Thursday, 2 August 2012

Insight 11: Looking at the World Through Orange Sunglasses

I have a Hoya orange filter and I’ve always wanted to experiment shooting colour photos with it. Orange filters are used to either increase the contrast of black & white photos or to dramatise sunscapes.
I’ve tried using an orange filter and a circular polariser filter (CPL) on the same subject and the resulting black & white photo is very similar. A CPL is like a pair of dark sunglasses and it’s very useful for shooting shiny objects like a lake or glass buildings that are lit by a strong sunlight. It can also up bring up the contrast in your photos. In fact when I’m shooting on black & white film I’d prefer to use a CPL because the blacks and the whites are highlighted through my viewfinder.

The above is an example of a CPL in action.
Two weeks ago I took my camera out to see what colour photos will work with an orange filter.

I’ve noticed that the orange filter enhances the greens especially when it’s coming from a fluorescent light source eg. the top of the fridge. The result is a feeling of danger which you can apply to urban settings.

Besides the greens, the reds are also enhanced. If I didn’t use my orange filter the wooden beams will not be so striking.
Feel free to ask me any questions about photography. I’m not an expert but I’ll share with you what I know about photographing on film and on digital.
P.S. I also know a little bit about cinematography (oops, I’m showing off here!)

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Insight 10: Fainting Spells Caused by Quetiapine

The worst side effect that I get from Quetiapine is fainting spells.
I was prescribed with 250mg of Quetiapine about one and a half years ago. It’s the strongest hypnotic drug that I’ve taken and that’s coming from someone who has used and abused a multitude of sleeping pills. I take it after dinner and within 45 minutes I will yawn continuously. After an hour I’ll be fast asleep and I can sleep up to 16 hours when I was on that dosage.
Once I was reading the newspapers on the floor and I stood up to switch on the fan. My vision turned to complete darkness and I felt like I was going to faint. Then my heart started pounding rapidly and I was really afraid because there was nobody at home. Fortunately I didn’t pass out but it was a frightful experience. The thing is that I’ve never fainted before and I don’t have a low blood pressure.
Then there was a time when I had a can of Coke during dinner. I took Quetiapine after that and I watched TV on my couch. When I stood up to go to bed I felt like fainting yet again.
My doctor has reduced the dosage to 125mg about three months ago because he felt that I was sleeping way too much. I started having bouts of insomnia where I would get up at 1 or 2 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep after that.
About 4 weeks ago I felt extremely tired, took my pills and watched TV. I felt hungry so I stood up and walked towards the fridge. All I could see was blackness and I really thought that was it - I’m going to faint. Luckily I didn’t so I ditched the idea of having a snack and went straight to bed.
I spoke to my doctor 2 days ago about this. He told me that one of the side effects of Quetiapine is that it could cause a person’s blood pressure to fall. Even a 125mg dosage could make a patient faint. His advice is to avoid sudden changes in body movement after taking Quetiapine.
In other words, try to get up slowly from the couch or the floor once you’ve taken Quetiapine.
Photo credit

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Insight 09: Lunatic for Hire

I’ve been looking for a job for 2 months now but to no avail. I’ve agreed with my doctor to look for a 9-5 job so that I can a regular schedule rather than the round-the-clock creative work that I’m used to. So I decided to apply for a temporary admin position through 6 recruitment agencies but I’ve not heard a word from them. They either think that I’m overqualified, don’t have the relevant admin experience or I’m crazy, which they’re right in all accounts.
I have more than a decade of experience in advertising. I worked in one of the largest multinational agencies and later moved on to startup my own video production house. It took me 3 years to build its credentials up to the point of having clients that kept me busy 24/7.
I had my share of mania and depression throughout that time. When I’m manic I’ll be screaming down the highway with my mobile phone in one hand whilst I’m negotiating budgets and schedules with a producer. On the flipside I was so depressed that I was frowning throughout a shoot that had very hot models in it. Chatting them up and trying to get them into bed was the furthest thing on my mind. I wanted to wrap it up soonest possible so that I could go home, get drunk and sleep.
After 3 years of ups and downs I was exhausted so I decided to close shop. I bummed around for a few months and then rejoined Big Agency. Mania was my constant companion and I became very brash up to the point of smoking weed at the office car park. A colleague could tell that I was stoned so he spoke to my boss about it. My boss asked me for a full medical checkup. I told him that it wasn’t necessary because I’ll ask my psychiatrist to write a letter to him. Bad mistake. After knowing that I had bipolar disorder my boss put me in cold storage. I left the agency without a word.
Then I became a part-time photographer, part-time triathlete and full-time bum for 2 and half years. That’s the issue that I’m facing now; how to explain that huge void in my CV. That problem has grown slightly bigger now that I’ve decided to apply for managerial and directorial positions. It’s not that I don’t have the relevant experience nor the qualifications. It’s about explaining how I’ve been on sabbatical for that long period of time. I’m torn in between telling the truth and fabricating it on paper. I’ll speak with my doctor about it tomorrow.
P.S. I’ll leave you with a photo to that I’ve shot to symbolise how I’ll feel when I get a job.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Where are you Lotte?

