Mandy Charlton - Photographer, Writer, Blogger

Photographer of Families, Small People and Delightful Places. Travel and Lifestyle Writer and Blogger. Lives in Newcastle, Loves the North, Often Accompanied By A Beagle Named Holly Bobbins

Monday, April 06, 2020

How I'm trying to get through lockdown one day at a time

When lockdown began I thought I would be okay because I would just write my way out of it, I would blog every single day and I would regale you with the tales from the voices inside my head, 3 weeks in and I've realised that I can't write every day as I just don't have enough things to talk about without becoming ranty and wisened and honestly, it's enough just to get through the day without punching myself in the face and not having a giant meltdown right now!



The truth is, and I honestly believe this, you just need to do, whatever you need to do, to get through this.  It's an extremely challenging time and berating yourself for not learning a new language or baking banana bread every day just isn't going to help.  I know some will flourish and will come out of this with a whole new skill set but I don't think we should be judging people who are struggling or people who manage to sit on the settee and just watch box sets every day.

Mental health issues are at an all-time high, being caged and trapped at home just isn't good for humans who, like plants, need food, water and sunshine to flourish and I'm truly thankful I get to take Holly Bobbins for a daily stroll, sometimes we head to the park or sometimes we just ramble around our estate whilst I turn it into a giant hide and seek game, I hide and then she runs, if she spots me, she stops so it's great exercise for her and she's doing really well.



One brilliant thing I have done is get a group of talented friends to help me turn my pre-existing Facebook group, Secret Superheroes Club into a place where every day we have a live photography challenge as well as having science, music and even storytime, it's truly a wonderful place with so much love and potential and I think, although I'm biased, it's one of the loveliest Facebook groups for parents and their children to spend their time.

if you are in business and particularly my self-employed friends who run small and micro-businesses just know that I am with you in spirit and I'm empathising with you that we're trapped in the most difficult financial circumstances and to anyone who says that we should have had savings, I had a buffer, it got me through a quiet December, January and February just as I was about to resume my usually busy business in March, this couldn't have happened at a worse time but really, I don't think there was ever going to be a good one.

The truth is, I miss my family, I miss my friends, I miss being around people and I'm just taking things one day at a time to get through this, some days I feel really positive, sometimes I laugh and I drink wine in the evenings, sometimes I bake and I cook every day and then there are the times when I cry, when I get so anxious I feel like I'm having a panic attack, there are the times I worry not only for my own mental health but for every one of us.

Taking things one day at a time is my considered approach to self-care and that comes from such a long time of living with chronic mental health and health problems.  So let's just do what we can, smile when we can and cry if we need to, really there's no shame in this and if there's anything I can say which I think can be of solace, it's that, every day we spend without each other, is a day closer to the time when we'll all see each other again, when we'll hug and laugh and maybe get a little tipsy and we'll remember just how wonderful our friends and family really are.

If you've enjoyed reading this article or had some value or maybe it's even just helped you get through the last 5 minutes, I'd love your support in buying me a virtual coffee so I can continue to write and so that I have a business to go back to when all of this is over.  Thank you so much to all who have supported me so far.


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Monday, March 30, 2020

From the bottom of the dark chasm

This weekend, everything hit, the world literally fell apart, the news that it's just me and Iain against the world living at home has broken my heart and the news that the new owners of Inspire chose to announce their arrival at pretty much the same time left me wondering just what the point of life was for a while.

But...

By yesterday evening when talking with Iain I said: "you know, nothing more can happen, we have reached the point where things can't actually get worse than they are now so the only way is up."  It seems my life and inner resilience has been there all along just waiting to get me through things like this.
Newcastle wedding photographer Mandy Charlton's garden, from the bottom of the dark chasm, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

I still can't talk about Inspire, it hurts too much, I took a drastic decision to protect my family and to survive when I was really bloody poorly, well I still am, in many respects, I still have a tumour on my parathyroid that isn't going anywhere and that has a profound effect on my energy levels, on my mental health and how thirsty I constantly feel.  So know that this was something which has happened at breakneck speed but it won't really be over until the summer and maybe then, I'll write that book!

