Newcastle Photographer and Content Creator, Mandy Charlton, Always on a quest for adventure, often seen on buses, trains and planes. On a quest to be happier and healthier. Lives in Newcastle with her 3 cats, Iris, Maggie and Arthur. Loves good vibes, musicals and cakes. Full time professional wedding photographer in the north east of england alongside content creator on Tiktok, Instagram and Facebook

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Depression, a personal battle...

You may have noticed that I have been quiet quiet of late, I was throwing myself back into work only to be derailed again just a couple of days later.  Since it's World Mental Health day soon it seemed appropriate to share what's been going on.

Since around June of this year I have been experiencing overwhelming depression and the most awful anxiety attacks I've ever experienced, as someone who already has bipolar and is prone to agoraphobic behaviour this has been my greatest challenge of 2018.

I have run away and travelled as much as possible, I have hid away from the world on weekdays so I had the strength to go out to work at weekends.  It has been the hardest time I can remember for years but I feel I should write about it because there's something you need to know.

You see, this is the face of depressed me, both of these images I've taken in the last week, the top one just after I'd had my hair cut if you're thinking (why is her hair different colours?) and look, I'm not lying in a heap, I'm not crying all of the time, thankfully the medication I take helps with not crying all of the time.  I still laugh, I still go out, I still continue to work and parent and run multiple businesses but I am depressed and it's important that you see the real face of depression because so many of us who look quite "normal" are actually fighting battles that no one can see or understand.

I have days in the week when life is like walking through a quagmire of the thickest mud, where I am scared of every single email and phone-call, where I believe I am the most evil person on earth who's surely heading directly to hell.  That's what ill mental health is to me, it's self loathing, it's over introspection, it's forgetting even the simplest of things and feeling like you are losing your mind.

I have good self care, I force myself outdoors and enjoy walks with Looby and Holly Bobbins, I go to events which make me socialise because if I had the choice I would make a pillow fort, crawl right in and never come out but I can't do that.

I am a mum, I am an entrepreneur, a photographer, a blogger, a CEO of a global organisation, I'm challenged daily by depression but I try to remember that this does not make me a failure.  I think it's so important for CEO's an people who have a voice to speak out about mental health for those who can't or don't feel they want to.  Too many people suffer in silence and worse than that, there are way too many lives still lost because someone felt helpless or didn't feel that anyone would care or understand and that there was no other avenue, or that the world would be better off without them.  Let me tell you now, I understand, I have been there myself, I have been to the darkest of places and only my inner stubbornness has made me not want to let depression win.  I am one of the lucky ones I guess, initially 15 years ago I got help within the time before things spiralled from anxiety into psychosis, it took 2 years to see a psychiatrist and another before I had reached the top of the list for therapy and I believe that things in the NHS and mental health care fields are so much worse now than they were then.  It's something I wish I could change but without that ability I am at least doing something.

This weekend I'm shooting 40 photo shoots in one weekend, I've raised money for Mind for several years now and it's the very least I can do.  I'm worried I'm not going to make it through all 40 sessions but I have friends, my daughters and their friends who are all coming along to help, it's going to be the most full on work weekend I've ever experienced and I'm dedicating Monday to sleep and recovery.  I'm having an easier week on the lead up to it and resting as much as possible.  I hope I do make it to the end, actually I have no choice but if you're around the Tynemouth Longsands area this weekend and you see me on the beach, come say hello, come hug me or my helpers, feel free to bring me cake, bring me coffee or maybe just a few extra vitamins for it's going to be the biggest thing I've ever done!

Mandy's Photography Marathon, here I come!


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

4 hotels with amazing views you have to stay in

My love of travel which never fades very far has been massively re-enthused by Looby remarking that she wanted to stay in hotels which have great views.  I'm historically unlucky with room requests often staying in beautiful locations but having views of the bins or the carpark outside my hotel window so when she made the above request and also said she wanted to have a night in Edinburgh I looked to see what the best view I could find was and I found this...

