anxiety and depression

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Wayne Beattie took up photography as a hobby. Battling with anxiety, depression and body dysmorphia, he said being behind the camera has made him see the "beauty in the world".

"I'll always struggle with my mental health, I've accepted that, but I'm also learning to live with it and handle it. I'm 38 years old now, and in a better place."

Wayne never considered he suffered from anxiety or depression. With "little understanding" of the conditions, he sought help six years ago after being unable to sleep.

"I went through a massive portion of my life hating the world. I've attempted suicide twice. I turned to drink for a few years but that isolated me more, as my anger pushed friends away," he said.

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Wayne's body dysmorphia goes back to his childhood - a stunt in growth from the age of 10 meant he was only 4ft 10in aged 16.

He said he "gets paranoid" when people look at him.

"It goes back to being bullied at school.

"The therapist pinned my issues down to all of that, as I always think I'm being laughed at still. I'm the average height now."

'Positivity on my doorstep'

Wayne, who lives in Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees, met his fiancee Claire 12 years ago and they now have two children - daughter Alannah and son Kai. He said he now has "something to live for".

"I need to keep my mind positive at least for their sake.

"I was still seeing nothing but hate for the world outside of my little family, so I started taking photos.

"Taking the photos made me look for beauty in the world that would make a nice picture, it got me wanting to visit different places, like museums, exhibits, public parks etc."

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He invested in a camera kit and went out on Teesside to capture the local area.

"I've always enjoyed taking photos when we have days out etc, and I started to realise that I'd kind of forgotten that there was anyone else around while I was doing it.

"I set up an Instagram account, just so I can share my daily adventures and thoughts with the world.

"Whenever I get any sort of positive response to a picture, it really boosts me up... it makes me think I'm doing something good.

"I know getting a few 'likes' is not important in the world, but it really helps me."

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As with many other people, lockdown and Covid-19 restrictions had an impact on Wayne's mental health - leaving a feeling of a much greater sense of "separation in society".

"I've loved going to museums etc, to learn about what I'm taking photos of. It's an extension of looking for beauty. So when lockdown begun, I was massively restricted as to where I could go, and for how long.

"I was in nature reserves every day, seeing the same things. It got frustrating.

"Luckily I can now revisit museums and other spots, so I'm feeling a lot better each day."

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"When I'm out with my camera, I'm looking for even the smallest of beauty, or seeing something from a completely different angle than I'd ever noticed.

"It makes me see there's an enormous amount of beauty and positivity on my doorstep and all around our area.

"I prefer wildlife photography, as the animals are completely free from any of the issues I face every day, and they're literally free as a bird. I'm kind of envious of them."

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Wayne hopes by sharing his story, he can help others. "I honestly think men don't talk about any of it, as we think we can't admit a weakness or vulnerability," he said.

"I've learned that hiding it all is a weakness, and talking about it all is true strength. I think if any man, or woman, feels something isn't right, they should speak to someone.

"They might not even realise they have a problem. I certainly didn't think I had any of my issues."

Support and information on mental health is available on the BBC Action Line page.

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Related Topics

  • Billingham
  • Mental health
  • Photography

More on this story

  • Covid: Lockdown had 'major impact' on mental health