There's also the fact that at some point I'm going to have to apply for Universal Credit and because there are only Iain and I living here, we'll be subject to the bedroom tax.  I can not believe we have come to this place.  I swore when I started my photography business in 2007 that I would never go back on benefits.  Believe me, when I also say that I was thankful that I could claim disability benefits when I was super poorly with my mental health,  we were under a kinder, more socialist type of government then though.

I think like most of us I alternate between moments of utter hysteria to feeling calm because I no longer have to worry about all of my clients and the women I was looking after and nurturing and reassuring every day.  I am still doing that of course, I have a small and wonderful community which I'm building into something new and different which will service the small business community as well as "normal" employed families who are also consumers, it's going to take time and love but I've done it before and I know that I can do it again because...

You can take everything away from a person but you will never replace spirit, love, and most of all authenticity.  You cannot be a fake and last forever, sooner or later you will be called out and whilst I may have my up and down moments and a personality which can be confusing to even myself, I think you all know by now that I only have love in my heart and fire in my belly.

I'm advertising again as a photographer in Newcastle to photograph weddings in 2021/2022 because we have to believe that this will all be over soon, well maybe not soon but I have no doubt that 21/22 will be bumper years for weddings and probably for portraits too as I'm sure many new lives are being created right at this time, new loves are forming and people in extraordinary circumstances are becoming soulmates.

Love always wins, I truly believe that with all of my heart and so I'm supporting decisions which I did not take knowing it's the best action for me, for now, because it makes things hurt less and because deep inside my psyche I still have hope.



If you have read this article I'd love you to buy me a virtual coffee so that I can keep writing until I can resume my life's work as a photographer.  Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
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Sunday, March 29, 2020

How to survive lockdown - 8 tips from a former agoraphobic

From around 2004 to 2006ish I had a really bad time with agoraphobia, I'd been attacked in Heaton Park and with already having shaky mental health I just stopped going out. If I did go out I had to have someone with me and it was so bad that I ended up on disability living allowance, finally, in 2007 I got better and went from agoraphobic to a professional photographer, writer and blogger, I found my freedom though I'm still a natural hermit and do have flareups when I get anxious and depressed.  In all of that time when I didn't go out I don't want you to think that it was always awful, yes, sometimes it was but I survived and for the most part, I found my happy right from home.
Cat and dog sit together during coronavirus lockdown uk, how to survive lockdown from a former agoraphobic, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Lockdown is hard for many of us, it feels so unnatural not to go out, like all of our liberties have been taken away and you might feel like you are losing the plot more than once or twice but I've come up with some tips of things I used to do when I was not the person who I am now.

  1. Reading, I used to consume books and magazines, you'll be surprised how much easier it is to read when you have no other distractions.
  2. Learn a new skill, my entry into photography was born from me being at home, I used my children who were just wee at the time and I practised on them, the cats, things I found around the home and I taught myself all about this art which later became my whole escape, my healing and my entire life.  Now photography is at the heart of everything I do.
  3. Craft - in 2004 I decided to make my own Christmas cards and it lead to me eventually working as a buyer for an online scrapbooking company, it also lead to blogging and I started this blog, my second one, in February 2006.
  4. Writing - Now is a great time to start a blog, write a diary,  or get to grips with that book you always wanted to write,  there's literally never been a better time.
  5. Cooking - Still, to this day I find that if I am particularly stressed out I cook or bake and it makes me feel more relaxed and less anxious
  6. Gardening - the art of gardening, to help to create new life, it's one of the most healing things you will ever do, it doesn't matter how big or small your garden is, creating a space that feels like a haven from the world is more necessary than it's ever been.
  7. Redecorating - have some decorating supplies or a list of DIY jobs that you have never got time to do, now is that time, you can create a whole new world for yourself, order supplies online though, don't go to the shops, even if they're open, the point here is to stay at home.
  8. Planning, there's never been a better time to plan ahead, book that future holiday, schedule your wedding for 2021/2022, make a list of all of the places you want to visit when you can get outdoors, looking to the future is the most positive thing you can do.
cooking and baking are good for surviving the coronavirus lockdown, mandy charlton, photographer, writer,blogger