Grassmarket, Apex hotel, view from the balcony, 4 hotels with amazing views you have to stay in, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

The view from our balcony in the Apex Grassmarket hotel Edinburgh was one of the best and most wonderful views I've ever experienced.  watching the light change over Edinburgh castle is a magical thing and it made me want to experience other great hotel room views.

Now, it's been forever since I've wanted to stay in the Hilton, Manchester Deansgate, the hotel is situated in the Beetham tower which has floor to ceiling views of Manchester, I took Abigail there to their bar on the 23rd floor once for a tiny hot chocolate and the views were insane.

We also recently struck lucky on our trip to Corfu, staying in the Potamaki Beach hotel, now I wouldn't call it a luxury hotel but it did afford us with the most amazing views over the Ionian sea, I booked a balcony room not knowing if we would get a great view so it was just case of realising how lucky we'd been.

A few years ago, I remember also going on a trip to Scotland, it was just after we'd adopted Petunia the Husky and around the time of Paul's birthday and I booked a last minute break to the Clachan Cottage hotel, right on the banks of Loch Earn in Lochearnhead.  Our family room looked directly onto the loch  and remains to be one of the most amazing views from a hotel room that I've ever experienced.

That's the thing though isn't it?  Scotland rarely disappoints with it's surrounding views from hotels because it's just such a beautiful place, I think in amongst the hotel listings you just have to be a little savvy and search for hotels with great views or hotels with balconies, after all, in the UK I would doubt that you're going to build a hotel with balconies if they're over the bins, I've also come to realise that in most cases, the higher the floor in the hotel, the better the chances you'll end up with a good view although this isn't always the case.  From now on when I book hotels I'm going to fill in the "any requests" on the booking forms and always request a room with a lovely view, now I realise that this isn't always possible but I do think that hotels do try and accommodate their patrons where possible.  Some hotels just don't have great views though, no matter how amazing, I took Looby to the five star Sheraton Grand in Edinburgh for her birthday a couple of years ago and the hotel was completely gorgeous and utterly fabulous, the view however was mostly underwhelming.

Do you think it's important for a hotel to have a great view?  I'm curious to know and if you've ever stayed in a hotel with an amazing vista please do get in touch so I can add it to my list of places I want to stay.


Monday, September 10, 2018

Trying to become a better person

It's September in case you hadn't noticed, a great month to make changes and to renew and start again, much better than in January when I'll be honest, all I want to do is stay in bed and hide under the duvet until the dark cold days disappear.

Selfie in greece, trying to be a better person, mandy charlton photographer, writer, blogger

I've felt for a few weeks that I wanted to change certain aspects of myself which had been bothering me and so this seems a great time to write about it, and reinforce the commitments I'm making to myself, here and now!

During the late spring and then continuing into summer I experienced workplace bullying, so much so that I almost gave up and walked away from my new CEO role.  You'd think that bullying is something that just happens in the playground and that's bad enough but when you're an adult and you already have pre-existing mental health conditions, it essentially kills your soul. I stopped going out again, I shut myself away from the world and I'm still struggling with this on a daily basis.

I do think there are elements of me I need to change, my whole life since being small I've had the feeling that I would go to hell if I died, I've worked on this in therapy but in the back of my mind it's still always there.

I have autistic traits which can make me seem odd, bipolar and anxiety add to that and then cram on top of that my lack of empathy due to medication and there's a definite feeling that I need to try and be a better person.  I haven't felt that I've shown enough gratitude or that I've been thankful enough for the small number of friendships I do have and so I'm trying to put that right during September, I'm trying to rebuild my insane levels of positivity I once had, I'm trying to understand the needs of others so much as I can and above all I want to try to make sure that everyone gets the things they need from me.

Today it feels like autumn, it's after 10 and it's still dim and damp and dingy and I know with all of my heart that I need to make all of these changes quickly or I will struggle through the dark months of the year.  I'm at a crossroads with all of my businesses, they all have the potential to make a lot of money and yet this year has been one of the most financially trying.  It's probable that I'm just not trying hard enough with any aspects of my life and I'm letting myself down.