Whilst I was tweeting last night I chanced upon @nuttylotte. Her description reads “Bi Polar, Eating Disordered, Self Harmer who has a number of other Mental Health Issues.”
I watched her video blog on YouTube and I was touched by her bravery, honesty and sense of humour.

Her last tweet was on 27th October last year and it reads “Been sectioned, section 3, currently running away from ambulance crew n social worker. Fuck”
If I could pray for you I would but I’m agnostic so all I can do is to wish that you’re OK wherever you are Lotte.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Insight 08: How fast can a slow loris run?

The answer is not very fast, especially when he’s fat!
At the peak of my fitness I could run 32 kilometers without stopping. Unfortunately depression has made me gain 16kgs and robbed my enthusiasm for any form of exercise. When I tried to run again I could only manage 800 meters and I’d run of breath. I felt pathetic and I’d walk home disappointed.
My mood started to pick up lately and I went out for a walk in the park on a daily basis. I didn’t dare to run because I was afraid that I’d feel disappointed again. I’ve also been cutting down my intake of carbohydrates but after a month of this routine I’ve found that I didn’t even manage to lose 1kg.
So I thought what the heck and I’ve been running for the past 4 days. I told myself that I’ll take it easy and I’ll slow down to a walking pace whenever I felt tired. It didn’t matter how fast or how far I could run, as long as I could keep this up on a daily basis it’ll be an achievement.

When I was running this morning the only voices that I’ve heard are from the crickets. It was so serene. I saw a bunch of white flowers that have fallen from the rain last night. I picked one up and smelled it. That’s something that I’ve never done before.
I went home not as a slow loris, but as happy as a clam!
P.S. I’ll leave you with some photos of my favourite park which I’ve shot on black & white film a couple of years ago.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Insight 07: I’ll show you my scars so you won’t have to

I got these scars one and a half years ago. I was majorly depressed, so much so that I mixed a strip of sleeping pills with beer and cycled 40 kilometers. I crashed so many times that I couldn’t even remember where I crashed and which day it happened. I was addicted to the bastardly concoction and it made me so delusional that I got back on my bike day after day.
Before the depression, I was so manic that I thought I was bloody Lance Armstrong himself. I had his sunglasses, helmet, jersey and wristband. If I could’ve afford it, I’d buy the same bike that Lance used. $14,000 would have wiped out my savings so I bought a lower range Trek bike and tried spraying a yellow livery on it. My good friend was concerned and she told me “You’re not him you know…” I told her even if I trained a hundred years I could never be as fit as Lance. I was lying to myself – I wanted to be like him.
Every day I would get up at 4 a.m. and go to my favourite cycling route. As I’ve mentioned it’s 40 kilometers long and that includes a 10 kilometer hill climb. Lance Armstrong was a hill-climbing specialist so I desperately wanted to conquer the hill in the least amount of time possible. I set a target of 30 minutes to get to top and for weeks I couldn’t reach my goal. I’d go home feeling frustrated, have a nap and then go for a 10 kilometer run as I was also training for a full marathon.
All of a sudden I was struck by depression. It was as if someone just switched off the light bulb in my head. I couldn’t comprehend why I was depressed because I had the means to support my rolling-stone lifestyle and I felt closer to my friends than ever before. I thought maybe it’s because I couldn’t conquer that bloody hill so I tried every trick in the book but I still failed. I was exhausted and I started sleeping 8, 10, 12 hours a day.
In the end I slept 16 hours a day and became a recluse. I avoided my friends’ phone calls and I didn’t bother checking my Facebook. Even the thought of walking out of the house was too much for me. Then I started to drink and I hated myself for that because I was a teetotaler for 9 months prior. Beer didn’t pick up mood so I mixed it with sleeping pills and that’s the reason why I have these scars on my legs.
Right now I’m feeling fine and my thoughts are lucid. I’m able to look at the past and finally accept the fact that bipolar disorder is an illness that I can’t beat. I can only learn how to deal with it. Writing this blog has been helpful because I can look back at it and think “Hey, you’re not going to do that again are you?”
I hope you’ve found some insights in this post. Till next time, take care!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

What’s the green thingy I’m wearing?

It’s a ribbon that I’m wearing to show my support for Mental Health Awareness.
When I’m feeling depressed I’d call one my friends and ask him out for drinks. Slumped on the table I’d tell him that I feel really terrible. He’d ask me why. It’s not that I didn’t know why but I didn’t have the will to launch a grand lecture on how the chemical imbalance in my brain causes less serotonin cells to be released etc etc. So I’d just tell him that I’m depressed. He’d ask me why. I’d tell him I just am and I’d just continue to nurse my beer.
I can’t possibly blame my friend for not understanding. He probably thinks that depression is something that everyone goes through. If only he knows about clinical depression…
What about your employer? If you’d tell him that you have cancer he will probably say that he’s very sorry, you can take how many days off on paid leave and maybe the company can fork out some money for your medical expenses. But if you were to tell him that you’re feeling depressed and you can’t come into the office he’d probably say “Depressed my arse! If I don’t see your lazy behind in the office by 10 you’re fired!”
NGOs, policymakers, doctors, medical schools and the media have to work hand in hand to raise mental health awareness to the level where it ends the stigma of mental illnesses. It’s going to be a long and arduous task. But let us take the first step by wearing a green ribbon.