You'll notice from this list that it's all about creating things or planning things and growing things, they're all positive actions which will help your health, your mental health and directly, how happy and content that you feel about life. I, myself have had a very tumultuous time in work, life and business lately and I'm hanging onto my sanity by my nail ends but I believe my inner resilience will kick in when I do all of these things.  I guess we have to find our groove and we have to get through the part where you kind of go stir crazy, it takes a few weeks but as we get further and further into this, you will find it easier as the human brain adapts to its situations remarkably well.

Also, remember that whilst we are indoors, we are quite literally saving the world and not only that, we're actually healing the world from all of the bad things that have happened to it, maybe we're lessening the effects of climate change as well as actively stopping a virus which is indiscriminate and kills our favourite people.

By staying at home, it is possible to thrive more than survive so hang on in there because your time is coming I promise.

If you've loved this article or got any value from it, I would love you to buy me a virtual coffee 
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Saturday, March 28, 2020

Small Business Owner? You're Not Dead Yet!

It's been a rough couple of weeks in the small business and entrepreneurial communities and it's only been a couple of weeks, it feels like years and a lot of us are questioning "what the eff just happened?"

Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, Small Business owner, you're not dead yet


Many businesses stopped trading almost overnight including my own and the stress was unbearable, it wasn't until I spoke to a mental health worker that I was reassured to know that it's not a me problem, it's a world problem, almost from that point I found my inner resilience and I've had actual times this week with zero anxiety, so much so, that for the first time in a long time, when anxiety does flare up I notice the massive differences.  I'd existed at top state anxiety for so long, I had forgotten what it was like to not feel anxious.

It's weird to be so relaxed given the current business conditions, the chancellors care package won't kick in until June and will amount to a little but not a lot for I've always run businesses for love and not money.

Take heart though, I have earned money this week and as a small business owner you can still do that too, you are not dead, you are merely sleeping.  Here are some ideas for things you can do right now -
  1. Most small businesses sell gift certificates and if you don't, now is your chance to get some E-vouchers designed, you can bring in some valuable funds and your clients who still have jobs and incomes are just waiting to support you.
  2. Set yourself up a Kofi account, mine is https://ko-fi.com/mandycharlton and it's a great way to buy a business owner or content creator like me a cup of virtual coffee for just £3, I managed to pay my rent this week from virtual cups of coffee and given that I currently still have to pay full rent it's something I'm massively thankful for.
  3. If you are a blogger or content creator there are still campaigns available, I wrote a sponsored post this week and though I had to negotiate a slightly lower fee due to the world financial crisis it's meant I will have some valuable money coming in, even if I have to wait 30 days.
  4. Almost certainly whilst we are in this weird lockdown period you might be wondering just how you're going to get your products for the new season on, maybe you previously paid a product photographer and now you can't access them or you just can't afford it, well fear not, I've just created a video for that purpose which will help you create everyday lifestyle product photography with just your smartphone so that you can still do business longterm
  5. If you are a photographer and have a Shutterstock account or any other stock photography account, it's a great time to go through your archive and tag and add all of your latest photos, I love and loathe Shutterstock simply because of the time it takes to upload and do all of the descriptions and tagging but right now, time isn't an object.
  6. It's also a great time to start an online business, I had a business idea this week that I'm now starting to action, something I've wanted to do but had no time and something with virtually no setup costs.  At this point I get to grow it slowly instead of doing a mad launch and, well I can't give too much away but watch this space.
Entrepreneurs and small business owners tend to be some of the most adaptable resilient people in our communities and I think we're all getting to that point where we accept what's happened, we find our inner resilience and then we start taking positive action for the future and really, what you do now will define how you fair when we do get back to business.