I'm ageing and getting wider by the second, I have neglected my health and wellbeing for too long again and so another thing I want to work on is getting my fitness and my waistline back, now I'm not going to tell you I want to be a size six but I was chatting yesterday about the fact that depression can be helped with a diet of meat and vegetables, it's been proven that cutting down on sugar and processed foods can help reduce inflammation and inflammation causes depression and anxiety and I have had worse anxiety in the last year than ever before in my life, coupled with days of dark, overwhelming depression it's not a life I want to lead anymore, I have to be better for my relationships, my children and more importantly, for me.  I paid for a weight watchers app membership ages ago and I've never used it past the first few days so it's number one on my list of priorities.

I also want to work smarter so that I can spend more time with Looby, I've been given a gift with her being home educated and she continues to thrive and progress but too many times I feel unavailable because there are things I "need to do" at my desk.  That has to change and I guess that's why I need to prioritise the things which make money and get rid of the things that don't.

So, starting here and now with a trip to the supermarket to stock up on good, healthy things I'm making a commitment to be better and if you see me around in October I hope I'll be able to wax lyrical about how I'm succeeding.  September is a great month to start again...

Sunday, September 09, 2018

You Are Enough

sunrise over greece, you are enough, mandy charton photography,

Throughout my life something I've experienced is being told by various voices that "you are not good enough", "you are not enough", "you are too much" and I've lived with those thoughts inside my head every day for 44 years.

I have days where I doubt myself, I doubt my work, where the last thing that I feel is enough.  Now I don't want this blog post to turn into some kind of maudlin self critical analysis of myself because I want it to be positive and this message I'm writing now, isn't just for me, it's for you, yes, you who's sitting there reading, and thank goodness you are, I didn't write for nearly a month over summer...

Many times in my life I have tried to tone down me, the person that I am, I thought to get acceptance, to make friends or even to win business I had to try to be someone else, someone more confident, someone less crazy, I had to try really hard to be more businesslike, more professional but it doesn't work and if you're trying to do the same thing, you will fail, it will be exhausting pretending to be someone that you aren't and look, I realise that it's almost even more of an effort to be who you really are because those thoughts of self doubt, the angry voices of self hatred, well they're all waiting in the wings to laugh at you but let me tell you this....

You do you lovely, you do you!

The more you become you, the more you will attract the right people to you, people who will love you for who you are, clients who will accept the crazy and run with it because they know, to let you  be you is how they'll get the best results.  For example, being given carte blanche at a wedding is such a freeing action that it will always herald the greatest results.

Over recent years  I've had very few clients who have had fixed ideas about what they wanted me to do, I'm so laid back about my approach that being micromanaged just inhibits all of my creativity, when I work it is, after all, the only time when in my whole life I don't suffer from anxiety, once you try and hem me in with parameters of what I have to do with exacting instructions, the magical pill of anti-anxiety breaks.  The magic pill being my camera.

I think when I became the CEO of The Inspire Network my first thought was to try and be more CEO like but you know what, heck, that's never going to work, it doesn't work with photography and it's never going to work in the corporate world either.  As a CEO you get me, imperfect, slightly odd me.  I have the most awful social anxiety but the more I can go into things being myself the less it flares up so at events and talks it's really not evident and people rarely guess.

So I want to give you a message today, a message of hope...

It's okay to be you, in fact only you can be you, you are enough, you are never too much, you are wonderful and purposeful and you are plenty of good enough.  The human race is a magical thing because not one of us is alike and throughout your life you will meet people, some you will love and some will love you, some people you meet, they may dislike you but that's not your fault, yes it would be great to have a world where everyone loved each other but you can't be someone else, you can't change someone so just continue and go forward being yourself, be all of you, be everything you carry in your heart, wear your feelings on your sleeve and before you know it you will not only feel happy and brighter and better but you will attract the right people into your life and your world, no matter how big or small it is, will be a world you'll adore.

