About a year ago now my illness first reared it’s ugly head. For a long time I was focused solely on my illness, and all it brought me for that long time was misery and strife. Eventually, I knew that I had to find an escape, a distraction. Without one, I would consume myself with worry and fear over my illness and what was to become of it…and me. Bird photography was my distraction.

Birds are beautiful creatures, able to escape this lonely world we live in and take to the sky. They are free and majestic, not tied to a place or person. But they are fragile too. In migratory birds, a few ounces of extra stored fat can mean the difference between life and death over the long journey. In other birds, a small mishap or crash can break fragile wing bones, and cripple the bird, taking away that beautiful form of transportation known as flight, a word which does not do the actual thing justice.

When I started taking pictures of birds, it was difficult, as many new hobbies are, to get a hold of exactly what I should be doing. My pictures were blurry, I was too impatient to approach the birds slowly, my hand shook (which was partly why my pictures were blurry). Slowly though, my photos improved, and the photo you see above, an anhinga, is one of my favorite shots.

Finding a hobby, or, more specifically, finding the right hobby, is difficult. But doing so offers much needed relief and fun, especially for those of us with a mental illness. Bird photography is my outlet, my way of releasing all the tension I have built up, of relaxing and enjoying myself. Everyone needs something that does that for them. Below, I have outlined a few tips for finding the right hobby for you.

  1. Think of where you are your calmest, or where  you have the most fun (e.g. the outdoors, in the garage, in the garden). Hobbies related to that place will probably appeal most to you.
  2. What job would you most like to have? Many of us have our dream jobs that just don’t live up to reality. Want to be an author? Write a book!
  3. What books or television programs do you enjoy? Like stuff about cooking or traveling? Then that’s what’s for you.
  4. If you could only bring one thing to amuse yourself on a deserted island (not a phone or video games) what would you bring? 
  5. Go to the store. Go to a sports, crafts, or music store and look around. See if anything pops out.
  6. Revisit old hobbies. Maybe have an old hobby you forgot about? Nows the time to pick it back up!
  7. Start out small. There’s no use investing tons of money into a hobby you don’t even know you’ll like. Start cheap and work up from there.
  8. Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t great at it right away. Rome wasn’t built in a day and you won’t learn piano in a day either. Give yourself time and don’t let yourself get down, remember, it’s supposed to be fun!

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