I’m Pete Carr. I'm a photographer and this isn't a photography newsletter. This is a form of "Rubber Duck Debugging". Writing helps me process thoughts and work through problems. So I write to my computer about issues relating to mental health and being autistic. I then share it with you fine folk. There's nice photos too. 🖖
This week's photos are from Liverpool Pride over the years. So much love and acceptance. A wonderful event.
Would I have realised I'm non-binary if it wasn't for the pandemic?
A fascinating question posed to me by my friend Matt.
Without the space and time away from modern life I think it would have taken me a long time to realise all this about myself. The pandemic gave me time off from social anxiety. I was free from worrying about how people saw me or what I believed to be expected of me. I started wearing leggings. I became comfortable in them and wished I could wear them out. Men don't wear leggings unless they are cycling. Women wear leggings. If I left the house in leggings would the world think I was a woman? Would they think I was mentally unstable? But they are super comfy and my calf muscles look great in them. It made me start to question what is my identity. It made me think about what I was afraid of the world seeing and made me admit a few things to myself.
Events my wife and I enjoyed outside, comedy gigs, moved to Twitch. We found a home in Robbotron's channel and a community. Twitch and Discord reminded me of those early days of the internet where there was no social anxiety and being yourself suddenly became quite accessible. I've met a lot of really interesting people in this community. It's inspiring seeing people openly talk about their identity. They have been little nudges to push me along this new direction. Curiosity not judgement. When your everyday becomes people being open it becomes normal. Feeling normal every day is quite something. Free from anxiety and feeling normal I was able to learn new words and better understand people. Seeing the host, John, casually say "Oh yeah I've got a few dresses." was quite incredible. I kept thinking "You can just say that? You can be that casual and open?" Lots of little moments like this helped me understand. I'd only ever seen the LGBT+ community from the perspective of an ally which was usually at an event with my camera. To be able to spend time in that community and listen was helpful for me.
I've also been watching a lot of interesting Twitch shows where people openly talk about being transgender, non-binary, doing drag, mental health, autism, etc. Due to COVID everyone is doing this from their own homes. It's like we've all been invited round for a cuppa. All the pretence of well shot, trendy edited and carefully written YouTube movies are thrown out. It's 100% raw, open and stripped back to the discussion. I see myself in them. The power of representation. I feel in unconsciously for months and I listen to what they're talking about.
This would never have happened if it wasn't for the pandemic. Twitch gave me access to interesting people to have interesting discussions with. The pandemic took away my ability to work and go outside. All I had was time to think. But it took nearly 18 months. I didn't start feeling like I was non-binary until July. The groundwork and foundations had been put in place through the pandemic though. If it wasn't for the work I was doing on my mental health during that time I wouldn't have been browsing Reddit and read something that made me go "Oh? That's interesting..."
It feels horrible to thank a pandemic for giving me time to work on my mental health, to better understand what it is to be autistic and to come to terms with being non-binary. So many people died. Obviously I didn't cause this just so I could have time to think but it does feel odd to be in a better place when so many aren't.
When I say better place... I have no pension plan and will die at my camera. I lost 80% of my work. So technically it's been nice to have time to think but it's been costly. Here's hoping that having a better understanding of how to deal with triggers, anxiety and depression will give me a better foundation for working. Having a better understanding of my identity will connect me to clients I am passionate about working with too.
Would I have realised these things about me if it wasn't for the pandemic? What is interesting about all this is that I can look back through the old newsletters for clues.
Since April I've been pushing myself in ways to simply feel ok in my own skin. If I can reach a point where I accept myself then others hold no power over me. That's the theory anyway and it feels like it's working. I'm essentially doing exposure therapy. Pushing myself little by little.
Who is the real you? The physical one or the virtual avatar you feel comfortable embodying because it enables you to be free?
I realised that there's a lot out there in the world that stops me being myself. I realised that when I'm ok with being myself I am happy.
A game that ends with you feeling great for wanting to try and accept who you are, knowing that it can lead you to being healthier mentally.
"Margo is far-and-away the most unusual character on television: a woman who knows herself, who sees herself with all her flaws, and likes herself anyway."
I realised that I have spent some time talking about acceptance both externally and internally. I've been free to try things without fear. The pandemic gave me time off from social anxiety and through that I was calm and logical. It lead me to discoveries. If people are helped in dealing with anxiety and depression they might have a better chance at living a happier life.
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“Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous.” Christopher Pike, Captain USS Discovery.
Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter. I’ll be back. Feel free to subscribe or send to a friend.
I'm streaming photography in various forms on Twitch.tv/petecarr. Stream schedule is Tues/Wed/Fri at 7:30PM GMT and Monday at 2PM GMT. Photography focused but accessible. Friday is a look at art events I've photographed. You can also ask me about autism and there's cat cam too.