You are enough.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Why your brain needs you to take a holiday

looking at the ionian sea, from corfu, greece, why your brain needs you to take a holiday, mandy charlton photography blog

I love travelling, I love holidays and I love exploring new places, I rarely come home from holiday any less tired than when I go on them because I feel the need to explore and share, to document and write about them.  I've never taken a beach holiday where I literally did nothing, well until this week.

As many of you who read my blog know, I have chronic anxiety, I worry and overthink everything, I pour my heart and soul into everything I do in life and work and it can be exhausting, I have intense periods of working myself to the bone followed by burn out periods where I'm afraid of the world, where I can't go out and want to perpetually run away.  The only times I'm protected from this is when I have my camera in my hand, it's like a shield to me, it protects me from my own mental health I suppose but the flip side is that after every wedding or day of portraiture I'm exhausted from giving so much of myself, this is why, this year I've tried to only be out shooting at weekends with the week at my desk and time spent with my family although I can't imagine life any other way because I love what I do, it's not just a job, it's my entire life.
sunset, greece, mandy charlton photographer

When a last minute holiday popped up to go to the Greek island of Corfu came up for Looby and I, I snatched it with both hands, a few days by the Ionian sea would do us the world of good.  I took 2 books, 1 novel and 1 business book with low expectations that I would read any of them but as it happened, I finished a huge novel (While I was Sleeping, very good, I really recommend it) and nearly finished She Means Business by Carrie Green too.

You see, I've travelled a lot with Looby but we've never had a beach holiday, she's phobic of boats so most trips were out of the question and our one potential excursion to Corfu Town didn't happen due to Corfu having a massive rubbish problem I didn't want to have to endure as I'd seen enough passing through the island and it's not a memory I wanted to bring home with me, we'd smelt it wafting in the wind when we were in the sea on Wednesday and that was enough.  It's a shame to see lay-by's piled high with rotting rubbish, the Greek economy needs tourism but if it doesn't fix it's refuse problem the tourists will stop going.  Where we were in Benitses it wasn't too bad although it was still evident.

Benitses though is a lovely sleepy village, yes it's a little dilapidated, a shadow of it's former days but amongst the crumbling buildings and the shut up shops there is beauty to be found, glorious sunrises and pink hued sunsets I watched from our balcony which looked directly at mainland Greece in the distance across the crystal blue waters of the warm Ionian sea.  We stayed at the Potamaki Beach Hotel, once a grand hotel, the grandest in Benitses, it probably still is though it has seen better days and could do with refurbishing.  It was comfortable though and far from unsatisfactory and we spent our days mostly submerged in the pool or the sea, we swapped from mornings at the beach to afternoons at the pool and our only change of routine was to do a morning by the pool and an afternoon next to the sea.  Even though there was a museum next door to the hotel we didn't venture in once (even though I wanted to).  For just 1 break I wanted to live at Looby's pace to just be at one with the ocean, to snorkel and realise we were amongst huge swathes of the most beautiful fish.  By day 2 I was so relaxed I even photographed Looby underwater by the pool, yes the iPhone X is waterproof.

Here's the thing I've come to realise, when you have an intense job which constantly requires you to be focused, when you are in a role which you can never switch off from, you need to relax, you need time to let your brain recover, for all I love my business and my company I never switch off and for just a few days my brain was grateful for the rest. I actually had some new ideas, I unwound, my thoughts became clear, for just a while I felt completely zen and at one with the world and when we flew home yesterday I knew I was ready for a whole new year.  It's just a shame that even less than a day later it feels like I've never been away.

So, the next time you are planning your next adventure, ask yourself when the last time you really had a rest was, and if you can't remember the last time you had a chance to read a book and not check your phone every twenty minutes, maybe go and search for a sunshine holiday by the sea, with an epic view and a chilled back way of life and go and do it, don't beat yourself up for taking me time, don't punish yourself because you need to stop and not do anything because in the end your mental health, your family and your busy companies and businesses will thank you in the end.
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