Just remember, you may be sleeping but you are far from dead, you started with nothing the first time, this time, you're going back into it armed with followings and knowledge and you can still be wonderful and have future success, I really believe that for all of us.
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Friday, March 27, 2020

Photographs are Life

(Ad - Sponsored Post) Now more than ever we have realised the value of family, the value of memories and the value of photographs.  We have them on computers, we have them on our phones but now is the time to get them off your digital devices and onto your walls.  I've spoken so many times about having happy memories on your walls .  I particularly love canvas prints and have them all over my living room, most of these are actually available from BestCanvas.ca 


It doesn't matter what's happening in the world, I can look around my living room and smile at the past memories that I've had.  I remember the smiles that Looby and I had on our day out at Holy Island and my infamous best friends trip to Barcelona, I also remember my love of discovering Lincoln, one of the prettiest cities I've ever been to, even if it does have the steepest lanes of anywhere I've ever been.

With this code MANDYCHARLTON you will get up to 5 FREE MIXPIX Photo Tiles from BestCanvas.ca. To acquire your free print, go https://www.bestcanvas.ca/mixpix/ , upload your desired photos and enter the name MANDYCHARLTON  during the checkout. The more you buy the more you get free! 

Life passes by at the speed of light and we never seem to have time to smell the roses but perhaps at this time, we do have the time to slow down, to take stock of what's happening in the world and to just sit and while away the hours thinking about all of the good times.  I know that I can't travel at the moment and that's really hard as I live to travel and to discover new places, new ways of life and different cultures but I do have lots of time to collate all of my memories and to order new wall art, blankets, mugs, memories everywhere that I look, eat, sleep, breathe.


Photographs are life and memories are the joy of life so surrounding yourself is such a positive thing to do for your mental health and your wellbeing.  I know we have the photos on our phone but how many of us take the time to just sit and look through them all, when they are on your walls you have the absolute joy of them always surrounding you, they're more than valuable, they're beautiful, wonderful moments of forever so, whatever your situation is currently, why not order someone a gift to bring some much-needed happiness, I can promise that you will make their day.


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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Coronavirus - A brand new way of life?




I keep sitting with my MacBook open ready for action and just staring, not knowing what I'm supposed to be doing.  I think this may go on for some time to come.  I have to say that today I feel I've had a better day after the worst weekend, the toll on my mental health has been huge but today, I spent a whole day in the garden,  planting, planning, renewing and my goodness, it felt good.

I know it's not just me, I know there are around 5 million self-employed people and for a high proportion who work in the service sector, we're just sitting, waiting and wondering what we should do now?

I think whilst gardening today and enjoying the sunshine I started to finally accept that everything I thought was a fixed point in my life is now transient.  I literally don't know what comes next. I have started to accept things, to be resigned to my own fate and I'm sure over the coming days I'll become more and more resilient.

I know some of the choices I made just a couple of weeks ago I now regret,  that's a future blog post for sure and yes, hunker down because we've got a lot of time to come in this particular space and I know that I need to have an outlet and this is a time for me to have renewed passion for my writing, something which I usually just don't have the time to do.  I have full blog posts I've wanted to write for so long, I may just have the time to wax lyrical about all of the reasons I hate the multilevel marketing huns with their fake happiness taking advantage of those who might have fallen on hard times, it's usually women around my age that they choose to recruit too and then they all.  All MLM's are not alike however and Tropic Skincare is one of the good guys, I love their cleanser and my lovely friend Amber sells it through her beauty business and let me tell you, a hun she is not.

Anyway, trying not to get too distracted as that's a whole other post.  I have a list of things, actually, I don't, I have some thoughts in my head which may end up being some kind of vague list, all of the exciting things like -
  1. Choose new portfolio images
  2. Work on SEO strategy
  3. Work out what an SEO strategy is 
  4. Optimise web images
  5. Work on new marketing
  6. Order new product samples
All utterly boring but necessary stuff, when we do emerge from our Coronavirus social isolation bunkers, I want to be right at the forefront because the world is going to want to get married and I'm going to need to work 37947 hours a week just to try and rebuild my income.  I do however have some other plans - 

  1. Catch up on all of the books on my bookshelf
  2. Watch all of the movies I've been saving for a later date
  3. Exercise Bobbins and I until we are skinny and fit behind blades of grass
  4. redecorate bedroom
  5. grow fruits and vegetables and generally feel more like Felicity Kendall
  6. Work out how to find an other half whilst in social isolation
I mean, I know it's not like solving world peace but hey, I'm working on the deeply philosophical stuff too, it's just too wordy for your average blog post, I got very excited about nihilism once and I think I frightened people away, optimistic nihilist, that's me 😉


And so as we all get on with this slightly (for slightly, read very) weird world at this time of writing, our Prime Minister has just decided to place us all on lockdown for at least the next 3 weeks.  Bejesus, I never thought that Holly Bobbins would become my secret weapon to get out once a day,I hope she knows she's a superhero.

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Saturday, March 21, 2020

The weight of the world...


Iris Rainbow, tabby cat, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, The Weight of the world


I have cried a little every day this week until today when it was harder to stop crying and just try and deal with life.  Everything we knew, lives we had, plans and promises, holidays, businesses, all gone in the blink of an eye.

I rang o2 today, I have about 8 contracts with them for various things for me and the kids, I wanted to tell them that I might not be able to pay all of my bills, they read out a standard statement about legal obligations and credit records and I broke down.  I also explained that if they cut me off,  I would be less likely to restart a business when this is all over.  They couldn't actually do anything to help because I'm up to date and have never missed a payment but they were grateful that I had told them.


Another small loan I have, I've stopped paying that one immediately as it's not a priority, they were understanding but reminded me that it may harm my credit record.  Honestly, when we come out of the other side of this, will any of us have a good credit record?  Can you seriously tell me there are people who're incomes aren't going to be affected by this?

Right now I am angry and overwhelmed, I'm furious that our government is helping the employed, and so they should but they've completely overlooked people like me.  I'm saddened that they could instigate mortgage holidays a few days ago but renters still get nothing, surely if it's local government-owned housing they could just suspend rents immediately.

As someone who is naturally empathic, I feel like I have the weight of the world, heavy on my shoulders and supporting women in my local business community who are in the same position as me, there are millions of us you know, the ones who bring in 330 billion pounds to the economy every year but are now scared about losing everything.

I am, at this point, worried about my mental health which, as you know, it's a difficult proposition at the best of times.  I thought I was a natural hermit but after 10 days of social isolation, I miss my best friend, I miss a little wander to the shops, small things that I will cherish once my isolation period ends next Friday.

I heard tonight, on the news, someone exclaimed "Capitalism has been put on hold" and you know what?  That's certainly something good, maybe people will realise how much we need socialism, we need to look after people when they cannot look after themselves, we need a society which works on the basis of human kindness and philanthropy and I do believe that it's in all of us, somewhere.

Next week, I start the fight back, I have some creative talents and a few good business ones thrown in for good measure so I shall sit and I shall think, what is it that I can do, which could possibly bring in some cash, and also help or cheer people, raise their spirits, educate or entertain, I need to think seriously and then take action.

I hate feeling alone and depressed, I hate feeling so anxious that it's like someone put concrete on my chest, for everything that goes into making me the person I am, at heart, I'm a happy, positive and enthusiastic (some would say excitable) person and so I know, somewhere inside me that it's my time to shine.

In the meantime, I must thank the people who have supported me, kind clients who've bought vouchers for when this is all over, brides who've paid or upgraded just because it would help, so much love and kindness.  If you, dear reader, want to buy a voucher for a photoshoot or you wanted to book me for your 2021/2022 wedding date, I'd be so thankful but also, if you cannot afford it, I also really do understand and I thank you for your kindness that you even thought about me.

We're only just at the beginning of this and I'm fearful for what comes next but by being together online, through kindness and friendship, we have a chance to heal the whole of humanity, maybe not against Coronavirus but with love and the promise of a new socialist planet.
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